A Steam Alternative

*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




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 CheapShark 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 While Impulse does offer an impressive library of games, many are outdated.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.

Computer Cable Management

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.