Starting today, every one of the Maximum PC editors is going to post a monthly column related to our own interests or areas of expertise. We're excited about this idea, because we think that it's going to let us connect more with you--the readers--and to share more about ourselves and our interests.
Now, I'm going to drop the editorial "we" for once, and tell you about my column, which I'm calling The Workshop. Why The Workshop? Because here at Maximum PC, we’ve always been all about The Lab, the place where we do all of our in-depth product testing—the place where we run benchmarks and crunch numbers and come up with the final word on what’s great and what sucks. But I think that focusing too much on the lab, and on numbers generally, misses out a great big facet of geek culture: The fact that geeks (and PC nerds especially) are tinkerers and hackers and builders by nature. That the earliest home computers came in kits and had to be assembled by hand is no coincidence—PC enthusiasts have been part of “maker culture” for as long as either have existed.
But what, exactly, IS “maker culture?” Read on, then hit the comments and share what you think.
VIA says its new ARTiGO A1100 DIY PC kit is "for enthusiasts who want to taste the most extreme, ultra-compact desktop computing experience," and they might be right. The ARTiGO isn't too much bigger than a smartphone, yet there's a full fledged PC inside, albeit nothing to replace your high-end desktop.
Tear the thing open and you'll find a 1.2GHz VIA Nano processor. You'll also find five USB ports, HD video support, HDMI and VGA display connectivity, Gigabit networking, Wi-Fi support, and three audio jacks, all stuffed in and around a chassis small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. More specifically, the entire thing measures just 5.7 inches x 3.9 inches x 2 inches.
"The VIA ARTiGO A1100 redefines compact computing, bringing all the features of a regular desktop PC in a form factor that needs to be seen to be believed," said Daniel Wu, Vice President, VIA Embedded Platform Division, VIA Technologies, Inc. "By harnessing our expertise in creating leading edge form factor systems, we're offering consumers something that absolutely breaks the mold."
All that's left is to add your own memory, hard drive, wireless module, SD card reader, and OS. If you can get VIA's store to load (we had a bit of trouble earlier today), you can pick one up today for $243, or $199 if you're one of the first 10 customers.
The failed marriage between Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey is proof that pairing 'popular' with 'wish I was popular' isn't always a recipe for success. Nevertheless, Digitimes' "industry sources" say Foxconn is gearing up to release a pair of white-box netbooks in the very near future.
For whatever reason, the mobile DIY concept has never gained much ground and there exists only a small handful of white-box laptops. Foxconn's obviously hoping for a much better reception in the incredibly popular netbook sector where the biggest complaint is the lack of a performance punch.
Details are sparse, but sources say Foxconn will release the NS20 and NS24 DIY netbooks under a series codenamed SZ901P. These will be built around Intel's Pine Trail platform and include features such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, a webcam, and a card reader. On the software side, Foxconn will offer WIndows XP or a custom Linux-based OS called FoxOS.
If even the concept for a product exists, a modder out there will try and build it. That’s what’s happened with the vaporware Microsoft Courier. A wily user has managed to ditch the keyboard and attach a USB touchscreen display to his Dell Mini 9. The USB powered display is used for typing and writing on, and the original Dell Mini display is used for reading.
Windows 7 makes the whole affair moderately useful with its integrated handwriting and voice recognition. The mod is still unpolished and incomplete though. There’s not really a hinge attaching the two halves at this time. But still, you don’t see Microsoft showing an actual Courier around.
The 21st century has seen a resurgence in the popularity of stereography, or 3D imagery, and thanks to the availability of inexpensive digital cameras and photo-processing software, do-it-yourself 3D imagery is now possible.
The simplest method for taking a 3D photo requires just a single camera, and a stationary subject. Place your feet firmly on the ground, with your weight on your left foot, and take a picture. Shift your weight to your right foot and take a second picture. You now have a stereo pair of images, one for the left eye and one for the right eye, which can be viewed in 3D. Obviously, this technique, called “sidestep” or “cha-cha” 3D, only works for subjects that are not in motion.
To take stereographs of dynamic subjects, we will need to take two photos at exactly the same time. Japanese camera manufacturer Fuji recently released the first digital camera equipped with two lenses for 3D. Of course, for the technologically savvy, you can make your own 3D camera rig using common building materials and two digital cameras.
In a blog post on Monday, Kyril Faenov, a general manager at Microsoft, announced that the software maker has acquired the technology assets of Interactive Supercomputing (ISC), a company whose bread and butter has been porting the power of parallel computing over to the desktop.
"This move represents our ongoing commitment to parallel computing and high performance computing (HPC) and will bring together complimentary technologies that will help simplify the complexity and difficulty of expressing problems that can be parallelized," Faenov wrote.
Faenov added that Bill Blake, the current CEO of ISC, will make the transition to Microsoft and work at the New England Research & Development Center in Cambridge, MA. Blake and others will put into motion Microsoft's plan of integrating ISC technologies into future versions of Microsoft products, although exactly what products have yet to be announced.
Techies are too often tempted by the lure of new technology, leaving perfectly good hardware drifting in the wake of compulsive upgrading. And while we love getting new gadgets as much as the next geek, we also like how a new purchase gives us the opportunity to take apart and tinker with our older gear in the Lab. Whether it’s by soldering circuit boards or loading open-source firmware, we pride ourselves on being able to stretch the lifespan of older electronics by performing undocumented (and sometimes warranty-breaking) hardware hacks.
The projects we’ve included here range from relatively safe software tweaks to more challenging technical exercises. You’ll learn how to bend USB connections to your will and imbue home routers and digital cameras with robust new features. We’ve also taken some inspiration from projects we’ve seen online, including building a blue laser gun and making a digital picture frame you can mount on the wall of your office. These hacks will help you showcase your craftiness and give you a better understanding of how your electronics work. And the best part is that your old hardware will be faster, cooler, and more awesome afterward.
If you were born in the 70s or 80s, chances are good that a big part of your childhood was spent wasting quarters at the local arcade, or in front of the Pac-Man machine at your local pizza place. Sure, games have become a lot more complex since then, but the old titles had a lot of charm, and in some cases a level of skill and patience-rewarding challenge that hasn’t been matched since.
Sadly, the arcade is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Now that PCs and game consoles have become so powerful, the only way for arcades to compete has been to offer games with enormous, complicated controls, which end up costing a dollar or more per play. And besides, that’s only if you happen to live next to one of the very few remaining full-sized arcades. For most people, the closest thing they’ve got to an arcade is the worn-out Initial D machine at their local multiplex.
But you can bring the classic arcade experience back to life, in your own house. With a MAME arcade machine, you and your friends can play your favorite old games, on the authentic controls they were made for. In this article, we’re going to show you, step-by-step and with a lot of pictures, exactly how to build the custom arcade machine you’ve always dreamed about using old PC parts. We’re going to describe how we built our MAME cabinet, but we’re also going to describe all the choices we made along the way, including cabinet style, monitor and controls, so you can put together a machine that’s just right for you.
You probably have an old processor lying around that you ended up modding into a keychain, but to take your geek cred to a whole new level, try wielding a blu-ray laser like a light saber the next time you fumble around for your house key.
Not only can it be done, but "jayrob," a DIY lasers expert, has posted a worklog of how he built his own using a keychain light made from a solid piece of brass that he picked up from Lowe's. In short, Jay stuffed a laser diode and a larger battery inside, did a little drilling, and ended up with the coolest keychain we've ever seen.
While the concept of a scanner being reworked into a camera isn’t entirely new, someone creating one that can take photos at 130-megapixels is.
A yet unnamed Japanese man with some tech know-how was able to create this beastly camera by fusing a 1200 dpi Epson GT-S620 scanner and old Cannon FD 50mm lens together. He says that he chose this scanner because it has a CCD sensor, uses a camera-like lens and has LED lighting.
If you want to see photos taken by the camera, you can check out his Flickr stream here.