Demo Blog

Next year’s Ford Focus is a LAN party on wheels

by Michael Arsenault on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 , under


What better way to kill the time on a long drive than an impromptu game of StarCraft II using backseat broadband? That’s obviously the first thing we thought of when Ford told us that next year’s Focus will have a built in WiFi router capable of setting up a mobile LAN in the back seat.To our US readers, there may be nothing novel in the idea of a vehicle which can talk to your electronic devices, but over on this side of the pond our in-car tech is the equivalent of a two stroke engine with a handcranking starter.
The 2012 Focus, however, will debut Ford’s SYNC technology on this side of the Atlantic. SYNC, co-desgned by Microsoft, is a collection of tools which currently use Bluetooth to connect a car to your phone. So you can stream back music, place calls and use GPS from the phone via a dashboard control panel.
When it launches in Europe, however, SYNC will also include a WiFi hotspot with support for up to five wireless devices. That’s a fairly decent sized LAN you could set up for a SupCom match on the motorway.
More interestingly, SYNC will also be able to share one phone’s modem across the network. Last time we looked at gaming via 3G (PCG 201), we got Left4Dead up and running comfortably enough to play a few rounds of zombie shooting without too much interference from bad ping times. While it’s unlikely you’ll be able to game online in a Focus while the car is moving, it seems entirely reasonable that you’ll be able to run a quick WoW heroic when you’re parked up and stationary. What’s more, by the time SYNC launches over here, there’s a good chance we’ll have an LTE service of some sort we can connect to for proper low latency games.
Of course, you could do something similar now with a beat up old mini and a battery operated mobile hotspot like 3′s MiFi, but that would be too easy, wouldn’t it?

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How to identify a motherboard when you want to upgrade

by Michael Arsenault on Monday, May 30, 2011 , under


I often get emails asking for advice on upgrades, most of which I try to answer as quickly as I can, but one that came through the other day struck me with a problem that I imagine is more common than you’d think.
The writer wanted to know what the best graphics card would be for his motherboard, and proceeded to list all the bits and bobs inside his PC. Some of them were nearly ten years old. Two things were immediately obvious from his mail. Firstly, that a graphics upgrade alone wasn’t going to get Crysis 2 running at full speed. Secondly, that he’d obviously made a mistake identifying his components. According to the email he was running an Athlon FX chip from the middle of the last decade with a Pentium 4 motherboard circa 2001.
Since he also reckoned he was using two GeForce graphics cards in SLI configuration, I surmise that the writer is probably right about the chip, wrong about the mobo (since that predates SLI technology). Or that it was someone deliberately being silly and trying to catch me out.
The serious question the story raises, though, is how do you know what motherboard is inside your machine, and what its compatible with when you come to upgrade?

The easiest way is through Windows’ own System Information tool. You can call this up by typing its name into the search bar of the Start menu, and it should come up with a screen that looks something like this. The highlighted lines are the motherboard manufacturer, the model number and the current BIOS and revision number.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a foolproof piece of software. If you can’t get any useful information from it,  you’ll have to open up the side of your case and have a look at the motherboard itself. If you’re lucky, the manufacturer name and product code will be clearly visible – as in the image at the top of this post – and you can go along to their site and look for a manual online. This branding could be anywhere, but the most common places are by the CPU socket, near the expansion slots or along one of the edges. If there’s no obvious stamp, however, there’ll be other identifying marks.
One of them should be its FCC ID code. This is the serial number assigned to components when they pass through testing at the Federal Communications Commission in the US. This should be printed onto the PCB itself or a white sticker that looks like the one above. You can check it at the updated FCC Site here. Turns out the component pictured is a WiFi adaptor from an old , abandoned  motherboard. Who knew?
If there’s no FCC label, you could start your component sleuthing by trying to figure  out the manufacturer using its factory code. This is a six character code beginning with a D which usually appears next to a symbol that looks like a circle with an arrow pointing through it. Gigabyte, for example, is D33006. The hard drive below is from Kingston. I can’t find an up to date list in English, so you could try translating this page or just Googling the code and seeing which name comes up most often. Armed with the manufacturer name, the BIOS code and version which appear when you first boot the machine (and in System Properties) should give you an exact match.

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Make your PC run quieter with one simple trick.

by Michael Arsenault on Sunday, May 29, 2011 , under


Are your case fans giving you nightmares about ‘nam? Are they just a few RPM away from sending you into a Ridley Scott style reverie? Want to know a quick, cost free way to make your PC run more quietly than it is right now? Everything you need to stop that incessant din might be right there in your BIOS.

The other day I was chatting to a reader via email about the best way to slow case fans down so that they whisper rather than roar, and I realised that this simple trick isn’t actually as well known as I thought it was. Every single motherboard that I can think of that’s been manufactured in the last ten years or so has a set of built in sensors for monitoring various temperatures around the case. What’s more, they have the ability to use that information, and throttle your case fans accordingly. If everything is running smoothly and within certain heat thresholds, your motherboard can slow the rotation of fan blades down in order to silence them.
For some reason, which makes absolutely no sense to me, the default option in the BIOS is not always set to turn this spectacular feature on.
The older your motherboard is, the more likely it seems that this setting is turned off. That’s an observation based purely on anecdotal evidence, but it seems to me that more recent boards have been set up correctly at the factory. Whether your system is new or ancient, though, it’s worth seeing if you can silence it.
Simply open up the BIOS by hitting F2 or DEL – depending on your motherboard’s settings – during the first stage of the boot process, and use the cursor keys to find the option marked ‘Hardware monitor’. This could be almost anywhere: in a top level menu of its own, or as a sub-menu within the ‘Advanced’ settings for example. It’s there though, I’m almost certain of it.
What this should show you is a readout of the temperature settings the motherboard is monitoring, along with other information like fan speeds and possibly voltage readings if you’ve got a top end board. Somewhere on this page there will also be a setting for the CPU fan. Often this menu is broken up into seemingly random phrases, like Q-Fan or Extreme, but basically it’s a list of settings for running the CPU flat out or at a slower speed.
The beauty of this setting is that unless you set it to run constantly at a particularly percentage of its maximum speed, it’ll automatically accelerate to provide extra cooling if the CPU is running hot. In other words, you can set it for the quietest maximum speed and be confident that it won’t let your CPU damage itself.
With that done, just select ‘Save settings and exit’ and enjoy a quieter gaming experience.
If you don’t fancy playing around with the BIOS, there is an excellent Windows app called Speedfan which can tap into the same settings and let you configure them from the desktop. It may need manually resetting after every boot, though.

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Minecraft Patch 1.6 New Maps and Trapdoors

by Michael Arsenault on Saturday, May 28, 2011 , under



The Minecraft 1.6 patch has landed. We dived right in, eager to start playing with the new hatches and maps added by the patch. Spiders died, cows exploded and lava spills threatened to destroy everything. Read on for an account of our first hour in Minecraft 1.6, and a video showing how you craft the new maps.

Hatches may sound like a small thing, but when I started playing with them I realised two things. Firstly, given the fact that so much of Minecraft takes place undergound, hatches are far more useful than doors for creating entrances to your underground base. It feels straight away as though they’ve been in the game forever.
They’re crafted easily enough. Simply place six planks in two layers across the bottom two layers of the crafting window. As with hatches in real life, they’re very much like horizontal doors, except only one block in size. Right clicking opens and closes them, and they can be operated by switches, at distance if need be, with the help of redstone wires.
I was playing with hatches and switches when a second thought occurred to me. What if I could use these hatches for evil in some way? A hatch gone bad. A trapdoor. When night falls Minecraft’s square hills fill up with skeletons, spiders and creepers. The new hatches would work perfectly as a night-time trap for any creature foolish enough to come near my tiny box of a house.

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How to Build a PC AMD Vision

by Michael Arsenault on Friday, May 27, 2011 , under

Albert shows you how to build a pc from the ground up, step by step using the AMD Vision parts.


Original Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ETu53QfDwk&feature=player_embedded
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NZXT M59 Mid Tower Case

by Michael Arsenault on , under

If your in the market for a new computer case, now is the time to take this one in to consideration. Introducing The NZXT M59 Gaming Mid Tower Case, made out of steel, 4 External 5.25" Drive Bays, 7 Internal 3.5" Drive Bays, 7 Expansion slots, 2 Front USB 2.0 Ports, 2 Front Audio Ports, 5 Fan 120mm ports (2 120mm fans included), 2 Fan 140mm ports.  The width at 7.48", depth at 20" and height at 17.7" leaving plenty of room for airflow and cable management.



Trust me when I say that NZXT does make good quality computer cases.  Cases that provide a lot of fan ports for simple cooling and a lot of space, not to mention multiple drive bays.  This case is going for the very low price of $49.97 at Tigerdirect.ca.  Very good deal, I recommend you look into this if you are building or plan on building a computer sometime soon.

 http://www.tigerdirect.ca/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=5222597&Sku=A406-1094









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Razer Switchblade - A Revolution in PC Gaming

by Michael Arsenault on Thursday, May 26, 2011 , under

Winner of Best of CES '11 People's Voice Award

The Razer design team has reinvented PC gaming on the go. The Razer Switchblade concept was designed to bring the full keyboard/mouse experience on the desktop on a handheld device. The dynamic keyboard and the ultra-sensitive multi touch screen are the key elements that give this portable gaming device the ability to play on the go without sacrificing precision and control. We've changed the game, and this is only the beginning.



Original Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UiQ0AnlfBu4
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XFX Eyefinity-ready Monitor Stand

by Michael Arsenault on Wednesday, May 25, 2011 , under

AMD Radeon board partner XFX designed its triple-head monitor stand to make life easy for AMD Eyefinity and NVIDIA 3DVision Surround users. The stand holds up to three flat-panel displays in perfect alignment, and gives you control over the viewing angle, tilt, and panning of each display. This is handled by three VESA mount standard-compliant joints along the two arms and a central beam.
The arms and trunk of the stand are made of durable steel, and a space-age base holds it all, to sustain balance. The base, along with the hollow trunk and arms facilitate better cable management, the base even acts as a USB 2.0 and audio hub. The XFX Triple Display stand is listed on Amazon for US $367.06.

Original Article: http://www.techpowerup.com/

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ASUS New Matrix GTX 580 Graphics Card

by Michael Arsenault on , under

 Here are the first pictures of ASUS' Republic of Gamers (ROG) MATRIX GTX 580 graphics card, this triple-slot single-GPU monstrosity is designed to humble every other air-cooled GTX 580 graphics card in the market. The card packs a NVIDIA GF110 graphics processor with high out of the box clock speeds. It is ready for overclocking and easy voltage modifications. The card features redundant BIOS ROM chips to provide a fallback if flashing the BIOS fails. Apart from one-touch BIOS selection, there are buttons on the card itself that gives you on-the-fly fan control. 
The ROG MATRIX GTX 580 comes with out of the box clock speeds of 816/1632/4008 MHz (core/CUDA cores/memory effective), and packs 1536 MB of GDDR5 memory over a 384-bit wide memory interface. The card features a number of ROG-exclusive features such as iROG and fancy illuminated MATRIX logo. The card is powered by a large 19-phase VRM that draws power from two 8-pin PCI-Express power connectors. The beast is cooled by a large triple-slot fan-heatsink that uses two large fans to ventilate a complex heatpipe-fed heatsink. Display connectivity includes two DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort. There's no word on the availability.

Original Article: http://www.techpowerup.com/
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My experience in building my first gaming rig

by Michael Arsenault on Tuesday, May 24, 2011 , under

This computer above is what my first gaming rig looked like.  I became interested in building computers when I was in high school and when I began the process of putting my computer together it did not go as well as I had hoped for. I started off buying all my computer components on my three favorite sites: Tigerdirect.ca or .com, Newegg.ca and NCIX.com.  All three are very good but my top favorite would have to be Tigerdirect due to their wide selection of computer options and every day sales.  Remember that when you are buying computer components online always check other website before purchasing, some websites will have the same model for a cheaper price.  Also make sure that this component will be right for your computer in terms of compatibility, price and knowing the difference between what you want and what you'll need.  Keep in mind that more expensive doesn't always mean better, check any comments or reviews on it to get a better idea.

Anyway, after everything I needed arrived at my house, I began to get to work. A few frustrating hours of looking through instruction booklets and figuring stuff out on my own ( keep in mind, don't try to figure out how a computer works by poking around inside, you will be doing more harm than good.)  After installing the final piece I took a quick overview to make sure I didn't forget anything, I pushed the power button for my first boot-up.  I was so surprised by all the lights that suddenly turned on, but I was suddenly disappointed with a few loud beeps, indicating that something was not installed correctly.  I decided to call my friend who had a bit more knowledge than I did when it came to computers.  After he arrived he noticed many things that were out of place, SATA cables not in the right place, CPU installed incorrectly, ect. (quite embarrassing I know).  My friend decided that he would fix it for me as he saw how frustrated I was. 

My computer seemed to work okay for a while until a few weeks later I noticed a high pitch ringing sound coming from it and was performing slower sometimes locking up while playing video games.  I began to worry that the problem was when I was building that a static discharge emitted in the computer (any small static discharge can corrupt any vital computer piece making it essential to wear anti-static gloves or wristband).  Turns out my video card was faulty and I had to return it to receive a new one.  My computer has been performing adequate since then, I guess the moral of this story is to show that having more knowledge in something like this can save you many hours of frustrating work and possibly corrupting your computer hardware.  Remember that this is a learning experience, thanks for reading!   

      
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New Gigabyte GA-990FXA-UD7 Motherboard

by Michael Arsenault on Monday, May 23, 2011 , under

After displays of socket AM3+ motherboards based on AMD 990FX chipset, by ASUS, and MSI were pictured by various tech sites, it's quite expected of Gigabyte's offering to somehow make it to the web. Gigabyte is going full guns with its top AM3+ motherboard, with the GA-990FXA-UD7. Based on the same Black+Graphite+Gold color scheme as the socket LGA1155 "UD7" models based onIntel P67 and Z68, the GA-990FXA-UD7 comes with zesty dimensions that almost make it an EATX form-factor board, although it's not. The AM3+ socket is powered by a 10-phase VRM that is cooled by a long heatsink that appears to be contiguous with the northbridge heatsink, which in turn shares heat with the southbridge over a heat pipe. The socket is wired to four DDR3 DIMM slots supporting DDR3 frequencies in excess of 1866 MHz.


Other connectivity features include 8+2 channel HD audio driven by Realtek ALC889 high-SNR CODEC with optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs, four USB 3.0 ports driven by EtronTech-made controllers (two ports internal, by headers), gigabit Ethernet, and FireWire. While Gigabyte retains its Award Software-made BIOS with DualBIOS technology, the BIOS is loaded with EFI extensions that let it boot from volumes greater than 3 TB in size. Gigabyte calls this HybridEFI. Expect the GA-990FXA-UD7 to be out in mid-June.


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Introduction to computer gaming and hardware

by Michael Arsenault on , under

Alright, to start off I will give you a basic introduction of just what this blog is all about!  This blog is about all the information you will need to know about computer gaming.  I will be going over what kind of hardware do you really need and what kind you're probably wasting your money on.  I will also be advertising when sales are on for games/hardware so that you get best deals possible.  I will start off posting on a daily basis eventually leading to every two days.  I hope you enjoy my blog and thanks for following!

Also remember to follow me on twitter @ http://twitter.com/#!/FpsMike05
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