TWT Newsletter, Issue #005 –, Lights, Ghosts, Action!
Welcome along to another issue of the TWT newsletter. This months newsletter takes a look at some interesting new PC hardware, as well as some great games for Halloween. Of course, we haven’t forgotten our regular tip of the month and free utility of the month.
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In this months issue:-
1) Spooky Games for Halloween
2) Tip of the Month – A Fat Taskbar Shows More!
3) Free Utility of the Month – Launchy (and Spooky Screensavers!)
4) Hardware Mini-review – Philips Ambx
Spooky Games for Halloween
Halloween will soon be upon us once again which means the nights are getting longer and colder and for many of us that means it’s time to stay inside and play some games. Here is a rundown of our favourite spooky and scary games for Windows to keep you amused on the cold winter nights :-
Bioshock (Suitable for ages 18 and over)
Explore the spooky and atmospheric underwater city of Rapture and piece together the mystery of its downfall. Save or harvest the eerie little sisters, child zombies who roam Raptures long corridors, searching for the precious and magical Adam, a newly discovered drug that can alter and enhance DNA. Watch out for the Big Daddies, huge creatures in deep sea diving suits and armed with some pretty brutal firepower, who watch over the little sisters as they carry out their grizzly tasks. Look out too for the splicers, the crazed occupants of the former utopia, driven to insanity by the Adam.
Bioshock is one of this years best new PC and Xbox 360 games and is available from most good retailers. Bioshock requires quite a powerful PC to run however, you should have Windows XP or Windows Vista, at least a Pentium 4 2.4GHz single core processor, 1GB of RAM and a Direct X 9.0c compliant video card with 128MB RAM (NVIDIA 6600 or better/ATI X1300 or better, excluding ATI X1550). Finally, make sure you have a 100% Direct X 9.0c compatible sound card and 8GB of free hard disk space.
F.E.A.R. (Suitable for ages 18 and over)
Who do you turn to when special forces are not up to the job? Time to call in F.E.A.R. The First Encounter Assault Recon, an elite bunch of soldiers who are trained to deal with the paranormal. As a new member of this elite unit you are sent to investigate and apprehend a rogue super soldier and his followers. The closer you get, the more you realise that this is no ordinary operation.
F.E.A.R is a great PC game for any adult who likes first-person shooters. There are some scary and grizzly moments in the game, so it isn’t one for the kids or the faint hearted. F.E.A.R is available from Amazon and many other online retailers and requires at least Windows 2000 operating system, a Pentium ® 4 1.7 Ghz single core processor, 1GB RAM and a 128 MB DirectX ® 9.0 compliant video card as well as 3.0 GB free hard drive space.
Barrow Hill (suitable for ages 11 and over)
A spooky adventure game that the family can enjoy together. Unravel the mysteries of the archaeological dig going on at Barrow Hill, an ancient stone circle in the wilderness of the deepest darkest West Country in Cornwall, England. Despite a somewhat tedious opening as you stumble along dark country lanes, the game quickly becomes engrossing. The puzzles are logical and well thought out and the whole package should keep you amused for a few winter nights. Barrow Hill is available from Amazon and many other online retailers and requires at least Windows 98, a Pentium III 450 MHz CPU, 128 MB RAM (256 MB recommended), a graphics card with 32 bit colour and a DirectX 9 compatible sound card.
Ghost Master (Suitable for ages 11 and over)
Play as the Ghost Master in this real-time strategy game where YOU are in charge of scaring people! A distinct lack of scariness in the small town of Gravenville has come to the attention of the Haunter Committee and they send you to set things right by generally scaring and shocking the towns inhabitants. Ghost master is available from Amazon and many other online retailers and requires Windows 98 or later and a 500mhz CPU and 128mb of RAM.
Freddi Fish 2: The Case of the Haunted Schoolhouse (suitable for all ages, particularly suitable for younger children)
We loved this little point and click adventure game which is aimed at younger children. Freddi Fish must investigate the strange goings on at the school and find out just who is behind the fake phantoms! (They would have got away with it too if it were not for you pesky fish!) Unfortunately it is a little hard to get hold of now, but try this link for a demo version which should have full instructions on how to purchase the full game if you choose to do so. Freddi Fish 2 should run on most PC’s, download and try the demo if you are in doubt.
Tip of the Month – A Fat Taskbar Shows More!
This is such an easy tip but many users still don’t know about it. If you have a lovely big monitor and plenty of space on your desktop, you might want to make your task bar (the area at the bottom of your screen, with the Start button on it) a little wider. When you do this, not only do you get more room to see your system tray icons and the windows you have open, but the clock also displays the day and date too. To expand your taskbar, right click on the taskbar and make sure “Lock the Taskbar” is not ticked. Then simply hover your mouse over the top of the taskbar until it turns into the two arrows pointing up and down. Now click and drag your taskbar out until it is roughly twice the size it used to be (you can go bigger if you like, but this size is normally adequate for most people). Once you have done this, right click on the taskbar again and choose “Lock the Taskbar” to prevent you from accidentally resizing it or moving it again.
Free Utility of the Month – Launchy (and Spooky Screensavers!)
In keeping with our Halloween theme we decided to give you two free utilities this month. Launchy is a great utility that can help those of us who can never find anything on our PC’s. Instead of hunting through the Start menu, press Launchy’s key combination and type the name of your program or file into the box that appears. Launchy will then find it for you. A really handy utility, Launchy can be downloaded from this site. A little less useful, but a lot more fun, Free Halloween Screensavers is a website we stumbled upon that has lots and lots of Halloween screen savers, wall papers and other related media. Give it a try!
Hardware Mini-review – Philips Ambx
At Top-Windows-Tutorials.com we love gadgets, and we love PC gadgets even more. That is why we were delighted when Philips finally decided to ship their long awaited Ambx kits. Ambx is a new technology that lets your PC control all sorts of new peripherals such as lights, fans and rumble packs that are designed to enhance your games, films or music. The first kits are on sale now and ours arrived a couple of weeks ago. We opted for a starter kit and an extension kit. This includes three lights (left, centre and right), a control box (built into the middle light) two fans and a wrist rumbler.
Setting up the kit was not as straightforward as we hoped. Our gaming PC is attached to a big screen plasma TV and the cables supplied with the Ambx kit are ridiculously short. They may prove to be long enough for a traditional PC gaming rig built around a regular size monitor, but certainly not for a big screen gaming rig. We are currently still waiting for Philips to contact us about the possibility of getting some extension cables for the fans and rumbler as currently we cannot use them.
Our second problem came with the drivers. The drivers supplied with the kit did not seem to work at all. After some asking around on the official Ambx forums we managed to find a replacement driver and after installing that, everything started to work.
Out of the box, Ambx can support most of your games collection with its lights, but only a few games support things like the fans and rumble packs. There is also a plugin for Windows Media player, that makes the lights cast pretty patterns when music is playing. This looks great but unfortunately the plugin causes Windows Media Player to crash regularly. We hope that this is addressed in an update soon.
In games, the lights do make the whole experience more atmospheric. Playing Boishock with Ambx turned on is a real treat and the coloured lighting really does add to the experience. The middle light “washes” the back wall in colour meaning your peripheral vision can see colours which match the action on the screen, immersing you further in the game. This is great considering Bioshock doesn’t even natively support Ambx. We also tried Ambx with Sega Rally though the lights seemed to add much less to that experience, probably because the game is set outdoors so the lights were usually just on bright, though they did go a little dimmer when we entered a tunnel, for example. Games which do directly support the technology are likely to look even better and use some of the other features, such as the fans, although we were a little disappointed with the fans as you have to be in very close proximity to really feel them. The Ambx kit ships with a copy of Broken Sword – The Angel of Death which natively supports Ambx but sadly doesn’t live up to the high standards of the previous Broken Sword games. Other titles that support the technology are starting to appear, as well as patches for older games. We’ll update you in the new year when we’ve had chance to play a little more.
if you are reading the HTML newsletter you can see our Ambx gaming rig here, notice how the fans are positioned, the cable isn’t long enough for them to be positioned correctly.
To surmise, we thought the Ambx kit was pretty cool, apart from the short cables. The lights are fantastic and it’s really great how Philips was able to support most older games too. The price is a little steep however, at around £139.99 for the price of just the lights, for immersive gaming you could get yourself a whole Nintendo Wii console for not much more than that (if you were lucky enough to find one anywhere). Speaking of games consoles, Ambx doesn’t work with them, yet. Philips say “watch this space” and certainly the Wii, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 all have USB connectors, the same connectors the Ambx hardware uses. However, we noticed only 1 USB connector on the Ambx box, meaning that if consoles are supported, it’s probably going to require a whole new kit or some cable swapping. So, until the price comes down, we can only really recommend Ambx kits to hardcore PC gamers.
That’s all for another month. Have a good Halloween and if you live in the UK like us, a good Bonfire Night too! We hope that you enjoyed our newsletter, if you didn’t then please contact us and tell us what we can do to improve it! If you have enjoyed this newsletter, feel free to pass it on to all your friends, family, co-workers or anyone you know, better still, encourage them to sign up for their own copy! Until next month, keep checking Top-Windows-Tutorials.com and enjoy happy and safe computing!