Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Thunderbolt motherboards on their way

thunderbolt port Just 15 months after the technology first appeared in a commercial form, ASUS and MSI have finally announced the first PC motherboards that will ship with built in Thunderbolt ports.
Thunderbolt, if you’re aware of it all, may sound like a tedious hard drive technology, but it’s got an enormous amount of potential for PC gaming. With these two boards, we may finally be in the era of the modular PC – which doesn’t have to be opened up for upgrades.
It means, potentially, external hard drives that are as quick as internal SSDs and plug in graphics cards that really work. Much as I like to tinker inside my PC’s case, this is big.

Thunderbolt, which was developed by Intel under the codename LightPeak, debuted in the MacBook Pro last February, but take up of the techology hasn’t been especially fast. Apple quickly shifted its monitor range over to support Thunderbolt, which is useful in professional environments because it allows screens to be daisy chained together. Other than a few very expensive external drives and backup systems, though, there’s not been a lot of outside interest.
The tech itself acts as an extension of the motherboard’s PCI Express bus – the one that graphics card interface with – and was originally designed to use fibre optics. Current Thunderbolt designs are all copper, but still capable of 20Gbps bidirectionally. They also combine a DisplayPort feed for video out, using Apple’s annoyingly proprietary miniDisplayPort adaptor. The advantage is that with a Thunderbolt monitor, you only need one small connector to attach both the screen and a peripherals hub.
The boards in question are ASUS’ P8Z77V Premium and MSI’s Z77A-GD80. Thunderbolt is natively supported in Intel’s recent Z77 chipset, so expect many more soon.

It’s worth pointing out that in ASUS’ case, you shouldn’t confuse Thunderbolt with ThunderBolt, it’s cheekily named audio add-in cards bundled with some high end motherboards recently.
Here’s what’s really exciting, though. Although these are the first PC motherboards with Thunderbolt built in, they aren’t the first non-Apple PCs. Late last year, Sony released its superthin Vaio Z which used Thunderbolt technology in a USB port to attach an external dock that housed a GPU. So it was ultra light in the bag but not a terrible games machine when plugged in. While obviously that’s not much use for a desktop PC, to me it’s the future of gaming. The more Thunderbolt compatible machines there are out there, the more chance there is of decent external graphics becoming commoditised in a way that the industry has been trying but failing to achieve for years.

Diablo 3 update nerfs Monk, Wizard, Demon Hunter

Diablo 3 Blizzard are in the process of making their first round of hotfixes for Diablo 3. Monks who rely on the Mantra of Healing with a Boon of Protection rune, prepare to be sad. A post spotted by Videogamer on the Diablo 3 forums from community manager Bashiok says that the skill has been severely nerfed. “We recommend discontinuing its use until the rune is replaced with a new rune and mechanic in a future patch.”
“The Boon of Protection rune was approximately ten times over its budget on the benefits it provided, and it was quite simply a mistake on our part to let the rune ship as it was,” he added. “We don’t intend to take these quick and drastic measures often, but considering the severity of the issue, we felt it important to correct it swiftly.”

A full list of hotfixes is due to be released tomorrow, but some players are claiming that the wizard’s force armour is weaker than it was and the duration of the Demon Hunter’s smoke screen has been culled.
“Class balance is an ongoing investigation, and by no means do we believe the game is now perfect,” said Bashiok in a follow up forum post. He also responded to player claims that melee classes were being entirely outclassed by their ranged allies on Diablo 3′s ultra-hard Inferno difficulty tier.
“The game is young, there were some skills that threw things out of whack, and we expect the landscape to settle out a bit more evenly. Or at least change again so we can continue to monitor the impact.
“Maybe we’re wrong, maybe there’s no current chance for monk or barbarian to compete with ranged, but our current suspicion is that’s incorrect and until we know for sure we’re not going to turn any dials.”
Diablo 3′s first week has been a quite a ride, what with all those disconnection problems and hacked accounts. Find out what we think of the game itself in our Diablo 3 review.

Far Cry 2 and Dreamfall: The Longest Journey arrive on Good Old Games

Dreamfall - Far Cry 3 Dreamfall: The Longest Journey and Far Cry 2 have more in common than you might think. They’re both cult games, and they’re both capable of inspiring lengthy, loving tirades from their devotees. If you’ve never played them, you can now pick them up DRM-free from Good Old Games. Far Cry 2 Fortune’s Edition – which includes extra weapons and vehicles – is available for $9.99, and Dreamfall: The Longest Journey is $14.99.
Far Cry 2 is an open-world shooter set in Africa, with a bunch of ambitious interoperating mechanics that can create some spectacular stories: explosions that set whole areas of grassland on fire, or last-minute rescues by randomly-picked AI companions. It’s got its problems, certainly – the overly-aggressive, super-accurate enemy forces can grate after a while – but we gave it 94% back in PCG 193 for a reason. The sequel, Far Cry 3, is taking things in a more traditional, story-driven direction.
Dreamfall is a multi-protagonist adventure game by Ragnar Tørnquist and Funcom, who are now working on The Secret World. It’s a sequel to The Longest Journey, but playing the first game isn’t necessary to enjoy it. Its stealth sequences let the side down, but otherwise it’s a beautifully designed adventure. We gave it 77% in PCG 173.

Layoffs hit Star Wars: The Old Republic

Star Wars The Old Republic - kill the electric troll Bioware have announced that they’re shrinking the Austin studio responsible for developing The Old Republic. Gamesindustry International report that members of the development team are being let go entirely or moved onto other projects within EA. “We are bidding farewell to some talented, passionate and exceptionally hard-working people who helped make SWTOR a reality,” said Bioware co-founder, Greg Zeschuk.

“We still have a very substantial development team working on supporting and growing the game,” he added, “and we feel we are in a strong position, with your continued involvement and feedback, to continue to build Star Wars: The Old Republic as one of the most compelling and successful online experiences in the world today.”
“These are very difficult decisions, but it allows us to focus our staff to maintain and grow Star Wars: The Old Republic,” said EA in a statement.
A couple of weeks ago we learned that subscription numbers for Star Wars: The Old Republic had dipped to 1.3 million, 23% down on earlier figures. There’s still plenty in the pipe for TOR fans to look forward to, though. The upcoming 1.3 update will add some much-requested features like a group finder tool and server transfer support. Hopefully we’ll see more new quests, planets and events like the recent Rakghoul infection as TOR continues to mature.

Mageia 2

Mageia 2, the second stable release of the community distribution originally forked from Mandriva Linux, has been released: "We're the Mageia community, and we are very happy to announce the release of Mageia 2! We've had a great time building our community and our new release, and we hope you enjoy using it as much as we enjoyed making it. Here are some of the nice things included in Mageia 2: KDE 4.8.2 SC, the current release of the popular KDE desktop; GNOME 3.4.1, Xfce 4.8.3; VLC 2.0.1; Flash Player plugin 11.2; Chromium Browser 18; GIMP 2.8 featuring the all new single window interface...." See the release announcement and release notes for more information. The distribution is available for download from these mirror sites in the form of standard installation DVDs or live CD images with either GNOME or KDE and with various language support option. Quick links to the installation DVDs: Mageia-2-i586-DVD.iso (3,511MB, MD5, torrent), Mageia-2-x86_64-DVD/Mageia-2-x86_64-DVD.iso (3,563MB, MD5, torrent).