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
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?
A while ago we wrote about setting up a MAME machine, which allows you to play faithfully emulated old arcade games on your computer. In an aside to that article, we mentioned that a similar program exists for the other arcade staple—pinball machines. Some pinball fans have written in, asking for more information, and because we love all arcade technology equally here at Maximum PC, we decided to do a quick writeup on how to get started playing classic pinball machines with Visual Pinball and PinMAME.
Read on to find out how to play your favorite pinball classics for free!
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.
There was a time when ripping a CD was a time-intensive, error-prone process. But these days, with programs like iTunes turning the task into a one-click affair, CD ripping has become fast, easy, and reliable enough that backing up your music library is more simple than programming a VCR. However, using a program called Exact Audio Copy, you can achieve even better-quality rips than you can with generic music library managers.
EAC is an “audio grabber,” or ripping program, that’s beloved by the digital music world. It has earned this adoration by providing the tools needed to make the most accurate rips possible, with the fewest errors, and giving you complete control over how your MP3s are tagged and organized.
And although getting EAC set up is a little more complicated than, say, iTunes, we’ll walk you through the process, and show you that it’s not that hard to make top-quality audio rips.
Ever have one of those moments? You know the one: When it's so difficult to teach someone how to accomplish an everyday task in a particular application that you up and grab the keyboard and mouse yourself and just get 'er done, as it were. Isn't that frustrating? Doesn't your passionate rage for simplifying the art of attaching files to email terrify your coworkers, friends, and loved ones? Wouldn't you like a better way to show someone how to accomplish desktop tasks, one that doesn't actually require you to get up from your chair or, better yet, even pick up a phone?
In a move that's sure to sooth the savage beast that's been identified as a computer expert by his or her flock of advice-seeking peers, the Web app ScreenToaster is a perfectly packaged solution for showing people how to get stuff done on a PC. It does this by taking a live video (complete with audio, if you so choose) of whatever it is you're doing on your desktop, straight out of your Web browser--no additional software installation is necessary, save for a requisite click on the "accept" button for a piece of Java.
But surely the app can't be just that easy? There has to be another catch!
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.
The "U" in USB stands for "Universal", and no other I/O port does so much for so many computer users as USB. From providing a home for keyboards and mice to driving printers, scanners, all-in-one units, and providing access to terabytes of storage and the Internet, USB ports do it all. That also means that USB-related problems can cripple your PC, leaving it unable to access storage, input, and output devices.
Tracking down the causes of USB-related woes can be difficult, but in this article, we show you the common and uncommon causes for USB problems – and their solutions.
BitTorrent, as you're probably already aware, is a decentralized peer-to-peer file sharing protocol ideal for transferring large files (and if you didn't know that, don't worry, we also include some lightweight tips to get you started). In a nutshell, the way it works is when you're downloading a massive file -- like a Linux distribution, for example --bits and pieces of the file will be uploaded at the same time. Typically BitTorrent allows for a more efficient and faster transfer method than traditional, Direct Connect P2P software.
To get started, you need a desktop client. We recommend using uTorrent, or uT for short. We prefer uTorrent based on its combination of advanced features, performance, and small footprint -- in other words, it has all the makings of a power user program.
On the following pages, we'll not only show you how to get the most out of uTorrent, but out of BitTorrent in general. We'll cover both basic and advanced tips, and then toss in some of our favorite third-party add-ons for good measure. Whether you're new to BitTorrent or a seasoned vet, there's something in this guide for you.