Apple MacBook (Late 2008) Review

By Mike on 12:01 am

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When Apple first released the Macbook in 2006, it became an instant hit with consumers. It marked the beginning of the transition from AIM's PowerPC processors to Intel's Core line. Essentially, the Macbook changed the vary face of Macintosh by moving it to an entirely new hardware base, which consumers ultimately benefited from immensely. The new Late 2008 Macbook also represents another game changer by introducing the aluminum unibody, nVidia 9400M, and the multi-touch track pad. Is the Apple Macbook a winner or should you look for cheaper PC solutions? Read on and find out for yourself.

Hardware and Design
Base Model Specifications: Intel Core 2 Duo "Penryn" 2.0ghz, 2gb DDR3-1066, Geforce 9400M 256mb shared, 160gb SATA Hard Drive, SuperDrive (DVDRW), 802.11a/b/g/draft n wifi, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, 13.3'' Glossy LCD at 1280x800 (16:10), 2x USB2.0, 1x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x DisplayPort, Audio In, Audio Out, standard keyboard, multitouch trackpad, 4200mAh Lithium Polymer Battery giving approx. 5hr battery life.

Top End Model: Same as base but adds Intel Core 2 Duo "Penryn" 2.4ghz, 250gb HDD, illuminated keyboard.

Options on All Models: Up to 320gb HDD or 128gb Sold State Drive (SSD), Up to 4gb DDR3.

The Macbook is classified as a thin & light laptop, which are systems with screens below 14'' but above 10''. The system clocks in at 4.5lbs making it a vary portable full featured laptop. Unlike the older Macbooks, Apple changed the casing to an all aluminum design rather than polycarbonate which had been used for all of Apple's consumer laptops since the white iBook days. Apple dubs it the unibody since most of the chassis is cut from a single block of aluminum. Apple claims this is a more efficient manufacturing process. Casting the shells of course requires moulds to be manufactured, which is time consuming. Apple has opted for a CNC cutting process instead. What the consumer gets is a highly durable chassis that looks good too. Apple has given it an anodized finish, making it resistant to dirt and smudges, unlike the old glossy polycarbonate model. It also brings the Macbook's appearance and design in line with the Macbook Pro. The system features a full sized keyboard which is identical to the previous Macbooks. I have to say the new keyboard design is not as good as what was present in the last generation of iBooks but it is tolerable compared to the ones on many other laptops. It just doesn't feel as crisp as the iBook's. Another nagging issue is that the sharp angled edge of the chassis can hurt your wrists while typing. The previous systems had a smooth rounded edge.

The screen is a 1280x800 LCD backlit with LED lights. LEDs run cooler and use less energy than cold cathode lighting, extending battery life. Apple has chosen to go with a glossy screen, which is a tad controversial. They have become a bit of a fad for computer manufacturers despite the fact that most people seem to prefer a matte finish. Using a glossy screen improves perceived contrast ratio and offers a little extra protection, but they show the dirt more and are highly reflective. Therefore, they can be difficult to see in certain lighting conditions, particularly outdoors. The LED backlighting is sufficiently bright enough to overcome that issue in most cases but I still would have preferred a matte finish. Image quality for the display is vary good overall. An external display can be added using the mini-DisplayPort connector, which I'll get to later.

Also new for design is the Multitouch track pad. Apple first introduced gesture controls in the iBooks and PowerBooks and the Macbook Aluminum brings it to its fully evolved state. The trackpad is a smooth glass surface though it is coated to prevent nasty fingerprints from showing. Notably missing is a mouse button. The entire trackpad is one big mouse button. Pressing down anywhere registers as a click. Alternatively, you can set it to use touch control as your mouse button, doing away with the mechanical process all together. The pad features up to four finger gestures. Of course two finger scrolling is still there. For some programs, a three finger swipe allows you to navigate through multiple photos or pages. Four finger swiping up or down controls Expose while side to side allows you to navigate between open applications. The iPhone's two finger pinch zoom in, spread zoom out feature has also been ported over for some programs. Also new is that Apple has finally included two button support on the track pad. The second mouse button can be controlled by clicking with two fingers, or it can be tagged to the left or right bottom corner of the track pad for a one finger click. This is a much welcome feature instead of using the option-click method all the time. Originally, the trackpad did have some issues registering clicks but this has been cleared up with a Firmware update. It may take some time getting used to but once you do, you'll wonder how you lived without it.

Under the hood, Apple is still using the same Penryn Core 2 Duo processors they used in the previous Macbook. However, speed has been cut from 2.1ghz to 2.0ghz. No reason was given for this though a 100mhz drop in speed is not likely to have any noticeable performance impact in everyday use. More importantly, Apple decided to ditch Intel's sluggish GMA graphics and DDR2 for an NVIDIA integrated solution that adds DDR3 support. In most computers, the memory, ports & buses, sound, and graphics are controlled by up to four chips on the motherboard. NVIDIA's Geforce 9400M chipset incorporates all these functions into one. This means that motherboards can be smaller and they consume less power. The 9400M is significantly faster than the Intel GMA X3100 used in the polycarbonate Macbook, meaning that it can handle more demanding graphics applications, including games. It uses up to 256mb of RAM shared with the system memory. Using DDR3 instead of DDR2 also helps alleviate the problem of integrated GPUs being forced to use slow system memory. DDR3 is a relatively new technology that is still slowly coming into PC desktops. Laptops with it are still quite rare. It is much faster and more energy efficient than DDR2 but has higher latency. It also costs more than DDR2 at the moment. However, demanding applications such as video and photo editors will be able to take advantage of it.
Other hardware is pretty standard. Apple still includes a relatively small hard drive for the price of the system. A scant 160gb. Fortunately, installing a larger drive is vary easy. All it requires is opening the battery bay and removing a single screw. Installing RAM is a little more difficult than it has been in past models, requiring you to remove the entire bottom panel. However, this task is not the nightmare it was with the original polycarbonate iBooks. The entire system is fully servicible meaning the battery, RAM, DVD drive, and hard drive are easy to replace. Apple continues to solder the CPU to the motherboard meaning throwing a 2.4ghz one into the base model is still out of the question. Speaking of drives, the SuperDrive, which is a DVD writer, is now standard in the Macbook. Apple finally ditched the DVD-ROM/CDRW combo.

For connectivity, Apple includes a variety of options including 802.11n wifi, Bluetooth, and USB 2.0. Conspicuously missing is a Firewire port. Apple has given its own peripheral connection the boot. Firewire was only ever used for some external hard drives and digital camcorders but people who use those devices will find themselves out of luck. Another controversial decision was the inclusion of the Mini DisplayPort. DisplayPort is a new video connector format competing against DVI and HDMI. It is royalty free unlike HDMI and allows data to be transferred along with audio and video over a single cable. Unfortunately, not many monitors, TVs, or projectors use it, and only one to my knowledge uses its mini version. The Apple Cinema Display is the one exception. Apple sells adaptors for VGA and DVI/DVI Dual Link but these are expensive. Apple originally used to package an adaptor for its mini ports with their systems but ceased doing that when they introduced the original Macbook. Vary chintzy in my opinion. The fact that one cannot simply plug it into any source without an adaptor is unweildy. Apple should have used the far more common HDMI port instead and just absorbed the licence costs given the price of the system.

The Macbook comes preloaded with OS X 10.5 Leopard as one would expect. OS X provides the most user friendly experience on the market. Expose and Spaces allow for easy desktop navigation. It makes doing work on your system a breeze. The multitouch trackpad now allows you to control them with just your fingers. No buttons involoved at all. I still like to tag Expose to to the screen corners so I can navigate them with just my pointer. Everything just works with OS X. Everything is plug and play. There's not really much I can say about it. It's not perfect but it's ideal for those who are computer illiterate or just want an easy environment to work with. GPU accelerated GUI features are far superior to the ones included with Vista Aeroglass. While Vista is mostly show, OS X puts function first. One thing of note is that Apple seems to ship fewer extras with their systems than they did in the past. iBooks shipping Tiger for example included an Atlas and Encyclopedia program, a trial version of Microsoft Office, and a couple of 3D games. However, all Macs still include the latest copy of iLife, which is iLife 08 at the moment.
One of my biggest pet peeves about OS X though is the print drivers. Sounds a little odd that I'd be bothered with that. Apple includes drivers for all major brands and models of printers by default with OS X Leopard installs. However, these take up a surprisingly large amount of space on the hard drive. Unnecessary ones can only be removed manually once OS X is installed. A utility would have been nice. The print drivers can be found in the main Library folder in the Macintosh HD. Search for the printer folders and simply delete all folders except your specific printer's brand and InstalledPrinters.plist. This can free up to 2gb or more.

Speaking of Vista, Boot Camp allows you to install it or Windows XP onto a second partition allowing you to run Windows on your Mac. I discussed in a previous article how to do this. Vista actually runs vary well on the Macbook. Originally, there were issues with the trackpad but these have since been corrected with the December 18th, 2008 driver update. Sound clipping is the only real issue. It's nice to be able to run Windows and OS X side by side since you'll frequently run into times when you'll need a program that's only available for one OS or the other. Most often software that only has Windows versions. The 9400M is sufficiently powerful enough for gaming on Windows. Vista does seem to consume more system resources and offers a shorter battery life compared to OS X on the Macbook. 64-bit versons of Vista and XP are not officially supported for the Macbook. Drivers are available but they require extra steps to install, which I described in depth in a previous article.

Apple systems are frequently criticized for costing more than PC laptops with similar specifications. When people tell me that, I usually point them towards Lenovo laptops, which are similarly priced to Apple's. While you do pay more, you are paying for better build quality. Apple laptops are less likely to break due to the superior materials used to make them. Aluminum is a lot stronger than the moulded plastic used in cheaper PC laptops. Apple systems can take a great deal of abuse, which they're likely to encounter when out on the road or being carried between classes. Battery life is also tops among the Macbook line, making them perfect for situations where you'll be away from an outlet for a long period of time, say taking notes at college lectures. That said, Apple systems may not be the best value. You are still paying for the Apple brand/experience and you do get less hardware options than you would going for something like a Dell or HP system. For the same price point, these systems will offer features like card readers, significantly faster CPUs, tons more RAM, powerful discrete GPUs in some cases, and Blu-ray drives. The question is whether you're willing to sacrifice features for durability and top notch battery life. If you're a road warrior, the Macbook is well worth it. However, I would still like to see it drop back to the $999 US price point. Given that my old iBook was sold for that yet was still relatively powerful for its day and had a discrete GPU.

The Macbook (Late 2008) is one of the best laptops on the market today. Apple has really reinvented itself with their mobile devices. The system is still plagued by a few small issues and a high entry cost but it offers the best durability and battery life available, plus the OS X experience. The system's design makes it ideal for road warriors who need full sized features in a package that will stand up to abuse. Definitely worth looking into.

What Works
-Aluminum unibody looks stylish, is light weight, and is vary durable
-Geforce 9400M offers power savings and significantly boosts graphics power over Intel GMA
-One of the first laptops to offer DDR3 support
-Multitouch trackpad design vary innovative
-LED backlit display is bright and has excellent image quality.
-OS X Leopard offers one of the best general computing experiences around
-Vary easy to upgrade HDD, RAM, DVD, and battery
-Vary long battery life

What Doesn't Work
-High cost compared to similar PC offerings
-Keyboard leaves something to be desired, sharp angles on chassis can hurt wrists.
-Won't run 64-bit Windows in Boot Camp without extra steps
-Glossy display
-Lack or Firewire and use of mini-DisplayPort a controversial choice. No adaptors included for Mini-DisplayPort
-Slightly slower CPU than polycarbonate model

Score: 8.5 out of 10

In part 2 of this review, we will look at performance benchmarks on the Macbook under both Vista and OS X.

Nintendo to Launch Video On Demand Service for Wii

By Mike on 10:22 pm

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Nintendo is joining on the VOD bandwagon along with Sony and Microsoft. The PS3 has its own Sony branded video download service and the 360 has Netflix. Soon Wii will be getting a video rental service as well. Nintendo has partnered with Japanese ad firm Dentsu and plans to introduce free (presumably ad backed) and pay-per-view videos to download. Unlike its competitors, Nintendo plans to focus on original, family friendly content. The service will be available in Japan sometime in Spring 2009. No other details have been announced so far. The Register estimated that it will likely be a streaming only service since the console lacks a hard drive and does not have enough internal storage for feature length 480p video. The Wii has been criticized in the past for its lack of DVD playback capabilities and poor multi-media performance.

For content, I'd estimate stuff like the Pokemon anime series will make an appearance, along with other Nintendo themed shows like Kirby. No word if Super Mario Bros. Super Show or The Legend Of Zelda annimated series will make an appearance. lol

Source: El Reg

EA Offers Some Games "DRM-Free" Through Steam

By Mike on 9:45 am

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As of this Monday, Electronic Arts will begin selling some of their most popular PC titles through Valve's popular Steam digital download service. What's more, they will be offered without third-party DRM. This means that SecuROM has been put out to pasture, provided you download the game from Valve. Titles offered include Spore, Warhammer Online, Need For Speed Undercover, FIFA Manager 09, Crysis, Crysis Warhead, and SiN. Mirror's Edge and Command and Conquer will also be added to the service in the next few months. Prices for the SecuROM-free games are on par with their boxed counterparts. Spore for example is currently selling for $50 US.

If you follow any sort of game news, you'll know that Electronic Arts suffered a major PR disaster due to the draconian limits placed on Spore. For many casual gamers, this was their first introduction to the DRM that has plagued most PC titles for some time now, and they didn't like it one bit. Originally, Spore was locked to no more than three user accounts (even if they were on the same machine) and phoned home bi-weekly to make sure you weren't using known pirated keys. Installs were not deauthorized if the game was uninstalled from the computer as well. (This was done in my opinion to stop the lucrative legitimate pre-owned resale market.) EA backed down somewhat, upping it to five installs and allowed users to deauthorize installs when removing the game. Despite these draconian measures of piracy prevention, Spore became the top pirated game of 2008 and clocked in the highest number of illegal downloads per month in history. EA was sued over Spore's DRM since according to the plaintiffs, they failed to disclose the restrictions on the packaging or in the End User License Agreement.

The boxed copies of the games in question still include SecuROM, presenting somewhat of a double standard. Digital downloaders using Steam are being rewarded where those using another service or buying a boxed copy must still deal with the now notorious DRM scheme. Also, Steam itself is a form of DRM, all be it much milder than SecuROM. Many games require you to be online and connected to Steam, which puts mobile gamers out in the cold. However, according to Steam, games are associated with your account, not your computer so you can play your games on any system. This is why the online connection is needed. It's a more common sense approach to DRM that keeps publishers happy without punishing legitimate users. Now all we need to do is do the same with boxed copies and finally put SecuROM and its counterparts out to pasture for good.

Source: CNET News , Steam Press Release

MGS4 Spin-off Heading to iPhone

By Mike on 5:52 pm

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Everyone else is reporting this today so I might as well throw it up too. Last week, Konami released the cryptic teaser "i + ! = (!)", in green lettering. Many pundits believed that this was a secret message that indicated that Metal Gear Solid 4 would be heading to the Xbox 360, given the consoles' trademark colour and power button. Unfortunately, Xbox fanboys will have to wait a little while longer before Solid Snake makes an appearance on their system. Konami has revealed that the next Metal Gear title will be on the iPhone and iPod Touch. It is said to be a watered down version of MGS4 with touch controls but it's more likely a spin-off of that game. The new title will be known as "Metal Gear Solid Touch". Release dates and prices have not been confirmed.

MGS4 was not released on the Xbox for a variety of reasons. Primarily due to Konami's past relationship with Sony on the series and that DVD-9 discs used for the 360 were not big enough for the game. MGS4 would require at least 4 DVDs for the 360. An unreasonable number for many console gamers.

Source: Joystiq

Playstation Home First Impressions

By Mike on 6:00 am

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What's my first impression on Home now that I can write about it? Well, I'm not sure how I can put it delicately so I'll just say it: it sucks. Of course, first I should tell you a little about what Home is. Basically, it's Sony's foray into social networking. Pundits have dubbed this type of online interaction as Web 3.0 since it allows you to navigate the web, or rather a small chunk of it for now, in a 3D environment. Home is, in essence, yet another Second Life ripoff. Right from the get go, Home has its problems. Now, we do have to keep in mind that this is a Public Beta release. For those who don't know, a Beta is a piece of software that is in its testing phases before general release. Coders use betas to track down and eliminate bugs before the final product is shipped. A public beta is a program that is still in beta that the public can use and test. They usually represent the late phases of program development but are not the finalized product. The first problem I encountered in Home was difficulty logging on. One time it took me four attempts before it would connect to the Home server.

When you first start the game, you'll be prompted to create an avatar. That is, a virtual you. You can select from a wide variety of parameters including facial features, sex, eye colour, race, hair colour and style, body type, clothing, and accessories. There are preset face and body types or you can fine tune them to more accurately represent yourself, or whoever you want your avatar to be. Not one to falsify myself online, I picked out an avatar that looks like me. Currently, clothing styles and accessories such as facial hair, glasses, clothing, and jewellery offer vary limited choices. Once you're done selecting your avatar, the game drops you into a vary sparse looking beach front apartment. It's basically a bland empty room with a few pieces of bland furniture. The game from here guides you on how to use Home. From there, you can leave your apartment and visit other areas. Home's city doesn't have cars or a bus for some reason so expect to do a lot of tedious walking around. When you enter a any new environment for the first time, you'll be prompted to download it first. Only the apartment is included with the initial download so everything else has to be obtained separately. Each area weighs in at about 35mb. Loading times for area seem unnecessarily slow. As for places to visit, there's a mall to buy (overpriced) stuff, such as furniture for your apartment and accessories, but selection is vary limited right now. There are also arcade games, which are pretty dull, and game specific rooms (ie the Uncharted Room) that really don't serve much of a purpose. There are arcade cabinets in the game that offer vary basic titles, but they can only be used by one person at a time, just like in the real world. So if someone is hogging it, you're SOOL. Chat is slow and tedious since few PS3 owners have keyboards, PS Eyes, or Bluetooth headsets hooked up to the system. This begs the question: why would I want to talk to strangers in a virtual world in the first place? It has come to my attention that there are actually people out there with less of a life than myself. I know, hard to believe isn't it. I guess that's what's been fuelling Second Life and World of Warcraft all these years. Needless to say I just had a look around and didn't talk to anyone. If the Home visitors are anything like typical online gamers, they're probably mostly obnoxious, snot nosed teenagers. Most people in Home don't seem too talkative anyway. They're mostly just wandering around aimlessly like I was.

Home is one of those products that has been in development for what seems like forever. Next to in-game XMB, it was 2008's most coveted PS3 feature. However, despite the long wait, Home just fails to impress. It feels like an empty world devoid of anything really fun or useful. Granted the Xbox and Wii offer something similar but I just don't think a console is an ideal platform for this type of service. Social networking sites are a dime a dozen these days. As on IGN pundit put it, it's much more enjoyable to share the social gaming experience with friends on a Wii than it is to entre a virtual world with only robotic 3D facsimiles of people to talk to. That said, it's not like Sony is charging people to use Home so that maybe its one saving grace. All PS3 owners should automatically have Home on their systems now provided it is connected to the internet.

Update: The folks at Penny Arcade sum up my feelings towards Home pretty well. lol

SSDs versus HDDs: Is it worth the upgrade?

By Mike on 12:16 pm

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There's been a lot in the news regarding new solid state drives lately. Essentially, they're like flash drives on steroids. They use flash memory to store data in a non-volatile manner and function just like a hard drives. They are set to replace hard disk drives in the near future, but are available on the market now for consumers to purchase. The question is whether or not to upgrade your system to solid state, or if it makes more sense to wait a while.

Hard drive technology is quite old, dating from at least the 1960s. Inside the drive is a set of spinning metal (or metal coated glass) platters and a read/write head that uses magnetics to store data. While they've improved a lot over the years, we are beginning to reach the limits of what this technology is capable of. Perpendicular recording has increased the amount of data a 3.5'' hard disc can store up to 1.5tb while 2.5'' mobile drives have increased to 500gb. However, the drives still have fundamental problems. With any mechanical system, heat and noise are always a problem. Excess heat and vibration causes premature wear. Mechanical systems also have inherent durability issues. If you drop your laptop for example, the read/write head of the hard drive could grind into the disk platters and permanently toast your data. Most laptop drives have shock sensors now that park the head if they sense a fall, but the issue still exists. Hard drive failure rates can also be all over the map depending on how the drive was made and who made it. Hard drives, also have limited data transfer rates and high seek times due to the inherent mechanical nature of the system.

Solid State Drives seek to address the fundamental issues with mechanical hard drives. Namely, they don't consume a lot of power, they don't generate a lot of heat, and they're much more resistant to physical abuse. Some companies have already taken the liberty of installing them into some systems. Apple was a notable pioneer in the full size laptop market when they released the Macbook Air with a solid state drive option early this year. All Apple laptops now offer them as an option. Lenovo has also begun offering SSDs as an option in their venerable Thinkpads. Asus also pioneered the market when in 2007, they made them standard in their early EeePC systems. The question is whether it makes sense now to replace your hard drives with an SSD, or is it better to wait. The advantage with SSDs is performance. In a hard drive, the read head has to physically move to find data on a platter and it can only transfer it as fast as the platter can rotate. With laptops, there's always been a tradeoff between performance and energy savings, meaning slower rotation speeds are used, meaning slower data transfer rates and seek times. With a solid state system, it has no moving parts meaning seek time is virtually nill. Transfer rates are also potentially faster. Hard drives have always been the weakest link in the performance chain but Intel claims their SSDs can read data at up to 250MB/s, which is the realistic top speed of the SATA bus. Rate of wear has also improved. Flash memory does deteriorate over its lifetime as data gets written and erased, but they now match the MTBF of mechanical hard drives.

Sounds great, so where do I sign up? Well, things aren't that peachy. The biggest flaw of SSDs so far is that they're vary expensive. Lower end, slower ones can cost at least double the price of mechanical drive. These "cheap" SSDs also cannot match the raw read and write rates of their mechanical counterparts. Write rates in particular can be much slower than a traditional HDD, especially where large files (ie video files) are concerned. The lightning fast seek times do counter this somewhat but still, you may be paying significanty more for less performance. Storage capacities are also limited. The biggest consumer SSDs top out 250GB and these cost up to $700 or more. If speed is what your after, Intel's 250MB/s drives cost just as much, for only 32gb. By contrast, Western Digital's venerable VelociRapter 10,000rpm 300GB drive costs about $250. Even faster SCSI and SAS drives that run at 15,000 RPM are available, and they're still cheaper dollar-to-gigabyte. The third issue is Windows. Microsoft's operating system has been optimized for hard drives and reportedly, it doesn't always agree with SSDs, especially if they're the boot drive. Because of this, performance is less than it should be. I would assume that both Linux and Mac OS X don't have issues with them.

So, is it worth it to upgrade to SSDs now? I'd say not yet. While this technology is certainly the wave of the future, they're just too expensive right now and real performance improvements for cheaper consumer drives are dubious at best. If you want performance, it makes far more sense to purchase high performance 10,000rpm hard drives for desktop systems. In laptops, SSDs do make more sense. I would recommend them if durability is a concern. However, it's best to just save your money and purchase cheaper mechanical drives. Wait for the price to come down to something more reasonable first.

Spore 2008's Most Pirated Game

By Mike on 4:03 pm

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It's no surprise that Spore has been a bit of an embarrassment for Electronic Arts. While the game was favoured by critics, users lambasted its draconian SecuROM copy-protection system due to its limited number of installs and hidden root kits. Well, looks like EA's radical attempt to put a halt to piracy of their games has backfired on them yet again. While I don't like to use Internet memes on here, I think the term "epic fail" perfectly describes this situation. Spore has officially taken the crown of the most pirated game in history in terms of downloads per month. In the three months since it's release, torrent sites have reported that the game has been downloaded illegally a staggering 1.7 million times. That's approximately 566,666 downloads per month. The Sims 2, another Will Wright creation takes second place with 1.1 million downloads in 2008. (about 91,600 downloads per month) UBI's Assassin's Creed (which I reviewed here. My copy is legal, unfortunately I paid for it) rounds out the top three with 1 million downloads.

EA has said that not every download was successful. Many tech pundits suspect that a great deal of downloads were legitimate buyers looking to circumvent the ridiculous restrictions placed on the game. Regardless of the reason for downloading, it just proves that DRM as an anti-piracy measure is not working at all. With the amount of bad press EA has received over SecuROM, they have to ask themselves if it's really worth it, or should that money be invested elsewhere. If they chose the latter, they might have better quality products on their hands that people actually want to buy. What a novel idea!

Source: TorrentFreak

Run Windows 64-bit on Any Core 2 Intel Mac

By Mike on 4:49 pm

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Since 2006, Apple has been using Intel processors instead of PowerPC. This was done mainly because the PowerPC G5 ran too hot and consumed too much energy to be used in mobile systems. Intel's Core and later Core 2 processors are much cooler and more energy efficient. An added bonus is that Apple systems can now execute x86 processor instructions, the same used in PC systems. There really isn't much differentiating Macs and PCs these days. One thing they now share in common is that they can both run Windows. "Heresey!" Well, maybe, however, the biggest problem plaguing Mac users is that some 90% of computers in the world run Microsoft's OS. You'll eventually run into situations where you have to use a Windows program because there is no suitable Mac version. That's where Boot Camp comes in. Introduced in final as part of OS X 10.5 Leopard, it allows you to dual boot between OS X and another operating system on any Intel based Mac. This includes new 64-bit operating systems that allow you to run more than 3.5gb of RAM, which is the ceiling for 32-bit Windows. For gaming and media, Windows Vista, being the RAM pig that it is, really benefits from 4gb or more. However, there's a problem, Boot Camp won't let you run a 64-bit OS on certain systems, even if they have 64-bit processors. The Macbook is one such system.

You might be thinking that's the end of the road. "I try to run Boot Camp and it tells me my copy of 64-bit Vista is incompatible. I've wasted $150 on this trash!" Well fear not. You've still wasted $150 on that trash regardless of whether it works or not. However, there is away around the road block Apple has erected. It's not that it won't let you install Vista to the hard drive, it just refuses to install the drivers for the system. So, you'll have to install them manually. The process is rather strait forward.

1. To start with, you're system needs a 64-bit processor. That means Intel Core 2 only. The original Core (aka Yonnah) is 32-bit. Run Boot Camp Assistant from the OS X Applications/Utilities folder and partition the hard drive however you'd like.

2. Load the 64-bit Vista DVD in you computer and restart it. It will boot into the DVD automatically. Fill our the usual forms and other rubbish and click install. Wait for what seems like days for it to install. Microsoft still hasn't figured out how to speed that part up.

3. When it's done, the computer will restart and boot into Vista automatically. Once the desktop is loaded up, insert the OS X 10.5 install DVD that came with your computer. It will enter autorun and the Boot Camp installer will tell you your OS is incompatible with your particular Mac. Just click off it.

4. Go into "Computer" (formerly My Computer) and manually browse the DVD. (Right click the DVD icon and select browse from the menu) Open the BootCamp folder, then open the Drivers sub folder in there. Under Drivers, open the Apple sub folder. In there, you should find a program called BootCamp64.exe. Double click on it to run it. The program will automatically install all Windows hardware drivers for your Mac. This bypasses the compatibility check you first encountered. Windows should now run natively on any 64-bit capable Mac. To switch between the two, hold down the Option key when you turn your computer on. Follow Apple's instructions on how to select the desired default OS.

Oddly enough, Apple includes all the drivers for incompatible systems on the OS X DVD. Even the drivers for the new Late 2008 Macbook. I really can't understand why Apple would limit certain systems from running 64-bit Windows other than to force people to buy more expensive hardware. The fact that they include the 64-bit drivers for "incompatible" Macs anyway makes it all the more puzzling. For the most part, Windows Vista 64-bit runs perfectly fine (or as fine as Vista gets) on the new Macbook other than the occasional sound glitches in games.

Note: Alternatively, you can use Windows XP 64-bit Edition as well if you desire.

A Note on Review Scores

By Mike on 4:49 pm

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I just thought I'd clear things up on what the scores mean. Not that anybody has asked but just for clarity's sake.

10 out of 10: A prefect score is granted to titles or content that are nearly flawless, unique, and industry leading. The game or item must lead its genre, be fun to play, and contain no technical issues. A must buy title.

9 out of 10: A near perfect tile that is innovative and platform leading, but may have some minor flaws. A title worth buying.

8 out of 10: A good title that has some small issues. Mildly innovative and thoroughly enjoyable but doesn't really bring anything new to the table. A title worth buying.

7 out of 10: An overall average title, this represents a game that is still enjoyable but is not innovative and fails to go the extra mile. It may be too short, lack replayability, or lack extra features. It may also have a small number of major or many small technical issues. Rent or try demo first.

6 out of 10: An overall mediocre title that has several large issues that need to be addressed. These titles are bearable but uninovative and crippled by issues. Rent or try demo, buying not recommended.

5 out of 10: A bad title that has many major technical and gameplay issues. Still playable but an unenjoyable experience overall. Rent only. Do not buy period.

4 out of 10 and under: An awful title that has a great deal of major technical issues or terrible gameplay. Do not waste your time with these titles at all. They suffer from sloppy coding, terrible gameplay mechanics, poor build quality, and are plain just not fun at all.

1 out of 10: This represents the lowest score I give to something. This represents games that are totally unplayable and items that are unusable. In the case of games, it may be so crippled by sloppy coding or DRM issues that the game fails to run at all. Examples that I've mentioned in this blog or absolute failures include the Bioshock PC Demo, Lock On: Modern Air Combat, and Blazing Angles PC. Games and items getting this score should not even be available for sale.

What Works: Lists the game's or item's strengths

What Doesn't Work: List the game's or item's weaknesses

What works versus What Doesn't: Weight depending on how strong a strength or how severe a weakness is. A game with many small strengths and a small number of major weaknesses will receive a low score, and vice versa. There are no specific categories here.

Qore Episode 7 Review

By Mike on 4:02 pm

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Earlier this year, Sony released Qore, an episodic interactive magazine on the world of Playstation 3. This week, Sony released Episode 7 (December) of Qore for free to all registered PSN users. Normally, each episode costs $2.99 while a one year subscription costs $24.99. The episodes are released on a monthly basis. Back when it first came out, I was sceptical about it. Sony said it would contain videos, game trailers, interactive media including advertisements, and special downloadable content for Qore subscribers. I had to question the need for it. Most of this stuff is available for free on sites like IGN and Gamestop. Would people really pay $2.99 a month for it? It seems the answer has been a resounding no. Sony has not released any details as to how many subscribers Qore has, or how many individual episodes have been purchased. My guess would be not that many. A lot of people latched onto it in hopes of getting free passes into the Home Beta and exclusive demos like Motorstorm 2. Home Beta invites ended up being given out randomly though, (I was invited to join the Home Beta at random but turned it down because the the EULA contained an NDA that wouldn't legally let me report on it in my blog) and most of the "exclusive" demos were released to the public a couple weeks later anyway. In an effort to draw more attention, Sony released the 7th episode of Qore to the public free to download on December 4th.

So what does Qore actually contain. Episode 7 has seven featues: Skate 2, Bionic Commando, Flock!, Damnation, What's Hot, Blast Qore, and Download Center. The first four are game previews, making ofs, and featurettes. In the case of Featurettes, Skate 2 looks at Skatefest 2008, a real world skateboarding event in SoCal. Damnation has a featurette on Steampunk culture. These videos are in 720p HD but are fairly short. Production values are good but the featurettes feel like they were added as an afterthought. They don't really say much either in their brief air time. The videos can be paused but there is no way to fast forward or rewind. It seems like that would logically be there but it has been left out for some reason. The rest are just game trailers and offer exactly what you would expect. Video previews of the game, artwork, etc. Stuff that's usually made available for free on the PS Store anyway. "What's Hot" contains a couple of Bluray trailers, an interactive ad, a special on Voodoo Fest in New Orleans which is really just another ad, and upcoming Blu-ray and game releases. Once again, this is something you can easily get for free of IGN and its sister site RottenTomatoes. In the download section, there are three downloads available. The Flock! demo and a free copy of Calling All Cars are only available to annual subscribers, showing Sony really wants people to fork out $24.99, natch. The only thing available to non-subscribers is a Killzone 2 XMB theme, which also would normally be available for free on the PS Store. Last but not least is one 2D minigame called Blast Qore, which involves two space ships battling each other with Asteroids style controls. A slight diversion but nothing really special about it.

So, is Qore worth the money? I think I can say it is definitively not. $3 is not a lot to spend on something but Qore has too little content and what is there is stuff you can get for free elsewhere on the internet, at the same or better quality. The features are too short and say too little while the rest is basically just ads and trailers that are normally available on the PS Store anyway. Exclusive content is virtually non-existant. The minigame is perhaps the only saving grace. In addition, Sony has just released PULSE, a video news magazine available for free on their Playstation website. I said Qore would be nothing more than paying Sony to advertise and it was exactly what I expected it to be. I still hold that Qore will not survive past its first year. It's just not worth the money. Sony should have released all episodes of Qore for free given that it already is ad backed. You can download this free episode and see for yourself. It weighs in at 1.3GB.

Score: 5 out of 10

What Works:
-Free Qore Blaster minigame
-This episode was free
-Interesting featurettes in 720p HD

What Doesn't Work
-Featurettes too short and say little
-Can't fast forward or rewind videos
-Game trailers are normally available elsewhere for free
-Not much in the way of truely exclusive content
-"Exclusive" downloadable content chintzy and normally available on the PS Store anyway at a later date at no extra cost.
-You're paying Sony to advertise their products to you
-Qore offers little value, even at $3 per episode