Last month, we took you on a tour of computing's most venerated classic PCs. In our classic PC hardware retrospective, we highlighted the computers that deployed the innovations we take for granted today. But just as a car without gas is just roadblock, computer hardware without software is essentially paperweight. And while it’s true that the hardware is the visually sexier component of a system, the software is equally important and often more challenging to create. Today, we take a look at the history of early computer software, from the first character-based interfaces to the last pre-32-bit OSes (yes, Mac OS included). We also spotlight the notable programs that ran on these various platforms, including the first productivity and design applications. And because we're avid gamers, we couldn't neglect video gaming's contribution to the software world -- we included the firsts of each gaming genre.
The soul of any computer is its operating system. This software component is the basic interface between the hardware and/or hardware BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) and the rest of the software. It provides the basic capabilities such as user interaction, storage management, communications and so on.
Early Operating systems were fairly primitive with text-based interfaces, limited I/O, few storage options and marginal expandability. This was appropriate for the limited hardware of their day (who wants a 32K operating system on a 48K system?) but on today’s seemingly unlimited platforms we’re looking for more power. The evolution between there and here has been fast, furious and interesting.
The amount of information pouring out of Redmond these days about Windows 7 is unprecedented, and so is the level of enthusiasm. In a frantic attempt to make sense of it all, Maximum PC has been releasing our ongoing Feature Focus series, which hopefully, has helped you determine wither upgrading to Windows 7 is worth it for you. Once you made that decision however, or buy a new PC that’s upgrade eligible, do you know exactly what you’re getting? Can I upgrade from Windows XP? Do I need to buy the same product edition when upgrading? Can I go from 32 bit to 64 bit? These are just a few of the many questions we seek to answer after the jump.
Networking in Windows 7 builds upon the drastic remodeling that occurred in Windows Vista. However, although some of the basic networking features in Windows 7 are similar to those in Windows Vista, many networking features have been improved in Microsoft's latest operating system. And, if you are moving up from Windows XP, you will find that Windows 7's network interface is a completely different animal than you've encountered before. Whether you're moving up from Windows Vista or Windows XP, join us after the jump to learn what's new and better in the main building blocks of Windows 7 networking.
With its market share-dominating search engine, the eggheads at Google have no doubt made it easier for new users to acclimate to the harsh tangling webs of the Internet. But Google’s not just about search. Within the laboratories of Google’s Mountain View campus, computer science wizards are busy brewing up innovative services that will enhance your Google experience. So far, they’ve given us a spam-killing email service, a collaborative work space for all of our time sensitive documents, and an image search engine that takes the time out of having to search individual pages for something as simple as a company logo. There are also plenty of functional Google Lab projects still in public beta; we pick nine of our favorites that you absolutely must give a try!
If you're like me, your USB key should come with its own flame retardant coating. That's because I tend to use my little four-gigabyte device to great excess on a near-daily basis. It's an easy fix for transferring files from a desktop PC to a laptop, and it's great for carrying batches of files I need to access (especially if I'm without an Internet connection, making Dropbox useless). If I'm heading over to a friend's house, I can slap a movie on the drive for us to watch on an attached PC or home theater device. I can throw down a game or two if I'm going to be travelling and don't feel like reading about overpriced devices that will pet my cat for me. USB keys are more than just a geek's trusty friends. They're uber-tools in their own right.
Application suites for USB keys are another popular way of extending the functionality of your desktop into the portable realm. Install these batches of software and you can take your favorite programs along with you wherever you go--perfect for when you're using a computer that isn't yours, yet you would prefer to be able to access to a better range of apps than Windows' default programs. Better still, you can stick these batches of applications on smaller USB keys to extend the life of these sub-gigabyte devices. The storage might stink, but the functionality will rule.
Click the jump to check out five, freeware application suites that will dazzle up your USB key faster than you can say, "universal serial bus."
That shiny new netbook is light and portable, plays music and movies, and cost less than an iPhone (with service). Problem is: you might be ready to chuck it off a bridge. Running the Intel Atom processor at only 1.60GHz, netbooks are a bit on the clunky side when it comes to actual data processing. No one is going to play World of Warcraft on one of these thin machines, but it sure would be great if OpenOffice, a music player, and Mozilla Firefox could run a little faster.
The answer to the netbook dilemma is: find an alternative operating system. Of course, this is a time-consuming proposition, considering you have to download the OS, burn it to a CD or USB key, load the OS, and then configure it. To find out which OS will actually add pep to your Sony P – or any number of low-cost, Atom-based netbooks – we loaded six different options on the same machine and performed a series of tests – looking at the interface, networking features, the browser and built-in apps, and how much customization you can do and ended up picking a clear winner.
Linux or Windows? Read on to find out which OS is best for your netbook.
Until the introduction of Windows 7, device management was a multi-application nightmare. Want to see a device's hardware configuration? Open Device Manager. Want to browse the contents of a storage device? Open My Computer. Need to manage the settings used by a specific device? Open the appropriate applet in Control Panel (Mouse, Keyboard, Game Controller, and so on). If you have a multifunction device, you would need to open separate applets to manage the printing, faxing, scanning, and file management functions of one device.
In Windows 7, the Devices and Printers applet in Control Panel provides a single entry point to managing single-purpose and multifunction devices. Microsoft considers Devices and Printers so important to system management that you can start Devices and Printers directly from the Start menu. To learn how Devices and Printers will make your life easier, and what you need to do to make it work better for you, join us after the jump.
Stop whatever it is you’re doing. We know your time is valuable, and what you’re about to read could save you hours, if not days, of damage control. What could be so important? Your work documents, for one thing. And then there’s your entire digital collection of family photos cataloguing every birthday, vacation, and other special occasion over the past several years. Common PC pitfalls don’t just affect your digital files, either. Should disaster strike—say a power surge or a hacker attack— you could be looking at hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars of damaged hardware—or even worse, damage to your good name and credit if someone manages to steal your identity.
Are you thoroughly spooked yet? You needn’t be, not if you follow our nine-step guide to disaster-proofing your PC. On the following pages, we show you how to prepare for everything from acts of God to hacker attacks, and every other mishap you’re likely to encounter as a power user. And if you’re an old pro who already knows how to disaster-proof your PC, then treat this as a checklist of things you know you should be doing, but probably aren’t.
If you were frustrated by trying to figure out which edition of Windows Vista was the right choice ("hmm...If I use Vista Business, I don't get Windows Media Center, but if I use Vista Home Premium, I don't get image backup..."), Microsoft has done us all a favor by rethinking the feature sets for Windows 7.
Yes, there are still multiple SKUs to consider, but this time, you no longer need to worry about what's left out if you move up from one edition to another. To find out how the different US editions of Windows 7 compare in features, what Microsoft is doing to satisfy EU regulators, and what it will cost you to pre-order a Windows 7 upgrade now compared to waiting until it ships, join us after the jump.
Brrzap! Not all hardware failures start that way, but there's a good chance they'll end up sounding like that as a result of you chucking an unruly piece of hardware through the nearest exit of your dwelling. Before you hulk up next time, know that there are ways to get a little bit more information about the status of your components. Applications that assess the health of your system's various parts serve a twofold purpose. You can deduce that equipment on your system might be going kaput or is otherwise screwed up in some fashion. Armed with that knowledge, you can then attempt to make an effective repair. If there is no way to repair your parts, you'll at least get an advanced notice that disaster is about to strike and that a trip to the electronics store might be in your soon-to-immediate future.
In this week's freeware roundup, I'm going to give you a list of applications that will help you assess your system's CPU, hard drives, optical drives, network connections, and memory. Don't delay in installing these applications--every second wasted puts you but one step closer to a catastrophic meltdown--or, at the very least, an unexpected failure in a critical piece of your PC. And nobody wants to be left hanging on the one day you really, really, really need to access the Internet, for example.
Click the jump, put on your medic's coat, and let's run some diagnostics!