Ding! If you're still using AOL's default instant messenger (or Google Talk, or Yahoo! Messenger, or...), then you're missing out on a wide range of alternative features--more than you perhaps though possible in a common messaging application. Or, worse, you're trying to converse with your friends across the various networks by using three or more individual applications at once. While this might have been the only way to bridge the gap between these services before, you can plead ignorance no longer. Start the uninstaller--and this article--and by the time you're finished with both, you'll never go back to the antiquated world of official messaging applications. Third-party is where the real party's at.
What can you expect to find in these open-source and freeware apps? For starters, an interface that combines a number of common messaging networks into a single program. In some cases, you can even lump your friends' various online names across the separate chat networks into a single, unifying alias--click a drop-down box to specify which network you want to reach them on. Beyond that, these programs can bring a number of plugins and external connections to the table. Combine your Facebook and Twitter feeds into your friends list, find out when people are about to message you before they do so, and call your buddies through your messenger interface akin to Skype. And that's just the tip of the IM iceberg.
Get a list of your favorite emoticons ready to go and hit the jump. The competitive world of instant messaging applications awaits!
MMOs are a dime a dozen these days, but what about quality MMOs that don’t even cost a dime? Those, of course, are a tad harder to come by. That’s where Dungeons & Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited comes in. Formerly a subscription-based MMO, DDO’s knocking down its “You Must Have This Much Disposable Income to Enter” gate and letting everyone join the party. Thinking that’s all DDO has going for it, however, would be a grievous mistake. Why? Well, we’ve got exactly five reasons. Convenient, right?
1. Anyone can play it – No, seriously, anyone. During our time with the game, we were amazed at how carefully Turbine smoothed over many of the bumps on the road to MMO enjoyment. Most noticeably, the game now includes a context-sensitive hint system that nudges you in the right direction based on what you’re doing. So say you’re stumbling through your first dungeon and walk right into a fire elemental. Demonstrating your incredible knowledge of cultural idioms, you decide to fight fire with fire, literally. This, however, only heals the elemental. In this case, the game would point out that you’re doin’ it wrong, and tell you to use a different type of spell.
The game also includes pre-generated class paths for players who don’t understand D&D’s rule set, and dungeons that tailor themselves to your party’s particular setup. So say, for instance, that your cleric just left the party. In any other MMO, you’d be hurting something fierce for a healer, but in DDO, the dungeon will alter its setup, making sure that your healer-less party still has a shot at success.
Is the whole thing too good to be true? Find out after the break.
Throughout the five years, Mozilla has dramatically improved the Internet browsing experience by producing stable, open-source applications that bring simplicity to our virtual lives. The latest version of Firefox is a prime example of how Mozilla integrates practical features into its products, like the inclusion of private browsing, tear away tabs and location awareness, while still maintaining a strong user base and delivering a stable browser.
However, the buck doesn’t stop there: Mozilla Labs has conjured up several new open source Firefox add-ons that aim to further enhance your web experience and promote better, more efficient browsing. Long time Firefox users are already familiar with the browser’s ability to become fully customizable with the inclusion of add-ons, so the concoctions coming out of Mozilla Labs should be no surprise. Read on to discover some of the latest releases from our favorite open sorcerers, but be aware that most Mozilla Labs projects are still in a prototype stage, so install at your own risk.
In the movie Braveheart, there's a pivotal scene involving Mel Gibson and a Scottish battalion where, as William Wallace, he tries to muster some courage from his ragtag company. Face painted blue and half-hysterical, he rallies them with a memorable speech about freedom and love of country. Then, the army proceeds to completely destroy the foreign oppressor in a fight to the bitter end.
In some ways, the current war on smartphone devices could be just as pivotal...and bloody. Companies such as Palm and Nokia have everything to lose if their platforms do not thoroughly crush the competition. Meanwhile, Apple has taken a strong lead with the iPhone, and BlackBerry devices do not appear to be losing any momentum, at least in the business sector. Google has entered the fight with their Android OS, attracting legions of developers to the platform in record time.
All of these operating systems support touch control, rudimentary multi-tasking, rich media, desktop-like Web browsing, and advanced messaging. Yet, only one OS is superior and will ultimately emerge as the victor. It might seem like Apple has already had their Braveheart moment, and maybe there is room for several companies at the top of the pile, but if Windows has taught us anything, it's that a single operating system can become so dominant that every other desktop OS becomes inconsequential. Developers lock into a platform, users get accustomed to it, and that OS wins the war.
We set out to put the major contenders to the test and find out which could become the most dominant. Really, it's too early to call Apple the victor, even though it would be easy to do so with 50,000 apps available and over a million iPhone users. As any technology analyst can tell you, there are actually significantly more Nokia and BlackBerry phones in use today than the iPhone, especially in Europe. The surprise is that the OS that seems to be winning the battle (the iPhone) may not eventually win the OS war in the long run.
One of the caveats that many people have with using Linux is the current state of media support. While media playback on Linux is presently much better than it has ever been before, it still requires a little bit of know-how and tweaking to get everything working properly. This guide will go over each step of optimizing your media capabilities.
Why doesn't media just work? The reason why some types of media do not work out of the box on Linux is due to legal and technological reasons. Many of the popular media formats (like DVD, MP3, Adobe Flash, etc.) require a codec, DRM workaround, or other sort of player before content in any of those formats can be viewed. Because of patent and copyright law, Linux distro maintainers are not able to include these extra packages in their distros, so media performance is somewhat crippled as a result. Some distros actually license these codecs (e.g. Mandriva's Codina tool) and have working media support out of the box. However, such features are not free and many people balk at the notion of paying for Linux. If it provides any reassurance, it helps to know that this problem is not specifically limited to Linux. Windows XP and some of the low-end editions of Vista are unable to play DVDs out of the box as well, and no version of Windows offers out of the box Blu-Ray support.
Dungeons & Dragons Online, like the lion’s share of MMOs out there, has undergone countless changes since it launched, but never something this huge. Previously a subscription-based game, DDO is just about to engage the landing gear on its brand new free-to-play option, which brings with it new features of all shapes and sizes. We spoke with senior producer Kate Paiz about DDO’s latest makeover, chatting about topics including the DDO Store’s effects on game balance, the when’s and why’s of DDO’s new free-to-play model, the recent sale of id Software, and much, much more.
Seriously, grab a sandwich or something. This one’s a doozy.
What prompted the decision to go free-to-play? Why move away from a subscription focus?
Ever since we’ve launched, we’ve gotten feedback from players that we’re just a different kind of MMO; we don’t have the same kind of basic gameplay mechanics as a lot of other, more traditional MMOs do. We have a lot of private, party-based instances. We give XP based on the completion of an adventure, of conquering a goal. So you saved the girl, right? You know, destroyed the weapon – completed something that was a little more epic than just killing monsters. It’s a bigger task. And because we’re based so faithfully on the [D&D] 3.5 rule set, there are also just some basic mechanics that differed [from other MMOs].
So one of the things that we hear all the time is that because we’re not that traditional MMO, and because research has shown that one of the barriers to joining an MMO is the subscription price, we felt like it made more sense to pull from D&D’s roots and go back to sort of a more module-based purchasing option, where players get a certain amount of content, like the players’ handbook, right up front, and then they can use that as much as they want and then purchase additional content when they want, the way they want – rather than being locked into a subscription fee.
Continue spelunking this verbal dungeon after the break.
Although Windows has included the Program Compatibility Wizard and Compatibility tab to help older programs to run properly under the current version of Windows since Windows XP, these features are not always able to help older applications to run. While Windows 7 continues to offer these features, some editions can also use a better way to run older Windows applications: XP Mode.
Join us after the jump for an in-depth look at XP Mode: the FAQs, what it can do for you, who benefits most from XP Mode, and how to use its new features.
The life of a technology and gadget aficionado is filled with challenges. With so many amazing computing options available to us these days, we tend to go a bit overboard with the number of devices we own. In addition to the desktop, we live digital lives on our laptops, netbooks, smartphones, and even the work PC at the office. While each machine has specific functions and advantages, problems arise when we sit down in front of just one device and wonder if it has the latest version of our documents, contacts, and bookmarks.
Keeping your mobile life in sync is becoming an increasingly difficult task these days, and with each device you add to your lineup, the challenge multiplies exponentially. It becomes even more complicated when you start mixing and matching platforms that have conflicting file systems and format support. On the bright side, there has never been a better time to automate the process, allowing you to keep every aspect of your digital life in sync. This guide will educate you on the best ways to sync files, bookmarks, passwords, emails, and even your contacts / calendars, to any platform or device you may have. We deep dive into the major sync technologies being offered today; showing you step by step how they work, so you can decide for yourself what solution will work best for you.
Distributed computing is one of the wonderful ways that you can use your PC to contribute to more thoughtful, worldly causes than keeping your room warm during a cloudy summer day. These projects, made up of members from all corners of the world (even Maximum PC's own forums), make use of your computer during its idle periods. Whether they're come as a screensaver that launches after a set period of time, or a background application that launches after a certain period of CPU inactivity, these free applications divvy out the tasks of a large, complicated project to a number of people at once.
Why should you care? Because distributed computing is a nice way to use a minimal amount of your system's resources--resources that you wouldn't be using anyway--to contribute to something greater than yourself. It's entirely altruistic in its purpose. Very, very few distributed computing projects have some kind of monetary award attached to the work, and you'd have to score a major knock-out in your individual contribution to the project to see the result. That is, your computer would have to be the one that finds the next huge prime number, or major breakthrough in protein analysis, or something to that effect. If you're in it for a reward, you might as well develop a program that estimates lottery odds.
You'll find that entities like Maximum PC, amongst others, have teams of people contributing to these distributed computing projects. It's a great way to make friends and fellow geeks--in fact, I'd probably be strung up by this site's forum folk if I didn't include a shout-out to their work on the Folding@Home project. Click the jump to find out how you can get involved in this and other awesome distributed computing efforts. +10 Light Side points for you.
BitTorrent is a tremendously popular peer-to-peer file-sharing protocol designed to simplify and speed up the process of transferring large files over the Internet while drastically limiting the bandwidth consumption of any one server.
In a conventional file-transfer process, a file is stored on a server on a network such as the Internet. Other computers on the network send messages to the server, informing it that they would like to copy that file. When the two sides establish a connection, the other computers become clients to the server. As the number of clients increases, so do the demands on the server. And while each client might consume only a little bandwidth, the server can consume tremendous amounts. To reduce costs and prevent the server from crashing, the server’s owner will typically constrain the speed at which each client is allowed to download data or even limit the number of clients that can be served at one time.