It's no exaggeration to say that the eyes of the entire MMO world are on Star Wars: The Old Republic right now. Hell, even the guys and gals with the inspirational “I kicked the habit and you can too!” stories typically add a defeated “...but I don't think I'll be able to resist The Old Republic.” And now, BioWare's offering an opportunity for you to get an early start on what's sure to be a beautiful, fun, and – most importantly – completely debilitating relationship.
Over on the official Star Wars: The Old Republic website, BioWare's begun accepting another round of sign-ups for the soon-to-begin closed beta test. Simply create a TOR community account, head over to the Game Testing Portal, and – quick as Jar-Jar Binks laying waste to someone's childhood – you're in!
Granted, we're still talking closed beta here, so no matter how badly you want to take the game for a test drive, you won't get a golden ticket unless you meet BioWare's “specific requirements” for this test.
So, with all that said, we have to ask: what are you still doing here? Go! Sign up now or risk playing the game at the same time as everyone else like some kind of filthy videogame peasant.
Opera 11 in beta form for Windows is now available for download, and with it a bunch of new features, including Tab Stacking. Just as it sounds, Opera's newest browser lets you stack tabs on top of each other and group them by site or theme.
"Tabs are the most popular feature in browsers today," said Jan Standal, VP of Desktop Products, Opera. "Because so many of us wrestle with tens or even hundreds of open tabs, we needed a way to simplify tab management. Just like stacking papers for future reference, stacking your tabs is an intuitive way to organize and collect your open Web pages."
The other big feature addition is extensions support. Extensions were first introduced in the alpha release of Opera 11, and these days developers are adding between 10 and 20 new extensions every day, Opera says.
Other features include improved mouse gestures, plug-ins can now be set to load on-demand, enhanced HTML5 support, search prediction from Google, and faster performance.
PC users have been rocking Skype 5.0 for a short while now, and now Mac users can get in on the fun, albeit in beta form. Skype 5.0 beta for OS X sports a retooled interface "that simplifies navigation and provides a more Mac-like experience," Skype announced in a blog post.
Group video calling is part of the deal, as is a new call control bar, the ability to search chat content, offline IMing, personalized contacts (via user profiles), the ability to quickly rejoin calls if your Internet connection hiccups, and floating contacts.
It's a completely different Skype app than what Mac users are accustomed to, and most would argue much improved. Not included, however, is any kind of Facebook integration like what's available in the Windows version.
Mozilla has announced the new beta version of Firefox 4 Mobile is available for download on both Maemo and Android phones. The last version was a little rough, and the developers claim to have taken user suggestions to heart in this release. Among the improvements are a much reduced install size on Android devices (17MB instead of 43MB), improved text rendering, and lower memory usage. The app also supports app2sd storage on Froyo phones.
With features like slide out toolbars, Firefox Sync, and future hardware acceleration, Firefox Mobile could really be a great browser upon completion. If you have an N900, or high-end Android phone, check out the beta.
So we already told you that Google just pushed out a pre-release version of its upcoming Chrome 8 browser to its developer channel, but what does that even mean? Do you have to be a developer to use it? And how does that differ from Google's beta channel?
Let's answer those questions by having a look at the various channels, including Chrome's relatively new Canary channel, which offers all the fun without the risk.
Amazon figured out a way to make its Kindle software compatible with just about any Internet-ready platform: Shuttle the software to the Web.
That's part of the idea behind Amazon's "Kindle for the Web" project, which was released in beta form this morning. It's incredibly easy to use, just click the "Read first chapter FREE" button on selected eBooks and you'll receive a sample directly in your browser without having to download or install anything.
Bloggers and website owners can also embed samples of Kindle books on their sites and earn referral fees whenever someone clicks through and completes a purchase.
"With Kindle for the Web, it's easier than ever for customers to sample Kindle books - there's no downloading or installation required," said Dorothy Nicholls, Director, Amazon Kindle. "Kindle for the Web is also a great way for bloggers and authors to promote books on their websites by letting visitors read a chapter without leaving their site."
Google's Chrome Frame plug-in for Internet Explorer (6,7 and 8) has stepped out of beta after having undergone months of fine-tuning, the company announced Friday. Primarily meant to provide additional features, speed and stability on legacy browsers, the plug-in literally turns Internet Explorer into Google Chrome. It entered beta in June with the development team focusing its efforts on improving speed and stability.
“A stable release is just the beginning for Google Chrome Frame. We’ve set aggressive goals for future releases: we’re working on making start-up speed even faster and removing the current requirement for administrator rights to install the plug-in. Expect more improvements and features in the near future, as we plan to release on the same schedule as Google Chrome,” the company said in a blog post.
However, Microsoft is not looking forward to future Chrome Frame releases, as it believes the plug-in “has doubled the attach area for malware and malicious scripts.”
After months of anticipation, you can finally take Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 Beta out for a test drive. We're not talking about that lame Preview release Microsoft dropped on the public earlier this year, the one that didn't even come with an address bar. This is the real deal, full public beta that Microsoft has been hyping as the greatest browser of all time.
"With a simple user interface that masks new technical muscle and all-around fast performance, the new browser is designed to take a backseat and bring forward the full beauty of the websites and applications people care about," says Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft's corporate vice president for Internet Explorer.
We'll have a more in-depth look later, but from what little time we've spent with it so far, it's pretty evident Microsoft was shooting for a more streamlined interface. The comparisons to Chrome will be inevitable, as Microsoft has gone with a set of icons in the upper right corner (Home, Favorites, and Tools).
You can read more about what's new and download a copy here.
Late last week, Nvidia's GeForce 260 Series beta driver release leaked to the Web, and with the cat now out of the bag, Nvidia has gone and officially offered them up for download.
Still in beta form, the GeForce 260.63 drivers add support for the just released GeForce GTS 450 GPU. For existing GTX 480 and 460 owners, the new drivers supposedly increase performance in a number of titles, including a generous 22 percent boost in Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena (1920x1200, noAA, GTX 460), as well as a bunch of other double-digit performance improvements.
Other features include the addition of Blu-ray 3D support, HD audio enhancements, a bunch of new 3D Vision game profiles, and a whole lot more.
You can download the beta drives and check out the release notes here.
For those of you who don't mind walking on the beta side of software, there's a new version of Skype available, version 5.0 Beta 2. Among the handful of changes, Skype 5.0 beefs up its group video calling feature with support for up to 10 people. For it to work, however, everyone in the group needs to be running the latest beta release.
The new version also comes with a revamped UI that Skype says is "sleeker, neater, and crisper than before." Skype Home has been added, where you can keep tabs on your contacts' mood messages, set your own mood message, select a profile picture and receive account notifications.
Otherwise, most of the changes are internal. Skype says it managed to improve call quality when making group calls and squashed a number of bugs that mucked with stability.