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11.18.2011

Fix for AlienWare M11x display dimming and not returning to full brightness

 

I noticed this problem on my M11xR1 and have heard of other Alienware owners having the same problem.  Your display goes dim when the laptop sleeps or is idle, then when you touch the trackpad or keys, it doesn’t go back to full brightness unless you use the brightness function keys.   Here is how you fix it.

Launch the Alienware Command Center application.

Start menu_2011-11-16_09-47-20

Click on Alien Fusion.  (these are the Alienware custom power management profiles)

Greenshot_2011-11-16_09-50-12

 

Find the Power Plan you are currently using and click “Quick Settings”.

Greenshot_2011-11-16_09-52-05

 

Under the Quick Settings turn “Auto Dim” to “Off”.

Greenshot_2011-11-16_09-52-32

If you still want your display to go off after a set period of time, you can set that up under Windows Power Management instead of in the Alienware Command Center.

11.16.2011

How to sync Skyrim save games across 2 computers


Skyrim doesn’t support Steam Cloud sync of save games.
Dropbox doesn’t support syncing multiple folders.  You can try to make symbolic links work to get your Skyrim saves working via Dropbox, but I think I found a better solution. I'm using Windows Live Mesh to handle the Dropbox-like duties.  This has the added benefit of not eating up your Dropbox user quota.

Here is my method.  I tested it tonight and it's working great so far.

Sign up for a Windows Live account.  You probably already have one.
Install Windows Live Mesh: http://explore.live.com/windows-live-mesh
Sign into Live Mesh
Set up a new Sync Folder
Greenshot_2011-11-16_15-46-24

You want to sync C:\Users\YourUsername\Documents\My Games\Skyrim\Saves\
Greenshot_2011-11-16_15-47-06

Set the folder to sync your save files to SkyDrive storage.

Greenshot_2011-11-16_15-47-35

Now go install Live Mesh on the other computer and sign in.
Your synced folder should already show up there, you just need to click on it and enable sync to the second machine.  It will ask where to put the files.  You will need to show it the save folder on the second machine. 
Now it should look like this on both machines.Greenshot_2011-11-16_17-07-40




11.09.2011

Cyborg R.A.T. 7 Review


Several months ago I tried upgrading from my trusty Logitech MX-518 to a Razer Imperator mouse.  I like the feel of the Razer, but it just wasn't the same as the 518, and I didn't feel the Imperiator at $100 was really that much better than the 518 (or it's replacement the G500) at around $50.  I ended up taking the Razer back and sticking with the Logitech.

I was still considering a move up from the Logitech. While looking at some of the options I remembered that I had had played with a Cyborg R.A.T. 9 during PAX East 2011. I kind of liked the concept, but didn't really have time during a crowded booth demo to really get a feel for all the adjustments on the mouse.  Last weekend I bit the bullet and got myself a R.A.T. 7.

Form




The R.A.T. mice come in several models from 3-9, the numbers of buttons and adjustments available increase with the higher models.  I picked the 7, because I really don't need the wireless capability of the 9,
and I really don't use much more than 3-5 buttons.  

The RAT7 has a good feel in your hand.  It's weighty, but not too heavy if you remove the extra weights. I think the best way to summarize this whole mouse is that it feels solid. The glides on the bottom are very nice, so even though it may be a medium to heavy mouse, it slides across the desk like it's been buttered.  

The mouse has a braided very flexible and very long cable.  No issues there.  The front two buttons have the low wide profile you see on most gaming mice.  They are very quick, responsive, and a little clicky.

The RAT7 looks scary at first, but I urge you before you judge by it's robotic look, put your hand on it.  It just feels great. The plastic has a silky finish, almost like suede.  The open areas are all spots where your hand doesn't touch, so while they look weird, they don't affect the feel of the mouse on your palm.  

Customization  
The RAT may feel a little odd the first time you play with it, but you have to start customizing it to really get it just how you like it.  The RAT7 ships with 3 palm rests, a tall and short normal rest, and a short rest with a textured top.  



The palm rest clips to a sliding rail.  You can squeeze a small trigger on the side to adjust it forward or back to fit your hand.  


The RA7 includes 3 pinkie rests, one that features a guard/glide to keep your finger off the desk, and two normal shaped ones (one smooth, one textured).  These are removable using an allen wrench tool that is stored in the back of the mouse. 
 


 You can also adjust the thumb buttons section of the mouse forward or backward using this tool so that the sniper and thumb buttons are always comfortable.  If you don't like the weight of the mouse, you can add or remove weights from a small canister stored in the core of the mouse. 




Sensitivity
The RAT is a laser mouse with very high DPI.  You can argue which mouse has the highest DPI, but there isn't much point in that. Most players tune it somewhere between high and medium and leave it there.  The RAT has a sensitivity toggle behind the wheel.  There are small LED's built into the ridge near the left button to show you the current setting.  If you want to tune the settings, you can change them in the software to different thresholds.  In the software you can also download or design game profiles. Once saved you can toggle profiles using a button up near the left button.
There is a handy red sniper button under your thumbtip.  Holding this button reduces your set DPI by a percentage to allow find adjustments while precision shooting.  I set mine to drop my DPI to 25% of it's normal setting.  I've been using this feature in Monday Night Combat to adjust my aim using the Gunner's deployed mode.  

So far I'm loving this mouse, like the feel, like the features.  The software is easy to use, and the mouse will work fine w/o it.  The accessories are nice.  I only have 2 gripes thus far.
1.  I sometimes feel like the mouse is tipsy from front to back.  When I put weight on the palm rest, sometimes I feel like I'm tipping the front of the mouse up.  I'm going to experiment with the weights and how far back the rest is sitting and see if that helps.  It may just be I'm not used to it yet.  
2.  I wish it came with a little travel case or bag.  I love this mouse and  wish it had a little tin or something to carry it in my laptop bag.  The box for the accessories is nice, maybe they should include space in there for the mouse too.



11.03.2011

Gaming on a Budget–Time Travel Gaming

I find one of the key benefits of PC gaming is how quickly AAA titles drop in price once something new is released.  To a certain degree the same is true of computer hardware.  PC gaming can be incredibly expensive if you are obsessed with having the latest cutting edge graphics card and multicore CPU.  If you’re willing to give up a few of the bells and whistles, you can be a PC gamer on a shoestring budget.

PC’s are out of date as soon as you buy them.  Cutting edge commands a hefty price tag.  When I build my PC’s I try to build using the thing that was last year’s mainstream to top-end part.  For example, my current gaming PC is built on a socket 775 Core 2 Quad CPU.  It was originally built on a Core 2 Duo.  Since the 2nd generation of i7’s are out now, I was able to scoop up a chip that was  $500 for around $75 used.  I can still play the latest titles and I didn’t have to drop a grand on new CPU’s, motherboards, GPU’s.  When I pick out a video card, I check Tom’s Hardware’s monthly video card round up and shoot for something around $150.  I upgrade maybe once every year or year and a half.  I can’t run the latest titles will all the settings on high, but I can usually run high detail with a few things turned down.  (Running on a smaller monitor will also let you get more performance from a medium grade video card)

Game publishers on PC have to support a broad amount of hardware.  They write games to be backwards compatible with crappy office computers and out of date video cards, and they have to support future video cards that aren’t even on the market yet.  This means if you buy a top tier game, and you’re running last year’s high end CPU/GPU, chances are you’re going to be able to get good performance. 

Now think about games like Crysis.  When it came out, it has video modes that wouldn’t even run on current graphics hardware.  They were planning ahead.  Now it’s been out for years, and you can run it on most laptop integrated graphics.  This is the key.  Your computer, built on last year’s top-end hardware (which you scooped up at bargain price), is way more powerful than the computers that were out 1 or 2 years ago.  So it’s time to go shopping for great games from a few years back.  They’re still going to look good, and your “medium” video card should be able to run them with all the settings cranked up. 

So, the core idea here is that game developers are cranking out more games than you will ever be able to play through.  Even if you buy some of the great releases when they’re new, chances are you missed out on a ton of good games too.  Since PC games drop in value really fast, you can now scoop up all the games you missed on the cheap. 

I tend to run out and grab a few hot titles each year when they launch, but I live for games that are on sale on Steam or Amazon.  Bioshock was a huge favorite of mine, and I got it for $10 on a weekend steam sale months after it was released. 

Try to keep a list of games, things friends recommend, ones you wish you could buy, but they’re too expensive.  Keep this list. Go back to it from time to time and check prices.  Steam has a wishlist feature for this.  Watch Steam daily sales.  Join a site like Goozex or GameTZ and trade for the games you want.  Just remember to be looking for games that are 6 months to a year old to find the best deals.  I try to watch store shelves and endcaps for deals on games for $5-10.  I scoop those games up and keep a backlog on my bookshelf, when I get bored, I pull one of those games out.  Generally I’m just trying to live a year out of sync with the rest of the gaming world.  (bonus, all the patches are released by then)

Here is a handy link to games on Steam that are under $10 and have a Metascore of 90 or more.  http://store.steampowered.com/search/?price=0%2C10&metascore=90&snr=1_7_7_230_152

11.01.2011

Runnur Tech Strap Review

I helped write a guest review over at Restless Tech for the Runnur Tech Strap.

It's one of those skinny ultralight backpack straps.   I put it through the amusement park vacation torture test and really liked it.  It does everything you need from a fanny pack, without making you feel quite as lame.
I used it to haul my ID, cards, cash, keys, phone, P&S camera, and a water bottle.  It was really handy when you need to be mobile, in a crowd, and have your hands free for wrangling kids.  It's not the most fashionable accessory, but it keeps you cool, and isn't weirder looking than a messenger bag or backpack, but it's way lighter.


Super MNC Beta

Yesterday Uber Entertainment posted a link for registration to the Beta of Super MNC on their Twitter:

Uber Entertainment
Super Halloween from Uber Entertainment. Super MNC Beta signups are here! http://www.supermnc.com/beta/