Paul's Technology Blog

July 26, 2006

Big Update - Pt. 2 AMD buys ATi

No doubt the big tech news this week (and probably this whole year) is the purchase of ATi by AMD.

Now there is a lot of speculation flying around currently mainly what's going to happen to nVidia nForce motherboards. And there is a rumor saying that Intel has pulled its licenses from ATi.

Well first off I doubt much will happen in the way of the nForce board. AMD is not going to boot them out and nVidia proves it can compete against Intels own chipsets so I see no reason why it cannot do the same in regards of future (probable) AMD chipsets.

Now the whole ATi/Intel thing is interesting though because as of now ATi is AMD. So essentially Intel would be licensing its interface and buses to AMD which is not something they would want to do. So this means the best platform for the most options has magically become AMD if Nvidia sticks around (which it probably will) The reason for this is only AMD platforms can do crossfire or SLi. Intels as of right now will only be able to do SLi until it comes up with its own dual card solution. Now this is in the future, the far future, so don't panic quite yet.

So this put Intel into a difficult position. Since they are trying to sell themselves to Hardcore computer weenies like me it becomes very difficult when 1/2 of the discrete video card market has been purchased by your top competitor. Since dual video cards is something that appeals to the same group of people who would by a Pentium Extreme chip how do you deal with that. Well one thing would be make your own universal dual card setup that would work for ATi (AMD) and Nvidia Cards. That would really appeal to the gamers since then they are no longer locked into one brand like they are now if they want to do dual video cards. And this is the route they will probably take given that Intel would rather die that use anything from AMD (Look at the 64 bit extensions they basically ripped it off from AMD and labeled it EMT). The other option is to simply bite the bullet and license AMD to make Intel chipsets. And as much as I would love to see Intel have to choke on that I doubt it will happen.

So what was the advantage for ATi about this whole thing? Well for one it gives them a ton more resources. If you look at their video cards they run hot and eat power. Processors on the other hand are going in the reverse. They are using less power and producing a lot less heat. Granted the heatsinks on Processors are a good times larger then anything you'll see on a GPU but there is nothing to say they can't utilize some processor features into their GPU's (like power reduction which would be nice givent hey want to give the video card their own PSU)

Also AMD clearly wants to break into the Core technologies market like Intel's Centrino Platform and the Viiv. With ATI they can now offer better on board graphics and a decent chipset solution. This will give them better market breakthrough into the Mobile and Media Center market. Afterall what would you want in your Media Center a wonderful Intel Integrated graphics controller or an Integrated X1600? yeah I thought so. Same for my Laptop. This will also let them penetrate the business computer market too since now they can offer an all in one solution.

It will be interesting to see where this will go so keep tuned....

Big Update - Pt. 1 Games for windows

Well there is a ton of stuff to talk about today. Hopefully I will be able to start doing this daily and then someone out there may actually look at it.

First I would like to talk about the new Microsoft Windows Game For Windows initiative.

Its no secret that PC games have been facing many predictions about its demise as consoles become faster and have more games. Go to your local EB/Walmart/Gamestop etc. Its easy to see why. More often then not our beloved PC games are relegated to smaller and smaller shelves now most times like a wheeled shelf with its spine being the only thing you see. Console games in the mean time have the front covers facing out and entire walls dedicated to PS2 and Xbox games (Sorry GC you don't have enough games for more then a segment of wall but its more then PC games)

Why is this? Well for one the general consumer wouldn't know a video card from a poker card. They know consoles you plug into your TV and play games. PC gaming is a little different.

1) You kinda need to make sure your specs all match and even then you need to make sure you PC exceeds those specs because most games the minimum specs are worth less.

2) Installation and Installation Media. If you go to the store and get GTA 4 you go home and throw it into your console and you are playing it in no time. With PC games you gotta sit through the install process. Installation of games is slow and boring. On top of that the PC Gaming industry is reluctant to give up on the CD-Rom format because there is still 3 people out there without a DVD Drive. So now you have to sit through the whole process because every game is practically a multidisc install and you need to swap in and out CDs. True some games are coming out on DVD but a lot are still on the venerable CD-Rom format.

3) Patch game delivery system. Because of the nature of the internet and how PC systems are not standardized there is no "PC Live!" platform. As such patches are delivered either a) as people visit the developers website and download updates and b) Through some games that may have a built in updater. Console gamers on the other hand need simply to be online and most of the time the game will update itself.

Of course the PC Gamers have been in need for a nice overhaul to their lives for a while and that help is coming from Microsoft. With the advent of Vista MS is planning on starting the Games for Windows overhaul.

This overhaul will include the following:
1) Games will come with a performance number. Simply a number between 1-5 if you are running Vista you can get a rating for your PC (through some benchmark it runs) So when you go to the store you can simply match or exceed that number on the box. So if I have Vista lets say my PC rates a 3. Well I goto the store to by Flight Simulator X, I simply look at the box Performance Requirements which lets say requires a PC score of a 2 or better to be able to play the game and enjoy it. Well since my PC is rated at a 3 and the game requires a PC rated at 2 I am good to go. See simple. A lot better then trying to figure out what a p4 at 3.2ghz is when I am running an Athlon 64 2.2ghz (I know what it compares too but I am using examples. Or any average Joe can go in an look at a PC game and know if he can run it or not without knowing what kind of Video Card he has.

2) MS is certainly pushing the DVD Format onto everyone. I have a feeling all future PC games from MS at least will be on DVD and with Vista requiring you to have a DVD drive anyone with Vista will have a DVD drive thus PC Game publishers can stop worrying about whether or not you have a DVD Drive. This also means we can now use standard DVD box's instead of those oversize DVD/CD cases that are double the thickness of the normal case. Also they are going to try and standardize a PC Game logo you know like the Xbox and the Gamecube and the PS2. How all their boxes have that system on the top. Well PC Gamers are getting that now.

3) MS wants to deliver PC Patches through its Updater system. So if you run Microsoft Update (Or maybe Live!) it will list all your games which need to be patched. Nice. Also they are trying to centralize the save game folders so that you can easily backup and move your saves.

4) MS has developed a PC Gaming Kiosk prototype. It looks very awesome and will allow people to test drive demos and the such. As such MS hopes to take back some shelf space. It looks very nice....

Overall there will be a few really nice changes by the time Vista comes out...Looks like MS really does care about us PC Gamers....

July 14, 2006

Sony's format failure....

YAY! Its time to bash Sony some more. Recently Sony admitted that UMD is a complete and utter failure. At least from the form of movies. One could say it is a failure for games too. The UMD format has been subject to ridiculous amounts of load screens and times and only has a 1.5gb capacity. Compare that to Sony's own memory stick and one can see that its pretty bad Memory Sticks have a capacity for up to 2GB a stick and since its solid state: loads faster and uses a lot less power.

Apparently noticed this too. After determining somehow that consumers are not buying UMD movies due to the lack of special features and other things Sony decided the best course of action is to do the following:

1) People will go to store and get a "special" memory stick ($60 for 1gb and $100 for 2gb) with that "special" memory stick comes a DVD with 4 movies that will only play on a PSP. You also get an unlock code.

2) With that code you can unlock (1) movie and then basically wait for your PC to slowly move that movie to the memory stick. Each stick can only hold (1) movie (Thus making you ask why is there a need for a 2gb stick well I guess to add the rest of you stuff on but still.....)

3) Watch movie on PSP like we should all do.

Yes that is the plan. Brilliant huh? See Sony figures it has nothing to do with the fact that they want you to spend $20 for a DVD to watch it on your TV with all the special features that come with it and then spend $20 on a castrated UMD movie without any special features just to watch the same movie on your PSP.....Instead they figure people will spend now $60-$100 for 4 movies only one of which they can watch. Hopefully they will release entertainment packs that do not cost $60 for one movie. Either way they fail to understand people do not want to spend the same amount on movies that only play on their PSP maybe if they released like movie double packs like you buy the movie and with that movie that say costs like 25 or 30 bucks you get a UMD copy as well....Or just let people rip movies to their PSP legally. Either way some exec at Sony needs to realize that Sony is incapable of producing a their own formats lets add UMD to the list of death...

1) Betamax

2) Mini discs

3) Memory Sticks (Yes they are useless: expensive and big memory sticks are only supported by Sony products everyone else moved on to greener pastures.)

4) UMD
Coming Soon.....Blu-Ray

May 18, 2006

Nintendo Wii....The New World Order?

Ok Wii is a stupid name. But stupid names don't break a console apparently. At E3 Nintendo showed that they were doing something right as they were the most packed booth during the entire show shattering all sorts of records.

What is so appealing about the Wii? Well one thing is probably the most obvious: The remote. Something that a lot of people first mocked apparently is more appealing then anyone, probably including Nintendo, could have imagined. It reminded me of the DS's announcement. Everyone laughed and said who the hell needs two screens but Nintendo stood firm and it came out and now it is showing to be more popular with the masses then Sony's more powerful PSP. Why? Innovation. People are getting sick of playing the same games the same way. After all while Halo 3, Grand Theft Auto 4, and Madden 200x can all be fun games its nothing incredibly new. And the whole market is showing that even in Nintendo console market. All we are getting are highly rated and anticipated sequels. Nothing truly innovative nothing original. Probably why Spore seemed to be so appealing to the PC folks (which I am a part of), sequels are becoming dull was anyone surprised when Halo 3 was announced? hah. People are more excited at the new way to play consoles that Nintendo introduced and that PS3 ripped off (not that anyone cared about PS3's use only one game showed it had any support for it)

Gamers want new ideas and Nintendo saw this. Yes prettier graphics are nice and good old games we like to play (Fable 2, Halo 3, GTA4, Madden 2007) but sometimes we just need something different. And I think the Wii and the DS both show people may not care about graphics if the gameplay is innovative. Afterall with consoles now reaching astonomical prices just for a better image quality who can blame them. Would you rather have the Wii at $200 and Gamecube like graphics but highly innovative titles or a Sony PS3 with its superior graphics but standard library of showcase games?

The Wii's gun controller seems amazing for FPS's. I for one look forward to being able to point and shoot instead of the horrendous manner of aiming used in Halo (I am truly a PC FPS'er so kb/mouse for me). Other games that I noted was the Ochestra Conductor game. I mean honestly who has not pretended to be a conductor when they were younger. And now you can be. Also trauma center is coming to the Wii another amazingly innovative title. I have no doubts there will be a Brain Game for the Wii as well.

Also this Wii launch is going to have a ton of titles at launch unlike PS3 whose developers haven't even gotten dev kits yets and whose Blu-Ray has yet to actually been seen working.

It sounds to me like a new Nintendo rebirth is coming....and E3 was the start of it.

May 17, 2006

Sony - Stupid or Just Arrogant?

Ah Sony, maker of TVs, movies, music, audio equipment, and the infamous playstation line. Does being so big really get to their head? I would say...yes.

First lets look at Sony's response to customer service.

Example 1:
When the PSP first came out the square button would often get stuck. According to Sony's PR rep this was a feature not a defect.....What the **** kinda of feature is that? "Thanks for purchasing a PSP one of the top features we offer you with this advance unit is the Square Hold button where the Square key will actually get stuck and adds a new level of randomness to your game" Evetnually Sony bent under pressure and recalled the damaged units and replaced them and admitted later it was a defect in the manufacturing process with some molds.

Example 2:
Sony PS2 - Its not a secret that the read disc error is a problem with the PS2 line. Its a big enough issue that it has spawned an entire business around buying disc read error PS2's and then repairing them and then reselling them on ebay again. You can goto a bookstore and find books on how to fix it even. What the hell does that say? Yet Sony admits there is no such issue and that is restricted to a small number of units. They were sued and was forced to fix a number of units but that is of course up. No one really cares now because the bulky PS2's have been replaced by the slimlines which seem to be a bit more durable. But there are still reports of even those having that issue. And with a whopping 3 month warrenty there is little hope of getting your PS2 fixed for free. I highly recommend buying an extended service contract from whatever store you buy it from if you buy one. Then you get to deal witht he store directly not even Sony leading me to Number 3....

Example 3:
Ever try and call tech support? Yeah call Sony and you get a wonderful automated computer menu system. Which apparently does not know english. I called for my Sony Clie before and trying to tell the computer I owned a clie was mind numbing:
Computer: "What product do you own just say the name"
Me: "Sony Clie SJ22"
Computer: "Did you say Sony DVD Player"
Me: "No..."
Computer:"Lets try again then...repeat the name"
Me: "Sony Clie"
Computer:"I am sorry I do ot understand you request try again"
Computer:"Do you own a Sony Walkman"
Computer:"I am having trouble understanding you let me transfer to a man thing to serve you"
Me:"I hate you sony"

Nuff said...

Example 4:
Sony seems to think since half a bajillion people bought the PS2 that the same will happen with the PS3. See they have a bajillion titles in their library and then they also have the Playstation names. Based on that they think people will spend $500 for a castrated piece of crap PS3 which has no wireless controllers or networking, no HD capabality which was a selling point for it since it uses Blu-ray which they insist everyone needs and only adds to the cost of the unit and games, and has only a 20gb drive. They want people to buy the $600 system I bet, but what they fail to understand when the average consumer mom and dad are looking at the systems they are not going to see that it has all these nifty fancy yet useless features all they know is little Timmy wants a PS3 and they are going to get the cheapest one or sanity might set in and they may just buy a Xbox 360 for the low low price of $300-$400 (though by the time PS3 comes out that is supposed to drop by $100) or even a Nintendo Wii the only console out that will not cost an arm and a leg (Probably $200).

Sony's response to its uber high price? "Its too cheap" Wow thanks Sony we love you too. How nice of them to thank all their loyal fans.

May 13, 2006

First Blog

Well this is my first blog I am posting a lot of kinks are going to be needed to be worked out. Anyways I thought I would take a short bit to tell my views on this past weeks E3.

E3 left me with mixed feelings I am getting really excited with the new Nintendo Wii but the controllers have me worried I just have this nasty feeling that it could get to tiring to play. Like I love to lay back and lounge and play games not flail my arms about like a scary person. But until I can touch one and actually try it I don't know. However I will be buying one.

The other big news is Sony's abysmal PS3 news. First they are charging you $500 for a system that will have blue-ray but be incapable of displaying high resolution video due to its lack of a DVI port. Second if you want the HD support (And this is why the PS3 is so expensive in the first place and a big thing Sony bragged about forever) you need to pay $600. $600! Its outrageous and a good way to shoot themselves in the foot. But hardcore PS fans who want their final fantasy fix will need to buy one so they essentially don't care. Having the president say it should be more expensive didn't help their cause though. And the controller is so unoriginal and looks like such an afterthought its not even funny.

Anyways more laters.