Steam Now Offering Free To Play Games On Its Digital Download Service

Subject: General Tech | June 15, 2011 - 08:17 PM |
Tagged: steam, PC, gaming, F2P

If you happened to open up the store page in the Steam client or glance at their website, you may have noticed that Steam has made a moderately big announcement. Valve's digital download service now supports Free-to-Play games, which are games that are free to download and play at the basic level; however aesthetic and other upgrades can be purchased via so-called "microtransactions". F2P games on still will be free to download and will not require a credit card to do so.

 

Steam seems excited about the new F2P games.

At launch, the service is featuring five new Free-to-Play games including Champions Online: Free For All, Spiral Knights, Global Agenda: Free Agent, Forsaken World, and Alliance of Valiant Arms.  According to the F2P Steam FAQ, games in which you wish to purchase content will be done through the use of your Steam Wallet.  Further, for any Steam account that does not have at least one purchased (non Free-to-Play) game or a funded Steam Wallet will be considered a "Limited User" and will be restricted in the community features that it is able to access.  Specifically, limited users can create community groups, be added as friends, and chat with other users; however, they are not able to send out friend invitations or start chat sessions (a non-limited user must initiate chat).

In adding the new genre to its repertoire, Steam will greatly increase its digital games library and add more options for PC gamers.  One game that I have not played in some time that I would love to see make its way onto the new Free-to-Play Steam selection is a FPS game called Crossfire.  That game was a good example of Free-To-Play done right as even accounts that did not spend a dime where able to stay competitive.  Is there a Free-to-Play game that you would like to see Steam feature, and do you think F2P will add value to the service?  Let us know in the comments.

Source: Steam

Gaming from E3, starring The Duke

Subject: General Tech | June 15, 2011 - 04:46 PM |
Tagged: gaming, duke nukem, 10 commandments

We need a new joke, the poster boy of vapourware has actually arrived and no one remembers the Phantom console.  You can catch up on all of the reviews of Duke Nukem Forever below the fold, but make sure you don't say anything mean about the game or the PR firm will get you.  There is also a lot of previews from E3 to drool over, many new games offered teases of their unreleased products.

Before you take a look at the games, The Tech Report has recently crafted 10 commandments that all PC games should follow.  Read through them and see which of the new games look to be following the reasonable requirements that they have listed. 

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It's beside the Any key, right?

"Picture this for a second: you just unpacked the latest PlayBox 720-X blockbuster game, Gran Gears of Duty Fantasy XVIII. It's a game so juicy and dreamy that it'll send you flying into all the colors of the rainbow, twitching and jerking with pleasure-induced spasms just from looking at the loading screen. Let's assume for the sake of argument that said game is a first-person shooter, like, oh, about 135% of recent releases. You insert the Megaray disc, go about the installation process, and merrily start to play.

All of a sudden, you notice the left stick is used for switching weapons. The right stick moves the character, and shooting is only accomplished by pressing it. The camera is moved with the directional buttons, and the triangle, square, A, and B buttons are used for your character's smartass quips. You enter the menu to change the controls, but you can only navigate them using the motion sensors. After five minutes of furniture-dusting motions, you finally enter the options menu and find out there are barely any options, and none that matter. Frustrated, you throw the TenAxis controller at your 4D TV screen and take the shiny disc out of the console to find out whether it will blend."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

A look at what ARM could be doing in your server room

Subject: General Tech | June 15, 2011 - 04:16 PM |
Tagged: servers, calxeda, arm

ARM has assembled their own Super Best Friends in a team lead by Calxeda, and composed of Autonomic Resources, Canonical, Caringo, Couchbase, Datastax, Eucalyptus Systems, Gluster, Momentum SI, Opscode, and Pervasive.  This places Ubuntu as the ARM OS of choice for the server room and as it includes companies developing applications for running Cloud services, not only Microsoft should be paying attention; applications like Amazon's EC2 could face new competition as well. 

Calexda's current reference machines pack 120 server nodes with 480 cores in a 2U chassis, a density which even a 1W Atom is going to find hard to match and the 1W Atoms are still a ways away.  They are planning on getting the machines out to clients for testing by the end of the year, Intel's time table is nowhere near that tight.  Read more about the low powered battle for dominance at The Register.

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"With Intel's top brass bad-mouthing ARM-based servers, upstart server chip maker Calxeda can't let Intel do all the talking. It has to put together an ecosystem of hardware and software partners who believe there's a place for a low-power, 32-bit ARM-based server platform in the data center."

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Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Razer thinks small with their new Ferox 2.1 speakers

Subject: General Tech | June 14, 2011 - 09:29 PM |
Tagged: audio, razer, ferox, 2.1

The Razer Ferox speakers are designed to be portable, a pair of satellites measuring 70x70x64mm (not even 3") which come in a handy carrying case.  They sport batteries that should last about 11 hours that are recharged over a USB connection but still require a 3.5mm jack to carry the audio, something that did not impress t-break in the least.  The sound quality was good for this type of speaker, which equates to unnoticeable bass and decent mid and high end when in use.  If you usually use headphones and simply need a way to share your audio, as opposed to needing new speakers then check out the Ferox, otherwise Razer has better choices as do Corsair and other manufacturers.

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"Razer is no stranger to high quality audio equipment, what with the number of high-end stereo and surround headsets over the past years. Their breakthrough hit, the Razer Mako 2.1 THX speakers were one of the best desktop audio speakers at the time, and are still hard pressed to beat till this day. And now with the new Ferox speakers, Razer has entered the world of mobile speakers with a big bang."

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Audio Corner

Source: t-break

HP announces 11 models using AMD Vision Technology

Subject: General Tech, Systems | June 14, 2011 - 07:24 PM |
Tagged: llano, hp

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Level up! Llano life increased by 11 HP.

So, AMD is currently having a little shindig right now as you might be aware from recent news posts and news is just a leaking from the rafters. HP recently contacted us to announce that they just expanded both their consumer and business product lines to include 11 new models using “AMD’s latest Vision Technology”. What this means is we can expect a large array of products coming from HP that utilizes the latest generation of AMD CPUs and GPUs from their new Llano-based AMD A-Series product line. Expect a helping of Llano on your HP in the near future.

Source: HP

Getting TCP out of the strange loop it is stuck in

Subject: General Tech | June 14, 2011 - 04:02 PM |
Tagged: http, tcp, spdy, Internet

Google has been working on SPDY, a new protocol which is intended to speed up HTTP without forcing changes to existing websites or protocols.  This application-layer protocol sits between HTTP and TCP, replacing neither instead translating for the application layer and the transport layer to optimize certain parts of the transaction.  Specifically they hope to allow multiple connections over TCP, something that up until now is provided by a workaround in the browser which creates parallel connections as well as getting servers to push data to clients more effectively.  They are also working to reduce latency by reducing the size of the headers that are transported which will be very important in the near future, not only as a way to speed up SSL connections but to help with the increased size of IPv6 headers. 

Up until now SPDY has only been available for Chrome and even then only for certain Google sites which utilize the new translation protocol.  Now Strangeloop is offering an online service as well as hardware which will allow you to implement SPDY without the need to change your website or host.  The Register covers the long overdue change to TCP here.

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"Strangeloop – a Vancouver-based outfit offering an online service for accelerating website load times – has embraced Google's SPDY project, a new application-layer protocol designed to significantly improve the speed of good ol' HTTP."

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Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Intel announces Haswell's new instruction set for 2013

Subject: General Tech, Processors | June 14, 2011 - 06:47 AM |
Tagged: Intel, haswell

Intel’s new processor lines come in two flavors: process shrinks and new architectures. Each revision comes out approximately a year after the prior one alternative between new architectures (tock) and process shrinks (tick). Sandy Bridge was the most recent new architecture which will be followed by Ivy Bridge, a process shrink of Sandy Bridge, and that will be succeeded by Intel’s newest architecture: Haswell.

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I can Haswell?

The instructions added by Intel for their upcoming Haswell architecture are useful for a whole range of applications from image and video processing; to face detection; to database manipulation; to the generation of hashes; as well as arithmetic in general. As you can see the addition of instructions in this revision is quite wide in its scope. Keep in mind that the introduction of a new instruction set does not mean that programs will be optimized to take advantage of the added benefits for some time. However, when programs do start optimizing for the newer architectures it looks as though Haswell’s new offerings will speed up otherwise complicated tasks into a single instruction.

What task would you like to see a speedup on? Comment below.

Source: Intel Blog

Sing the praises of this SteelSeries board in the key of mechanical

Subject: General Tech | June 13, 2011 - 05:52 PM |
Tagged: mechanical keyboard, input, steelseries

Mechanical keyboards seem to be a hot topic, with round ups appearing to deal with all of the new boards coming out.  Hardware Heaven chose to focus on one particular product, the SteelSeries 6Gv2 Mechanical gaming keyboard, which thankfully didn't take 'gaming' to mean sticking extra buttons all along the side.  The Cherry Black MX designed keys are very common amongst these new mechanical keyboards though the n-key rollover, being able to hit an unlimited number of keys and have them properly register, is not something you find on all USB keyboards.  The 6Gv2 can handle multiple keys for you circle strafers and replacing the Windows key on the left hand side with a 'media key' that is disabled in games is a very nice touch.  Check out the full review at Hardware Heaven since there are some negative aspects to the design of this board.

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"For quite some time the gaming keyboard market has concentrated on products which add macro buttons, re-assignments, profiles, USB and audio pass-through and weighted key actions to enhance the gaming experience. In addition to this we see branded products such as the Razer StarCraft 2 gear and SteelSeries Medal of Honor products however few manufacturers have looked to release high quality mechanical keyboards for the gaming masses.

There have been a few though and these have clearly made an impact with gamers as we are regularly seeing manufacturers launch their own mechanical gaming models. One manufacturer which has historically offered mechanical keyboards for gamers is SteelSeries and they are now back with a new model, the 6Gv2 which we have connected to our system today."

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Tech Talk

Don't you love it when Patch Tuesday hits double digits

Subject: General Tech | June 13, 2011 - 03:47 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, patch tuesday, security, windows, internet explorer, silverlight

Tomorrow will see the arrival of 9 critical security patches and 7 recommended ones, covering Windows, IE, Silverlight and Office.  The critical patches all resolve remote code execution vulnerabilities, the recommended vary from the same type as well as privledge escalation and denial of  service vulnerabilities.  WinXP through Win7 as well as server OSes will all be affected so be warned that your Tuesday and Wednesday might not be very fun.  Follow the link from The Register to see Microsoft's pre-release document for yourself.

Adobe, obviously not wanting to seem lazy, is also pushing out a patch for both Reader and Acrobat.

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"Microsoft is preparing a bumper Patch Tuesday for next week, with 16 security bulletins that collectively address 34 vulnerabilities.

Nine of the bulletins earn the dread rating of critical, while the other seven grapple with flaws rated as important. All supported versions of Windows will need patching on 14 June along with various server-side software packages and applications, including the .NET framework and SQL Server. Internet Explorer, which is affected by two bulletins, will also need some fiddling under the bonnet."

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Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Mechanical Keyboards: Are they for you? Which one?

Subject: General Tech | June 13, 2011 - 08:15 AM |
Tagged: mechanical keyboard, cherry

There is a large amount of choice when it comes to PC components and input devices are no exception to that assertion. You are probably well aware of the multitude of choices when it comes to non-standard mice in terms of number of buttons and resolution of the optical and/or laser sensor. Keyboards have their own higher performance counterparts as well: not just in terms of how many web and media function buttons can be crammed on them, but also how the keys themselves register a press. Recently Tom’s Hardware reviewed a series of mechanical keyboards based on their switches and gave a lot of background information about what advantages and disadvantages each switch has.

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Are you a mechanical keyboard virgin? Feeling the MX Blues?

(Logo from the Cherry Corporation)

My first couple keyboards were the old IBM model M buckle spring keyboards. Eventually when I got a later computer I moved on to the cheap keyboards and immediately missed my original mechanical keyboards. Years and a little shopping around later, I eventually settled on the Logitech G15v1 as my first attempt at a higher-end gaming keyboard. It was with the G15v1 that I experienced serious limitations to be had with some, particularly non-mechanical, keyboards: I am a left-handed gamer. The Logitech G15v1 was optimized for right handed gamers as a lot of arrow-key combinations with shift or control did not register by the keyboard; Logitech expected, when they designed the keyboard, that everyone’s mouse would be on the right of the keyboard, and thus the further away WSAD keys would be used. Consider playing as a Scout in Team Fortress 2 but not being able to jump sideways and only being able to crouch-walk in a straight line. While each keyboard is designed with a different set of jammable key combinations it was events like those that led me to go overkill and purchase a mechanical keyboard with NKRO attached via PS/2 port.

Do you have any keyboard stories? Comment below. Otherwise, check out Tom’s Hardware’s guide and review to mechanical keyboards.