Once upon a time, the typical computer virus was annoying, and even a little destructive, but nowhere near as dangerous as what computer users face today. The stakes are much higher now, and if you’re not careful or haven’t taken the proper precautions, you’re a sitting duck for hackers to steal your identity and sell your private information to the highest underground bidder. Imagine waking up to find your bank account drained or your credit destroyed. And lest you think we’re exaggerating, consider that most U.S. military personnel aren’t even allowed to tote USB thumb drives and other removable storage devices anymore because of the potential harm of a virus outbreak.
The solution to all this is to not be caught with your virtual pants around your ankles, and lucky for us, antivirus vendors have stepped up their game with increasingly robust all-in-one security suites. In fact, unlike other technology categories, the field of AV continues to expand rather than consolidate, with an overwhelming number of apps promising protection and unique features. That’s where we come in.
To help you sift through the cruft, we’re going to revisit the latest versions of the antivirus apps that showed the most promise (or have been granted a mulligan) from last year’s roundup (January 2009), and we’ll pit them against five of the most reader-requested antivirus suites we haven’t yet reviewed. You’ll notice we’ve narrowed our focus to only two freebie apps this time around (Avira, last year’s champ, and Microsoft Security Essentials, Redmond’s highly anticipated replacement to Windows Live OneCare), so if you do decide to shell out for paid software, you’ll have a wider variety of suites to compare. If the app you’re interested in isn’t included here, let us know and be on the lookout for individual reviews in future issues.
Adobes Photoshop has been a staple for graphic designers and photographers for over 20 years. Its newest incarnation, CS5, is loaded with over 250 new features that set it apart and beyond its previous counterparts. We were lucky enough to snag a copy of Adobe's beta product before release, and we’re happy to report that CS5 is a huge leap forward. Before our official review (which will be ready when Adobe finally announces an official release date in May), we’ve decided to go over some of our favorite new implementations, and how these advancements may change the way you look at graphic design and photography going forward.
Alright, Adobe Creative Suite 5, here's the deal: I really, really want to put my hands on all the neat features and general awesomeness you offer. That's not an admission of a fanboy, it's a gentle acknowledgment that this is the industry-leading suite of software for those that dabble with multimedia across a variety of formats.
That said, not all of us have a stock portfolio to dump off in an effort to raise the funds to purchase said Creative Suite. And this is the weekly Freeware Files column after all. Which leads us to a grand proposition: Can one recreate the best of Adobe's CS5 with freeware and open-source applications?
PDFs. Why do we use PDFs? It's a question I've asked myself time and time again during the following scenarios: my default PDF reader crashing my browser whenever I erroneously click on a link to the blasted extension, an image- or page-packed PDF consuming all of the system resources on my work machine, and while I'm spending extra time to convert a perfectly likable file (.doc) into a new format that's compatible with even more people. At least, I think that's the reason.
But really, though, why do we use PDFs? Perhaps it's the wrong question I should be asking, however. Sad to say, PDFs are here to stay. And I must confess, filling out a PDF form has a certain elegance to it (and built-in digital signature support) that you just can't find in a standard text file or Word document (or OpenOffice.org document).
So instead of asking ourselves how we can rid the world of PDFs, we should really be thinking about the various ways we can improve our interactions with PDF files. That's where this week's Freeware Files comes into play. I'm going to show you five freeware or open-source apps that'll hopefully ease the burden you face when you're trying to manipulate this quirky file format. As well, I'll show you a few more features and tricks you can use to turn your own PDF routines into nothing short of a master class.
It’s all about control—and when you set your DSLR to capture images in the JPEG format, you’re giving up a whole mess of control. Sure, those images may look pretty good, but your final JPEG output never accurately reflects what your camera sensor actually sees, regardless of how well it converts data into the final picture.
A digital camera captures data on an electronic sensor. At its lowest level, this data is known as the raw file. It’s sensor data at its purist, virtually free of modifications and any digital conversions. All the sensor does is catch photons on millions of receptors and write the data to files. That data is literally raw—and DSLRs and some high-end point-and-shoot cameras give you access to this data in order to manipulate your photos with tremendous control.
Don’t like the ISO setting? Tweak it! White balance doesn’t seem right? Correct it! Editing raw files lets you work directly with pure sensor data, making decisions about exposure, shutter speed, fill light, and more, all after the image has been actually shot.
It seems obvious, right? The more stuff you have, the bigger the box you need to put it in. And in computer-land, you have options ranging from tiny micro-ATX cases the size of a hardback book to enormous full-tower cases into which you could cram every computer part you’ve ever owned. But not everybody needs or wants a full-tower case. Medium-size cases, or mid-towers, take up less space, weigh less, are more portable, and (hopefully) cost less than their full-tower brethren. What’s more, features that were once exclusive to full-tower cases, like dust filters, toolless construction, and CPU cutouts, are now finding their way into mid-size chassis—and not always accompanied by price increases. Indeed, just because you have two 5970 videocards and want to water-cool your CPU, it doesn’t mean you have to go with a full-tower anymore; some mid-towers have radiator mount points and room for your beefiest cards.
We have certain criteria for testing any computer chassis, and no case is exempt. Cases gain points for build quality, ease of installation, toolless mounting—but only if it’s sturdy!—stock-cooling ability, cable-routing options, and extra features like support for water-cooling installs, space for extra-long videocards, filtered intakes, and SSD brackets. Bonus points are earned for style and going above-and-beyond the expected. Points are deducted for thoughtless design flaws, poor build quality, bad cooling performance, lack of room for essential parts, and general suckitude. We don’t automatically add or subtract points for LEDs or other aesthetic flourishes, though tasteful use is appreciated.
This month, Maximum PC tests five of the newest and hottest mid-tower cases out there, from budget to luxe, steel to aluminum, tiny to nearly full-tower-size. These enclosures have their differences, but some of the similarities are surprising. All the cases in this roundup, for example, have CPU backplate cutouts in the motherboard tray (a first), and all have very similar front-panel connections. From the small and sub-$100 Zalman Z7 Plus to the big, beautiful, expensive Silverstone Fortress FT02, Maximum PC is, shall we say, on the case.
When we last visited our six panel Eyefinity setup, we had it up and running with games at a full 5680x2160 pixel resolution.
Now it’s time to talk performance and practicality. What kind of gaming performance will you get with three or six panels? To understand what kind of performance to expect, we need to take a closer look at the card itself.
The Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity edition ships with the same core clock as the standard HD 5870: 850MHz. However, it ships with 2GB of 1200MHz GDDR5 memory, as opposed to the 1GB on the standard 5870. The extra memory means the board consumes a little more power. System idle power on our Core i7 975 test system was 138W with Eyefinity and 284W at full throttle, as compared to 134W and 268W for the stock HD 5870.
According to AMD, cards will be available from add-in board partners, at a targeted price point of $479 USD. As we noted in our setup article, some adapters will be included: 2 mini-DisplayPort to DispalyPort adapters, 2 passive mini DisplayPort to single link DVI connectors and a passive mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter. So if you want to go for the full six panel setup, you’ll need to buy additional adapters.
See the benchmarks and continue reading after the jump.
There's a ton of great freeware and open-source software in the online world today. That statement should be a no-brainer, especially if you're been reading these application roundups over the past year and a half or thereabouts.
However, that's not to say that every single application that you install on your PC--including your operating system itself--is immediately minted in gold just because it passed your personal, "do I need this?" test. That's no fault of your own; In fact, it's half the point of the open-source movement to begin with. Industrious users think of new ways to use a piece of software or, rather, new add-ons that they can build into a particular application. This transforms the common application into a forked project, which itself can become the source of inspiration for future spin-offs from an even wider range of users.
Seriously, it's open-source 101.
However, you don‘t have to be a coder, or even a visionary, to reap the benefits of new transformations that run on top of the applications you use day-in and day-out. That's why I'm profiling add-ons in this week's Freeware Files: By now, you should have a pretty healthy laundry-list of common apps that you're always fiddling around in. I'm going to show you how to make them just that much better.
Enrico Fermi gained fame as a key player in the Manhattan Project, which gave the world nuclear fission and the first atomic bomb. Nvidia’s Fermi GPU architecture – now seeing the light of day as the GeForce GTX 480 – hopes to create its own chain reaction among PC gamers looking for the latest and greatest graphics cards.
Originally code-named GF100, the GTX 480’s long and controversial gestation saw numerous delays and lots of sneak peeks, but Nvidia’s new graphics card has finally arrived. Sporting 1.5GB of fast DDR5 memory and an exotic heat-pipe based cooling system, Nvidia’s managed to squeeze this three billion transistor monster onto a card just 10.5 inches long.
Can Nvidia’s long-awaited 480 GTX capture the graphics performance crown? And if it can, is the price of glory worth the cost?
With all due respect to Alexander Graham Bell, he couldn't possibly have known that his patent for "the method of, and apparatus for, transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically" would one day give birth to the modern day smartphone. He couldn't have foreseen the wonders that we take for granted today, like text messaging and voice-to-text searches.
We now live in a connected world, and today's smartphones define what it means to be a power user. Want to look up turn-by-turn driving directions on your phone? There's an app for that. There's an app for just about everything, even if they're sometimes tough to find (we're looking at you, Android Marketplace).
But for as much as we rely on our iPhone, Nexus One, or BlackBerry, it wasn't that long ago when you wouldn't think of trying to cram a mobile phone in your pocket. Remember when pagers were all the craze? Like computers, communication devices continue to evolve at a rapid pace, becoming faster, more portable, and increasingly flexible in functionality. It's been a wild ride getting to where we are today, and to pay homage to that journey, we take a look back at 40 of the most important phone models of all time.