Finding the Cheapest Digital Downloads for PC Games

Posted by ArmoredCavalry

These days the PC Game digital market is thriving. There are tons of stores out there, and with tons of stores comes tons of competition. Thanks to the competition, there are constantly sales going on. So, how do you find the cheapest place to buy your games?

That is where my brand new site comes in, CheapShark:

CheapShark

The basic idea behind CheapShark is to take all the digital game stores out there, and keep track of the prices of their games. By keeping track of all the prices for you, it makes finding the best deal on games easy. In addition to being able to instantly search for particular games, CheapShark will also show you lists of the Top Deals ranked by a combination of factors such as percent off, metacritic rating,  release date, and price history. Also, you can manually browse all of our indexed deals, including filtering by store and sorting by price, rating, etc. So, if you buy digital downloads of PC games, check out CheapShark, and save some money!

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A Steam Alternative

Posted by ArmoredCavalry

*Update #2: Since I posted this article years ago, the digital distribution market on PC has grown and branched out a great deal.  Impulse has been purchased by Gamestop and Direct2Drive has been purchased by Gamefly. However, some great Steam alternatives that I still use and highly recommend include:

Gamer's Gate

 

GreenManGaming

 

Amazon

 

There are many, many, more digital distributors, these are just a few that really stand out. Be sure to shop around before you buy! You can use a site like ShockedFish to easily compare digital download prices, all in one spot.

 

Original Article——–

If you play PC games you most likely know about the download service run by Valve, Steam. However, you may not know about the newer Impulse service from Stardock .

Impulse allows you to purchase and instantly download games, much like Steam. One thing that sets Impulse apart however, is that it does not need to be running in order to play games you have purchased. This means instead of having to wait for the service to start every time you want to play, you can jump right into the game. The Impulse client itself starts faster than Steam, and has a very slick interface, as is the case with most Stardock products. There are tabs for products, community, updates, your software, and your games. Updates are readily visible when you start the client, and require a few clicks to execute.

While the Impulse service offers a lot of promise, it does fall short in a couple areas. One of these, while improving, is the available content. While Impulse does offer an impressive library of games, many are outdated. This will hopefully improve with time as Stardock works out deals with publishers.  Another issue that could be worked on right now however, is the friends system*. I only started using the system with the recently released Demigod, but it became apparent right away that there were some rough edges. For one, when you receive a message from a buddy in game, the message seems to popup only if they begin the conversation, not if they are replying. This makes missing messages a frequent occurrence. Another larger issue is the inability to message friends outside of a game. This makes the friend system useless unless you are using an impulse enabled game, such as Demigod.

So, like anything else Impulse has both its advantages and flaws. I would expect that as time goes on the service will only get better, and I wouldn’t be suprised to see it doing as well as Steam eventually. Only time will tell.

*Update: It looks like Stardock is working on a buddy/matchmaking system, it looks promising. Check it out here.

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Easily View Home Media Anywhere!

Posted by ArmoredCavalry

If you are looking for a way to listen and view your music and photos wherever you are, Tonido might be for you. It offers an easy way to setup a home server with a great looking graphical interface. With Tonido running, and web access enabled, you are able to listen to music, view photos, and share any files on any computer with an Internet connection. For users on the go, this is great to have.

After installing Tondio and setting up web access, you are given a url which you can use to access the server. After logging in on the page, you are brought to the administration page (seen above) which allows you to edit various settings, as well as launch any of the Tonido ‘applications’ (jukebox, photos, etc.) Each ‘application’ is simple to use, and  Jukebox is especially useful as it allows you to stream your home music colleciton anywhere, at a bitrate of your choosing.

Overall the interface is very clean and professional looking, and everything is easy to find. If you are looking for an easy solution to serve your home media collection, Tonido is a good place to look.

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Computer Cable Management

Posted by ArmoredCavalry

Recently, after talking with a fellow computer builder about his cable management solution, I decided to do a little cable management with my own PC. Cable management is simply re-routing wires in a PC case to make it look cleaner, and more importantly, to improve airflow in the case lowering overall temperatures.

The first thing I had to do was remove the side panel on the motherboard side of the case. At first I was a little skeptical that my case had this feature (it was a $40 Rosewill brand case , and I wasn’t expecting such a nice feature).  However, it appears that the area for wiring behind the motherboard is pretty standard, since low and behold, the side panel came right off, revealing openings near the power supply, and lower end of the case for re-routing cables.

Next, I ran all the cables (besides the dvd-rom 4-pin power connector), to the area behind the motherboard, behind the panel which I just opened. This is where I ran into the first issue. The motherboard power cable (the large black one in pictures below) was not long enough to run through the back of the case and plug into the motherboard connector. So, I had to compromise and leave this cable out front. I tied it, and the cd-rom power cable, down with zip-ties.

(click on picture for larger image)

Next was getting my components hooked up. I first ran the two 6-pin power connectors down to my video card and found they were just barely long enough to reach. I tied both the 6-pin cables together to make sure they stayed neat. So now I had to hook up the SATA power to the hard drives. This is where I ran into the second issue. Unfortunately, the second power connector on the SATA power cables was not far enough down to be of any use. Since I have 2 SATA power cables with 2 connectors each, and I could only use the first connector on each cable, I would only have 2 available power connectors for 3 SATA hard drives. So, I had to compromise again, and route one SATA power cable out front (along the large black Motherboard power cable), while leaving one  behind the motherboard.

Now that I had the hard drives supplied with power, I had to hook up the data (red and yellow SATA) cables. There wasn’t much I could do to clean up the cables, having 3 drives didn’t help. I did, however, zip-tie them to the bottom of the case, so they would not stick out so far.

A couple cables, like the  front audio (white middle) cable, and the CPU fan still go directly over the motherboard, and I could not really see any solution for this.

So, in the end there were a couple compromises I had to make, that could be fixed in the future with a higher-end power supply, or extension cables. The IDE dvd-rom cables (large blue) is still an eye-sore, and hard to move. They do sell rolled IDE cables, which I may consider picking up for future use. Overall though, I think that my first attempt at cable management turned out o.k. It certainly helped with airflow, since now my components, and overall system temperature, are all 10 celcius lower.

Feel free to comment with any cable management tips/tricks you have.

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System Explorer

Posted by ArmoredCavalry

Ever wish you could replace Windows Task Manager with a more powerful alternative? System Explorer is the software for you. I recently tested System Explorer out and found that it does everything I need in a process manager, and then some.

Not only does it allow a user to see all running processes, and how they were launched (hierarchical tree), but you can also upload a file to be scanned by the leading a/v companies, search the process name in google with a single click, and even determine if you want the process starting with windows. All that, in the first two tabs.

As you continue to the next tabs in the “monitoring section”, you can view a history of programs accessed, what files are being used, what programs are accessing the net, and even create and compare “snapshot” of running processes.

In addition to the monitoring section, there is also an Autoruns viewer built right in, where you can view exactly what is starting with Windows, and have the option to disable or delete any entry.

Lastly, System Explorer includes an Unistaller tab as an alternate to Windows add/remove programs, and a Settings tab which allows you to enable/disable various components of the System Explorer tool.

Overall, System Explorer is a must have for any power user who wants to keep their system under a watchful eye without paying a cent.

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Intel Core i7

Posted by ArmoredCavalry

The new 45nm core i7 chips from Intel are being released this month, and they look to be a great step up in real world application performance. Ranging from the base model, at $284 to the “extreme” model at $999, there should be an i7 processor for most high-end computing needs. New in these chips is the inclusion of a level 3 cache (8 MB), and the ability to “auto-overclock” built right in. Because of the new architecture of the chip, the i7 lineup will be able to run eight threads at one time, which means better multitasking all around. Also, systems using an i7 chip will need to use ddr3 memory and a motherboard which utilizes Intel’s “QuickPath” interface, instead of using a front-side bus.

In benchmarks, we see improvements (over previous 45NM chips) of up to 30% in applications such as winrar (file compression), and similar performance increases in video encoding. While these leaps in power are amazing, there is a catch. When it comes to PC gaming, these chips offer little, if any, advantage over previous 45NM chips to the average user… for now. Hopefully as time goes on, and games are coded to take advantage of the new chip architecture, we will see large performance increases over previous generations of Intel chips.

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Raid 0, worth it?

Posted by ArmoredCavalry

Raid 0 , or striping, is a method of gaining higher read/write speeds by interleaving data between two or more hard disks. The general consensus is that this provides a faster overall system, and thus, is worth both the time and money to setup a Raid 0 array. I recently purchased two WD6400AAKS drives, and a Gigabyte Raid enabled motherboard to setup my first Raid array. I managed to create the array, and copy my operating system to the array, without having to reinstall windows. This can be done if you have a bootable harddrive outside the array, and a cloning program, such as Acronis True Image.

Before creating the array, I ran a speed test on a single WD6400AAKS drive so I would have a comparison. These were the results in HD Tune:

On the initial boot from the system (now running from the Raid 0 array), I did not notice any major speed improvements over a single WD6400AAKS drive. When I ran the HD Tune benchmark, however, the results showed that overall speed had increased:

Benchmarks are all good and well, but what did this speed increase mean for everyday performance. Well, I first tested file transfering speeds. I duplicated (copied) an 8 gigabyte folder on both the single drive and the Raided disks. On the single drive, the files took about 5 minutes to copy, while on the Raided drives, the time was closer to 2.5 minutes. While this may not seem like a large difference, it adds up for larger file sizes. Next I tested loading times for various applications. When starting Firefox, there was negligible differnce between a single drive compared to the Raided drives. Also, when loading a game of Call of Duty 4, the loading times actually seemed to be slightly longer. Moral of the story, Raid 0 will greatly improve performance when copying huge files, or installing large applications, however, don’t look to see major increases in loading speed for your applications. Is Raid 0 worth it? Well I suppose it just depends on what you expect from it.

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The Apples Are Ready For Picking

Posted by Mark


Apple has just released their new line up of the ipod nano now known as the nano chromatic. These new ipods are are not only more friendly to the eye then the previous generation but come packed with a few new features such as the new genius feature. If you have upgraded to itunes 8 you should know a little bit about this lets say your listening to a song and you like the style of music it is in all you have to do is pull out your ipod and with a few clicks you can have a playlist generated with songs that work well with each other. Another add on to the ipod is the shake feature this allows you to just give your ipod a shake and change the song. You might have some fun with this while driving on bumpy roads. The design has also changes giving it more of the shape of the first and second generation ipods but with a much bigger screen (2 inches) and sleek rounded corners and to top it off you can get in 9 different colors now including pink.

Some Facts About The Nano Chromatic 

 

  • Available in a 8 gb ($169) or a 16 gb ($219) model 
  • 24 hours of battery life
  • Holds 4 hours of video

 

 

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Google Chrome

Posted by ArmoredCavalry

Internet Exporer, Firefox, Safari, Opera, and now comes Chrome. The new open source web browser made by Google looks to be a new direction on how we surf the web. Chrome is stripped down to the basic necessities, and shows this in the speed it renders web applications. Gmail in particular (wonder why?) loads about twice as fast as in traditional browsers.The idea of “web applications” is shown the ability of chrome to create a shortcut to open a single page in an even more simplified Chrome window. For example, I created a shortcut to gmail on my desktop, that when clicked opens a single Chrome window with just gmail, and nothing else (no address bar or bookmarks). This could be handy for people who want to open webmail as they would a local program like Outlook, or Thunderbird. This feature also expands on the idea of Web 2.0

Another new idea put into reality by Chrome is creating a separate instance of the Chrome browser for each tab launched. While this can eat up loads of memory, it should (in theory) make Chrome highly stable, as one tab’s contents will not affect the performance of another. For example if one website was to cause an error and crash, the other tabs in Chrome would be isolated, and hopefully continue to run as usual.

Also worthy of mention is Chrome’s “incognito” function. This allows the user to browse without having to worry about Chrome creating records of sites visited. While this is possible by tweaking settings on most popular browsers, Chrome takes it one step further by having an easy shortcut to this feature for people who don’t wish to go digging around in settings.

Lastly, Chrome makes life easier by its ability to import most personal settings from an already installed web browser. In my test drive, Chrome was able to import not only my bookmarks, but also my saved passwords from the Firefox installation on my PC. This is a nice feature, because it saves you from having to retype any passwords, or request a forgotten ones.

Overall I found Chrome to be quite fast, but it is no Firefox. Chrome is built not for functionality, but for speed. Numerous extensions or add-ons would simply slow it down, and get away from the main idea behind Chrome. So, if you are looking for a browser with loads of add-ons avaliable for increased funtionality, Chrome is not it. If however, you simply need a browser to view webpages, no more, no less, than give Chrome a shot, you may be pleasently suprised.

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Introducing MP3.PC-pad!

Posted by WDot

We’re happy to introduce a new feature on PC-pad: The MP3 section. Basically, we now offer a small on-demand music streaming service at http://mp3.pc-pad.com. We’re filling up the playlist with our favorite electronic songs, including trance, house, techno, hardstyle, and industrial. You simply select what you want to hear and it plays, or just sit back and let the player shuffle the playlist for you. It’s all Creative Commons, so while you won’t hear Basement Jaxx, we think you’ll like our selections. If you feel something’s missing though, there’s a link on the page where you can recommend us your personal favorites. Before you inundate us with Daft Punk’s “Alive 2007” (and rightfully so, it was an excellent album), remember the songs must have a Creative Commons or similarly permissive license. We’re not trying to profit from free music (there will be no ads or similar capitalist ventures), we simply don’t have the funds to pay the RIAA’s protection money.

Give it a spin now and be sure to send us some feedback.   ;)

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