Sapphire AMD Radeon HD 6850

Until about a month ago, I had been out of the gaming loop since about 2006.  I never got an X-Box 360, Playstation 3, or Nintendo Wii.  But as Deus Ex 3 was released last summer, I could not resist getting a new computer and upgrading it.  For me, Deus Ex: Human Revolution was the killer app that led me down the path to purchasing a new GPU, a new power supply and a memory upgrade.  After deliberating for a few weeks, I decided on the AMD Radeon HD 6850, Sapphire.  Now I’m playing Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on the highest setting no problem.

Compared to other similar cards, the Sapphire was easy to install.  I had previously purchased a Diamond AMD Radeon 5870, which was nearly impossible to install; I returned it after AMD’s website recommenders calculated the optimal GPU for my purposes.  The only thing that came in handy from the Diamond was a command code from their manual that directly displays the menu containing utilities to disable an onboard GPU.

The computer is now maxed out to its memory capacity, as well as how far I’m willing to take it with a new GPU.  Next step after Ivy Bridge comes out is to upgrade the CPU, which is apparently easier now.  I’m liking Hewlett-Packard still thankfully.  The Pavilion p7-1155  is turning out to be exactly what I’ve been missing for several years now.  My setup now also satisfies my gaming interests.  Steam is awesome.  I remember when it was more for a security check.

So I skipped from Half Life 2 to Deus Ex 3.  What did I miss in those 5 years?  I got Team Fortress 2, and Portal, both of which are OK.  I think TF2 may be slightly overrated, but it has been a while since I’ve done online multiplayer, and I am a bit rusty, so maybe it’s just the fact that I get fragged almost instantly that annoys me.

So far, I’ve been able to turn everything up to highest graphic settings and have suffered no really noticeable lag.  It’s unfortunate that in order to play video games on Pc you have to spend almost the equivalent of a new console system just to play the software the way it was meant to be played.  It makes me wonder what the newer integrated graphics processors will be like in Ivy Bridge.  From what I’ve heard, Intel and other chip makers are moving more towards integrated GPU’s that would effectively make these big clunkers obsolete.

Ivy Bridge integrated GPU’s are supposed to be some ridiculous percentage faster that current integrated GPU’s.  The one that comes standard in the p7-1155 ran Deus Ex: Human Revolution on minimum settings fairly well, which surprised me, so I give it 2-3 more years for these separate huge GPU units.

iPad 3, WordPress App, and doubleTwist

Today I was at work, flying through data and sorting things out for my boss, but also enjoying some interesting podcasts I found in a gallery on doubleTwist, which is turning out to be worth the download.

As a media organizer, it fares well, but the podcast gallery and internet radio features impress me more.  I ended up listening to a technology show called the Tech Bloch Podcast, which aired last week.  It was in part about ad network detection and data mining, marketing ethics, and part about Google Glasses, which are due out later this year.

Google glasses are basically a smartphone in the form of sunglasses with displays in the lenses.  The show’s hosts went in depth into some of the moral grey areas that might be explored with Google Glasses.  For example, you see someone you’ve met through the lenses and you see frames appear that show the person’s biographical information and pictures of them from Facebook.  Will you ever really need to remember anyone’s name again?

All is moving towards augmented reality.

Towards the end of the show, the hosts briefly discussed a rumor that the iPad 3, which comes out March 7th, will include a retina display.

All in all, over the past week, the biggest surprise is how much I like the WordPress app.  It is stable, and although the interface is simplified, it remains versatile.  Stability is key for me.  Some of the more mainstream companies seem to produce second-rate apps, but I won’t name names.

Overall, 2012 remains an exciting time for advancements in science and technology, if not the most exciting time.

(In less than 20 years the amount of computing power required to replicate thought processes in the human brain will be available for use in research.)

Lookout Labs Ad Network Detector Findings

Slacker is the most invasive app I have on my phone, using multiple ad networks.  It also has a feature that makes it impossible to uninstall.  It behaves like malware.

I deleted these apps after running Ad Network Detector:

Words With Friends
BBC News
Drag Racing

plus others

Google My Tracks on Android

Aaron River Reservoir

This Presidents Day I decided to try out Google My Tracks, the App that tracks and records your movements.  I grabbed my trusty 15 speed mountain bike, put it on the car, and headed over to a local bike path.

It took me a second, realizing I had to press the “::” button on the actual phone on the lower right face to access the menu that allows you to press the “o” record button.  (I can see this being useful so that you don’t accidentally swipe the screen as you slide it into your pocket.)  I hit record and shuttled off.

While I was making the rounds on the extensive network of bike paths, I received a phone call that I missed, then I stopped and took some pictures and a video.  After trying to get back into the My Tracks app, it crashed.

Later, to my surprise and delight, after my phone booted up again, I realized that the My Tracks icon came back.  Sure enough, it didn’t lose the previous saved track info.  It just picked up where it left off, which was nice.

After I got back, I sent myself the track file and a picture of the map (through Google Docs I believe), and sure enough it came through:

Google My Tracks Tracks

The cool thing about this app is that it basically replaces trail maps and encourages more trailblazing, as you can easily see where you’ve been and where you want to go.  It makes me want to head back next time I have some free time and fill in the rest of the trail map through My Tracks.

There are other things that this app does that I have yet to discover.  If you want to get technical with your distances covered and top speeds achieved, the app displays a chart once the track file is completed.  The chart shows total distance, max speed, total time, average speed, moving time, average moving speed, elevation, elevation gain, min elevation, max elevation, min grade, max grade, latitude, and longitude.  The app also generates an X Y graph plotting speed over elevation, so you can see, when riding a bike, that the graph dips into a trough in elevation when the speed peaks and vice versa.

Physics teachers should be very excited about this app.  They could make their own advanced world problems using data they collected themselves, or create graphs demonstrating basic proofs.  I wish I had this app to explore when I was taking physics.

Overall, I am pleased with the Google My Tracks app, and I look forward to using it more.  Lots of stuff to do with this one.

Android Dolphin Browser HD and Add-ons #DolphinBrowser

Android Dolphin Browser

Dolphin Browser

As far as smartphone browsers go, Mobotap’s Dolphin Browser seems to win on Android.  It offers numerous improvements over the standard default browser.  The most immediately noticable difference is the slide across bookmark menu that appears when you swipe to the right from the left edge of the screen.

From here, you can reach saved websites, and also the “Quick acces” sub menu, where you can find a direct link to Dolphin add-ons offered through the Android market.

The battery saver add-on claims that it quadrupled browsing time available from around 4.5 hours to 22.  It would be a near miracle if it turns out to be that much of an improvement.

The battery saver add-on is helpful in more ways than obvious.  In addition to extending battery life times 4, it inserts a handy icon on the tool bar that displays a battery graphic showing remaining battery life.  After seeing that displayed I was surprised that the battery-saver app “Easy Battery Saver” I dowloaded didn’t already do that.  A welcomed improvement.

The battery saver Dolphin Browser add-on also has a feature that allows you to optimize alloted memory.  It’s handy, as I found the previous app I used to free memory was of poor quality and often crashed.

Lastly, who can forget the tabs?  Having tabs is always a more logical way to use a browser.

Overall Dolphin Browser is winning.

Android Twitter App Behaving Erratically

A few minutes ago I was looking forward to tweeting something poignant about having fond memories of playing old games on the 486 when I was a little kid; Ecosuarus, Monkey Island, Doom are among the titles, hell I was even going to mention how great Egghead Software used to be- but wait, no, the Twitter app for Android’s “tweet” button displays faded text, the button disabled?!  I can’t send this useless yet true memory to the interweb?  Why oh why?  The whole Twitter app, everything ok but the button that allows you to Tweet?  What am I missing here?  How annoying.

Internet Explorer 9

Internet Explorer 9

This will probably be the first of several articles about Internet Explorer 9, Microsoft’s latest web browser, as I learn more about it.  I give it 4 out of 5 stars so far, mainly because it’s fast, but that could and probably will change sadly, as software gets more advanced and my hardware remains the same.  Internet Explorer 8 for XP deserves 3 or 2 stars out of 5, but then again, I’ve been a Firefox person for the last 6 or 7 years.  Until now.

So far, it seems that Microsoft’s answer to Mozilla’s very customizable Firefox browser is the Accelerator, introduced in Internet Explorer 8.  Windows 7 has a feature where if you mouse over an object without clicking, information about the target is displayed.  Accelerators appear if you highlight text and mouse over it.  You can download accelerators for Internet Explorer that are add-ons for the browser.

One thing I noticed initially is that a spell checker was missing from IE 9, so I downloaded a spell-checking add-on called Speckie, which I will review at a later time, but so far it seems to do what it’s supposed to do, as I currently see a wavy red line under “Speckie,” which is kind of ironic; you would think that the spell checking add-on would recognize its own name.

The most noticeable aspect of IE 9 is the simplification of the browser.  Besides a URL, and tabs, there are no other bars visible at the top of the window, however, right-clicking above the URL opens an options box to view various bars, including the menu bar, if you miss seeing File Edit View Favorites Tools Help.  It’s nice to have less things to look at, less distractions from the actual web content.

Internet Explorer 9 is very flexible, and offers users a completely new experience, or a traditional one, depending on what the user wishes.  Accelerators are a new exciting feature, and visually, IE 9 wins in a contest with Firefox IMO.  More to come.