Software en China to Microsoft: You Have 20 Days to Explain Compatibility Problems <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/microsoft_sign_5.jpg" alt="Microsoft Sign" title="Microsoft Sign" width="228" height="133" style="float: right;" />Microsoft must issue a written statement to China within 20 days</h3> <p>Around the same time China banned Windows 8 from government use over concerns that there could be built-in spying mechanisms, authorities also began investigating Microsoft for antitrust violations. The latest in China's antitrust probe over Microsoft's business practices has the <strong>State Administration for Industry and Commerce giving the Redmond outfit 20 days to issue a written explanation</strong>. What for, you ask?</p> <p>The agency wants Microsoft to explain "problems like incompatibility and other issues caused by a lack of released information about its Windows and Office software," according to <a href="" target="_blank"><em>The Wall Street Journal's</em></a> translation of the SAIC's <a href="" target="_blank">online notice</a>. That's an incredibly vague task, though the agency issued the 20-day deadline during a meeting with Microsoft, in which further details were likely given.</p> <p>Citing state media reports, <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Reuters</em> says</a> Microsoft's use of verification codes led to complaints by Chinese companies. Interestingly, verification codes could be one of the ways Microsoft supposedly violated China's anti-monopoly law, though if that's the case, it puts Microsoft in a tough spot. Software piracy in China is a big problem for Microsoft, and it's difficult to see how verification codes could run afoul of antitrust laws.</p> <p>Microsoft isn't China's only foreign target when it comes to anti-monopoly concerns. There are dozens of other companies being investigated, including Qualcomm, which China accuses of overcharging customers for its patents.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> antitrust china microsoft office Software Windows News Mon, 01 Sep 2014 16:01:22 +0000 Paul Lilly 28458 at Mozilla Experiments with Ads in Firefox Nightly Build <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/firefox_nightly_logo.jpg" alt="Firefox Nightly Logo" title="Firefox Nightly Logo" width="228" height="168" style="float: right;" />Advertisers can buy sponsored tiles in Firefox's new tab page</h3> <p>Mozilla is in search of a new revenue stream for its Firefox browser, and one proposed solution is to sell sponsored tiles that would appear on a new tab page. More than just a concept at this point, <strong>Mozilla is actively experimenting with sponsored tiles, which now appear in the newest Firefox Nightly build</strong>. These are test builds of the popular browser that contain new features and enhancements that may or may not advance into later builds, including a stable release.</p> <p>This isn't the first we've heard of this. Mozilla mentioned the possibility of ads back in February 2014 to a mostly unreceptive Internet audience. Though the idea of ads isn't a popular one among users, Mozilla promised that they wouldn't have any tracking features, and would be clearly labeled as ads.</p> <p>Fast forward to today and the time for experimentation is upon us. The folks over at <em>The Next Web</em> gave Firefox Nightly a test run and noted that when you first launch the browser, there's a message on the new tab page explaining what the tiles are, a link to a support page telling how sponsored tiles work, a promise that it adheres to Mozilla's privacy policies, and a reminder that you can turn tiles off or opt for a blank new tab page.</p> <p>"It's quite a lot to take in all at once," <em>The Next Web</em> <a href="" target="_blank">writes</a>.</p> <p>According to Firefox Product Manager Bryan Clark, some sites will show up in tiles even when there's no sponsorship deal in place. For example, popular sites like Amazon and Facebook might appear even though they didn't pay for the spot.</p> <p>It's easy to see why Mozilla would consider this approach. The majority of the company's revenue comes from search deals with Google, in which the search giant pays a premium -- hundreds of millions of dollars -- to have its search engine the default option in Firefox. While this relationship has worked up to this point, it's hard to fault Mozilla for not wanting to be beholden to a single entity.</p> <p>As to the ads, it's not a foregone conclusion that they'll stick. If they do, the earliest you'd see them in a stable build would be three months from now, which is when the latest version of Firefox Nightly is scheduled to hit the stable channel. However, Mozilla's been slow playing this, so it's probably more likely that we'd see ads in a stable release sometime next year, if that's the direction Mozilla goes.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> ads browser firefox Mozilla Software sponsored tiles News Fri, 29 Aug 2014 16:13:15 +0000 Paul Lilly 28448 at Determined Developer Resurrects Windows XP with Unofficial Service Pack 4 <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/windows_xp_laptop.jpg" alt="Windows XP Laptop" title="Windows XP Laptop" width="228" height="152" style="float: right;" />Letting go is hard to do</h3> <p>Diehard Windows XP fans are having a hard time bidding the legacy operating system farewll -- by the numbers, it's estimated that some 15 percent (StatCounter) to just under 25 percent (Net Applications) of desktops are still running Windows XP. Save for businesses that pay a fee, <strong>Microsoft killed off support for Windows XP back in April, though one developer is determined to keep it alive with a new (and unofficial) Service Pack</strong>.</p> <p>Known as "harkaz" on on the <em></em> discussion board, he's been working on the Service Pack since September of last year. It contains official Windows XP security updates and patches intended for ATMs and POS systems running a specialized version of XP. You may recall that earlier in the year, it was discovered that XP users could continue to receive such updates via a <a href="">registry hack</a> -- the unofficial SP4 releases applies the hack by default and installs all of the fixes released up to this point.</p> <p>Naturally Microsoft cautions against installing these updates on regular versions of Windows XP, saying that they're "intended for Windows Embedded and Windows Server 2003 customers and do not fully protect Windows XP customers." They also haven't undergone testing on Windows XP. Instead, Microsoft advises that Windows XP users upgrade to Windows 7 or 8.1.</p> <p>Should you decide to throw caution to the wind -- bear in mind we know nothing about this developer, his coding skills, and how much testing he's done on XP machines -- you can grab the unofficial Service Pack <a href=";postdays=0&amp;postorder=asc&amp;start=0" target="_blank">here</a>.</p> <p>Image Credit: <a href="" target="_blank">Flickr (Alan Levine)</a></p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> microsoft operating system OS service pack 4 Software windows xp News Thu, 28 Aug 2014 16:18:20 +0000 Paul Lilly 28435 at Google Brings 64-bit Chrome Browser to Stable Channel <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/chrome_64_bit.jpg" alt="Chrome 64-bit" title="Chrome 64-bit" width="228" height="200" style="float: right;" />Goodbye beta, hello stable!</h3> <p>Following successful runs in Google's Dev, Beta, and Canary channels, the <strong>64-bit version of Google's Chrome browser for Windows is now available as a stable release</strong> (Chrome 37). That means you can have all the benefits of the 64-bit version without the risks of instability that come from running pre-release software. According to Google, 64-bit Chrome offers a bunch of benefits for speed, stability, and security.</p> <p>"Our measurements have shown that the native 64-bit version of Chrome has improved speed on many of our graphics and media benchmarks. For example, the VP9 codec that’s used in High Definition YouTube videos shows a 15 percent improvement in decoding performance," Google stated in a <a href="" target="_blank">blog post</a>.</p> <p>According to Google, the 64-bit rendering engines are nearly twice as stable as the 32-bit engines when handling typical web content. On top of that, security safeguards such as Partition Alloc are able to "far more effectively defend against vulnerabilities that rely on controlling the memory layout of objects." In other words, 64-bit Chrome is pretty much better than the 32-bit variant in every single way.</p> <p>Be that as it may, the 64-bit version will remain opt-in, Google said. You can download <a href="" target="_blank">64-bit Chrome here</a>.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> 64-bit browser chrome Google Internet Software News Wed, 27 Aug 2014 18:33:35 +0000 Paul Lilly 28429 at Spotify Brings Free Streaming to Windows Phone Users <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/spotify_logo_0.jpg" alt="Spotify Logo" title="Spotify Logo" width="228" height="228" style="float: right;" />Rock out with your Windows Phone out, for free!</h3> <p>Sometimes the Windows Phone platform gets forgotten or otherwise overlooked by developers. Such has been the case with Spotify, which has been serving up free tunes to Android and iOS users for some time now, but hadn't extended the same courtesy to Windows Phone. Well, that changes today -- <strong>Spotify has finally brought the free mobile music experience to Windows Phone users</strong> around the globe.</p> <p>"From today, Windows Phone owners can enjoy access to millions of songs across their smartphones for free," Spotify announced in a <a href="" target="_blank">blog post</a>. "Listen to all your playlists, discover new music, or simply sit back and dig into your favorite artist's entire back catalog."</p> <p>The Spotify app for Windows Phone now lets WP users stream all the playlists they've created along with playlists of people they follow without ponying up for a paid subscription (albeit only in shuffle mode). They can also discover new music, save, re-shuffle, and share.</p> <p>In addition, Spotify introduced a series of improvements throughout the app, such as making search results look better and making it easier to browse artists.</p> <p>You can download the <a href="" target="_blank">Spotify app</a> for Windows Phone 8/8.1 at the Windows Phone store.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> mobile music Software spotify streaming windows phone wp News Tue, 26 Aug 2014 16:14:12 +0000 Paul Lilly 28422 at Android L May End Up Called Lemon Meringue Pie...Mmm, Pie <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/android_lmp.jpg" alt="Android LMP" title="Android LMP" width="228" height="151" style="float: right;" />Would you like a slice of Lemon Meringue Pie with your KitKat?</h3> <p>Fact: Bears eat beets. Bears. Beets. Battlestar Gallactica. Another fact -- every version of Android since v1.5 has been named after a sweet dessert, in alphabetical order (Cupcake, Doughnut, Eclair, and so forth). As it stands, the next version of Android is currently codenamed L, and we can think of a bunch of desserts that start with that letter. However, <strong>there's evidence to suggest that Google with run with Lemon Meringue Pie for Android L</strong>.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><em>Android Police found</em></a> multiple official sources in code and documentation that list the next release as "LMP," which strongly suggest Google is baking Lemon Meringue Pie. It makes sense considering Google dropped Key Lime Lime at the last minute in favor of KitKat. Pie lovers are still owed a slice of pie, and it appears they'll get it with the next Android release.</p> <p>You can find references to LMP is in the Android SDK, which mentions the current preview builds of Android L available for the Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 labeled as "lpm-preview-release." An LMP reference is also found in the Wi-Fi certification for HTC's "flounder" (Volantis) tablet, which points to LMP firmware.</p> <p>Fun fact (not about bears): Before Key Lime Pie was tossed aside for KitKat in Android 4.4, the release was known as KLP in internal documents.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> android android l Google lemon meringue pie operating system OS Software News Mon, 25 Aug 2014 18:36:03 +0000 Paul Lilly 28412 at China Plans to Build an Operating System to Replace Windows and Android <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/chinese_windows_7.jpg" alt="Chinese Windows 7" title="Chinese Windows 7" width="228" height="165" style="float: right;" />China's own operating system could be ready by October</h3> <p>After banning Microsoft's Windows 8 software for use on government PCs, <strong>China is now reportedly planning to cook up its own operating system</strong>. The home brewed OS could see a launch as early as October, and it would have the full backing of the Chinese government. China's motivation in building an OS of its own is to alleviate concerns that imported software from the likes of Microsoft, Google, and Apple could have spying mechanisms built into the code base.</p> <p>According to <em>Reuters</em>, China's OS would debut on desktop devices before expanding into smartphone and other mobile categories.</p> <p>"We hope to launch a Chinese-made desktop operating system by October supporting app stores," Ni Guangnan, head of an of an official OS development alliance, told the <em>People's Post and Telecommunications News</em>, <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Reuters</em> reports</a>.</p> <p>China banned the government use of Windows 8 back in May. Shortly after, China began investigating Microsoft for anti-trust violations.</p> <p>Tensions are also high between China and Google, with the former saying the latter has too much control over China's smartphone industry through Android.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> android china Google microsoft operating system OS Privacy Security Software Windows News Mon, 25 Aug 2014 17:10:02 +0000 Paul Lilly 28411 at Acer Enters Chromebox Fray with $180 CXI <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="" alt="Acer Chromebox CXI" title="Acer Chromebox CXI" width="228" height="261" style="float: right;" /></h3> <h3>Powered by an Intel Celeron 2957U processor</h3> <p>The netbook revolution was, at the time of it inception, an all-Linux affair, with there being plenty of talk of Linux finally emerging as a serious alternative to Windows in the eyes of mainstream PC users. However, all such talk quickly disappeared when the first Windows-running devices invaded the segment and made it their own in no time at all. Tablets may have derailed the netbook bandwagon, but <strong>Linux has managed to claw its way back into contention in the laptop segment with Google Chromebooks.</strong> Now, if the search engine giant has its way, its <a href="" target="_blank">Linux-based cloud OS could end up replicating that same success in the desktop category as well.</a></p> <p>Google hopes do this with inexpensive Chrome OS -based PCs like the upcoming Chromebox CXI, which has a starting price of just $179.99. The base model packs a 1.4GHz&nbsp; Intel Celeron 2957U processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB SSD, dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, Gigabit Ethernet, four USB 3.0 ports,&nbsp; and an SD card slot with support for up to 32GB external storage. For an additional $40, you will be able to get one with double the RAM.</p> <p>When the diminutive CXI (165x130x33mm) goes on sale in the U.S. and Canada sometime next month, it will be the first device of its kind from Acer’s stable. It will join a handful of similar offerings from the likes of Asus, Samsung and HP.</p> <p>Apart from standalone Chromeboxes, Google also offers a <a href="" target="_blank">$1,000 Core i7-powered Chromebox for Meetings bundle</a>.</p> <p>Follow Pulkit on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a></p> Acer chrome os chromebox cxi Desktop Google Hardware Software News Sun, 24 Aug 2014 22:40:06 +0000 Pulkit Chandna 28405 at HP Pushes Windows 7 PCs for Back to School Season with Instant Discounts <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/hp_envy_0.jpg" alt="HP Envy" title="HP Envy" width="228" height="166" style="float: right;" />Save money on a Windows 7 system</h3> <p>With Windows 9 (Threshold) rumored for an introduction next month along with a Release Preview for consumers and developers alike, it's safe to say that the Windows 8 era is winding down, though some would argue it never truly began (market share figures would back that argument). So, what do you do if you're an OEM looking to pick up sales for the back to school season? Well, <strong>if you're HP, you promote Windows 7 and offer shoppers an enticing discount</strong>.</p> <p>HP has been sending out a newsletter to customers with the heading, "Windows 7 PCs on sale, just in time for school." That's an interesting sales pitch some two years after Windows 8 has been on the market. Nevertheless, consumers just haven't reacted to Windows 8/8.1 the way Microsoft hoped they would, so this isn't a terrible move by HP.</p> <p>If you head over to HP's "<a href="" target="_blank">Laptops &amp; hybrids</a>" section, you'll see HP pushing Windows 7 laptops with instant savings of up to $170. You can save up to 20 percent off of Windows 7 laptops in certain cases, such as the HP Pavilion 15t-n200 -- it normally sells for $750 but is currently marked down to $600. The HP Envy 15t-j100 Quad Edition is close behind with a 19 percent reduction to $730, down from $900.</p> <p>Time is running out for Microsoft's hardware partners to sell Windows 7 PCs to consumers. After October 31, they'll no longer be able to sell systems with Windows 7 as a standard option.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> back to school Hardware hewlett-packard hp OEM operating system OS rigs Software windows 7 News Fri, 22 Aug 2014 17:55:20 +0000 Paul Lilly 28401 at Study Shows Near Equal Split Between Female and Male Gamers <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/girl_gamer_0.jpg" alt="Girl Gamer" title="Girl Gamer" width="228" height="150" style="float: right;" />Fun facts about the video game industry</h3> <p><strong>The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) released a report titled "Essential Facts About the Computer and Video game Industry"</strong> that's filled with sales, demographic, and usage data. According to the report, 59 percent of Americans play video games with an average of two gamers in each game playing U.S. household. Some 51 percent of U.S. households own a dedicated game console, and of those that do, most own two. As for the gender breakdown, 52 percent of gamers are male and 48 percent are female. However, things get interesting when you examine the breakdown by age.</p> <p>"Women age 18 or older represent a significantly greater portion of the game playing population (36 percent) than boys age 18 or younger (17 percent)," ESA states in its <a href="" target="_blank">report (PDF).</a></p> <p>Also interesting is that the number of female gamers age 50 and older increased by 32 percent from 2012 to 2013. ESA didn't provide any reasons for the rise, but we'd guess it has to do with accessibility, such as playing games on tablets and smartphones.</p> <p>Not surprisingly, casual and social game play on mobile devices and online went up "significantly" as well. Among the most frequent gamers, social games are now the most popular, increasing in popularity by 55 percent from 2012 to 2013.</p> <p>Image Credit: <a href="" target="_blank">Flickr (włodi)</a></p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> Consoles games Software study News Fri, 22 Aug 2014 17:32:41 +0000 Paul Lilly 28400 at Facebook Extends Bug Bounty Program to Oculus Rift <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/oculus_rift_4.jpg" alt="Oculus Rift" title="Oculus Rift" width="228" height="164" style="float: right;" />Get paid to root out bugs in Oculus Rift</h3> <p>The concept of a bug bounty program is nothing new, and even Facebook will line your pockets with cash if you discover a qualifying security vulnerability in the social network or select acquisitions it's made. Until now, however Oculus Rift was exempt. <strong>Facebook has now extended its bug bounty program to Oculus Rift</strong>, which joins other Facebook acquisitions such as Instagram, Parse, Onavo, and Moves.</p> <p>Bounties are awarded at the discretion of Facebook's bug bounty team. Should yours qualify, the minimum reward you're receive is $500. On the flip side, there is no maximum reward, and the more severe and creative the bug, the higher the bounty will be, according to <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook's bug bounty page</a>.</p> <p>Though this is Facebook's first hardware device, Facebook security engineer Neal Poole tells <em>The Verge</em> that at present, the majority of bugs related to Oculus Rift are in the message system for Oculus developers and parts of the website. As a result, the bugs are similar to the ones found in the social network.</p> <p>"A lot of the issues that come up with Oculus are not necessarily in the hardware yet," <a href="" target="_blank">Poole says</a>. "Potentially in the future, if people were to go explore and find issues in the SDK or the hardware, that is definitely of interest to us."</p> <p>Image Credit: <a href="" target="_blank">Flickr (Sergey Galyonkin)</a></p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> bugs facebook oculus rift Security Social Networking Software virtual reality vr wearables News Thu, 21 Aug 2014 17:32:07 +0000 Paul Lilly 28391 at DFC Intelligence: Nearly All PC Game Sales are Digital Downloads <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/steam_games.jpg" alt="Steam Games" title="Steam Games" width="228" height="169" style="float: right;" />Physical media in the PC gaming sector is nearly dead</h3> <p>Think for a moment about the last 10 PC games you purchased. If the statistics presented by analyst DFC Intelligence are correct, than at least nine of those games were digitally downloaded as opposed to physical copies. Long gone are the days when you'd walk into Software Etc. and emerge with a bag full of game boxes containing floppy disks, and later CDs. <strong>According to DFI Intelligence, 92 percent of all PC game sales around the world in 2013 were digital</strong>.</p> <p>DFC Intelligence provided that tidbit to <a href="" target="_blank"><em>PCR</em></a>, though it didn't say what the outlook for 2014 looks like. However, there's no reason to believe that trend is reversing, especially if you've walked into a GameStop lately -- the PC section has been reduced in most stores to a sad little rack that would normally hold a few accessories.</p> <p>Going digital isn't a bad thing, nor has it hurt developers and publishers. DFC said earlier this year that the <a href="" target="_blank">PC games market leapfrogged console gaming</a> in revenue for the first time.</p> <p>"Among core gamers there is a heavy overlap with most console gamers also playing on a PC. The big difference is that consoles are now the luxury item and PCs are the necessity. Just a few years ago the reverse was true. This means PCs have the broader audience," DFI Intelligence owner David Cole explained at the time.</p> <p>It's not hard to believe. As our sister site <a href="" target="_blank"><em>PC Gamer</em> points out</a>, EA <a href="" target="_blank">announced</a> in its Q1 financial results for fiscal year 2013 that it made more money from PC sales than PlayStation 3, and it credited digital sales as the reason why.</p> <p>Welcome to the future.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> DFC Intelligence digital downloads games Software News Wed, 20 Aug 2014 17:15:32 +0000 Paul Lilly 28387 at Broken Age Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Two stories, tons of creativity, yummy ice cream, no grog</h3> <p>That’s fair advice for the half of you who will start out Broken Age in a miserable funk instead of a monster-filled fairy tale. At least, that’s how we felt when we initially began our trip through Tim Schafer’s imaginative title—the first half of a two-part, point-and-click adventure from the industry veteran whose previous credits stand well on their own within the genre: Day of the Tentacle, The Secret of Monkey Island, Full Throttle, et cetera.</p> <p>The game splits the two protagonists’ (seemingly) separate story lines right from the start. We started our journey with the boy, Shay, but found the initial ramp-up to his adventure a bit too convincing.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/2_small_26.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/2_small_25.jpg" alt="It’s no Mystery Science Theater movie warning, that’s for sure." title="Broken Age" width="620" height="388" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>It’s no Mystery Science Theater movie warning, that’s for sure.</strong></p> <p>Without spoiling too much of the plot, Shay is trapped on a spaceship that goes above and beyond to protect him from the harshness of growing up. Shay could not be any more apathetic to the idea of daily life with his “mother,” a benevolent, computerized AI of sorts, who washes him, feeds him his daily cereal, and sends him on “adventures” that end in hugs, piles of ice cream, and, most likely, a bout of depression.</p> <p>The other protagonist of this half-game, Vella, presents a more compelling story line. In this case, you’re playing the classic damsel in distress. Rather than being eaten by a giant monster as part of her town’s sacrificial ritual to avoid destruction, she decides to go on a one-woman crusade to slay said monster herself.</p> <p>While Vella’s story line is a bit more action-packed—or at least, feels more so as a result of its classic slay-the-dragon-like premise—we actually found ourselves more proud of our experience in Shay’s adventure. Our favorite moment involved trying to find a way to “kill” our character, for lack of a better way to say it, in order to see if his daily monotony could be averted somehow. Spoiler: It can.</p> <p>That’s the most challenging example of the game’s puzzles that we could come up with, as Broken Age feels perfectly balanced between “breeze on by” and “consult game FAQs” for its overall difficulty. You get just enough quirky items to keep you thinking about what goes where without feeling overwhelmed with options—this isn’t a 20-item-inventory, combine-every-gizmo kind of adventure title.</p> <p>While Broken Age features no hint system, which might frustrate those looking for an extra boost or two in some head-scratching moments, you do have the option to switch between the two separate”story lines at a moment’s notice. Think Day of the Tentacle, only, your actions in the two stories don’t affect each other—a somewhat curious oversight that we hope developer Double Fine Productions changes up in the game’s second half.</p> <p>There’s no real point to spending much time talking about the game’s graphics, as you’ll fall in love with the beautiful visuals the moment you start adventuring. Kudos to Broken Age’s original orchestration as well—it’s the bread keeping the delicious presentation together. Sharp writing, endless wit, and excellent characterization (with similarly awesome voice talent) all work in tandem to deliver a welcome arrival to a genre whose blockbuster titles are not always at the forefront of gamers’ minds.</p> <p>You won’t forget Broken Age; in fact, we think you’ll be clamoring for quite a while to see how chapter one’s big cliffhanger ends up. More, Tim Schafer! More!</p> <p><strong>$25,</strong> <a href=""></a><strong><a href="">,</a> ESRB: n/a</strong></p> Broken Age maximum pc May issues 2014 Software Software Reviews Wed, 20 Aug 2014 14:57:20 +0000 David Murphy 28383 at Audacity Crash Course <!--paging_filter--><h3><span style="font-weight: normal;"><img src="/files/u162579/audacity-logo_0.png" alt="Audacity Logo" title="Audacity Logo" width="200" height="200" style="float: right;" />Turn your PC into a music computer with the best free audio editor</span></h3> <p><strong><a href="" target="_blank">Audacity</a></strong>’s been around for a long time—since mid-2000—and for good reason. It’s a relatively lightweight, open-source, and completely free audio editor that can handle pretty much every task you throw at it. Need to edit together a podcast? No problem. Looking to do some simple noise reduction? Looking to turn your PC into a <strong>music computer</strong>? Audacity’s got you covered.</p> <p>Although it’s available for free, it’s not exactly the most intuitive program. The interface isn’t necessarily dated, but it does look pretty spartan alongside programs like Adobe Photoshop and even Microsoft Office. Getting up and running with Audacity isn’t hard, but it does take a little know-how.&nbsp;</p> <h3><span style="font-weight: normal;">The Toolbar</span></h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u162579/toolbar.jpg" alt="Audacity Toolbar" title="Audacity Toolbar" width="600" height="109" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The toolbar of Audacity is home to all of the app’s basic tools.</strong></p> <p>The first thing you’ll want to get familiar with is Audacity’s packed toolbar. It’s filled with tools, and fortunately, they’re all labeled. Hover over a button, slider, or drop-down box, and you should see a text label pop-up with the name of the tool. There are a lot of tools, but you really only need a small subset of them for all but the most demanding projects.&nbsp;</p> <p>Make note of the playback controls—play, pause, record, et cetera. They’re essential to all audio editing since you’ll want to constantly be reviewing your work as you go along. Next, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got your output and input devices set correctly. Both should be set to your Windows default devices—if they aren’t, make sure you select the correct ones in the dropdown. Once you get your audio into Audacity—we’ll cover that in a second—you can monitor your levels in the output and input level monitors (usually somewhere near the center of the toolbar).&nbsp;</p> <p>You’ll also want to make sure that you’re always aware of which cursor tool is currently selected. The standard Selection Tool is exactly what you’d expect; it’s a cursor that lets you mark your position on a track and highlight specific sections. The other essential tool is the Time Shift Tool which lets you move clips along the timeline.</p> <h3><span style="font-weight: normal;">Getting Audio Into Audacity</span></h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u162579/import.jpg" alt="Audacity Import" title="Audacity Import" width="600" height="439" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Importing is a cinch.</strong></p> <p>If you’re working with pre-recorded audio, getting it into Audacity is just a matter of jumping into the File menu and selecting Import &gt; Audio—hit Ctrl+Shift+I if you’re feeling fancy. Find your audio files and they should pop into Audacity as separate tracks.</p> <p>If, on the other hand, you want to record a voiceover or instrumental track directly into Audacity, all you have to do is check to make sure that your input levels are set appropriately (a maxed out slider is usually fine) and click the record button. Clicking stop will end the recording whereas clicking pause will let you continue recording on the same track.&nbsp;</p> <h3><span style="font-weight: normal;">Editing Your Audio</span></h3> <p>Now you can get down to the fun part: actually editing your audio. The tools and effects you’ll use will depend on what you’re trying to accomplish, but we’ll run through some basic tasks that most projects will require.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u162579/remove_audio_menu.jpg" alt="Audacity Remove Audio" title="Audacity Remove Audio" width="600" height="331" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Remove Audio dropdown in the Edit menu will be your audio-editing brother-in-arms.&nbsp;</strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;">Most audio editing projects requires a fair bit of cutting, splitting, and rearranging sections of a track—or multiple separate tracks. Cutting, splitting, silencing, trimming, and deleting is all handled in the Remove Audio section of the Edit menu. The shortcuts are simple and worth learning since these are common tasks in any editing endeavour. Highlight the section of the track you want to manipulate and select the action you want completed. Trimming removes everything but the highlighted area on any continuous piece of audio. Cutting moves the selected clip to your clipboard, and shifts the remaining pieces over. A split cut or delete removes the selected audio, and preserves the empty space between the two remaining clips.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u162579/effects_menu.jpg" alt="Audacity Effects" title="Audacity Effects" width="600" height="390" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Like a kid in a effects store?</strong></p> <p>Most of the other things you’d want to do to an audio track is under the Effects menu. Here you can amplify, bass boost, change pitch, fade in and out, and normalize audio. Most of the effects are self explanatory and work as you’d expect. Some of the commands lets you select specific settings when you click on the effect.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u162579/bass_boost.jpg" alt="Audacity Bass Boost" title="Audacity Bass Boost" width="321" height="178" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Pump up the bass!</strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;">Bass boost gives you control over Frequency and the amount of Boost. Other effects like Fade In and Fade Out simply alter the audio without any confirmation. Pay attention the waveform and you’ll see it turn into a gradual fade. The expansive effects menu is one of Audacity’s greatest features. It’s the reason why the program has been a freeware staple since it's release.</p> <h3><span style="font-weight: normal;">Exporting the Finished Product</span></h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u162579/export_menu.jpg" alt="Audacity Export" title="Audacity Export" width="600" height="429" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Where and how you want it are your choice.</strong></p> <p>Once you’re done editing, you’ll want to get your audio out of Audacity into a format that works for your project. Audacity supports a pretty large number of formats, although exporting as an MP3 requires an external codec. If all you want to do is get your file out as a WAV, FLAC, or any of the other available formats, you just have to go to File &gt; Export and select where you want it to be saved and the format you want it in.</p> <p>MP3 file exports are available after downloading the LAME MP3 encoder. It’s completely free, but can’t be distributed with Audacity directly because of software patents. Head over to the LAME download page and download the “Lame v.399.3 for Windows.exe” installer. Start up the installer and don’t change the default destination of the program. Once it’s finished, try to export your Audacity project as an MP3 and you should be asked to find “lame_enc.dll”. Go to “C:\Program Files\Lame for Audacity” and select the dll. Your project should export as an MP3 file and you’re ready to enjoy your finished product in an audio player of your choice.</p> <p>You probably aren’t an audio editing expert yet, but hopefully you’re well on your way to editing out unwanted noise, adding fades to clips, and editing homebrew podcasts with Audacity.</p> <p><em>Follow Ben on <a href="" target="_blank">Twitter</a>&nbsp;and <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>.</em></p> audacity audio editor beginners crash course freeware music computer Software tutorial Features Tue, 19 Aug 2014 23:02:33 +0000 Ben Kim 27534 at Rebooted King's Quest Adventure Game Won't Be a Point and Click <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/kingsquest.jpg" alt="King's Quest" title="King's Quest" width="228" height="144" style="float: right;" />King's Quest is coming back in a different way</h3> <p>News broke last week at Gamescom that Activision is bringing back the Sierra brand, which it will use as a launching ground for different indie developed titles. One of the first will be a reimagined version of <em>King's Quest</em> developed by The Odd Gentlemen, a small game studio known for <em>The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom</em>. There aren't a lot of details to share just yet, but one thing we do know is that the <strong>reimagined King's Quest won't be a point-and-click game</strong>.</p> <p>"There's not much I can say about King's Quest," Activision's MacLean Marshall posted to Twitter. "All I can say is that I've seen it, and it's not a point-and-click game. But it looks awesome."</p> <p>The Odd Gentlemen later took to Twitter to clarify that even though it won't be a point-and-click title like the original, "the game is very much an adventure game. It doesn't only use the mouse."</p> <p>Marshall had a lot more to say to <a href="" target="_blank"><em>GameInformer</em></a> about the sudden Sierra movement,<a href="" target="_blank"><em></em></a> though nothing too specific about King's Quest, other than Activision might allow more than one studio to use the same characters and universe. Color us intrigued.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> adventure game king's quest point-and-click Sierra Software News Mon, 18 Aug 2014 19:49:40 +0000 Paul Lilly 28370 at