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May 2006

Windows Patches Released

31 May 2006

Two new Windows patches have been released. The first is an update to the Windows Genuine Advantage Notification Tool, and hence is not a required patch, but you can grab it through Windows Update if you wish. The second is a fix for XP SP2-based PCs which cannot create a network connection at startup, and is available here.

Windows Live OneCare Released

31 May 2006

Microsoft have released the final version of Windows Live OneCare, a software security suite designed to protect your PC from all sorts of malware. It contains an Antivirus scanner, Antispyware scanner, an improved Firewall, Performance Tune-Up and Backup utilities. However it is only free for the first 90 days as a trial, after that it will cost $US49.95 per year to use for up to 3 PCs. Existing Beta users can continue to use OneCare for the next few months but will eventually need to purchase a subscription. Furthermore, I believe the final version of Onecare is also restricted to US users at the moment.

I wouldn't recommend OneCare to advanced users or gamers - it really seems to be designed for users who prefer peace of mind over performance. If you follow the PC Security chapter of the TweakGuides Tweaking Companion you can easily secure your PC with free applications which can be set up for minimal resource usage. Furthermore the 'Performance Tune-Up' aspect of OneCare is basically disk cleanup and defragmentation, again easily achieved for free, and finally the 24/7 'Online Support' is actually just an automated Help Center.

Creative X-Fi Beta 2.09.0001 Driver Released

31 May 2006

Creative have released a new Beta 2.09.0001 driver for the X-Fi series. It fixes a range of issues (details here), but the major change is the addition of OpenAL 1.1 support for X-Fi cards. Note that this beta expires in 120 days, and this suggests that the final version should be out before then. I only recommend these drivers for those who want to experiment, or have serious issues with current X-Fi drivers, as Creative drivers can sometimes be fairly unstable.

Quick Update

28 May 2006

For those of you wondering what's happening on the guide front here at TweakGuides, right now I'm in the process of doing a total revision of the ATI Catalyst Tweak Guide. It's been quite out of date for a while now, and despite the total lack of technical or hardware support from ATI, I'm updating it thoroughly for the 6.5 Catalysts, and also incorporating advice on using ATI Tray Tools into the guide (finally). At the same time, I am also revising the TweakGuides Tweaking Companion, mainly to fix dead links, fix some minor errors based on user feedback, and make sure everything else is up to date. Expect the revised versions of both guides to be out in the next few days. After that, I can start producing some new guides, including my promised FPS/Refresh Rate/VSync Guide.

Firefox 2.0 Alpha 3 Released

28 May 2006

The latest (pre- pre-release) version of Firefox 2.0 Alpha 3 has been released. For those of you who want to try out its new features without messing up your current version of Firefox, you can use the Portable Firefox 2.0 Alpha 3 version which is self-contained - extract the archive and run the PortableFirefox.exe file. Note that the final release version of Firefox 2.0 is due in August 2006.

Hitman: Blood Money 1.1 Patch Released

27 May 2006

Not to be confused with the patch for the demo version of the game (see below), Eidos have released a patch for the full version of Hitman: Blood Money, bringing it up to Version 1.1. The patch weighs in at 10MB and contains a range of stability and performance fixes - it is highly recommended all Hitman: Blood Money users upgrade to this version. While I'm not thrilled that yet another company is patching a game upon its release, at least this patch does seem to resolve some important issues with the game.

New Image Format: Windows Media Photo (.WMP)

27 May 2006

Microsoft have developed a new image format called Windows Media Photo, or .WMP. MS aims to try to topple the popular JPEG format, and in demonstrations has shown that WMP can provide more image detail at the same compression levels as JPEG. The format is designed for use as part of Windows Vista.

Hitman: Blood Money Demo Patch Released

26 May 2006

In a sign of the times, Eidos have released a Patch for the Hitman: Blood Money Demo. To use the patch on the demo, download it and extract the executable inside the archive to your \Program Files\Eidos\Hitman Blood Money Demo\ directory to replace the one already there. This should help the very low framerates some people have been experiencing on certain configurations.

Note further that if you have an SLI-based system, you can add the line enablesli at the bottom of your HitmanBloodMoney.ini in the same directory as above - this enables the Managed Vertex Buffer which apparently should further improve performance (on SLI systems only).

Half Life 2: Episode 1 Preloading Now

26 May 2006

The next chapter in the Half Life saga - Half Life 2: Episode 1 - has started preloading the entire game through Steam. The game itself will be available to play on 1 June, but if you buy it now it will only cost $17.95 as opposed to $19.95 after 1 June, plus you can start downloading the game files and be ready to play as soon as the game is officially released. Note, you don't need to have Half Life 2 to play this game.

TweakGuides Folding@Home Team

26 May 2006

Forum member Syne has recently started a TweakGuides F@H Team. For those of you unaware of what Folding@Home is, basically it involves giving up some of your spare CPU power to crunch data to assist in finding cures for serious diseases. Already the TweakGuides F@H Team is within the top 400 folding teams and rising, so if you're interested in contributing to this undertaking, see this thread for details. Note, it's not compulsory to join the forums to participate in the team effort.

FEAR 1.05 Patch Released

26 May 2006

Vivendi have released the latest patch for FEAR, bringing it up to Version 1.05. This patch only contains new multiplayer modes and maps as detailed here. If you don't play FEAR multiplayer, then the patch is not particularly necessary.

Source Engine Update Released

25 May 2006

Valve have released a reasonably significant update to the Source Engine. It contains a range of bug and performance fixes as detailed here. Restart your Steam client while online and grab it as soon as possible.

Flash Commodore 64 Emulator

25 May 2006

For the older gamers among you, you may remember the venerable Commodore 64. It was the first real PC many people brought into their homes. Well now you can relive the C64 experience without any fuss or muss. A Flash-based browser C64 Emulator called FC64 is available, and only requires that you install the latest Flash 9 Beta to get it up and running in your browser. Once Flash 9 is installed, go to the emulator and type RUN in the C64 window to load up the classic game Matrix. Use the Numpad arrow keys and Space to start the game and control the ship. You can also download this emulator for offline play.

ATI Catalyst 6.5 Released

25 May 2006

ATI have released the Catalyst 6.5 graphics drivers. These drivers contain some new features, some performance improvements and a range of fixes as detailed here, and are recommended for all ATI users. I will update the ATI Catalyst Tweak Guide shortly to incorporate the changes.

Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 1.10 Patch Released

25 May 2006

Ubisoft have released the latest 1.10 Patch for GRAW. The patch weighs in at 28MB, and contains a range of important gameplay and bug fixes, and hence is recommended for all GRAW players. I have updated the GRAW Tweak Guide for this patch, with the main changes on page 4.

Nvidia Forceware Tweak Guide Updated

24 May 2006

Given the significance of the new Beta 91.28 Forceware Drivers and the introduction of the new Nvidia Control Panel, I have decided to add an extra page to the Nvidia Forceware Tweak Guide. I provide an overview of the new control panel and how you can quickly optimize and streamline it for normal usage, as well as highlighting some of its new features. Give it a read through if you're curious as to whether it is worth installing or not.

MS Office 2007 Public Beta 2 Released

24 May 2006

Microsoft have released the Office 2007 Public Beta 2. You can download this beta if you meet the modest System Requirements, and the download itself varies from 75MB up to 1GB depending on which components you choose. Note that this Beta expires on February 1 2007, and you may have issues with the Beta so best to play it safe and not install it on your main system - at least not without a thorough backup first.

Note further that Windows Vista Beta 2 has just become available, but not to the general public just yet; only to developers and IT professionals at the moment.

Update: Microsoft is having some issues with their validation servers, so please be aware that there may be delays in obtaining the beta.

Battlefield 2 1.3 Patch Released

24 May 2006

EA Games have released the 1.3 Patch for Battlefield 2. The full version is 438MB, however if you already have Version 1.22, you can use the incremental patch which is only 82MB. The patch contains a large range of bug and gameplay fixes as detailed here, and is a must-install for BF2 players. I will update the Battlefield 2 Tweak Guide shortly for these changes.

Update: I have updated the Battlefield 2 Tweak Guide for the changes in the patch. In particular see pages 3 and 4 for more details.

Official Nvidia Beta 91.28 Forceware Released

24 May 2006

Nvidia has released a brand new Official Beta 91.28 Forceware driver set. These drivers include both the regular Forceware Control Panel, and an entirely new-look Forceware Control Panel. Aside from the new Control Panel, they contain a range of changes as covered here, and my thoughts and screenshots are covered further below in that link. These drivers should be fine for most people to use.

Official Nvidia Beta NTune 5.00 Released

24 May 2006

Nvidia has released a brand new version of the Beta NTune 5.00 motherboard utility. This version supports NForce2, 3, 4 and the new NForce5 series motherboards, and allows easy access to temperature, voltage and clock speed monitoring/adjustment. Note, if you want to install this version of NTune you must uninstall any previous versions first.

Hitman: Blood Money Demo Released

23 May 2006

IO Interactive have released the Hitman: Blood Money Demo, weighing in at a massive 760MB. Initial accounts of the short demo are positive, and I will look into writing a guide for the game if it turns out to be sufficiently tweakable.

Update: Some initial performance thoughts, tweaks and screenies of mine are here.

Crysis Preview

23 May 2006

Maxit Magazine have a brief Preview of Crysis, the much-anticipated next-gen game which follows in the steps of Far Cry. This is a good summary for those wondering what all the fuss is about, plus you should also check out our existing screenshots and discussion of the game in this thread. Crysis is now the "next big thing" in FPS gaming, so expect to see and hear a lot more about it as time goes by.

Windows Media Player 11 Review

23 May 2006

Paul Thurrott from Winsupersite has released a thorough Review of the new Windows Media Player 11 Beta. If you're not sure about this player's new features, or whether to upgrade to it, read the review for yourself and see what's new.

Creative: X-Fi Problems Being Addressed

19 May 2006

Creative Labs, the makers of the SoundBlaster X-Fi sound card, have recently admitted to problems with these cards on certain systems. They have now posted some Solutions which X-Fi owners can try to resolve crackling/popping issues. They go on to say that some issues remain and are being 'worked on', so let's hope to see some more solutions shortly - hopefully incorporated into some new X-Fi drivers.

Windows Vista Hardware Requirements

19 May 2006

Microsoft have released the official Hardware Requirements for Windows Vista. There are two types of requirements: Vista Capable and Vista Premium. Vista Capable means a PC can run the basics of Vista if it has at least an 800MHz CPU, 512MB RAM and a DX9 graphics card. However to fully experience Vista's new features, such as the new 'Aero' interface, you will need at least a 1GHz CPU, 1GB RAM, 40GB Hard Drive, DVD ROM drive, and importantly a DX9 graphics card with Pixel Shader 2.0 support, and preferably 128MB of Video RAM or higher (for resolutions of 1280x1024 or above). You can use the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor application to tell you if your current PC is going to be able to run Vista, and to also advise you on what you may need to upgrade to get a better Vista experience.

I personally believe the requirements are not that steep for a 'next-generation' operating system, and most current PCs built for gaming would easily meet all of the Vista Premium requirements. However given Vista is not due until the start of 2007 at the earliest - with rumours of even an April 2007 release - I wouldn't worry too much about being 'Vista Ready' just yet.

Microsoft Update for USB2.0 Laptops

19 May 2006

Microsoft have released an Update for certain Laptops running USB2.0 devices which were experiencing short battery life.

Windows Media Player 11 Official Beta Released

17 May 2006

The official beta version of Windows Media Player 11 has been released by Microsoft and weighs in at 24MB. The changes include a new interface, better integration of online music services, and more connectivity for multimedia devices - full details of the functions here. While this is technically a beta, it should be fine to install for most users.

7-Zip Version 4.42 Released

15 May 2006

Version 4.42 of the 7-Zip archive utility has been released. 7-Zip supports all popular archive formats, including .zip, .gzip, .rar and .tar. However unlike popular utilities such as WinZip, 7-Zip is totally free and achieves much higher compression - especially in its native .7z format.

Quick Update

14 May 2006

In general I try to limit the individual news updates on the front page to genuinely significant items. However whenever things are quiet on the major tech news front, from now on I'll slip in a quick update about miscellaneous tech tidbits, like this. To start with you may have seen news about a Windows Media Player 11 leak. I won't be linking to this leaked version, and I don't recommend installing it yet - expect the proper final release shortly. WMP11 is not a dramatic change over the current WMP10 by most accounts. You may also see a lot of news on various sites about E3, the Electronics Entertainment Expo in LA. Sadly I'm not sponsored so I didn't get to go (no tears now!), but good details of all the upcoming games (on all platforms) can be found here. Personally I don't subscribe to the hype and hoopla that developers generate over games which may be released up to a year from now. My main focus is typically on soon-to-be released games, and we cover those fairly well on our Games Forum.

Update: For those of you interested in participating in Folding@Home, Syne has started a TweakGuides F@H Team - more details in this thread.

GRAW 1.06 Patch Released

12 May 2006

Ubisoft have released the 1.06 Patch for Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter. The patch weighs in at 15MB, and contains a range of bug fixes. I have updated the GRAW Tweak Guide for the changes - in particular see page 4 of the guide for more details.

Google Trends

11 May 2006

No, not trends in Google's behavior - rather a new site called Google Trends, where you can search for the popularity and geographic distribution of particular search terms. For example, try a search on the term 'tweak guide' and you can see that for some reason people from Norway used this search the most often, and that it has remained a steadily popular search term over the last couple of years. Give it a go, if only for novelty value.

Windows Vista & Office 2007 Beta Registration

11 May 2006

Microsoft are asking people to Sign Up for the upcoming public beta versions of Windows Vista, Office 2007 and Exchange Server 2007. The link above provides the details and the signup procedure, and while I suspect that the public betas will be widely available without the need to sign up for them, this way you're guaranteed of getting your hands on the betas as soon as they come out.

Quick Update

10 May 2006

I spent most of today going through all the existing guides on the site, fixing all sorts of minor glitches. Some of the guides had become filled with dead links, all of which have been fixed now. I've made minor additions and changes as necessary - too many to list separately, but hopefully now all the guides should be as up to date as possible, short of redoing each one from scratch. Shortly I will be looking to refresh the main site design to make it look a bit more professional, without changing the clean, uncluttered look of the site. I also need to eventually implement a good content management system which will give me the ability to add new features, yet is optimal for running on a large site. Currently the site is not database-driven, it's all done by hand. It's tedious for me but it lets the site remain highly responsive even under very heavy load, while also keeping my costs down. In any case stay tuned as I slowly improve the site, and of course, keep an eye out for more new guides shortly.

Microsoft Security Updates Released

10 May 2006

Microsoft has released another batch of updates, which you can get by going to the Windows Update website. Details about them are here, and of course you should install these as soon as possible.

Full GRAW Tweak Guide Released

9 May 2006

I've released the Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter Tweak Guide for the full version of the game. There are no major differences between the GRAW demo and the full version, however I've included a range of solutions to common problems in the full version guide, as well as updated comparison screenshots and more details where possible. Give it a run through as it contains every major tweak and tip for the game. If you recently viewed the GRAW Demo version of the guide, make sure to force refresh your browser to see the updated guide (i.e. press CTRL+F5 while in the guide).

Sandra 2007 Released

8 May 2006

Sisoftware have released the latest version of the System Analyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant, otherwise known as Sandra 2007. The Lite version of Sandra 2007 is a free download and weighs in at 10MB. The most noticeable change over previous years is a redesigned interface, however all the main functionality is still there. I recommend Sandra Lite to everyone as it lets you see a range of valuable information about your system, and also has some useful benchmarking tools.

FEAR Expansion Pack Coming

6 May 2006

For those of you who absolutely loved FEAR, the good news is that Vivendi are releasing an expansion pack called FEAR Extraction Point. The expansion picks up the story where FEAR ended, and takes the FEAR team to new locations, providing new weaponry and enemies. FEAR Extraction Point is due out around September 2006 and won't be free.

Oblivion Tweak Guide Updated

3 May 2006

Since this is a fairly popular guide, I'm giving this a more prominent update notice. I have gone through and updated the Oblivion Tweak Guide for the new Beta 1.1 Patch for Oblivion. Fortunately the patch doesn't change anything major in terms of options or tweaking, so for the main changes see pages 4, 5, 8 and 13. I've tried to make the updates fairly clear. Importantly, see the bottom of page 4 of the guide for instructions on how you can fix the LOD Texture Replacement Mods which won't work with the new patch; it's a simple matter of changing their creation date with a small free utility. Otherwise in general the patch seems fine, and most feedback is fairly positive. But if in doubt, do not install it - wait for the final version.

Half Life 2: Episode 1

3 May 2006

Valve have made Half Life 2: Episode 1 - the sequel to the popular Half Life 2 - available for preload, prior to its release at the start of June. Those who preorder the game can purchase it for $17.95 through Steam, however you don't need to buy it now to begin preloading it. Note that this is a standalone game, you don't need HL2 to play it.

Windows Vista Possibly Delayed Again

3 May 2006

In what is shaping up as a major problem for Microsoft, it looks like Gartner have released a report advising that Vista may be delayed again by up to 3 more months, pushing it out to April-June 2007 for retail customers. Microsoft publicly disagrees with this assessment and says it's on track for January 2007, but given how much complexity there is in Vista, I tend to believe that even if Vista is released in January 2007, it may well be a few more months after that before it is stable and fully functional.

Oblivion Beta 1.1 Patch Released

3 May 2006

Bethesda have released a Beta 1.1 Patch (1.2MB) for Oblivion, containing a range of bug and quest fixes. This also includes fixing the crash on exit, and providing a new 'Ultra Low Quality' graphics setting in the Oblivion Launcher for those running lower-end FX graphics cards. I will update the Oblivion Tweak Guide shortly for the changes in this patch, although note it is a beta and you may want to make backups of your saved games before installing it. Furthermore you may have problems with certain mods not working after the patch.

Firefox Update Released

3 May 2006

Mozilla have released a new update for Firefox, bringing up to version The update primarily contains security fixes, and should be installed by all Firefox users. The quickest way is to open Firefox, go to your Help menu and select 'Check for Updates' and let it automatically download and install the update.

DirectX10 and Gaming

2 May 2006

As Windows Vista draws ever-nearer, more and more people are wondering what the next-generation DirectX10 will hold in store for them. HardOCP have a very interesting look at just how DirectX10 has come about, and what to expect from it. However as you will become aware, the article does focus more on the 'ATI advantage' as it is clearly derived from an ATI presentation. Ignore that part of it - I'm sure both Nvidia and ATI will know how to take advantage of DX10. One company may get the jump on the other, but shortly thereafter I'm sure things will even out as they often do. In my opinion, it's still too early to see just how much of a leap DX10 is until we start seeing how Vista handles games in general.

Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter Tweak Guide Released

2 May 2006

I've put together a four-page Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter Tweak Guide, based on the demo of the game. It provides the known methods of optimizing and customizing the game. Note that the demo and the retail version are essentially identical in terms of performance and tweaking, and as such download the demo and tweak it using the guide, as this will give you a genuine idea of how good the retail version will look and perform on your system. The full version of this guide will be released shortly after the retail version of GRAW is out.

Quick Update

1 May 2006

Well it happened: as of last Friday I am now a free man! I quit my day job, and I'm now technically unemployed - free to focus on the site and it feels great! Let's see if my site philosophy of trying to provide useful information in a fairly unobtrusive layout succeeds, or whether it drowns in an Internet sea of garish MySpace pages and I go broke. Who knows, but I say it's worth a shot, and I'm committed to doing it my way: no selling out, no flashing ads, no turning this site into a blog (except for these Quick Updates of course ;) ). Anyway in the next day or so I will be releasing the Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter Tweak Guide for the demo version, and then shortly thereafter updating it for the full version when it's released on May 5 - though note that by all accounts there is little if any difference between the two, performance-wise and tweak-wise. After that, I will keep steadily evolving the site with tasteful upgrades and many more guides, like my upcoming Refresh Rate, Vsync & FPS Guide. Stay on board as I steer this ship through rocky waters, let's hope we end up somewhere sunny!

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