XnShell is an Explorer add-on that lets you resize, convert, rotate images from the context menu

You may have heard about or even used the excellent XnView Image Viewer (check out some of our other favorites such as Faststone Image Viewer, QuickViewer, or HoneyView) . But did you know that the developer also makey an image tool that you can access from Explorer’s context menu?

XnShell is an Explorer add-on that lets you resize, convert, rotate images from the context menu
XnShell is the Shell extension we’ll be looking at here. And no, you don’t need XnView for this tool to work.

Download and install XnShell and open Windows Explorer. Select an image and right-click on it, and you’ll see the XnShell context-menu item. This won’t appear when the selected file is not an image.

The first thing that you will notice in this menu is that it displays a thumbnail preview of the picture. That’s unusual and may be helpful, unless you use tiles or other view modes where the picture is already visible. It also displays the resolution, the bpp (bits per pixel) and the size of the image.

Edit images from the context menu

The application lets you edit the image with a couple of clicks and you don’t need any image editors to process the changes. The first option is to convert the image, and you can save it in GIF, BMP, JPG, PCX, PNG, TIF and TGA formats. How does this work? Select an image, right-click > XnShell > Convert into, and pick a format. That’s it.

XnShell context menu -convert

The other “Convert..” option isn’t instant like the one above, but lets you select the output folder, format, and also resize the image. There are a lot more output formats available when you use this option including CIN, DCX, DDS, DIS, DPX, GBR, ICO, IFF, IMG, JIX, JXR, KRO, MBM, MIF, MTV, PAT, PBM, PDB, PDF, PGM, PIC, PIX, PNM, PPM, PRC, PS, PSD, QRT, RAW, RGB, RLA, SCT, TGA, VST, WBMP, WRL, XBM, XPM, YUV.

You can define the compression settings manually from the “Convert…” menu.

Resize and Rotate images

The Resize menu has options to modify the picture’s size to one of the following 320 x 200 pixels, 640 x 480, 800 x 600, 1024 (x pixels based on the aspect ratio). You can use the 50% and 25% resize options to reduce the original image. The result is instant, and the new image is saved in the same folder with a new name. Similarly, the Rotate option offers ways to change the photo’s orientation instantly by 90°, 180°, Flip Vertical or Horizontal, or Rotate based on the EXIF tag.

Other options

XnShell can edit the ITPC metadata of pictures. There is an option to retain the original attributes and another to use templates to quickly add information to your images. You can upload images to the cloud directly by using the Send to ImageShack menu item. And the final menu option is to set the selected image as wallpaper.

XnShell options

The Options sub-menu allows you to modify XnShell’s settings. You can use this to disable/enable any of the menu items. The default thumbnail preview size is 128 x 96 which is small, but you can increase the size manually. Or you can disable the previews. There are a few other options for tweaking the thumbnail settings.

XnShell’s convert options is incredible if you edit images on a daily basis, and share them online.

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Protect your tabs in Firefox with Don't Touch My Tabs! (rel=noopener)

The Firefox add-on Don’t Touch My Tabs! (rel=noopener) adds the link attribute rel=noopener to all links encountered in the web browser with the exception of same-domain links.

The extension addresses a long-standing issue that affects all modern web browser: when a linked resource is opened in  anew tab, it gets control over the page that it was loaded from.

That’s a problem, as it opens the door for manipulation, tracking or malicious attacks. Visit the About rel=noopener website and activate the first link that says “click me..”. It opens a new page in a new tab and while that in itself is not that exciting, going back to the originating page is because it has been manipulated by that site.

Websites may add the rel=noopener attribute to links to avoid this. Most should, considering that control is handed over to the linked resources. These could do all kinds of things, from changing form field destinations to loading tracking pixels or displaying advertisement.

Sites may implement rel=noopener to protect users and their own data from such attacks or manipulations. The problem is that this needs to be implemented by each site individually as browser makers have been reluctant to make the change. Mozilla did test rel=noopener for target=”_blank” links in 2018 but did not activate the change for users of the browser. Check out the linked article for instructions on enabling noopener for blank targets.

Note: The preference appears to have the same effect as the Firefox add-on. It may require further testing to be really sure about that but a quick check of a couple of sites suggests that it works equally well.

When you check external links here on Ghacks, you will notice that noopener is used for all of them.

noopener browser
Ghacks external links

The Firefox add-on Don’t touch my tabs! (rel=noopener) steps in by enabling noopener sitewide for any link you encounter after installation of the extension. The only exception to the rule applies to links that point to the same domain (as the site in question already has full control over its own pages).

The extension does the following, basically:

  1. Searches for hyperlinks on active pages and checks if they have the “target=”_blank” attribute. For any found
    1. It adds the rel=noopener attribute if no rel attribute is used already.
    2. It adds noopener to the attribute if rel is already used leaving any other attributes untouched.

Breakage should be minimal and the extension works automatically in the background once it is installed. The extension is open source; you can check out its GitHub webpage to check out its source. Chrome users can check out No Opener instead which does the same.

Now You: How do you handle this in your browser?

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How to block the automatic installation of suggested Windows 10 apps

When you sign-in to a new Windows 10 profile or device for the first time, chance is that you notice several third-party applications and games listed prominently in the Start Menu.

Candy Crush Saga is probably the most famous example of such an offer but there are other games and applications such as Netflix, Twitter, the Windows 10 edition of Minecraft or Farmville 2 that may be displayed in the Start Menu.

windows 10 suggested apps

It is easy enough to remove these, just right-click on the icon and select uninstall to remove it, but that does not take care of future suggestions that may be put on the device automatically.

Tip: you may use third-party applications to uninstall Windows 10 apps. Free options include Revo Uninstaller Free, Geek Uninstaller, or AppBuster.

If you want to avoid these altogether, you need to make a change to the Windows Registry. Here is how that is done:

  1. Open the Windows Registry Editor, e.g. by using the shortcut Windows-R to open the runbox, typing regedit.exe and hitting the Enter-key-
  2. Confirm the UAC prompt that is displayed.
  3. Paste the following key into the path field at the top or navigate to the key manually: HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionContentDeliveryManager
  4. Check if the Dword value SilentInstalledAppsEnabled exists.
    1. If it does exist, double-click on it and set its data value to 0. A value of 0 turns the suggested apps feature off on the Windows 10 system. You may turn it on again at any point in time by setting the data value to 1.
    2. If the Dword value does not exist, right-click on ContentDeliveryManager and select New > Dword (32-bit) Value. Name it SilentInstalledAppsEnabled and give it the value 0.
  5. Restart the PC after closing the Registry Editor.

Please note that the setting prevents future suggested apps from being installed; it does not affect applications that are already installed on the device. You still need to remove these manually from the device to get rid of them.

You may also download a Registry file that you just need to run on the Windows 10 device to turn the suggested applications feature on or off. Just click on the following link (disable_suggested_apps) to download it to your system (thanks Majorgeeks). Just extract the archive and run the “disable” or “enable” Registry file to turn the feature off or on.

 

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Booking.com promises to end manipulative sales practices in the EU

If you have ever been to one of the big hotel and flight booking portals on the Internet, you may have noticed sentences like “Only 1 room like this left on our site”, “other persons showed interest in this hotel in the last 24 hours”, “the room is popular”, or “time limited offer”.

Hotel and flight booking portals like Booking.com use these to  convey a sense of urgency to people interested in finding a hotel or flight in order for them to make rash decisions.

booking.com changes eu

According to a Reuters report, Booking.com will stop using manipulative sales practices in the European Union from June 16, 2020 onward.

The European Commission said on Friday that Booking.com had committed to end “manipulative techniques” on its travel site, such as time-limits for making bookings and misrepresentation of discounts.

One of the main issues that the European Commission had was that some of the information that Booking.com displayed on its site would not provide any context. The “only x rooms” message for example meant only that Booking.com could not provide any more rooms to interested users but it did not necessarily mean that the hotel itself or competing services would not have any rooms either anymore.

The European Commission noticed other practices that it considered anti-consumer. Booking.com used sales and promotions to advertise certain hotel room offers but when these ran out, it was often the case that the price would not change at all.

Changes that Booking.com will implement by June 2020 include making it clearer that the number of rooms available only reflect rooms available through Booking.com and not necessarily other portals or the hotel directly.

Other changes include stopping the practice of highlighting offers as time limit if the same price applies after the time limit expires, that discounts “represented genuine savings”, that the total price is displayed in a “clear way”, and to indicate whether an accommodation is offered by a private host or professional.

The Competition and Markets Authority in the UK managed to get formal commitments from six online hotel booking sites after it launched an investigation in sales practices in late 2017. The six sites, among them Booking.com, Expedia, and Trivago, “provided formal commitments to change practices on their websites which the CMA considers may be misleading consumers”.

Now You: do you book hotels and flights online?

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Custom UserAgent String is a Firefox extension that lets you set a user-agent on a per-site basis

So, Mozilla removed the site specific user-agent override setting from Firefox 71. There is a workaround for this, which as mentioned in the previous article is to use a global user-agent. The main issue with the workaround is that the set user-agent is then used on every site that you visit in the Firefox web browser.

And while I did warn you there maybe some side effects, initially I didn’t notice many except for YouTube reverting to an older design.  A few days later, when I visited a banking website, I found that it displayed a message which read something like “Upgrade your browser to access the website”. Occasionally, one or two websites simply didn’t load at all. I ignored those because I thought it was a server issue, but my friends told me they could access the sites from their browser (also Firefox).

Custom UserAgent String is a Firefox extension that lets you set a user-agent on a per-site basis

That’s when it hit me, of course the user-agent setting is what’s messing with other websites. Sure enough, disabling the setting ensured that these websites worked as they normally do. Ironic, isn’t it? You set the option to access some websites, but it ends up breaking others.  I was looking for a fix and there is literally only one option, to use a user-agent switcher extension.

After some research and testing (and looking for alternatives to existing add-ons), I came across one which let me use user-agents on a per-site basis. The extension is called Custom UserAgent String.  It is written by the author of the User-Agent Switcher revived add-on (not to be confused with the one made by Alexander Schlarb). It’s amazing how many add-ons have the same name.

Functionally, both add-ons from Liner are quite similar, but the User-Agent Switcher extension only allows you to set a global user agent, which is what we wanted to fix here. Custom UserAgent String however lets you set a user-agent on a per-site basis. Perfect and it’s quite simple to use too.

How to use Custom UserAgent String

Install the extension, click on its icon and then on the Options button. This should take you to a settings screen.

Ignore section I and skip to section II, which is captioned “Predefined UserAgent Strings”. It has two drop-down menus, one for selecting the browser and Operating system, and the other for selecting the browser’s user-agent.

Step 1

custom user agent string - section ii

Click on the box listed under “Enter a desired URL”. You will see that it has an asterisk symbol * in it. Delete it and type the address of the website that you want to set the user-agent for in the box.  Here’s the weird part: Typing a partial address in the URL box like ghacks.net or www.ghacks.net doesn’t add the site correctly, i.e., it reverts to the asterisk (which makes it use the user-agent globally).

To avoid this, you must use the full address. For e.g https://www.ghacks.net/ will work.

custom user agent string - section ii how to use

Step 2

Use the box below the setting that reads “Enter a custom UserAgent string or select one from the above list”. This is where you can enter the custom user agents for specific websites. You can get the user agent from the drop-down menu mentioned above. Or, you can use your custom one (for older browser versions that maybe missing). Click on the + button on the right side to finish adding the site-specific user-agent; it should appear in the table at the end of the page.

Note: The custom string option is good for long term use, since even if the add-on hasn’t been updated, you can still get the latest user agent from elsewhere and use it.

Let’s look at another example:

Say you want to access Skype on the Web. The URL should be written like this https://web.skype.com/

The user-agent should be Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/65.0.3325.181 Safari/537.36

There are 2 other things that the Custom UserAgent String table is useful for. The checkbox next to each site listed, toggles the user-agent to be used for the entire website (top-level domain) or only for the given address. Clicking the blank gray button at the right end of the table acts as a switch for enabling/disabling the user-agent.

You can disable the Custom UserAgent String add-on completely by clicking on the icon and hitting the power button.

This method works perfectly fine in Firefox 71. Which extension are you using for setting site-specific user-agents?

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Microsoft reorganizes teams to speed up Windows 10 development

Microsoft adjusted the development cycle of the company’s Windows 10 operating system to the development cycle of Microsoft Azure; the change explains the longer development period of Windows 10 2004, the next feature update version of the operating system.

Azure updates are released in the second and fourth quarter of each year, and the decision was made to adapt Windows updates, which were historically released in the first and third quarter, to the development cycle.

The company made other changes in recent time. It dropped the Skip Ahead ring entirely and made the Fast Ring the cutting edge development channel. Features get introduced into the Fast Ring earlier than before now and they are no longer linked to a particular version of the Windows 10 operating system. One interesting effect of the change is that it is now possible to push features into release versions of Windows 10 after they have been tested in the Insider Rings.

Microsoft appears to have separated development teams as well in order for changes to be pushed more quickly to Windows 10 devices. A recent observation by Twitter user Walking Cat suggests that Microsoft may have split the development team into a CoreOS team and a Shell Experience team.

windows 10 feature experience pack

The CoreOS team follows the Azure development cycle while the Shell Experience team may push out changes to Windows independently of feature update releases. The change makes a lot of sense considering that it gives Microsoft more flexibility when it comes to the introduction of new features. Instead of having to wait for the next feature update release, Microsoft could push out new features at any time it wants to any version of Windows 10 it wants under the new structure.

Another indicator for that is the release of the new Windows Feature Experience Pack. The version is now highlighted in the latest Insider builds under About in the Settings. While the app does nothing obvious at this point, it may be used in the future by Microsoft to push new features and updates to the system independently of regular updates.

Closing words

Microsoft used the year to reorganize Windows 10 development. It is now in a position to test and release features and feature updates independently of releases of new feature update versions of Windows 10. (via Deskmodder)

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You can delete Chrome or Firefox history records in BrowsingHistoryView now

BrowsingHistoryView is a portable application for Windows by Nirsoft that users could use up until now to view the browsing history of multiple browsers in a single interface.

The latest update of the application to version 2.35 introduces support for deleting individual browsing history records from Chrome and Firefox. Nir Sofer notes that the deleting will also work in browsers that share the same architecture; Waterfox, SeaMonkey, Vivaldi, and Yandex are mentioned in particularly. It should also work in the new Microsoft Edge web browser, Opera, and other compatible browsers.

Interested users may download the new version of BrowserHistoryView from the Nirsoft website. The application is available for 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Microsoft’s Windows operating system including all supported versions but also versions that are no longer supported by Microsoft.

BrowserHistoryView supports numerous browsers including Firefox, Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer, Safari and Opera. You can run the program right after you have extracted the downloaded archive. It launches two windows, one to display all options and the other to display the results.

options

The options window provides lots of customization options. You can hit the ok button right away to use the defaults; if you do, BrowsingHistoryView parses the histories of all supported web browsers and displays the data in chronological order in the second window.

As far as options are concerned, you may deselect browsers, filter the data by date and time, by URLs or location/user.

The results are displayed in the usual Nirsoft way. The data is displayed in a table and you may sort it with a click on any header.

browsinghistoryview delete history

The listing indicates the browser, URL/resource, title if available, visit time and count, and more information.

Besides using BrowsingHistoryView to get an overview of all visited sites in the selected browsers, it may now also be used to delete date from the browser’s records.

The functionality is supported in Chrome and Firefox, as well as browsers that share the code. All it takes is to right-click on the selection and activate the “Delete Selected History Records” option to delete the entries. Note that it may be necessary to close the web browsers before the delete operation is run.

BrowsingHistoryView will delete the records after confirmation. The record is removed from the table if the operation succeeds. There is no option to restore deleted browsing history records.

Closing Words

The new ability to delete history records is a very useful addition to the application. The option to view records from all browsers in a single interface was handy but lack of actions, other than exporting options, limited the program’s effectiveness.

The addition of the delete options increases the usefulness as it is now possible to delete records from some of the most popular desktop browsers.

Now You

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CudaText is an advanced text editor with tabs, syntax highlighting, plugins, image viewer and more

Text editors, we have reviewed plenty of these here in the past including Geany, Zim, and Notepads; many are user-friendly and basic, but sometimes we review some feature-rich ones. CudaText belongs to the latter category.

CudaText is an advanced text editor with tabs, syntax highlighting, plugins, image viewer and more

It is an open source, advanced text editor with a tabbed interface. The official page says that it supports syntax highlighting for 180 languages. Let’s look at it from a regular user’s point of view.

Tabs

The program has a Tabbed interface which is quite Chrome-like in appearance. This helps in navigating through the tabs easily. Right-click on a tab to view some extra options. You can use these to change the color of a tab, add it to a group and manage it. This allows you to have multi-panes open at the same time, or even make it a floating tab.

Cudatext multi-pane

There is a side-bar and a side-panel to the left edge of the screen. You can use these to switch among the Code Tree, Project Management, Snippet Panel and Tabs. I’m not a programmer, but I found the Tabs tree useful to navigate through the list of documents opened in the application.

Note: The side-bar contains the switches, and the change is reflected in the side-panel. You can toggle most elements in the interface from the view menu, including the side-panel and side-bar for a cleaner approach.

Editing options

The primary feature in CudaText is support for Syntax highlighting which is useful when you are writing or looking at code. This includes URL highlighting as well. You can use the Edit menu to copy a line, the full path or the file name of a specific tab. The case conversion tool can help you quickly switch the cases: Uppercase, Lowercase, Line, Sentence, and Title.

cudatext document

There is the usual find and replace tool, but you can also use the program to setup bookmarks and quickly jump to them.

View modes

You can view images directly in CudaText, and they open in a new tab. That can be useful in saving you a few seconds when you want to preview an image, say while you’re hyperlinking to a picture.The view menu allows you to toggle the Word wrap, Ruler, Line Numbers, Code Folding, folding panels, and more. There is a full-screen editing mode and a distraction-free mode, the only difference between the two is that the latter disables all other elements (toolbar, status bar, side bar, etc)

There are some built-in Themes that you can choose from to change the color of the interface, and also the color of the syntax.

Plugins

CudaText supports plugins and you can use this to add features that you find useful (Spell check, auto save, complete from text, etc).  If you click on the Plugins > Addons Manager > view download links, the program appears to freeze. But give it a few minutes and you will see a new document open with about 506 lines. If you access the plugins section from SourceForge, you will see that the actual number is 91. The document apparently loads snippets, packages, themes, etc. all of which are optional additional components that are similar to plugins.

CudaText plugins snippets

Installing a plugin is very easy. Run CudaText and select the plugin’s archive from the File menu, and it should show a pop-up asking if you want to install it. For e.g. I wanted Auto Save, so I downloaded the plugin.Auto_Save.zip and opened it via CudaText (File > Open), and this is what it looked like.

Cudatext plugin install

Clicking install completes the process, you’ll have to restart the application though. There are many plugins available on Github too.  For e.g. Find in Files.

The program has a lot of options that can be customized by manually entering the values. You can access this from the Plugins > Options Editor menu.

CudaText is a portable application, written in Python. It’s not quite like Notepad++ as its missing macros, and I also found it to be a bit memory intensive. If you can get past that comparison, you’ll find that it has options that not only programmers will love, but also that regular users can use it for day to day word processing tasks.

CudaText

For Windows

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Wave Editor is a free and user-friendly audio editing program for Windows

Editing audio files quickly can be a challenge for many users. If you’re looking for a user-friendly option for some basic functions, like trimming an audio track or increasing the volume, Wave Editor may be what you need especially if you find Audacity too complex.

Wave Editor is a free and user-friendly audio editing program for Windows

The interface of the program looks a bit dated but is easy to adapt to. Use the file menu to load a track, and you’ll see two waveforms on the screen visualizing the flow of the audio. This is the timeline with the time displayed at the top, and the decibels on the side (in an X-axis and Y-axis pattern). The Zoom tools on the toolbar can be handy to zoom out or in to view the graph better for precision editing.

The Status bar on the bottom displays the audio bit rate, channel, cursor position (time), amplitude (in decibels) and the selected audio’s duration. The colors of the background, scales and wave data can be customized from the settings.

Selecting an audio range

Selecting a portion of the audio in Wave Editor is as simple as clicking on the timeline and dragging the cursor to the point you want to. The cursor position serves as the time-stamp, and it is displayed at the bottom of the screen. Or, you can place the cursor at the “begin and end points” of your choice, and use the selection panel in the bottom left corner to pick the points (in seconds, milliseconds).

Hit the play button and the selected portion will be played. The levels bar on the bottom displays the volume level as the track is played. You can adjust the volume of the playback using the slider available at the far end of the cursor/levels.

Editing

After selecting the section of the audio that is to be edited, right-click in the Wave Editor interface to cut, copy, paste or delete the selection. You can optionally add some effects to the audio from the Operations menu or the toolbar. Available options include Fade In, Fade Out, Insert Silence, Normalization, Reverse and Invert. These options are available on the toolbar for quick access.

Wave Editor options

You can amplify the volume of the track, or decrease the volume level if required. Hit the Save or Save as button to save the output file. The program only supports saving the audio in two formats, MP3 and WAV. So, this pretty much limits it to basic editing, which it handles just fine. Input formats that are supported in Wave Editor include MP3, WAV, WMA.

Wave Editor has a text ad which is a link for their shareware product, Wave Cut. You can ignore that. The Tools menu is slightly more annoying, as every tool listed here are optional standalone premium products from the company, except for ID3 Tag Editor which is freeware (but you’ll still need to download it separately).

If you’re looking for a user-friendly video editor, might I recommend SimpleVideoCutter.

I used Wave Editor for editing short music tracks to make cool ringtones and notification sounds. But it can be good if you want to edit out gaps, create some looping tracks, and more.

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The Steam Winter Sale of 2019 has started

The official Steam Winter Sale of 2019 has started and gamers from all over the world may browse the selection of discounted games.

It is the last Steam Sale of the year and will run until January 2, 2020.

Besides discounted games, Steam users may also participate in activities to earn tokens, the virtual currency tacked-on to the Sale this time. These tokens may be spend for chat stickers, a winter profile, chat room effects or profile backgrounds (note that some of these expire automatically on February 25, 2020).

steam winter sale 2019

More interesting than that, probably, is that Steam users may use the tokens to buy a discount coupon to get €4.50 off the next purchase once. The coupon costs 5000 tokens and Steam users get 111 token for every €1 they spend on Steam and may earn additional tokens by completing quests.

It does not seem possible to earn enough tokens without spending money on the sale though (unless Valve puts more quests out per day or increases quest earnings).

Tip: check out the Gog Winter Sale that is also running. Gog may not have the selection of games that Steam has, but all games on the platform are DRM-free.

As usually, here is a list of personal recommendations (heavily focused on genres that I like):

  • Bioshock: The Collection — includes Bioshock, Bioshock 2 and Bioshock Infinite. For €14.99
  • Dark Souls III — Latest installment of the Dark Souls series. For €14.99
  • Hitman 2 – Gold Edition — latest game in the Hitman series. Includes Expansions 1 and 2. For €22.49
  • Planet Coaster — build a coaster empire in this simulation game. For €7.59
  • RESIDENT EVIL 2 / BIOHAZARD RE:2 — remake of the classic game. For €19.79
  • Warhammer: Vermintide 2 — lots of action and fun in this coop game. Best played with three friends. For €6.99
  • XCOM 2 — turn-based strategy game with depth. For €12.49.
  • Yakuza O — wonderful game series by Sega that takes you back to the Tokyo of the 80s. Other Yakuza titles also discounted. For €6.79

There is no hurry in getting the games you want since Valve removed Flash Sales and other time-limited offers. In other words: the discounts that you see today on the Store are valid throughout the entire sale. While that provides anyone with the same deals, the decision to remove Flash Sales and votes removed much of the excitement from the sale.It must have been worth it on the other hand as Flash Sales were not introduced again by Valve.

As always, I’m interested in the games that you recommend. While I’m mostly interested in coop, strategy, and role-playing games, I’m always open to checking out others and especially so at the end of the year when I have a little bit of time to play a game or two.

Now You: What is your impression of this year’s Steam Winter Sale?

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