Micro-management just isn't Microsoft's thing. Why do we say that? It's because the folks from Redmond are regular Babe Ruths when it comes to coding an OS and knocked the ball out of the park with Windows 7. But when it comes to integrated apps -- all those things we would expect Microsoft to excel at -- the software giant is more like Casey at the bat and we're all just a bunch of Mudville suckers wondering how Microsoft manages to whiff it at the easy pitches. Internet Explorer? Most of us are rocking Firefox or Chrome. And while we don't want to be too hard on Windows Media Player, there are certainly better media frontends out there.
One of them is XBMC, an open-source project formerly known as Xbox Media Center. XBMC was originally developed for the first Xbox console, and through the years, it has evolved as a fully fledged, cross-platform media hub with a rabid following and plenty of user-created plugins and scripts. It's also given birth to more familiar projects like Boxee, Voddler, and others, all of which initially borrowed from XBMC's source code.
If you've never played with XBMC, it's time for a test drive. To help you kick the tires, we've assembled 12 terrific tips and tricks so you can spend more time cruising the media byways and less time fumbling with the controls.
You know Adobe's portable document format: PDF. It's everywhere, from downloadable documentation for a motherboard you need to tweak to press releases from the assemblyman from Lower Someplace, PDFs rule. Why? It's not hard to understand:
PDF files are supported by computers and mobile devices, including smartphones; comparable formats such as Microsoft's XPS don't enjoy nearly as wide a level of support
PDF files are cross-platform, enabling you to create a PDF on a PC and read it on any other device with PDF support
PDF documents can be optimized for web display, eBook readers, PC printing, and high-resolution professional printing
Add up these reasons, and it's easy to see why PDF make sense if you need to distribute a document that can be read everywhere.
Although Adobe sets the standards for PDF files with its Acrobat PDF creation and Reader PDF display software, Adobe isn't the only game in town when it comes to PDF creation. In this article, you'll discover if your system is already ready to spit out a PDF on demand, how to add PDF output to your system, and how to track down free tools that enable you to perform some PDF editing.
To casual observers, PC builders who fixate on benchmarks are geeks unable to see the forest from the trees. “Why,” they ask, “can’t you just enjoy your new computer and let it be?” Our answer: the difference between a person who cares about benchmarking and one who doesn’t is how much that person values their free time.
Case in point, we recently did something as simple as download two large zip files at the end of the work day. Instead of strolling out at 6 p.m., we ended up waiting 15 minutes for the files to be decompressed on our work-issued PC. To care about benchmark is to care about performance. And to care about performance is to care about having more free time on your hand.
But you shouldn’t just download any benchmarking tool to run--there’s a right and wrong way to benchmark your machine if you want to get meaningful results. We’ll teach you proper benchmarking techniques and how to interpret your results. Read on to learn how to benchmark the Maximum PC way.
Building a PC is a many-step process, but one in particular stands out as being intimidating to first-timers: properly mounting a CPU and cooler. Why? Because, generally speaking, that one little cpu chip is simultaneously the smallest, most delicate, and most expensive part of your system. Mount the cooler wrong, or improperly apply the thermal paste and you’re looking at (at best) a drop in performance and system crashes, or (at worst) a $200 disaster.
But don’t worry! It’s actually not terribly hard to install a new CPU, as long as you know what you’re doing. And so that you do know what you’re doing, we’ve put together a quick primer on installing a new CPU. If you’re a newbie getting ready to build a new system, or an old pro looking to make sure your technique is the best, read on to find out everything you need to know about properly mounting a CPU.
From Google Desktop to the Windows Sidebar introduced in Vista, there have been several attempts to integrate our online life onto our desktop. But none of them come close to Rainmeter, a totally customizable platform for decking out your desktop with a variety of useful applets that can stand prominently in the foreground or blend into the background.
There's a lot you can do with Rainmeter thanks to a diverse collection of available 'skins' (think of them as widgets), all of which can be individually tailored in look and function. There are skins for keeping tabs on system resources, displaying RSS feeds, sending and receiving Twitter messages, and even recording notes.
Rainmeter isn't at all difficult to use, but there is an initial learning curve as you come to understand just how powerful this unassuming app really is. On the following pages, we'll guide you through the setup process and show you the ins and outs of using Rainmeter. We'll also highlight the 12 best skins out of the hundreds that are available to give you a head start on decking out your desktop like never before.
Think about all the time you spend in front on your PC. Are you being efficient? Here’s a better question: Are you being as efficient as you can be? The simple answer is ‘No.’ Every time you lift your fingers off your keyboard to navigate Windows, you’re wasting time. Sure, it only takes a few seconds to drag your mouse cursor over to the Firefox icon or to navigate the Start menu to open up the Control Panel, and while none of that sounds like a big deal, it all adds up over time, be it a week, a month, or a year. The reason Microsoft includes so many shortcuts in Windows is so you can streamline these little time wasters, but these preset hotkeys will only take you so far.
That’s where AutoHotkey comes in, a lightweight but powerful app that allows you to create keyboard shortcuts for any Windows program. Here are a few tricks to get you started.
Remember browsing the Web before mouse gestures? Neither do we. It’s not because we can’t recall that far back, we’ve just chosen to block out any recollection of wading through cyberspace using only the navigation toolbar. How primitive!
Mouse gestures have become such a popular part of day-to-day Web surfing that it was only a matter of time before someone ported the functionality over to the Windows OS. Enter SrokeIt, a free, open-source utility that brings the magic of mouse gestures to any system running Windows 95 or later.
Whether you own an iPod touch, Zune HD, Nintendo DSi, or any number of other portable devices, there's one tool that makes easy work out of ripping DVDs and converting incompatible video files into manageable formats: Handbrake. This wonderful utility has just about everything you could ask for, including robust compatibility, a slick interface, and snappy performance. And if that weren't enough, the developers have chosen to give the program away for free, no strings (or trialware) attached.
We realize we're probably preaching to the choir and there's a good chance you've used Handbrake before, if not frequently. But do you know how to create, backup, and transfer your own custom settings for the Xbox 360, PS3, and other popular media players not included by default? Do you know how to encode a copy protected DVD with the least amount off fuss? We do, and on the following pages, we'll guide you through a series of advanced tips for getting the most out of Handbrake.
In many respects, it’s more difficult to build a great cheap PC than it is to build a more expensive one. In fact, the less money you have to spend, the more vital it is that every dollar delivers measurable value. With that in mind, we sat down with one simple goal: to build the best inexpensive, multipurpose PC that we would want to use ourselves. We didn’t start with any particular budget, but at every turn we shaved as much from the cost as we could—trimming the fancy case, ditching an unnecessary 800W PSU, and scuttling the spendy Core i5 CPU.
The result is an incredibly lean, but still powerful machine featuring a quad-core CPU, a GPU capable of playing anything on a 22-inch panel, and… well, you’ll have to hit the jump to see the rest. Rest assured, though, this is a machine that would be welcome in any of our homes, whether we’re playing games, editing video, touching up photos, ripping movies, or simply surfing the Internet. Oh yeah, we’ll also show you how to assemble the components like a pro, one easy-to-follow step at a time.
And just to keep the whole thing good and honest, we stopped by our local Best Buy and bought the best comparably priced system they had, which we pitted against our ultra-budget machine in a steel-cage match to the death. Want to see who wins? Read on to find out.
One of the most common questions of PC building is, "How much power do I need?" And while I realize that most Maximum PC enthusiasts might very well just answer the question thusly--"As much as I can buy"--that's not always the best recommendation for two key reasons: You don't need a kilowatt power supply if you're rocking a newb rig, and you might not have the budget to afford more juice than what your computer ultimately requires.
But how, then, do you figure out the exact size of power supply your system requires for perfect performance? It's no easy task. I highly doubt you want to arm yourself with a clipboard and surf over to the manufacturers' Web sites to figure out the power draw for all the components in your rig. And even then, you're not going to have an easy time doing so. You'll probably just go off the recommendation of someone from an online message board--"oh, so and so rig usually needs... 700 watts at least. You'll be fine then. Word."
That, or you could hit up this week's Web App pick: the eXtreme Power Supply Calculator. This super-helpful online tool gives you a comprehensive list of components to pick from. Select what's in your PC and you'll get an read-out of how much power your system will likely draw in the form of a recommendation for the specific-sized power supply you should pick up. It's as easy as that.
But just how comprehensive is this tool? Click the jump to find out!