The Future of Steam

As many of you know, I am addicted to Steam. I spend far too much money because of it, I spend to much time logged in, and I infect all my friends’ computers with Steam installations. But Steam is getting even better! (They should be paying me for this.)
Recently, Valve released the Steam Community, which makes Steam much more effective when trying to stay in contact with your friends. It also allows users to join multiplayer games with friends, keep up with what everyone has been playing, and even chat WITHIN games! Outside of the community, Steam has been growing rapidly, with mega-publishers like Ubisoft and TakeTwo jumping on board and adding their massive game libraries.

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Steam grows its user base 191% year over year – if there was ever a company I wish would go public it would be Valve (as it is, Valve is privately owned by it’s founders). Soon, Steam will release the Steam Cloud, which will save all your save games and settings for Valve games (hopefully other games will follow suit) on the internet, making it possible to recover or transmit from any location all your saved game data. At some point, Valve plans on adding an in-game movie capture system which will be instantly shareable over your entire Steam account or personal blog. *wink wink* In the future, Valve has also considered adding games based around the primarily Asian micro-transaction system, where the game is free to play, but it costs a small amount of money to buy things like customizable armor and weapons. Also, Steam will soon open up in the Russian market, which contains over 17 million PCs capable of running Steam.

Piracy is fairly rampant in Russia, but it is partly because many games are never released there. Russian gamers understand English, and are willing pay to play hyped titles from the US and other countries, they just have no honest way to do so. Steam will do to Games what services like iTunes, Zune Store, and eMusic have done for Music, Movies, and TV Shows. People rarely WANT to hurt music/movie/game developers, and given opportunity and convenience, they will purchase games/music/movies legally.

Some corporations and individuals still claim PC gaming is dying. Apparently they keep forgetting that World of Warcraft pulls in $120 million dollars a month. And, to quote IGN’s Charles Onyett, “Steam boasts 15 million registered users, 1.25 million peak concurrent users, a 191-percent growth year over year, and is available worldwide in 21 languages. It certainly seems like it’s been a success so far.”

Technological Leftovers

Finally! I went to BestBuy today, and I didn’t see a SINGLE FX series Nvidia graphics card. Why is that significant, you ask? BestBuy, OfficeMax, OfficeDepot, and Staples have been selling FX series Nvidia cards for several years, even though the FX series is almost SIX YEARS OLD! SIX. YEARS. OLD.
Do they even understand that the slot those cards fit into (AGP) has been discontinued for over a year? Do they understand that even considering that fact, there are the far superior 6 AND 7 series cards capable of fitting in these old slots? I am glad they finally stopped stocking them, but they should stop stocking the 6 series as well. Those are almost 4 years old, and yet they charge almost 100 dollars for them–for the lowest end model–which you can’t even buy online because they are so old. Holy Hell, Nvidia is currently selling their 9000 series cards, and are just about to release their NEXT generation in less than a month!

The worst part is that the average consumer has NO idea that the ANCIENT hardware they are being sold at OfficeMax is ANCIENT and extremely overpriced! All the boxes are marked with ‘timeless slogans’ like ‘Next Generation” or “SUPER POWERED PERFORMANCE” so how are they supposed to know that it is so old it can only run one YouTube video?

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State of the Art Hardware. On Sale at Office Max for only $2000!

If BestBuy were still charging 100 bucks for a cassette tape walkman, would people be outraged? The only reason these stores can pull this crap is because people are uninformed and they know they’ll probably never be informed unless they are nerds like me. Bastards!

*sigh* Ok, so BestBuy down, Staples, OfficeMax, and OfficeDepot to go.

1:55

Late post tonight, even later for those of you East of Las Vegas. I’ve got three very random thoughts for today.
1. I just finished watching the third episode of “John Adams” on HBO, and I’m feeling very patriotic. The sacrifices people had to make to secure this country’s liberty is inspiring, and I actually feel that if everyone who lives in this country better understood that and took it to heart it would be an even better place.

2. Been checking out tech stocks lately, I never thought I’d be rooting for downturns in the market before…

3. Why can’t making money be as simple as it is in a game? Why can’t I go out and buy a spaceship and mine asteroids or fight mythical monsters for valuable loot? What is there to gather even, no Vespane or Veldspar or Gold or Oil. Sunlight? Yea, I’ll start gathering that.

I’ll leave you with an approximation of what is in my mind, done by a professional, of course.

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Confused Ranting

What the heck did I just write? Something about CPUs? WHAT?! How was that at all useful?!

Ugh, I feel sick. So, to wash away the taste of pointless CPU commentary, here are some other things that make me sick *topic header here*.

1. Those “HOLY CRAP WHAT A FUNNY SITUATION” TV shows. I don’t want to see some dude bash his head in after falling 40 feet from his roof. Why is that funny?

2. When I accidentally press the back or close button after typing a really long post or email, just before sending it.

3. When I realize I just forgot to do something really important and time sensitive a few minutes past deadline. (ex. I was a week late on the Google IPO)

4. When something doesn’t work right, and I just know it is going to take the entire weekend getting it to work properly. (ex. Wireless networks)

5. When I see people mess up on stage or on television.

6. I’m making my self sick now.

7. COMMENT ON WHAT MAKES YOU SICK! Because I REALLY have nothing good to talk about today.

And with that, I present you sad bunny.

sad bunny

The CPU

The processor is undoubtedly the most visible technology showcasing the pace of technological advancement in our society, we can proudly say our cellphones are faster than the building-sized ENIAC of the 1940s, and this is all due in part to the rapid development of the transistor and on a larger scale, the processor. These days we’ve got dual cores, quad cores and soon octo-cores coming down the pipe at speeds nearing 4GHz. I think people should take a look at how far we’ve really come, and if we really need to go much further in the current computing era.
First, a bit of recent background. Several years ago, Intel was focused on it’s blow dryer worthy Pentium 4. They thought the future was in higher clocks and bigger chips. AMD, on the other hand, had cooler chips at lower clock speeds (meaning the number of GHz or MHz) that were still outperforming Intel’s best chips. AMD thought to put two of their processing cores onto a single chip, effectively doubling the performance without increasing the clock speed. While in reality this didn’t offer perfect scaling (meaning it didn’t offer quite 200% improvement over a single core), it greatly increased AMD’s lead over Intel. Intel responded by putting two Pentium 4 cores into a single chip and naming it a Pentium D. The Pentium D was the apex of Intel’s volcano based processor technology (called the Netburst Architecture). Little did anyone suspect, Intel’s Israel team was working on a processor named the Pentium M, aimed specifically at mobile systems (laptops), that would later become the progenitor to their massively successful Core 2 Duo.

The Pentium M was so much more efficient than the Pentium 4 that Intel shifted their entire mainstream line from Pentium 4/D to a modified M architecture. This was the beginning of the Core architecture. By modifying the Pentium M for desktop use and using two cores, Intel was able to significantly lessen the divide between their processors and AMD’s X2 line. A little while later, the Core 2 models came out and Intel was back in the lead. They even tried putting 4 cores on a single chip, creating the first consumer quad core chips.

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AMD has been in quite the bad spot for the past couple of years, never quite able to catch up with Intel in a timely manner. But that is beside the point. Both companies offer affordable processors that have four cores (AMDs Phenom X4 line and Intel’s Quad Core 2 line) and fairly high (above 2.4Ghz) clock speeds. While Intel still has a noticeable lead in performance, I’ve begun to wonder if processors have reached a point where leaps in performance are no longer necessary for most consumers. Most software cannot even take advantage of the hardware given to them (they are built to work with at most 2 cores, but they can’t actively work with more). Unless you are editing video or batch processing data, more speed isn’t all that necessary.

Consider the fact that the fastest Pentium 4 took 225 seconds to Render a 3D image, while a semi-current Intel Quad Core, the QX6850 can render the same image in 38 seconds. The newer processor is just about 600% faster in this case.

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Most computers are bottlenecked by their Hard Drives and RAM (amount) far before the processor is a problem. When playing games, it is the GPU being stressed the hardest.

So! With Nehalem on the way for Intel, and Bulldozer and Fusion for AMD, processors will continue to become faster and more threaded (meaning many more cores). I do wonder though, how long will it be till the software catches up? When will going from 2 to 4 to 8 cores really show me faster and better computing outside of media manipulation? Is there anything that actually needs more speed in the first place? Something tells me we need more than just gaming to continue pushing processors forward.

Wireless Network Crazyness

33-127-143-06I’ve finally moved on up to WPA2. Network setup is by far the most confusing and challenging aspect of computers I’ve come up against so far. Our first Dell 802.11b router (2001) took 6 months to get set up properly, and even then, all we could do was share internet. We’ve come a long way since then. I initially thought I’d shift our whole network up to Draft 2.0 N for the speed, but the cost of upgrading all of our adapters stopped me. Instead, I considered moving up from a mixed b and g network to a solid g system. I had to get a couple of cheap adapters, but in doing so I improved network throughput by 50%. I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner. I realized a few hours later that I could dump my pathetic WEP security, which I cracked one day for fun while waiting for a TV commercial to end, for superior WPA2. Now I know that Draft N has severely degraded throughput when using WEP or WPA1 (cutting speeds by as much as 80%), but I had no idea the same held true for my oldish G router.

So, I set it up and suddenly throughput improves by over 250%. Two Hundred and Fifty percent…seriously…

Well, anyway, after shifting encryption algorithms a couple of times, I finally found what I think are the most secure settings (thank you NSA!), and we’re off! No need to drop 500 bucks on a new N network, my old G still had room to improve (300%, in fact).

Maybe I should go into network administration…