The ubiquitous Zip file compression format has been a staple of PC users since it first made its debut as PKZIP in the early 90s. Back then, the size limitations of floppy disk media and the painfully low-bandwidth dial-up connections made file compression a complete necessity. The Zip format today, while still popular, has largely been eclipsed by RAR compression, which has offered slightly better compression at the cost of archiving speed. That’s why we were so surprised to hear that WinZip 12, which launched yesterday, boasted an unbelievable 25% compression ratio for JPEG images – without sacrificing image quality. Ever the skeptics, we put the new software to the test, and grilled WinZip’s VP of Development about how this new algorithm works.
Any bets as to whether WinZip's claims are justified?
Face it, activation is a failure. For power users who frequently upgrade their PCs, dialing in to reactivate the OS is beyond irritating. Instead, Microsoft must come up with a novel way to punish pirates without annoying its paying customers. (May we suggest displaying massive popup ads in pirate copies of Windows?) For legitimate customers, a realistic home-licensing program—buy one copy at full price, get four more upgrades for $50 to $100 each—would go a long way toward creating goodwill.
We sat down with Microsoft to hear the company’s side of the Vista story. What lessons have been learned following the worst Windows launch in the company’s history? Is Microsoft doing enough to regain PC users’ faith?
Way back in January 2007, after years of hype and anticipation, Microsoft unveiled Windows Vista to a decidedly lukewarm reception by the PC community, IT pros, and tech journalists alike. Instead of a revolutionary next-generation OS that was chock-full of new features, the Windows community got an underwhelming rehash with very little going for it. Oh, and Vista was plagued with performance and incompatibility problems to boot.
Since then, the PC community has taken the idea that Vista is underwhelming and turned it into a mantra. We’ve all heard about Vista’s poor network transfer speeds, low frame rates in games, and driver issues—shoot, we’ve experienced the problems ourselves. But over the last 18 months, Vista has undergone myriad changes, including the release of Service Pack 1, making the OS worth a second look. It’s time we determine once and for all whether we should stick with XP for the next 18 months while we wait for Windows 7. But before we answer that question, let’s review exactly what’s wrong with Windows Vista.
Earlier this summer, both Nvidia and ATI hosted press events to unveil their new hardware—and the excitement about GPU-based encoding was palpable. We were promised that our videocards would make Photoshop faster and better and our GPUs would encode video 10 times faster than our CPUs. In fact, someone lacking tech savvy would have left these presentations thinking, "Wow, these GPU things can make common computing tasks run insanely fast, and there are a couple of games that work with them too." Of course, as is typical, the truly big promises (like 10x faster video encodes) were off in the future, when the software was "ready."
Well, the software's nearly ready. Elemental's Badaboom uses Nvidia's CUDA interface to do lots of the grunt work of DVD ripping by using the GPU instead of your musty old CPU. I've been in the Lab for the last few days putting this app through the ringer. Our test bed for this challenge is an Intel Q6600 quad core, running at a stock 2.4GHz, with 4GB of memory and a GeForce GTX 280 reference board.
The next-generation of Microsoft mice has arrived and – surprise! – this peripheral don’t feature any fancy lasers. The new Explorer mouse is the first that sports Microsoft’s new proprietary Bluetrack technology, something they’ve been hinting at on their website for the past few weeks. The big innovation is that a BlueTrack mouse will work on virtually any surface type, whether its granite, wood, or even carpet (glass and other reflective surfaces are this mouse’s kryptonite). We got some hands-on time with this handsome wireless mouse and were impressed by its tracking accuracy, stylish design, and mesmerizing blue glow. We also spoke with Mark Depue, the Platform Engineer Manager at Microsoft’s Hardware Group, to find out exactly how BlueTrack works.
Hit the jump for our in-depth technical interview and glamorous hands-on shots.
Buying a new monitor can be tricky. First, you must decipher the manufacturer doublespeak. Not all specifications are created equal, nor are they measured fairly: You truly can’t tell a book by its cover, nor a monitor by its box copy. And then there are the displays themselves. A monitor by itself might look good to you, but you won’t know what you’re missing unless you compare it against the competition.
We’re going to walk you through the basics of today’s LCD monitor technology and what it means to you, a consumer who wants the best picture for your pennies. But we’re not going to leave you hanging: We’re also going to review 10 monitors across a wide swath of sizes and prices to give you a head start on your purchasing decision.
Microsoft released the second Beta for Internet Explorer 8 last week, which paves the way for a final release later this year. The new browser demonstrates a number of usability, security, and privacy features that make it a huge improvement over IE 7, including abilities that FireFox users have taken for granted since the FireFox 3 (and even in previous versions). Familiar features such as a better Address Bar, crash recovery, and improved in-page search won’t get Firefox devotees to switch over, but genuinely innovative tools like InPrivate browsing and Tab grouping may warrant your attention. We sort through the full list of Beta 2 features to see what ideas IE8 did and didn’t borrow from its world record-breaking open-source rival.
I’m sitting on the stairs to the San Jose Civic Auditorium’s balcony alongside Tommy Tallarico, self-proclaimed “veritable games industry icon” and co-creator of the popular Video Games Live (VGL) concert series. It’s an hour and change before the first show of the night—the first back-to-back doubleheader in the tour’s three-year history—and the audience is beginning to fill the space of the once-empty lobby with the boasting of gaming conquests and click-click-clack of sweaty fingers against plastic guitar frets.
Tallarico is in the middle of running through the list of countries VGL has appeared in since it hit its start button for 11,000 eager gamers at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Bowl in 2005. The show’s worldwide travels could rival Carmen Sandiego for flyer miles. Tallarico’s describing his geeky Rainbow Tour when an usher walks up.
“Are you guys a part of the show?”
Go Behind the Scenes with Video Games Live after the jump!
This past weekend, legion of sweaty nerds – 60,000 strong – invaded the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle to celebrate video games, table top gaming, and nerdcore at the fifth annual Penny-Arcade Expo. Maximum PC was on site for all three days of the event to witness (and take part in) the spectacle and immerse ourselves in unabashed mass geek-out. And just as we did with Comic-Con, we’ve brought back a massive photo gallery of the 128 standout cosplayers from the convention, comprised mostly of video game and anime characters. And if you were that dude adorned in armor made entirely of Magic: The Gathering cards, you’re our hero.
A Dream Machine graced the inaugural issue of Maximum PC back in 1998, and the tradition of building an annual no-holds-barred PC beast has continued unabated since then. True to form, this year’s rig is the most audacious, most powerful dream rig to date. Equipped with no fewer than eight processing cores, four graphics cores, and five hard drives, DM2008 is probably also our most controversial build. But as Lando said, it’s not our fault.
In the old days, we would just pick the very best hardware available. But those were simpler times, when parts vendors all got along and their sole mission was to provide you with badass gear. Sadly, the stakes are so high today that politics has an undue influence on hardware configurations.
To find out who's on our naughty list, and see an in-depth kick-ass examination of our Dream Machine, hit the jump! And hold onto your hat.