If you're like me, your USB key should come with its own flame retardant coating. That's because I tend to use my little four-gigabyte device to great excess on a near-daily basis. It's an easy fix for transferring files from a desktop PC to a laptop, and it's great for carrying batches of files I need to access (especially if I'm without an Internet connection, making Dropbox useless). If I'm heading over to a friend's house, I can slap a movie on the drive for us to watch on an attached PC or home theater device. I can throw down a game or two if I'm going to be travelling and don't feel like reading about overpriced devices that will pet my cat for me. USB keys are more than just a geek's trusty friends. They're uber-tools in their own right.
Application suites for USB keys are another popular way of extending the functionality of your desktop into the portable realm. Install these batches of software and you can take your favorite programs along with you wherever you go--perfect for when you're using a computer that isn't yours, yet you would prefer to be able to access to a better range of apps than Windows' default programs. Better still, you can stick these batches of applications on smaller USB keys to extend the life of these sub-gigabyte devices. The storage might stink, but the functionality will rule.
Click the jump to check out five, freeware application suites that will dazzle up your USB key faster than you can say, "universal serial bus."
Just over a year ago, Finnish mobile firm Nokia acquired Symbian, a move that put the handset maker in direct competition with Google and Apple for mobile internet market share. But despite a vested interest in sticking with its Symbian platform, word on the web is that Nokia is developing a mobile phone powered by Google's open-source Android OS.
Nokia's decision came after seeng its global smartphone market share drop from 47 percent in 2007 to 35 percent last summer and 31 percent by the start of 2008. That's a frightening trend for a company which makes about four out of every 10 mobile phones being sold.
The smartphone maker has been doing everything it can to remain relevant in the mobile sector, including forging an alliance with Intel to develop a new breed of Intel Architecture-based mobile devices.
Dealing with your data is a critical part of the Windows experience. "No, really," you ask? I know, I know. But the kinds of file operations you perform on any given day represent the bread and butter of your operating system. You drag your pictures around, copy and paste your documents to other places, maybe send a file or two over email. It's simple stuff. That's not a value judgment, just a comment about the basic functionality that everyone uses on a modern OS.
When you're ready to step out of this minor league of file management and head into the majors, you'll find a host of freeware applications waiting to hit a pitch or two. These applications take the common elements of your Windows file operations and inject them with a dose of raw energy. For example, you can customize and jack up the very process of copying files from one directory to another. You can also beat back Windows' default system for batch file renaming and instead transform a large number of files with very specific titles and extensions. You can even map out just how much space your files take up on your drive, giving you the perfect opportunity to catch up on some spring cleaning across your battered hard drive.
While these kinds of processes are a mainstay of this week's roundup, I'm also taking a look at two additional programs that pack additional functionality into your operating system as a whole. So what are you waiting for? Quit your file transfers, click the jump, and get ready for a brand new world.
There was a ton of great feedback to my column last week, where I dreamed up (blabbed out loud) the idea of a Windows-based application store for open-source downloads. For the Linux layman, this would be something like a wicked hybrid of iTunes and apt-get. A package manager featuring pretty icons, one-click downloads, descriptions, and community interaction that could help bring the open source world just one step closer to the hearts and minds of average computer users.
As it turns out, a number of package managers already exist for the Windows operating system. In theory, they provide you the convenience of being able to hunt down a number of open-source projects, categorized by operation, which you can install without having to pore over the Web for the right file. Beyond that, they also give you a way to learn about newer open source projects that you might not have heard about or seen by your casual browsing on SourceForge. But are these applications as glorious as my dream from last week? Are these applications even worth your time at all?
Unlike typical open-source roundups, where I recommend five awesome programs that you. must. have. I'm actually going to give you the pros and cons of a series of five different package managers so you can decide for yourself as to which one would best fit your PC habits. So without further ado, I present: Windows Package Managers.
Click the link to get started -- I hope you've cleared off some space on your hard drive!
The iPhone has its App Store. Linux has its application repositories. Gamers have their Steam. So why, then, does the open-source world not have a centralized database for standardizing the deployment of applications across a common software delivery system?
I can see your answer now? "That's crazy!" Elaborating, you'd probably suggest that half of the joy of open source comes from the individual development that people (or groups of people) pour into a piece of software. In short, you probably think they should be free to distribute it as they see fit: via SourceForge, on their Web sites, burned onto a disc and cast into the sea, whatever.
But think about it--just think about it--for a moment. A single, downloadable application that could grant you access to a SourceForge-like list of open source applications grouped by categories, themes, alphabet letters-anything you want! It sounds like a far-off dream, perhaps the whimsical musings of a columnist looking to write something for the week. But I'm not the only one who considers a single-front application "store" for the open-source world as a real, future possibility. No, I've got Novell on my side too.
Click the jump and, whatever you do, don't steal my idea!
Last week's freeware gaming roundup generated a mixed bag of reactions from the community. Some of you liked the unique perspectives on traditional gameplay offered by the nominees and finalists of the 2008 Independent Games Festival. Others... thought I was crazy. That's okay. I can take the heat. In fact, I welcome the commentary -- one of Maximum PC's community members, Mojosico, offered up a number of titles that he enjoys playing in the article's comments thread. I checked out the games on his list and was pretty pleased with what I saw. If you like traditional run-and-gun gameplay, with a single driving-based game adding a little spice to the freeware mix, I think you'll enjoy this week's gaming roundup.
Consider these titles penance for last week's out-of-the-box batch of gameplay. For the first-person-shooters, third-person-shooters, and racing games I'm checking out this week represent the meat and potatoes of any gamer's plate. If you don't find something you like in this batch of games, you're getting nothing but Tetris variants next week. Just kidding. Let me know what genres or titles you like in the comments, and I'll see if I can't find a way to boost your spirits by +5 in next week's freeware roundup!
Click the jump to check out this week's top titles!
E3! E3! E3! There is seemingly nothing more important right now than checking out the latest iteration of some made-for-14-year-old-girls title at that big LA convention. Feh. You know what the worst thing about E3 is? It's not the lack of awkward-looking hot actors to stare at, nor is it the barrage of press meetings, demonstrations, and pomp and circumstance for less-than-stellar titles. The worst thing about E3 is that all the games you see there cost money. That's right. Cash. For every neat title you're seeing, there's a price tag attached at the end of the day. Want new graphics in a hot sequel? You'll pay for it. Want to blow up 255 of your closest console friends? Ask for your allowance early. Feel like waving your hand around to simulate an activity you can do in real life? Get a real-life job.
This week, I'm strolling down memory lane and profiling some of the best games from that other gaming conference in California. You know the one--good ol' GDC, or the Game Developers Conference. Each year, the Independent Games Festival takes up shop amidst the chaos of this convention and awards a host of independent (and often free) titles awards of various persuasions. There's a long list of contenders that come to the IGF every year: here's a list of five of the most interesting, enjoyable, and free titles I've found.
Click the jump to check out the cream of the freeware gaming crop!
As if Microsoft didn’t have enough on its plate in advance of the October 22 launch date for its latest operating system, Windows 7, an old, familiar friend is entering the fray. Like a second player that adds a quarter and interrupts your progression in an arcade fighting game, Google is bringing its open-source Android operating system out of the handheld market and into the PC world.
Acer netbooks are the target for Android’s first foray beyond the mobile market. The company has announced that it will begin offering both Microsoft-based operating systems and Google’s Android platform for a majority of its netbooks—or “mini-notebooks,” as Microsoft now prefers to call them. Acer’s latest Aspire One netbook will be the first of its kind to offer Android as an alternative platform, and you’ll be able to pick one up in the third quarter of this year.
The move is a boon for the open-source world… sort-of. For Android is as open as it is Linux, which is to say that it might be based on the Linux kernel, but it’s not a Linux operating system. Similarly, although Android comes close to fulfilling the philosophy and licensing requirements to deem it a full, open-source product, a few qualifiers exist that give cause for concern. Together, these two issues combine to create a troubled picture for Android’s future outside of the mobile market.
According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, Acer will start shipping netbooks powered by Google's open-source Android platform in the third quarter of this year. The new netbooks will supplement -- not replace -- Acer's lineup of Windows-based netbooks.
The 180 comes as somewhat of a surprise, as two months ago Acer had stated it didn't believe Andorid was ready to run netbooks.
"For a netbook, you really need to be able to view a full web for the total internet experience," said Jim Wong, head of Acer's IT products and business line. "And Android is not that yet."
Fast forward to today and Wong is singing praise over Android's ability to provide a fast wireless connection to the Internet, which is apparently enough to outweight any cons the company might have previously felt existed.
So here's the deal. You have a ton of extra storage sitting around your house/apartment/basement. That's great. So what's the problem? It's just sitting there, doing you absolutely no good. You've maxed out the SATA ports on your desktop rig, but would love for a way to make use of your hard drives in some manner that's geekier than a doorstop, a height extension for your coffee table, or a crude weapon.
Have you thought about building your own server?
Woah, woah. Don't skip over this article just yet. It sounds complicated, but crafting up your own personal server for your files (and multimedia) isn't that complicated. In fact, for some of the free solutions I'm about to show you, all you need is a working PC that accepts USB keys. That's it. Plug it in, fire up the software, and you'll have a brand-new storage array that's ready to receive your file backups and music files in equal measure. And why is that important? Because you're probably not running a RAID array on your main PC--if your primary drive goes, that's it. Game over. End of story. And if you're the most backup-conscious person around, wouldn't it be nice to have a low-powered PC that serves up multimedia for any networked computer in your abode? I thought so.
All this and more awaits you in the land of home servers!