Hmm. There's plenty of ways to start this column off that would be more than acceptable, but do you really want to read more blah text that I stuff my articles with? Probably not, so let's get right down to business. TweakTown is going through lots of changes this year, though, in a limited fashion until this summer. What kind of changes can you expect? Are they cool and will they interest people? Hell, yes! That said, I blocked off each change or new event/feature you will find coming to TweakTown.
- Redesigned in '04!
Yep, and I'll be heading up the redesign. Why is Cam letting me do something so pivotal to the site? Because, in its current state, the code powering the site as well as the design are outdated and "clunky" to say the least. What my goal in the redesign is to provide you, the reader, a more streamlined, organized, and customizable site. We'll offer a TT-Lite layout which will have less of a load time and a regular TT which will load _much_ faster than the current site. When site load is heavy from Slashdot, Fark, TechTV, or whomever, the site will load just as it would normally and you won't get those annoying errors.
Aside from the improvements, the logo will be redesigned while keeping it's ancestor's basic style/design. The blues you see now will be more harmonious and probably web-safe for those of you using limited graphics cards or other Operating Systems with default video drivers. All together, the site will have a very integrated feel. The forum system, vBulletin, will be utilized a lot more, allowing Forum Members to set site preferences and "grade" reviews. Your user reviews will be done as your Forum User and will be available through the forums and from the reviews which they are related.
Cool beans, right? Definitely, but the Redesign will take some serious man-hours and most of my life from here and through March. I want to have a beta version of the site ready in late March for a field test and a final launch in April sometime. (Gotta give myself a lenient timeframe, I am in college after all)
- Benchmarking Improved in '04!
A major concern of mine with TweakTown is our benchmarking suites for the different types of reviews. Sure, we cover products pretty well but there's always room for improvement and increasing our uniqueness as a Hardware Review Site. With that in mind, I am breaking down and coming up with a much more intuitive benchmark suite that encompasses more tests than you ever imagined seeing at TweakTown.
"I like the way things are now. Why change it?" I like TweakTown as it is, too. I also know that the coverage we provide is pretty good, but, by adding numerous new benchmarks and more real-world testing, TweakTown Writers will be able to give better objective reviews and do a better job of giving you the performance numbers in your preferred applications. Media Encoding, Gaming, 3D Modeling, and CAD are some of the types of benchmarks you will see added or revamped extensively.
"Are you getting rid of FutureMark Benchmarks?" To be 100% honest, I am not sure. Yet. I really need your feedback on whether or not FutureMark can be considered a reliable benchmark provider. TT is forming a software subsidiary that will produce benchmark tools competitive with most of the FutureMark offerings and we would really like to know if you have a preference.
- TweakedSoft, TweakTown Makes Software!
That's right! Cameron and I have been considering our options and feel that, in order to provide reliable benchmarks, we have to develop our own line of benchmarking tools for our reviewers and even you, the reader. We decided to take things a step further and will be bringing you Tweaked Software Products that are 100% free and either they will be the benchmark tools or they will be real world applications built upon the code powering the benchmarks. Of course, some will also be both, but TdS products will start popping up whenever we start producing reviews utilizing these tools.
For those of you who Linux and/or advocate Open Source software, most, if not all, of our software will be open source and able to run on Linux. I am a regular Linux (ab)user and am an advocate of Open Source software. Our tools will be capable and competitive with any tools available in their target software types. Get ready, be excited!
- Online Gaming Events!
This is something Cameron would really like to bring to the readers. My hope is to get a few TT Gaming Servers up sometime this year. We both want to have free and paid online gaming events that will offer prizes such as cash [in paid events] and hardware. Games we are currently considering include Call of Duty, Counter Strike, and Unreal Tournament 2004. We are considering others, but these are at the top of my list right now. Feel free to tell me of other games you want to play for prizes.
- Local LAN Events
Cameron has mentioned this to me a few times and I'm not sure how it would work out, but TT is considering the idea of hosting LAN events worldwide, especially in Australia and the USA. Write us with things you'd like to see at these events and companies you want to sponsor these events. We're definitely receptive to any ideas you have!
- Workstation/Server Product Reviews
In due time, we will be covering a number of Workstation and Server Products to expand our audience. The first review in this fashion will cover the Tyan Tiger K8W and AMD Opteron processors. Tests will be much more workstation-oriented: Compile times of large software projects [Linux, Allegiance, OpenOffice.org], POVRay renderings, Lightwave 3D tests, Blender3D/CAD renderings, and much, much more will be covered.
I put together this little column to let our readers know what's up at TweakTown. You can always email me with your questions, comments, new ideas, and, especially, hate mail. All these new things should keep you on the edge of your seat with anticipation or, at least, they do it to me. There's plenty of new content coming your way shortly, including an article on PCI Express(PCIe) and part two of my Serial ATA articles. Stay tuned!
Quick Final Note from Cameron Wilmot: Thomas has been quite spot on with what he has told you here. We've got other things planned as well, but of course not everything can be revealed - we don't want anyone stealing our ideas now, do we?! Especially over the next 6 months keep your eyes opened, especially our readers from non-English speaking countries. We got something coming for you all!
Here's to the rest of 2004 and beyond! It's going to rock!