Posts Tagged ‘gaming’

Top-tips: Netbooks

September 14, 2011

The hype surrounding the iPad would lead you to believe it had single-handedly killed off the humble netbook, but it seems the plucky little underdog has fought back. There’s still plenty of demand for netbooks and for good reason: they don’t lock you into a walled-garden operating system, are far easier to type on and have bucket-loads more apps available (you know, software).

Granted, they’re not as sexy as the iPad but that’s beginning to change thanks to some slick models from Samsung, Asus and other manufacturers. The introduction of Intel’s dual core Atom processor also gives them greater processing power than their reputation suggests. But above all else they’re far more customisable, allowing you tweak performance, preferences and programmes any way you like. With that in mind, here are Skywrite’s top tips for those sitting on the netbook side of the divide:

1) Increase your RAM

This is without question the most important tip to improve your netbook’s performance. Microsoft insists that manufacturers cannot qualify for the cut-price Windows 7 Starter operating system when shipping products with more than 1GB of RAM. This helps to keep the price down but isn’t ideal for performance.

Fortunately, 2GB of RAM is cheap as chips these days and very easy to install yourself. However, a word of warning before you pick up the screwdriver: You risk voiding your warranty unless you get a certified technician to do it for you. Several PC retailers offer this service for about £30 but may also require you purchase the RAM from them, which is typically more expensive. The swines.

2) Cut-out the iTunes fat

iTunes is a massive hog on computing resources. Whether you’re using a netbook, laptop or desktop, it can have a noticeable impact on how smoothly it runs. Fortunately, Ed Bott over at ZD Net has written a comprehensive unofficial guide to cutting out the bloated and unnecessary software Apple bundles into iTunes.

3) Get cloud-based antivirus software

Uninstall whichever trial antivirus programme your netbook comes pre-installed with and move to a cloud-based alternative. By shifting much of the antivirus programme’s grunt work into the cloud, scanning files on a remote server instead of using your machine’s processing power, it will free-up resources substantially whilst automatically updating its database of threats. There are several options out there from the usual antivirus powerhouses but perhaps the best freeware version comes from Panda Cloud.

4) Sort out your start-ups

One of the impressive features of the iPad is that it takes mere seconds to switch on and get going, a process that can become frustrating to the most placid of PC users. You might not be able to achieve iPad-like boot times, but editing which programmes start-up automatically when your netbook powers-up can keep it reasonably sharp. To do this, just click ‘Start’ on your Windows menu, then ‘Run’, now enter ‘Msconfig’ into the dialog box and hit the Enter key. Select the ‘Startup’ tab and uncheck the programmes you don’t want to run automatically. Some have ambiguous names and descriptions, so if you want to ensure you don’t accidentally turn off your antivirus software then check out this database for clarification.

5) Get your game on

Being unable to play games on your netbook is a myth. You can comfortably play a range of less graphic-intensive games and practically any classic or retro game. Fear not, as the latest incarnation of the Football Manager series will run just fine, though you may want to switch off the 3D match generator. “But there’s no optical drive on a netbook” I hear you cry? Not a problem with digital distribution services such as Steam for modern games or for the classics.

Being unable to play 3D games on a netbook is also a myth. The integrated graphics card won’t stand a chance with Modern Warfare 2 but that doesn’t matter with cloud-based gaming service OnLive, which can run the most advanced games on its own servers and relay your commands back to you in real-time. Browser games have also come on leaps and bounds in recent years and offer 3D games for free – check out Battlestar Galactica Online from our client Bigpoint for example.

6) Personalise Windows 7 Starter

Windows 7 Starter Edition keeps your netbook cheap (yay) but it also has some limited features (boo). One of which is the bizarre decision to not allow netbook users to change their wallpaper or other standard settings. However, because Windows isn’t a completely closed platform you can quickly fix this by installing Starter Background Changer.

Why game?

August 21, 2009
Recent research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that gamers are less healthy, fatter, and more depressed than non-gamers. CDC’s Dr James Weaver told the BBC: “Video game players also reported lower extraversion, consistent with research on adolescents that linked video-game playing to a sedentary lifestyle and overweight status.”
Could he be a gamer?

Could this adonis be a gamer?

Not really surprising when you consider that they spend most of their free time sitting in front of a computer screen, eating high fat, refined foods and taking less exercise than a narcoleptic sloth with a nasty case of glandular fever. Despite recent attempts to make gaming more healthy, it remains a very passive pass-time.

So why do it? Well, let’s face it, in our daily lives we just don’t get to stomp around in big-stompy-robots, blowing up other big-stompy-robots.

Not as much as we would like anyway.


Let’s face it, gaming is good for you

April 1, 2009


We can pretty much guarentee that this wont happen to you...

We can pretty much guarantee that this won't happen to you...


It’s probably safe to say that if you’ve seen any gaming stories in the news recently it was a negative report. Games are reputed to be addictive, bad for your love-life, make you fat and, even more tenuously, groom children to become homicidal maniacs.

We’ve already covered how gaming is helping everyone lose weight through new platforms like the Wii Fit,  but it turns out that it can have many other beneficial effects. Here are just two…

It used to be said that sitting too close to TV and computer screens would give you “square eyes” (we can only guess how many children were permanently scarred by that one) but it turns out that regular gaming actually improves your vision and hand-eye coordination. Recent research has shown that gamers were better at spotting important information in busy, confusing scenes. Gaming can even restore stereo vision in people suffering from lazy-eye syndrome.

Problem-solving and coordinated team-based gaming has also been shown to increase the IQ of players, while they can also educate children about literature, history, art and music. According to a Cornell study, games have been shown to help children combat ADHD and increase concentration levels. Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad is Good for You, has even claimed that video games are the future of learning…

Is there nothing gaming can’t do?

New gaming technology provides ‘sensory reality’

August 15, 2008

Over the past ten years, games designers have struggled to create greater realism in their virtual worlds. Now that the visual aspect of games is approaching  photo-realism, designers are looking to push back other boundaries through entirely new technologies.


I have already talked about computer mind-control systems, but another emerging area of innovation is sensory reality.


One system, designed by Hirouki Kajimoto and Kanako Matsuo, involves gamers wearing specially designed arm, leg or chest pads. The pads can create a wide variety of sensations through tiny brushes embedded within them – from insects crawling over your arms to stab wounds. And this technology is not years away – it works now and will be commercial very soon.


With this technology, opponents in virtual worlds may soon be able to “hurt” you, and it is bound to drastically change how we play games.


It certainly brings the illusive ideal of immersive virtual reality one step closer.


How long can it be before the big games publishers, like EA and Activision, lock on to these technologies as their next selling-point?


Computers are going mental…

June 13, 2008



Researchers at Emotiv have finally developed a brainwave-reading headset. They don’t even need batteries – currently being powered by either body heat or sunlight.

This gadget was already making news at 2007’s Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco.

But they also have another interesting application. Whilst able-bodied people may find this to be an entertaining gimmick for the moment, for heavily disabled people it can provide a new sense of freedom, allowing them to move around in and explore a virtual world. The same technology is also now being used to treat phantom limb syndrome.

This technology used to come at the cost of a rather dangerous operation that would remove part of the skull and insert a sensor to monitor brainwaves. Unfortunately, it also carried the very real risk of leaving the patient in a permanent vegetative state.

Now that the technology is non-intrusive (and has even been designed to look like headphones so you don’t stand out in a crowd) it may actually take off.


It’s almost certain to catch on better than the US military’s multi-million dollar “robotic pack mule”.


Consumers win on digital music, so why are the other entertainment industries so behind?

May 22, 2008

The FT today reported how the value of music downloads and broadcasts has overtaken that of CD sales. For the music industry, this is no surprise. Over the past few years we have witnessed a huge step change in music “going digital” with big name bands snubbing their record labels and iPods becoming as prolific as slugs in a newly planted veg patch.

Meanwhile, the other media industries, particularly film and games, are sticking to their physical product roots and worrying about illegal downloads, ignoring the lessons that a heal-dragging attitude is fast teaching the music industry. From our side of the fence, we’ve seen a growth in young companies that are legitimate digital content retailers. Some have media players embedded within them, some monetise peer to peer sharing (P2P) and others are mobile. What they all have in common is incredibly tight Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection.

The speed at which the media and entertainment industries are willing to respond to consumer demand for digital is tiresome. We’ve been talking about the issues and barriers through our PR efforts for years now. With the proof of digital demand from the MCPS-PRS Alliance and extra pressure from this year’s explosion in green interest, with people realising that no physical products means no plastic packaging, will we see the fruition of a true digital revolution before the next decade?

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