Every year, Maximum PC does outreach at the annual nerdathon known as Comic-Con. For the 2011 convention, we wanted to make a big splash by combining two subjects dear to our hearts: Star Trek and PCs.
But just how do you do that? We decided to enlist the aid of MaximumPC.com columnist and former Star Trek writer David Gerrold, creator of the beloved episode "The Trouble with Tribbles." Gerrold's vision of the ultimate PC served as the foundation for our Comic-Con creation.
Crafting such a PC wasn't something we could do entirely in-house, though, so we tasked legendary Star Trek designer Michael Okuda with creating a blueprint for the custom case, and we had MNPCTech.com fabricate a machine worthy of representing the best TV series of all time. Read on to learn how it all came together.
While you can always put Windows 8 through its paces by downloading the Developer Preview, there is nothing quite like an absolutely free Windows 8 tablet with decent innards. Microsoft gave away 5,000 such Samsung Windows 8 tablets to developers at last week’s BUILD conference. A few of those developers are apparently so unimpressed that they are now desperately trying to get rid of these gratis tablets for whatever amount people are willing to pay. It turns out that people are willing to pay thousands of dollars.
A lot of the talk these days – and heck, even the cover of our October issue – goes to Windows 8 guesses, predictions, tidbits and rumors. It makes sense; Microsoft’s making a lot of changes in their shiny new operating system. But don’t forget that the one we have now got a whole lot of things right, too. At the BUILD conference in California today, Windows Prez Steve Sinofsky beat that fact into our heads by dropping some jaw-dropping stats about Windows 7 in anticipation of the Windows 8 unveiling going on today.
After failing to keep up with the original Firefox 4 release schedule due to “regressions and sources of instability,” Mozilla had to revise its initial estimates and push back the launch of the stable version to 2011. The open source outfit on Wednesday shipped Mozilla Firefox 4 Beta 8. The actual release of the latest beta comes nearly a month later than originally anticipated.
According to the release notes, the latest build boasts a vastly improved Firefox Sync setup experience across desktop and mobile devices; speed, compatibility and functionality enhancements to WebGL; and a much more polished Add-Ons Manager, which now updates extensions automatically. Furthermore, Mozilla has fixed more than 1,400 bugs.
With all the recent hubbub about Microsoft’s Kinect and Sony’s PlayStation Move, you’d be excused for thinking that motion control is some new phenomenon. In reality, it’s a technology that’s been around on the PC for years. Head tracking allows you to control your PC with your head. Mostly used in sim games, head tracking lets you move and tilt your head to control where your character looks. There are, of course, some excellent commercial head-tracking systems available, but it’s possible (thanks to free software called FreeTrack) to build your own head tracker with just a webcam and a few dollars worth of electrical supplies. We’ll show you how.
How do you know when it’s time to replace your gaming rig? When you’ve turned down all of the game settings to minimum and you still have to play at 1024x768. Or you’ve just completed the Steam hardware survey and Valve rejects your score because it’ll drag down the curve. Of course, if you’re asking the question in the first place....
In spec’ing this year’s gaming build, we decided to restrict ourselves to a budget of approximately $1,400. This would provide a nice challenge, but would still give us enough cash to build a powerful and feature-filled machine. If you’ve ever tried to squeeze high-end performance into this price point, you already know that the road to our final configuration wasn’t clear, obvious, or easy.
The truth is that there are many ways to skin a Tribble, and there is no single right config for everyone. To give you some insight into how we arrived at our final destination, we’re going to walk you through our decision-making process.
What's on your PC? It's a fairly innocuous question, one that even the most tired of geeks should be answer without a moment's hesitation. But let's face it -- you sometimes spend a decent amount of time between upgrades. So much so, that you might have very well lost track of the exact names of the parts and pieces inside your system. Do I personally remember the exact model name of my motherboard? Nope! I won't tell you the manufacturer, but I've definitely had to pop off the side of the case and scan around, flashlight in hand, just to find my motherboard's actual model number for a firmware update search.
Don't let that be you. Furthermore, now's as good a time as any to get a solid inventory of not only the parts and pieces attached to your rig, but a full list of your installed software (and running services) as well. Why's that? Suppose your rig crashes tomorrow--I'm talking about the big one. No hard drive. All your data's wiped out. Can you honestly tell me that you'll remember each little freeware app or utility you installed on your system when you go to rebuild your machine? Wouldn't it be nice to have a little checklist to help you along?
And thus enters this week's download of the week--an application that goes above-and-beyond the call of duty to give you a full load-out of every little thing, hardware or software, that's in any way connected to your system. But that's not all...
Designing and manufacturing a modern CPU is a huge project. It requires both backward compatibility and an understanding of where PC workloads are going in the future—a delicate balancing act made more difficult by the huge engineering staffs and massive dollar outlays involved. Let’s take a look at the steps needed to build a Core i7 or AMD Phenom II processor.
Before the manufacturing plant starts churning out chips, there are a few critical preliminary steps. Prior to the first circuit being laid out or the first simulation run, the designers need to know exactly what it is they’re designing. This phase takes input from many sources. Marketing gets involved, with predictions of what users will need when the CPU actually ships, usually two to four years in the future. Engineering and performance teams feed in billions of traces of actual applications being run on current-gen CPUs, so the designers can see how existing CPUs perform under real-world conditions.
Continue reading about the CPU production process after the jump.
Your PC’s hard drive is probably packed to the platter’s edge with hundreds of ripped DVD videos, gigabytes of digital photos from your camera, and tens of thousands of songs. And that’s not even counting the high-definition digital video from your last family vacation that you’re still planning to unload. But with terabytes of media just gathering dust on your desktop PC, you risk losing years of aggregated files when your hard drive inevitably gives out (don’t even think about backing it all up to the cloud). Our solution: Keep all your data backed up on a Windows Home Sever. More than just a generic NAS box, Windows Home Server maintains backups, streams media files, and works as a file share across your home network. And the best part is that you can build one yourself—we’ll show you how!
The guys at CruchGear want to design a web tablet that would cost $200 and they want your help to do it. I’ve always liked the idea of a tablet for doing little things like surfing from the sofa. With netbooks catching on, can a net-tablet be far behind?
They pitch this basic idea; make it as thin as possible, run low end hardware, headphone jack, a built in camera for video, low end speakers, microphone, wifi, USB port, a built in battery, 512 RAM, and a 4Gb solid state hard drive. No keyboard, input is via a touch screen. It will run on some flavor of Linux or BSD.
The extra twist is they want to build a few and then open source the specs so anyone can create and improve on them. I like the idea! You can read about the mock up here, and the article that started it here.
I see it as handy item for browsing the web and reading email, but with it's only interface is a touch screen, don't expect to write a book the size of War and Peace on it.