No power user runs Windows with just stock settings; the plethora of third-party PC utilities is an embarrassment of riches. But what about Microsoft's own contributions? Tools like SyncToy and Pro Photos are pretty well known, but there's actually a wealth of advanced tools buried in the Sysinternals section of Microsoft's Technet site for IT professionals.
The Sysinternals site hosts some of the most powerful Windows utilities you can find. Yet surprisingly, not too many people know about them, since TechNet is primarily a System Administrator resource. Whether you're looking for more powerful ways to find out what's under the hood of Windows, need help creating VHD images for use with virtualization hosts, or just wanting to play a joke on your co-workers, these little-known utilities have you covered. We cherry pick and explain the features of the ten most useful Sysinternals tools, and then show you the best of the rest.
Read on to dive into this awesome stash of Microsoft-sanctioned tools and tweakers for Windows XP, Vista, and 7!
Left 4 Dead 2 is great fun, but there are only so many maps that actually come with the game. And until Valve releases any additional map packs, community-created maps are your best bet for fresh content. But why not learn how to make your own custom maps? With Valve's Hammer World Editor and Google's free SketchUp program, it's actually much easier than you think.
Valve's Hammer is the game map editor that comes with the Left 4 Dead Software Development Kit (SDK). Google SketchUp is a free 3D design application that has myriad uses. Using both tools, you can design and make custom shapes and objects that would be impossible to generate with Hammer alone.
We're going to show you, step-by-step, how to use these tools to make a single Survival map for Left 4 Dead. We'll cover the basics of Hammer, the art of designing a building from a reference photo, and crafting simple objects to use in-game. The techniques we introduce apply to both Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2. They'll also help you make maps for other Source engine games, like Counter-Strike, Half-Life 2, Portal, and Team Fortress 2.
Grab and seat and dive in. Making a Left 4 Dead map is a perfect D-I-Y project for the Holiday weekend
Some time ago, we published a list of The 16 Most Essential Firefox 3.5 Add-ons. It was quite a comprehensive list, covering a pretty wide swath of popular and lesser-known add-ons in a courageous attempt to outfit your Firefox with all the additional functionality it otherwise lacks. Of course, it's difficult to really boil down the perfect Firefox experience into only 16 little extensions. I'm sure you could easily come up with 20 or 30 add-ons for the ultimate browser build.
But what about our long-forgotten friend, poor Google Chrome? Google just opened the floodgates to its own extension gallery the other day and, naturally, the first thing running through my mind is the question that's likely running through everybody's minds: How does it stack up? Well, no sense in waxing poetic about it. Let's find out. Just how easily can you replicate the ideal Firefox experience using Google add-ons, and in what ways is the browser--or, rather, the third-party add-on developers--lacking versus Firefox?
When you get right down to it, Dropbox is a pretty simple app. It syncs folders—that’s it. But what makes Dropbox amazing is the sheer number of different ways you can use that functionality, by itself or in conjunction with other programs, to improve your computing experience. We like Dropbox so much that we’ve written about it severaltimesbefore, and we still haven’t gotten to every cool thing you can do with the program.
That’s why, in this article, we’re going to share with you a whopping 15 things that we think everyone should know about Dropbox, from how to get extra storage for free to how to use Dropbox to control your Bittorrent client.
For example, do you know how to hack Dropbox to accept email attachments?
Printing digital photographs seems so last century.
These days, we all carry at least one smart device, whether it’s an iPhone, a Zune, an MID, or something else. We all use Facebook. And those with a more serious photographic bent might also use an online photo service like Flickr or SmugMug. Indeed, a vast array of methods for showing off your photography without actually handing someone a print now exists.
There are good reasons, however, to have photographic prints—even in the 21st century. Grandparents and other family members often like to have something to put in a frame that they can hang on a wall. Another other reason is size. There’s something compelling about a really large print—8x10 inches or beyond. An iPod or laptop screen might be an acceptable replacement for the common 4x6- or even 5x7-inch print. But holding up a 13x19-inch print suddenly makes a half-decent photograph seem almost like a work of art.
So, for those times when you want a print, what’s the best way to get it? Is it worth paying $400 or more for a large-format printer, and then paying again and again for the ink? What about large-volume or professional online photo-printing services? Are they cost-effective, and can those prints measure up to a good-quality home printer? And how about those photo kiosks you find in places like Target and many grocery stores?
What a difference $500 makes. With $1500, building a gaming PC means being as lean as possible, sacrificing a little here and there to bump the important components to the next tier. But with $2000, your options really open up. The extra dough means you can start considering a solid-state drive or dual-GPU solution. Getting the most bang for your buck is always a consideration, but two grand means you can splurge for cutting-edge components that are priced for early adopters. It also means you have to think about your system's upgrade path, since you don't want to spend so much on a rig with nowhere to go in two years. Lynnfield or Bloomfield? SSD or high-capacity storage? Nvidia or ATI? There are a few no-brainers in our $2000 parts pick, but also a few surprises as well.
So, what's the best gaming system you can get for $2000?
Though solid state drives have existed for years, it is only recently that they’ve gained any sort of market penetration for average users. As we stated in our February 2009 white paper on the subject, solid state drives offer many advantages over traditional magnetic drives. Unlike mechanical hard drives, SSDs have no moving parts, so they draw less power and produce no vibrations. They’re also more resistant to physical shock. And most importantly, solid state drives offer much higher read and write speeds than traditional hard drives—at least when they’re new. Due to their NAND flash architecture, SSDs can suffer serious slowdowns once they run out of fresh blocks to write to. The TRIM command, found in Windows 7 and newer releases of the Linux kernel, aims to fix this. But what is TRIM, and why is it even necessary?
Back in the day, the average nerd household had one or two computers, a printer, and a game console. If you were lucky, you had an Internet connection on one of those computers—forget about the printer; forget about the console. And forget about home networking. But now, the average geek household has a multitude of machines: desktop computers, laptops, netbooks, Wi-Fi-enabled smartphones, and networked game consoles—not to mention terabytes of ripped movies, music, and photos. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a central location where all of those files lived that was accessible to all your computing devices? A place where you could back up all of your computers, host your media files for streaming to your console or other computers, and use as a file share for your whole network? Yes. Yes, it would.
A few months ago, we showed you how to set up a Windows Home Server to enable such a scenario. But a Windows Home Server license costs 100 bucks, and doesn’t necessarily play well with non-Windows machines. FreeNAS, on the other hand, is a free, open-source FreeBSD derivative, and though it can be a little more complex under the hood, it’s as powerful as Windows Home Server and runs well on salvaged hardware. And FreeNAS plays well with Windows, Apple, and *nix systems.
We’ll show you what hardware you’ll need for a FreeNAS server, how to install and configure your server, and then help you choose between FreeNAS and WHS.
Spend a little time learning Skype and you'll soon discover it's much more than a one-trick pony. Sure, Skype's bread and butter is still its ability to let users make phone calls using their broadband connection, but there's so much more you can do with this versatile app.
There are the basics, like sending and receiving instant messages with other Skype users. But did you ever think to use Skype as a make-shift home surveillance system while you're away at work? By following a few simple steps, you can see if Fido's chewing on the couch again, and if so, issue a stern warning to cut it out.
You can also use Skype to record your own Podcast, weekly rant and all. We'll show you how, but that's not all. We're also going to walk you through an assortment of tweaks and hacks to get the most out of this swiss-army utility. Consider this your go-to guide for making the most out of Skype.
Are you planning to do some travelling or Holiday gift shopping this weekend? There's only one way you can do both at the same time, and that's with SkyMall. It's the catalog for products that didn't quite make it into Sharper Image or BrookStone, and are too expensive to sell on infomercials. We picked up the latest issue on a recent flight, and were astounded to find terrible products on every other page. Here, we've picked out the fifty worst items, including horrendously ill-conceived vehicle accessories, impractical grooming devices, and the most terribly advertised gadgets for sale.
But let's start with the gem of a cover, which apparently breaks the rules of the space-time continuum.