Yes I said it, I called the people that Twitter twits and yes I know this will,l send a ripple throughout the world, think how truly pathetic that is. Twitter is the latest social rage and it shows no signs of slowing but when you look at the history of social computing you come to realize that Twitter is a de-evolution for mankind.
The concept of Twitter is fairly simple, you post a random thought or event and then everyone that is subscribed or watches your Twit can reply. On the surface this seems kind of cool but the reality is no where near the truth. Twitter is somewhere between blogging, IMing and Facebook. Unlike blogging however the thoughts posted tend to me more superficial and less thought out, IM has a more select group you talk to, your friends and Facebook well okay it makes no sense either but at least it seems to have more depth than Twitter.
I quick search of the net found a ton of websites devoted to this social past time and I found quite a few that asked why people twitter. The biggest reason was the ability to connect to others. Last week we started talking about the Yin and the Yang of the impact of computing on our society and this was addressed.
We have lost the art of making real world contacts. We lock ourselves into our homes or cubicles and at some point the online relationships we forge seem more real that the people in the next room. This can really come home especially in marriages where a recent poll estimates that 10% of all divorces have the internet at some form as the root cause. I found this on Twitter as well where at least 5 I looked out commented that Twitter was great as it allowed couples to speak to each other. One couple used it for arguing so they did not yell at each other, another used it for seduction as they liked to twit dirty, the list goes on.
Another big reason for people to Twitter is what I call the God celebrity complex. To man people someone that is famous has some amazing powerful to say meaningful things whenever they speak. Over the years I have had the opportunity to get to speak with many famous people; Bill Gates, Chris Taylor, Ed Greenwood, Gary Gygax, Leonard Nemoy and the list could go on. HMMM just realized my famous person list is a bit geeky.
The point is however that after speaking to them I realized they are just like you and me. They say some really smart things and some really dumb things. They do not have all the answers or all powerful wisdom. Yet there are people out there that treat them like they do and Twitter has become their church. These “Twits” will flock to the twitter done by a famous person and hang on ever comment or word like it is being spoken by a God.
Interesting thing to note for everyone one that does this, are you SURE that the person doing the Twitter is who you think it is? Twitter can be done in the privacy of a home, office, car, bathroom well you get the idea. We worry about people we chat with not being who they claim but we accept twitter as being who they say they are like gospel.
In the end we are then left with a bunch of people posting quick random thoughts or events in their life for a bunch of people that want human contact or want to feel like they have touched the divine we call famous. See why I use the word Twit?
Now this is not to say that all uses of Twitter are bad but the vast majority is just plain useless. If you have a thought you want to share with the world take the time to formulate the thought, put it into a real form rather than a quick blither of words and post a blog. If you need human contact go to a friends for dinner for the evening, visit with your family or even go to the local pub and meet new people. If you need to touch a hero then quit looking at the fakes in Hollywood and Politics and instead get to know some of the local police officers, firefighters or maybe the kid down the street home from the military on leave. They are real heroes worthy of some attention.
As for Twitter, let the Twits have it, it will last until the next step in de-evolution brings them something even easier requiring less effort and thought.
For a long time to be a serious computer gamer meant spending money, not just a little money either. You had to get the fastest processor and highest end video card to really enjoy gaming. Well at least that was what the industry was shovel feeding the general public for a long time.
Going back many years I recall when the overclocking craze spiked with the Celeron $300, a $120 chip at the time. But there was something else hitting at the time as well, 3dfx introduced a video chip system called the Banshee. This all in one chip solution did 2D and 3D at a greatly reduced price from the cost of the Voodoo line.
I recall getting that card and firing up some Crimson Skies or Star Fleet Command. The game play was butter smooth, the graphics looked great and all of this at a serious budget price. Yet when you went online you saw websites trashing the chip, telling how it was under powered and not worthy of 3dfx. To be a real gamer you HAD to have a $400 CPU and a $300 video card.
Fast forward, today we still see some of the same mentality but it is dying. The death of the elitist approach however is not getting the credit it deserves. AMD with the release of the Phenom called for a move to mainstream and they where laughed at. Well in a global economic crash that laughter has begun to die and we see serious attention being paid to the mainstream experience.
So what constitutes a budget gaming system? In my opinion a system that can be built by a DYIer with a budget of under $1000 that is the entire system. With AMD putting out the Phenom II x3 and looking forward to an X2 version we see solid CPUs with great pricing. Add to this the reduction in pricing of DDR3 as it becomes more common and even having the option of going the DDR2 route to reduce cost and you can see that we have some great options to build on a budget.
However when it comes to building a budget gaming system the part that always seemed to push everything over the top was the GPU. However AMD has been working on that end of the maninstream as well and with the 4770 I think we are seeing the beginnings of the budget gaming nirvana we all seek.
At a $100 price point this card delivers ALL the power a budget gamer could need. It is a perfect with with a 19” wide screen and a great fit for a 22” screen as well.
So this all sounds good but what about down the road when I have to upgrade the card. We all know budget video cards mean more often upgrading. Well this is not really that far from truth, a weak video card that does great now will have issues long before a stronger card that will see the long life. Well AMD promised us a solution to this when we all sat in Tahoe that day and with the 4770 they seem to have finally delivered.
You see all those months ago AMD told us we could scale our performance, buy a second video card to get more performance and even add a third or fourth as we needed. This meant we could buy to just what we needed and add as we needed. Well the 4770 makes that reality. Priced as I said at $100 it is a great value, buying a second though becomes greater than the sum of it’s parts. A 4770 in crossfire has ZERO issues keeping up with cards costing over $200, in other words the second crossfire card offers more performance than the single bigger card at the start.
Now if it was just the CPU and GPUs we where talking about here that would be enough but there is more. Back in the day you needed a gaming case, a case that allowed for super air flow over those hotrod components. Well back then you had to pay at LEAST $100 for a proper gaming case and of course it did not come with a PSU and that was another $150 or more.
Antec took the mainstream challenge and delivered with the Antec Three Hundred. For around $50 you can get a case that allows for EXCELLENT air cooling, has a filter system and great cable management. The case comes stock with really good cooling but has options that allow you to take it up to near the level of it’s daddy the Nine Hundred.
What about the PSU? Well great news here, the newer parts are not just faster at lower cost, they use less power! This means we can get buy with a smaller PSU and reduce costs there as well. Plus those lower wattage PSUs are now higher quality, a win win..
So how budget can we get? Lets see, going to Newegg and spec out a budget system..
- AMD Phenom II X3 720 BE
- Gigabyte 770 AM3 Motherboard
- G.Skill 4 Gig DDR3 1600
- WD Caviar Black 500 Gig HD
- Samsung DVD Burner
- Power Color 4770
- Antec Three Hundred Case
- Antec Earthwatt 500 PSU
- Asus 19” Wide Screen
Then throw in a copy of Vista 64 bit and a good generic keyboard/mouse and a good headset, you come in under $900 and have a gaming system that will deliver a great gaming experience with anything you throw at it. The above mentioned system has a ton of room for growth with the ability to run more RAM, faster processors and adding another video card if needed.
Now look at what we have and realize this is the HIGH end of the budget gaming system I described. We can drop $30 off the CPU, another $30 on the video card. Duck down to DDR2 on the motherboard and RAM and reduce the price further yet STILL deliver a solid gaming machine.
THIS is why I think it is safe to say we are in budget gaming Nirvana now. We have CHOICES that all deliver a solid experience, all stay in our price point and all offer an OPEN upgrade path for the future.
With the gaming industry moving to the MMO model which is less demanding on the hardware, budget gaming hardware that can push much more demanding software and all the while the prices falling, PC gaming is alive and well and about to be reborn.
For the elitists that might point out that there are more powerful options, true but the money saved can be used for some really cool things like a night out with the wife, stocking the wine cooler, buying some new video games, or just putting money away for the next major upgrade.
All in all it is a great time for budget gamers, so break the piggy banks and lets get started..
We have all seen Apples cute ad campaign, Hi I’m and Mac and I’m a PC. Well I AM SICK! Sick of the crap that has gone on in what amounts to false advertising and sick of the way the press has dealt with it. We have political commentators that like to point out how the press is one sided in their arguments and they are as well in their accusations of the press.
The same has sadly taken place with the two ad campaigns run by Apple and Microsoft, well at least the same took place once Microsoft started running it’s ads. You see the computer press pretty much kept it’s mouth shut when the Apple campaign began. Oh there where comments about how cute the ads where, and they are entertaining but no one tried to dispute the ads. Then Microsoft, sick of being a whipping boy for Apple’s propaganda machine started to run ads and suddenly the MS ads are being scrutinized to the extreme.
Lets however take a step back and look at the key points that Apple and Microsoft make in their ad campaigns.
Lets start with what the latest Apple Ad says: Macs have real people support and PCs do not. This is so far from the truth is to be NUTS. I can think of only a handful of towns that do not have small PC stores. This radio show plus others across the country bring you information on using your PC. The reference they are making in the end is about the cookie cutter design which does have the issue of long hold times and the potential of not being able to understand the tech through the accent.
Now lets put this to the test, I called the Apple tech Support line and waited from the answer of the call by the automation until the live person came on to help, 1:20 seconds. That was fast, much faster than the same attempt at HP which was 4:18 seconds or Dell which came in at 19:21 seconds.
But there is a counter to this. I can pick up the phone and call a local company and have a tech on the line instantly in most cases. I can also have the computer at the tech or the tech to the computer quicker than anything Apple or the cookie cutter PCs can offer. So what does this tell us in the end?
Apple is doing a great job of routing their support cues but in the end they are the same as the cookie cutters in that a local tech is still much nicer for support. Not a false ad but certainly a very misleading one.
The next Ad is the one where a girl wants to buy a PC and PC has brought a wide range to meet her needs. This ad is a direct hit at the Microsoft campaign showing that a PC can have the same features as a Mac and cost less money. I found it interesting the the Mac was represented by one while the PC by many as she listed features. This is misleading as Macs have a couple of different models and yes they have smaller screens and slower processors.
I mean she says she wants a large screen and a fast process and you see PCs step away, Apple does a good job of hinting that they all have large screens and fast processors, FALSE. The typical Apple computer has a smaller screen and slower processor that even a much less expensive PC.
Next she ask for a computer that does not crash, have virus or a ton of headaches and you see the PCs leave. Interesting, I have crashed Macs before and I have seen quite a few alerts of late about Mac oriented virus attacks. How about headaches, I guess having a more limited software selection and not having much if any local support does not count? Seriously I have an office PC sitting here that I have not had crash once in over a year of constant use, never caught a virus and no headaches I am aware of.
True the Mac is a more “trouble” free computer typically but this is do to a proprietary design and that limits choices and keeps prices high. I can build a solid triple core PC for a home user and sell it for around $800, ad a monitor and it goes to about a $1000 with a 22”. Now lets look at a similar Mac.
I went to the Mac store online and outfitted a similar specced iMac. Well first I could not choose a triple core and so had to get a dual core instead, not really that big a deal except in this case the triple is actually a faster chip. I had to upgrade the base RAM and HD to match the specs of the system I would build for a client and was forced to settle for a 20” monitor instead of a 22”. As I said the system I built would come in right at $1000 and Mac? $1460
So almost $500 more for no local support a slower and less capable processor and a smaller monitor? Oh please do not forget a pain in the but to upgrade and a real hassle to repair when it needs it.
I am not saying that the Mac is a BAD computer but this ad is clearly providing very misleading information.
I could go on but I think the point is becoming clear, the Apple ad campaign is based on very limited truths, a lot of exaggerations and some outright lies. Now in fairness what about the PC side, the Microsoft ads have never once talked about the anything negative with the Apple except the cost. They have pointed out, rightly so that a similar specced PC is less expensive than an Apple. I proved that to be a complete truth above.
So why is it then that the only press we are hearing about these ads are people disputing the PC ads?
The reason is simple, the Apple ad machine. Much like a political party the Apple ad machine is counting on the consumers not looking deeper than the ads. It plays of the ignorance of the typical home user and throws out neat sounding words and a pretty case to dupe the home user without the proper knowledge into making a purchase. What this boils down to is Apple thinking people are to lazy to do research or to dumb to care about the facts, not exactly a ringing endorsement for how they feel about their customers.
Now again let me be clear, I think Macs are a solid computer. They deliver a good platform and if you know exactly what you are going to do with the PC they are a solid buy. However they lack the broader software selection and options of the PC and come at a heftier price tag. While they may not get the press on their vulnerabilities that the PC gets they are still vulnerable. A PC can be just as safe as a MAC using free AV software and common sense.
In the end do not trust the ads, just like other ads these mislead. Buy based on real knowledge and understanding not on hype and cute scripts.
For those of you that do not know on Friday, May 8th our entire region was plaster with a massive storm that can best be described as an inland hurricane. The devastation was massive and on a large scale. Until now I had always felt sorry for a hurricane but now for the first time I understand.
To date we still do not have power at my home though the office is back on line. I have been on the radio a few times during this event to give tips on protecting you computer system and I thought I would pass them along here.
If your power is currently out leave the computer unplugged. Do NOT just have the power strip turned off you MUST unplug to ensure proper protection of the system. Even once the power comes on do not rush to get on your computer. The line damage done in the area is extensive and it will be a while before the power in the region is stable. With this in mind make sure the power has been up AT LEAST a full hour without any interruption before hooking back up computers.
If you have more than once computer in the home I would only hook up one PC at first, the one you can most afford to lose. Let it run for an hour or so to ensure that the power is stable. The reason for choosing the older computer should be obvious, we do not want to risk our main machine.
If you hook up your PC and are greeted with the blue screen of death DO NOT reboot. Turn off the computer, unplug the system and call a tech. This storm cause some violent power surges and the power coming on will have issues for at least a few more days. This means if your computer is acting up there is a good chance it was damaged. With this in mind by turning off and getting a tech to it quickly there is a better chance we can get your data recovered intact.
The key in all of this is patience. I sure many out there are like me, missing our internet and wanting power back as quickly as possible. It is easy to see the power come on and rush to get back onto our PC. However with a little patience you can ensure that PC survives the storm and will give you a lot more computing enjoyment in the future.
On a side note I wish to post here a HUGE thank you to the brave men and women that have come down to work with Ameren at restoring power to the region. It is amazing watching some of these people as the climb trees and sometimes hang from a rope to get to the position they need to help restore power. We took often associate Ameren with our light bill and forget the terrific people working behind the scenes.
How many cores does it take to get to the center of a smooth running computer? Lets find out ..1…2….3….4…. CRUNCH
That commercial was priceless as a kid, it was something that run through your head and the minute to got a Tootsie Pop you played out the commercial with your friends. In this case though the crunch could be your wallet. With the options available today the confusion of the average computer users can be intense.
Lets begin by clearing one thing out of the gate, if you have a single core processor it is time to get a new computer. Dual core processors are now the standard minimum and that is accepted across the industry. Most software will now take advantage of a second core and if you multitask at all you will not believe the difference. But the real question is do you need more than a dual core.
The last few weeks I had a chance to play with the two most recent releases from AMD, the Athlon X2 7850 and the Phenom II X4 955. With the dual and a quad processor I decided to throw in a triple core and see if the difference really exists. The first stage of the test was to put the processors on even footing so I used an Asus 790FX AM2+ motherboard with DDR2 800 RAM. The only difference in each test was the processor. Next I took the 7850, 955 and an X3 720 for a test drive. I down clocked the 955 to 2.8 Ghz so all the processors where created equal except for the cores.
Firing up the 7850 I was please to find that my computer ran smooth and easily handled my basic uses. I loaded up EVE online and the game play was smooth and fast with frame rates running over 100 FPS. Next I started pushing the processor, while EVE was running I fired up media player and loaded the best of Queen. So far so good, game play stayed smooth. Next I fired up a few instances of IE8 and Ventrilo. The game still played beautiful and all was well.
Now at this point I have pushed the computer about to the limit of the “average” computer user. Most people do not multitask heavily and this I felt was a good show of how hard the processor could be pushed. Yes I did other tests and will say the 7850 delivered like a champ.
However I wanted to see when the extra cores make a difference. Plus the current trend in MMO play is something called dual boxing. This can be two separate computers running different accounts or it can be a single computer running two instances of the same game on different accounts. So using the above setup I opened the second instance of EVE. The game was playable but the frames dropped by around 20%. That’s a pretty good drop but I wanted to push more.
For the final push I used a method that so many of the so called elite talk about and i have yet to see done all that often. I start a video conversion of a 2 hour film to DVD. Sure enough the game play dropped again another 15% and the DVD burn was taking almost twice as long as it would as a stand alone app.
Now lets be fair I could have pushed further but I think the point was made that if the multitasking gets really heavy the dual core begins to bog down.
Next up the X3 720, like the 7850 it was super at base line. In fact with just the average multitask level the 720 performed with no real distinguishable difference from the 7850. Time to kick in the second instance of EVE. This is where the X3 showed itself above the X2 as there was around 2%. That level drop is so low that it means nothing in terms of playability. Okay lets kick it again, throwing in the DVD render and we see the drop in game play climb to 5% and the DVD burn time at about 35% above normal. While that is a pretty good size drop in performance on the render it is significantly less than the dual core suffered.
So lets throw another core at this test and wee what we get. At the base line level the performance is just like the X2 and X3, butter smooth. Throw the second instance of EVE into the mix, the drop in play frame rates is around 1.5%. In other words there was no drop worth mentioning, but wait this is not much better than the X3. Okay lets push it harder.
We throw into the mix the DVD render and we see the game drop climb to 4% and the render take about 25% longer. The gain for the quad came in the form of the DVD render, the other tasks did not take much advantage over that given by the X3.
Thats a lot of info in front of us, what does it all mean?
Well simple breakdown can be found by first looking at the cost.
With these prices in mind lets look at what we have in performance and look at how this applies to a purchasing decision. The average home user is someone that enjoys a few light games, web surfing, looking at family pictures and listening to music. They might watch the occasional movie. For these people it is hard to justify the extra cost in moving to anything above the 7850. It delivers an outstanding computing experience and unless you start pushing really hard can run right with it’s big brothers.
The average gamer however will push a bit harder. Gamers tend to have software that requires more computing power to run, but above that more gamers get involved in some serious multitasking every day. MMOs are the typical style of play for this group and the trend is growing for more than once instance of the game to be run at a time. While the quad in the end was the best multitasker for the average gamer the system will just not be pushed that hard, with this in mind the 720 is a much better utilization of fund for benefit.
Does this leave the 955 out in the dark, of course not. The chip is a serious performer with a ton of multitasking headroom. Plus in this test we actually toned down the 955 in terms of clock speed from it’s normal 3.2 Ghz speed to 2.8 Ghz. This means the price reflects not just an extra core but also more speed. However best on the computing experiences offered the 955 is best suited for the extreme computer user. One that plays really intense games and multitasks heavily.
Now as I said the two newest processors introduced are the 7850 and the 955, so how do they stack up? Well they are both great chips and deliver on the promise of a great computing experience. However they have stiff competition and no I do not mean the “I” company. The competition suffered but these two chips is from AMD, the X3 720.
The 720 delivers a computing experience that rivals that of the 955 for $100 less money and multitasking that passes that 7850 by a pretty good margin. At this price point it is hard to recommend either of the other two chips over the 720. Now I do not want this to however take away from the other two chips. If you have a really tight budget and ever dollar counts then the 7850 will deliver a great computing experience. By the same token if the dollars do not need to be watched and you want the top of the AMD line, the 955 gives you the joy of full quad core power.
However in the end I must stand by a position I have held since first seeing the 720 and even as far back as the 8750. The X3 line is the real king of the Phenoms. You get nearly the same experience as the quad cores, better mutlitasking than the dual and all at a super price. The current king of the AMD line is the Phenom II 720 but it has a solid supporting cast around it.
How many cores does it take to get to the middle of a great cost effective computer build, one…..two….THREE!! THREE!
You know I have been working with computers for a long time, a LONG TIME! Yet I am amazed that in some ways I am so slow to adapt. Yes believe it or not I, like so many of you can be slow when some changes come around.
While I have been a computer gamer longer than there has been computer gaming, seriously, I was very hesitant when the new form of computer gaming, the MMO was introduced. As an old school pen and paper RPer I thought these game an abomination and avoided them like the plague. Then one day I had a friend convince me to give EVE online a try. After all it was starships and space trading plus combat, what was not to like. Reluctantly, like a kid being asked to try a new, green food, I took a bite. It must have been like the old Mikey commercial because I was enthralled immediately and have not stopped since. In fact I have moved from my previous position of MMOs and today feel they are the future of computer gaming.
Of course there is also cell phones. When they first came out I hated the thought and instead used a pager. After a bit I finally broke down and got a cell phone but only the cheapies, I wanted a phone not a mini computer. That was however until I finally broke under pressure and got a smart phone. Now I do not know how I can live without this little gadget that lets me keep my calendar with me, works to give me high speed if needed and allows easy texting and pictures. Oh god those two are a whole blog post alone.
These and so many more items show that I am like many people and will sometimes resist change. Which brings us to now. I mean I do a radio show on computers, I own a business that does computer work. You would think I would have a web presence, I mean I even do a few web sites for other people. Yet I resisted, I consider building a website but to be honest my life was way to busy to do it justice. I looked at blogging for for a long time I have been adverse to this form of communication because, well quite frankly there are way to many garbage ones out there and I was concerned mine would get lost in the trash.
However a few good friends have been nudging me this way and another friend chimed in today so here I am blogging.
This blog will be used to bring up topics about the computing hobby that many places do not want to touch. I will also be sure and post an update every Monday covering what we talked about on the show on Sunday.
Now if you are going to be coming here hoping to find a million benchmarks and a lot of talk about the latest in uber high computing or over clocking, then you are at the wrong place. I am an every day simple man computer nut. I will be focusing on how you can get the best experience from your money. Also do not come here looking for me to bash stuff, I have a simple philosophy, do not shine the light on the crap and no one will notice it. If I am talking about a product it is because I liked something about it and felt it deserved some press.
So I hope you will enjoy the posts to come, over the next few days I will likely post a lot as I have a lot of material to catch up on so hang on for the ride. When it slows down do not worry, it might not be the same pace but it will be the same effort.