Back in December, we gave you the low-down on how to build a kick-ass $800 gaming PC. Well, lately the economy has been in a bit of a shamble, so we’ve lowered our price ceiling to spec out a tightly budgeted $500 rig that will deliver admirable gaming framerates and still leave you some cash to actually buy some games and pay off that credit-card debt.
The last time we conducted a $500 PC build-off (October, 2007), we matched a Allendale-based Core 2 E4300 CPU with a Nvidia 8500GT, which gave us pathetic FEAR and Quake 4 benchmark results. That build cut so many corners that we even opted out of a case and used a cardboard box instead (in retrospect, a really bad idea). Almost two years later, the tech is better and prices for some component categories have dramatically dropped. A bit wiser and gutsier, we were determined to build a PC that could actually play modern games.
In order to keep the machine under $500, we factored out the price of purchasing an operating system, and assume that you already have a copy of Windows XP, Vista, or the Windows 7 Beta lying around. And obviously, we were forced to restrain ourselves from choosing the high-end premium parts that we would normally recommend to readers. But despite the low cost, we actually didn't have to make any real compromises to get a solid gaming machine. Our (relatively) cheapo PC actually surprised us in our benchmark tests -- scoring close to our zero-point system -- and made us feel confident that a rock bottom price doesn’t automatically mean rock bottom performance.
Join us as we take on the $500 Gaming PC Challenge!
You've tweaked everything else on your PC, so how about your mouse? That's right. The trusty input device that sits to the side of your keyboard needs some love too, but how many of you have thought to install applications that benefit the common features you use your mouse for? Eh? I must admit, I never considered much to tweak about the mouse's functionality. You scroll the cursor to what you want to check out and give it a click. It's a two-step process. Rinse, wash, repeat. What else could you possibly do with a mouse?
Spoiler: a lot.
I've found five amazing freeware and open-source applications that help you turbo-charge your ability to interact with your PC. Give these a whirl, and you'll increase your productivity, reduce your stress, and be just that much cooler than your peers who are stuck in the Stone Age of mouse operations. Take your final act as a generic mouse user: scroll the cursor over to "Read More," click the link, and prepare yourself for greatness.
After pricing out $1000 and $1500 gaming systems, we wanted to go a bit on the high-end and see how we would configure a $2000 gaming PC. $2000 may be more than a lot of you are willing to spend on a new home-built PC, but there are plenty of people out there who spend more than $2000 on custom-designed boutique systems from OEM builders. And for those fat-walleted gamers, this article will show that you can get a whole lot more if you build it yourself (though putting the pieces together is another matter). Just as with the $1500 PC, this build leans heavily on the CPU and GPU side to optimize the rig for high-res gaming, though it'll perform more than admirably with video encoding and other productivity tasks. And as always, we write this with a disclaimer that your own personal configurations and preferences may differ from ours, which does not make them any less valid. In fact, we encourage you to use our guide as a template so you can create your own spreadsheet to swap out the parts we chose with what may suit your needs and budget.
Read on for our parts and price list, and please leave your feedback in the comments section to get the conversation started!
Mmm. There really isn't a great way to start off a roundup of open-source and freeware games. We should just be able to say that: "Hey! Over here! Free games! Free, fun games for you to play! Come play them!" But that would be a dull and uninteresting way to start a feature article about free games. So with that out of the picture and all, maybe we can describe a game or two that you'll be seeing in this little roundup. A sneak preview, if you will.
First up, we have a great quasi-sequel to a zombie-killing classic. We say "quasi," because it's not really a sequel, just a graphical modification. But going from 2D to an orthogonal view adds such depth and joy to the game that we can't bear to keep it all to ourselves. Oh, and the zombie-killing. You kill a lot of undead creatures in this title. In fact, that's really your sole purpose: survival, killing, and more killing.
Second, we're taking a look at this crazy numbers-based puzzle game. It's a lot like Tetris, only instead of trying to make solid lines from falling shapes, you're tasked with matching groups of numbered blocks together. The more you use the fantastic powers of addition to combine your blocks into larger numbers, the crazier combinations you can create. If we weren't having so much fun playing this, we'd swear it was educational...
But that's enough teasing for now. Click the link and check out the five awesome, free games we're playing this week!
Believe it or not, your terrifically fast Core i7 fresh off Intel's assembly line contains DNA that dates back over three decades. The same is true if you roll with AMD's latest silicon, the Phenom II X4. We're of course referring to the longstanding x86 microprocessor architecture that has dominated the desktop and mobile scene since before some of you were even born, and will probably be a mainstay still yet for many more years to come.
Invented by Intel in 1978, the x86 architecture has evolved through the ages, not only getting faster, but increasingly flexible as more and more extensions and instruction sets accompany each new release. It's been a wild ride the past 30 years, and whether you lived through it all or have only recently picked up your first processor, we invite you to join as we look back at not only the most popular x86 CPUs in its history, but ones you may never even have heard of.
Buckle up, sit back, and join us after the jump for a look back at the x86 timeline.
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 is our complete guide to introduce you to the Linux environment and teach you how to adjust to it if you are a new user. From picking the perfect distro for your needs to partitioning and installing the OS, this guide will show you the step-by-step process of getting Linux up and running on your machine. We break down the fundamental differences between the Linux and Windows graphical interfaces, and show you how to utilize Linux's terminal like a pro. Whether this is your first time running Linux or you've been an open-source accolyte for years, you'll find lots of useful tips and reference information in this comprehensive overview.
Traditionally, most new users have always been reluctant to experiment with the command line interface, (commonly referred to as the terminal) yet it has always been one of the most important parts of learning Linux. Once you understand the terminal, Linux will finally open up to you. The terminal is easily the most powerful part of a Linux system; it is your way of being able to work directly with the operating system without any barriers or hindrance.
This guide will cover basic terminal usage in addition to ways to enhance basic commands. For the sake of simplicity, we will only address the underlying concepts of shell scripting instead of covering it in detail. We saved this part of our guide for last because it is typically the most difficult to grasp. However, the terminal is fairly easy to understand when broken down into simple concepts.
Back in 1995, when HTML first took off with the general public, there were a number of offenders that made the Internet look aesthetically awful. Designers employed atrocious HTML elements, such as the <blink> and <marquee> tags, which only made a show of serious web coders. It’s doubtful that anyone at that time considered blinking and scrolling text fluid web design.
In the last few years, CSS has taken off with the rise of Web 2.0 and has certainly transformed web design into a much simpler endeavor—gone are the days of having to repeat the same mundane code or navigating a sea of jumbled up HTML in search of that one inconsistency. Things have gotten better since the Nineties and early-2000s, but some web designers are still foolishly living in the past. We’ve decided to update the criteria of HTML elements that are simply outdated and have been replaced by a batch of shinier, better CSS elements. If 1997 was the last time you’ve had a crash course in web design, than read on to learn a few new things about this versatile web world.
It all started while we were researching an article on future user interfaces. Touch interfaces are hardly futuristic at this point, but multi-touch hardware like the Microsoft Surface or the iPhone is just starting to become a big deal, and we decided to see what big things are going on in that field. What we found that surprised us the most wasn’t anything about the future of multitouch; it was about something that people are doing right now.
There is, it turns out, a whole community of very smart folks out there on the internet perfecting the art of building DIY multi-touch surfaces. The process isn’t exactly simple, but the results we saw were stunning: multitouch surfaces with responsiveness rivaling Microsoft’s $12,000 offering, built in a garage on a shoestring budget. “Future UI article be damned,” we thought, “we’ve gotta build one of these for ourselves.”
And so we did. We documented the whole process, from start to finish, so that you can try building one of your own, if you’re so inspired. We’re not going to claim to have done everything perfectly the first time, so think of this article as more of a build log than a definitive how-to. Still, we’re very pleased with how the table turned out. We’re so pleased, in fact, that we put together a video showing the table in motion.
Read on to see the video and find out how we made it!
It's been a little while since we've done a hodgepodge roundup of awesome freeware and open-source software. So brace yourself. The following free software applications have absolutely nothing in common with each other, save for them all being free and beneficial to your geek life in some capacity. We're looking at version-tracking applications that help keep all of the different installed software on your PC as up-to-date as it can be, as well as an easy-to-use display calibration app and a whole hodgepodge of must-have PC utilities (arranged neatly via a single installer application, to note).
But that's not all! To check out all of the other helpful applications we've got our dirty little fingers on, you're just going to have to click through to the full article. That's right. In Hollywood, we would call this a "teaser." But really, these apps are useful enough that you should have already scrolled past this introductory rambling and clicked right on the "I want more! I want more!" link--even though it's actually called "read more." You get the idea.