Adobe has released the third beta version of Flash 10.1, and it comes with a nice treat for the early adopter on the move. Beta 3 finally adds GPU acceleration support for the Intel GMA 500 chipset. This is the graphics hardware found in the majority of netbooks. What does this mean in practical terms? Well, just 720p Flash video on a netbook, that’s all.
Over at Engadget they were able to coax a Dell Mini 10 to play back 1080p content as well. Both Youtube and CBS streaming appeared to work well enough with minor lag. Still, when any previous attempts to play this content brought a netbook to a grinding halt, you can’t be too picky.
The results are good for a beta. Sure, there’s still some jitter but it’s a vast improvement. Adobe has been racing to complete the update of the much maligned plug-in. The new beta gives us hope that the wait may be worth it. Get the beta 3 version of Flash right here and enjoy.
Valve on Tuesday announced a new version of Steam currently in public beta form. The opt-in beta is available now to all Steam users, new and old.
"In the last 12 months, Steam has grown 200 percent," Valve said. "There are now 25 million users, 1000+ games, 12 billion player minutes per month, and 75 billion Steam client minutes per month. To accommodate this growth, a new Steam client has been created."
The updated client includes a bunch of upgrades, most noticeably to the client's UI. As part of that, Steam now puts a much bigger emphasis on "friend-related info," making it easier to track what games your friends are playing and invite them for a frag session.
Other updated features include better game organization, a new downloads view, a new central aggregated news page, and other odds and ends.
If you want to check it out for yourself, click here and then select "UI Update" under Beta Participation.
With StarCraft II Betawatch levels recently being upped to code red, Blizzard’s emerged from its cone of silence. But this is Blizzard we’re talking about, so obviously, baby steps. No actual release date just yet, but here are some gameplay details to hold you over.
“StarCraft II beta testers will be able to play a number of ranked multiplayer modes, include multiplayer ladder quick match, which has 1v1, 2v2, and free-for-all (FFA) modes. In addition, testers will be able to play unranked custom matches. We are not testing the single-player campaign of StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty during the beta period,” reads the FAQ.
Note, however, that – for those of you who aren’t so confident in your ability to not be torn to shreds by people who’ve been playing StarCraft since before you were born – CPU opponents are an option.
Also of note: Blizzard plans to bring more testers aboard the SS StarCraft II based on its “testing needs,” so just because you don’t nab a golden ticket right away doesn’t mean you won’t get in eventually.
Click through the link for the rest of the FAQ. It is, in fact, handy. And really, that’s all you can ask for. Aside from a release date (*hint, hint*).
You’ve watched. You’ve waited. More than once, you’ve probably lost all hope, given in to despair, and cursed Blizzard’s name while holding your beta key inches away from an open flame. Well, watch, wait, and get all melodramatic no more, because the StarCraft II beta’s been cleared for take-off, and it’s launching “this month,” according to Blizzard.
The news came during a conference call today, straight from Blizzard boss Mike Morhaime. StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, meanwhile, is still on track to release in “mid 2010.”
Is there anything more to say? You will be playing StarCraft II in less than 30 days. If you’re not leaping up-and-down while squealing like a big man imitating a little girl, you might want to check yourself into a morgue, because you’re dead.
Having trouble overclocking your Nvidia-based graphics card? If so, you may want to give the company's just-released GeForce 196.34 beta drivers a whirl. According to Nvidia, the latest releas fixes a bug with v196.21 that prohibited GPU overclocking, so you should be good to go.
Other than the overclocking fix, the beta driver doesn't appear to bring anything else new to the table, or at least Nvidia hasn't listed any other improvements. But for those of you who decided to skip the previous driver update (196.21) because of the overclocking bug, other new features relevant to both packages include:
SLI and multi-GPU support for "many top new gaming titles," including Avatar Demo, Dirt 2, Mass Effect 2, and others.
Upgrades PhysX System Software to version 9.09.1112.
A ton of bug fixes.
Users without U.S. English operating systems can select their language and download the International driver from here.
The beta driver works with GeForce 6, 7, 8, 9, 100, and 200-series desktop GPUs, as well as Nvidia's Ion graphics.
Whether or not Apple announces a tablet PC next week, the tech world is fretting about the possible impact. Take, for example, Amazon. It’s cute little Kindle is basically a uni-tasker--it lets you read books and little else. An Apple tablet PC, it’s expected, will be more iPod Touch/iPhone like--a multi-tasker--making it more useful. Amazon’s not waiting to find out if the rumors are true, and is acting to negate some of Apple’s suspected advantage. It has opened up the Kindle to outside developers.
The Kindle Development Kit (KDK) will be available in a limited beta starting next month. The KDK, which is suited for Mac, PC, and Linux environments, will include sample code, documentation, and a Kindle simulator for building and testing apps.
With the KDK and outside developer support, Amazon looks to make the Kindle a more versatile tool, albeit with a monochrome display. Amazon is looking for apps that are free, one-time purchase, or monthly subscription. But there are some limits: “Voice over IP functionality, advertising, offensive materials, collection of customer information without express customer knowledge and consent, or usage of the Amazon or Kindle brand in any way are not allowed. In addition, active content must meet all Amazon technical requirements, not be a generic reader, and not contain malicious code.”
Amazon plans the same revenue split for publishers/authors it announced yesterday: 70/30 after deducting a delivery fee of 15-cents per megabyte. Amazon hopes to have apps available in the Kindle Store later this year.
Stripteases from your long distance lover are about to get a whole lot sweeter now that Skype has added support for 720p high definition video calls.
To take advantage of the new feature, you'll need to download and install Skype 4.2 Beta for Windows. You'll also need at least a 1.8GHz dual-core processor, and of course an HD webcam and broadband Internet connection.
"With HD-quality Skype video calls, we can bring our users even closer to the ones they love through an even richer, more meaningful video calling experience," said Josh Silverman, CEO of Skype. "Imagine being able to see the sparkle of your grandchild's eyes or the setting of your best friend's engagement ring. Through the innovation of Skype's engineers and our hardware partners, these scenarios are now possible without having to buy expensive equipment or software."
Skype says you can expect a spate of new HD webcams to hit the scene in early 2010, including ones from faceVsion (not a typo) and Store Solutions that have been "optimized to work with Skype."
The VoIP provider also says to expect Skype-enabled HDTVs to arrive by mid-2010.
Sun kicked off the weekend with an updated beta release of its Java Store, a Java-FX-powered storefront currently in beta form. It's intended for developers and aims to provide an easy and secure means of discovering and acquiring Java and JavaFX apps.
"This release includes a number of new features such as: account creation in the client, the ability for developers outside of the U.S. to preview applications using the Java Store view, improved integration with Paypal, and numerous smaller features, performance enhancements, and bug fixes," Sun wrote in an official blog post on Friday.
A variety of apps comprise the Java Store, including social networking, games, productivity, business tools, and even emulators, like the C64 emulator JSwing C64. There's also an option to "Preview" an app before committing to buying it.
The Java Store is compatible with Windows XP with SP2 or later, Vista with SP2, and Mac OS X 10.5.x or later. Although not listed, in our limited testing, we've also had luck running it in Windows 7 64-bit.
Brian Rakowski, the Google Chrome product manager, dishes out the details on the Official Google Blog. The Google Chrome betas for Mac and Linux, he says, were engineered to meet the demanding expectations of both platforms. Mac users, he says, will be impressed with the almost instantaneous launch time--so fast “there’s hardly even time for the icon in the dock to bounce!” The Mac version integrates with Mac features, such as the Keyhain, spell check, and SandBox for enhanced security.
For the Linux beta, Google remained faithful to the open source community, with more than 50 contributors contibuting to Chrome's foundation, Chromium. Google Chrome for Linux fits natively with the operating system where possible, including integration of native GTK themes, and updates managed by the standard system package manager.
Google, according to Rakowski, is all too aware that a browser without extensibility just isn’t a browser. But, at the same time, Google didn’t want to jeopardize Google Chrome’s speed and stability. Extensions, according to Rakowski, accomplishes these objectives. Extensions, says Rakowski, “are as easy to create as web pages, easy to install, and each extension runs in its own process to avoid crashing or significantly slowing down the browser.” Rakowski says there are more than 300 extensions now ready for use, but only for Windows and Linux boxes.
Boxee unveiled their new UI today, and it’s quite the departure. The entire front page has been redesigned, looking much more sophisticated and packing new functionality. The front page now focuses on the personal queue, featured content, and recommendations. The new menu system allows for local files to be integrated with streaming content (both free and payed). There will also be three new apps: The Escapist, Suicide Girls, and TV Guide to the Web Clicker.
The new interface was made possible by the switch from an OpenGL graphical engine to DirectX. Nvidia has even been helping Boxee optimize the interface for use on the Ion platform with Flash 10.1 and DXVA. No details on when the new beta will be available to users, but we can’t wait.