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 While Impulse does offer an impressive library of games, many are outdated.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


If you’re looking for a site for streaming your favorite tv shows, and movies, look no further. Hulu.com is the has all this, and more. Hulu was created in March 2007 by NBC Universal and News Corp, and has been improving and building ever since. Content is always expanding, and currently Hulu hosts shows and movies from FOX, NBC Universal, MGM, Sony Pictures Television, Warner Brothers, and others.

As for quality of the content, video can be streamed in either 360p, or a higher quality 480p. I watch shows and movies on a 1440×900 widescreen monitor, and the 480p stream looks great. You may be wondering what the catch is by this point. Well, as you may know, streaming video takes huge amounts of bandwidth, which in turn costs huge amounts of money. To pay for this, Hulu has advertisements during the shows. An average TV show has about six, 20 second long advertisements. However, in my mind, this is well worth the ability to stream high quality video on demand.

You can watch most shows without registering on Hulu, but there are some nice advantages if you don’t mind registering. By signing up for an account, you can have email updates whenever a new episode of your favorite show is put up, queue videos to watch later, and write reviews about any clip, episode, or movie. Another feature of Hulu is the ability to embed custom clips of shows (lower quality) from Hulu on your own website:

The only downside to Hulu is the inability to set a larger cache for video. This means that, instead of the video continuing to load while paused, it will simply stop loading altogether. So to stream 480p video, you will need a fairly high speed connection able to continually load the video.

Overall, Hulu is a great site for free, high quality, legal, content. It shows real iniative into the world of online television, and is hopefully a sign of things to come.