There’s a game that’s become part of my daily regime. It’s one of the first things I do after firing up the laptop over my morning coffee and the last thing I do before shutting down the laptop with an evening gin. It never takes more than a few minutes, and I do it throughout the day, like answering email. In fact, it is answering email, except with little lettered tiles.
Yes, I am completely addicted to Scrabulous (www.scrabulous.com). Email games are certainly nothing new, but good, well-supported, free email games that a wide variety of people can play without any initial purchase are pretty rare.
AMD continues to suffer through corporate misery, most recently by losing almost $1.2 billion in a single quarter, forcing the replacement of CEO Hector Ruiz with his subordinate, Dirk Meyer. If AMD collapses and Intel becomes the only major vendor of PC processors, will prices soar?
Unfortunately, monopolies usually do inflate prices. They also retard progress. AMD stimulates Intel to price its processors more aggressively and develop better processors. Without AMD, we might not have 64-bit x86 processors today or PC processors with integrated memory controllers. Right now, we’d probably be looking forward to the first quad-core x86 processors instead of the first eight-core chips.
I just returned from a special theater screening of War Games—quite possibly the only good film Hollywood has ever produced about computers, computer nerds, or hacker culture. Shockingly, the movie, which was first released in 1983, holds up quite well, despite the use of archaic hardware (acoustic couplers and vocoder boxes), a laughable sentient military supercomputer, and an occasional lapse into typical Hollywood lingo.
The abundance of 8-inch floppy discs also gave people in the theater a laugh, as did the fact that characters were practically chain-smoking throughout the entire movie. But none of the showing’s pervasive air of yestertech could take away from the fact that War Games remains awesome.
Not very long ago, in a land not at all far away, there was a little company called Blueport. It held the copyright on a piece of software that the US Air Force liked using for logistics. Blueport protected its software with a time bomb—a bit of code that made the software self-destruct when the license expired. That date was approaching, and Blueport wanted to negotiate a new license with the USAF—and you know, get paid.
Instead, it got a bit of the ol’ shock and awe. The Air Force not only didn’t pay up, it paid big contractor SAIC ($2.5 million in lobbying in 2007) to reverse engineer Blueport’s program and disable the time bomb. The Air Force also paid SAIC to rewrite the program, and by rewrite I mean simply cut and paste any of the original code that seemed useful.
So is PC gaming hosed? That seems to be the case for games that a) are not massively multiplayer, b) don’t have “Sims” in the title, or c) aren’t played by your mom.
But it’s not really as dire as all that. Mass Effect actually made it to number 2, and Sins of a Solar Empire to number 9, on the current NPD PC sales charts.
Those numbers, however, don’t reflect where PC owners are really gettin’ their game on: with casual games. Remember when you would say you were a PC gamer and people would say, “Yeah, me too,” and you’d ask what they played, and they’d say, “Minesweeper and Solitaire.” And you’d chuckle. Good times!
Flash memory could become the dominant form of mass storage, replacing magnetic and optical media for many purposes. Although flash retains data without requiring power, the memory cells don’t retain their charges forever. Eventually, the charges dissipate and the bits fade away. Will our data be a flash in the pan?
Consider the trends. USB thumb drives are commonplace, and solid-state drives (SSDs) are appearing in subnotebook computers like the Asus Eee PC and Macintosh Air. SSDs are still too expensive to replace conventional drives in desktop PCs, but some hard drives use small amounts of flash to store startup data, which shortens boot times.
Who doesn’t love a Caribbean island? Imagine yourself on a beach in Antigua with a drink that comes in a hollow coconut. Beautiful women walk by. The sun begins to set, and you’ve just finished importing your DVD collection to a hard drive. It's good to be free from the DMCA.
Watching Grand Theft Auto IV rack up the highest recorded sales in gaming history was one of the most disappointing things I’ve witnessed in 17-plus years of covering this hobby. (PC gamers should get a crack at the game this fall.) If the gaming press is to be believed, GTA4 is simply the greatest game ever made.
Intel’s strategy for Atom processors and WiMAX hinges partly on a new class of handheld computers called mobile Internet devices (MIDs). Larger than cellphones but smaller than subnotebook PCs, MIDs are supposed to make the Internet available anytime, anywhere.
Actually, MIDs aren’t new. They’re the third major attempt to establish the nebulous product category of personal digital assistants (PDAs). Hit the jump for a history lesson, and read what challenges need to be overcome.
I’ve written about Apple’s OS X many times before, and it’s no secret that I’ve long been impressed with Apple’s operating systems. This month, I reviewed the MacBook Air, which gave me the opportunity to spend some quality time with Apple’s latest OS, Leopard, and I had an epiphany: Windows users are in the same exact position that Mac users were in 1999.