enfrdeitptrues

Applications

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Actual Multiple Monitors
    Developed by: Actual Tools
    Available on: PC
    Version reviewed: 5.1.1
    Price: $24.95

    Thank you Actual Tools for sending us this program to review!

    A couple of months back we redesigned our office and after the dust settled, I got a bigger desk and hooked up a second monitor.  For the most part it's been great, but gaming with dual monitors has added a few challenges.  For example if I'm playing a game on the left screen and accidentally slide my mouse over to the right one, the game will minimize and stop.  Actual Tools Multiple Monitor program stops incidents like that from happening.

    My desktop's video card is a HIS 7870 and ATI's drivers support merging your desktop (and games) across multiple monitors.  This technology is called Eyefinity.  In order to use Eyefinity you have to set up a display group and if you have different model monitors, you'll be stuck at the lower resolution.  Actual Multiple Monitors allows you to easily stretch your game across multiple monitors without having to setup this group or being at the same resolution.  All you need to do is have your game in windowed mode and click the stretch toolbar icon and there you go.  I have noticed that if the game is running at too low of a resolution, the screen will be cut off.  Given my that my monitors are at different heights and resolutions, I didn't play in multi-monitor mode very often.  If my monitors were the same it would be a different story.  

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Nice tweaks for managing multiple monitors in Windows and gaming. Adding a Start menu back in Windows 8 is a nice touch
    Weak Points: Display drivers can do multiple monitor support natively

    Actual Tools Multiple Monitors adds several enhancements to Windows 8.  I liked the option of having the Start menu back on my second monitor.  I've already adjusted to the new one but having the old one brings back fond memories.  The tool bars have new icons as well and I have already mentioned the stretch icon.  Another added icon is "move" which will send the window to the opposite monitor instead of having to drag it over with your mouse.

    If you're big into screen savers there are a couple of enhancements made here as well.  You can stretch the screen saver to all of the monitors or you can have a different screen saver or slide show on each monitor.  Imagine having a sideshow for each child or pet on different monitors.

    Gamers will be pleased with the screen or window locking that will prevent games from losing focus while doing other activities on the second monitor.  It's nice to be able to be to surf or respond to emails while leaving my game open.  Here's a handy list of hot key commands.  If you don't like them, you can define your own.  

    So far I have talked about features that I have used personally.  I don't change my desktop settings very often, but if you do, you can setup desktop profiles and switch between them easily.    Another neat feature is Mirroring which lets you specify what part of your screen you want to mirror onto another monitor.  

    Even if you don't take advantage of all of the options, Actual Multiple Monitors has a lot to offer.  It's totally worth it to have your games keep focus alone!  If you're a Windows 8 user you may like the added bonus of getting your Start menu back.  There's a demo available that lets you try it for thirty days.

     

  •  

    boxart
    Game Info:

    Aomei Backupper Professional Edition
    Version reviewed: 4.6.3
    Developed by: Aomei
    Price: $29.95 (to upgrade from the free version)

    Thank you Aomei for sending us this software to review!

    Earlier this year we reviewed the $29 MiniTool ShadowMaker 3.1 Pro and it performed well for our cloning of a mechanical hard drive to SSD of the same size. Both programs offer similar features at the same price point and have a trial version that lets you backup and restore data free of charge.

    If you want to do a system clone, use boot up utilities, backup to DVDs, schedule/trigger backup events, or sync files and folder in real-time, you’ll want to purchase a professional license. The cheapest option only lets you install it once and you do not get free updates. For an extra $10, you get lifetime updates. If you need to install it on 2-5 computers, prepare to spend $99.95.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Easy to use; free version available to try
    Weak Points: If you want to have lifetime updates or multiple installs you’ll need to pay extra

    For this review, I used Aomei Backupper Professional Edition 4.6.3 to clone one Windows 10 1TB SSD to a similarly sized but faster SSD.  I used two USB docking devices that should be plugged in and detected by Windows before launching Aomei Backupper Professional.  The software has a convenient clone menu which is where I went to begin the hour-long process.  To start the clone you need to specify which drive is the source and which one will be the destination.  Be sure to have the drives selected correctly or you may overwrite your data!  Once the clone was completed, I plugged the new OS drive back into my desktop and it booted up flawlessly.  Before adding my old OS drive back into my system, I formatted it to avoid any confusion within Windows.   

    Since mechanical drives are bigger and cheaper, it’s not uncommon to migrate to a smaller but faster SSD. Aomei Backupper Professional lets you do a system clone from one bigger to a smaller drive. Unfortunately, the drive I wanted to test this out on requires completely disassembling my desktop to access it behind my motherboard. I don’t plan on taking my computer apart until I upgrade it in the fall. I plan on using this software to clone my difficult to reach 500GB mechanical hard drive to my spare 256GB SSD.

    Aomei Backupper Professional Edition

    I rely on cloud storage so I don’t use dedicated backup drives. If I did, this software would make backing up super easy. It can check backup images for errors, combine images, and explore them to retrieve specific files off of them. The file synchronization is nice for real-time backing up of important files and folders. With real time, any mistakes are also copied over so be careful!

    For advanced users there are handy PXE (network) boot tools and options to create bootable media. Although the image deploy menu is visible, it’s only accessible if you have the $449-$799 technician versions.

    For personal use, it’s worth checking out the free version of Aomei Backupper. If you like what you see and can use the advanced features, upgrading is both affordable and worthwhile.

  •  

    boxart
    Software Info:

    Aomei Partition Assistant Professional 
    Version reviewed: 8.4
    Price: $49.95

    Thank you Aomei for sending us this software to review!

    Back in the 90s you had to share four IDE connections between CD drives and hard drives. It wasn’t uncommon to split up or partition a hard drive to organize it or share it between two operating systems like Windows and Linux. I often partitioned my Linux drive to have a data partition that was formatted in either FAT32 or NTFS so both operating systems could access the files on it.

    Most operating systems let you partition the drive before installing it, but what if you need to make changes afterward? Back in the day you could pay for the now defunct Partition Magic to adjust your partitions visually. Linux’s Fdisk utility is daunting but free to use if you’re not afraid of using the command line interface. GParted is an excellent GUI program if you have a Windows manager running in Linux. There is also a free bootable version. Windows Disk Manager is pretty easy to use and navigate once you have Windows installed and running.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Lots of great utilities/features; Free version available
    Weak Points: Two computer limit per license

    With so many options, what does Aomei Partition Assistant Professional bring to the table? I was pleasantly surprised to see what was bundled into this software. Not only can you align, backup, create, copy, delete, merge, resize, and split partitions, there are lots of other handy features too! You can scan your discs/partitions for errors, securely format them (with many rewrites), migrate to an SSD, change file systems, recover data, and clone hard drives. One neat feature that the professional version allows you to do is change your Windows serial number. This is handy if you do a lot of hard drive image clones throughout a company/building.

    It’s worth noting that the free version is quite capable of doing most tasks and is worth checking out. The secure wiping and date recovery are professional version features along with the ability to change Master Boot Record (MBR) types. If you want the ability to move free space to another partition, convert partition types, or use the command line, you’ll want to consider buying a professional license. The license key will only work on two computers though.

    I found the software very easy to navigate and use. With it I removed my Ubuntu partition and opted to use Windows 10’s Linux Subsystem by running the Administrator Power Shell command: Enable-WindowsOptionalFeature -Online -FeatureName Microsoft-Windows-Subsystem-Linux. After the command is ran, the system will need to be rebooted and you can install a Linux distribution from the Microsoft store. I added Ubuntu 18.04 LTS.

    Resizing my Windows partition didn’t take effect until I applied the changes. Again a reboot was necessary and the software booted my system into a Windows PE environment and made the necessary changes without losing any of my precious data. Afterward, my hard drive partition was 100GB bigger.

    If you’re looking for an easy to use disk partition program with some extra bells and whistles, check out Aomei Partition Assistant Professional. It’s free to try and the professional version has some very handy utilities that are work looking into.

  • boxart
    Software Info:

    ArtRage 4
    Devloped by: Ambient Design Ltd
    Release Date:  Feb 12, 2013
    Available on: Mac/PC, iOS
    Price: $49.99

    Thank you Ambient Design for sending us this software to review!

    With the rise of touch screen devices, computer art programs are getting more interactive and even easier to use.  ArtRage 4 supports touch screen, graphic drawing tablet, and mouse interfaces.  Since my monitor is not touch enabled, I had to disable the touch and stylus input methods in order to draw with my mouse or graphic drawing tablet.  After that issue was resolved, I found this program feature rich and fun to use.

    There's a wide variety of drawing/painting tools at your disposal.  You can work with crayon, ink, pencil, oil, water color paints, and an air brush too.  Each tool has a customizable width so your strokes can be as thin or wide as you need them to be.  The way they react to the canvas is spot on to their actual counterparts.  It has the look and feel without all of the mess.  There are plenty of color combinations and you can add a metallic look as well.  Another medium I liked working with was the glitter.  Again, you can control how much or little you want to use at a time.  

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Great interface and selection of mediums to work with
    Weak Points: Didn't work with my mouse "out of the box"
    Moral Warnings: Depends on what you draw or trace...

    For drawing aides you can use the built in stencils and rulers.  As you use these guides you have to right click to remove them.  It took me a little while to figure that one out.  Thankfully, there are many helpful posts and youtube tutorials out there.  I really like the tracing feature that overlays the canvas on top of the image you wish to trace.  You can choose the colors manually, or have the program adjust the original image automatically for you.  

    You can have multiple layers so your new layer drawing won't bleed into the other layers.  When it comes to saving you can save your image as a multilayered PSD file or you can flatten the image and save to other popular formats like JPG, BMP, PNG and TIF.  How big you make your artwork is up to you since the resolution is customizable.  

    The menus and tools are easy to navigate and use.  I like how they move out of your way when you're drawing.  You can also click on them to give them a smaller thumb print.    

    ArtRage 4 is simple enough for a child to use and play with (my kids love it!) and it also offers many features that professional artists can use to make spectacular works of art.  This program makes me wish I had a touch screen monitor to make it even easier to use and enjoy.  The asking price is a reasonable $50 and there is an iPad version available for the low price of $5.

  • In 1996, Bethesda Softworks released the most ambitious open-world RPG of its time. The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall had a massive, if incredibly buggy experience that was only partially functional in some ways, but for a game meant for DOS, it still was ambitious. Now, in 2019, one can play the game as it was originally intended on modern-day computers.

    However, before we cover the engine, one must make something clear. This is not a source port, as the source code is admitted lost by the developers, so the creator of this Unity-based recreation instead took the original game files from the released version, built a game engine to load them, and rebuilt from scratch the necessary code to make all the intended features of the original game work as they were originally designed.

    This means two things. One, this engine is devoid of the bugs and glitches of the original engine, both good and bad. Two, this engine, while able to run in a "retro" mode for those who want the grainy experience one could get playing on DOS, is intended to provide a higher fidelity experience.

    Daggerfall Unity

    Another good aspect of this engine recreation is a feature later Elder Scrolls games come with: modding. The original could be modded, but only to a limited degree, as modders had to fly blind without the source code and engine tools. This recreation comes with a documented API and developer tools available for free, and while the version at the time of this writing still has some aspects of the modding API not fully completed, it is already possible to modify many aspects of the game engine.

    Daggerfall Unity supports Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Linux. Android and other portable platforms are not directly supported, but the creator has said they would be willing to bless and assist such efforts. Bethesda Softworks has offered no objections to this project either. Daggerfall was released into the public domain as freeware, and thus there are no known restrictions on the scale and scope of this project. The only thing this project requires is a copy of the original Daggerfall game patched to version 2.13, a copy of which may be found in numerous places, including the DFWorkshop downloads page.

    Daggerfall Unity

    At the time of this writing, the engine is in an alpha state, but that means all features of the original Daggerfall are fully functional, even those that did not work on the original XnGine used in 1996. Daggerfall Unity still requires more polish according to the developer, but in its present state, it is playable from start to finish.

    I have tested this engine on both Linux and Windows, and it scales admirably, though it is recommended one has a dedicated graphics card (anything powerful enough to run the original Skyrim at medium-high at least would be ideal) and 2-4 GB of system RAM, as this engine provides far more advanced graphical capabilities and the potential to provide HD graphics on par with later Elder Scrolls games if one uses some of the currently existing mods for upgrading the original visuals.

    Daggerfall Unity provides a full, completely free engine for enjoying one of the largest attempts at a wide-open world, and it is recommended over trying to run the original game in DOSbox, though that remains an option.

  • boxart
    Software Info:

    GameCaptr
    Developed by: simplitec GmbH
    Published by: simplitec GmbH
    Release date: October 13, 2016
    Available on: Windows
    Price: $24.99

    Thank you simplitec GmbH for sending us a review code for this software and the video editing DLC. 

    Since we frequently do Twitch streams and YouTube videos, we’re always on the lookout for easy to use software that doesn’t consume a lot of system resources. OBS is free and easy to use and GameShow has some nice features that take a little more tweaking, but look great when finished.   What sets GameCaptr apart from the others is its cell phone app that lets you remotely monitor your system resources and manage your streams/recordings.  That is if you can even get it to record in the first place.

    Every time I launch GameCaptr I get an error stating that the program was already running. Sadly, that annoyance is nothing compared to the bigger issues that this software is plagued with. Proud of my new laptop, I wanted to see how it fared in the built-in benchmarking tool. The benchmark seemed to be running as I saw command windows in the background opening and closing.  Upon completion, each of the categories (processor, graphics, RAM, hard disk) received a 0%.  I decided not to share that score on Facebook or compare it with others online.   The benchmark tool did work on my desktop though.  

    GameCaptr
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Mobile phone integration with real time stats and the option to control game recordings through the app; out of date driver notifications
    Weak Points: Streaming and benchmarking features are broken along with the ability to report the bugs; no updates or fixes in months

    When I first installed this application, I was still in possession of my Asus i7 laptop with a Nvidia 660M graphics chip and I was able to stream once or twice with it.  However, the mobile app connectivity did not work because it timed out before I was able to authorize it on the laptop application.  I was able to get the app to function on my desktop with an AMD R290X, but the streaming would not work. Now that I have my new laptop, I can’t even get GameCaptr to accept my Twitch stream key which I know is valid as it works with several other programs flawlessly.  

    Posting on the Steam discussion forums was fruitless as I was told these issues would be addressed in an upcoming patch and there hasn’t been any updates since October.  I was told to use the report bug tool, but it gave me an SMTP error when trying to report the issue.  

    GameCaptr

    On a positive note, the phone app looks nice and is easy to navigate.  The Steam app has a few quirks of its own though.  The Steam library integration is nice and you can tweak each of the games or apply the changes to all of the games in your library.  The Twitch key input area isn’t easily accessible unless you click in a specific spot and delete the existing text there.  Sometimes the Twitch servers would run off the screen and make it hard to select the one I preferred.

    The video editor seems straightforward and easy to use.  It's a shame that I never got to test it out with videos that I recorded with GameCaptr.  Given that the main features of this application are clearly broken, I recommend steering clear of this software entirely until the issues have been fixed.

  • boxart
    Game Info:

    Gameshow 3.2
    Developed by: Telestream
    Release date: August 16, 2016
    Available on: Windows, Mac
    Price: $29 with a year’s worth of updates

    Thank you Telestream for giving us a license key!

    We have been recording gameplay videos for a few years and have done many streams on Twitch, Hitbox, and Youtube Gaming.  For just recording videos we’ve reviewed and continue to use Play Claw.  The freely available Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) has served our needs for streaming and has built in support for all of the popular game streaming services plus some that I have never heard of.  So if the free software works well, why pay for another product?

    Gameshow has a lot of advantages over OBS including lower CPU utilization, many handy widgets, and attractive templates. Some of my favorite widgets for Gameshow include the social media icons and a twitch chatbox that required a third party plugin to function.  There is donation status support that integrates imraising.tv, but it had difficulty connecting even though I had the API key in place.

    Gameshow is reasonably priced at $29 for a lifetime license and a year's worth of updates.  If you would like to continue to get updates, you’ll have to pay $29 for another twelve months’ worth.  Updates come about every three weeks and the software will notify you when an update is available.  I did experience a couple of days where I kept getting prompted to update despite running the most recent installer.  When a true update came out, the prompts went away.  

    Gameshow
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Plenty of tutorial videos to get you started; handy widgets for social media, chat, and donation awareness
    Weak Points: Different games may need their own configuration file which means you’ll be spending time setting up, positioning, and tweaking all of the widgets several times over

    There are many nice features in Gameshow and when you set up a profile for a game you can choose between several pre-existing templates for popular games like Minecraft, Destiny, StarCraft II, World of Warcraft, Counter Strike Global, League of Legends, Grand Theft Auto, and several more created by users for free.  If none of those templates strike your fancy you can go with a blank template, just the game, or game plus a camera.  I used the game + cam setup for my streams.  

    Once the template is chosen you’ll get to enter the name of the game you’re playing and what platform (Twitch, Youtube Gaming, Hitbox) you’ll be streaming to.  You’ll also get to choose your encoder and quality settings to determine the resolution and FPS you’re aiming for.  I left this setting at default to reduce stuttering and lag.  

    There are three layers to work with and I generally had the social media widget on the first layer, the game + cam on the second, and the third layer would have my twitch chatbox or donation widget.  You can set some basic settings for the widgets like their dimensions and alignment, but they often need some further refining.  In theory you can drag and drop them into place, but many of them caused the video feed to move instead.  Sometimes I have accidentally moved the widgets into the wrong layer and I couldn’t figure out how to move them back or intentionally in general.   

    Gameshow

    The widgets have preview and live modes and you can see what the final product looks like in preview, preview plus live, or just the live mode.  Once you have it set to your liking you can stream and/or record your gaming session. 

    My first couple of recordings had the gaming audio over-powering my microphone input.  OBS is easy when it comes to adjusting the speaker versus microphone volume levels.  There are two slider bars on the main screen.  In Gameshow I had to double click on my game + cam widget and then select the game + cam layer and then go to the audio tab to lower the volume.  I then repeated the process for the microphone to verify that it remained at 100%.  Tweaking the audio is totally possible, but it takes several more steps.  

    Gameshow’s website claims that you can be streaming in seconds but to get everything just right it took several minutes to set everything up.  The final product certainly does look nice and it is worth the effort.  If you’re unsure of parting with $29 you can check out the free demo and take it for a spin.  Be sure to watch the helpful videos and you’ll be streaming like a pro.


  • Magic DVD Copier System Requirements: · Windows XP/2000/2003 · Pentium III 733 MHz · 128 MB of RAM · 8 GB of Free Hard Disk Space · A DVD Writer Drive I have a toddler at home who loves her Baby Einstein DVD’s. So much so that she often ejects and inserts them into the DVD player by herself. This can result in fingerprints, smudges and worst of all, scratches on these DVDs. Magic DVD Copier is a $35 program that allows me to make backups of my DVDs. It doesn’t matter what size the DVD is because it can compress it to fit onto one DVD disc at the cost of image quality. If you don’t want to lose picture quality you can burn one DVD to 2 discs or better yet just burn the movie without the previews or special features etc.

    Do I need a PHD to run this program?

    This program is so easy I think my grandma can operate it. It automatically detects your burner and your source drive for you. It even detected a good drive to use for temp space for me. All you need to do is insert the DVDs and click on Go, and the program will do the rest. There is even a check box to have it shut down your machine when it’s done. I tested that feature out and it works.

    What can this program do?

    Here is the list of features mentioned on their site: · Copy DVD movie to blank DVD in 1:1 mode · Compress a DVD9 movie to a 4.7 GB blank DVD · Split a DVD9 movie to two 4.7 GB blank DVDs without any loss of quality · Copy main movie only · Copy DVD movie to hard drive and burn DVD movie from hard drive · Remove all the restrictions of DVD (CSS, Region, RCE, Sony ARccOS, PuppetLock) · High speed, copy a full DVD disc in 1:1 mode within 20-40 minutes · Very easy to use, just by one click This program works as advertised. It allowed me to copy DVDs that Nero did not let me copy. I now have backups of Baby Einstein Wordsworth (just copied the movie file) and The Incredibles (over 7GB to 4.7GB disc). This program is very easy yet powerful. I ran into no problems using it.

    Advanced Features

    There are many areas you can tweak in the configuration menu. I set it to automatically compress to fit onto one disc. There are more advanced features such as setting the read error tolerance, removing prohibited user operations, and always keeping the DVD menu while splitting. By default the programs will clear the temp space it uses upon finishing.

    Final Thoughts

    If you’re looking for a good DVD backup program I highly recommend looking into this software. There’s a free demo and the price is very reasonable, as I have seen comparable programs for close to $100. Upgrades are free for a year and you get lifetime support. You can buy the software by either getting a digital registration code or by purchasing a CD-Rom for an additional $9.95. Like many programs this software can be used to make illegal copies of movies. I only endorse it for making legit copies of DVDs you already own.

  • boxart
    Software Info:

    MiniTool Partition Wizard Pro 11.5
    Developed by: MiniTool
    Version reviewed: 11.5
    Price: $39 for one year of updates, $59 for lifetime upgrades

    Thank you MiniTool for sending us a Pro license code to review!

    We recently reviewed Aomei’s Partition Assistant Professional and were pleasantly surprised with all of the features it offered. Both Aomei and MiniTool have free versions of their utilities, but some of the advanced features require a Professional license to use them. Though both programs allow you to recover data from a partition level, in order to use Partition Wizard’s data recovery feature, you need to have the $99 Ultimate license.

    The Professional version has lots of great utilities that go above and beyond partition creating, resizing, deleting, and copying. If you’re concerned about the integrity of your drive, you can run a surface test on it to detect bad blocks. As long as the drive has been initialized in Windows, you can run a customizable speed test on it. You can change the sizes of the files and the length of the cooldown time between tests.

    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Lots of handy utilities along with easy partition management
    Weak Points: Data recovery support is $99 with lifetime upgrades

    If you’re switching out your hard drive/SSD you can easily copy the partitions or the entire drive using this software. There is a wizard for cloning a hard drive to SSD which is handy since many people upgrading to SSD are migrating over to a smaller drive.

    When you want to securely erase your drive there are many methods available in this software. You can quickly fill the sectors with zeros or ones. Filling the sectors with ones and zeroes takes a little more time. The drive can also be erased three or seven times over using Department of Defense (DoD) standards.

    There are several master boot record (MBR) utilities including the ability to rebuild it or convert it to Globally Unique Identifier (GUID) partition table (GPT). GPT is the newer standard that supports UEFI. One nice benefit of GPT is the support for more than four primary partitions. In fact, GPT can support up to 128 primary partitions. With that many partitions, this program will be invaluable when it comes to keeping track of them all!

    This application is pretty straightforward and easy to use. The Windows 10-like interface has all of the main features one click away at the launch screen. When creating or changing partitions, the changes will not take effect until you apply them. You’ll get a standard disclaimer that overwriting partitions will delete any data that is there. Make sure you know what you're doing or else you’ll have to put your faith in the recovery tools!

    If you’re in the market for swapping, changing, or upgrading your drives MiniTool Partition Wizard is worth looking into. The free version can do many of the important features with the exception of changing the cluster size and going from NTFS to FAT. The data recovery mode lets you see what files can be recovered before spending the $99 on the license to actually restore them. You have nothing to lose and lots of cool utilities to gain with MiniTool Partition Wizard Pro 11.5.

  • OpenMW

    Sometimes the classics never fall out of fashion, and when it comes to gaming, The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind is considered a timeless classic.

    However, the developers behind the project this review discusses feared the game engine would eventually be unable to keep parity with the advance of technology, and even now it still needs supplementary programs to fix issues dating back to 2002, so they decided to create an open-source re-implementation of the TES3 engine called OpenMW.

    OpenMW is a cross-platform re-implementation of the TES3 executable code and game editor written from scratch that supports Microsoft Windows, MacOS, and Linux based desktop/laptop PCs of multiple processor architectures. It requires a legal copy of the original assets of TES3 (though it is also possible to load original assets for original projects and some experimental tests prove compatibility with assets from later Elder Scrolls games), after which one can use this to run Morrowind without the original game executable, which was a 32-bit only Microsoft Windows exclusive application.

    OpenMW is currently in beta, Version - 0.45 is the current stable release at the time of this writing, but even at this early date it is possible to complete the main game campaign of the original Morrowind without any major issues, and already have fixed many issues that were impossible to fix in the original engine code.

    OpenMW

    Graphical enhancements are theoretically unlimited, and while the engine is still hobbled by the animation engine of Morrowind being fairly primitive (and they had to design to accommodate this for now), the current progress of OpenMW allows for many modern shader-based features that the original engine could never support. It's includes distant land generation as a stock engine feature, and in it's 64-bit state has no theoretical cap on memory save the limits of the user's computer, which allows for a lot more graphical assets to be displayed while maintaining a high framerate.

    Sound and video support are fully implemented using open source alternatives for the original middleware needed to render both, and while the engine is unable to resolve some issues that plagued the original engine regarding certain sound scripting, all sound and video from the original data plays more or less perfectly.

    Controls are much the same as the original game, though OpenMW provides easier movement via the field of view alterations and much more easily remappable controls. Stability is also greatly improved, and while it still has issues relating to their engine that is still being actively worked on, many engine stability issues from the original executable code have been dealt with and are no longer a problem, and the game crashes due to problems that plagued the original engine is nigh nonexistent.

    OpenMW

    However, the project does have some limitations and concerns. Legally, Bethesda Softworks has given the project their blessing, but have expressed strong disapproval of porting the engine to run commercial assets on non-desktop/laptop PCs. Legal arrangements have been made to assure Bethesda this is not the intentions of the developers. While they cannot prevent their code from being open-source and thus complied to do so by third parties, legally the OpenMW developers do not support or sanction such matters as a "first-class" citizen, meaning, this is not their primary goal (at least for rendering any commercial assets owned by Bethseda themselves). Original content that does not rely on commercial assets owned by Bethseda is completely acceptable for use in any non-computer port, a condition the OpenMW developers have agreed to support.

    From the standpoint of the modding community there is no built-in support for certain scripting programs that have made the original game far more extensible. Support for many of the most common features is already part of the OpenMW engine and plans to port the functionality of many popular third-party tools and coding extensions have been discussed and such would not be overly hard to do in many cases. In short, modders may possibly see many third party extensions integrated into later builds at some point.

    Overall, this project is still very much a work in progress at the time of this writing. Regardless, it shows a considerable amount of promise in achieving complete parity with the TES3 executable and game editor code. It already can serve as a quite well featured (if still incomplete in some areas) open-source replacement of the original Morrowind engine, meaning those other than people who have 32-bit compatible Microsoft Windows operating systems will have a viable way to enjoy Morrowind and other games made using the tools provided by this project's engine for many years to come.

  • OpenRA

    In the world of real-time strategy games, one of the undisputed masters of this craft is Westwood Studios. Their creation of Dune II and later Command and Conquer: Tiberian Dawn put them on the map for pioneering a new game genre. Command and Conquer: Red Alert only burnished their image as RTS pioneers and added more laurels to their crown. Except for Dune II and it's remade update Dune 2000, the aforementioned C&C TD/RA games are now freeware, and with the advent of the OpenRA engine, easily enjoyable on modern computers.

    OpenRA is a cross-platform engine recreation for the games Dune 2000 and the first generation of Command and Conquer games. This engine will work on all modern-day operating systems, including Windows, macOS, and Linux. However, before the engine is discussed, the games it supports are another matter.

    Dune 2000: While supported, this game is NOT in the public domain as freeware, it must be legally acquired (in its original CD format or copied to digital ISO equivalent) so its files can be used as a basis for the engine to play them. Dune II is not supported and is also not freeware.

    Command and Conquer: Tiberian Dawn: (also called C&C1) was legally made freeware in 2007, and that includes the Covert Operations expansion. The Sole Survivor spinoff is not covered by this engine (either legally or with support for it) and is not required.

    Command and Conquer: Red Alert: This was legally made freeware in 2008, alongside its expansion packs Counterstrike and Aftermath. The Retaliation PSX game is not supported, nor any of its content, and remains a commercial product.

    All the freeware game CD images needed for OpenRA are available in multiple places on the internet, though it is highly advised to obtain them from the places recommended in the OpenRA official help documentation, some versions are poorly dumped and cannot have their content imported by OpenRA. OpenRA can work without the freeware files, installing a barebones version needed to play basic singleplayer and multiplayer.

    OpenRA is not an exact source port, it is a reverse-engineered engine that is supposed to emulate the first-generation of Westwood's RTS games (which all used the same code), and while accurate for the most part, it also comes with many quality of life features like higher resolutions, improved UI, and other enhancements to improve fidelity and keep networked gaming stable. Modding support is also fully supported, both for the engine (which is open-source) and for the game content, so the engine and the content it can support by modders are fully open to modification. While it's code is currently adapted for the 1st-gen Westwood games, it's creators intend to make it support the second generation of Westwood games, especially since Command and Conquer: Tiberian Sun and it's Firestorm expansion are now also freeware, but this support remains a work in progress at the time of this writing.

    The only significant criticisms of OpenRA are its multi-player bias and its lack of improvements to the base game files in terms of quality and fidelity. As to the first criticism, while the single-player component is generally stable and the levels playable as originally intended, OpenRA's feature set is set towards making multi-player long-term viable, with the single-player seemingly playing second-fiddle. Admittedly, this could also have been said of the original games, but it is more pronounced for this engine given the feature set is heavily focused on the multiplayer enhancement side of things.

    As to the other complaint, EA Games (the current holders of Westwood's properties) have confirmed they are working with Petroglyph (which has many former Westwood alumni) on complete remasters of the C&C games OpenRA covers, only they will be upgrading the visual assets and basing their remaster on the original (as in, not reverse-engineered from scratch) source code used when the games in question were first released. The time of the release of this remastering is yet to be announced at the time of this writing, but the OpenRA project does not compete with it and there have been no objections from EA to OpenRA in any form.

    If one wants to experience the games covered by OpenRA at present and wants to do so without complicated and often difficult workarounds to make them work on modern computers that poorly run them in this day and age, you could do a lot worse than OpenRA. And more importantly, if one is a Dune 2000 or first-generation Command and Conquer fan, this engine is a free, open-source way to relive some RTS nostalgia for games that defined an entire genre for all time.

  • Many reviewers and gamers like to capture multiple screenshots and even videos of their game play. Play Claw can capture video, screenshots, display the frames per second, and it can even display TeamSpeak information so you know who is talking to you in multiplayer games. You can have PlayClaw launch with Windows, and it can run minimized or in your system tray. I prefer the latter.

    As a Vista 64 user I have often taken many black screenshots and with Play Claw I get good screenshots every time. It sure beats having to do a print screen, end my game, and paste it in paint and then restart my game again and repeat. You can bind whatever key you want for taking screenshots and you can choose the format to save it in (BMP, JPG, PNG, TGA). The quality and saving location can be adjusted as well.

    The screenshot and video capturing didn\'t make the system take too horrible of a performance hit on my system, but it was noticeable. If you\'re playing a game like TrackMania where every 100th of a second can count, DON\'T capture screenshots and expect to win the race. In all fairness, Fraps has the same performance hit.

    If you want to benchmark, you can see your frame rate and even overlay the value onto your screenshots. The location of the FPS counter can be customized or disabled altogether.

    There\'s a lot of options when it comes to capturing video. If you have a multi-core system you can choose how many cores to dedicate to PlayClaw. The size of the video will be determined by how compressed it will be, and there\'s low and high compression as well as no compression options available. Capturing full or half of the frame size will affect the file size as well. You can set the capture frame rate to 15, 30, or 60.

    Sound can be captured as well, but it may take a few tries to get it configured right. The sound options will vary with the different sound drivers out there. The video is saved in .avi format and it uses its own codec which is problematic if you want to upload the video to youtube. If you want to upload and share your video on a site like tangle or youtube you\'ll have to convert the file first. There are some free utilities out there that can do it but the ones I tried either didn\'t recognize the video or I lost the sound afterward. According to the developers, future versions will have more codecs/software supported. When I record video using FRAPS I can edit and upload the video to youtube with no problems. For this review I hoped to post a comparative video, but only FRAPS gave me something that I could easily share. I gave up on my Play Claw captured video.

    I didn\'t have any problems running Play Claw, but while it was running some of my media programs were not closing gracefully. It\'s not the end of the world, but a little annoying.

    Play Claw has a 30 day demo that will watermark your screenshots and limit your video recording to 30 seconds. The FRAPS demo has the same limitations. Play Claw costs $30, which is $7 cheaper than FRAPS.

    Interface 10/10
    Stability 8/10
    Value 16/20
    Usability 40/60
     
    Overall 74%
  •  

    System Requirements
    CPU: 300mhzWindows 98,2000, XP HDD: 10MB free space RAM: 32MB RAM

    This software is for anyone interested in getting the most performance out of your machine. SpeedUpMyPC allows you to optimize your internet (dialup) connection, boot up time, page file/memory usage, and helps prevent crashes. This software is ideal for those with low-memory systems. Many of the features can be obtained freely; so the question is: Is this program worth $30?

    How do I optimize my boot up?

    SpeedUpMyPC records your boot up times for you which I think is nifty. This may or may not be accurate for me since I have a couple of boot loaders with selection timeout delays. But in either case there is a section where you can enable and disable your programs that auto start. This is very similar to the msconfig utility. Windows 2000 does not come with this program anymore but the Windows XP version will work with it. When I optimized my boot up I gained 3 seconds but your mileage may vary. My boot up times vary every time so the gain or loss is hard to determine.

    Internet

    For those of us with 56K we can use all the bandwidth help we can get. There is an internet speed detector which can help you gauge your kb/sec download rates. From this section you can have the program automatically optimize your internet for you. Again your results may fluctuate as internet connections do. I was getting varied results after testing out my internet speeds. I am getting from 49.2 to 56.3 kb/sec. If you are unhappy with your optimizations there is a restore internet settings button. Phew! Again if you swing by www.download.com you can do a search for \'internet optimizer\' and you will see some shareware and freeware applications that do this. Make sure they have an undo function because they do modify your registry!4MemoryIn the memory section of SpeedUPMyPC you see graphical charts of your memory and page file usage. There are some options you can enable like Free up memory automatically if it exceeds 75% usage. You can even set quick keys to free it on the fly. There is an option to display a warning when the page file usage exceeds 90%. These % variables can all be changed. There are also Free RAM and Deep RAM Recovery buttons at your disposal. I really didn\'t get to test this feature since my Windows 2000 machine has plenty of memory and hard drive space. :)

    Anti-Crash

    Don\'t you hate it when your system locks up? Ever want a key sequence to try and recover it? Well this program tries to offer that plus detect the problems before they happen! If it does happen you can enable it to restart the Windows shell for you. To run the crash recover you can click the button or try the default key combo CTRL+Shift+R. You can set your own key combination if you like.

    CPU optimization

    This is the part of the program that impressed me the most. In here you can select processes to run silently in the background. There is also an option to prioritize Windows system functions when the CPU reaches 80% usage. My favorite area is the Assign more CPU resources to a certain application. By default you can scroll down to what\'s currently running but you can also type in the exe you want to optimize. It does not keep the settings so you have to manually type in your executable names each time you change programs. Feature request: Remember the programs to optimize for future uses! I typed in the UT2003 executable and the 3dmark03 executables and ran them with and without the CPU resources feature. Both times I got a performance boost. So this program DOES work! In UT2003 without the optimization my lowest frame rate was 38. With the optimization running I got a low of 73! The overall benchmark score jumped from 147 to 149 with the optimization. The 3dmark03 score went from 1452 without the optimization to 1464 with it enabled. You can get the same results from running the programs with a high priority level. In order to do that you have to either make custom batch files, tweak your registry, edit the shortcut, or execute it from a command line. This program just makes it a little more convenient. It would be even more so if it allowed you save the exe files you add.

    Final Thoughts

    This program does do what it promises. Although I didn\'t see a huge difference in internet or boot time, this will vary from system to system. I was very impressed with the convenience of the CPU optimizer though. I\'d say if your looking for ways to clean up and stabilize your system you\'re better off getting Norton System Works for your $30. But if you\'re a gamer and would like get an edge in your games this software is worth looking into! I\'d get it for the CPU optimizer and consider the internet and boot up tweaks a bonus. :)

  • boxart
    Software Info:

    VR Toolbox
    Developed by: MyDream Interactive
    Published by: MyDream Interactive
    Release date: December 26, 2016
    Available on: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
    ESRB Rating: Not rated
    Price: $13.99

    Thank you MyDream Interactive for sending us this application to review!

    When we were sent this software to review it was titled LightVR which has positive reviews on Steam.  The first VR application this company released is called MyDream Swift, which is still available despite the negative Steam reviews.  MyDream Swift only costs .99 cents now, but it was originally released for $30.  MyDream Swift converts games and movies into an immersive VR experience while VR Toolbox does a virtual living space with customizable windows/desktop screens that you can configure.

    To get the immersive experience in a movie or a game you simply have to enable the First Person Mode (FPS).  While neat, I found myself feeling too close to the movie or game I was in. It’s kind of like being in the front row at the movie theater; it works, but it’s not ideal.  Playing games in this mode is a little laggy, but still usable.

    Gaming in one of the many screens ran flawlessly and I didn’t experience any slowdowns in playing Pinball FX2 - Star Wars™ Pinball: Rogue One.  In fact, I managed to get my two highest scores while enjoying it in my virtual living space.  

    vr toolbox
    Highlights:

    Strong Points: Cheaper than having multiple monitors, but you get the same effect
    Weak Points: Out of date browser bundled with it; application crashes; hard to use the browser with no virtual keyboard
    Moral Warnings: The camera pass-through mode is called ”beer mode”

    Besides my desktop/gaming window, there’s a tutorial window that shows the controls, how to access the in-app menu, and how to move/resize windows.  The desktop window shows everything on your primary monitor while the other windows are only visible in your virtual VR space.  

    A browser that defaults to Google images of cat wallpapers is available for browsing without being seen by anyone else.  This can be useful come Christmas shopping time!  The browser appears to be Chrome based and is out of date and prompts for updating.  That problem is easy enough to fix, though it did crash the application after telling it to update.

    Since everything is movable in your virtual living space, it is possible to completely ruin it.  There are some reset to default options, but I had to delete my user data completely to fix it at least one time.  The other time I had to reset my data was when the application got a new name and incompatible settings.  When you reset your profile, the browser becomes out of date again. 

    vr toolbox

    I like how customizable the virtual living space is.  You can have the exterior be different planets, busy cities, serene mountains, or surrounded by molten lava.  My favorite background was the alien moon.  By default you have a couch and a chair as props in your room.  There are plenty more available to add by browsing in your Steam folder.  You can also import your own object files if you desire to do so.  

    There are many different windows you can add to make your virtual living area more functional.  Since I don’t have a camera on the Oculus Rift, I added a webcam window so I could see what was going on around me.  Other presets include YouTube 360, Skype, Twitch, and many popular websites like Reddit and Google finances for tracking the stock market. As handy as these gadgets are, using them is a bit complicated without being able to type on a keyboard without losing focus on the virtual application window.  If there was a virtual keyboard you can use, that would make surfing the web in this environment so much easier.

    Despite being a little rough around the edges, this application is pretty useful and is worth looking into.  The price is a reasonable $13.99 and is worth adding to your wishlist if you already own a VR headset.  If you’re just looking to transform games and movies into a VR experience, the .99 cent MyDream Swift is a little easier on your wallet.  I would normally I say that I look forward to more titles from this developer, but since they have changed the name so many times, I’ll just say that I look forward to new offerings from them!

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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