Music, music everywhere, and a ton of programs with which to organize it. But how will you know which of the many iTunes-equivalents (if not iTunes itself) are going to be right for your needs?
If you're one of the many people using Windows' default music libraries to organize and store your files, stop. Just stop. There's so much more you can do beyond that-which-is-given by Windows Media Player's library features, it's not even funny. Conversely, if you're one of the people who clings to Apple's iTunes with a death grip by virtue of it being one of the first big music organizing tools to really "stick" amongst the general geek population... you might be in good hands. You also might be missing out on a ton of additional functionality, depending on what you're looking for and how you typically go about rocking out on your computer.
To keep the playing field fair, we'll look at three different applications in this ultimate guide to media organizing: iTunes, Songbird, and Zune. For those keeping score at home, that's one big solution from Apple, one big solution from Microsoft, and one big solution from the open-source community. There are certainly other options around--Foobar comes to mind as one such example. None are as comprehensive in their combination of features and/or customizability as these three, however. They're all easy to install and easy to set up, but which application has the features and usability that'll make it a hit?
Can we use Windows 7's new fast-boot capability and BIOS optimizations to get to the desktop in less than 30 seconds?
If you’re the kind of person who fumes at the microwave because it takes so long to nuke popcorn, you probably can’t stand the plodding boot of your PC, either.
And who can blame you? Time spent waiting for first the BIOS and then Windows to come to life is time that could have been spent working, gaming, or surfing the web.
Microsoft’s claim that Windows 7 could boot (from the BIOS) in 11 seconds first gave us the hope that such idle time might be lessened dramatically, but being Maximum PC we wanted to take the idea even further. We sought to not only replicate Microsoft’s claim, but to see how much time we could shave prior to the OS loading, with a combination of hardware and BIOS tweaks. Our ultimate goal: to have a machine up and running within 30 seconds of hitting the power switch.
So if your attention deficit disorder hasn’t already caused you to click to the next story, find out how we were able to achieve the shortest boot possible.
I don't care what you use BitTorrent for. I don't even want to know. What you download is your own business. That said, don't even think about coming in the comments with a "omg check out this awesome freeware Pirate Bay scanning app it helped me download all the copies of My Little Pony in like no time whatsoever." Not cool.
Now that the semi-useful disclaimer is out of the way, let's get down to business. There's no denying that BitTorrent is a powerful tool for downloading (legal) files of all kinds. It can run faster than a straight one-to-one transfer from a Web site and, more importantly, it allows you to preserve files online when you would otherwise have no direct way to host them.
That sounds a little weird, so hear me out: Suppose you have an awesome recording of you playing piano in eight grade and you want everyone to hear it, only you don't really have access to a direct host for these files. Nor do you want your files to be dependent on a Web host that could theoretically go down at any time. No worries--just find a place to stash a .torrent link to your information and let everyone connect (and subsequently share) your information with the world. Your files will live in perpetuity provided others are as willing to share your data as you.
Got it? Good. Now click the jump and check out five different ways to take your downloading to the next level... with a particular emphasis on one of the best BitTorrent clients around, uTorrent!
After our USB 3.0 coverage last week, we figured it would be a good time to turn our attention back to USB 2.0 (aka High Speed), and one of the classic nerd hobbies: USB hacking. Because of its highly-accessible wiring, USB can be easily modified for all sorts of purposes, even by neophyte hardware hackers. In the past, we've shown you how to perform some simple hacks, but now we want to highlight some of our favorite hacks created by members of the DIY community.
Some are of questionable utility, some of them are downright dangerous, but all of them are good, old-fashioned fun. Read on for our picks for the 10 most amazing USB hacks!
One of Mozilla Firefox's bigger advantages over Google Chrome has just been wiped away and, dare we say, Google Chrome has actually one-upped its rival in terms of overall usability and ease-of-installation. We're referring, of course, to Greasemonkey. You might have heard this name echoed across tech and tweak sites far and wide. As well you should have--the functionality you can achieve by this upgrade to your surfing experience is simply unsurpassed in its depth or scope by any conventional add-on or extension.
Sound good? Because now, Google Chrome users have the ability to tap into Greasemonkey scripts as much as any other browser user. You don't even have to install a separate add-on, since scripts work natively in the browser!
But here's the catch: not all Greasemonkey scripts work perfectly in Google Chrome. The running estimation is that roughly 20 percent of what's out there is currently broken for Google's browser. That's not great news for a person who's easily frustrated by failure. However, here's where Maximum PC comes into the picture. We've run through a large swath of awesome Google Greasemonkey scripts to achieve two key goals: to see what works and to see which scripts, of the 40,000+ available, are awesome tweaks for your browser. Click the jump for a look at some of the top Greasemonkey scripts you could (or should) be slapping into your Google Chrome browser right now.
The performance of an LCD monitor ultimately depends on how its liquid crystals are manipulated to channel light. We’ll examine the three most common technologies: Twisted Nematic (TN), In-plane Switching (IPS), and Vertical Alignment (VA).
Each of these three technologies creates a pixel using a cell of liquid-crystal molecules controlled by a thin-film transistor. Liquid crystals are used because they’re capable of effecting light as though they’re a solid, while exhibiting the malleability of a fluid. In a color LCD, each pixel is subdivided into three cells, or subpixels, which are colored red, green, and blue, respectively, by additional filters. These cells are arranged in a matrix of rows and columns sandwiched between two panes of glass, with a polarizing film on the exterior side of each pane.
A light source, such as a cold cathode fluorescent lamp or an LED grid, is placed behind the first glass panel. Light waves from the backlight follow the alignment of the liquid-crystal molecules, but they must pass through the two polarizing filters before reaching the surface of the display. Light waves must be oriented perfectly parallel to the first filter to pass, but since the second filter is oriented perpendicular to the first, no light will pass unless it’s reoriented first.
After this years CES, it's clear that USB 3.0 is here to stay. Wtih a tidal wave of consumer devices looming on the horizon, we've decided to help clear up confusion about USB 2.0's successor. Here's all the information you need to know about USB 3.0, organized into a brief FAQ.
Optical drives aren't potatoes. You can't boil them, mash them, or stick 'em in a stew. And by that, I mean there's simply not that much you can do with your average digital coffee holder. Optical drives read CDs. Optical drives write CDs. And... well, unless you have your drive hooked up to some kind of crazy Rube Goldberg device that feeds your guinea pig whenever you eject the tray, there's simply not much else you're going to be able to do with this essential part of your PC. CD goes in; CD goes out--end of story.
Of course, I'm being a little tongue-in-cheek with this description. There's a great deal you can do with your optical drive on the software side of things. Here's the problem: There are a ton of different programs out there for ripping, burning, and mounting images, amongst other behaviors. Finding the best-in-class application for your device can be like trying to find a tiny scratch on the bottom of the disc itself--a mind-numbing task that's sure to frustrate you as you sift through the 30 different utilities you've pulled down onto your desktop.
Allow me ease the pain a bit. In this week's freeware files, I'll be taking a look at some of the must-have software to supplement your CD drive. With these five apps, you'll be covered for a wide range of uses--ripping all different kinds of media to your (presumably) terabytes of storage space, burning your own custom discs and presentations based on preexisting files, and converting physical media to digital images that you can pull up off of your hard drive instead of ever having to fiddle with a disc again.
Grab a CD-R coaster for your drink and join me after the jump for all the software goodies!
Today, we’re starting to see the first motherboards with USB 3.0 support. That support exists in the form of a discrete controller chip, typically the NEC uPD720200; it will likely be late 2010 or sometime in 2011 before we see USB 3.0 integrated into motherboard chipsets. Still, USB 3.0 is a major leap beyond USB 2.0, so peripheral manufacturers are already announcing products to support the new standard.
First, let’s clarify some terminology. USB 1.0/1.1 was typically just called USB, and supported throughput up to 12Mb/s. When USB 2.0 arrived, with its 480Mb/s speed, the USB Working Group (www.usb.org) needed a distinguishing name, hence Hi-Speed USB. USB 3.0 will be called SuperSpeed USB. Got that?
Micro-management just isn't Microsoft's thing. Why do we say that? It's because the folks from Redmond are regular Babe Ruths when it comes to coding an OS and knocked the ball out of the park with Windows 7. But when it comes to integrated apps -- all those things we would expect Microsoft to excel at -- the software giant is more like Casey at the bat and we're all just a bunch of Mudville suckers wondering how Microsoft manages to whiff it at the easy pitches. Internet Explorer? Most of us are rocking Firefox or Chrome. And while we don't want to be too hard on Windows Media Player, there are certainly better media frontends out there.
One of them is XBMC, an open-source project formerly known as Xbox Media Center. XBMC was originally developed for the first Xbox console, and through the years, it has evolved as a fully fledged, cross-platform media hub with a rabid following and plenty of user-created plugins and scripts. It's also given birth to more familiar projects like Boxee, Voddler, and others, all of which initially borrowed from XBMC's source code.
If you've never played with XBMC, it's time for a test drive. To help you kick the tires, we've assembled 12 terrific tips and tricks so you can spend more time cruising the media byways and less time fumbling with the controls.