How do we usually receive our data? In boring textual updates, be it the current time, the contents of an RSS feed, or a ton of 140-character Twitter updates. And when this information turns graphical, like an icon of a folder on our desktop to signify a grouping or combined storage location, there's no way to edit this representation with any kind of updated contextual information. How do you assign relevance or urgency to a desktop icon? You can rename it, or drag it to a different, "I remember that this corner of my Desktop is urgent" part of your screen, but that's it.
In short, there are limitations on the news feeds and data organization that we encounter on a daily basis. And that's why we turn to third-party developers to help us visualize this data and add context to our actions. More than that, data visualizations are just downright cool -- why scan an RSS feed for CNN, for example, when you can have the news drop down onto a map based on its source? Why use Google calendar when you can pretty up your desktop with a slick, visualized clock/scheduling utility?
While finding downloadable data visualizations can be tough, we've scrounged up a batch of five freeware tools to help you add more relevance, functionality, and beauty to your desktop environment. Click the link to get started!
It almost seems like common sense, but 37signals' Jason Fried had some specific words for those in attendance at this year's Future of Web Apps conference in Miami, Florida: the future is not free.
Continuing on, his point is that companies need to turn away from the business model of pump-and-dumping free applications to a gleeful audience. Open-source and free software might be an excellent means for attracting attention and eyeballs to a product, but now is not the time to pack alternate revenue strategies around these concepts. Advertising and other extraneous revenue add-ons are a distraction, argues Fried. It's time to shift back to a meat-and-potatoes business model, and that involves selling a product that contains enough quality to make an audience want to pay for it, even given the current economic difficulties.
That said, there's still room for free in some capacity--read on to find out where Fried thinks free applications can exist!
When we heard today that Apple was releasing a beta version of Safari 4, which they boast is up to 4 times faster than the previous version, it got us thinking about the new browser wars. More than ever, it seems like every new release from each of the contenders brings with it a bevy of new features and performance upgrades. Although we're excited to put Safari 4 through the paces, right now we're more excited about the next version of Firefox.
Here at Maximum PC, we like Firefox an awful lot. Its mix of stability, speed, expandability and open source warm-fuzzies easily earned it a spot on our recent list of the 32 essential Windows apps. And right now, because we like Firefox an awful lot, it should come as no suprise that we’re excited about Firefox 3.1, the upcoming update from Mozilla. Many of our readers have tried the 3.1 beta, but for those who haven’t, we’re going to take a minute to explain the changes that will impact your browsing experience when the update lands.
We'll cover both the new frontend features, like private browsing, as well as the under-the-hood stuff that'll make a difference to you. Read on to find out all about what you can expect!
We are certain that many of you want to try Linux to see what it is like, but have no idea where to start or how to get into it. This article is the first installment in a four-part guide that will gradually introduce you to the Linux environment and how to adjust to it if you are a new user.
One of the hardest things to do while starting out is finding a distro that is right for you. Many users try several before settling on one of two that they really like. Once they find a distro that feels right, they are often reluctant to switch unless the distro becomes unsuitable for their needs for whatever reason.
In most instances, choosing a distro ultimately comes down to several factors: Your skill level, the purpose of the system, and package management.
What's that? You're not on Twitter? Get out. From Will Smith to surgeons--freakin' surgeons!--millions of people worldwide are using this popular online service to offer up brief, 140-character descriptions of the key events in their fascinating lives. And you too could join the bandwagon/party/mayhem, but you sure aren't going to do it from Twitter's Web page. That just wouldn't be very Maximum PC of you when a host of other options exist for pulling an up-to-the-second ton information out of this living, breathing Web entity.
So join us as we explore five of the top Twitter clients. If you like what you see, perhaps you'll even be so inspired as to write your very own "Tweet," or "Twit," or "message" about your software adventures! Just promise you won't do it from the operating table, ok?
Cuba has debuted a new national Linux-based operating system dubbed "Nova." As one might expect, Cuba claims that the move will help the country replace proprietary Microsoft software running on the nation's computers. It almost sounds a little silly, but Cuba makes two noteworthy points as to why it's trying to purge this United States-based software from its networks. Nor is this the first international body that's sought to replace Microsoft software with an open-source alternative.
According to Cuban officials, the switch is more intended to turn away from United States-backed software as opposed to specifically Microsoft. They claim that governmental agencies would be able to infiltrate Cuban systems because they would could to pressure Microsoft to give up its "codes." It's unclear whether Cuba expects U.S. officials to actually hack into Cuban databases, break through encryption measures, or any combination of nefarious activities. Cuban officials also suggest that importing Microsoft software violates the U.S. trade embargo, an explanation for why Microsoft operating systems are allegedly more difficult to acquire for the island nation.
Grab your cigar and click the link to find out just how much Linux adoption Cuba expects to have within five years!
You have to admit, Windows is a pretty barebones operating system, feature-wise. After a fresh install of XP or Vista (perhaps following a Clean Start), you're faced with a barren Start Menu and an empty desktop that's beaming with limitless potential. The problem is that it's up to you to hunt and download those applications that you really need in your day-to-day computing experience. And chances are, it's often difficult to find good software that's also free. That's where this guide comes in.
We've put together a list of what we think are the most essential PC apps for every Maximum PC reader. These are all free programs (except one) that should be immediately installed after a fresh build or reformat; 32 indispensable programs and utilities that we couldn't imagine computing without. From the best IM client to FTP browser and Notepad replacement, these essentials truly enhance the Windows experience (much more so than Microsoft's own Windows LIVE Essentials). We're not saying you'd use all 32 entries in our list on a daily basis, but if you are at all serious about utilizing your PC, we promise our picks will not go unused.
And at the end of the feature, we'll even show you how to install these apps in one fell swoop with a special configuration file we've created. Because if it were up to us, this is software that should be bundled with every copy of Windows.
It might seem like an oxymoron to the average geek: getting healthy with your PC. Sure, you can lift your turbo-charged, water-cooled desktop as if you were doing a common bench press. And you could probably tie the ends of the two front speakers in your 5.1 surround sound system together, creating a crude jump rope for exercising right out of your home office / basement dwelling / dorm room. But while these fitness techniques might improve your personal health, they're not very beneficial for the longevity of your beloved computer system.
Let's fix that.
We're taking a look at fitness-themed applications in this week's freeware roundup. And while you might roll your eyes as you head back to your local meat locker for a punching session, don't brush off the notion of computer-assisted fitness just yet. From applications that help you map your heart rate, to nutrition guides, to a comprehensive guidebook of exercises that you can do right at (or near) your desk, this batch of freeware apps will help you transform your PC into your very own personal trainer.
Slap on some sweatbands and click the link, for it's time to pump you up.
Hard drive encryption sounds like an intimating concept, mostly because it is. The thought of taking your precious files, then using a mathematical formula to convert them into random noise before scattering them back across your disk is a hard sell. The harsh reality is, mobile computing is on the rise, and so is laptop theft. Depending on who you ask, anywhere from 500,000 to over 1,000,000 laptops are lost or stolen in the US each year. In some cases, the data on the hard drive is often more valuable than the machine itself.
To determine if disk encryption is something you should be considering, simply ask yourself if your PC contains anything you wouldn’t want posted publically on the internet. If the answer to this is yes (and I assume for most of us it is) then encryption is worth considering.
The good news is, you no longer need to be a member of the CIA to lock down your machine with government level encryption.In fact, one of the most highly regarded and powerful encryption tools available is both free, and open source (our favorite combination!) True Crypt allows you to protect either all your data, or only what you choose. You can mask your boot drive and sensitive documents, while leaving your games or other non generic data in the clear. While no encryption process is without risk, True Crypt is designed to put your mind at ease, and takes no chances with your data. The process can be reversed at any time even without being able to boot into windows.
So if your ready to get started click the jump to learn step by step how to protect your data.
Are you ready for some f... reeware? It's Super Bowl weekend at Maximum PC, and we're doing all we can to find you the best, quick-hit freeware applications that will make a profound difference in your computing life. It's hard to manage the grill and install freeware, so we're giving you a mix this week: Tiny applications that don't require much of your input at all to interact with, as well as a pretty big application or two that should easily distract you if football-watching isn't your thing. We're covering a lot of field this week with our applications. Be prepared to check out everything from efficient file unzippers, to 3D designing programs, to pretty desktop RSS feed readers.
So what are you waiting for? Put on your helmet and get ready to go third and long with our latest batch of freeware applications!