Good technology websites
Good & free software
Among the applications listed at this site, I specifically recommend:
- Firefox - fast, secure and stable web browser
- AVG - effective yet unintrusive antivirus
- Ad-Aware - simple yet effective
- Spybot Search & Destroy - simpler yet effective
- Diskeeper - defrag your hard disk quicker, safer and better
- WinRAR - powerful file archive decompression tool that processes RAR and ZIP files
- Foobar2000 - light + versatile music player
- Media Player Classic - a simple yet effective video player
- Real Alternative - listen and watch Real files without the bloatware
- Quicktime Alternative - listen and watch to Quicktime files without the bloatware
- 3DMark - benchmark & test stability of your system
- TuneXP - tweak WinXP for increased speed, security and stability
- Hamachi - great little app that simply sets up virtual private network (think LAN over the Net)
- TeamSpeak - voice chat client with separately available server software
- Omega drivers - super-stable video drivers for ATi cards
- IsoBuster - for ripping CDs and DVDs
- Crap Cleaner - gain disk space & keep your privacy by keeping your system clean
- Driver Cleaner - uninstall hardware drivers properly
- Jalbum - neat little app that helps you quickly and easily create photo albums for websites
- A well-written and comprehensive guide to WinXP's services (shame that the author's site is down)
- An excellently-written and exhaustive (170 pages!) guide to tweaking WinXP (PDF)
- My guide to installing and tweaking for better security, stability and performance
- My guide to tweaking the BIOS for Abit NF7 motherboards (also useful for other nF2 mobos)
- My worksheet for clear and methodical overclocking of motherboards
- An example of a complete overclockers worksheet
- nForce2 cooling patch (it really seems to work!)
Now that I'm hitched, I don't have much time for gaming, which is a shame because I love gaming. In particular I enjoy multiplayer games where you have to work with other players to succeed, rather than compete against and/or kill each other to win. This style of gaming is called "co-op gaming".
For a long time co-op gaming remained a niche market. However with the recent explosion of broadband connectivity, an increasingly number of gamers are discovering the joys of gaming together rather than against each other. Sadly relatively few titles support this type of gaming:
- PC games that officially ("out of the box" or via an
offical patch) support co-op gaming
- Hidden & Dangerous Deluxe - perhaps the best free multiplayer game as it supports up to 4 players, plays as a campaign (32 missions!) and runs well on just about any PC (the game's almost 5 years old now). Click here for a little patch that removes the censorship of certain politically-sensitive images.
- Hidden & Dangerous 2 - but only with the expansion pack (Sabre Squadron) installed. Even then, the missions are independent of each other (i.e. there's no campaign). However good graphics, great sound, superb realism make up for the limited number of co-op missions (only 9). Fortunately you can now pick them both up (as a bundle entitled H&D2: Courage Under Fire) for as little as €15. Furthermore the modding community has now released over a dozen "extra" co-op missions.
- Vietcong - one of the most realistic FPS (First Person Shooters) based on the Vietnam war. Although it only offers a meagre 6(?) co-op missions, the jungle environment offers a welcome change from the flood of WW2 and modern FPSs. There is a great campaign in single-player but sadly it cannot be played in no co-op. The subsequent expansion pack (Fist Alpha) adds another 6(?) co-op missions.
- SWAT 4 - realistic and very pretty CQB (Close Quarters Battle), it also offers 13 missions in co-op. Particularly interesting is the ability to place the same mission but with the enemies at different locations. Thanks to initiatives from the developers and the modding community, it now boasts a healthy range of user-created maps, models & total conversions.
Flashpoint - highly realistic FPS set in
eastern European conflict during 1980s that has half a
dozen in-built coop missions but which, thanks to the extremely-loyal
and productive mod community , has scores
of co-op missions and even co-op campaigns . Just
make sure that you've patched the game with the latest
patch (v1.96) . I recommend the following mods because
they're easily installed, improve gameplay don't messing with
the game's balancing nor do they seriously impact performance:
- * ECP - improves AI, special effects & adds nice features such as capturing enemy combatants & interrogating them (just don't forget this tiny patch)
- * Llauma sky pack - improves immersion by improving the graphical representation of the sky (sounds daft but given that weather effects, lighting conditions and even the constellations are accurate and impact gameplay, this small mod is worth it)
- * DXDLL - undoubtedly the best graphical upgrade (offers glare effects, water reflections), although small and easy to install it requires a DirectX9-compatible graphics card (5th generation or more)
- * Hi-res islands - makes the islands looker nice by improving the quality of the textures used for geography and 40+ different trees & bushes (just make sure you overwrite the included BRG_EN.pbo with this more recent version)
- * Co-op campaigns - natively none of the 3 campaigns
can be played multiplayer, but thanks to the tireless
efforts of a dedicated Frenchman, 2 have been modified
so that they can be played cooperatively:
- * 1985 Cold War Crisis coop - first of the 3 campaigns
- * Resistance coop - last of the 3 campaigns
- The Regiment - sleeper hit of 2006? This terribly realistic FPS simulates the exploits of the SAS in the 1980s
- Counter Strike: Source - CQB with the HL2 engine. While it doesn't offer co-op per se but you can easily create a server, populate one of the two teams with bots and then have you and your buddies on the other. Although the objectives aren't very varied, there are now 15 missions. Once again, there's no campaign and don't expect one soon!
- Raven Shield - another FPS from Tom Clancy and therefore more CQB. Its looking a little old now but it still offers an impressive 15 co-op missions. The emphasis is definitely on the realism rather than the fun.
- System Shock 2 - sci-fi survival horror RPG (roleplaying game) which despite its age (4+ years) oozes class (one of the few games to actually scare me). It also offers proper co-op so that up to teamates can play the entire game together!! Just don't forget the mod community's best mods.
- Project Eden - cyberpunk (think Bladerunner) RPG that allows up to 4 players to work together to solve a terrifying mystery...
- Splinter Cell 3: Chaos Theory - though I hear that the co-op is buggy and limited to only 4 missions
- Neverwinter Nights - D&D-based RPG with very nice isometric graphics
- Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter - unrealistic but very pretty FPS (requires very powerful PC)
- Baldur's Gate 2 - classic isometric RPG that supports up to 6 players...
- Freelancer - fairly recent (2003) sequel to Starlancer (see below)
- Starlancer - old (2000) but fantastic inter-stellar universe offers commerce, combat & intrigue
- PC games that unofficially (via a user mod) support co-op gaming