Tag Archives: windows

Humble Indie Bundle

EDIT1: When you purchase the Humble Indie Bundle, you can use your download code to purchase the entire Penumbra series for $5.

EDIT2: The Humble Indie Bumble has added a new game!

There are a number of indie game developers out there, but since they don’t have big names like EA, Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, Valve, Activison and Ubisoft – and believe me, there are plenty more – they rely on community promotions to make users aware of their developments and to purchase their games.

The latest promotion is the Humble Indie Bundle. Wolfire Games teamed up with two charities (Child’s Play Charity, Electronic Frontier Foundation) and four other game developers (2DBoy, Bit Blot, Cryptic Sea, Frictional Games) to release five games for any price you want.

The games include:

World of Goo


An addicting game where you build bridges of goo, from one point to the next, with a little thing called gravity and physics to stop you along the way.

Aquaria

More of a feminine game in style and setup, so I didn’t play it much, but the graphics are quite nice (you just have to play the game to see) and my girlfriend seems to like it, so I’m happy.

Gish

A really fun side-scrolling game where you run around as a blob of tar, squeezing through tunnels and sliding along the ground on your way to save your human-friend Brea.

Lugaru

Revenge your family’s death as a ravenous bunny out for blood. Features a rag-doll physics engine.

Penumbra: Overture

Yes... the game is that dark. You can adjust the contrast before you start the game.

My favourite game out of the group: A first-person adventure game where you fly to an uninhabited bunker in Greenland and try to dig up clues to your father’s past, while evading rabid animals and dark, underground secrets. Quite addicting and quite scary.

When you pay for your games, you can split it evenly between the developers and charity, all to developers, all to charity or any remix you like.

So far the promotion has raised over $500,000 from 64000+ contributions! Not bad.

There is also a battle going on between the three operating systems and who, on average, pays more for their games. At the time of this writing, the stats are: Windows: $7.05, Mac: $9.75, Linux: $13.81.

The great thing about these games is that, once you happily purchase them (I paid $25 CDN) you get a download link for all five games on all three platforms, and the download link never expires just make sure to back them up as the files will only be hosted for a limited time! That means you can play these games on your Windows, Mac and/or Linux installation without the link expiring!

So if you support indie games, or indie developers that release games that are platform neutral (I’m sure a lot of Linux users are thankful), then make sure to donate some cash for five great games! You can pay via Paypal, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, Amazon.com and Google Checkout.

Happy Gaming!

Tips for Purchasing a Laptop/Notebook for Around $1000 CDN

Background

One of my clients recently had a laptop that completely died. The problem was listed by HP as known for a recall, but she took too long to call it in and now has to spend either $299 CDN to have it fixed by HP or pay for a new laptop. She requested to know information on laptops around $1000 and I figured it would be good information for everyone to know.

I have worked as a computer technician, web developer, sysadmin and designer, am currently studying as a computer scientist undergraduate and have been a computer enthusiast for quite some time, so I may not be a brilliant Intel engineer, but I know a thing or two about computers. So to you brilliant Intel engineers that may be reading this post, please note I am dumbing down this information enough for the general public to digest and is intended for those who are looking for a simple guide to laptops and have a budget of around $1000 CDN.

Online Stores for Purchasing Laptops/Notebooks

I usually shop online for computers because box stores such as Future Shop mark-up their computers quite a bit. Searching around online allows me to compare prices, research individual components and not be pressured by salesman. The only caveat is you have to wait for the laptop to be shipped (or pay for it to be expressed). Also, for example, if it is sent from the US to Canada, you’ll have to pay a customs fee.

Recommended websites to search for laptops:

Canada

USA

(There are of course hundreds of other websites, these are just a few I am experienced with. Feel free to post more in the comments, especially for European, Asian, South American and Oceanic areas.)

Operating System

Ubuntu

I, if anyone knows me or reads my blog, whole-heartedly suggest, but will not force you, to use Ubuntu on your laptop. I have plenty of reasons for loving Ubuntu, but if Windows or a Mac are for you, then so be it.

Windows

If you’re purchasing a laptop with Windows on it, Windows 7 is the newest operating system in the Windows line-up, so make sure it doesn’t have Windows Vista on it. Many refurbished laptops will have Vista as an OS because the retail company has been holding on to the laptop for long enough, without selling it, that it was installed with Windows Vista, which means the laptop is at least 6 months old (at the time of this writing). In the world of technology, 6 months is a long time.

Thus, the computer will be that much more outdated (is it worth $100 off the price?) and you’ll have an older operating system (which means you’ll have to upgrade to Windows 7 for a price).

Apple

If you’re looking to buy an Apple, take a look at Apple.com.

Processor (CPU)

The competition between Intel and AMD, the two major CPU vendors, plays out like the swing of a pendulum. For a couple years AMD will have the best processors, then in couple more years Intel will dominate. As of late, it has been Intel’s turn to release the fastest processors. With their current line of “Core” processors, Intel has outdone AMD in all sorts of benchmarks, especially outdoing themselves and their old Pentium line. The current selling family of processors looks like this (in general, from worst to best):

  • Celeron Dual Core
  • Pentium Dual Core
  • Core (Duo/Quad)
  • Core 2 (Duo/Quad)
  • Core i3/i5/i7

Be careful that the CPU is ‘Core Duo’, ‘Core 2 Duo’ or ‘Core i3/i5/i7′ and not ‘Celeron Dual Core’ or ‘Pentium Dual Core’. Those are lower quality processors that have been slapped together to make it dual core. The quality difference between those and the actual “Core” series is incredible. Personally, I would look for any laptop that says Core i3/i5/i7.

Lastly, you can no longer look at a processor and compare them by their clock speed. A Core i7 running at 1.6 GHz can outperform a Pentium 4 running at 3.6 GHz. Intel and AMD have learned to make processors more efficient at a slower clock rate (those are the 1.6 GHz/3.6 GHz ratings I was talking about).

Memory

In general, memory has gone from SDRAM to DDR, DDR2 and now DDR3. DDR3 RAM offers lower power usage and larger throughput, which means you can run more programs at one time and higher intensity programs at that (games, video editing software, etc.). If you’re choosing a laptop that is Core i3/i5/i7, like I suggested, you’ll be forced to use DDR3 RAM anyway, so my only suggestion is to make sure you have at least 3GB of RAM or more. Anything less and your laptop will crawl with Windows 7 and a couple programs running. With Ubuntu, it should run quite smoothly, but you wouldn’t be getting your money’s worth if you bought a $1000 laptop with only 2GB of RAM.

Hard Drive

The hard drive size is really up to you and is a good area to cut a couple dollars if you’re not going to be storing hundreds of videos. The only suggestion I have is to try and get a laptop that runs at 7200RPM for improved performance. I wouldn’t sweat purchasing a laptop at 5400RPM, however, as most laptop hard drives run at this speed.

Also, out of Hatachi, Seagate and Western Digital, I suggest Western Digital, as I’ve never had a problem with them in the 10 years I’ve used them. The first time I bought a Seagate, I had to send it back because the read head was broken. This is a personal preference and anecdotal evidence at best.

If you want a representation of how fast the CPU and RAM are compared to the hard drive, I will modify an analogy from Gustavo Duarte’s “What Your Computer Does While You Wait” (a good read if you want to learn the internals of the CPU and memory). Don’t worry about what L1 and L2 cache mean, that is just the CPU’s internal memory.

Reading from CPU’s L1 cache is like grabbing a piece of paper from your desk (3 seconds), then CPU’s L2 cache is like picking up a book from a nearby shelf (14 seconds), and main system memory is taking a 4-minute walk down the hall to buy a Twix bar. Waiting for a hard drive, however, is like leaving your office and roaming the Earth for 1 year and 3 months.

That’s why fast hard drives are where you’ll see speed improvements in boot time, fetching files and (so long as you have a good enough CPU and enough RAM) the loading of programs (e.g. the length it takes to open programs like Firefox).

Video Card

Just as with most components listed above, video cards are a hotly debated topic: which is the best for which gaming, video rendering and what is the best CPU/memory/video card combination is, etc. I’m not going to get into that. Instead, all I’m going to tell you is if you’re spending $1000 CDN on a laptop, look for a video card that is dedicated, not integrated. After that, if you want to compare the ATI Radeon HD 5470 and the nVidia GeForce GT 325M, then go ahead. Just make sure not to purchase a laptop with an integrated Intel or VIA video card. nVidia and ATI even make some integrated chipsets, so be careful.

Integrated video cards are not as terrible as I make them out to be, but they share memory from your RAM, thus allowing you use less of that RAM for other applications that might be running and tend to be slower and less responsive than dedicated video cards.

Other Components

Other components you’ll want to look at on your laptop are:

  • Screen size: if you’re older and find it hard to view small screens or like to watch a lot of videos or play games, or even if you’re working and need the real estate, you’ll want no less than a 15″ screen
  • Outputs: Are you going to connect this laptop up to an external monitor or HDTV? Then make sure it has a blue VGA connector or HDMI connector respectively
  • USB 3.0: is an upgrade from the current USB 2.0 specification (that little rectangle plug that may connect your mouse, keyboard, external hard drive, BlackBerry, iPod, GPS device, etc.). USB 3.0 is supposed to be up to 10x faster than USB 2.0 but isn’t that prevalent on the market at the moment. I would suggest, if you can find it, purchasing a laptop with at least one USB 3.0 connector.
  • Optical Drive: If you like to watch movies or burn backups, make sure you know if the laptop has a DVD or Blu-ray burner/player.
  • Lastly, do you want a card reader so you can view your pictures without a USB cord? Do you want to use Bluetooth so you can connect your phone wirelessly to your computer? And what about a webcam?

Conclusion

Look for a laptop with the following features:

  • OS: Windows 7 or Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx)
  • CPU: Core i3/i5/i7
  • RAM: 3GB+ of memory
  • Hard Drive: whatever size you need, but if you can, try and get it at 7200RPM
  • Video Card: dedicated, or anything that isn’t integrated
  • Other: Make sure it has any ports you might need such as USB 3.0, DVD/Blu-ray player, HDMI to hook up your laptop to an HDTV, bluetooth if you like to connect wirelessly via your phone, webcam if you need it, etc.
  • Price: ~$1000 CDN

My New Laptop

I can’t make all these suggestions without actually following them myself. I recently purchased an ASUS K72JR-X1 from NewEgg.ca for $979.99 CDN.

  • OS: Windows 7 (Ubuntu will be install and ran by default)
  • CPU: Core i5 430M @ 2.26GHz
  • RAM: 4GB DDR3
  • Hard Drive: 500GB 7200RPM
  • Video Card: ATI Radeon HD 5470 1GB dedicated
  • Other: 17.3″ (1600×900) screen, VGA and HDMI out, no USB 3.0 ports, DVD-RW

So I missed out on Blu-ray and USB 3.0, but I’m happy with my purchase.

Good luck!

Installing Guest Additions in VirtualBox for an Ubuntu Server Guest

Installing VirtualBox’s “Guest Additions” is not as straight forward as I’d like it to be for an Ubuntu Server Guest but I figured out the solution.

In this tutorial I am using:

  • Host: Windows XP Professional
  • VirtualBox: 3.1.6
  • Guest: Ubuntu Server 10.04 (Lucid Lynx)

So say you have a host with VirtualBox installed (I have Windows XP, you have any version of Windows, Mac, Solaris, Linux, etc.) and have an Ubuntu Server installed as a guest. If you want to install “Guest Additions” for added features (such as seemless mode, copy and paste support, or shared folders in my case), you’re supposed to click Devices > Install Guest Additions... but when I clicked the button, nothing popped up. Why doesn’t anything pop-up? Did it download? Was there an error?

Unbeknown to me, VirtualBox actually downloaded an image called VBoxGuestAdditions.iso, all without telling me. Great,  it’s downloaded, but how do I mount and install it?

First off, let’s grab some libraries we need for Guest Additions to install
sudo apt-get install build-essential linux-headers-`uname -r`
Then mount it
sudo mount /dev/cdrom1 /mnt

Then run the proper executable (make sure you look for the correct one for your machine)
sudo bash /mnt/VBoxLinuxAdditions-x86.run

There will be an error that states the not all features could be installed

Installing the Window System drivers …fail!
(Could not find the X.org or XFree86 Window System.)

But this is okay. VirtualBox’s Guest Additions installs some features that we don’t need on a server (seemless mode, copy and paste, etc.) If you want these features, you’ll have to install 67MB+ of X.Org libraries
sudo apt-get install xserver-xorg xserver-xorg-core

So it’s up to you: GuestAdditions with 67MB+ of X.Org libraries or let these drivers fail and enjoy shared folders.