Let’s set the scene: It’s a beautiful April day, and you’ve just come home after a trip to your local Best Buy, a spring in your step and a smile on your lips. What’s got you so excited? Why, it’s new laptop day! You’ve scrimped and saved and finally, finally, you’re able to afford that new notebook you’ve been pining after.
Breathless, you tear your new computer out of its packaging, plug it in and turn it on, right there on the kitchen table. Windows loads for a minute, then pops up the first time setup. You make an account, and there you are; gazing at the desktop. You feel a sense of proud ownership: that’s your recycle bin; that’s your browser; those are your network places. That’s your Google desktop search bar, your link to ask.com and your 30 day free trial of America Online.
Wait, what? What is all this crap?
When you buy a brand new laptop from an OEM, they’ve already installed an OS for you. And, while they were at it, they’ve tossed in a few extra “features” that they (have been paid) to think you would like. These range from the useful to the vaguely harmless to the downright obnoxious. In any case, your laptop would be better off without them, and in this article we’re going to show you how to make your new notebook as pristine as freshly driven snow in just two steps. Then, we’ll show you how to back up your disk so that you can restore your notebook to a clean state whenever you want, even if you can’t start Windows.
It all started while we were researching an article on future user interfaces. Touch interfaces are hardly futuristic at this point, but multi-touch hardware like the Microsoft Surface or the iPhone is just starting to become a big deal, and we decided to see what big things are going on in that field. What we found that surprised us the most wasn’t anything about the future of multitouch; it was about something that people are doing right now.
There is, it turns out, a whole community of very smart folks out there on the internet perfecting the art of building DIY multi-touch surfaces. The process isn’t exactly simple, but the results we saw were stunning: multitouch surfaces with responsiveness rivaling Microsoft’s $12,000 offering, built in a garage on a shoestring budget. “Future UI article be damned,” we thought, “we’ve gotta build one of these for ourselves.”
And so we did. We documented the whole process, from start to finish, so that you can try building one of your own, if you’re so inspired. We’re not going to claim to have done everything perfectly the first time, so think of this article as more of a build log than a definitive how-to. Still, we’re very pleased with how the table turned out. We’re so pleased, in fact, that we put together a video showing the table in motion.
Read on to see the video and find out how we made it!
We’ve become so accustomed to the ease and convenience of iTunes and blink-and-you-miss-’em CD rips that we forget how in the mid-1990s, ripping a CD was a time-consuming process fraught with peril. Shoot, ripping a single disc to a 128Kbps MP3 could take eight hours on a 200MHz Pentium! Fast forward a decade and faster hardware and better software have made CD ripping so mainstream your mom does it.
Now, ripping DVDs is our great challenge. Copying and transcoding the disc’s video into more efficient formats involves math an order of magnitude scarier than what’s required to rip audio CDs. A machine that will rip the latest Miley Cyrus CD in mere moments could take hours to extract and convert your copy of Alien vs. Predator to an iPod-friendly format. But with the right software, a quad-core-equipped PC, and a little know-how, you can cut your disc-rip time from hours to 30 minutes. Plenty of tricks and traps still await first-time rippers, but we’ll show you the basics and then walk you through some of the most valuable power-user ripping secrets.
Your first decision is simple: What player are you ripping your discs for? Are you ripping for a portable player, like the PSP or iPhone? Would you rather stream to a device in your living room, like the Xbox 360, PS3, or Popcorn Hour? Or are you simply interested in making archival-quality DVD rips in case you lose your collection? More likely, you’re looking for a combination of all three of these things. We’ll show you how to rip your DVD to a file suitable for streaming that consumes a fraction of the disk space of a DVD but maintains full video and audio quality. Then you can take that file and convert it for whatever other devices you might have, like a PSP or an iPod.
With the preliminaries out of the way, let’s get started.
If you're only using your $500 PlayStation 3 for console gaming, you're missing out on half of its hidden versatility: the ability to upgrade into a fully functional PC! Inside that shiny plastic shell resides some decent computing silicon, just waiting to be released from its undeserved console shackles. And while Windows Vista and OSX are no-goes due to legal issues, there's no reason at all not to dual boot into a perfectly serviceable Linux platform when the need arises.
The installation process is fairly straightforward, and the hard drive is easily upgradeable if you don't mind spending a little extra cash on the side. And while Ubuntu for PlayStation has a few functional limitations, you can find myriad excellent applications for you to enjoy from the comfort of your own living room, including VLC for encoded video playback, Amarok to blast your digital music library, and some classic SNES emulation software that you can play using your PS3's Sixaxis or Dualshock controller. This guide will show you how to do all of the above, so let's get started!
Chances are you know what Gmail is and have been using it for quite some time, even if Google’s service is technically still in beta. But did you know that Gmail can be used for many other practical functions other than sending and receiving e-mail? With the appropriate extensions and setting hacks, you can make Gmail do things that other web-based e-mail services and even some desktop clients cannot. In this guide, we will show you how to implement the ten hidden features you need to know about Gmail and introduce you to five of our favorite Gmail Labs add-ons. You may already know or use some of these features, but there are sure to be a few in here that you do not.
Radiohead jamming with Kanye West would be an odd pairing on any stage, but in the world of mashups—where the vocals of one song are folded into another—the weirder the combination, the bigger the bragging rights. While the RIAA is determined to put an end to the art form, many artists are releasing a cappellas (vocal-only tracks) and stems (individual tracks of a mix) to support the creative movement. And you can be part of it too.
Pros often look to Sony ACID Pro ($315, www.sonycreativesoftware.com) or Ableton Live ($600, www.ableton.com) to mash up music, but you can do it on the cheap with Audacity, an open source audio-editing app, and your own music. We’ll show you some basic techniques—you just need to find two tracks to work with. Find songs in the same key (like Chris Brown’s “Kiss Kiss” and Puddle of Mudd’s “Blurry”) or ones that have a similar groove and chord progression (such as Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” and Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life”). Or Google “a cappella download” to find vocal track downloads (for personal use only) and choose a song in your music collection to pair it with. We always thought 4 Non Blondes’s “What’s Up?” sounded just like Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” so for simplicity’s sake we’ll use these songs for our example.
Sometimes you just want to browse and listen to your album collection at the office without having to load it all into a portable music player. Pandora and Last.fm are great web services that can help you discover new music, but they won’t let you specify your own music playlist. Streaming music from within a home network is easy with iTunes and Windows Media Player; what’s trickier is getting access to your 100GB music library while away from home. We’ll teach you how to turn your library into an Internet radio station with Apache server software and a little-known program called netjukebox. You’ll be able to browse your collection via a gallery of album cover art, stream custom playlists, and even download entire albums as zip files.
The first thing you'll need to do is set your desktop up as an Apache server.
For more than a decade, Adobe Photoshop has been the de facto image-editing program used by professionals and art students alike. But there are plenty of casual users who only dabble with Photoshop for simple tasks, such as photo resizing and cropping -- oblivious to the sheer power of Photoshop's graphics manipulation abilities. These decidedly non-power users (and we know some of you are included in this group) can do so more with this versatile program -- and we're here to show you how.
Whether you've just installed Photoshop for the first time or know your away around a the Tools toolbar, we put together a few of the most essential Photoshop skills to get you started on your photo editing endeavors. Before you know it, you'll be fixing up your grandmother's torn-up black and white wedding photos and airbrushing the heck out of yourself for your Facebook photo.
Looks like your system is on the fritz again -- it refuses to boot your operating system. What do you do now? You can take it a tech shop and have "experts" investigate the problem, but that a costly option. Even if your computer can’t load Windows, there is still a way to fix boot problems without reformatting. With the right boot CD, you can perform your own troubleshooting dianosis the cure whatever ails your PC. Our guide will show you how to make a powerful boot disk that'll let you do more than just access a DOS prompt. You'll be able to run processor stress tests, memory scans, edit partitions, and even extract hard drive data.
A few weeks ago we looked at moving to the clouds, and clearly, this is a concept that isn’t going away. Of course, we would be the first to admit there are some limitations, but the promise of freeing ourselves from the shackles of a single machine is clearly within our grasp. For the most part, we are sold on the idea of cloud-based email clients, and even photo and music sharing, But what about bulk storage for our files and sensitive documents? For many users, this is a line that simply cannot be crossed. The sheer thought of sending private information halfway across the world via the World Wide Web is simply too much to handle.
Unlike many cloud services however, online storage provides a solution to a very unique need that is difficult to satisfy, offsite backups. In today’s age of 2 TB hard drives, keeping all your information, even backed up on multiple drives does you little good if they are all in the same location. A fire or a break-in could leave you with nothing but a decade of lost files, and a handful of regret. So rather than updating a USB hard drive and shipping it to your buddy's house every few months, wouldn't it be great if you could archive your files online, securely and inexpensively? Good news, you can! Plenty of free and paid options exist, but how are you to know which services will best suit your needs? In this article we will look at the most popular solutions available, and help you navigate the chaotic seas of web 2.0 solutions.