Microsoft’s latest operating system was built with the PC gamer in mind.

Every copy of Windows Vista includes DirectX 10, a set of software instructions that make photorealistic visuals run incredibly smoothly. And for the first time, PC gamers can engage in online matches against Xbox 360 players.

– Sign up for a Games for Windows Live Gold account and create a Live ID for playing online. (If you already have an Xbox Live Gold account and Gamertag, then skip this step. You can use the same account on your PC.)

– Start your Live-enabled game.

– Sign in using your Live ID when prompted.

– Access the game’s multiplayer mode to find a match to join or invite friends to play.

You can also find and launch your games more easily with the Games Explorer, which is accessible from the Start menu. Games Explorer lets you organize your collection, view box cover art and check your system’s technical specifications to ensure it can handle new games. Click Start > All Programs > Games > Games Explorer. More »

The pain…

If you’ve invested your hard earned cash on a Creative X-FI sound card and a copy of Vista, you may be feeling a bit underwhelmed right now. Some of your games may be sounding a bit flat and lifeless and you’ll have no doubt felt that sinking feeling when you edit the sound settings in your new game only to find that you can’t enable some of the fancy options. There is a good reason for this and you probably will have been told at great length about it by one of the many passengers on the anti-Microsoft bandwagon.

The Science…

If you’re an experienced PC gamer you’ll no doubt be aware of DirectX and the various functions that make up the DirectX standard, such as DirectDraw, Direct3d and DirectSound and DirectSound3D. You will probably be aware of the hype surrounding Direct3d already, given that it has now reached version 10, but that’s a story for another day. DirectSound is what we are interested in here and it is sadly missing in Vista. XP and DirectX9 featured a “Hardware Abstraction Layer” which was a piece of software that allowed Windows to talk directly to a soundcard such as the X-FI to provide hardware mixing and 3d effects for your games. Without this layer any sound you hear will be mixed using software, rendering much of your shiny new soundcard useless. More »