All posts by Sathya Bhat

Sathyajith aka "Sathya" or "cpg" loves working on computers, and actively participates in many online communities. Sathya is a Community Moderator on Super User, a collaboratively maintained Q&A site which is part of the Stack Exchange network. Sathya also contributes to and is a Super Moderator at Chip India Forums. While not writing SQL queries or coding in PL/SQL, Sathya is also a gamer, a Linux enthusiast, and maintains a blog on Linux & OpenSource. You can reach Sathya on twitter.

Steam Beta Client Allows for Remote Download and Install of Games from Steam Website

Ever been in this situation where you’ve purchased a kickass game during your work hours and can’t wait to reach home and start playing it? You’re eager to start the download. But you run into a small glitch. You can’t start the download till you have access to your home system and you can’t access your home system from work.

Steam

Luckily, Valve’s come up with a solution for this.The latest beta version of Steam client comes with a new feature: the ability to initiate remote downloads. You’ll need to opt-in into the beta program to utilize this.

Steam Beta Opt-in

Once you’ve updated to the new client, login to Steam Website, head over to Community -> Games. Now all games tied to your Steam account will be listed, as will be shown, the icon to start the remote install.

Steam Start Remote Install

You can even pause and check the status of the download, all right from the website.

Steam remote install status

Pretty nifty feature this, to be honest. Hope it gets featured into the stable builds soon. Till then, you can always opt-into the beta and start using this.

Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook Review

There’s a new breed of laptops coming out in the market. Inspired by the MacBook Air, this new breed, known as “Ultrabook” strives at achieving a perfect balance of weight, performance and battery life. Dell has introduced their first set of such laptops, in form of the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook. Let’s see how the Ultrabook performs.

Laptop Specifications:

  • Processor: SandyBridge based Intel Core i7-2637M CPU @ 1.70GHz w/ HTEM64TVT-xVT-d & AES new instructions ( CPU-z validation)
  • Main memory: 2x2GB DDR3 1333 MHz Dual Channel mode
  • SSD: Samsung PM830 mSATA
  • Sound Card: Realtek High Definition
  • Graphics Card: Intel HD 3000
  • WiFi: Intel Centrino 6230 802.11 a/b/g/n plus Bluetooth
  • Expansion & Misc ports: 2xUSB, 1xHeadphone out, 1xMini DisplayPort

Packaging:

The packaging was pretty good. The XPS 13 came in a laptop briefcase-esque carton, with lots of foam padding which offers shock protection. With the foam padding, the box gives you an impression that the Ultrabook is a lot bigger than it actually is.

Dell XPS 13 Box

Dell XPS 13

Inside the “briefcase” was the laptop enclosed in a plastic cover placed within a cardboard box. Present in the box was the XPS 13, an envelope featuring quick start guide, warranty & registration information and safety single page quick usage guide. The XPS 13 Ultrabook also came with a Windows 7 Professional SP1 Reinstallation disk, a drivers & utilities DVD, FastAccess Face Recognition software CD and Webcam central CD.

Looks, Build Quality & Weight:

Dell seems to have taken a lot of design cues from the MacBook Air. From the shape to the thickness to the tapering edges, the XPS 13 doesn’t have any unique design to distinguish itself from the MacBook Air. Not that this is a bad thing – the XPS 13 is amazingly sleek and very, very light. Heck even if you compare it with Google’s Cr-48, the pilot ChromeBook, the XPS comes out as the winner between the two in terms of weight. The top cover has a nice matte silver finish with a Dell logo. Unlike Apple and HP machines, the logo isn’t illuminated. The XPS 13 feels very good to hold and there’s no plasticky feel anywhere on the laptop. The bottom of the laptop has a nice rubber-style texture and helps in getting a good grip on the bottom of the laptop.

XPS 13 Unboxed

Diablo III Beta Becomes Open For All This Weekend

With less than a month to go for Diablo III to be released worldwide, Blizzard threw in a real surprise earlier today by announcing that Diablo III beta will be open for all Battle.net account holders.

The open beta will run from Friday, April 20 12:01 p.m. PDT till Monday, April 23 10:00 a.m. and will allow you to play co-op with your friends, with each of the five available classes, limited to a level cap of 13.

Diablo III Installer

So to get into the open beta, this is what you’ll have to do:

That’s it!

Blizzard calls this as a stress test to ensure that their servers are in order just before the big launch event. Korean players, however, won’t be able to participate in this stress. Blizzard has mentioned that players from Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau will be involved in a separate invite-only test. The closed beta will run in parallel to this stress test. While the stress test ends on Monday, the closed beta players will be able to play till the First of May, after which the beta ends.

Mac owners will be pleased to know that they aren’t left out this time, and Blizzard has separate Windows and Mac clients. So, what are you waiting for! Headover to Battle.net & download the client!

Bengaluru On The Go – A Must Have iPhone/iPod Touch App for Every Bangalore Based Commuter

With traffic in Bangalore soaring to new heights, more and more people have started commuting to their workplaces by means of public transport. Getting around a huge city like Bangalore can be quite daunting, especially if you’re new to the city.

Bengaluru On The Go aims to be the app to help you sort out the commuting scene. Developed by Mumbai-based Angry Goo Dev, Bengaluru On The Go is their second app on public transport, the first app being Mumbai On The Go.

The opening screen of Bengaluru On The Go is very nicely laid out, with 4 icons showing the different means of transportation of which infomation can be viewed through the app.

Bus

The Bus section is probably the place where you’ll spend most of the time using the app. The app allows you to search for buses as per bus stop, bus number and also from a specific location to a target destination.

Tapping on the bus stop brings up a comprehensive list of bus stops from which you can board the bus. Thankfully, there’s also a search feature which means that you don’t have to wade through list of bus stops that you aren’t interested in. Tapping on a specific station brings up a list of all buses that pass through this. The thing which had me confused the first time when I checked this section is that all the views are linked – so tapping on a bus stop brings up a list of buses, tapping on a specific bus brings list of all stops through which the bus goes. Clicking on the bus stop again brings up a list of bus stops – see what I mean?

 

There’s no logical “end” to this app, which is a good and a bad thing. It’s pretty nifty if you’re going from one end of the city to other, with no direct bus linking them, so this keeps the flow of the travel. On the bad side, if you don’t notice this behavior, you’ll end up being confused as to where you are. Thankfully, there’s a “Home” button on the right hand corner of every view, so there’s a easy way to get back to the home screen.

In addition to bus stops and individual bus listings, there’s also an info button which brings up general information about BMTC bus passes and the like.

Taxi & Auto

The Taxi section is mainly informational, showing the day & night time charges and contact information of couple of Taxi services in Bangalore. The auto section, however, has a nice dial listing the distance reading and it’s corresponding day and night reading. Much like the bus section, there’s a search bar in the auto section as well so you can just enter the distance and get the fare amount.

The fares are accurate to the latest revision and sourced from Bangalore Traffic Police, Bengaluru On The Go developer Mikhail Madnani informed me when I had asked him if the fares were up-to-date.

Metro

With Namma Metro running in limited areas of Bangalore, Bengaluru On The Go also features a section dedicated to Namma Metro. With timing information, fares for token and group fares, map of the Namma Metro, Bengaluru on the Go features just about anything that you would want to know about Namma Metro.

Conclusion

While there are few apps in the App Store focusing on public transport in Bangalore, none of them have integrated all the four means as nicely as Bengaluru On The Go. Probably one of the best features of Bengaluru On The Go is that the entire app is self contained, hence it works offline even if you do not have a data connection or if your cell phone is out of network coverage. The design of the app seems a bit dull, but Angry Goo Dev are working on revamping the design of the app soon.

Bengaluru on the Go is a paid app, available for $1.99 on the App Store. While it seems relatively steep, considering the time & effort saved trying to find information from going to one place to another makes it totally worth the sticker price.

My recommendation: If you’re in Bangalore and have an iPhone or an iPod Touch, you must have this on your apps list. Grab it from the App Store.

Mass Effect 3 Gets Free Multiplayer DLC Titled Resurgence

BioWare will be releasing a free DLC tomorrow, titled Mass Effect 3:Resurgence. Resurgence will be focusing on the multiplayer section of Mass Effect 3, with the DLC bringing in 6 new characters and 2 new multiplayer maps.

The new characters include

  • Asari Justicar(available as Adept)
  • Krogan Battlemaster(available as Vanguard)
  • Batarian (available as Soldier and Sentinel)
  • Geth(available as Engineer and Infiltrator)

Mass Effect 3 MP New Characters
Image courtesy BioWare.
The new maps featured are Firebase Condor, a warzone outpost located on one of Palaven’s moons and Firebase Hydra, an old abandoned Quarian colony converted into a dam facility.

Apart from these, the DLC also features goodies including:

  • More weapons – the Striker Assault Rifle, Harpoon Gun and Geth Plasma SMG
  • More reinforcement packs including Targeting VI, Shield Power Cells and Strength Enhancers.

Resurgence will be available for free on PSN, Origin and Xbox Live on the 10th of April in North America and the 11th of April in Europe.

Epic Cancels Gears of War: Exile

Epic Games has cancelled Gears of War: Exile, Epic’s rumoured upcoming game for the Xbox 360. Speaking to Gamespot, Epic Games Design Director Cliff Bleszinski mentioned that the studio has ceased working on the game.

Quoting Cliff

Let’s just bury the hatchet now. Gears of War: Exile was an unannounced game that I can’t give any details about that has since been cancelled.

Gears of War:Exile was rumoured to be unveiled at E3 2011, with Epic Games having even gone to the extent of trademarking “Gears of War: Exile”. However, since then, very little has been known about the game, apart from rumours of it being a Kinect-supported rails shooter.

Cliff’s statement indicates a certain amount of frustration about it being canned, and we can only wonder what was the real reason for it being shelved.

BioWare’s Band Aid Solution To “Please” Fans Over Mass Effect 3 Ending: Free DLC

Mass Effect 3 has been receiving quite a lot of criticism since the day it was available for pre-order. From the bungled pre-order offer to their Day 1 DLC fiasco to the outcry over the blatantly slaughtered ending, Mass Effect fans have been quite rabid in expressing their displeasure – particularly about the way the game ended. Some of the horde have taken the route of Meta Critic bombing – and one fan has gone ahead with a FTC complaint.

BioWare have been going overboard trying to quell the fans’ displeasure – so much so that BioWare co-founder and GM Dr. Ray Muzyka ended up publishing a OMG-please-relax-we-may-fix-it blog post.

Now, it looks like BioWare have caved to fan pressure and have just published a press release informing of a new DLC that’s scheduled to be out soon. The DLC will be free and will be known as Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut.

Quoting the press release:

Mass Effect™ 3:Extended Cut, a downloadable content pack that will expand upon the events at the end of the critically acclaimed Action RPG. Through additional cinematic sequences and epilogue scenes, the Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut will give fans seeking further clarity to the ending of Mass Effect 3 deeper insights into how their personal journey concludes. Coming this summer, the Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut will be available for download on the Xbox 360® videogame and entertainment system, PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and PC for no extra charge.

“We are all incredibly proud of Mass Effect 3 and the work done by Casey Hudson and team,” said Dr. Ray Muzyka, Co-Founder of BioWare and General Manager of EA’s BioWare Label. “Since launch, we have had time to listen to the feedback from our most passionate fans and we are responding. With the Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut we think we have struck a good balance in delivering the answers players are looking for while maintaining the team’s artistic vision for the end of this story arc in the Mass Effect universe.”

Casey Hudson, Executive Producer of the Mass Effect series added, “We have reprioritized our post-launch development efforts to provide the fans who want more closure with even more context and clarity to the ending of the game, in a way that will feel more personalized for each player.”

Now I’m a huge fan of the Mass Effect series, completed all the games and even though I did not like the ending, I do not like this move. As a game designer, you should either own up to the decisions that you have taken and stand by it, or get it right. Fan feedback is important, however the idea that a game developer is willing change the ending of a game to satisfy some section of fans is not something I’d like to see.

And oh, if you’re like fellow techie-buzz gaming fanatic Kaushik who’s been waiting for Mass Effect 3 price cuts, you might want to know that the “free” DLC offer is valid till April 2014.

Props to Sharath Patali for informing me of this Press Release.

Microsoft Open Sources ASP.Net MVC, Razor and Web APIs

Microsoft has announced that it will opensource their most recent Web Development framework stack – including the Model-View-Controller pattern based ASP.net MVC and Razor viewing engine. The ASP.net MVC framework and other related projects will have their sources released under the permissive Apache 2.0 license and will include sources starting from the very first version.

ASP.net

The source code will be hosted on CodePlex, allowing anyone to view, browse, check out & modify code as they seem fit – and perhaps even contribute in terms of a patch or bug fixes. The opensourced MVC stack will integrate quite a lot of open source projects – including  jQuery, jQuery UI, jQuery Mobile, jQuery Validation, Modernizr.js, NuGet, Knockout.js and JSON.NET.

Scott Gutherie, popularly known as ScottGu, the Corporate Vice President in Microsoft Server and Tools Business, posted the announcement in the ASP.net web blog, citing that the positive feedback received from their Azure SDK development process helped them convince that this model is good. ScottGu emphasizes that ASP.NET MVC and Razor will continue to be fully supported Microsoft products and they will shipped both standalone as well as part of Visual Studio.

ASP.net MVC powers some of the most popular websites, including the very popular Q&A portal for programmers, Stack Overflow, the entire network of Stack Exchange sites, Loopt, Plenty of Fish among others.

Sneak Peek at the Alienware X51

Back in February, Alienware had launched the Alienware X51. Unlike most Alienware systems, the X51 is pretty sleek. Dell had invited couple of bloggers to experience the X51. I took upon this opportunity to take a look at, play with and rip apart the X51. Some background: I’ve never truly liked any of the Alienware systems – be it laptops or desktops. I found them too bulky, too loud and simply not practical to be called as laptops or desktops. I’ve mentioned this during the last Gadgetize meet that was conducted in Bangalore, which had the Alienware in focus. The Alienware X51, however, is quite different from the existing Alienware systems. For starters, it is actually quite reasonably priced.  For a starting price of Rs 49,990 – you get a Core i5, 4GB of RAM, a 7200 RPM 1TB HDD system which comes with the GeForce GT 545. Now, I know you’d probably go on rant about how you can assemble a system with better specs and at a lesser price. True, but, I suppose with Alienware comes the bragging rights. And with the X51, you get an insanely sleek system.

Alienware X51

 

When I opened the X51 case, I realized that Alienware needed to apply some techniques you would see in a laptop, onto a desktop class system. The case & insides don’t comprise of a tool-less design. However, the X51 requires just a single screw to be removed to give you access to the inside. The first thing that hits you when you open the case is the complete lack of a Power Supply Unit. Power Supply Units, or PSU/SMPS as it’s commonly known as, is one of the most critical components of a computer, responsible for ensuring that all components in your computer get clean ripple-free, power. Modern PSUs are quite heavy, noisy & generate quite a lot of heat, as a result of which, they require some heavy duty ventilation. With the PSU no longer in the system, Alienware’s managed to shrink down the case size to slim levels without having to sacrifice ventilation

. Alienware X51 Power Supply

Instead of the PSU, an external power brick, much like the ones you see in laptops, powers the X51. Outsourcing of the PSU was not the only space cutting measure – since the X51 is so thin, there’s enough space for only a single hard drive, an optical drive and 2 RAM slots. Both these result in a severely gimped system, when it comes to expansion capabilities. For a system which announces itself to be blazing fast, the presence of a mechanical hard disk with no scope for a SSD(unless you swap out the hard disk) means that the I/O capabilities of the X51 are severely hampered.

Alienware X51 case opened

Mr. Sriram Gopalaswamy, the Brand Manager, Alienware India were present during the unveiling of the X51. I spoke to him about the X51 launch and about my reservations on the X51

  • The external power adapter for the X51 which makes it almost it a pain for future expansion
  • Lack of expansion options in terms of additional hard drives /SSDs & RAM slots

Sriram remarked that these tradeoffs were necessary to achieve X51’s form factor & adding in a SSD would make the X51 significantly more expensive. When asked about timelines on the delivery of the X51, Sriram mentioned that they’re aiming for a 1-week turnaround time for the entire process – from the ordering to the shipment.

The Alienware X51 can be configured and ordered online as well as at Dell Exclusive Stores.
My apologies for the poor quality of the images – the lighting conditions were not suitable for camera phone photography.

Diablo III Gets A Release Date(No Really!)

It’s the moment that all Diablo fans have been waiting for with bated breath, since it was first announced almost 4 years ago. Yes, people, Blizzard has finally announced the release date for Diablo III. The D-Day: May 15, 2012.

Diablo III

Blizzard, along with Valve, are famously known for releasing their games “when they’re ready” – and Diablo III is no exception. It was widely speculated that Diablo III would arrive somewhere around end of 2011. Rumours of the launch were raised earlier in January when Best Buy put up a countdown for the release of Diablo III. Blizzard denied that the release was to happen in February, which was implied by the countdown.

Diablo III can be purchased digitally from their Battle.net online store and upon pre-purchase, you’ll be able to download the game immediately. However, the game will be encrypted and unlocked only on May 15.

Diablo III will be available at a suggested price of $59.99 USD for both the retail DVD-ROM version and the digital version sold directly from Blizzard. The alabaster-white Collector’s Edition will be available on retail stores at a suggested retail price of $99.99 USD.

The Collector’s Edition will include the full game on DVD, a behind-the-scenes Blu-ray/DVD two-disc set, the Diablo III soundtrack CD, a 208-page Art of Diablo III book, and a 4 GB USB soulstone (including full versions of Diablo II and Diablo II: Lord of Destruction) and corresponding Diablo skull base, as well as exclusive in-game content for Diablo III, World of Warcraft, and StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty.

So, till you wait for May 15 to come, have a look at the opening cinematic. Also, do remember that if you purchase a year’s subscription of World of Warcraft, you’ll get Diablo III for free.

Meanwhile, I’ll go purchase some extra mice that I know I’ll need, as my existing ones will die click-click-clicking.