Sometimes you need to install DirectX

There's a lot of confusion going on out there. Increasingly it's more and more about issues related to DirectX. So much so that now I'm writing an update to the article I wrote almost 3 years ago now. That article advised people to install the latest DirectX end-user runtime if they encountered errors like d3dx9.dll is missing or not installed.

The confusion seems to stem from people running Windows Vista or Windows 7 and seeing that they have DirectX 10 or 11 installed, by way of the DirectX Diagnostic Tool.

DirectX 10 however represented a clean break from DirectX 9, essentially the two are on the system together. DirectX 10 and up handles all the new stuff and DirectX 9 provides all the backwards compatibility with previous versions.

It can be represented like this:

Graphic representing DirectX as two seperate stacks

The DirectX team felt this was superior than bloating out DirectX 10 with all the old features nessasary to support ten years worth of games. Why do that when DirectX 9 would be on the system anyway and can achieve all of that?

The most recent example I came across, about 30 minutes ago. Had a user attempting to play Flight Simulator X, which returned the following error:

Flight Simulator cannot run because the version of Microsoft DirectX(R) installed on your computer is incompatible. Please reinstall DirectX9.0 by running Flight Simulator Setup, or download current version from

Nice and simple, and tells you exactly what to do. Go to the DirectX website, and grab the latest version. Doing that would solve the problem.

However, as people think they have DirectX 10 or 11 installed, they don't think they need to grab the update. Not realising that DirectX 9 has its own updates which may be required or that it has optional components which don't come installed on the system.

My advice for those with problems, just install DirectX. It doesn't matter what version you have, grab the update anyway. It won't break anything by installing it, it'll know what optional components are needed and which components need to be updated and update them.

For those installing a game, and are tempted to cancel the DirectX installer, just think for a second that maybe that installer is installing something the game needs to work.

Adobe on Air and Flash running on HP's Slate

HP released a video showing more of their Slate computer. It's presented entirely by someone from the Adobe Flash platform team interestingly enough.

So the key bit of new information from this video seems to be the Air application HP are using for an application launcher. I don't think that's been mentioned before, but it isn't that big news really. Like their multi-touch desktops they always have a specific front-end on them. I just hope they give the Slate 2GB of RAM.

The main point of the video essentially seems to be a long stab at what the iPad can't do. It mentions statistics like 85% of the top 100 websites use Flash, 75% of all video uses Flash. In addition Adobe estimate more than 70% of all casual games on the web are written in Flash. And obviously to anybody following along, none of that will work on the iPad.

It's good they're trying to communicate these facts, back when the iPad was announced the only thing media could say was how amazing it is, while quoting Steve Jobs saying it'll provide the best browsing experience on the planet - something a bit difficult to argue considering it doesn't support Flash. Obviously nobody from Apple plays games on Facebook, or Portal Forums so it seems.

Silent Hunter 5 out very soon and I'm not buying it on release

I've been looking forward to Silent Hunter 5 for a while now as regular readers will know I am a bit of a submarine fan. Playing number 2 and 3 to death, for those wondering Silent Hunter 4 was set in the Pacific and in my opinion nothing could be more boring :-) Silent Number 5 when it was first announced was looking fantastic.

However a few months ago it was announced there would only be one submarine, a Type VII. Now I don't know about you, but I started my career as a U-Boat captain in a Type II before the start of the war, then to get a Type VIIB, and then a couple of years later to start longer range patrols in IX. Desperately trying to hang on until 1945 and with a bit of luck somehow manage to get the epic Type XXI, I could never survive long enough personally but it gave you a goal to try and achieve.

It was also announced the game would end in 1943. Say what?

Both of these facts diminished my interest. But not as much compared to what I heard last week. Ubisoft's new copy protection system that they've got coming down on their games this year has firmly squashed any intentions of getting this game close to release. May be I'll pick up a version when it's cheap somewhere. But I'm not getting it on release and not paying full whack for it, not when there's the possibility of the game not working half the time.

With this new copy protection scheme you're completely reliant on your internet connection to play, and Ubisoft's ability to maintain its servers. You need to stay connected to Ubisoft's servers or else you can't play. If you connection drops while playing you're kicked out to the main menu.

On the plus side there's no disc check. Or an activation limit. There's other cool things that I've been keen to get for a while, server-side saved games (ideally with a local cache but not in this case) and config. Like some of the Steam cloud stuff we've been seeing lately, so that's all cool. But then of course there's the bad things...

My opinion has always been that copy protection systems are pointless and that they only inconvenience your paying customers. After all the people who pirate it don't have to worry about the copy protection systems, they've already been ripped out.

If a game does have to require some form of copy protection, in my opinion these days it's reasonable to have an install-time activation over the internet. However, and importantly, your activation count should reset over time. Like it does with Windows, you can activate it once, try again the next day on a different computer and not be able to. But try again in a few months time and it'll activate again. This is more reasonable and takes into account people getting new computers.

There is of course always the danger that the company will go under, which is why they should always have a patch developed to remove the activation either at the end of the supported life, or if the company is about to go under. Ubisoft have however said that they will release a patch if and when the online service is shut down so that "core" gameplay remains unaffected.

Discs checks nowadays are also getting less viable as people start having computers without optical drives. And let's face it, it's annoying.

A Steam-like system is borderline usable. However the one big issue with Steam is you're required to be online to put Steam into an offline mode. Meaning if your internet connection dies and you want to play a game. You're screwed. A big issue for me as I'm much more likely to waste time playing games if the internet goes down.

Something like Fallout 3 is a good example of copy protection done right. It checks the disc on install. And then if you want all the cool stuff like being able to sign-in to Xbox/Games for Windows Live you need to use the Live access key and be connected the internet. But the game doesn't suddenly break if you lose your connection.

The minimum I would like to see Ubisoft change would be scrapping the whole booting you to the menu when the connection is lost. If the connection goes down, fine, keep playing, cache the save games locally until the connection is restored. That way most people at least won't notice if their connections dies. That's my biggest issue with this. Nothing would be worse than preparing to strike at a convoy you've been following for 3 days and losing all your progress because the connection dropped briefly.

Ideally though. Stop bothering with DRM, too much money is wasted developing it, it wastes more money in support costs and just hassles paying customers, and let's be honest. It doesn't stop people from pirating.

Silent Hunter 5, aside from the one submarine type and the game ending in 1943 and the obvious questionable DRM issues, looks like a fantastic game, and it is sad that so many people will not be buying it, at least on release due to the restrictions that Ubisoft have placed upon it, but we have to send a message saying that we aren't going to accept this level of copy protection.

The Pope: Fight the UK Equality Bill with "missionary zeal"

So the Pope is at it again. By being at it I of course refer only to spreading the word of his god.

The Pope has faced a backlash after urging Catholic bishops in England and Wales to fight the UK's Equality Bill with "missionary zeal".

Pope Benedict XVI said the legislation "violates natural law".

What has the Pope so worked up in the new Equalities Bill? Well in short one of the key aims is to extend discrimination protection into private clubs and associations.

Basically the Roman Catholic Church in the UK would be no longer able to discriminate against gays.

So that's not terribly surprising in my opinion. Religious people have always been anti-gay. What is surprising is how surprised people are over his statements, have they never flicked through his holy texts and seen what they say?

"You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination." - Leviticus 18:22

"If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltness is upon them." - Leviticus 20:13

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God." - 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

And that's after 2 minutes of searching. Labour MEP Stephen Hughes comments:

Religious leaders should be trying to eradicate inequality, not perpetuate it.

Religious leaders don't give a damn about inequality, which has always been the domain of secularists. Religious leaders' only concerns are with the preservation of their Bronze Age mythology and getting their fingers into society with as much extent as possible to influence it according to their ancient books. The Pope's job is to lead the Roman Catholic Church, to think he'll become a champion for something that opposes the beliefs of his church is naïve. You can't just attack the figure head, the entire religion is founded upon this sort of nonsense.

Comments on homeopathy - are we doomed to the dark ages again?

The 1023 event took place yesterday. In short a few hundred skeptics went outside about half a dozen Boots stores in the UK and "overdosed" on homeopathic pills by each downing a whole bottle. They did this in order to demonstrate there's nothing in homeopathic pills other than water and sometimes sugar and to emphasise that they have no effect.

It managed to get some coverage on the BBC which is nice, although obviously the BBC didn't do a very good job reporting it. More interesting however is some of the comments that people left, the stupidity of some people on the BBC's have you say section always seems to surprise me, I'm going to politely put down some of the more memorable. As usual we have the anti-science brigade out on parade. Ungrateful that this evil science thing has more doubled their average life spans.

A Tiger Moth from Stoke writes:

Id like these scientists to show me

a radio wave
take a tape measure and physicaly measure the milky way
Id like them to show me an atom in my hand so I can see it
Id also like them to show me the proof of the big bang actually show me proof I can see feel and touch

1) Radio waves are invisible, our eyes do not see radio waves if they did they'd have to be a fair bit bigger. They can see visible light, hence the name, but even then we cannot obviously see the actual wave, although light interacting with our eyes will behave more like a particle. We can however build detectors that can "see" radio waves the same way as our eyes can see visible light. You might of heard of them, they're called radios.

2) Obviously building a tape measure across the whole galaxy would be expensive, and it would be difficult to source the raw materials required. However we can see how big the Milky Way is, all it takes are standard candles such as RR Lyrae stars, careful observation and a bit of mathematics.

3) Individual atoms are too small to be seen by the eye. There are numerous ways to infer the existence of atoms, such as watching the jumping movement of small particles in water, due to the motion of the molecules making up the water, or by bouncing electrons off atoms etc.

4) Obviously you cannot feel or touch the Big Bang, it happened in the past. We can show you a photograph of the afterglow of the Big Bang, all you need is a microwave telescope in orbit. However you can feel the products of the Big Bang, most of the hydrogen in your body was created just a few seconds after the Big Bang.

Obviously Tiger Moth likes to make use of logical fallacies, without actually addressing the topic at hand. The fact he throws out such pre-childish statements I think demonstrates his mental capabilities.

thing is its just observation and assumption
am baffled as too why scientists tho should spend time having a tantrum over what they dont belive in sounds like havin a demo against the tooth fairy

Observation and assumption, which is not what the above are examples of. Is better than plain asseration which the proponents of homeopathy partake. And this isn't scientists having a tantrum over what they don't believe in, scientists are too busy doing actual science, these are people who are fed up with irrationality getting a free ride. Belief is irrelevant, what does the data show? The data shows homeopathy doesn't work. Belief is not required.

To all those who say homeopathy is fake and believe only in "normal" medicine, just remember it was not long ago that people believed earth to be flat.

Yes Scrambled Eggs from London, and not long ago people believed in fairies. Guess what that still doesn't make homeopathy work.

To those who swear by the scientists, you do remember that scientists once believed the world was flat, and that the planets and sun went around earth? And you still believe everything they say?

Actually Rachael it was science that proved the Earth was spherical (by Eratosthenes in about 300 BC) and that it orbited the Sun, (proposed by many people, namely Capernicus and later proved by Galileo). Prior to that there was no scientific proof that the Earth was flat, or that the Sun went around the Earth. That was simply the default position because frankly, that's what it looks like. Trying to pin how people thought the universe was constructed before science, upon science is pretty weak IMO.

Yes, because it has worked for me, my family, and my clients many times over. That is the only way you really know if something is valid or not, through personal experience. I think for myself.

Yes of course Sonya McLeod from Vancouver, because personal experience is a reliable means of determining what is fact and what is not. Dowsers believe they can really dowse, what happens in controlled double-blinded experiments? Oh they can't. Personal experience is the one thing that cannot be reliably used to determine what is true or not. Face it, we're terrible at remembering if things work or not, we're prone to allow bias to creep into things. That why we have the scientific method to filter out as many components as possible other than the ones being tested.

Heck if we rely on personal experiences, most of my personal experiences tell me the Earth is this giant unmovable object that couldn't possibly be moving around the Sun, it looks so small in the sky. But you know what, those personal experiences are wrong, and we can prove that with a little bit of science.

Homeopathy did more for me than 'proper' medicine so I know which side of the fence I sit.
Besides, like to see the protestors take overdoses of 'normal' medicine to the same extent as well, as you would do in a proper scientific experiment . Only fair hmm?
Liver damage anyone?

Alright Skipsurfer from Maidstone. Obviously the point of this has gone completely over your head. Normal medicine, ie medicine that has been proven to have an effect, will obviously give you liver damage or worse if you overdose on it. That's because it actually has an effect upon the body. Unlike homeopathy which has no physiological effect beyond that of drinking water or taking a tablet of sugar. It does have other effects such as departing the gullible of their money, and potentially sending them to an early grave if they seek homeopathic "treatment" instead of proper treatment.

The protest proves nothing. An "overdose" of any medicine (even homoeopathy remedies) would have damaging side effects. Clearly those protesting not only do not know a thing about how the body works, but are delusional as to how to win support.

Steven. Look mate, just admit you don't know what you're talking about. You cannot overdose on homeopathy because there's nothing in it, it doesn't do anything. That's the point of the protest.

You don't get a product withdrawn by proving it is dangerous by using it incorrectly. They would have been better served lobbying for clinical trials to prove that there are no positive benefits to these medicines if that is what they truly believe

They're not trying to get it withdrawn because it is not safe. We know it is safe, that's because there's nothing in it! There are already dozens of clinical trials showing no effectiveness, it's not hard to predict considering there's nothing in homeopathic pills. They're trying to pressure Boots to stop stocking them, or at least inform their customers that these products don't do anything and raise awareness about homeopathy in general.

Once again the internet proves people are willing to blabber on about topics they think they know about, without actually knowing anything about them.

Hands on review with Apple's iPad

So I've managed to sit down and use Apple's attempted copy of a Tablet PC for half an hour or so. Dubbed the iPad, the model number on the back reads TC1100, with a manufacturing date in 2003. Hmmm weird. Moving along.

HP TC1100

So what have we got in this machine? It comes with a 1Ghz processor (ouch Catherine's HTC HD2 mobile phone has a 1Ghz processor) and sports a 4:3 (no widescreen in this day and age, not good for media watching) that has a resolution of 1024x768. Kind of lacking considering I'm used to Tablet PCs with 1440x1050, really the minimum in my opinion as that way browsing the web isn't annoying in portrait mode as you've got over 1024 pixels in width.

The machine in question runs Windows XP Tablet Edition, possibly a bit of a strange choice for Apple, again in this day and age one would really hope for Windows Vista or Windows 7. It does however sport a proper Wacom digitiser now, unlike HP *coughs* last model which required one of those weird battery powered pens.

All in all, in this day and age (again), this machine seems a bit lacking. Back in 2004 or 2005 it was pretty much cutting edge for a slate Tablet PC. Releasing something like this in 2010, with those sorts of specifications, with the an unknown amount of RAM, and no doubt less than HP's TC1100 shown above, essentially nothing more than a giant iPhone (without the telephone), a strange sort of Tablet PC that you can't use for note-taking, or handwriting on, or drawing in Photoshop (not that it can even run Photoshop of course) with an old 4:3 screen when its being marketed as something to watch TV or films on, with it being locked into a single store, not capable of running anything other than software approved by the manufacturer with a bezel that fat is frankly more of an iDud.

I prefer the look of HP's latest slate Tablet PC:

Not only does it actually look good. It's a proper computer, that runs a normal operating system, in this case Windows 7 so you can do everything you can on a normal computer. You can take your existing PC applications and put them on this little beauty.

Personally I'll be keeping my Motion LE1700 for a while, and then maybe I'll look at MSI's dual-screen netbook when its released.

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