Alright, I'll admit it. I finally got hit with a virus.
Well, sort-of. I first thought that the strange "YOUR COMPUTER IS NOT PROTECTED" icon in my taskbar was some indication that my antivirus software of-choice had finally flipped out for good. Double-clicking on the icon brought up an obviously fake replica of Windows Security Essentials that, more annoyingly, wouldn't close no matter how many times I clicked on it. Over and over, my machine would be assaulted with "*.exe is not secure!" messages. My Internet sessions grinded to a halt no matter which browser I tried using. I started to fear for the safety of my World of Warcraft account.
As it turns out, I only got nailed with an annoying piece of malware. But after running through a number of analysis and removal techniques (which ultimately failed, as I had managed to disable the malware's process from starting up as-is using good ol' msconfig), I had amassed quite a list of rootkit removal programs, hardcore malware eliminators, and antivirus applications that were more surgeons in training than general practitioners.
I now share them with you.
Look, it's easy enough to install a common antivirus scanner on your system and call it a day. But you, like me, might forget to do so throughout the course of your PC building life. Or, worse, your system might become compromised in such a way as to render your analytical tools entirely useless. In that case, it's time to roll up your shirtsleeves and get crackin' with the digital equivalent of bleach for your mucked-up PC. Join me after the jump, and I'll share with you some of my favorite advanced freeware and open-source applications for virus and malware elimination!
In what could end up being a major boost for Apple's iPad, Barnes and Noble confirmed in a recent blog post that it will soon offer an e-reader application for the upcoming tablet.
"Designed specifically for the iPad, our new B&N eReader will give our customers access to more than one million eBooks, magazines, and newspapers in the Barnes and Noble eBookstore, as well as the existing content in their Barnes and Noble digital library," B&N wrote.
The bookstore went on to say that the app will be released around the same time as the iPad's "expected availability," which is April 3rd.
What this ultimately means for Apple, B&N, and the tablet space in general remains to be seen, but the implications are potentially huge. The iPad -- and by extension, every other upcoming tablet -- will inevitably go toe-to-toe with the pretty popular e-book reader market, which might not have room for two separate device categories. Not to mention what effect this could have on publisher pricing if the iPad takes off the way Apple hopes it will.
Listening to the Maximum PC podcast #131 this past week (I'm behind) brought back some fond memories. Not only was there a little glint in my eye because I was actually mentioned on said podcast, but I was also tearing up a bit at the realization that the very art of podcasting could serve as an excellent Freeware Files roundup.
Thus, here we are! Podcasting is a huge topic in itself, so I'm trying to bridge a bunch of different worlds in this week's list of awesome applications. Just interested in listening to podcasts? Don't worry--I've got you covered. Looking to make a Maximum PC (or Freeware Files) fan podcast of your own? You'll find a fun trick or two within the bits and bytes of this week's post. Tired of all the same-ol', same-ol' podcasting programs that you read about on all the other tech sites (like iTunes, cough cough?) Well, I'll do my best to surprise you with a new app or two!
Even if, like me, you think that 99-percent of all podcasts are lame and not really worth your time, you can also use some of the enclosed apps and utilities to exert some editing influence over existing audio files. As well, you'll even find an awesome player for video and music files that even comes with a built-in Bittorrent download capability.
As always, slap on your favorite pair of headphones and click the jump--it's podcasting time!
Security rivals thermal paste as the most important thing you have to keep in mind when building or using a system. Every bit of software on your PC should be updated; every external access point into your digital life, closed. There's no reason why you should be handing over the keys to the castle to random Internet strangers. Powerful virus protection, a strong firewall, and a bit of common sense -- among other tricks -- will go far to preserve your fortress of a system.
Now that's all well and good for the desktop in your living room, but what about third-party machines? We've all had to jump on a system over which we've had no control--no observance or administrative rights to ensure that every bit of the operating system checked out to ideal security standards. You can always head over the falls in a barrel and type your passwords and login credentials blindly, with no foresight or worries that you're inputting valuable information on a potentially infected machine. That, or you can do what I'd do: Make sure that your every keystroke and action is somehow safeguarded through the use of portable applications that you can carry on a storage device of your choice (cough USB key cough).
And that's exactly what I'll be exploring in this week's Freeware Files: Five awesome portable apps that you can carry with you to increase your security presence on a PC that isn't yours. These aren't panaceas--you'll still want to be as critical and as cautious as you would previously. However, they're a step in the right direction toward (hopefully) a data-leak-free lifestyle.
Windows Explorer hasn't always been the most feature-packed of elements inside Microsoft's operating systems. Yet, oddly, it's probably the one part of your Windows version that you use most frequently. But that's not to say that everything is Microsoft's fault. We're often so quick to blame the software giant for what's more a lack of future-proofing than outright failure. In this case, Windows Explorer can't predict what's going to be the next big thing--it can't know that you'll want your photographs easily updated to Maximum Photos someday; it has no idea that you might somehow need to paste a direct link to a file instead of its name or containing folder.
Windows Explorer is, in a word, dumb.
But that's not what we're here to talk about. We're not going to sit around a table and lament about all the features Windows Explorer could have were you one, Bill Gates, and had access to an engineer, or two, or twenty thousand. We're going to go over all the unique little elements that you can build into Windows Explorer right this darn second. I can think of five off the top of my head that are useful additions to your standard interactions with your operating system. They're free, they're awesome, and they're yours for the taking after the jump!
Music, music everywhere, and a ton of programs with which to organize it. But how will you know which of the many iTunes-equivalents (if not iTunes itself) are going to be right for your needs?
If you're one of the many people using Windows' default music libraries to organize and store your files, stop. Just stop. There's so much more you can do beyond that-which-is-given by Windows Media Player's library features, it's not even funny. Conversely, if you're one of the people who clings to Apple's iTunes with a death grip by virtue of it being one of the first big music organizing tools to really "stick" amongst the general geek population... you might be in good hands. You also might be missing out on a ton of additional functionality, depending on what you're looking for and how you typically go about rocking out on your computer.
To keep the playing field fair, we'll look at three different applications in this ultimate guide to media organizing: iTunes, Songbird, and Zune. For those keeping score at home, that's one big solution from Apple, one big solution from Microsoft, and one big solution from the open-source community. There are certainly other options around--Foobar comes to mind as one such example. None are as comprehensive in their combination of features and/or customizability as these three, however. They're all easy to install and easy to set up, but which application has the features and usability that'll make it a hit?
I don't care what you use BitTorrent for. I don't even want to know. What you download is your own business. That said, don't even think about coming in the comments with a "omg check out this awesome freeware Pirate Bay scanning app it helped me download all the copies of My Little Pony in like no time whatsoever." Not cool.
Now that the semi-useful disclaimer is out of the way, let's get down to business. There's no denying that BitTorrent is a powerful tool for downloading (legal) files of all kinds. It can run faster than a straight one-to-one transfer from a Web site and, more importantly, it allows you to preserve files online when you would otherwise have no direct way to host them.
That sounds a little weird, so hear me out: Suppose you have an awesome recording of you playing piano in eight grade and you want everyone to hear it, only you don't really have access to a direct host for these files. Nor do you want your files to be dependent on a Web host that could theoretically go down at any time. No worries--just find a place to stash a .torrent link to your information and let everyone connect (and subsequently share) your information with the world. Your files will live in perpetuity provided others are as willing to share your data as you.
Got it? Good. Now click the jump and check out five different ways to take your downloading to the next level... with a particular emphasis on one of the best BitTorrent clients around, uTorrent!
Optical drives aren't potatoes. You can't boil them, mash them, or stick 'em in a stew. And by that, I mean there's simply not that much you can do with your average digital coffee holder. Optical drives read CDs. Optical drives write CDs. And... well, unless you have your drive hooked up to some kind of crazy Rube Goldberg device that feeds your guinea pig whenever you eject the tray, there's simply not much else you're going to be able to do with this essential part of your PC. CD goes in; CD goes out--end of story.
Of course, I'm being a little tongue-in-cheek with this description. There's a great deal you can do with your optical drive on the software side of things. Here's the problem: There are a ton of different programs out there for ripping, burning, and mounting images, amongst other behaviors. Finding the best-in-class application for your device can be like trying to find a tiny scratch on the bottom of the disc itself--a mind-numbing task that's sure to frustrate you as you sift through the 30 different utilities you've pulled down onto your desktop.
Allow me ease the pain a bit. In this week's freeware files, I'll be taking a look at some of the must-have software to supplement your CD drive. With these five apps, you'll be covered for a wide range of uses--ripping all different kinds of media to your (presumably) terabytes of storage space, burning your own custom discs and presentations based on preexisting files, and converting physical media to digital images that you can pull up off of your hard drive instead of ever having to fiddle with a disc again.
Grab a CD-R coaster for your drink and join me after the jump for all the software goodies!
With no end in sight for Apple's ridiculously long review of the Google Voice app for the iPhone, the search engine heavyweight decided to single-handedly break the deadlock. A web-based Google Voice app for the iPhone and Palm's Web OS platform is Google's repartee to Apple's delaying tactics. The HTML 5 app can be accessed from the phone's browser. This being an HTML 5 app, it is more advanced than the existing browser-based version for mobile phones.
The two companies have been on the warpath ever since last July, when Google claimed that Apple had refused to admit its Google Voice app to the App Store. Although Apple had categorically denied rejecting the app back then, Google Voice is yet to earn its approval.
“You can make calls from your phone that show your Google Voice number as the caller ID. You can also listen to voicemail and read voicemail transcripts, send and receive text messages for free, and take advantage of the low international call rates offered by Google Voice,” Google announced on the official Google Mobile blog.
Woe to the open-source developer that doesn't showcase his or her work.
I'm speaking, of course, about the most important tool on any open-source project's landing page. It's not the feature list, nor is it even the download button--it's the screenshot. When I take off my Maximum PC hat, I'm an average consumer with simple needs: I need a program that does what I want it to do, is relatively easy to set up and maintain but, most importantly, looks good.
The thing about hunting for open-source alternatives is that it's real easy to find quite a number of programs that mimic the success of a popular program or treatment. Need an open-source Photoshop variant? Piece of cake. How about a Content Management System? Sure. Now, how about... an application that looks just like Adobe Premiere? Danger, Will Robinson, danger!
Try as you might, it's just not going to be same experience--even if a program performs as well as its closed-source variant--if the interface flat-out sucks.