We’ve built our fair share of home theater PCs in the past, with all sorts of different use cases in mind. Our August 2010 HTPC was a stunner built for 3D, with passively cooled GPU, CPU, and PSU, as well as a four-channel CableCard tuner and Blu-ray 3D support. In June 2011, Gordon tried to make a small-form-factor HTPC that could cut out the previous build’s bulk (and CableCard) while still supporting Blu-ray 3D. Both of those rigs handled their respective tasks well, but what if I don’t care about cable but do care about gaming? This month’s task is to create a kick-ass gaming rig in an HTPC form factor—one that can handle modern games, as well as 3D Blu-ray and Dolby TrueHD audio, without sounding like a jet engine.
What are you thankful for? It’s such a cliché statement, especially given that we’re barely past the brief period of time where we’re all allowed to indulge ourselves in vast quantities of food—leftover or otherwise.
Of course, the Thanksgiving break—if you had one—provides for a perfect time to get some home cleaning done. But I’m not just talking about dusting off your action figure collection. No, of course, all fingers point to your PC. That poor, neglected piece of equipment does nothing but provide for you, day in and day out. It’s become bloated to excess and you, realizing that there’s no time like the present, have decided to wipe it clean and start anew.
So what, pray tell, do you install first? It’s a simple question and, indeed, one with nearly a thousand answers. Look, as far as I’m concerned, you’re still on vacation. Allow me to do the work for you. For I present to you a five-course meal of applications that we should all be thankful for on some level—game-changers that, really, deserve to be installed on any system you touch, period.
If you’ve already heard of them, excellent. You’re just that ahead of the game. If not, consider this your chance to get caught up to all that is awesome in the world of freeware and open-source software.
There are few tools more useful for the common desktop or laptop system than apps that automate some kind of system or user process that’s otherwise too tedious to do yourself. I mean, isn’t that the entire point of a computer, anyway—to take care of the things in life that might otherwise prove impossible, extremely difficult, or super-time-consuming? Isn’t it time you gave a little back to your poor PC?
Anyway, I’m taking a look at five different applications this week—all freeware or open-source, as always—that automate different elements of your operating system. That’s a pretty generic statement, though, so allow me to be a bit more specific. First up, I’ll show you how you can set up certain processes to run (including system shutdowns and restarts, amongst other activities) whenever a particular element of your PC reaches a set, measurable state (like CPU idle percentage, the exact time, or mouse and keyboard activity).
As well, I’ll throw a Web app your way that assists your browsing habits by automatically creating site mirrors to replace the normal URL of a site that’s been overloaded by Web traffic. You’ll discover a neat little application for mass-deleting specific kinds of files out of a whole range of folders at once, as well as a background utility that can automatically run programs whenever new files are detected in any folders you specify.
But let’s not spoil the whole show up-front. Click the jump—free software awaits!
My current rig is an HP Pavilion M8530F with a Viola-GL8E motherboard. The CPU is a 2.2GHz Phenom X4 9550. The board is AM2+. I asked HP for a copy of the mainboard’s user manual hoping it could tell me what AM2+ chip I could drop in. However, I find myself even more confused. I think a 2.6GHz Phenom 9950 X4 will work even though it is a 125-watt chip and my current 9550 is a 95-watt chip.
I’d rather not spend the money only to be proven dead wrong and be stuck having to borrow my fiancée’s Vaio laptop. It may be nice, but it’s not my desktop. So far, the only change made to my rig in the two years I’ve had it was the addition of a graphics card cooler, of the intake variety. I’ve done research and the more questions I have answered, the more confused I get. If I could, I’d just buy/build a new rig, but that’s not an option. Some newer games, like BioShock 2, require AMD core speed in excess of 2.2 GHz, and mine barely meets the requirements. Even the budget upgrade article in the July 2010 issue is vague on whether I can upgrade. Doc, please steer me in the right direction, lest I crash on the rocks of inaction.
Read the Doctor's advice for Lucas after the jump.
IBM is all abuzz about its new zEnterprise mainframe server along with a new systems design the company says allows workloads on mainframe, POWER7, an System x servers to share resources and be managed as a single, virtualized system.
"The new systems design combines IBM's new zEnterprise mainframe server with new technology -- the IBM zEnterprise BladeCenter Extension and the IBM zEnterprise Unified Resource manager -- that enable it to manage workloads running across System z, and select POWER7 and System x servers," IBM said. "The new technology is the result of an investment of more than $1.5 billion in IBM research and development as well as more than three years of collaboration with some of IBM's top clients around the world."
Big Blue isn't revealing too much in the way of specific hardware, but did say that its zEnterprise 196 -- the core server in the zEnterprise System -- comes crammed with "96 of the world's fastest, most power microprocessors running at 5.2GHz," and is capable of executing more than 50 billion IPS (instructions per second).
There is little I enjoy more than coming to Maximum PC each week to dish out a new dose of freeware and open-source software for all to enjoy. But, I confess, it's been tough times as of late-I feel as if I've covered every inch of the ol' PC ad nauseum and, as such, am running low on witty or interesting themes with which to structure these freeware roundups.
But before I would work myself into a tizzy over my failure to compartmentalize this week's apps, I remembered something: You, the readers, are awesome. So much so, that you've actually gone and done a great job of coming up with some awesome applications all by yourselves. From games, to apps to utilities, you've left few stones unturned in your various replies to my weekly freeware roundups.
And, thus, I am writing this week's freeware roundup in your honor. Not only am I profiling some of the awesome programs you've recommended, but I'm profiling the recommenders as well! And by that I mean that you, too, could be enshrined in the hallowed halls of the weekly freeware roundup-just keep leaving program tips in the comments!
Acer's Predator series have consistently bucked traditional case design and instead have taken aim at gamers with an aggressive styling, and the latest Predator AG7750 is no exception.
"Designed to conquer and destroy, the Aspire Predator boasts a rugged, intimidating chassis as well as super power and speed," said Steve Smith, senior business manager of consumer desktops for Acer America. "It’s a smoking hot gaming rig delivering eye-popping graphics and dynamic audio for a jaw dropping experience that will fire up even hard core gamers. Plus, plenty of room for future upgrades will assist gamers in their quest to reign supreme in the new world order."
Announced today and already available for order online, the AG7750 sells for $2,000 and comes equipped with an Intel Core i7 930 processor, 12GB of DDR3-1333 RAM, 1.5TB hard drive, Nvidia GeForce GTX 470 graphics card, DVD writer, onboard 7.1-channel audio, dual Gigabit Ethernet ports, multi-card reader, a generous 11 USB 2.0 ports (5 front, 6 rear), eSATA, Firewire, HDMI, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit.
"Privacy" is the word that's on the lips of anyone even remotely connected to the Web 2.0 nowadays. But I don't care much about that. What you do on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, or whatever, is your own business--and, worse, there aren't really third-party applications that you can download and use to self-assess your potential privacy pitfalls. You're on your own there.
However, when it comes to Windows--oh, yes, there's much we can talk about when it comes to the Windows operating system. There are always newer and stronger ways to protect your PC from intrusion, from third-party access via an unscrupulous exploit or unintended network connection to the raw, physical tricks one can use to gain access to your protected information. Makes my skin crawl just thinking about it, it does.
So, without further ado, let's take a little joyride through some unique free and open-source applications that you can use to lock down your PC without removing all traces of usability from your operating system. For just about the only thing worse than a computer nobody else can get into is a computer that you, yourself, have to jump through 30 hoops just to get into. These apps aren't going to be that, you have my word.
I'm an avid fan of (and former talking head on) Maximum PC's weekly podcast. But sometimes, that's just not enough audio tech news for my liking. I'm not a fan of other podcasts; that would be cheating. But I am a huge proponent of Firefox add-ons, and I've found one that satiates my need to hear my news instead of read it-surely you'll be able to find a better use for this interesting add-on, I would hope.
The extension in question is called Text to Voice and, as the name (so often) implies, it allows you to conjure up a Stephen Hawking kind of narrator to read whatever it is you find in your Firefox Web browser. Using this add-on couldn't be any easier, seriously. I'll show you just how it works after the jump!