Lately I started playing Assassin's Creed II on PC, which I bought last year during Steam's Holiday Sale. Lo and Behold, rather than just entering a serial number, I'm forced to register for a Ubisoft account, AND log into said account to play the game :|. This is old news to most of you, but I'm at the point where I have had to register accounts to play every blockbuster that I've really wanted to try, and worse, each of these games tend to have their own Achievements systems, their own "points" systems, and their own save or DRM systems. Right now I have accounts for Battle.net, LoL, Steam, EA, Bioware, XBL, Uplay (which I had to register to play AC2), and a handful more that I forget. I probably have to register another 4-5 accounts to play the rest of the games in my collection.

I understand the motivation behind these things, and I understand that companies all want to build their own distribution platform and perhaps rely less on Steam. For me these are not a problem, but I wish companies could work out a standard for how to identify users across all platforms to avoid the unnecessary repetition of registering over and over again on everyone's custom platform. At a very bare minimum, games sold through Steam and similar systems should use Single Sign-On concepts so that the user doesn't have to keep registering to every individual publisher's platform, but I think we can do one better.

Here's an idea for game publishers and devs:
  • Form a coalition to standardise registration data around a web standard, such as OAuth (Steam is an OAuth provider by the way).
  • Enable easier registration by allowing users to authenticate against this standard through social networks
  • Invite major game communities to support this standard so that, hypothetically for instance, users could use their Neoseeker credentials to create and authenticate an account on Ubisoft's network, or on Steam, or elsewhere.
  • Open up your platforms and standardise them so that Achievement data and other game community data is freely shared in communities such as Neoseeker, Raptr, and others.
This type of open sharing of communities is actually very beneficial to publishers and developers. It creates porous "walled gardens" that act to improve the user experience for customers as well as spreading social recognition for in-game achievements to more community and social sites like Neoseeker. It also encourages sites like Neoseeker to support standards that allow their communities to purchase and enjoy games with credentials they are very comfortable with already. If Facebook and Twitter social signin has shown us anything. it is that end users want a lower barrier of entry for registration and authentication, not a higher one.

pc

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2 years ago I wrote a post about the decline of PC games presence in retail stores, and this year I took another look at the situation.

Sadly, the problem today is worse than ever before. And the problem is likely world wide. In Vancouver, no EBGames store that I went into had a single row of PC titles for sale that I could find. In department stores the same is true, except even console titles are rare there. In big box electronics stores, like Best Buy and Future Shop, you *might* find a small selection of either casual titles, or very narrowly focussed AAA titles. EB is owned by GameStop, and I'm guessing no GameStop store sells PC titles either.

The problem stretches itself across to the other side of the world, where no GAME store in the UK, France, Spain, Germany, or Italy seems to stock PC titles.

It's probably because of Steam and other online download services, and I think this can also be studied by observing how DLC has reshaped the console landscape.

I have it on good authority that DLC is making sweeping changes to the gaming business as a whole, no doubt due to the online model for consoles.

Other signs of the end of PC Retail

GameStop recently purchased Impulse from Stardock. If you haven't heard of Impulse, it is a competing PC download store similar to, but less popular and less feature rich than Steam. This move from the world's largest vertical games empire is a sure sign of their vision of PC retail going forwards. GameStop has already started to rebrand the service, and has been offering holiday deals including "publisher catalogs" for sale a la Steam holiday sales.

EA made a big move by starting to sell its PC versions exclusively on their Origin service. Supposedly they aren't making such a move, but several digital stores that sold EA titles have stopped selling them, presumably due to negotiation problems, but also possibly because EA has less of an interest in selling their titles elsewhere when their long term vision is likely to build their own Steam variant.

Microsoft has made its half hearted attempt to sell PC games online via its Games for Windows Marketplace, and no word has been heard of previous reports that they might have retail stores from which to buy Games for Windows branded titles.

PC Retail - Nobody Misses It Anyway

Honestly, the death of PC retail presence is inevitable. Steam and its competitors offer too much to PC gamers for the retail space to compete against, and most digital services are trying to bundle in DRM capabilities so that even should you buy the retail copy you'd have to run through something like Steam DRM to play.

Most gamers would rather NOT buy a game if they can't get it on Steam anyway, due to the convenience of having everything managed by a single service.

Personally, I'd rather have digital distribution than retail distribution because it is more convenient for me, but what does this mean in general for the gaming industry?

What happens to businesses if the rest of the industry transitions to digital distribution? As evidenced by the explosive power of DLC, the business side of huge publishing houses seems to love digital distribution, and would probably embrace it as the sole means of game distribution over time. I even think it will happen in the next 4-5 years.

I think the PC Games industry is probably a good thing to look towards as a model for what could happen if Microsoft or Sony decide they really want to move things online.

So what do you think? Is PC retail completely gone as I observed? Is it a good thing? What about the same happening to consoles?

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As we gear up for an architecture change and server update for Neoseeker, I thought I'd write some behind the scenes information about our recent v1.0.3 launch of the forums. This post might get a bit geek-techie so please mind that its intended to be somewhat technical.

Normally when we update the site, the process can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours depending on the scope of the upgrade. Updating files is not a problem, even though we run the site on multiple servers we have a system from which we can deploy necessary files with a point and click interface, and which then rsyncs the entire change to all of the servers.

The v1.0.3 update took a total of several days to launch - so long that for a while we were running at half capacity because some servers were running the old code, and others were running the new code. We had to take the updated servers off the site rotation in order to keep the user experience consistent. Here's the story behind the whole 1.0.3 "fiasco".

Under the Hood

On the surface v1.0.3 had very few changes, though some are nice, like Notifications from private forums and "quick preview" Ajax features that didn't reload pages.

Under the hood alot was done to try to make our work simpler in the future, including:
  • Updating to PHP 5.3
  • Complying with PHP 5.3 Strict Standards as much as possible (this was a huge whack of work).
  • Employing a robust Autoload strategy for class files
  • Starting to use a Dependency Injection Framework (DIF) for our common objects
  • Rewriting the way moderators are loaded to make it more portable and useable
  • Rewriting the posting of threads and replies in anticipation of creating NeoAPI calls for forum posts.
  • moving our templates compilation dir into a central common location
  • completely change our beta and dev architectures to match the live URL structure
  • redesign the NeoAPI framework, and migrate some of our own Ajax calls to use actual NeoAPI calls instead of using our older methods. The preview post feature for instance uses the nTags translate API call.

Neoseeker's codebase is very old and a lot of my time was spent just trying to quell the Strict Standards and rewriting various things.

However, for almost all of the above, the actual time to update the code to the servers would still have been negligible. Our challenge was that we were updating to PHP5.3 for the first time and our new code made use of 5.3 only features like Late Static Binding.

This meant that v1.0.3 would NOT run on a non 5.3 server and since we had yet to move to VM's, every server needs to be compiled with Apache/PHP5.3 individually - a time consuming process. We inevitably hit PHP snags that didn't show up in our beta testing VMs, and as we were changing our code architecture in preparation for our pending 2011 server architecture update we encountered problems relating to those changes too.

Between all that, we were trying out a different deploy method by relying on Source Control checkouts rather than rsync'ing from a local source checkout. This last change seemed innocent enough, but it created more problems that we had anticipated when different servers refused to update selective files at selective times. I can tell you those were fun (ugh).

This lead to MANY hours of troubleshooting and constantly trying to update files to the live servers using a new deploy scheme, with new rewrite rules in Apache and a huge number of other changes. In total we were putting together the first stages of 4 months of planning and changes, the end result of which users would only see a few features they could tangibly use :(.

Tomorrow, we'll hopefully be putting together the second half of that planning: 3 brand new servers and a shift to improved server management by deploying VMWare Virtualised Servers.

This second stage is less software related, and more hardware and server related. We've been testing and qualifying VMWare backed VM images of our FreeBSD servers since December and those have been finalised for a while. We also know the code architecture is ready for the move because we've been running this "VM" ready code since the v1.0.3 launch, and have been using the exact VM image as our beta and development platform for the past 3 months. If you've been part of the Neoseeker Beta team you've actually been using the new VM architecture, running on one of the actual production hardware servers until yesterday.

This is our second foray into using VMs to run the site, the first one didn't work so well and resulted in poor performance and unmanageable issues, so we're crossing our fingers this time around :D.

When we successfully get the new architecture going I'll try to write a post-mortem on how that goes and what was behind the scenes there :).

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I was reading the forums at a few Mac sites anticipating the next launch of the Macbook Pros, rumoured to be happening this week, and I realise that most users of either Windows or OSX either have very little idea about the truth of the "counterpart" OS that they make fun of, or they're blind to it.

Let's take a few examples.

quote some guy
Support files need to be in specific places, but not the physical App. This is not Windows.
I'm not sure what this user is smoking, but Windows hasn't required you to install an App into any specific folder since Windows 3.1. Any apps that have trouble with this would be poorly coded.

quote
I was a Windows user for 13 years and since switching to Mac I haven't crashed once.
This seems to imply Windows crashes all the time. I've used Windows far longer than the above person, and the thing has earned a deserved reputation for being unstable in past iterations, but let's be honest, that instability was blown out of proportion. Most BSOD's occur through driver or hardware faults, neither of which are necessarily Microsoft's fault. Kernel panics in Linux are just as frustrating and no less cryptic.

Windows XP SP2 has also been very solid for years, and since Windows 7 the dreaded "Blue Screen of Death" is very seldom seen. The problem with these statements are that the users are comparing their modern day Mac OSX Snow Leopard to their Windows 95 experience. That's like me comparing my Windows 7 experience to the Mac SE I used in 1990 (which crashed a few times as I recall).

quote
My girlfriend has gone through several Dell laptops and each one either fell apart or required multiple reinstalls and got slower and slower as time went on. In 2009 I bought her a MBP and it's as fast today as it was the day I bought it.
I think stories like the above are part fiction, part reality. Windows does get slower as time goes on, but so does any other OS as the drive fragments and more apps are installed. I think Windows is worse for the wear here, maybe its the dreaded Registry or just too many poorly coded Apps, and my purely subjection observation is that Windows XP and older suffer more from this. My current desktop Core i5 system dates back to Xmas 2009 and Windows 7 runs pretty smooth. I just happen not to install and uninstall tons of poorly made apps. To think that OSX is immune to slowdowns as the drive is bogged down with huge file caches, fragmentation, additional in-memory processes, and other stuff is pure fantasy. I have firsthand experience with a 13" Unibody MB (non pro) that constantly has to clear its Safari cache to avoid slowdowns as the laptop is used months on end.

The Dell vs MBP statement is just as ridiculous, which $1199 Dell did he buy that "fell apart" within 2 years of being bought (assuming he bought her the 13" MBP, the 15" would have set him back $1799)? You compare a $1799 MBP and $1799 Windows based laptop (such as a well equipped HP Elitebook) and you'll find the Elitebook has very nice build quality.

quote
Mac OSX upgrades are always $29, unlike $300 for that crap Windows
This statement is factually wrong both for OSX and Windows. Firstly, Mac OSX Snow Leopard is only $29 if you already have Leopard. If you have Tiger you have to buy the Mac OSX Box Set which is $169 Retail or $129 from Amazon (you can illegally use the $29 Snow Leopard but that's no different than pirating).

Secondly, while Windows 7 Pro Full is $299 retail, the upgrade is $199 - still very pricey, but you can upgrade from Windows XP, which is 2 generations old and actually a 10 year old OS. So if you are comparing upgrade pricing you should consider that OSX Tiger (a 4 year old OS) requires $129 for a legal license upgrade, while Windows7 is $199 for an upgrade on a 10 year old OS. If you consider the cost of Tiger in 2007 and Snow Leopard in 2010 you're actually getting alot of bang for your buck from sticking with XP and then moving to Windows 7 Pro (and I won't even mention that most people can make do with Windows 7 Home Premium, which would be $109 for the upgrade). Having said all this I think Windows 7 should really be priced at $129 for the full Pro version and $99 for the Pro upgrade.

This lack of knowledge isn't uni-directional. There are plenty of Windows users who misunderstand OSX (myself included) and spew the same sort of craziness. This also isn't an anti Mac post. I have great respect for OSX, and I've considered switching to it a few times, especially when I didn't think Vista was a worthy successor to XP (but now Windows 7 redeems MS in my eyes). Heck I'm still considering it as I write this, but I'm not the only person out there who actually doesn't like the OSX GUI and prefers the Windows GUI. I also think Microsoft still has a lot to learn from Apple when it comes to some things in the OS, though I'm glad the two have their own personalities and business styles.

I'm just baffled that so many people have become so dedicated to one OS or the other that they don't even resort to facts anymore.

PS. Obviously tons of Mac users are also very knowledgeable about Windows, and Vice Versa, but that's not a very interesting blog title ;).

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Tekmosis told me today about the potential of the PSP2 to do what I have been thinking is the future of gaming: enable completely seamless gaming from traditional platforms to the mobile and back by allowing users to pick up from save games made on the PS3 platform to the PSP2. He knew I was interested in the topic since I had told him some while back that I felt the future of mobile gaming for "core" gamers like myself was a tighter integration with traditional gaming.

The idea is simple to imagine but difficult to achieve. Mobile gaming is turning a new corner with wider and wider adoption of powerful smartphones capable of graphics and games that in my opinion can far exceed what "handheld consoles" could traditionally offer. The ultimate achievement would be the ability to seamlessly switch from playing a game on your traditional console to your handheld, and back. Services like Steam showed the potential via their Cloud Save concept, whereby settings and savegames could be saved and loaded from any of your PCs.

Imagine if that concept was extended so that a game could be played on your set top platform to your mobile, and back. Take World of Warcraft for instance, there is a huge opportunity for a WOW client capable of running in multiple mobile platforms. The mobile variant of WOW might not have all the features of the full client and may not allow exploring the world or participating in instances and raids, but one could conceivable check the Auction House, chat with guild mates, manage inventory and bank data, or respec characters from a mobile client. What if you could log off your desktop PC, and load up WOW on your iPhone on your commute to work so you can manage some of your inventory and guild chat before you start the day at the office?

What if Diablo 3 were released and had a companion mobile app that had a downsized set of features similar to what I describe above? What about RTS mobile clients that allow you to spectate live matches between players?

Can you imagine how amazing e-sports would be if people could spectate the games from their phones with true spectator powers (moving around as they like, rotating maps in RTSes, following different players in FPSes etc) rather than just watching live streams or replays?

Right now the most common model appears to be the creation of companion games or completely different games that spread the brand recognition of the franchise. These are good first steps, but I'm thinking the real future is the integration of the gaming experience between mobile and non mobile platforms, to bridge the best of both worlds.

Mobile gaming is accessible and takes advantage of free time users have while out in the real world. Traditional platform gaming has the benefits of screen real estate, dedicated controls, and a more immersive experience. What if you could play Fallout at home, and take it with you on the road with a reduced capability mobile app? I'm constantly struggling with inventory and skills planning, and would love to handle those on the go instead of when I have time to sit at my desk to play the game, when I'm more likely to want to get beyond inventory minutiae and just play.

Fast forward a few more years and the term "reduced capability" companion app could be completely replaced with a near full featured variant of the game, sharing the same saved states as your home copy. Fast forward even more time and I can imagine that mobile gaming could consist of complete "portals" to the entire game, whereby EVERY facet of the game is accessible on the go, to be smoothly picked up wherever you left off in-game regardless of where you last physically played the title. The concept of cloud saves would be so mundane that you don't even think about it as a"cloud save", or even a "save".

Want to take the model further? You load up your console title, and your mobile title, and can manipulate either one and see real time changes in the other. Switch weapons on the mobile and watch the weapon swing out on your TV screen. Sell something in your inventory screen on your Xbox and watch your money change on your mobile screen. Fallout 5? Your Fallout 5 mobile Pip-boy app is a permanent companion to your console game, so that you can manage inventory on your phone like it was the real Pip Boy. FPSes? Your friend can join your co-op Call of Duty game while waiting for his doctor's appointment, or people can trade Pokemon from their phones to their friends' Nintendo console of choice.

There are alot of hurdles before any of this becomes even close to reality, including latency, bandwidth, battery time, storage limitations, screen size limitations, awkward controls, and many more practical and business concerns like licensing, but the possibility, or at least the imagination of such a potential future, is very much alive.

musingsthoughts gaming related

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Ok, as promised, here is the second Free Name Change "sudden death" giveaway. For the next 1 hour from the time of this blog post, I am giving away free name changes to your Neoseeker account. It is currently around 10AM PST, 1PM EST, 6PM GMT, and 11PM GMT+5.

Here are the rules:
  • To qualify, post a reply to this Blog post with one single New Year's resolution relating to Neoseeker. Eg "I hope to reach ____ NeoPoints this year", or "I will refresh my NeoHome this year" and PM me with your preferred username.
  • No account merges (unless you qualify as a regular contributor below), but I will trade names with another account if you wish.
  • If you have 250 NeoPoints or more I will also trade join dates for you.
  • If you have 2000+ NeoPoints, 100k+ NeoWiki bytes edited, and the account you are merging from has fewer than 250 forum posts I will give you an account merge.
New Year's, New Name for Contributors

This sudden death is quite short, so many of you may miss it by the time you're aware of this. So I'm doing a different name change for contributors with 500 NeoPoints or more who post a New Year well wishes reply to my official New Year forum thread tomorrow in the Announcements forum. This is a Thank You for all contributors, and all you have to do is post something more than just "Happy New Year" as a reply TOMORROW (it'll actually probably be later tonight) and PM me to let me know your username. Only people posting on actual New Year's Day will qualify.

neoseeker related name change free

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I've wanted to write on this topic for a long time. I'm a firm believer that the world changes very rapidly, and what we see today is vastly different than what we'll see 10, 20 years from today (not just "kind of different", I'm talking about VERY DIFFERENT). The world's progress in technology is picking up pace too as the world improves its technology and processes in how those technologies are created.

You see, people working on things aren't only interested in finding out what's new, or how to change something, there are entire efforts being made in finding out how to find out what's new, and how to improve the process of improvement. Ultimately, this evolution of how we revolutionalize things leads to altogether new discoveries at ever amazing rates. Just think, 20 years ago our online interactions were so vastly different that to someone who hasn't experienced that world it is incomprehensible to have such limited access to information and friends. Just how different was that world?

20 Years Ago... (1990)
  • large CRT monitors with small screens that had the equivalent resolution of today's netbooks or small LCD monitors were the norm, they were heavy, hot, and took up gobs of space
  • Cell phones were the domain of business users (they were also the size of water bottles), and texting was not even available (SMS texting was available in 1992-1993). Teens and young adults had PAGERS and called friends back using payphones!
  • There was no such thing as a consumer wide screen TV!
  • CD's and radio were the main distribution channels of music and people who wanted to play mixes bought tape players (and later, CD changers) to do so.
  • DVD's had yet to be invented (they would show up 5 years later in 1995, and would take another few years to really penetrate the market) and video rental stores rented out VHS tapes! ("be kind, rewind" was a staple of many rental shops)

10 Years Ago... (2000)
  • NeoHQ was using 17" CRT monitors (resolution 1024x768 to 1152x864 resolution)
  • All of the NeoStaff used one monitor each, it took up so much space the desks had to be half a foot from the walls.
  • There was no such thing as an "iPod". Only MP3 players with mediocre functionality.
  • Cell phones had monochrome screens (yikes!). In 2002, Sony Erricson would release their first "colour" LCD phone that displayed 256 colours with a resolution of 101x80px.
Today... (2010)
  • The 2010 Winter Olympics were streamed as online video to the world.
  • Youtube has every imaginable video possible, and there are localised equivalents all over the world for different cultures (Youku in Asia for example)
  • Everyone is connected all the time - whether by texting, public computers with Internet access or (more and more commonly) smartphones
  • TV's are bigger than ever before, yet their "price per inc" is cheaper than ever before
  • We're on the verge of electric cars becoming a mainstream reality.
  • Researchers in Japan have demonstrated many humanoid robots capable of complex actions like walking, picking up items, and tracking the motion of other objects with their heads
  • We're developing very advanced robotics and related areas of research, including artificial "skin" with pressure sensitivity, and more and more sophisticated software AI routines.
So what about the future? What does it hold? Here are my guesses, and also my hopes (or fears)

Next 5 Years:
  • Smartphones will start to replace credit cards and debit cards as a method of paying for purchases at stores and vending machines (the latter already possible in Japan)
  • Touch computing will be prevalent in industries requiring collaboration, this means touch capable laptops will evolve to be the norm, rather than the exception
  • Book reading will continue to move towards digital media. Brick and Mortar stores like Barnes & Noble, Chapters/Indigo will start to feel the pinch.
  • Games, even console titles, will primarily be distributed online as downloads. Discs will wane or completely disappear within the next 5-7years. This is good for convenience, not so good for lending games to friends.


Next ~10-15 years:
  • Streaming Movies and TV will be the mainstream way of consuming television shows and movies. This would happen sooner, but there are alot of vested interests which will resist things going this way.
  • Battery technologies currently demonstrated as feasible will become reality, to the point where smartphones can run a week or more without charging and a tablet or laptop can run 24hrs straight on a single charge.
  • 3D movies and games, without glasses, will be a common reality. I think 3D is the future, the immersion adds possibilities that we may not have thought of yet.
  • Software will be either completely in the cloud, or distributed digitally. Optical devices will be completely absent from ALL devices.
  • As a result of the above, brick and mortar stores can downsize and focus completely in hardware, ignoring software altogether. Or, if software becomes cumbersomely large, download stations may be made available.
20 Years from Today

I think 20 years from today the world will have changed so much I hesitate to even guess what would happen. I've read articles where people in 1990 predicted all sorts of weird and cool futuristic things would be happening in 2010 (such as AI's that could talk to you?!), but none of that has come true.

Here are my ideas for what might be possible. Use your imagination :D
  • Parking meters, toll lanes, and downtown tolls will charge you based on devices that communicate with your vehicle or smartphone wirelessly
  • Smart phones should be powerful enough to allow real time speech translation as well as full speech recognition capabilities like dictation, and interactive hands free controls
  • Smart phones will react to touch, voice commands, gestures, and anticipate need based on environmental and proximity conditions (eg in a noisy restaurant your phone may ring louder, but it won't do so at your office or when it can tell a meeting is in progress. If your phone rings out of place you can wave your hand in a negating gesture to silence it).
  • Many vehicles will be electric or use alternative fuels, and will be recharged by solar panels and/or hydrogen fuels
  • Most homes built in 2030 will feature water capture and recycling systems that leverage natural (solar or geothermal) heating to offset a rise in water usage costs
  • Personal home power will be partly supplied by solar panels
  • Home automation will be a common reality. Homes will react to the presence of people and adjust lighting and heating appropriately.
  • TVs will be intelligent and aware of who is present and what they prefer. Volume, brightness settings, channel settings and optimum audio algorithms will kick in depending on who is watching TV and what they wish to watch. Gestures will control certain functionality like browsing TV shows, pause/play and mute (eg you stand up to go to the washroom and the TV will pause, lights will turn on for you to find your way out. You come back and sit down and you flick a wrist to re-engage the show, which will dim the lights while unpausing the movie).
  • Cars will have the same capabilities, and adjust seating position, radio preferences, radio volume, mirrors, and even car temperature based on who is driving, without the need to press any buttons. This type of sensor can already kick in when the car is aware you are walking towards it, so there's no need to sit down before all the settings are in place.
  • Smartphones as we know them may be completely replaced with devices integrated with other things, such as your wallet.

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Merry Christmas everyone.

I'm doing a "sudden death" Christmas giveaway of Name Changes on Neoseeker, today only, and only "First Come, First Served" for the next 3hours from this post. (Ok, so its the day after Christmas, but I couldn't get this set up for yesterday).

Here's how to get your free name change, read carefully as I won't reply if your request is invalid.
  1. Make sure your Neoseeker Collections (aka own/want list) is up to date for the next step.
  2. READ CAREFULLY: Reply to this blog post with the name of your favourite game you bought this year in your Collection, and the name of your most anticipated game from your Want list. If its not in your collection I consider you're not following the instructions properly.
  3. PM me your preferred username, make sure that it qualifies. I won't reply if it doesn't, read the "Taking Names from Very Old Accounts" section if the name is taken already. The reason for the PM is so that someone doesn't try to register your preferred name while you wait for the name change.
  4. One request per user only!
  5. No account merges (sorry :()
  6. Do not worry if you don't see me reply within the 3hr window, I am counting this based on the timestamp of the comment and PM message.
If you miss this opportunity

I will do one more sudden death free style name change this holiday season, either follow my Twitter account or add me to your Neoseeker Friends list to watch for it. The next one will have a 1hr window ;).

neoseeker related name change

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I just finished answering the Q&A questions from the "Q and A with the Neo-Staff / Administrators Q and A with the Neo-Staff / Administrators" and I thought that opening up a way for members to request Blog topics might be an interesting to keep this Blog updated.

So go ahead, ask away in the comments section for things that I should write about. Please keep it serious and don't ask me to write on things I know totally *beep* all about :P.

neoseeker related requests

This is a post mostly for my own reference, but contains some useful web development related plugins/addons or extensions for Firefox and Chrome.

Firefox Web Developer Addons

  • User Agent Switcher: useful for teasing sites (like Neoseeker) into showing you their mobile mode for easier development.
  • JSONView Prettifies JSON output so that it is easier for you to read (eg colour coding + improved layout). Very useful for when looking at various RESTful API JSON output.
  • Live HTTP Headers: Let's you track all incoming and outgoing header requests and responses as you visit pages. This is great for watching your redirects as well as the total volume of JS calls that ads and other features make.
  • MeasureIt: allows you to measure anything on any site. I see people take screenshots of a site and open it up in Photoshop to measure box sizes, etc, but MeasureIt let's you do it right in the browser. It is super handy.
  • colorzilla: Again, instead of trying to take a screenshot and sampling the colour of something on a webpage, use ColorZilla to grab it right off the page. It even auto pastes the colour to your clipboard.
  • Firebug - this one really needs no introduction, though I don't suggest you enable it for regular surfing due to the way it eats up memory. Because I have firebug installed I don't do any regular surfing on Firefox in order to prevent it from eating 500-800MB of my memory. Firebug is also useful in that it let's you inspect elements on a page
  • Web Developer Toolbar: a must have for any developer. Use it to disable JS and test fallback mode, disable meta refreshes for other testing,
  • Toggle Developer Toolbar a simple plugin to let you toggle the developer toolbar on and off so you can save some screen real estate.
  • YSlow - YSlow contains tools that helps time how long various javascript and media elements take to load up on your site. This is mostly for client side optimisations. Safari users already have some of the features natively in their browser.

Chrome Tools for Developers


Since I use Chrome as my primary browsing browser I don't install alot of extensions related to Web Development. Those who want to though can install many of the same tools that Firefox has such as:
  • JSONview for Chrome
  • [Chrome to Phone] I use this to send pages to my Android phone so I can double check how it formats in the mobile. A similar plugin for iOS is available on both Chrome and FF.
  • Speed Tracer - yet anther client side performance measurement tool.
  • Resolution tester - change resolutions to see how a page might look. Firefox's Web Developer plugin supplies the same functionality.
  • Pendule - the equivalent to the Developer Toolbar, includes the ability to disable CSS, images, etc.
  • Web Developer - an actual port of the Developer Toolbar. This one is interesting and different from Pendule in that it includes tools to outline common things you need to find like unsecure elements (handy for finding anything not in [link name=https:// on]https:// on[/link] an [link name=https:// site),]https:// site),[/link] finding images without alt tags, oversized images, etc.
  • MeasureIt! Same as the plugin in Firefox
  • View Selection Source - as name implies, add functionality to view selection source, a feature native to FF.


web development neoseeker related chrome firefox

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You may or may not know that Neoseeker regularly gives away games throughout the year. Last year we gave away 50+ games, and this year I think it'll be at least that number, if not more.

This Holiday 2010 season we are giving away some 15-25 games in total, spread across the entire season from now until Christmas. That's alot of free gaming up for grabs!

Even as you read this, Neoseeker is set to give away a PC copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops on Nov 9th (launch day) and 4 copies of Blacklight: Tango Down on the PSN by Nov 10th, and our contest to win a cool Powercolor ATI HD 6870 video card just closed today.

How to Win Free Stuff on Neoseeker This Season

Most people don't realize how easy it is to win free things from a community like Neoseeker. Here are some facts and tips to set you on the right path:
  1. Your chances of winning are REALLY GOOD. Many times the chances of winning are 30-50% or better. So don't assume that you'll "never win".
    1. Blacklight Tango Down for instance is literally a 30% of winning since we have so many copies.
  2. Enter as early as possible. People always say "hey cool, I'll sign up for that tomorrow" and then promptly forget. We hear it all the time from people who forget to participate only to realize too late how easily they could have won.
  3. Keep tabs on our Twitter feed, Facebook Page, Forum Announcements and Newsletter, where we regularly announce the contests and post reminders of their deadlines.
  4. Let your friends know about the contest too. This helps Neoseeker continue to run these contests since it brings more people to the site and also raises the profile of giveaways. The more successful our giveaways the more we'll do!
Something to win EVERY Week

We're literally launching a giveaway (or 2, or 3) each week until the end of the year. And we'll be doing very short entry windows (usually around a week in length).

This means that you should check frequently and enter quickly. It also means you don't have to wait as long to know if you've won ;).

Make sure your Neoseeker email is up to date

We'll be contacting winners via email, PM, and announcing on our site. But if you can't be reached in time we'll have to give the prize to someone else.


Well those are the tips. I can't stress enough the importance of entering early and keeping tabs on our contests. Off the top of my head I can think of at least 5-6 titles that you won't want to miss.

neoseeker related gaming related free games

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I've fixed up the game genre pages on the site so that they contain more information and so that the Top and Popular lists are relevant to that specific genre now.

Take X360's Action genre for instance. If you look now at the Top Forums and Most Popular you'll see they reflect the top Action games forums and most popular Action games (Halo Reach, Dead Rising 2, and Red Dead Redemption are listed there now).

For the longest time these pages showed the top "platform" forums and popular "platform" games, which simply wasn't relevant to someone looking for, say, PC RPG titles.

I've also exposed the New Releases and Coming releases within those genres, which were hidden before.

The "spotlight" area is still not operating as I like. I have a fix but it won't go live until tomorrow, when there will be a much bigger update launch ;).

All in all these pages and many others have to be completely remade to become more useful, but in the meantime these fixes should make them at least somewhat better than before.

genres neoseeker related gaming related

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If you've been wondering what I'm up to lately, I'm currently working on a major forum update with the help of ar_cat to be released late this month or early next. We're not making any major changes to how the forum itself operates, but I'm completely overhauling one component and we're introducing a pretty sweet replacement for the Responses system that I think many of you will like.

I won't spoil anything but I'll probably recruit testers (some people are testing for me already) in the coming weeks. The major feature that I'm helping to orchestrate is a risky one because it will fundamentally change one of the most used parts of the site and one of the most broadly used (in other words, something used very frequently, and used by alot of people), but so far I'm liking the results and I think it will really change how we use that feature for the better.

neoseeker related

If you read about PHP optimisation you'll often come across a tip to use str_replace() when you don't need ereg_replace() - heck the PHP manual itself makes mention of this. What isn't obvious is the performance difference can be massive in cases where you are testing large strings with very simplified replacements.

On Neoseeker I was investigating a performance problem in forum tag translation today. This "translation" is a process where we take forum bb code and convert it into HTML, while running word censorship and anti-spam detection on the text. When the strings get big enough things slow down SIGNIFICANTLY. I discovered one (minor) culprit was a very simple portion of code written years ago - when running on small strings the code was perfectly innocuous, but when running on large strings (in this case 77k characters), the performance of superior code widens massively. Here's an interesting comparison (numbers were from our Pendium D 3.0GHz dev server):

Elapsed times (averaged over 5 runs):

str_replace: 0.0005929470s
ereg_replace: 0.3209018707s
ereg_replace2: 0.2751410007s

The code compared was very simple:

php code


$text1 = str_replace("\n"," ",$text);
$text2 = ereg_replace("(\n)"," ",$text);
$text3 = ereg_replace("\n"," ",$text);
 





(notice how the () adds significant additional time to the ereg)

All three pieces of code result in the exact same string. The code should have been written as a str_replace to begin with, but laziness and lack of experience lead to ereg_replace being used.

In a similar comparison: split vs explode.

The manual clearly states that explode is "faster" than split if you don't need the power of regular expressions. How much faster? On the same 77k string I used split() to break up the string into words. Here's a comparison:


split: 0.5076301098s
explode: 0.0053360462s


Yeah that's a 95x speed difference. Ouch. Here's a comparison of the two pieces of code:

php code


$all_words = split(" ",$text);//super slow
$all_words2 = explode(" ",$text);//super fast
 




This is a significant if not major reason why the code slows down when strings get larger, but it did contribute enough to the delay. Normally you don't try to do micro optimisations of this type, but this illustrates you can never make assumptions and should always code for best performance in case usage of the code goes beyond your expected test values.

web development php performance optimisation

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Chrome is by far my favourite browsing browser ever since it was released. It feels lightweight and nimble, renders pages very well, has excellent Javascript performance, dead simple tabs organisation, and a no nonsense UI.

It's also gaining quickly on Firefox and IE amongst Neoseeker users: 13.79% of all visitors on Neoseeker now use Chrome. That's a huge market share gain in under 2 years.

Chrome is now the 3rd most used browser on the site, ahead of Safari (9.5% usage) and far ahead of Opera (with only 2.8% usage).

Chrome Historical "Marketshare" on Neoseeker

I made a simple chart to show the total % share that Safari and Chrome have had since Sept 2008 (just after Chrome was first released). You can clearly see that both Chrome and Safari are gaining usage on Neoseeker, but by the end of 2009 Chrome starts to surpass Safari due to its higher rate of uptake by our users.



Not reflective of general web population

A recent April 2010 report on browser marketshare shows that Chrome only holds 6.7% of the market, with Safari closer to 4.7%. IE still holds a whopping 59% market share, even though on Neoseeker that has dropped to around 35%. Looks like our users are migrating more quickly to the more sophisticated browsers than the rest of the web :P.

technology neoseeker related chrome safari neoseeker

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Today ar_cat asked me why I didn't use a forum package instead of writing the neoforums - the answer is simple: there weren't any when I started to work on it :/.

VBulletin was the first database backed "thread" style forum written in PHP, and when its original authors were thinking about writing their own forum I was already looking into writing neoforums.

The story goes something like this (its getting fuzzy so I better write it down, don't take it as fact either, I probably goofed up alot of this).

Before Neoseeker, I was a big fan of a forum package called UBB (Ultimate Bulletin Board) written by a fellow named Ted O'Neil. This forum software is the grandfather of all modern forum software - unlike its predecessors it showed multiple posts per page in a thread (other forum software showed a single post per thread) and offered really cool features that at the time were unknown to most people. Keep in mind, some of us were coming from a BBS background where threaded discussions showed a single message at a time, so reading a 30 post discussion meant you "clicked" 30 times >_<.

I spent my time tinkering, modding, and submitting ideas to UBB's creator. Like other fans of UBB it became clear that the performance was lacking: Perl was a generic language suitable for a variety of tasks, and was therefore relatively slow, and the software used txt files to store messages, so scaleability was a big issue (as was file corruption).

A couple of guys running a Visual Basic site were talking about writing another forum software to replace UBB because the UBB author didn't seem too keen to change from what he already had going. By that time I was already trying to rewrite UBB to use a pseudo SQL like library that ultimately turned up to be just as slow as the "unmodded" UBB package. I participated in the discussions of creating a PHP based, SQL backed UBB alternative, and got impatient with waiting for the authors to release it to the public, so I started to tinker on my own.

Those other guys eventually went on to name their software "Vbulletin". I released the first public version of the neoforums in October of 2000 (I had to look this up on the Neoseeker Timeline - lol). That thing was barely functional and lacked features that were essential to operating a forum like uhhh... the ability to delete messages. Oh and there was no such thing as a moderator. Good thing we decided to keep working on the forums eh? :P

The forums were created because there were no other choices to be had, and now we continue to work on it because its one of the best things I love to work on Neoseeker. Sure the features are dated now, but I'm still working towards that mythical 1.0 release, and its one of the only forums of its type in the world, with a history grounded and inspired by the very first successful thread based forum software in the world and whose features are driven by user feedback and suggestions. I'm pretty sure we're one of the ORIGINAL sites that pioneered user driven development via forums, and it gives a unique experience to visitors.

Now I hope we can continue to evolve the forums and remain relevant and useful as the challenge becomes one of updating something made when the entire way of life was completely different, so hopefully everyone will enjoy some of the things I hope we can do this year for the forums :).

Suggestions and Feature direction deeply appreciated!


If you have ANY suggestions at all to make the forums (and entire site a more useful and enjoyable resource please continue to give them to us in the RQFS forum! And if you want to help in a bigger way, we're always interested in more involved processes like helping not only with the initial suggestion, but helping to concept out how to best execute the features.

More Curios About UBB and Neoseeker

  • Ted O'Neil, the creator of UBB, interacted directly with his users in his forums, something that the admin of a major competitor of Neoseeker never did. I think I picked up how important this was for an underdog like Neo for us to really try to interact as much as possible with our users.
  • UBB publicly showed the edit link to each post even though users had no permission to use them. I thought it was brilliant, and so do all the modern forum packages.
  • I was originally going to write the neoforums using ePerl, but the discussions occuring amongst UBB users planning on a UBB replacement got me to thinking about using PHP, which I ultimately settled on - I was lucky too because now PHP is a defacto dominant language for websites while Perl is a relatively minor player.
  • early versions of Neoseeker's game profiles were stored as static HTML versions of pages, which is how UBB tried to scale performance. We eventually scrapped it because it was a hassle to maintain.
  • UBB had competitors that used or stuck with Perl such as WWWThreads and Gossamer-Threads. WWWThreads was Perl based but had a database storage (it was ultimately acquired by whoever acquired UBB). All three of these once dominating forum packages are now pretty much dead, and I think in no small part thanks to Perl's decline as a commonly used language in web design. Good thing Neoseeker didn't go with Perl huh?!
  • Out of all forum packages originating from the time period, I'm guessing neoforums is one of the only ones still being maintained by its creator :D. The VBulletin creators jumped ship long ago, and UBB is now a dwindling memory.


neoseeker related neohistory

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I was in San Francisco last week for a "publisher summit" and met some great people and learned amazing things. Outside of that, I observed some pretty cool things too.

Here's a list of some takeaways purely based on loose observations, don't take them too seriously, some are meant to be tongue in cheek, and most have more to do with humourous things I saw than the summit ;)
  1. During the entire trip, when I was counting, I saw 2 netbooks, and 9 iPads. Hmmm (analysts, and I, believe that Netbooks will dramatically lose sales to tablets).
  2. Some people I saw with iPads also had a laptop. Hmm x 2 (so much for an iPad being good enough for work and play, for now anyway).
  3. A surprising number of people carry massive 17" laptops on their trips.
  4. Macs still have a small marketshare, but you wouldn't know it by counting the number of Macbooks that publishers (and PHP developers) use.
  5. If you've encountered a problem in your work, chances are alot of other people have had that problem too, but like you, few of them realize how common the problem might be.
  6. Note to Apple and other tablet manufacturers: apparently a kickstand on a tablet is very high on the list for most professionals who know what they're talking about.
  7. Most common complaints I heard about the iPad: weight, screen glare, and smudges.
  8. I love tech, Skype, IM, "desktop sharing" and email, but face to face is still the King in bringing out ideas amongst people (people who've known me long know I'm old fashioned about telecommuting)
  9. Weather delay going into SF, and weather delay coming out. The weather delays caused all flights into and out of SF to be delayed, including connecting flights hundreds of miles away, so... there's a chance a flight delay anywhere in the world at anytime could have been caused by SF weather :|
  10. Taxi drivers rarely offer to give you change, sometimes even pretending they got exact fare.
  11. Even stressed out airline staff have a sense of humour -> Overheard in an SF airport announcement: "Flight ____ to Miami, sorry for the continued delay. We have good news and bad news. The good news is your plane has finally arrived. The bad news is that your flight crew is still in L.A."
  12. Verizon Wireless retail sales staff are so professional they not only leave you alone in their stores, they make it a point not to stare at you or follow you around, and subtly move away from you to give you personal space when exploring their offerings! Compare that to a car showroom customer experience >_<
  13. Canada Customs at YVR now has checkin Kiosks that handle customs declaration automatically for Canadian residents returning home, complete with OCR! This is super fast and convenient. Yay technology! (yes, these have been around, I haven't gone through YVR in ages)
  14. People always complain about airplane food, but airport food is just as bad (or worse!)
  15. Laughing and smiling at someone while pointing at them is an effective way for marketers to catch your attention (yes, someone trying to sell me something did this to me on a busy street and it almost worked, haha).
  16. Who has time to use the flatscreen TVs they install now in hotel rooms?
  17. True irony: Hotels give free wifi in their lobby, where many people probably aren't even paying guests, but they charge money for wifi in their rooms, which are occupied almost always by paying guests. (yes, I understand the economics of this, but its still funny).
  18. Even though the industry is focussed on mobile, and most mobile platforms do not support Flash, alot of rich ad media development is done in flash.
  19. Blackberries are famous for being addictive, but comparing 1:1 ratios I saw more people staring at their iPhones than at their Blackberries. (an annecdotal, potentially wrong observation that encapsulates Blackberry's loss of mindshare)
  20. Purely non-objective observation: When asked how many people used Wordpress to power their sites, I thought I saw fewer than 25-35% of the publishers present put up their hands. (most people I tell this to are surprised, considering Wordpress is the most used blog software in the world.)


musingsthoughts yvr san francisco verizon ipad

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I've just been reflecting on how much I like using the little popup PM minibrowser that we introduced a few months ago. Since it was launched it's helped me with:
  • Replying to PMs faster
  • Actually keeping my Unread PM list quite low (often at 0).

When it first launched there were some bugs, so some people didn't like this particular feature. For me its easily completely re-invigorated my use of PMs and improved my site participation in the process.

Making the PM Browser
Our goal when making the PM Mini Browser was to make it super easy to fire off quick replies to short PMs or fire off a quick PM (via the Compose button). I think we did a pretty good job and now this new PM interface has become indispensable for me.

Improvements?
Because I'm using the mini browser so much I often wish for the following improvements, most of which will probably sneak their way into the site sooner rather than later, if you've got ideas to improve the browser let us know in RQFS!
  1. We definitely need a way to quickly see the entire thread of a PM discussion in the mini browser
  2. The minibrowser needs a live search feeture
  3. Being able to filter by sender would be really useful.


neoseeker related pm

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Here's a small change that's pretty cool: all Tweets made through the Neoseeker Twitter integration now use a custom shortened URL "neo.ly". This includes tweets made to our official @neoseeker Twitter account (check it out to see it in action), and any tweets made by your account if you have integration setup.

The neat thing about this is that it's more obvious that a link on Twitter leads to Neoseeker. It also just looks and sounds cool :).

Set up your Twitter integration!


If you haven't setup your Twitter integration yet you should try it out (it's easy, check out this visual guide!). It lets you set what types of Neoseeker actions (like favouriting things on Neo) will send a Tweet automatically. I'm currently using this to auto-tweet my blog posts, so if you check my @darkcobalt account you should see this blog post there.

About the neoseeker account

The Neoseeker editorial team have been using Twitter for a while to promote our content. Even if you're not a Twitter user and want to keep up to date on our news, videos, contests, and articles, the @neoseeker account is your "super RSS" feed for all such updates (here's the RSS version of our feed.)

twitter bitly neoseeker related

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gef loung has been asking me to create a release list and GameGrep news plugin for the DSiWare forum and I finished that last week. However, rarely would anyone ever see it, so I created a General DSiWare forum and moved all the previous general messages into it.

You can also see the recent and upcoming DSiWare specific titles on the right hand side of that forum.

If you want to help out to keep that list up to date, make sure to contribute to Neoseeker! That list draws from the release date submissions made to each DSiWare title. The titles can be found in the DSiWare section. You can also keep an eye on all DS titles with no release date and also contribute in general to DS titles in our list of DS titles that need your contributions!

dynasty warriors mobile gaming neoseeker related gaming related dsiware dsi

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PC Gaming is awesome. It has a huge following and many gamers the world over have fond memories of PC classics. Certain genres or game types simply work better or allow better skill on PC: RTS, MMO`s, and FPS in particular. For a while though, media outlets have been lamenting the slow death of PC gaming. Some blame piracy for multiple issues including games that never come to PC and staggered PC port launch dates. Others blame the supposed high cost of PC gaming (many top titles run fine in hardware 2-3years old now). Coming from an old school PC gaming background and also being a longtime console gamer I noticed some things that have been influencing my gaming habits lately:
  • Xbox Live Achievements or PS3 Trophies influence purchasing decisions when games exist on both console and PC - given the choice I prefer XBL Achievements over stand alone PC achievements and Steam achievements.
  • Console games are better stocked than PC titles at big box and specialty stores. (at least locally)
  • Console titles are advertised more in flyers, and usually console games on sale are advertised more than PC games.
  • Steam makes for a very easy purchasing and "game library" service, but its non-sale pricing doesn't compare well against physical products.

The Solution: Games for Windows Live

Ok this is going to sound far fetched. But Games for Windows Live, done right, can greatly boost the visibility and attractiveness of PC gaming.

Yes, I know all about Steam. And I love what it has done. But I haven't been drawn into the Steam Achievements and the "Live" branding has better reach amongst non-PC gamers. In spite of its success, Steam also has alot of flaws - read further before flaming ;)

How to do it right?

Right now Games for Windows is more of a branding initiate started by Microsoft, here`s what I`d like to see to make it right.

Achievements for ALL Games for Windows

Right now only Games for Windows Live games have achievements, and the selection is none too great. I have Prince of Persia, a Game for Windows branded title, but it doesn't have the achievements from its console counterparts. That's a lost opportunity right there. I finished the game but none of the achievements show up anywhere - if I had to do it over again I would get the Xbox version so that my Achievements could be tracked in a central system.

Games for Windows titles must ALL have Achievements and Gamerscore points. Titles that exist on Xbox360 should have all of the identical achievements, and possibly a few "PC only" achievements.

The Achievements from PC games should add to your total gamerscore, and they do, so the framework for this is available.

Steamworks like settings, reinstall capabilities and Cloud Saves

Microsoft needs to invest in both the distribution, reinstall, and settings saving capabilities of Steamworks. Buy a Windows game, install it, then put it away on the shelf. After that you can reinstall as many times as you want on as many computers as you want without having to pull the box back out. Settings like preferences, custom character designs, and even save games should be saved both locally in your PC and in the cloud. DRM via network access will prevent abuse even if you install the game on lots of PCs because they must have access to your precious XBL account to play.

Certain settings related to performance and screen size should be individually saved as profiles for each system.

This means that if you installed the game on your laptop, and your desktop, you can seamlessly play on either one and pick up games wherever you left off. You could be at school or on vacation playing a game, then when you get home you could load up any save game you had on your laptop without the fuss of copying and moving things around.

Screenshot and Video capture capability on the Cloud

Collaborate with FRAPS or other screencapture products so that screenshots can be taken natively in EVERY game. This feature needs to be made XBL wide so that Xbox console titles AND PC titles allow easy screen capturing regardless of game (see my previous post about this pet peeve of mine). These screenshots should be stored both locally and on the Cloud, but kept private.

A Rich API for Websites to Tap Into

Xbox Live already has a web API, but Microsoft has closed it off to new applicants. We need to open this up so that any legitimate website can apply for the API access, and then expand it to enable more features:

One potential use? Direct integration of screenshots and videos into a site (eg Neoseeker :P). Imagine if you took screenshots in the game, it is saved to the cloud, and also uploaded to your Neoseeker account attached to the proper game and auto tagged with whatever characters or place you are currently at. That would be COOL.

Discounted Pricing

The pricing of digital content needs to be LOWER than the physical product. And people who buy the digital copy should be given the ability to order the physical accompaniment for a fee. Imagine a market where the digital games are 10-15% cheaper just because digital distribution itself is cheaper. You buy the game, then realize that some of the items in the physical Collector's Edition are to your liking, so you order it for the price difference plus a small premium.

Transfering Ownership

This is the biggest problem in digital content. If I buy a music CD I can lend it to a friend. If I buy a console game I can lend it to a friend. My copy of PC Prince of Persia, purchased at a store, can be lent to a friend. My copy of Mass Effect? No sir, because I bought it on Steam (for the same price as a physical copy) I cannot lend it to a friend, or sell it to anyone.

This ABSOLUTELY MUST CHANGE. I know game companies abhor the used game market, but it is maddenning that one must pay nearly the same price for a digital copy as a physical one and yet one cannot ever sell it or gift it to anyone. Transfering the license to another person should be as easy as declaring the email of the recipient. After that all your game installs will cease to run. But your saves and settings will be retained in case of sequels that rely on data from previous saves.

xbox 360 pc xbox live steam

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  1. You can go to your user profile from anywhere on the site in one click! (just click on your username)
  2. From within the forums you can easily go to your blog, gallery, CRS or faqcp in one click (use the menu that comes out if you hover over your username). I hated having to go to the homepage to click on my games :(
  3. Send someone a quick PM from anywhere on the site without reloading the page (click NeoPM, then Compose).
  4. Near "Instant" PMs - the NeoPM counter checks every few seconds to see whether you have new PMs. You can reply quickly within the minibrowser without leaving the page.
  5. Easily do simple PM management. I use the mini PM browser to clear off my backlog of unread PMs, and also to delete PMs without having to go to the full PM page. To me it feels much faster and more convenient.
  6. Find out if your NeoFriends have posted new threads: the much maligned Friends list is actually quite useful for finding out if friends have posted new threads in the past 10 minutes.
  7. Find interesting articles or images that friends are checking out - just click the Friends link every so often to see if there is a news article, blog post, or gallery image that might catch your attention.
  8. Get alerts when people comment on your fanart, gallery images, blog posts, custom title changes, or avatar, or when they sign your guestbook (all such actions show up in Responses)

Edit: I just noticed that one other thing the new memberbar allows you to do is to forward Neoseeker and GameGrep URLs to other members very easily. For instance, if you are reading this blog and want to PM it to friends, click the NeoPM box to bring up the minibrowser, click Compose, then even while the compose box is open you can highlight the URL in your browser and copy it into the PM box. I used it to PM chautemoc in one of his articles and it was really handy!

neoseeker related

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In May I put together a short list of useful Windows programs that you can get for free and that I consider "must haves". At the time I was running both XP at NeoHQ and Windows 7 RC1 32bit, Vista and XP at home.

Well now I'm running Windows 7 Professional 64bit at home and NeoHQ and I've also added a few more programs to the list.

I'm currently using these apps in Windows 7 64bit without problems so they should work fine for you too (not all apps play nice with Windows 7 and not all in 64bit Windows). If you're running an old copy of a Windows program that no longer works properly in Windows 7 (eg Nero, ACDSee, Paint Shop Pro etc) it might be worth checking out these free Apps rather than paying for an upgrade to the latest version of those software.
  • ImgBurn - completely free burning software. It burns ISOs and other image files. It also burns MP3's, FLAC's, WMA, and AAC (Apple's Ipod format). Also burns HD-DVD's and Blu-Ray. Sweet.
  • SpeedFan - a great utility to control fans, and check out CPU and motherboard temps in your system. It also lets you look at the SMART info of your HDD's so you can look at their health (and potentially spot dieing hard drives). In Vista/Windows 7 you should start the program as an Administrator in order to access the SMART info.
  • Digsby - alternative to Trillian that has a cleaner interface and is 100% free. Since there's no "Pro" vs Free version you get 100% of the functionality right away. It lets you combine your MSN, AIM, Yahoo, Google chat, and other IM accounts into one application and also supports social sites like Facebook/Myspace and Twitter. I have it connected to my email as well.
  • 7-zip - a completely free and open source archive utility that handles zip, gz, rar, and many more. Windows 7 already supports Zip files natively, but RAR files are not recognized. Tip: To associate 7-zip with RAR files make sure you start it as an administrator first, otherwise it won't save your settings.
  • Sumatra PDF - chautemoc recommended this lightweight PDF reader in my last article and I've been using it in my new Windows 7 install. So far it works FASTER than my previous favourite, Foxit Reader, and is even more minimalist and nagfree. I'm switching to using this as my main PDF reader until further notice.
  • Screenshot Captor - This is a SUPER handy screenshot utility that can capture your entire screen, just the current active application, or a user selected area of the screen. It "freezes" your screen when you activate it so that if are hovering over something or have certain menus open these items do not close and disappear when you select the portion to capture. It also has automatic options to capture in different formats and save the file location to your clipboard so you can cut and past the file into a web upload form. It is donationware but you can definitely get a free license if you so wish.
  • CPU and Memory Meter Gadget - this is a desktop gadget that supports Quad, Eight, Triple, and Duo core systems. It shows real time CPU usage plus Memory usage. More of a "power toy" than an app but I find it useful.
  • Paint.NET - I used to use GIMP, one of the defacto free and open source graphics apps, but I never got used to its UI and found it relatively slow for what I needed it to do. I've since switched to Paint.NET, a lightweight yet powerful tool that is perfect for the simple things I do (cropping, colour tweaks, minor corrections, etc). Paint.Net loads up incredibly fast compared to GIMP and it feels alot more native to Windows because its UI is using compatible with the Aero theme. The icons they use for various things like crop, select, eraser, eye dropper, etc are also more intuitive and familiar to anyone who has used Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro (my former favourite).


technology

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If you already use the member shortcut nTag you already know to do this:

code
[[member:Redemption]]


Now you can link to any member's profile subpages up to one level deep. Eg their guestbook, activity page, contributions, FAQs, neohome.


code
[[member:Redemption/guestbook]]

and voila: Redemption's guestbook


code
[[member:Artificer/neohome]]


Result: Artificer's neohome

--------


PS.: If you like this thank Xenctuary, he bugged me several times to add this to my TODO list :). Maybe go and sign Xenctuary's guestbook

ntags neoseeker related

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Show off your Neoseeker Favourites

We just launched a brand new feature in your member profile to show off all the things you favourited on the site. We call this the "Favourites" page, and its pretty cool! This page is searchable and filterable by category.

For a while now Neoseeker allowed you to favourite gallery images and videos, but now this launch also expands the number of things you can favourite to include:
  • Concept Art
  • Screenshots
  • Blog posts (not just the blog author)
  • news articles

Check out some of these pages to see the favourites in action:

Redemption's favourites
chautemoc's favourites
Xenctuary's favourites

Background

Several weeks ago we consolidated the favourites system into one big master system. This capability was actually only possible after we launched the new member profiles this summer - previous to this your favourites were stored all over the place in different systems! This consolidation opened up the doors for two things:
  1. Quickly adding a favourites capability to any content on the site
  2. Creating a member specific Favourites page to pool together all your favourites.
See... the ActivityLog that was met with lukewarm reception by some members is the first part of a multi stage, longer term enhancement of how you interact with Neoseeker's content and the people who are using or creating that content.

Thumbs Up

If you haven't heard already, we also added thumbs up capability to more parts of the site. Favourites and thumbs share a similar system and can now be deployed sitewide.

Show support, or show off!

So with the Favourites and Thumbs you can show people you like their stuff, and also favourite it for your future reference :P. You can also use your favourites page as a way of showing off what you think is the "Best of Neoseeker".

What makes it a Beta

Some images are missing and a few dates act funny. Search mode doesn't quite get the counts correct yet. But aside from this it is all functional! Don't forget to report bugs in the bugs forums! We'll be fixing these next week but for now go out there and favourite some things and bring much love to the content that you've enjoyed on the site to others!

Looking ahead

There's more interesting stuff planned ahead. One of the biggest challenges around is finding all the cool things on the site. With a favourites and thumbs system interlinking all content, what could be done for example, as a recommendation system? Could we use this information for instance to direct you to stuff that might be interesting to check out, based on what other members, including your friends, are favouriting and thumbing? Could we apply a similar concept to the forums to find the most interesting posts and threads for you to read?

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Previously I put all account merges on hold in anticipation of the update ar_cat was working on. This update is now available and is called a "true" Account Merge.

Unlike the previous account merge, MOST of the good stuff from one account can be moved over to the destination account, including, but not limited to:
  • the "oldest" join date
  • guestbook entries
  • actual forum posts
  • contributions/NeoPoints
  • FAQs
  • gallery and fanart submissions
  • your collections (own, want, completed).
  • Private messages**
You can read the full details, including limitations of this new merge, in the Wiki page I created called "Account Merges".

This type of merge is particularly appealing for users who have very rich past accounts and need to merge with another account. Theoretically there is no limit to the number of accounts we can merge together, nor does it matter when you do it (you can initiate a "true merge" on a former "merged" account if we can find the old account), but each account will require a separate Fee (or NeoPoints, when we implement the feature much later).

If you are a Wiki or fanart contributor and qualify for the free name change/free merge you can ask for a "full" merge or you can still use the traditional merge. If you are merging via the Name Change Fee, you also get to choose between the two. Please READ the documentation carefully to understand all the risks!

**please read the PM merge details


----

If you have a pending merge that is waiting to go through, please contact me and let me know if you want a True merge or the regular merge. You might always want to use this simple form to verify the options you want for the merge:

http://neowiki.neoseeker.com/wiki/Account_Merge#Request_Template

account merge neoseeker related

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Account Merges are on hold pending a very exciting new and improved Merge that ar_cat is working on. Anyone who is waiting for an account merge should keep tabs on my blog - when we make available the improved merges I will be attending account merge requests. I think the wait will be worth it ;).

neoseeker related account merge

Not everyone is happy with the "personal message" feature on the new member profiles, but I'm quite excited about them.

For a long time I've wanted to have a feature like this, modeled after the MSN messages that people change daily. I've seen funny quotes, deep insights, and everything in between the wild, outlandish, and just plain crazy in those MSN statuses.

Keeping your name off the message

A few days ago I wanted to experiment with taking out your username from the message. Instead of having to show "Redemption is wading through bugs" I want it to show "Wading through bugs.". I came up with an idea inspired by the MediaWiki method of suppressing something - prefix your personal message with a colon like so ":Wading through bugs".

By default if you type something your name shows up before it, but as soon as you prefix the ":" the system will exclude your username.

Try it out, you might like it - and you might find it opens up doors to writing more interesting messages there.

Use Sparingly, but don't let it go stale

If you change your personal message with meaningless noise all the time it loses its effectiveness. The thing I liked the most about the MSN statuses was that people didn't write about their mood as it changed throughout the day, they focussed on key issues. Most people only change their MSN status once a day or only when something big happens. Try to stick to messages that carry more meaning and you'll find that your messages will be more interesting for others and more valuable for yourself.

personal message neoseeker related

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I've decided to post a few anecdotal blogs to capture some of Neoseeker's history before I forget too much of it. This will be one of several posts I will make that I'll tag with neohistory.

I'm no writing guru and I can't promise to entertain or bewitch you with quirky stories and witty remarks - that's why I surround myself with great writers like our news crew (now there's a bunch that can delight with skilled wordsmithing) ;). Hopefully these posts amuse you, or perhaps they might serve as nice Neo Trivia in some distant future, but mostly I want to jot these down so that I can enjoy them for myself. Memories might be cherished for a lifetime, but they don't stay in your head forever you know :P.

Modems, Dial tones, and busy signals, oh my!

My fascination with "online" interactivity and communities really began with the BBS (Bulletin Board Service) movement predating the modern internet. I forget the year I started, it could have been between 1988 and sometime around 1992, which is the stone age, really, in Internet years. These were mostly home run services that would allow one or more modems to dial in and connect to a BBS server which hosted such goodies as files, usenet posts, and even real time chat with the server operator and possibly other users. The number of connections per service was limited by how many phone lines the operator had, typically 1-3 depending on how much they were willing to spend - How archaic! After my first experience on a BBS, I remember thinking to myself... "This is the future", and I knew I wanted to be part of that future.

The limitations of BBSes... drove me to obsession

Back then of course any popular service worth visiting had strict time restrictions and you mostly had to dial in continuously to get through all the busy phone signals ("war dialing"). It could take 1 minute to get a connection or 2hours, but nothing was so sweet as the sound of a connection (or so bitter as that of a connection dropped, allowing someone to swoop in on the line you were using). Some services I would give up on because they were too unstable or dropped my connection too much. And others were too slow, or were down at inconvenient times. These frustrations threaten the users of ANY service, and if you ask any person who has worked with me, I am deeply obsessed with fighting these problems on Neoseeker, which we have been plagued with since we started this whole thing.

Modem speed was also a huge limitation and reality. A single 60kb jpeg could take some 15 minutes to download so while file sharing was very popular, it was also quite limited. Today you download a 60kb jpeg faster than the average person can flip you the bird. I can still remember how someone would post up an image and I would queue it up for download, and finish a shower and breakfast before even getting to check it out. The speed issue was the basis of the rise and fall of communications giants like US Robotics. My dad even had USR stock at $12 and sold it at $16 - ironically it skyrocketed to some $100+ price within a year of that. Timing never was our thing -_-, and this would hold true throughout the history of Neoseeker.

Later, DEViATE, fellow founder of Neoseeker, actually ran his own BBS and I was absolutely fascinated. That was around the 1993 timeframe. Here we were, sitting beside an aging piano in this small room and we watched as visitors logged into his BBS and began to interact with it! I was completely hooked and dreamed of running my own, maybe 2 line BBS service :D. Because speed was such a problem with BBSes it became a near obsession for me - the limitations of BBSes: speed, and concurrency (allowing many users on at once), would later become driving priorities in our development of Neoseeker.

ASCII/ANSI and the Beauty of Text

I think part of my appreciation of FAQs also has its roots in the BBS days. Back then images took so long to download that the services were pure text - ASCII (or its more advanced brethren, ANSI) art became the defacto welcome screens to good BBSes and good written information was the KING. Both these things later resonated strongly with me in game faqs, many of which feature awesome ASCII art and clever organisation techniques which made FAQs far more effective than straight text had any right to be.

Gaming Addiction Can Be Good for Something

The BBSes also introduced me to my love of online gaming. Text games were abundant, with your high scores pitted against those of other visitors, but so were actual turn based style multiplayer games like Trader Wars (or some such game), where you were not playing a game separate from others and competing for high scores, but you were playing AGAINST others in a bid to dominate entire worlds, or universes. The thrill of challenging and besting another human at these games are the foundation of some of the most successful game franchises - from the adrenaline rush of Quake to the life sucking addition of WOW.

Just before the Internet really started taking off I got involved in a huge multi-line persistent RPG BBS service, Ice Online - nowadays you'd call it a MUD, but at the time I had no familiarity with such a concept and just thought of it as "the really addictive, really fun, and highly interactive game that cost me all of my money". At the time this sort of thing was absolutely amazing - some 16 lines (later up to 60 or more) allowed many players to log in together and adventure in a purely text environment, but with real time combat. It was hugely addictive. For the first time ever I was playing a game with dozens of people all around the game world. We could help each other out to complete quests, form parties to kill large enemies (precursor to "Raids" perhaps?), form guilds, and even have PVP! I swear Ice Online darn near invented the concept of nearly invincible NPC guards that opened up a can of WhoopAss! if you dared break the peace in the main cities.

This addiction lead me to believe I had to run my own, multi line BBS with real time chat capabilities and real time text based combat. I never got anyone to go along with this of course, and eventually Ice Online would slowly fade out of prominence as it was outcompeted by the internet (their business model was based on the number of hours you stay logged into their lines) as well as more sophisticated, higher concurrency graphical RPG titles that were coming out. Even though my passion to start a multi line chat system was never borne out, between Ice Online and DEViATE's simple BBS, the seed of starting some sort of service where visitors would come and interact together, and with us, was born.

Not Everything is Learned, Some is Imprinted Into Your Psyche by Life's Fond Moments

What made Ice Online so great too was that the people who ran the service understood that people love to personalise not only their experience (ie what they see), but the expression of their individuality (ie how they look to you). When you looked at players you could read a custom description of their appearance, and certain in-game characters had unique items or even tattoos that were completely unique to them. I won a special event that allowed me to pay for a totally unique magic scimitar and I had a custom snake tattoo on my character's swordarm. How does this inter-relate to Ice Online's influence on Neo? The custom title concept was directly influenced by how much I loved that custom tattoo on my character (remember, this "tattoo" was really just a string of text shown to users in a different colour when you read their description). Seriously.

This also extends to other little things like forum ranks and changing icon sets as you change ranks, like earning XP and levels in an RPG. I know many sites now use such concepts, and others did it better and before we did, but those sites were not our influence. Our life experiences were what shaped some of these decisions, whether consciously, or less consciously as a reaction to the best things we loved about youth or the most frustrating limitations of our young passions.

neoseeker related neohistory

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If you haven't noticed, today we launched a new forum update, and the major change is that you can now classify people as friends and contacts. The old system only allowed you to add everyone as a Neofriend (or Ignored user).

So what's the difference between a Friend and Contact?
  • Any features that you restrict to "Neofriends only" (such as online privacy) will only show to friends, not contacts
  • Your friends list, if it is public, will not list contacts
  • in my.neoforum, you won't see contacts in the Neofriends box.
  • Pretty much ANYWHERE there is a friend feature, only users in your friends list will be considered friends.
Contacts are accessible in your my.friends page and they also show up under the PM select box when you write a new PM, as well as PM recipient auto fill.

How is this useful?


Right. Well most members have a group of friends and also people they just want to PM every so often. Mods might want to keep track of troublemakers or helpful members (yes, mods have been adding people like this for a while now).

Oh, and if you're the type who adds both friends and non-friends to your Neofriend list, and were hiding your friendslist from the public BECAUSE you have people on it that you've just been err.. stalking... well know you can switch them over as contacts and make your friendslist public. How cool is that? :P.

Friend Groups

Oh don't forget you can group friends now - at the moment this is just an organisation feature, but maybe in the future you can PM entire groups of friends :P.

neoseeker related neofriends neoforums

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For the longest time we've given free name changes to FAQ authors.

I'm now going to extend this to three other types of contributors:
  • NeoWiki contributors who have submitted a significant amount of text or images to the NeoWikis.
  • Members who have a significant amount of fanart in their profiles (15+).
  • Members who have an exceptional member gallery (1000 images or more relevant to games, movies, or books, with proper tagging, attaching to games, albums, etc)
Here are the Qualifications, LIMITATIONS, and Caveats!
  1. You may only make such a request once per 3 year period. It sounds like a long time but I don't want to be flooded with requests, sorry :(.
    1. Particularly prolific contributors may use a free name change for THEMSELVES up to once per year: these are people who are actively contributing for 2+ years and still actively contributing at the time of the name change request and have 3 or more 100k wikis or one wiki with 500k edits
  2. Wiki contributors must contribute to a game related wiki. We have over 100 of them so its actually quite easy. If none of the existing NeoWikis suits your fancy, check out WikiGuides, where you can start a Wiki on ANY game you like.
  3. Your NeoWiki contributions should contain a consistently high amount of actual actual text being written. In fact you should have at least 75,000 bytes in one single wiki, or 50,000 bytes in two or more wikis, and must still be actively and consistently contributing to the wikis for the past 3 months before even contacting me.
  4. For the purpose of Wiki Edits you can edit game profiles and Wiki Description Edits on the site itself, such as making Character pages (eg this page.
  5. Fan artists must have at least 15+ fanart in their profile and must still be consistently submitting fanart (at least 2 in the past 6 months). To learn more about submitting fanart check out the fanart homepage and the Art Central forum
  6. Member galleries must be filled with decent sized images, not tiny images.
If you don't know what qualifies as a name change, please visit this thread on name change requests.

To make a request of this type, please PM me with the following subject:

"Free Name Change: Fan artist"

or

"Free Name Change: Wiki Contributor."


Hopefully this new policy will allow very active members who have contributed alot or have made great use of our features to be able to change their names instead of starting new accounts.


PS. For members who contribute and have lots of NeoPoints, I hope to implement something for you too this year.

neoseeker related name change

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I've been tweaking the Xbox Live/Gamercard page of individual profiles to try to get more games linked. So far I've managed to get another 15 or so titles linked to Neoseeker. Check it out here

Daedric Prince
The Blue Flame

I'm hoping we can develop more cool XBL features over the summer but I wanted to start with this because people have been asking me about it.

xbox 360 neoseeker related

Here are some useful free/open source Windows Apps that are a "must" for me (see also my newer post with even MORE free programs that work great in Windows 7). This is mostly for my own records so I don't forget the apps. The below is by no means complete since I just got Windows 7 RC1 installed and can't remember some of the apps I need.
  • Xnview - a free graphics viewer/converter/organizer that works similar to ACDSee. ACDSee is my personal favourite viewer/organizer, but it is not free. Windows Preview is so good now this program is not necessary for strictly viewing, but if you are organizing photos then Xnview and ACDSee are a must for easy renaming, resizing, moving of images. This program is also multi language so it is perfect for anyone around the globe.
  • Foxit Reader Free alternative to Adobe Acrobat Reader. It is smaller and faster, so it loads up much more quickly. For me the importance is that it feels less bloated. Warning: This is semi-nagware in that it has a permanent note in its toolbar to ask you to buy the software.
  • Real Altnernative - a codec to let you view RMV (real media video) files without installing the bloated Real Media software.
  • Metapad - a super lightweight Notepad replacement. Metapad is not meant to be an HTML or other web editor like Notepad Plus, another open source notepad like app that has nice syntax highlighting, instead its focus is to be super fast to load and very small. It is crucial for me because it supports Unix line endings, which Windows native Notepad does not, so if you open up certain txt files in regular Notepad it looks either corrupted or condensed without linebreaks. Notepad also has a filesize limit which Metapad does not. Replace Notepad completely with Metapad and the problem goes away.
  • FooBar - my current media player of choice. It supports many formats including FLACs. This player is kind of barebones but it does have media library support which is pretty cool. It's pretty ugly though.


open source technology

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Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo, I IMPLORE YOU... Enable your humble fans and customers to take screenshots whilst playing their games. The lack of easy screencapture (and in fact video capture) is a glaring omission in the console world right now.

What do I mean by easy screen captures?
  1. Let us join our consoles to the local network and mount a computer drive as the destination for screenshots and video capture.
  2. Have a common interface or button sequence for screenshot capture in ALL games. Don't force individual developers to build in their own screencapture utilities
  3. Allow us to email the screenshots and videos.
  4. Filenames for screenshots should be useable.
    1. eg: gamename-username-level-name-date-imagenumber.jpg.
    2. mirrors_edge-redemption-chapter15-1.jpg
How do screenshots help the game industry?
  1. Gamers can capture their gaming experiences and memories more easily, which increases their passion for their games.
  2. Being able to share your experiences and memories makes all games more engaging.
  3. It is the digital equivalent of word of mouth advertising.
  4. It encourages HIGHER QUALITY user made media which can only reflect positively on the console manufacturer and the developers. Have you guys seen those screenshots taken by cell phones or cheap capture cards?!?
I imagine that console manufacturers either don't believe screenshots and video capture are useful for their users (or for them as manufacturers), or else the believe that easy media capturing is a threat to intellectual property. If it is the latter reason holding you back, please reconsider. This fear is irrational in a world where the fans and the things fans do are as much a part of the success of games as many other factors, and in a world as digitally connected as we live in today, this type of fear is antiquated and represses the full potential of this amazing industry. And even if the fear were valid, there are some ways to limit the risk:
  1. Limit how many screen shots a user may take per session (or in total) per game.
  2. Limit the length of video that can be captured (say 30 seconds at a time).


pokemon sprite playstation 3 xbox 360 wii

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Alot of people use tags in different ways, and normally that's fine, but for images on Neoseeker there's a really powerful way to use tags to bring together images in very useful ways. I thought I'd give you some tips to make tagging more enjoyable for yourself, and more useful for others who are viewing your images.

Tags as Identifiers of Characters/Monsters/Items

This is my personal preference. Use at least 1 tag to catalog EACH character, monster, item, or anything that you can actually SEE inside the image. If there are 6 characters in the image, add 6 tags. Got a picture with some Pokemon in it? Don't tag it with "pokemon", tag it as the ACTUAL names of the pokemon. That's what I did here for the tag "Elika" (a character in Prince of Persia), I found images where Elika was a prominent part of the image, and then tagged it. Also look at the tag of the Rook from DemiGod, where screenshots containing the Rook were tagged, plus a cool LEGO Rook!

Check out this odd pic where Altair and Elika are in the picture together, nicely tagged with both characters ;).

Other examples of tagging by content within the image:

Tag spelling

Tags are not case sensitive, so add them with smallcaps. Spelling the tag correctly is CRITICAL! And punctuation like hyphens, spaces, abbreviations should be considered carefully. Try to use what you would consider to be the MOST COMMON tag.

Single word tags

Single word tags should be reserved mostly for less common character or monster/item names. "Mario" is such a well known character that the single word is enough (and really all that you can do). But "bellic" might not be the best tag to use for GTA IV since it is ambiguous.

Tags of your username

ONLY tag an image with your username if YOU or a likeness of YOU are in the picture! In fact, if you tag too many images with your own username we'll just remove the tag, since its not relevant and bloats up the tag database.

tags neoseeker related

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So while NeoGalleries are pretty cool, not everyone on Neo has been taking advantage of them, and I'm hoping to change that by driving some of its usefulness and giving you some quick tips on how to make the most of this new feature. I know the Galleries need more features, but that doesn't mean that you can't start using what we've already got to make the most of this feature.

Galleries?!

Some of you might not even know this feature exists:

http://gallery.neoseeker.com/

Just think of it as Photobucket or Imageshack for gamers, albeit in a very early form. When you upload images to your member gallery they are tied to your user profile, and you get a cool little icon that shows up in the forums and in your profile:



You can then use the images anywhere you want - in your blogs, in forum posts, news comments, GameGrep, or even on other forums!

Tag those images!

This is probably the MOST overlooked feature. Tagging is a very powerful new part of Neoseeker, and it ties together ALL of our media, from Concept Art, to screenshots, to fanart, and of course member galleries!



It's very easy to add a tag:
  1. Look at the bottom of an image, for the "Add a tag" link
  2. click the linnk to pull up the input box
  3. type in the tag, press enter, and voila!

Enable Friends or other Members to tag!

Currently, by default your gallery is closed to tagging by anyone aside yourself. If you're too lazy to tag things yourself open it up to others! You can set the tagging properties to allow NeoFriends or all registered members to help tag. I like to explore and add helpful tags to images in member galleries.

To change your settings come here:

http://gallery.neoseeker.com/settings/

Attach Game and Movie Images to their respective products!

Did you know that you can make your gallery images show up in game profiles? This is another often overlooked feature, and it also brings you more visitors to your gallery and profile!

Check out my Mirror's Edge images in the Mirror's Edge screenshots page:



Doing this is relatively easy but not immediately obvious. You can do it in two ways:
  1. Manage Images and do it en masse. Just click "Manage Images", use the checkboxes to check off the ones you want, then click the "add tags to selected" button.
  2. Do it one image at a time. Go into an image, and on the right hand side you'll see a "Associate with a product" box. Just do a search and submit the products to attach to. It's pretty easy.

Favourite Images!

Adding favourites to your member account is easy and quick. When viewing an image just click on the favourites star.



Favourites show up in the bottom of your homepage and also in your own favourites page.

Check out my list of favourites:

http://gallery.neoseeker.com/Redemption/favourites/

Share with Friends!

Well this is the easy part. Send your gallery to your friends via email, Facebook, MySpace, or whatever! This part is easy and fun. If you find interesting images share them with other members and in the forums.

Any other ideas?

If you have any other ideas share them in the comments. When members really start to tag, attach images to games and share their images we'll really start to see a huge difference in how interesting and fun the galleries can be. So get going and make the most of member galleries!

neoseeker related trainer card pokemon member galleries

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This post is mostly for historical purposes, and for those who are interested in this sort of tech babble.


As of this morning, Neoseeker and all its associated projects have been migrated to UTF-8. This was a long and arduous process that tomchu completed for us successfully. All told over some 72hrs of work was required by various people to finish this update which will largely go unnoticed and has no immediate feature impact on the site.

Background

This entire process started with initial research and testing I did many years ago when we determined that foreign characters, especially Japanese titles of games, were not stored properly on Neoseeker. At the time it was deemed not feasible to make a conversion due to lack of manpower and understanding of character sets in general. The world itself was not quite ready either and MySQL especially had only just started really supporting character collations in MySQL 4.1.

In Feb 2008 key zer reported a bug relating to Russian text being counted improperly. I thought it was something we could fix easily, but after 20hrs of research, testing, and various other work decided it was just too tough, and the risk of corruption of existing data too high.

In Feb 2009 I decided we would take this project up once again, spurred by the need to properly support collation of accented European characters in search features we will be introducing on the site. This time around, tomchu, our Server Dude was tasked with the majority of the R&D of the update.

It was decided that the entire site had to be disabled for this update to be done properly, and the data dumped completely into SQL dump files and reimported after some manipulation. This procedure is remarkably similar to the recommended procedure to upgrade major variants of MySQL (our database software) itself, so we decided to kill 2 birds with one stone.

And now, March 2009 we accomplish 2 of 3 main "core" updates to our site platform: support for UTF-8 and migrating to MySQL 5.

What now?

This was not an easy journey and we're not done yet - alot of code has to be tweaked still on TOP of what's already been done, and many UTF-8 quirks have surfaced, but now that we're up and running again we can look forward to the minor but definitely tangible benefits of supporting non-ASCII characters straight in the site.

web development

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By most people's standard, working on something is not a cure for boredom, but working on something you love might do something for you.

If you're bored out of your skull, there's no relief like finding something you have a passion in, and trying to improve it or contribute to it. Here are some ideas (all Neoseeker related :P) that just might cure your boredom (or it might make it worse, but if you don't try you won't know ;) ).

Help the Wikis

Ever thought of writing a walkthrough for a game or documenting some information about your favourite game character? Did you know that Neoseeker has over 110 game specific Wikis that cover a range from Final Fantasy to Zelda, and many other series in between?

These wikis desperately need your help, and working on them is strangely soothing and addictive. Swing by this list here and see if there are any that you might be able to help out with. Helping can be as involved as helping to write entire pages of information, or just browsing around and finding things to tweak.

Tag some images

Tagging images is also pretty fun once you get the hang of it. Here's the thread where we introduce image tagging:

http://www.neoseeker.com/forums/2/t1271145-neoseeker-introduces-image-tagging/

You can tag concept art, screenshots, images in your gallery, and fanart, and when you click on a tag ALL images tagged will show up together.

Here's the "Faith" tag I put together to showcase the main character in Mirror's Edge, and the Faith wiki page I've been working on (its a work in progress and nowhere as good as pages like this one on Salvatore Leone from the GTA wiki).

Contribute to product profiles

This has been around for ages. Neoseeker needs your help in order to remain one of the best gaming and PC enthusiast sites on the web. If you didn't know, you can contribute anything from release dates, to screenshots, to entire descriptions of games.

Come take a look here to find things to contribute, there's LOTS there!

http://www.neoseeker.com/contribute/Game/popularity/

I personally find that uploading screenshots and boxshots, and then tagging them, to be the more easy going of contributions. We have PLENTY of missing boxshots that could use your help - you might have to view it on a per platform basis to really appreciate how much we need.

Browse the Member Galleries and Blogs

These two features are strangely addictive to visit. Check them out regularly, comment on gallery images and favourite blogs/galleries. Better yet, start your own Gallery and upload tons of interesting pictures. If you upload game related images PLEASE remember to tag them, and attach them to a game profile so other people can find them more easily!

Work on your NeoHome

Have you been here yet?

http://www.neoseeker.com/members/edit_profile.html?edit=neohome

If not check out what others have done:

Artificer's NeoHome (NAMFox developer)
Ecto5's NeoHome (superb resource of tips and tricks on Neoseeker)
Michael Penance (FAQ author)
Harvest Hunny
Kamikaze

Check out the latest updated NeoHomes here:

http://www.neoseeker.com/members/directory.html?function=updates&homes=show

Tip of the iceberg

There's plenty more things to do on Neoseeker that I haven't covered, ranging from helping others to make banners for forum headers or member signatures, to writing your own fan fiction, stories, and poems. There's alot more to Neoseeker than what most people realize and that variety makes for alot of things to see and do.

If you've got other ideas please do share them in the comments of this entry!

neoseeker related bored

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Taki PM'd me recently with a very cool potential avatar (shown left) that she thought I might be interested in and that got me to thinking: For years I've been using Penguin avatars on Neoseeker, and my current one seems to imply vengeance against Microsoft.

Ironically, and in spite of me using the Penguin avatars I'm actually a strong supporter of Windows (I do all my Neoseeker development work on Win XP). So in a way, Windows is directly involved in the creation and ongoing improvement of Neoseeker.

I like XP for its simplicity and basic elegance, I like the general UI concepts it uses like the very slim taskbar and useful start menu, and I like it thanks to several software that simply doesn't exist in other platforms and that I consider critical to my work.

So why do I use the avatars?
  1. I think penguins are cool (they look cute too).
  2. I have a thing for animals with webbed feet :P (the duck billed platypus for instance, is awesome!)
  3. Windows can improve ALOT if it was willing to adopt some Unix principles and features, and my hope is that the decision makers at Microsoft will eventually embrace the reality that instead of fearing Unix and/or shunning some of its features, they should embrace the strengths of all their competitors and adapt those strengths into Windows.
Can you imagine what would happen if the most widely used consumer desktop OS in the world had the flexibility and power of some of the things found in Linux, BSD, and OSX? Assuming such an OS would be able to run a decent amount of legacy Windows software, it would immediately stop the bleeding of their userbase and probably allow them to gain back some market share.

technology neoseeker related windows xp

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Don't you hate it when you're away from a game for a while, and when you decide to pick it up again, you realize you have no idea how to play?

That's what happened to me after a 5 week hiatus from playing BioShock (on X360). I'm currently at Point Prometheus and I couldn't even remember how to change weapons. Some Splicers started coming after me and I was running around like a chicken without its head, I couldn't shoot properly, my aim was poor, and I was panicked. Turrets had their way with me and I wasted tons of health packs.

So then I loaded up Crysis to give it a whirl. Previously I had played maybe 45minutes before stopping for a week. Same problem.

Disgruntled, I decided to watch X-Files: I Want to Believe. Turns out I was better off staring at the wall. (No wonder I prefer to lurk on and work on Neo :P).

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Two days ago I got a call from Purolator to go pick up a package. Sure enough it was my Xbox 360 coming back to me! The Microsoft Support email told me I'd get a tracking number but I never did. All told from the date I got my first email about the X360 coming back and when it arrived here was around 1 week.

The total time to get my Red Ring of Death situation resolved looks to be around 5 weeks for me. I'm assuming the holiday rush made it worse.

New Xbox? - Yes. HDMI? No :(

Turns out I did indeed get a brand new Xbox to replace my RRoD box. The manufacture date was Nov 25 2008. Sadly, it seems as though MS is wise to our greedy little dreams: there's no HDMI on this box. Yet EVERY SINGLE Xbox360 manufactured for retail sales in Canada has HDMI, even the neutered 360 Arcade. Looks like Microsoft manufactures HDMI-less Xbox 360's just to cover replacements of older models. D'oh!

Oh well. I'm happy its back but I've taken up PC Gaming again and Left 4 Dead has kept me from even booting my 360 once. I still have to finish Bioshock so I'll get to it this weekend.

I do notice this box feels substantially heavier than my previous one. I wonder if its from having a heavier duty heatsink... Anyone else noticet his, or am I just imagining it?

xbox 360 360 l4d rrod

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Many stalwart PC gamers tell me that PC gaming is not dying. kspiess, Neoseeker's Video Card editor argues that the death of PC gaming is highly exaggerated. But the reality is the very industry itself is doing no favours to PC gaming.

Take EB Games for example, the major gaming retail chain here in the Vancouver area. During Christmas I visited 3 different EB Games stores around town to find that they have all removed PC Games from their wall displays. A few years ago PC games accounted for perhaps 20% of EB wall space, and more importantly, the New Releases were placed at the FRONT of the store (near the entrance). Now at best I will find PC titles arranged haphazardly on a small display shelf near the rear of the store. All the titles are arranged spine out, they don't even spare much space to show off the front of the cases which is how all the major titles get their attention when placed on shelfspace.

At Future Shop (a Best Buy owned big box retailer) some of the stores have the same problem. The PC titles are tucked away and best sellers are not even kept in stock! New titles that aren't best sellers are often missing too.

I went to look for the following titles at local game stores:
  • Left 4 Dead
  • Prince of Persia
And I found NO readily available copies.

Recently NPD data showed a decline of PC games sales through the Holiday 2008 season. Well no wonder! With PC titles tucked away, poorly displayed, improperly advertised, and poorly stocked WHAT do they expect!?

pc gaming related

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I received an email yesterday saying my X360 is coming back to me. Now the anticipation begins: I hope that repair rep was right about North American repairs being brand new units.

rrod xbox 360

Some Browser Cookie gotchas from research and personal testing:
  • IE6 and IE7 Support max 20 cookies per domain.
    • If you set a 21st cookie the oldest cookie is no longer available to the server
  • IE6 has a bug where the max length of all cookies combined can be no more than 4096bytes (the RFC states a browser should support 20 cookies up to 4096 bytes PER cookie).
  • IE stores cookies for a domain and its subdomains separately, so you can store 20 cookies in each of abc.foobar.com, foobar.com and xyz.foobar.com. In such a scenario going to abc.foobar.com you will have access to a total of 40 cookies (20 set for domain foobar.com and 20 for abc.foobar.com)
After the August 2007 IE update:
  • IE7 supports max 50 cookies per domain, but the 4096 limit still exists!
Note that regardless of the above, reports seem to indicate that Opera had a 30 cookie limit (not sure if this is still true).


****Even if a browser supported unlimited cookies, the more cookies you set for your domain the slower a site gets!!!*****

Good Practice:

Set paths for your cookies. IE and other browsers only send cookies to the server if the requested URL matches the path of a cookie. This can potentially save alot of bandwidth and improve performance. For instance if I am setting forum specific cookies I would set the path to /forums/.

web development wwii world war ie6 ie7 cookies

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Well after reading an interesting blog post by Loki where he mentions the Post History feature and forum search being cut due to space considerations, I thought I'd post a definitive post to debunk a few "myths" about why some features are done or not done, and why some suggestions are implemented while others are not.

1. It takes up too much disk space

This one comes up alot and for the past 2 years is no longer a big factor in decision making (obviously it still matters, but not to as great an extent).

History

Years and years ago someone asked us to support larger filesizes for game screenshots, and at the time we had server limitations which made me wary of doing so. Since then I've made it pretty clear in several RQFS posts that space is no longer a huge constraint in alot of decisions.

Today:

We recently upgraded our storage capacity to handle larger amounts of image storage. From a database perspective we've never really had much problem, we could probably store another 50million forum posts for instance (serving those extra 50million forum posts with high performance is another matter, however). If we run out of space we'll just add some more or devise a means to store more.

2. The servers can't handle it

Except for some cases with HUGE data crunching (like Post History and Forum Search), the servers can handle it.

History and Now

In the old days, Neoseeker was run on older platforms and was constantly behind the upgrade curve due to constraints such as time, manpower, knowledge, and the ability to even get servers.

For the most part we now have far more experience and expertise in maintaining our servers, so we're now on top of most things.

Currently Neoseeker runs on a pretty decent server deployment that includes multiple database and web servers. We have the horsepower to handle more than enough PROPERLY designed features and we constantly work to scale the platform.

The key is that certain features take up far more server resources (and resources does NOT equal server space) than others. An argument that the servers can't handle something can only be made after we understand the total requirements of a specific feature, which is why we ask that members do NOT reply to feedback with this statement unless it was previously DIRECTLY stated by myself. And even if I make such a statement, it might no longer be true a year later.

And most importantly, even if the servers can't handle it, its sometimes possible to scale the servers so they CAN handle it.

So if these are myths, what is the relationship between servers and feature creation?

We weigh each feature for its impact and ease of deployment - bang for your buck if you will. The expertise and overall cost required to develop something increases dramatically when that something must be scaled quickly. This is also true again for server requirements: the more something must scale the harder for us to deploy it on the servers. In the case of the forums, some things need to scale immediately. Take for instance a request for searching forum posts. Such a feature would need to immediately be able to search 18million rows of data quickly and accurately. For a feature like this, because we don't have the resources to create huge server farms, how powerful our servers are is less important than figuring out a way to work with such massive amounts of data.

In between all this there are many smaller bugfixes and improvements that create less "wow" but which have superb bang for buck ratio. Then of course there's competitive pressure and what the community wants.

So that sounds like the myths hold some truth right? The reality is that only a very small number of features cannot be created due to concerns relating directly to space or server concerns. Almost certainly the following matter more:
  • performance! Will it PERFORM fast?
  • whether we can come up with a solid implementation that I'm satisfied with
  • cost/complexity to create
  • maintenance cost


web development neoseeker related wwii world war neoseeker servers

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Well in spite of several forum posts where I said I would be able to release the next forum update before Xmas it now appears to be impossible :(.

I decided to redo the thread email subscriptions, which has remain unchanged for many years, which set me back.

My new intended launch date is next Monday/Tuesday, since we have some time off this week for the Holidays.

neoseeker related world war wwi neoforums

The RRoD is sort of one of those things you read about all the time, but if you haven't experienced it you feel like its almost a myth, or curse, that has hopefully passed you by. That's how I've always felt anyway. Then suddenly I fell victim to the sinister beast.

Thankfully Microsoft did the right thing with extending existing owners to a 3 year warranty against the RRoD. I called 1-800-4-MY-XBOX (this number works in both Canada and US) on a Friday night at 7:30pm PST and got through within 2-3 minutes to a tech support agent. Now that's impressive.

He walked me through a few steps, and we confirmed a RRoD General Hardware Failure. He then offered to either ship me a box (~5 business days) or send me a fully paid electronic waybill to ship the X360 back absolultely free. I chose to go with the waybill since we have plenty of boxes here.

I was told the turnaround is about 2-3 weeks. I was concerned about the horror stories of bad repairs or refurbished units that die soon after being sent as RRoD replacements, so I talked to the fellow some more. He told me that apparently in Canada if you get the RRoD they take your 360 back and give you a brand new unit with a new manufacture date, which presumably means I get a Jasper system, with the redesigned cooler, 65nm CPU/GPU and 150W PSU (vs 175W PSU). This is highly exciting to me also since I think it means I'll have HDMI out (currently I don't).

How it all happened

I don't play my Xbox alot. Probably around 3-5hrs a week depending on time, but as much as 10-15hrs when I'm really into a game. I've had my box for around 2years, but when I played GOW1 I had a few overheating related lockups. Lately in the past 2 months I've had maybe 3-4 lockups accompanied by video artifacts. Tonight I got one, and right afterwards the famous ring.

Good Experience So Far

Well anyway, RRoD sucks, but the customer service was fast, patient/courteous, and it looks to be effective. I'll keep my fingers crossed. So far this is one of the best customer service experiences I've ever had.

xbox 360 rrod red ring of death

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So this problem has plagued Neoseeker for a while - Animated GIFs cannot be resized by GD without losing the animation. We rely on using GD to resize our images via PHP's built-in functions (such as imagecopyresize(), imagecopyresampled()) , but this method sadly destroys animated GIFs: the result is a GIF that has no animation and which often has a weird fluorescent pink or green background.

The problem has to do with PHP's implementation of GD. GD itself supports animated GIFs and has done so for many years according to their site. I've been waiting for a few years for PHP to solve this problem, in the meantime everyone says to use two PHP classes written by Laszlo Zsidi:

http://www.phpclasses.org/browse/package/3163.html
http://www.phpclasses.org/browse/package/3234.html

So there's your solution, but its not my solution: it adds unnecessary complexity to what I consider to be something PHP itself should handle correctly. Those classes require that you break up animated GIFs into individual frames, resize them each, and then merge them back together. PHP resize of images is slow enough already, doing the above method sounds like a huge performance problem, a big no-no for us.

We'll be investigating ImageMagick as an option instead, which should handle animated GIFs without problems, then we'll see which way to move forwards.

I still don't understand why after so many years this hasn't been fixed, which forces developers to find alternative means whether it be complicated processes or external functionality. I do still cling to the hope that it will be added in the near future though, or perhaps PHP5/PHP6 users already enjoy this?

web development

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Its great to see the reception the new neoblogs are receiving. This is an idea that started off a few years ago and finally came to fruition with much of the work done by Tekmosis. I think of it as an experiment in our search to give members more ways to express themselves and share that expression with others.

The neoforums are amazing for many things, but there's just something about a platform where all your own deep thoughts, spontaneous blurbage and other musings can be grouped together at your own pleasure and pacing.

Hope to read many more interesting blog posts over the coming months, especially those that come from inquisitive minds. You ever have that insatiable feeling, perhaps late at night or simply on a beautiful afternoon, where your mind is afire with thoughts or questions, or where some emotion has you in its grip and you just cannot rest easy without exploring it? Has some elusive mystery kept you awake, or were you just too excited by the anticipation of "tomorrow" to sleep? Now those stories would make for some good reading!

Well that's my introductory blog post. Now to leave you with a fun quote that's also surprisingly insightful, especially if you worry as much as I do about what the future brings:

Master Oogway from Kung-Fu Panda: "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why they call it the present."

(Incidentally Oogway means turtle in Chinese. doh!).

musingsthoughts

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In May I put together a short list of useful Windows programs that you can get for free and that I consider "must haves". At the time I was running both XP at NeoHQ and Windows 7 RC1 32bit, Vista and XP at home.

Well now I'm running Windows 7 Professional 64bit at home and NeoHQ and I've also added a few more programs to the list.

I'm currently using these apps in Windows 7 64bit without problems so they should work fine for you too (not all apps play nice with Windows 7 and not all in 64bit Windows). If you're running an old copy of a Windows program that no longer works properly in Windows 7 (eg Nero, ACDSee, Paint Shop Pro etc) it might be worth checking out these free Apps rather than paying for an upgrade to the latest version of those software.
  • ImgBurn - completely free burning software. It burns ISOs and other image files. It also burns MP3's, FLAC's, WMA, and AAC (Apple's Ipod format). Also burns HD-DVD's and Blu-Ray. Sweet.
  • SpeedFan - a great utility to control fans, and check out CPU and motherboard temps in your system. It also lets you look at the SMART info of your HDD's so you can look at their health (and potentially spot dieing hard drives). In Vista/Windows 7 you should start the program as an Administrator in order to access the SMART info.
  • Digsby - alternative to Trillian that has a cleaner interface and is 100% free. Since there's no "Pro" vs Free version you get 100% of the functionality right away. It lets you combine your MSN, AIM, Yahoo, Google chat, and other IM accounts into one application and also supports social sites like Facebook/Myspace and Twitter. I have it connected to my email as well.
  • 7-zip - a completely free and open source archive utility that handles zip, gz, rar, and many more. Windows 7 already supports Zip files natively, but RAR files are not recognized. Tip: To associate 7-zip with RAR files make sure you start it as an administrator first, otherwise it won't save your settings.
  • Sumatra PDF - chautemoc recommended this lightweight PDF reader in my last article and I've been using it in my new Windows 7 install. So far it works FASTER than my previous favourite, Foxit Reader, and is even more minimalist and nagfree. I'm switching to using this as my main PDF reader until further notice.
  • Screenshot Captor - This is a SUPER handy screenshot utility that can capture your entire screen, just the current active application, or a user selected area of the screen. It "freezes" your screen when you activate it so that if are hovering over something or have certain menus open these items do not close and disappear when you select the portion to capture. It also has automatic options to capture in different formats and save the file location to your clipboard so you can cut and past the file into a web upload form. It is donationware but you can definitely get a free license if you so wish.
  • CPU and Memory Meter Gadget - this is a desktop gadget that supports Quad, Eight, Triple, and Duo core systems. It shows real time CPU usage plus Memory usage. More of a "power toy" than an app but I find it useful.
  • Paint.NET - I used to use GIMP, one of the defacto free and open source graphics apps, but I never got used to its UI and found it relatively slow for what I needed it to do. I've since switched to Paint.NET, a lightweight yet powerful tool that is perfect for the simple things I do (cropping, colour tweaks, minor corrections, etc). Paint.Net loads up incredibly fast compared to GIMP and it feels alot more native to Windows because its UI is using compatible with the Aero theme. The icons they use for various things like crop, select, eraser, eye dropper, etc are also more intuitive and familiar to anyone who has used Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro (my former favourite).


technology

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