Why do I like VLC Media Player? Because it plays media. That’s pretty apparent in the title, however, so hear me out: The bane of Windows Media Player is that it straps a whole ton of accessories and add-ons into the picture when all you want to do is play a movie file. You don’t want to fuss with the library. You don’t want to go through a bunch of crappy skins or rudimentary add-ons. You don’t want to wait for Windows Media Player to load. You want a video. End of story.
I’m a sucker for automation at Maximum PC – If I can’t find some kind of application that will automatically perform all the time-sucking computer tasks that I like (or would like) to do, then I just haven’t done my job correctly. Now, was there only an app to automate the process of finding these apps… but I digress.
This week’s download of the week carries on in the spirit of “don’t lift a finger to accomplish a task” kinds of applications by giving you a super-quick way to transform videos from one format into another. There’s just one caveat—two, technically. You have to have Handbrake installed and, more importantly, you kind of have to know what you’re doing.
Stephen McGill, the head honcho of Microsoft Xbox in the UK, said in a recent interview with Xbox 360 Achievements that the Blu-ray format is not long for this world. He was asked if he feels the DVD format will ultimately shorten the Xbox 360's lifespan rather than adopt Blu-ray and buy a bit of extra time.
"I think people may have spoken about that originally, but that's long gone," McGill said. "I think people now recognize what a smart decision it was to keep the pricing low, and actually Blu-ray is going to be passed by as a format. People have moved through from DVDs to digital downloads and digital streaming, so we offer full HD 1080p Blu-ray quality streaming instantly, no download, no delay. So, who needs Blu-ray?"
McGills isn't really saying anything new from the Microsoft camp, which previously was banking on HD-DVD winning the HD format war. Back in 2005, Bill Gates delcared that Blu-ray would be the end of the road for physical media.
"Understand that [Blu-ray] is th last physical format there will ever be," Gates said. "Everything's going to be streamed directly or on a hard disk."
PDFs. Why do we use PDFs? It's a question I've asked myself time and time again during the following scenarios: my default PDF reader crashing my browser whenever I erroneously click on a link to the blasted extension, an image- or page-packed PDF consuming all of the system resources on my work machine, and while I'm spending extra time to convert a perfectly likable file (.doc) into a new format that's compatible with even more people. At least, I think that's the reason.
But really, though, why do we use PDFs? Perhaps it's the wrong question I should be asking, however. Sad to say, PDFs are here to stay. And I must confess, filling out a PDF form has a certain elegance to it (and built-in digital signature support) that you just can't find in a standard text file or Word document (or OpenOffice.org document).
So instead of asking ourselves how we can rid the world of PDFs, we should really be thinking about the various ways we can improve our interactions with PDF files. That's where this week's Freeware Files comes into play. I'm going to show you five freeware or open-source apps that'll hopefully ease the burden you face when you're trying to manipulate this quirky file format. As well, I'll show you a few more features and tricks you can use to turn your own PDF routines into nothing short of a master class.
Or, to be specific, I hate pulling up PDFs in my browser. No matter the reader or the complexity of the file, something invariably goes wrong whenever a PDF file crosses over the barrier between Internet and desktop. Unless you have a sharp eye for what you're clicking on (or a helpful icon to guide your path), you always run the risk of accidentally slapping a PDF into a new tab whenever you're surfing around in the ol' Firefox browser.
PDFs by themselves aren't evil. And sometimes you'll want to actually open a PDF via Firefox instead of taking the extra time to download it to your desktop and open up a reader. What Firefox lacks, in this regard, is control--ways to separate a unique PDF download from the typical bevy of files you grab on a daily basis.
Thankfully, there's an add-on that fixes that right quick.
Whether you are preparing to reuse a hard disk for another operating system, clear off your junk shelves by passing along outdated drives to a friend or relative, donate an old PC to a charity or school, discard a too-small USB drive or flash memory card, or repurpose an SSD, you don’t want to leave any information on the storage device. With stories abounding of identity theft aided by information lifted from discarded storage devices, you want devices you no longer plan to use to have no usable information when they head out the door.
When you erase/delete a file from your computer, it’s not really gone until the areas of the disk it used are overwritten by new information. If you use the normal Windows delete function, the “deleted” file is sent to the Recycle Bin until the space it uses is required by other files. If you use Shift-Delete to bypass the Recycle Bin, the space occupied by the file is marked as available for other files. However, the file could be recovered days or even weeks later with third-party data recovery software. As long as the operating system does not reuse the space occupied by a file with another file, the “deleted” file can be recovered.
In this article, we'll show you how to erase your drives the right way, leaving no trace behind.
Alright, geeks--this week's feature Chrome extension is calling out your name. While most net-savvy individuals can always surf on over to Google to run most any calculations they need to run (quick: 12 cups is how much of a gallon!), there's an easier way to go about solving the answers to life's tougher mathematical issues. In fact, you can do it straight from your Chrome browser without having to surf on over to a secondary page.
The genius behind this functionality is a little extension called Chromey Calculator. Don't let the cute alliteration fool you--this little wonder is akin to packing Einstein's brain into a tiny little button next to your address bar. Clicking on said button pulls up a little pop-up window with a simple, console-style prompt. Type in a common equation you need solved (1+1), and the extension will spit out an answer in a running field that keeps track of the last few commands you've entered. Not only does this beat the one-equation, one-answer style of Windows' default calculator program, but Chromey Calculator also taps into the power of the Web to fuel more complex commands.
Click the jump to get the gritty, super-user details!
By now, you've surely checked out Mark Soper's excellent guide for creating PDFs by using a multitude of applications, editing steps, and detail settings. If not, you owe it to yourself to give the article a scan so you're as well-versed as he when it comes to transforming ordinary files into these kinds of feature-packed super-documents.
As he correctly puts it, Adobe ain't the only game in town when you're trying to turn the contents of something you're looking at into this trusty, cross-platform format. Let's go one step further. Installed programs aren't the only way to create a PDF, period.
If you're on a new computer (or, for that matter, your boss's computer), you might not want to fire up the ol' Adobe installer just to be able to gain the right to transform your screen into a PDF. And sure, there are plenty of freeware opportunities out there that will allow you to print to a PDF. But that's still too many steps in the process. It's 4:59 on a Friday: You want to make a PDF, hit the power button on your PC, and be able to drink one-third of your "it's the weekend" celebratory iced tea before your monitor goes black. What are you going to do?
If the answer is "cry," then you have failed this exercise. But let it not be said that my heart is two sizes too small. For a little Web app exists--conveniently called PDFmyURL--that does exactly that. Provided the subject of your affection is a Web page of any size, shape, or extension... you will be able to transform it into a downloadable PDF as fast as you'll be able to finish reading the rest of this sentence.
Back in February, we brought you an article called Give Windows a Clean Start, which explained all the details about how to properly perform a system-cleansing reformat, without losing your valuable data. It covered important steps like salvaging product keys, deactivating apps, prepping iTunes and making backups. The original article was written for desktop PCs, and although nearly all of the techniques also work for laptops, we thought a supplement about how to install laptop drivers on a fresh Windows install as called for.
Sure, almost all laptops come with recovery discs or recovery partions, so a full reformat is rarely absolutely necessary, but there are a number of reasons you might want to do it:
2. You want to reformat and upgrade or downgrade to Vista or XP.
3. You’ve managed to truly, thoroughly hose your laptop beyond all recognition, and you lost your restore disc.
If one of the above applies to you and you have a retail Windows install disc, then give your laptop a clean start!. First, check out the original article for advice about saving your data, then read on to learn what software you'll need to install after your reformat.