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December 2013

Site Update

28 December 2013

Another year is coming to a close. I take this opportunity to wish you well and thank you for your continued support of the site. Hopefully 2013 was a good year for you, and 2014 will be even better.

For regular readers, it's no secret that I've found this year to be disappointing, both in terms of PC gaming, as well as the evolution of the Windows operating system. In my opinion, Windows 8.1 is a strong indication that Microsoft is heading in the wrong direction. Perhaps the rumored changes in Windows 8.2 will set things back on course. The only saving grace for the latest iteration of Windows is that with enough customization, a true desktop-oriented OS can be salvaged from it.

To me, the best PC games incorporate action, exploration, and strong storylines, invoking a true sense of adventure and immersion. The latest batch of games completely fail this criteria. Maybe I'm getting old and jaded, but they all seem so incredibly cliched, mostly consisting of cutscenes and scripted actions, set in pretty but very shallow worlds. Immersive open-world single-player games which reward exploration and encourage skill are becoming increasingly rare. What we're left with are short, shallow, interactive Michael Bay movies masquerading as games. As always, please vote with your wallet if, like me, you want to reverse this trend.

For multiplayer gaming, I had high hopes with Battlefield 4, but ultimately I've been let down. The big selling point of the Battlefield series is that it allows large-scale online warfare. But the increasing complexity of classes, weapons, vehicles and dynamic weather and destruction effects has also created some unsolveable problems. Gameplay balance is now virtually impossible to achieve in BF4. There are so many variables that even with constant patching, there is always a particular class, weapon, vehicle, tactic or exploit that is relatively overpowered, and hence most commonly used. The increased complexity is also behind the infamous "netcode issues" - every individual moving object (including each and every bullet), as well as all dynamic environmental and destruction effects, have to be constantly synchronized over the network between players and the server. It just isn't possible to do this smoothly with so much interactive data, and although BF4 attempts to compensate, the result is various frustrating oddities. It all leaves me wishing we could return to the simpler and more satisfying formula used in Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

This is the first year since I've been writing about games that I can't really name my "PC Game of the Year". The lack of desirable games has also meant that I've had no motivation to upgrade my ageing system. I'll probably just get a new GPU next year, but there's no urgency if this dearth of good games continues. Speaking of GPUs, the one positive development for PC gaming is that both Nvidia and AMD have ramped up their innovation. Nvidia's ShadowPlay and AMD's Mantle are two good examples of this. So it's not all bad news.

Finally, my waning interest in recent games, combined with the lack of a sponsor, has also meant that since leaving Nvidia early this year, I've had no incentive to write any new game guides. I now want to find some other way to apply my efforts to helping people with technology. I still have a keen interest in tech, so perhaps some spark of inspiration will strike me very soon :)

All the best for 2014!

Foxit Reader 6.1.2

27 December 2013

The free Foxit PDF Reader has been updated to Version This version improves the compatibility of converted PDFs, and enhances the conversion function.

Intel SSD Toolbox 3.2

23 December 2013

Intel has released Version 3.2.0 of the SSD Toolbox, which includes a range of tools for managing the health and optimal performance of Intel Solid State Drives.

GPU-Z 0.7.5

21 December 2013

GPU-Z, a free graphics card information utility, has reached Version 0.7.5. Changes include support for new chipsets as well as bug fixes.

CCleaner 4.09

19 December 2013

A new Version 4.09.4471 of the free CCleaner system cleaning utility has been released. Changes include adding individual cookie cleaning, and a shutdown after cleaning option, support for several new programs, along with a range of minor improvements and bug fixes.

AMD Catalyst 13.12 WHQL

19 December 2013

AMD has released the official Catalyst 13.12 WHQL certified graphics driver for the HD 5000 series and above under Windows Vista, 7 and 8. This driver improves CrossFire scaling in COD: Ghosts, Splinter Cell Blacklist, Saints Row 4 and Metro Last Light, has new Enduro profiles, provides support for CrossFire frame pacing, and contains bug fixes.

Opera 18.0

16 December 2013

The Opera browser has been updated to Version 18.0.1284.68. This version updates Chromium and has several crash fixes.

Windows Updates

13 December 2013

Microsoft has released a Security Update for Windows XP to address certificate spoofing.

3DMark 1.2

11 December 2013

Futuremark has released a 1.2.250 Patch for the latest version of the 3DMark benchmark. The patch adds a new Ice Storm Unlimited test, improves GPU hardware detection, and fixes the display of clock speeds and temps on performance graphs.

Firefox 26.0

11 December 2013

Mozilla has released Version 26.0 of the Firefox browser. The most significant changes are that all plugins, with the exception of Flash, will now be disabled by default, and require users to explicitly Click to Play to enable them on a per-site basis, and the Password Manager now supports script-generated password fields on websites. Details are on page 3 of the updated Firefox Tweak Guide.

Microsoft Security Updates

10 December 2013

Microsoft has released its monthly set of Windows security updates which you can download individually from here or get through Windows Update.

VLC Media Player 2.1.2

10 December 2013

The free VLC Media Player has been updated to Version 2.1.2. This update provides a range of bug fixes.

Flash Player 11.9

10 December 2013

Adobe has released Version 11.9.900.170 of the Flash Player plugin for browsers.

Shockwave 12.0

10 December 2013

Adobe has released Version of the Shockwave player plugin for browsers.

Start8 1.31

7 December 2013

Stardock has released Version 1.31 of the Start8 Start Menu replacement utility for Windows 8. This version has some minor adjustments for Windows 8.1 along with bug fixes.

Opera 18.0

7 December 2013

The Opera browser has been updated to Version 18.0.1284.63. This update fixes a gmail notifications crash bug.

Chrome 31.0

5 December 2013

Google has released Version 31.0.1650.63 of the Chrome browser. This version contains security fixes.

AMD Catalyst 13.11 Beta 9.5

4 December 2013

AMD has released the Catalyst 13.11 Beta 9.5 graphics driver for the HD 5000 series and above on Windows 7 and 8. This updated beta resolves the missing Overdrive issue for the R9 290 series, fixes intermittent flickering on some R9 270x cards, fixes graphics corruption in Starcraft, and improves frame pacing on Quad CrossFire configurations for Hitman: Absolution and Total War: Rome 2.

WinRAR 5.01

3 December 2013

The archival utility WinRAR has been updated to Version 5.01. Changes include a new 'quick open information' option for the RAR 5.0 archiving format, along with bug fixes.

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