It’s that time of year again, Max PC readers. It’s time for stuffing ourselves, watching football, and—if "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" has taught us anything— it’s time to give thanks. As tech fans, we take a lot for granted, so we felt like taking a step back and examining all the things that are making a nerd’s life better right now.
Read on to check out our list of 17 things techies should be thankful for, then hit the comments and let us know what we missed.
Earlier in the week, reports of a supposed newly discovered Gmail vulnerability started making the rounds on the web. The proof of concept was first posted on GeekCondition.com and showed how a hacker, with a bit of effort and persistence, could potentially infiltrate a user's Gmail account, create a malicious filter to forward emails to the hijacker, and top it off by stealing any domains the victim may have registered. But is the proof of concept truly indicative of a security flaw in Gmail?
While it's true that there have been users affected by the scheme, Google ascertains the root cause has more to do with phishing than it does with Gmail.
"With help from affected users, we determined that the cause was a phishing scheme, a common method used by malicious actors to trick people into sharing their sensitive information," Google wrote in a blog post. "Attackers sent customized emails encouraging web domain owners to visit fraudulent websites such as 'google-hosts.com' that they set up purely to harvest usernames and passwords. These fake sites had no affiliation with Google, and the ones we've seen are now offline."
As is often the case when it comes to security issues, a combination of common sense and safe computing habits remains your best defense.
While drowning in an ocean of famished zombies attempting to grind your brains to make their bread, paying attention to the blips and bloops of tiny achievement indications is a tad difficult. Fortunately, according to Valve's newly released list of Left 4 Dead achievement statistics, you're not missing much.
Oh sure, Valve has loaded its game with wacky (and easily pun-able) methods of undead dead-making, but at this early stage of the game, only a small percentage of players have truly lived during their short spurts of undeath.
Especially noticeable, not a single player has managed to slay their way to the "Zombie Genocidest" achievement, which forces players to sacrifice 53,595 hapless zombies in order to appease its dark whims.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, 73.9% of players have laid claim to the "Drag and Drop" achievement -- wherein, you're simply required to chop through a Smoker's tongue before one of your buddies takes any damage.
So, which L4D achievements adorn your trophy case? Is your zombpocalypse training nearly complete, or are you only beginning to learn your ABZ's?
Just a few months ago, we could have summed up the browser wars in single word: BORING! That's not to say we haven't appreciated the new features that accompany each new release of Mozilla's Firefox and Microsoft's Internet Explorer, but the results and the competitors always remained the same. It's become far too easy to predict how each new round will go - Firefox will add new features, get a little faster, and inch ever so closer in market share, while each new IE release will suck a little less than the last and continue to be the most widely used browser on the planet. At least in the chip wars, AMD and Intel have taken turns putting the smackdown on one another accompanied by the occasional trash talk.
It took a surprise release by an unlikely newcomer to finally get us excited about the future of browsers again. Google's Chrome seemingly came out of nowhere and has the potential to turn what has been a stale two-man scuffle into a three-way battle royal. Along with greater stability, Chrome's claim to fame is that it can render web pages faster than the competition, and indeed a recent benchmark comparison has pegged Chrome as the new speed king. But in order for anyone to truly take Chrome seriously, Google has to put extension support at the forefront of development, and it appears they're doing exactly that.
Hit the jump to see what Google is doing to add extensions to Chrome, and how it will differ from Firefox.
We typically recommend that those new to Linux get their feet wet with Ubuntu, but if you think you're ready to explore alternative distros, the Fedora developer community has announced the official release of Fedora 10. The release was originally planned to go live a few weeks ago but suffered a delay as Fedora developers verified its source code had not been compromised following a hacker attack back in August.
Like Ubuntu's recently released Intrepid Ibex (8.10), Fedora 10 is built on the Linux 2.6.27 kernel. The new kernel, which was released last month, offers better webcam support and the new Atheros ath9k wireless drivers, among other goodies. Firefox 3.0.4 also finds its way into Fedora 10's default installation.
ArsTechnica takes an in-depth tour of the distro's several new features, including the glitch-free PulseAudio (PA). In addition to support for controlling the volume of individual audio streams and movie streams between multiple devices, PA also sports some advanced capabilities, such as dynamic volume adjustment and network transparent stream redirection. But perhaps the biggest improvement to the rewritten PA is the significant reduction in the potential for dropped audio.
Other upgrades include a new version of the Network Manager utility, an overhauled RPM package, and a more tightly integrated PackageKit, which is a GUI-based package management frontend.
“The keyboard/mouse interface is definitely still the superior interface for a competitive first-person shooter experience, much better than an analog joypad,” he told PC Gamer.
But why stop with games? Clearly, the PC can do at least two other things.
"The browser environment is faster—navigating web pages on the console is a really tedious experience… And I do think there’s the whole idea of PCs being everywhere, and having a game that you can play just about anywhere. Anywhere there’s a PC, if you’ve got a few minutes you can download Quake Live content and jump in and play your game,” he said.
However, Carmack conceded that console development definitely has its perks -- for instance, acting as a hardy shelter in the hail of issues that is PC development.
"There are interesting technical things, looking across the spectrum of graphics cards, looking at the very latest stuff on there, but there are also times when I say, 'Wow, the 360 is a nicer place to develop games.' You bypass a lot of the issues there. Wouldn’t it be nice just to develop strictly for that platform?"
"The official editor for Fallout 3, called the G.E.C.K. (Garden of Eden Creation Kit), will be available for free download in December and will allow Games for Windows® users to create and add their own content to the game."
"The release of the G.E.C.K. provides the community with tools that will allow players to expand the game any way they wish. Users can create, modify, and edit any data for use with Fallout 3, from building landscapes, towns, and locations to writing dialogue, creating characters, weapons, creatures, and more."
Even (circle one) <better/worse/Y>, Bethesda's sprinkling a smattering of DLC on top of its latest massively single player RPG, giving players a chance to nab a spot in the vaunted Brotherhood of Steel, grind Commies' bones to make more ground, and save a cleverly titled portion of Pittsburgh from total annihilation. DLC descriptions are as follows:
Operation: Anchorage. Enter a military simulation and fight in one of the greatest battles of the Fallout universe – the liberation of Anchorage, Alaska from its Chinese Communist invaders. An action-packed battle scheduled for release in January.
The Pitt. Journey to the industrial raider town called The Pitt, located in the remains of Pittsburgh. Choose your side. Scheduled for release in February.
Broken Steel. Join the ranks of the Brotherhood of Steel and rid the Capital Wasteland of the Enclave remnants once and for all. Continues the adventure past the main quest. Scheduled for release in March.
Are you man enough to save Pittsburgh? Or are you a builder -- not a fighter? Well, please don't comment about it. You know how much we hate it when you do that.
Does open-source software do more to hurt the industry or help? You might guess the latter: we certainly did. But as it turns out, open-source software can actually be the bane of smaller software developers. After all, what does one do when one's primary meal-ticket gets taken over by the open-source community? For most developers, that's a lights-out proposition. But is this a reflection of where software development is expected to head in the future? Will it be a free for all?
We explore the changing face of software development after the jump!
Early on in the browser wars, one of the key advantages Mozilla's Firefox held over Microsoft's Internet Explorer was performance. Most would agree that Firefox remains the snappier browser out of the two, but it's Google's recently released Chrome browser that can boast the title of Speed King, according to benchmark results published by ExtremeTech.
"Google uses its own knowledge of search and browsing habits to optimize Chrome, but Chrome is still in early development," ExtremeTech wrote in its conclusion. "It's also clear from our testing that Microsoft really needs to get IE8 out the door—IE7 not only has compatibility issues, but is substantially slower in many ways."
ExtremeTech goes on to note that Firefox 3.1 should show improved benchmark scores, but for the time being, Chrome is king, at least when it comes to speed. But who are we kidding - until Google can deliver on its promise to deliver extension support, it might not matter how fast Chrome cruises to the finish line.
Want to kill some time, but tired of playing good games? We feel you. We recently decided it would be fun to try and come up with a list of the seven worst free games on the internet. However, we quickly discovered that trying to make a list of the worst anything on the internet is sort of like trying to make a list of the worlds largest numbers. That is to say, there’s an infinite amount of terribleness on the internet.
So, since we decided that coming up with a list of the worst games was too enormous a task for just us to handle, Maximum PC EIC Will Smith used his Twitter account to ask for help. Naturally, the MaxPC faithful delivered in spades. We received a whole bunch of seriously awful submissions, tried them out for ourselves, and had an office-wide vote to pick the most truly, hilariously bad games of the bunch. Now, we get to share them with you.