information technology

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Introduction to internet service provider

Introduction

Xfire is a freeware downloadable messaging client aimed at gamers. It is available for Microsoft Windows.

Xfire Inc. was founded by Dennis "Thresh" Fong, Mike Cassidy, Max Woon and David Lawee. Dennis was the former U.S. Champion of the popular video game Quake and former Chief Gaming Officer. Mike was the former CEO, Max was the former CTO and David was the former COO. Xfire was formerly known as "Ultimate Arena", but changed name when the desktop client (named Xfire) became more popular than the original website.

The actual desktop client was developed in 2003 by Garrett Blythe, Chris Kirmse (current General Manager) and Mike Judge, as well as many others. It was code-named "Scoville".

On April 25, 2006, Xfire was acquired by Viacom for $102 million. A year later, Xfire announced they had over 7 million registered users.

In 2005, Yahoo! filed a lawsuit against Xfire, claiming that Xfire had infringed Yahoo!'s U.S. Patent, for "Game server for use in connection with a messenger server". Xfire filed a countersuit 2 months later. This countersuit was disqualified by the judge. A settlement was made between both companies a year later. Details were posted to the Xfire forums.

At one point, Sony was misinterpreted and many fans believed Xfire was going to be compatible with the Playstation 3. The actual announcement was that a Playstation 3 game (Untold Legend: Dark Kingdom), was to use some of the features from Xfire and that there would be more game support for the future.

Internet Service Provider

Public use of the internet began in the early 90s. Companies began serving a limited amount of customers and connections from 1994. Many of these companies started out using homemade software. This started with dial-up and cost around 10-30 per month.

The average speed of this connection was around 10kb/s to 15kb/s. These connections, however, were usually unreliable. Some companies' connection would disconnect at various times, causing much annoyance. Dial-up ran on the same frequency as the phone lines. Because of this, whenever somebody rang the house phone, the dial-up connection would be disrupted and the internet would disconnect.

Meanwhile, larger companies, like AOL (America Online) had developed their own networks for connecting to the internet. Broadband access became available in early 2000. DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) was through phone lines and provided a more reliable, faster connection to the internet than the old dial-up.

Cable companies became ISPs (internet service provider) and offered broadband services through cable modems. DSL was very expensive so many smaller companies began to use wireless technology for broadband access.

From 2005, larger ISPs get profit from wired, wireless and content services.

Features

Game Detection - Xfire has a feature which enables the user to see what games friends are playing. It does this by running various processes. It detects the active game and sends the information to the Xfire client of the other friends. It can also detect what server the friends are playing on, as well as the specific level they are on and their ping rate. It logs the amount of hours the user had played specific games for and posts the results on their profile on the official website, so that other gamers can see. It can also save high scores from games, which can be turned into a .PNG format for saving. When a user who is not playing a game wishes to join the same server as their friend who is, Xfire can launch the game and join the friend's server automatically.

Instant Messaging - Xfire is probably most notably known for it's ability to send instant messages to friends whilst they are ingame. This cannot be done by many other popular messaging services, such as MSN and AIM. The messages are recieved even if the person playing the game is in full screen. The message itself appears at the bottom of the screen, eliminating any need to close the game to see it. It is also possible to reply by pressing a predetermined combination of keys (the default keys to press to get the message window up is Scroll Lock + X).

Multi-Protocol Support - On May 4th, 2009, Xfire released a plugin which is currently in it's alpha stage. This plugin allows users to talk to friends who use the messaging services MSN and AIM via. Xfire. This means that they can talk to friends they have on MSN and AIM without having to close the game. However, currently it only supports chatting and therefore, most of the features MSN and AIM have will not work (such as emoticons and "nudges"). On December 1st, 2009, they released yet another plugin which allowed Xfire users to access their Twitter accounts through it. This allowed the users to view updates posted by other users, as well as post their own.

Voice Chat - Released in August 2005 was the Voice Chat feature. At first, there were quite a few problems. In chat rooms, users had to host the voice chat themselves. Because of this, quality of voice was an issue. Voices were distorted. If some users had better system capabilities than others, voice quality and lag would be an issue. However, an update was released with now allows voice chats to be held in high-quality. Xfire accurately named this update "Xfire Pro-Voice".

Screenshots - Users are allowed to take screenshots ingame and save them to a specified folder. However, this feature only works in games supported by Xfire (which fortunately, is a vast amount). A user can take as many screenshots as they want. When the user exits the game, Xfire will load all of the screenshots in a window. This will allow the user to pick and choose which screenshots they would like to keep, as well as add captions to each if they so desire. They can also choose to delete screenshots they do not want. Screenshots that are saved are uploaded to the official Xfire website, linked directly to the user's profile. This allows friends to view the screenshots as often as they like.

Videos - As with screenshots, Users are also allowed to record videos of in-game footage and save them to a specified folder. This can also only be done in games supported by Xfire. Users can record as many videos as they want, provided they have the space. However, recording can have a significant impact on both performance and recording quality. If the user has a low-perfomance system and begins to record, the frame rate in game will reduce dramatically. However, this happens with all video recording software and is not just Xfire.

Guild System - In version 1.63, Xfire released a clan system, in a beta stage. This allowed users to create/join clans or guilds. It was possible to set up ranks and gaming hours and so forth. It also showed the members' favourite games as well as their usual gaming hours. This was complete and fully released in version 1.85.

Third-Party Modifications

There are many third-party modifications for Xfire. These include skins (to alter the look of your client), plugins and more. Some, however, violate Xfire's Terms of Service.

Plugins

Xfire Plus - A combination of many different features rolled into Xfire. For example, it allows you to play your own music from the Xfire client, as well as alter the look of it and many other things.

Xfire Music Plugin - This changes the user's status to accommodate the music they are currently playing. This simply shows friends of the user what music the user is playing.

Gfire - A plugin which allows users of the messaging program "Pidgin" to see games the user is playing. This supports the Windows operating system, but also supports Linux and is the only plugin to support this.

Miranda IM - A plugin which allows users of the messaging program "Miranda IM" to talk to users as if they are friends via. Xfire.

Blackfire - A client which allows Xfire to be ran on Mac Snow Leopard. This also works on Leopard.

Xblaze - Open source plugin for Adium. This allows communication over Xfire for people who use Xfire and/or Adium. This was the first Xfire client for Mac OS X.

iFire- Another Xfire client for Mac OS X. Allows Xfire users to chat via. Xfire with their friends who are either using Xfire on other Mac systems, Windows or anything else. It also allows users to join the games of other Mac/Windows users.

MacFire - An open source implementation of Xfire network for Mac OS X. It combined parts of three other plugins, known as: Xblaze, XfireLib and OpenFire.

System Requirements and Program Updates

Note: These system requirements are specifically for an Xfire client running on a Windows operating system. The system requirements for Xfire running with a plugin for Mac are unknown.

PC Running Windows 2000, XP, Vista or Windows 7.

10MB of Available Hard Drive space

Desktop resolution of 800x600 at 256 colours.

Internet connection.

Xfire is usually updated around every 3 weeks. The update installer will automatically download the update to Xfire's "File Transfers" system a couple of days before the actual update. This makes the server load on the update much less intensive.

Once it is time for the update, every single Xfire client is disconnected from the server whilst the server software is updated. After the update is complete, Xfire will automatically sign back in. All Xfire clients MUST be running the update. If they are not, the Xfire server will automatically update their client with the newest version. This update is downloaded directly from Xfire "seed servers". This allows a very fast download speed.

However, these are for the major updates. Xfire also releases minor updates every so often. These usually fix small bugs or problems caused by the major update. They also release "Game updates" in the download channel. These updates, unlike the Major updates, are not necessary. However, they do enhance the Xfire experience. These game updates contain detection information for games not currently supported by Xfire or games that have a non-working support code. There is a list of games that are currently supported by Xfire on the official Xfire website.


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