There are fewer delights in life greater than the fabled "holiday break" that comes this time each year. For those fortunate enough to have some time off from their places of business, it's a treat to be able to come home to a roaring fire, a loud desktop machine, and a week-or-so's worth of frantic Web browsing and video game playing. This is also the perfect time of year to run some tweaking on your computer, and invariably the perfect time of year for Murphy's Law to curse you with an unresponsive desktop or faltering operating system. But fear not! Santa Maximum PC is ready with a bag full of freeware applications for you to tinker (or save your computer) with.
Click the link and start opening your software presents!
The prevailing zeitgeist has got people adamant upon conserving as much as possible and that obsession manifests in ways you don’t generally expect. A Dutch firm, Spranq, has come up with a font that can save ink consumption by 20%. The secret of the font, aptly titled Ecofont, lies in the fact that every character is pocked with holes galore. And quite obviously, rocket scientists, this implies that less ink is required to print a character compared to a generic font devoid of holes. The innovative font can be downloaded free of cost.
Here’s a curveball for you. According to Gamasutra, Warren Spector -- the man behind mega-tons like Deus Ex, Thief, and System Shock – is currently giving Disney’s rodent-king an “epic” makeover. Yep, Spector’s trading guns and leather for hop ‘n’ bop, and Mickey’s trading his steamboat for steampunk.
Gamasutra saw a few illicit pics of this very special episode of trading spaces, and noted that the game is set to feature “cities assembled from junk” and “a surreal seashore invasion scene, in which machines wearing the faces of the Seven Dwarfs deposit old-fashioned renditions of Disney characters onto the beach with mechanical hands.”
We know what we’ll be having nightmares about tonight!
Aside from that, however, little is known about the “distinctly shadowed, steampunk” game. In a Junction Point blog entry, Spector claimed that it's a collaboration between Disney and Pixar, but the information trail smacks into brick wall after that.
If you're of "a certain age," you might remember when "computer literacy" equaled "everyone will be a programmer." Unfortunately, the limitations of BASIC (line numbers leading to incomprehensible "spaghetti code," primitive graphics, and no syntax checking) made most would-be programmers dropouts.
I haven't written a computer program in over 20 years, but Microsoft has introduced a modern, easy-to-use language designed for the masses (and for dropouts like me): Small Basic.
Small Basic, available in pre-release version 0.2, runs on Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista, Windows Vista 64-bit Editions Service Pack 1, Windows XP, Windows XP 64-bit. It relies on .NET Framework 3.5 SP1, which you will need to install if you don't have it already.
This Ain't Your Daddy's BASIC
Microsoft says that Small Basic "is a project that is aimed at making computer programming accessible to beginners. The project comprises a simple programming language that gathers inspiration from the original BASIC programming language; a modern and attractive programming environment; and rich, extensible libraries. Together they make programming fun for kids and adults alike."
So, what's special about Small Basic, and how can you learn more about it? Join us after the jump for all the details.
“Let’s see… I’ll take one copy of Spore – hold the SecuROM DRM, please.”
“Oh, er, sorry. Your order’s already slathered in DRM and, well, we can’t remove it. If you come back in a couple weeks, though, we might be able to scrape off a bit of it. Sound good?”
Has something like this ever happened to you? A pleasant Sunday afternoon installation spoiled by SecuROM’s goon squad? Well, no more. At least, if you ride under Steam’s banner.
“EA is one of the industry’s largest publishers,” said Gabe Newell, co-founder and president of Valve. “The EA titles coming to Steam this holiday include some this year’s top PC titles.”
He’s not kidding, either. Titles like Spore, Warhammer: Age of Reckoning, Mass Effect, Need for Speed Undercover, and FIFA Manager 2009 are already available, with Mirror’s Edge, Red Alert 3, and Dead Space moving in with the Freeman family in the “coming weeks.” And, of course, these games will conform to Steam’s standards; in other words, no SecuROM whatsoever.
So, does this mean we can all finally kiss and make up with EA, and notice that it’s released some damn good games over the past year? C’mon now; it’s Christmas.
Microsoft recently announced to its system-building partners that they would extend the pull date on Windows XP past the originally announced January 31, 2009.
These system builders are going to be allowed orders of XP all the way up until January 31, and they can ship them until May 30. “This is a good solution to support the customers that are standardized still on XP,” stated Michael Schwab, the co-president of D&H Distributing. “In this case, people contemplated buying in larger quantities [of XP licenses] and holding on to them. But that would have caused a bubble [from] people buying five months of supply in January.”
This appears to be another sign of the market’s resistance to getting Windows Vista. Despite all the clever ads, it still seems that people prefer Windows XP to the pretty new OS.
What about you? Are you still set in your XP ways or have you moved on to Vista? Let us know in the comments.
About a month ago we took a look at a disturbing new trend that was emerging in Australia involving the movie industry’s new approach to copyright enforcement. It now appears as though this heavy handed approach has indeed crossed the ocean and the RIAA is preparing to switch gears. Over the past 6 years the music industry has initiated lawsuits against over 35,000 people. Seniors, minors, or the deceased, nobody was safe from the wrath of the recording industry. This public relations nightmare was bound to end sooner or later, but their new approach could see tens of thousands of internet users booted off the web.
The Wall Street Journal has uncovered agreements made between several unnamed ISP’s and the RIAA which will make it possible for them to force internet service providers to disconnect user’s who refuse to cease and desist music sharing after being issued a written warning. Warnings will likely start with an emailed notice of violation which can then lead to restricted bandwidth, or in worst case scenarios as we mentioned before, the disconnection of internet service. Under the newly proposed system, the RIAA would forward a notice to the ISP of an offending IP address, and would leave it up to the provider to contact the individual customer. The positive change here would be that your privacy would not be compromised, and the RIAA would not require disclosure of the customer’s name.
The RIAA believes this new approach will “reach more people” and that it cannot afford to ignore piracy. The group cites NPD figures which show that the growth of illegally downloaded content has stalled in the wake of the uncertainty surrounding the lawsuits. Their new approach would be much more covert, and would likely attract less media attention.
So would you rather be sued or booted off the net? I think I’ll pay the 99 cents a track thank you very much.
Thanks to some cryptic code mixed in with bug fixes and general clean up on the Android site, there are finally some hints as to what G1 users can expect in the near future.
Among those updates that remain obvious are camera functions (video has finally been included), a browser update (which will include a find function and clever copy paste) and other general speed enhancements.
Other updates aren’t directly aimed at the G1, but are still pretty notable. There’s focus on implementing an on-screen keyboard, and basic x86 support.
While there haven’t been any exact vendor names specified on the blog, it’s difficult to say if this is directed at any specific gadget. However, it does give us reason to believe that Android will finally be making its way onto a huge assortment of gadgets.
F.E.A.R. was, without a doubt, one of 2005's best first-person shooters -- deftly mixing balls-to-the-wall, head-exploding action with pee-your-pants level horror. Even better, its sequel, F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, is poised to top its award-winning older brother in every conceivable way. We were lucky enough to engage in a quick email exchange with Craig Hubbard, F.E.A.R. 2's Principal Game Designer, and we're posting it here for you today.
MPC: Is this the end of the F.E.A.R. story? Are we going for a trilogy?
Craig Hubbard, Principal Game Designer: As you’d probably expect, our immediate focus is getting the game done. Beyond that, who can say?
MPC: Was the story arc planned from the beginning, or has it evolved as it’s moved along?
CH: It evolved quite a bit, but that’s normal. What works on paper doesn’t always pan out when you implement it, so you have to make adjustments and do what’s right for the game. We also decided to take out the subplot about the unicorn who lost its horn. It was very emotionally resonant, but didn’t really fit the tone.
MPC: What’s the biggest problem you had with the original F.E.A.R.? How do you aim to correct it in the sequel?
CH: The biggest complaint people had with F.E.A.R. was that the environments were repetitive and bland. The sequel has much more varied and interesting settings.
MPC: Are you developing the game simultaneously for consoles and PC? What’s the game’s lead platform?
CH: The team knew how to make PC games but hadn’t done a console title before, so it was easier to ensure that decisions made for the consoles would work on the PC rather than the other way around. When the project started, we didn’t have our tech up and running on PS3 yet, so Xbox 360 ended up being the lead platform by default but we are still developing for all three platforms at the same time.
Continue reading for Hubbard's opinions on DRM, game engines, AI, and the British Empire.
Looking for something to do over the holiday break or need an excuse to duck away from the in laws to regain your sanity? Crytek's got your back. The developer announced it is serving up the multiplayer shooter Crysis Wars free-to-play for 10 days, starting tomorrow at 11:00 AM PT and good through December 28th until 11:59 PM PT. You can snag your holiday trial at MyCrysis.com, which the developer says includes the latest version of the game with brand new maps Savanna and Frost. You'll need to register to receive a unique key.
Also just released is a new patch for Crysis Wars, which comes less than a month after patch 1.2 was released.. Patch 1.3 includes the Holiday Map Pack (two above mentioned maps), and fixes the loading of custom assets in downloaded maps.