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June 2006



MS Network Diagnostic Tool

30 June 2006


One of the recent updates available through Windows Update is the MS Network Diagnostic Tool. Its functionality is barely touched on in this Knowledgebase Article, but it's designed to diagnose Cable/DSL problems. You can access it by going to your \WINDOWS\network diagnostic directory and running the xpnetdiag.exe file, however the reason I'm writing this is to let you know that even on my perfectly healthy DSL connection it shows lots of errors in the diagnostic log and says I don't have proper connectivity. So don't be alarmed if you've used this utility, it seems Microsoft needs to provide more instructions or a fix before this can be used properly, or perhaps they only want it to be used by their support staff.


Update: You can also access this tool by running Internet Explorer 7, going to the Tools menu, and under it selecting 'Diagnose Connection Problems'.



Internet Explorer 7 Beta 3 Released

30 June 2006


Microsoft have released the latest Beta 3 version of Internet Explorer 7. The changes in this latest version are listed at the bottom of this page, but essentially IE7 continues to evolve based on user feedback and bugs found, so I would recommend that all IE7 users upgrade to this version. IE7 Beta 3 should also be stable enough for anyone to install, so if you haven't tried it yet, give it a go. Note that you must uninstall any previous versions of IE7 before installing this latest version, as it does not install over itself.



Nvidia Official Beta 91.33 Forceware Released

30 June 2006


Nvidia have released another 'Official Beta' 91.33 Forceware driver set. The major change from these drivers over the previous Official 91.31 Forceware is the addition of a Prey profile for SLI users, and removal of the popup balloon indicating SLI status at startup. If you're running 91.31 and these issues don't affect you, then there really is no need to install this Beta.



FEAR 1.06 Patch Released

30 June 2006


Vivendi have released another patch for FEAR, bringing it up to Version 1.06. It weighs in at 10.3MB, and is primarily for fixing several issues, including problems loading save games after the 1.05 patch.



Day of Defeat: Source Major Update

29 June 2006


A major update for Day of Defeat: Source has been released. It contains two new maps, a new game mode and a range of new features and fixes - you can read the details here and to get it, simply restart your Steam client while online.



Flash Player 9 Released

29 June 2006


Adobe have released the new Flash Player 9 which provides improved performance when playing back Flash-based Internet media. If you use Flash functionality in your browser, it is recommended you upgrade to this version.



NForce 5 Series 9.16/9.35 Drivers Released

29 June 2006


Nvidia have released new drivers for the NForce 5 motherboard chipset. These are the 9.16 NForce drivers for NForce 570/550 series chipsets, and the 9.35 NForce drivers for the NForce 590 chipset. You can download them from the main Nvidia Site and note that these drivers are not compatible with earlier NForce motherboard versions.



Microsoft Patches Released & Official WGA Notifications Removal Method

28 June 2006


Microsoft has released several important patches for both Windows XP and Windows Vista Beta 2, which you can get through Windows Update, or by going through the Windows Security & Updates listings and downloading those relevant to you. The updates include an adjustment for Australia's recent change to Daylight Savings Time.


A new version of the Windows Genuine Advantage Notifications Tool is also provided in these updates, and it removes the controversial (though harmless) method of periodically checking online to see if your copy of Windows is legitimate. More details of this turnaround by Microsoft are here, however you don't have to install the new version of WGAN to remove the old one: MS now provide Removal Instructions detailing how to get rid of the earlier version of WGAN.



Site Update

27 June 2006


Just a quick update to firstly say thanks to all those who have written to me expressing their support for the site, I really do appreciate it. Thanks also to my host EuroVPS for temporarily making special allowances for this site. Secondly, I want to give a heads-up that I'm back to working on The Gamers Display Settings Guide, but it's proving surprisingly difficult to research and convert complex graphical concepts into plain english. It will be out soon, but I can't say exactly how soon. Again, I feel it will be worth the effort.



ATI Catalyst 6.6 Released

27 June 2006


ATI have released the Official 6.6 Catalysts, with the change list detailed here. These drivers contain some performance improvements for Far Cry, FEAR and Splinter Cell, and a range of fixes, so they are recommended to all ATI users. I have updated my ATI Catalyst Tweak Guide for this version, but there are no significant changes.



Site Update

26 June 2006


As you may have noticed, the site has been relatively unresponsive and down intermittently over the past two hours. Apologies for the inconvenience, this is due to the large amount of traffic drawn to the Prey Tweak Guide and to our Forums. I'm working on this issue with my host, however the only real long-term solution is to upgrade to a full-spec dedicated server, but this would cost over $US400 per month and I simply can't invest that much into the site given the lack of revenue and sponsors. Increasing advertising would not be much help either since most people either block or ignore ads, and at best all it would do is raise a few bucks more to make the site look a whole lot worse and not solve the main problem. I have already been approached by advertisers who want me to put all sorts of deceptive and/or irrelevant advertising throughout the site, and I have had to say no.


It's not that I'm a Socialist or averse to making money - the bottom line is that this site depends on its independence; that's both something I'm proud of, and one of the major reasons people come here. I try to offer totally unbiased advice for all types of PC hardware and software. If I were to be sponsored by ATI or Nvidia, or Intel or AMD for example, they would (quite rightly) expect me to push their particular products over their rivals. I've already had an indication of this expectation from one major manufacturer I've been in contact with. While other sites may not mind doing this in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, it's something I'm not going to do. So if it means that the TweakGuides Forums have to go offline, perhaps for good, to keep the main site humming, that's sadly what I'll have to do. Hopefully in the long run a smart sponsor who shares the same values will get on board, and clearly I have no problems with advertising products I already use or recommend, but so far no major sponsor has come forward with a reasonable offer.



Prey Tweak Guide Released

25 June 2006


I was so impressed by the Prey Demo released recently, I decided to create a Prey Tweak Guide to complement this great game. Although Prey is firmly based around a modified Doom 3 engine, and as such much of my current Doom 3 Tweak Guide applies to the game, the in-game settings are sufficiently numerous and different to warrant clear explanation and screenshot comparisons, and I've also taken the time to go through the various major console commands and weed out any ones which don't work for Prey, along with adding a few new commands which Prey brings to the Doom 3 engine. Give the guide a read through to make sure you get the most out of this innovative and refreshing game.



Official Nvidia 91.31 Forceware Released

24 June 2006


Nvidia have released the final (non-beta) version of the 91.31 Forceware graphics drivers. These seem to be identical to the 91.31 Betas released earlier, although note that some issues with the new Nvidia Control Panel appear to have been resolved with these, so I would recommend that even Beta 91.31 users uninstall those and install this version. The changes are listed here, and I would definitely recommend all Nvidia users upgrade to this version. I have updated the Nvidia Forceware Tweak Guide for this release. If you're not familiar with the New Control Panel in particular, refer to page 8 of the guide.



WinAmp 5.24 Released

24 June 2006


A new version of the free multimedia player, WinAmp 5.24 has been released. What is significant about this is that the latest version fixes a security vulnerability present in earlier versions of WinAmp (right up to Version 5.23), so all WinAmp users are urged to upgrade to this latest release.



Nvidia NTune 5 Final Released

23 June 2006


Nvidia have released the final version of the NTune 5 Utility for Nvidia NForce-based motherboards. This is a very handy utility for both monitoring your system vitals such as voltage and temperatures, and also allows you access to a range of overclocking tools. If you have the NTune 5 Beta installed, it's recommended that you uninstall that first before installing this version.



Prey Demo Released

22 June 2006


A Prey Demo has just been released (449MB), and although I was hesitant at first to give it a go, having just played it now I think it's definitely a great game. It uses the Doom 3 engine, and the visuals appear similar to Doom 3 in some ways (though not as dark). However what I really enjoy about the game is the variety of innovative features, in terms of how you interact with the environment and objects around you, the weapons and creatures are original and interesting, and the general atmosphere of the game is very immersive. Even though my Doom 3 Tweak Guide covers much of the tweaking for this game, I'm going to try to put out a Prey Tweak Guide as I feel the game deserves it.


Update: Tweaking Prey appears to be identical to tweaking Doom 3, so again, please refer to the Doom 3 Tweak Guide for details, and also to this thread where I spell out some of the basic tweaks.


Update 2: While I prepare the Prey Tweak Guide, you can find a list of all the console commands in this file I've compiled: PreyCommands.zip (19KB).



Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 1.16 Patch Released

22 June 2006


Ubisoft have released the much-anticipated major "June Patch" for GRAW. Also known as the GRAW Map Pack #1, this map pack/patch brings the game up to Version 1.16 (128MB). This patch adds new Multiplayer maps, game modes, a map editor and a large range of fixes and updates - including a new Edge Smoothing option which simulates antialiasing to reduce the jaggedness of lines. This patch is a must-install for all GRAW players, and you should also check out the GRAW Advanced Tactical Center (30MB), a free official add-on utility which is very useful in assisting you to coordinate tactics with your teammates. I will update the GRAW Tweak Guide shortly for all the changes in this latest patch, include a screenshot and performance comparison of the new Edge Smoothing option.


Update: The GRAW Tweak Guide has been updated, see pages 3, 4 and 6 in particular for the significant changes.



Hitman: Blood Money 1.2 Patch Released

21 June 2006


IO Interactive have released another patch for Hitman: Blood Money, bringing the game up to Version 1.2. The patch is 9.9MB in size, and fixes a range of problems with the game. It is recommended that all Hitman: Blood Money players update to this version.



Opera 9 Released

20 June 2006


The latest version of the free Opera web browser, Opera 9 has been released. Opera is already well known as one of the fastest browsers around, and the latest release adds plenty of great features, including built-in Bittorrent support and Opera Widgets. Opera functions perfectly well alongside Firefox and Internet Explorer - in fact I have all three on my system. So give it a try and see what you think of it.



Windows Live Messenger Released

20 June 2006


Microsoft have released the final version of Windows Live Messenger, the successor to MSN Messenger. This new messaging program contains all of MSN Messenger's features in improved form, and integrates with other Windows Live services. You can use voice, text or video messaging, make free PC-to-PC phone calls to other Live Messenger users and share documents with friends among other things. Note the official site link still doesn't seem to be working properly, but you can download it directly from here.


Update: The main site link now works fine, so download Live Messenger from there.



SoundBlaster X-Fi Crackling Update

20 June 2006


The Creative site X-Fi Zone has released an Update on the various scenarios in which SoundBlaster X-Fi sound card owners may experience crackling/popping, and some possible solutions you can try. Their conclusion however is that Nvidia must release a BIOS update for their graphics cards and/or a BIOS update for the relevant motherboards to fully resolve this issue. They suggest that this issue is in fact not unique to Creative X-Fi cards, though my experience would suggest otherwise. In any case if you're an X-Fi owner check the link above and also note that Creative will be releasing driver updates more frequently in an attempt to resolve such issues.



Site Update

20 June 2006


So you're wondering where the next guide is, right? Well as always, I tend to get a bit more involved in a topic than first anticipated. The Gamer's Display Settings Guide as it is now called will not only include descriptions and tweaks for major graphics-related settings, it also includes a simple-to-understand overview of how 3D graphics works, from the moment a game is loaded to when it comes out on your screen. I'm also finding other valuable tidbits to incorporate into the guide, but I will try to get it out by the end of this week. I have a feeling you'll like it.



Free Kings Quest III Remake

20 June 2006


If you're old enough to remember the classic 1986 game King's Quest III, you'll be happy to know that an enhanced but faithful remake of it has now been released. You can download it absolutely free from here (43MB).



Battlefield 2 Update

18 June 2006


EA have provided a quick Update on upcoming Battlefield 2 changes. As expected, some of the issues resulting from the 1.3 Patch are to be resolved, and a new map called Road to Jalalabad will also be released shortly. All of these changes will be available in the next patch, which EA are even opening up to public beta testing in July. I have mixed feelings about this issue: on the one hand community beta testing of patches should provide better quality final patches; on the other hand I'm not sure if BF2 players should be forced to become unpaid beta testers and possibly experience a lot of problems along the way because of it.



Half Life 2: Episode 2

17 June 2006


There have been some rumors flying around that Half Life 2: Episode 2 would be delayed until Spring 2007, most notably in PC Gamer magazine. Valve's Doug Lombardi has confirmed that this is in fact not true, and that Episode 2 is still slated for release during the Holiday season late this year.


On the topic of Episode 2, note also that an Episode 2 Beta Invitation is doing the rounds via email. Do not click on or reply to this email as it is a fake; Valve are not sending out invitations to beta test Episode 2 in this way.



GameApex Interview

16 June 2006


The good folks over at GameApex have just posted an Interview with one of my favorite people on the Internet...me! Check it out to see my always-controversial views, including a comment I make about hating people :) In all seriousness though thanks to Gameapex for the article, it's a nice promotion for TweakGuides and I enjoyed the chat.



TweakGuides Folding@Home Team

16 June 2006


Just another reminder that if you're interested in helping find cures for various diseases, a practical way to do so is to join the TweakGuides Folding@Home Team. The team is up to 34 members now and is racing up the charts thanks to a lot of friendly competition both within the team and against other teams. You don't have to be a forum member to join, just follow the instructions here and away you go.



Nexuiz - Free Open Source Game

15 June 2006


The open source first person shooter/deathmatch game Nexuiz is now up to Version 2.0 and available for free download. It weighs in at 191MB and looks quite good in my opinion - give it a go.



Skype 2.5 Released

15 June 2006


The new Version 2.5 of Skype has been released. Skype allows you to call other users around the world for free, and also call normal phones at reasonable rates. Version 2.5 introduces SMS messaging and simplifies the process of using SkypeOut.



Google Picasa and Picasa Web Albums

14 June 2006


Google has released a new feature for its free Picasa picture management software: Picasa Web Albums. This provides you with 250MB of space to upload your photos and thus share them with others on the Internet. Picasa Web Albums is free, but to sign up you require a Gmail account and of course the latest version of the Picasa software.



Windows Patches Released

14 June 2006


Microsoft has released the latest set of new security patches for Windows XP. There's quite a few of them, and the quickest way to get them is to use the Windows Update site. More details of these updates and individual download links can be found here.



Windows Patch Released for Vista

13 June 2006


Microsoft has started releasing public patches for Windows Vista Beta 2, and this patch is a compatibility fix for Symantec Antivirus 10.0.1.622 on Vista Beta 2.



Site Update

12 June 2006


I've managed to finish updating all the major guides on the site, and now I can finally move on to writing some new ones. As promised earlier, the next guide will look at VSync, Refresh Rates/Response Times, Resolution, Frames Per Second and all the associated terms gamers have become familiar with. While you may have a reasonable understanding of these, the aim of the guide is to lay it all out in simple terms, and to end common misconceptions about what these options actually do. This will help you with everything from getting the optimal image quality and performance on your system, to informing your next purchase of a PC monitor or even an HDTV. I understand that some of you may be less than excited about the concept for this guide, but you'll have to trust me that it will be quite an eye opener for many of you and will focus on practical information and useful utilities. Stick with me and it should be out within the next week or two.



DirectX9.0c June Update

11 June 2006


Microsoft has released an updated version of DirectX9.0c. It is generally recommended that all users upgrade to this version, though there are no performance improvements from it - it's mainly for compatibility and security purposes. Note also that this coming Tuesday will see Microsoft release a range of security patches for Windows as part of their monthly cycle.



Windows Vista Public Beta the Largest Software Download in History

10 June 2006


What happens when you try to serve a popular multi-gigabyte-sized download to the entire planet? Well Microsoft seems to have found out the hard way with their Windows Vista Public Beta 2 release earlier this week. Apparently it's the largest downloaded software in history. Just like many of you, I struggled to try to download the Beta (4.4GB 64-bit version in my case), only to find it aborting twice exactly upon completion, and only through some fiddling around did I manage to get it on the third download. And I'm one of the lucky ones - Microsoft have now clearly indicated on the Vista Beta site that many users will simply not be able to access the download, and should order a DVD version. If they attempt to increase the amount of bandwidth they're providing, they will literally slow down the entire Internet!



Call of Duty 1.3 Patch Released

9 June 2006


Activision have released another patch for Call of Duty 2, bringing it up to Version 1.3. The patch weighs in at 37MB and contains a range of multiplayer-related fixes. I recommend all COD2 players install this patch, and it's good to see Activision still supporting this game.



TweakGuides Tweaking Companion Version 3.10 Released

9 June 2006


The new Version 3.10 of the TweakGuides Tweaking Companion has just been released. It contains a range of changes designed to keep this comprehensive Windows XP and system optimization guide completely up to date. I recommend that all TGTC users update to the latest version, and of course if you've never used the Tweaking Companion before, then it's strongly suggested that you grab a copy and see for yourself what all the fuss is about.


Update: All TGTC 3.0 Deluxe Edition PDF purchasers have been sent an email detailing how they can get their upgraded Deluxe Edition. The email has been sent to your Paypal account email - make sure to check your spam filters/bulk email box in case it gets trapped there.



Intel Chipset Driver 8.0.1.1002 Released

8 June 2006


Intel have released the latest version of their Intel INF Chipset Driver for Intel-based motherboards. This latest version specifically adds support for new Intel chipsets, but will install on all major Intel-based motherboards.



Windows Vista Beta 2 Released to Public

8 June 2006


Microsoft have now released Windows Vista Beta 2 to the general public. You can find out more about this beta release, and download it from here. The 32-bit version is 3.5GB and the 64-bit version is 4.4GB. You can either download the file as an .ISO (DVD Burner required) or order a DVD edition to be sent to you. This Beta will expire on 1 June 2007, and there is no technical support provided by Microsoft. You can however download and read the Windows Vista Beta 2 Product Guide (60MB) which is a comprehensive feature-by-feature guide to Vista Beta 2.


Update: I tried several times to complete the beta process and kept getting an error. Turns out this was solely because I was selecting to download it from my region (Australia); selecting the United States as the region subsequently worked fine. Note further that the Microsoft servers are being hammered and you may experience delays in being able to access the download.


Update 2: A lot of people are having problems getting the download to work. There are still some issues with the Microsoft servers, as people are finding the download finishes with an error, or reports an incorrect file size. I mention one solution which worked for me here.



Windows Patch Released

8 June 2006


Microsoft has released a new Windows Patch which prevents 'Stop 0xD1' errors on Windows XP SP2 systems with certain network adapter drivers and certain host firewall software. If you think this affects you, install the patch.



Oblivion Final 1.1.511 Patch Released

7 June 2006


Bethesda have released the final (non-beta) Version 1.1.511 patch for Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. There are two versions of this patch, one for the US version of the game, and another for UK/Europe/Australia, so make sure you download the correct patch. The changes are listed here. I found that this patch would not install correctly on my Oblivion 1.1 Beta patched version. So I would recommend to all Beta 1.1 patch users to backup your save games directory (found under \Documents and Settings\[Username]\Documents\My Games), uninstall Oblivion completely and then reinstall and patch with the correct final 1.1 patch.


Update: I have updated my Oblivion Tweak Guide to take account of the changes from this patch - see page 4 in particular. For most intents and purposes this patch has the same changes and impacts as the Beta 1.1 patch.



BF2: Armored Fury Expansion Released

6 June 2006


EA Games have released another Booster (expansion) pack for Battlefield 2: the much-anticipated Armored Fury. The expansion introduces 6 new vehicles and 3 new maps to BF2, weighs in at 370MB and is available for download directly from EA Downloader at a cost of $US9.99. Note that you will need the original BF2 game in order to play this.



Nvidia Official Beta 91.31 Forceware Released

6 June 2006


Nvidia have released another Official Beta Forceware driver set. This time it's the 91.31 Beta Forceware, and it primarily contains a range of bugfixes, particularly for the new Control Panel, as detailed here. These should be fine for most Nvidia users to install, especially if you're already using the 91.28 drivers.



CPU and Graphics Card Comparisons

5 June 2006


Something I get asked about on a daily basis is if I could do a graphics card or CPU buying guide. Unfortunately I just don't have the resources to do anything like that. Instead, I recommend that you check out Toms Hardware's Interactive CPU Charts and Interactive VGA Charts. Of course you should supplement them by researching and reading actual reviews, but they are definitely a great starting point to familiarize yourself with the relative capabilities of various CPUs and graphics cards.



Site Update

4 June 2006


With the ATI Catalyst Tweak Guide revision out of the way, I'm now updating the TweakGuides Tweaking Companion. Fortunately it isn't a major revision as the guide is still accurate and up to date. I'm just tightening it up by fixing some minor errors such as those identified here, as well as any dead hyperlinks, and it should be out in the next few days. Straight after that, I start on the FPS, VSync and Refresh Rate guide. While in theory the guide premise sounds quite boring, I've been talking to a programmer of a nifty small tool which will help bring these concepts to life a bit more clearly on your screen. I'm hoping to release it within the next two weeks.


I still have my eye on implementing an improved site design, and I'm constantly throwing ideas back and forward inside my head for new features. I have to be very careful though; many sites are fully hitched onto the 'Web 2.0' bandwagon - it's all blogs, wikis, podcasts, videos and flashing doo-dahs left, right, and center. The average website now takes 20 seconds to load, consists mainly of links to wacky YouTube videos or some guy's thoughts on how unfair copyright laws are, and is primarily run to get traffic for adclicks. Call me stubborn, but that's not where I'm taking TweakGuides. My aim is quality original content first, new features second. I promise you that I will implement new features, but only ones which complement the site and not wind up degrading it or pandering to the latest fad.



Patches and Boycotts

4 June 2006


If you're wondering why your favorite Battlefield 2 server may be empty or even unavailable at the moment, it could be because of 'BF2 Boycott Day'. While I normally don't promote these sort of things, I am impressed with the relatively mature and constructive way this particular boycott has been put together. Game companies have become desensitized to cries of "this game sucks, it's buggy!" quite simply because every single new game or patch released these days is instantly called buggy by everyone, when in reality most problems are proven to be the result of poor system setup, lack of system maintenance, or even unrealistic performance expectations.


In the case of the BF2 1.3 Patch however, the list of problems with the patch at the boycott site above are verifiable and accurate. These guys are absolutely doing the right thing - show the game's developers you're serious by not whining or using profanity, but by coordinating as a group to achieve change. Boycott any expansion packs or paid services for the product in question. Show that an online game can't succeed without support from the online community. If that doesn't work, find another game to play and keep a mental note as to which games manufacturers ignore reasonable and constructive community requests.



Official Oblivion Patch Next Week?

3 June 2006


This article at 1up.com states that Bethesda, the developers of Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, have told them that the official patch for Oblivion should be out sometime next week. I have to say that since installing the Beta 1.1 Patch I've been fortunate not to have had any problems. However this is not the case for all Oblivion players, and hopefully the official version of the patch will resolve most outstanding issues.



ATI Catalyst Tweak Guide Revised

2 June 2006


After a fair bit of testing and research, I've managed to totally revise the ATI Catalyst Tweak Guide, not just for the recent 6.5 Catalysts, but also to include detailed instructions on using ATI Tray Tools. In the process two new pages have been added to the guide, bringing it up to 14 pages. The main changes span pages 7 - 11, and I encourage all ATI users to have a read through as I'm sure there's something there for all of you.


Note: If you believe you're seeing outdated information in the guide, make sure to force refresh the page in your browser.



Firefox 1.5.0.4 Released

2 June 2006


Mozilla have released an update to bring the Firefox browser up to Version 1.5.0.4. If you run Firefox the quickest way to get it is to go to your Help menu and select 'Check for Updates'. The update primarily contains security and stability fixes as detailed here and is recommended for all Firefox users.



StarForce Vista Drivers

2 June 2006


In what I think is an amusing turn of events, StarForce - makers of system-intrusive and potentially system damaging copy protection software - have released a StarForce Vista Driver, so that Windows Vista Beta users can play StarForce-protected games. My recommendation is that Vista users do not install these drivers and if necessary go without playing StarForce-protected games. StarForce's days are numbered as major developers like Ubisoft have dropped their use of it, and I can only hope that by the time the final retail version of Vista is released, StarForce will be nothing but a bad memory.



Half Life 2: Episode 1 Released

2 June 2006


The new standalone expansion to Half Life 2 called Half Life 2: Episode 1 has been released by Valve and is available for purchase/download over Steam. Initial accounts of it are quite good, however it is reasonably short. Although it contains improved textures and lighting effects, it is still using the same engine as Half Life 2, so my Half Life 2 Tweak Guide applies to this game as well.



To view the latest news click Here



500 Hour Test of Windows Vista

1 June 2006


Tom's Hardware have released a major article putting the latest Windows Vista Beta to the test. The article is filled with screenshots and discussion of Vista's various new features, so it's well worth having a look through to get up to speed with this OS, and may help you decide whether you want to install the upcoming public Beta release yourself.



To view the latest news click Here