This week’s Freeware Files come courtesy of podcast aficionado (and mother of the epic dream date winner from podcast #36) R. Ellen Ferare. Or, rather, you can thank her for the idea. We got to talking this past weekend and she noted that she’s been having trouble finding a legitimate way to search through her desktop for this, that, and the other. Obviously, Windows’ built-in search functionality just isn’t cutting it—and I don’t blame her for thinking so. It’s slow, it’s bloated, and I’ve personally found that it just doesn’t quite get the job done compared to other applications out there.
“Other applications,” of course, is just a code phrase for what’s really on everyone’s minds: Google Desktop. But it would sure be boring to just write 75 words saying, “Don’t use Windows Search; Use Google Desktop. Eat a cupcake.” There’s more to life than what Google bestows. And, in fact, you might have legitimate privacy or performance concerns when using Google’s great—but not deal-breaking—search utility. For example I hate that the service only indexes your drive when your system is idle. That doesn’t do me a lot of good if I need to quickly search through new contents I’ve added to a particular location.
So, grievances aside, what does one do if one doesn’t want to use Windows built-in search tools or Google Desktop to sift through one’s computer for information? Solution: Try out one of the five freeware apps buried below the jump. They vary in format and features, but all are designed to fix some aspect of system searching that, right now, just isn’t being fulfilled by the two big aforementioned apps.
Dell has been embroiled in a legal battle with web host Advanced Internet technologies for the past three years, with the latter accusing the PC maker of deliberately shipping faulty OptiPlex desktops. AIT claims to have lost business worth several million dollars as a result of the 2,000 defective OptiPlex PCs it bought from Dell. Although Dell denies any wrongdoing on its part, court documents that were recently made public for the first time in three years show that employees were aware of the defects but chose to keep them from clients.
If iBuyPower were to write a boutique system vendor's Declaration of Independence, it would go something like this this:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all systems are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are SuperSpeed USB 3.0 at no additional cost."
iBuyPower didn't actually write any such declaration, but the company did announce that is now offering USB 3.0 on all if its desktop systems for free, and that includes systems with motherboards that don't feature onboard SuperSpeed USB support. For rigs that don't, iBuyPower will throw in a free internal USB 3.0 PCi-E x1 expansion card.
"The upgrade future-proofs new iBuyPower desktops by ensuring their compatibility with new as well as unreleased handheld recorders, digital cameras, smartphones, and more," iBuyPower said.
Everyone knows Apple charges a bit of a “price premium” for its hardware, but just how much do you ask? Well if you consult Dell’s handy new Apples to Apples comparison chart Mac customers are paying over $1,249 more when buying a high end laptop. The chart doesn’t really point out anything we didn’t know already, but it does a pretty good job of summarizing why Apple stock has sent investors into a buying frenzy over the last few years and why Dell is in a free fall.
Nobody will argue that Apple doesn’t deserve to cash in on the niche they carved out for themselves on the high end through superior marketing, but those with an ounce of tech savvy have always known the PC is an all-around better value. The comparison case between the Mac and a PC is stronger now than ever before with widespread consumer acceptance of Windows Live Essentials as a replacement for Apple’s iLife. Tools like Windows Movie Maker and Live Photo Gallery arguably do a better job than iMovie or iPhoto, while apps such as Live Writer for blogging have no equal in the Apple realm.
You often hear people claim they are moving to the Mac because of higher quality hardware / software, and while that argument is pretty flimsy in the Windows 7 era, we would remind them they could probably keep 2-3 spare PC’s on the shelf just in case they run into problems for less than the price of a single Mac.
Acer, the second biggest PC vendor on the planet, is taking its aggressively styled Predator gaming PC line north of the border with the introduction of the AG7750-E2112.
"Designed to conquer and destroy, the Aspire Predator boasts a rugged, intimidating chassis as well as super power and speed," said Susan Hu, retail desktop product management for Acer Canada. "It's a smoking hot gaming rig delivering eye-popping graphics and dynamic audio for a jaw dropping experience that will fire up even hard core gamers. Plus, plenty of room for future upgrades will assist gamers in their quest to reign supreme in the new world order."
Settle down Hu, we build Dream Machines, remember? But we will admit that Acer's latest Predator barges into Canada with plenty of power, albeit for a fist full of moosebucks. Starting at $1,800 CAD (about $1,750 USD), the AG7750-E2112 comes armed with an Intel Core i7 920 processor, 9GB of DDR3 memory, Nvidia GeForce GTX 470 videocard, and a 1TB hard drive. Supplementary ammo comes in the form of 11 USB 2.0 ports, a pair of eSATA ports, two Ethernet ports, two DVI ports, HDMI, multi-card reader, lighting effects, and other odds and ends.
Interestingly, the U.S. version packs a slightly bigger punch with an Intel Core i7 930 chip and 1.5TB of hot-swappable storage. It also costs a little bit more with a starting price tag of $2,000.
The AG7750-E2112 is available now at "technology and electronics retailers" in both the U.S. and Canada.
Acer, the second largest PC vendor in the galaxy, continues to gun for the No. 1 spot (held by Hewlett-Packard), and one way to get there is to kick out low-cost models nearly anyone can afford. That seems to be the philosophy behind Acer's new Aspire X3 and M3 Series consumer desktop models, which start out at just $450.
"Our new Aspire X3 and M3 Series desktops are great all-around workhorses offering practical technology in an intuitive design," said Steve Smith, senior business manager of consumer desktops for Acer America. "Engineered to efficiently multitask and tackle digital media, these systems are outfitted with industry-leading components and make an appealing addition to a dorm, bedroom or home office."
Featuring a space-saving chassis, the Aspire X3 series plays both sides of the fence with AMD Athlon II, AMD Phenom II, Intel Core i3, and Intel Pentium E6600 processor options. Other specs include 4GB of memory (standard), up to 1TB of hard drive space, Intel GMA HD graphics, optional Nvidia GeForce 9200 graphics, up to 11 USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, and various other accouterments.
Acer's M3 series, on the other hand, come in only AMD flavors, either an Athlon II or Phenom II processor. Sporting a microtower chassis, the overall spec sheet is a little more subdued in some areas and includes up to 640GB of storage, one less USB 2.0 port, and choice between Nvidia's 9200 chipset or ATI's HD 5450 graphics.
I don't exactly know how often you take screenshots. As you might guess, I take a ton of screenshots--far more, on a weekly basis, than I'd ever care to take. But I'm not here to brag. I'm here to show you how you can take screenshots with greater detail and precision than the ol' default technique: Jamming print screen, saving a huge bitmap file, downloading an open-source photo editing program, cropping it, saving it, and... doing it all again.
Seriously though, that's the typical process I go through in order to snap pics of applications and what-have-you. You shouldn't have to spend this much time just to snap pics of your desktop. Thankfully, due to a fun little open-source application, you won't have to.
Oh woe are we, for yet another freeware application has grown its wings and left the nest of awesome, available software that we can all install on our desktop and laptop systems ad infinitum. In case you haven't heard, Google has picked up BumpTop--technically, Bump Technologies--leaving fans of three-dimensional displays but a scant week or so to download the company's freeware app before it all goes away.
Of course, BumpTop isn't gone for good--it remains to be seen just how Google plans to integrate its multitouch-friendly, three-dimensional desktop transformations into the company's own services. Rest assured that you'll likely see some incarnation of BumpTop emerge in the future. But whether it's coming back as a standalone download or as a part of a brand-new device is anyone's guess.
However, that doesn't mean that you're left with no way to break your two-dimensional desktop out of its existing constraints. I'm taking a look at five different 3D transformation tools in this week's Freeware Files. Don't let the (brief?) demise of BumpTop be the end of your experimentation with three-dimensional system desktops!
Norwegian browser maker Opera Software announced this week that there are now over 100 million people around the world surfing the Web on Opera. Exactly half of those users are on the desktop, including Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms, which represents a 30 percent year-on-year growth rate. The other half cruises the Web with Opera Mini on a variety of handsets, Opera Software said.
"Our focus on speed, security, innovation, and usability continues to yield results. We always listen to the needs and wants of our users, and they reward us by choosing Opera," said Jon von Tetzchner, Co-founder, Opera Software.
Opera is also found on game consoles, Internet-enabled TVs, and some set-top boxes, but the biggest boost going forward might come from the mobile crowd. Opera Software recently released a beta version of its browser to the Android Marketplace, while just this week Apple approved Opera for distribution through its App Store.
Let it not be said that I don't pay attention to the demands of the readers. No sooner did I wrap up another comparative analysis of three slammin' freeware applications for altering your desktop in new and unique ways then, well, you all talked. And talked. And talked.
That's not a bad thing, however. A number of you voiced support for your favorite applications and utilities that you use to radically transform the look of your traditional Windows desktop in some pretty awesome ways. It would be a shame to let these suggestions languish in the comments thread of an old article, however. So, this week, Freeware Files is all about you. I'll be featuring your suggestions for applications and showing people why they should consider your alternatives for giving their desktops a refreshed look.
Got it? Click the jump and let's check out what your peers are using to make their Windows desktops look amazing!