Just doing what I can to show my support against SOPA and PIPA. Check out the Wikipedia article and do a quick Google search to educate yourself!
Also check out the WordPress.com protest at wordpress.com
Which networking site has the best designed user profile page with regards to design and usability?
I’m curious, do users prefer design and style over features? Do minimalistic layouts make for a better design as opposed to cluttering a page with functions? Do users prefer colorful pages or ones with a mono-color scheme?
On Monday after an annoying wait for shipping I got up close and personal with a custom built NP8760 gaming laptop from Sager PC, as you may know I considered buying a Sager notebook but ended up choosing the Asus G73JH because of it’s lower price and more appealing design. Most of my cons section for this laptop rest on the external design so lets get that over with.
My first impression at the unboxing was “This doesn’t look like $2300 worth of computer.” I expected a more polished and appealing design considering the high price, I consider it quite a mark against it given the cost. Other than the bland design (based on the Clevo W870CU), the build quality was very high all the pieces fit together tightly and perfectly, and the non-flashy appearance can be a pro or con depending on your tastes, and thank the design God that the laptop isn’t glossy. The laptop is also smaller from front to back than the Asus G73 because of the Asus’s exhaust and battery design, unfortunately it is also thicker from bottom to top (open). It has four USB ports including a USB 3.0, two are place on the back along with the power input (which I consider an annoyance) and four audio input and outputs (line in, headphone, S/PDIF, mic), I was extremely happy to see the full sized chiclet style keyboard and several dedicated function keys near the base of the screen. I can also tell you that the fingerprint reader works very well and accurately and gives you a serious James Bond kick when you can log in or out with the swipe of a finger.
From the look of it the laptop appears to be covered in speakers and I was hoping for superior audio quality but alas while it’s better than average it still suffers from the tinny audio that plagues most laptops. The mic is also placed right near the touchpad which I would assume brings it somewhat closer to your mouth but seem like it might be covered by your hands occasionally. Video good audio
The 17.3” LED backlit screen runs at 1080p and is a pleasure to watch offering an incredible viewing experience for movies and games, probably one of the highest quality screens I have seen on a notebook. From the first boot we noticed a one dead pixel and later four more which marred the screen quality, but could just be bad luck. Still an expensive machine like this needs to be near perfect.
This laptop had been customized with an 80GB SSD drive which boosted the already blazing fast performance of the NVidia GeForce GTX 460m graphics card, coupled with 8 GB of 1333MHz DDR3 RAM and a an Intel Core i7 Q740 quad core running at 1.73GHz, to make this system simply FAS.T Games such as Cysis and StarCraft 2 should max out and barely cause the system to blink, as well as improving boot times on a clean install of Windows 7 Premium, by almost half, by my totally informal guess over the Asus G73JH.
This laptop might be a plain Jane when it comes to looks but for most gamers looking for performance at a reasonable price beauty is all about what’s inside, and with that 1.5 GB graphics card and 1.3GHz RAM and SSD she is one beautiful laptop. I prefer function over style in almost everything but when I shelled out $1900 Canadian (after taxes and shipping) I wanted a good looking machine and so the Sager’s took a backseat, however for $2300 Canadian (after taxes and shipping) the NP8760 is hardly a poor choice for a gamer.
I’ve had my brand new G73JH for a couple of weeks now and feel that I can comment on it, and so I will. First off I ordered mine online from TigerDirect.ca for exactly $1900.97 dollars Canadian after tax and shipping and I can say that I do not regret a single cent. I’m not here to review TigerDirect but I will say that their shipping was quick and buying was easy, I highly recommend them for Canadian customers looking for an alternative to Newegg.com.
Now on to the main event: the box it came in was large and well padded as it should be when shipping internationally. The box prominently showed the very impressive warranty Asus includes with this laptop, a two year accidently damage, surge, water, fire all included and it’s the best one I’ve ever seen without extra charge. My first impression when sliding the laptop out of the box and getting over the giddiness brought on by unboxing a new gadget for the first time was “man this looks menacing” and it really does. The laptop is large the biggest I’ve ever seen partly due to the massive 1080p, 17 inch screen and partly because of the design of the heat exhausts and battery compartment. I say heat exhausts because they really are, the design of this laptop is based on a stealth bomber which actually comes though and makes the shape seem ominous and rather alien especially when closed. Also of note the power brick is quite large, not anywhere near XBox 360 large but bigger than average.
The keyboard is a chicklet style board and very well spaced making the keyboard on par with an expensive desktop one. The keyboard is also backlit which if nothing else makes it look cooler, not quite as cool as the more expensive Alienware laptops but much more so than some in the same price range and if you would prefer a more toned down look you can change how bright the backlights are or if they are even on. The hand rests are some sort of rubber that along with the back of the screen will thankfully not smear. The touchpad is just massive almost double the one on my old laptop and is pretty responsive,
All the ports on this laptop are thankfully on the sides, one side has your ethernet/LAN, mic, 3.5mm headphone jack, two USB ports, the other has a VGA, HDMI, card reader slot, and two more USB ports for a total of four available. All indicator lights are on the front, battery, wifi, disk usage, ect.
Near the bottom of the screen are four buttons one on the right for power and three on the left for the keyboard and glow lighting, the twin turbo mode and one for switching the screen modes between Gamma correction, Vivid, Theatre, Soft, Normal modes.
The twin turbo mode overclocks your 1.6GHz Quad core i7 720QM to about 2.53GHz but from what I’ve been reading this can actually hurt performance because it conflicts with the Intel Turbo boost software which allows your processor to run faster when an application requests more power. I did miss dedicated hardware buttons for media control but its a relatively small gripe and one that very few people will require.
Graphics performance is impressive as it should be in a gaming laptop not quite the extreme power you can get from the best of the best but the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5870 is still one of the most or possibly the most powerful single mobile graphics card. Some other gaming rigs come with dual GPU’s but the 5870 is more than enough, I can run Crysis at max setting except for the Anti aliasing and Starcraft 2 totally maxed without slowing down anything else. When I was researching I had trouble finding the Windows Experience Index ratings online so here:
As you can see your RAM is very close to Windows max rating of 7.9 and your graphics are not far behind, its a shame that it is all dragged down to 5.9 by the dual 320 GB 7200 RPM drives, but if you feel up to voiding your warranty or I believe you can send it to Asus to install a SSD to bump that score up a lot. The Experience index isn’t the best judge of your PC but I’ve always found it quite useful and accurate. One other thing I’d like to mention along with the impressive video quality and performance is the audio: I’ve never owned a laptop worth quite this much but the built in sub woofer makes the sounds coming out of this otherwise silent machine beautiful.
That’s all I can say for the hardware, and the software is pretty much up to you you do get some bundled software, a face recognition program that allows you to log in to Windows without a password, an audio enhancement program (Creative, I’ve seen many people who have this program cause system instability and crashes), a program for customizing your BIOS start screen, Asus Fastboot which actually could be useful because it delays programs from starting up until Windows is ready resulting in faster boot times. Other than that there are a bunch of other bloatware apps that come included against your will I suggest removing them but they won’t make a huge impact on this powerhouse.
UPDATE: 343 Industries Posted a huge job listing for all sorts of positions check them out: 343 Industries – Jobs
By now you may have heard of a little game franchise that started as a real time strategy for the Apple Macintosh but was converted into a first person shooter when Microsoft bought the developer Bungie Studios. The first game in the trilogy Halo: Combat Evolved was released on November 15, 2001 and was a massive hit even though the multiplayer aspect of the game which have become a core part of the experience of Halo wasn’t available because there was no Xbox Live. The Halo franchise was instrumental in building the popularity of Xbox Live in the coming years and remains one of the largest draws to the service. Halo: Combat Evolved was eventually released again with multiplayer support and a PC version was made available. Bungie/Microsoft didn’t stop there they released Halo 2 for the Xbox on November 9, 2004 and shortly afterward a PC version for Windows Vista. Halo 2 was an even larger hit than the original probably due to the multiplayer support from the get-go and the foundation already built from Combat Evolved. When Halo 3 –the final part of the main story arc – was released on on September 25, 2007 it broke sales records for largest ever product launch beating out even the Harry Potter books. After Halo 3 Ensemble Studios released a spin off R.T.S. for the Xbox set 21 years before the events in Halo: Combat Evlolved which was released in early 2009 and was Ensemble Studios last project. After Halo 3 Bungie split into two teams one to develop Halo 3: ODST, and one to begin development on Halo: Reach, the last Halo game for Bungie as they have since separated from Microsoft, the rights for Halo are still in Microsoft’s hands and any further development will be done by 343 Industries, possibly in partnership with Bungie.
To me Halo: Reach is very much the last hurrah as far as the series is concerned I didn’t much care for Halo 3: ODST not because it was terrible or anything I just didn’t enjoy it as much. Reach is set for release on September 14, 2010 and once again I am nervous about another mediocre game, I have played the multiplayer beta and thoroughly enjoyed it although I found the weapon designs toned down and generic compared to the ones found in the original series also the armour that the Spartans are wearing should be the Mark IV which is the same variety that John 117 was wearing in Halo: Combat Evolved, but to me seems much more like the armour an ODST would be wearing. These are quite small complaints overall I suppose but when this game is your last project I wouldn’t want to disappoint players that have followed you since the beginning. That’s the bad news, the good news is that judging by the beta Halo: Reach has a very fast and well balanced combat system with new things like loadouts that allow you to choose your starting weapon and a special ability for your character, abilities include: stealth, armour lock, sprint, hologram, and jetpacks. The combat also seems faster and more hectic even with the return of the energy shield/ health combo from the fist game. Also returning as the primary enemies are the Elites which after Halo 2 were allies to the UNSC due to the civil war started by the brutes, but because this takes place much earlier before the events of Combat Evolved. I always liked fighting the Elites in the first game, their recharging energy shields and ability to dodge grenades made them a very challenging enemy the Brutes I found were rather dull and not nearly as expressive as their predecessors. Another nice addition is the assassination kill whereby holding down the melee button while assassinating an enemy the camera zooms out into third person while you bash/stab your victim to a dramatic death (looks very cool) it does take more time though and someone can get you in the same way if you’re not careful.
One final gripe: for me Eric Nylund’s book Halo: The Fall of Reach is essential to the Halo franchise it really adds to the series giving backgrounds and events that lead to the first game. I usually refer to it as the base plot along with the first game because it meshes so well with Combat Evolved. However not once in any book or game has the NOBLE team been mentioned the original Spartans separated into teams named by colour red, blue, ect slightly annoying to this fan.
Halo: Reach was put up on the Xbox Live marketplace for critics to access but modders gained access to it before it was released to the public, a similar event occurred when the ending to Halo 3 was released early.
“In Halo: Reach, players experience the fateful moments that forged the Halo legend. It’s the story of Noble Team, a squad of heroic Spartan soldiers, and their final stand on the planet Reach, humanity’s last line of defense between the terrifying Covenant and Earth. This darker story is echoed by grittier visuals amid a backdrop of massive, awe-inspiring environments. Characters, enemies and environments are rendered in amazing detail by an all-new engine designed to deliver epic-scale encounters against the cunning and ruthless Covenant”
Official blurb from the website
Halo: Reach – From the beginning, you know the end
I recently embarked on a quest to lighten my already Helium filled wallet, my goal was to find a gaming laptop that would not let me down and would give me a respectable frame rate on whatever game I threw at it. I had a couple of requirements:
From here I started with the most obvious brand for high end gaming rigs: Alienware.
Now about Alienware: The company was bought out by Dell a ways back and since then their build quality seems to have gone down with no decrease in price. Still they are the most powerful gaming laptops out there and therefore a good place to start.
First I looked at the Alienware M11x basically a small 11 inch gaming notebook the starting price is $949 with the quad core i7 installed which makes it my cheapest option. I liked the design as with all Alienware PC’s it makes you drool.
I began configuring the specs to my requirements and got to about $1700 with the minimum requirements +8gb RAM. Except the screen which was 720p. I decided against it in the end because the screen size at 11 inches is just too small for a gaming rig and I wanted 1080p at least, the real deal breaker was the lack of built in optical drive on a gaming/media PC. If you ever want a super portable gaming rig I really do recommend this one, it has phenomenal battery life and a lot of power in a small package.
Next up I checked out the Alienware M15x. Once again very nice looking machine nice 15 inch screen but after configuring it to the specs I wanted it cost about 2400$ before tax way over budget. Also there seem to have been quite a few reports of Alienware PC’s having poor quality track pads, if your always using an external mouse that might be ok but I like being mobile and that means carrying around nothing except maybe the power supply cable not a mouse, as a result I do the majority of my gaming with a trackpad.
Next I checked the Sager PC’s these are custom built computers that lack the snazzy look of an Alienware but still crank out the power. The model I looked at was the NP8760 which starts at about 1500$. It seemed like a decent PC but the cost quickly ran up over budget the same way the Alienware did but without the looks which I must confess did play a part.
I read up about the Clevo series laptops but didn’t really consider them so I haven’t much to say about them other than they are a gaming line that has been recommended several times.
Finally I spotted the Asus G73JH-X3 a rather large intimidating looking piece of hardware sporting a 1080p screen and backlit keyboard with stylish design near that of the Alienware. I don’t believe its customizable like the Alienware or Sager but it came with these specs:
Also a hardware button for enabling overclocking? sweet. Dual air exhausts out the back? Oh yeah. The design means that I won’t have to worry about overheating if I block the bottom, say when it’s on my lap.
I really did want an Alienware but since I’m not stupidly rich I toned down and hopefully get the best bang for my buck. and after the 200$ dollars tax it came to about 1850$ so perfect.
This is my most popular post to date, which doesn’t mean much but please use the share links at the bottom if you liked it
Microsoft Windows does offer a host of ways to customize you UI but it falls short for some users because once you want to change something that isn’t meant to be changed you’ll hit a very sturdy brick wall. Here are some ways you can make your Windows into your Windows, FOR FREE. First off let me say I in no way guarantee these customizations will work on your PC but the should. My PC is a 64 bit Windows 7 box - which hopefully means any PC from Windows Vista to Windows 7 will support this.
Windows has implemented a background slideshow allowing you to select many pictures and have your wallpaper cycle through them. This does not mean choose every picture you own, instead make sure you have a wallpaper folder than contains high resolution images than were hopefully meant to be wallpapers. I cannot say how much it pains me to see someone set an image that is 300X400 as there desktop wallpaper and set the mode to stretch. IT LOOKS BAD. DON’T DO IT! By allowing you to customize your PC Microsoft has also allowed you to make it look absolutely hideous, take care to choose something that looks good.
What you so here is not terribly important to the overall feel but its still nice to do. Start off by changing the number of recent programs that are displayed on the start menu: Right Click on the start menu and click properties > start menu > Customize here you can see a bunch of options including what links to show on the menu and how many items in the jump lists (Windows 7).
Another small change to get the full date in the taskbar as well as a custom message in the time: Right click on the clock > click Adjust date/time > Change date and time > Change calendar settings here you can see all the settings for your clock here are my settings to get the long date format in the taskbar. To get the message simply go to the time tab of this dialog box and add whatever you want into the AM/PM symbol boxes.
For me Rainmeter was the biggest and best step toward customizing my desktop it allows you to monitor almost every aspect of you PC and display it on the desktop in every way imaginable here you can see two of my themes. The first one is a modified version (heavily) of Simple Sentence 2 it shows all my PC info in sentences and displays three RSS feeds. The second one has since been modified. (and looks much better thanks) in this one some of the themes at work are: CornerClock, Ants Marching(meters), Windows 8 bar (taskbar), Simple Sentence (weather), Simple Slideshow (slideshow), Enigma (stocks/RSS), Darklines (CPU temp) most of them have been modified by me to fit in with the others. If you notice the icons on the dock at the bottom they belong to a separate app called Rocketdock which is the next step.
This step is (for me) just to see how far you can go away from the Windows GUI without actually leaving. hiding the Windows Taskbar is difficult to do so I didn’t bother I just supplemented it with RocketDock a handy reliable dock for Windows. It’s fast, lightweight, and customizable the above screenshot shows it blending with Rainmeter quite nicely using the Token Dark icons and them default theme Blank. There are a bunch of free docks around like XWindowsDock. For me none of them compare to the Windows taskbar but they can be used in addition to it as launchers and eye candy.
I’ve stopped doing this because I actually prefer the default look of Windows Media Player and the skins by comparison tend to be ugly or cluttered (sorry skinners) and I need something that fits with the rest of my "look" not try to create an entirely new one.
This is by far the most useful and nicely done app I have ever had the pleasure of using it is always among the first programs I install on a new computer and it never leaves. Honestly kudos to the developer for making it free. Speedfan does several things well but the thing it does best is Show your core temperatures and regulate the fan speed. In the above picture I have set it to always show a dynamic icon in the notification area. I’ve also changed the icon color to match the white Windows icons. Perfect integration. (the circle isn’t part of the icon it was ‘shopped for effect)
I recently read an article on Lifehacker (great site full of articles like this) on how to change the background image in explorer what I didn’t know was that the little app that does it allowed you to specify which folders had images and what those images were. Vey slick. Here is an example using my Photoshopped version of a Bioshock poster. Download it at the Windows Club
There are a ton of tiny things you can do to make your PC look however you want it and lots of them are free. This lists contains only free and lightweight apps but if you don’t mind paying for some head over to WindowsBlinds and Stardock.
*note on the wallpapers: I have NO idea where these came from. sorry.