In less than two months, Microsoft will finally release Windows 7 to an eager user base, some of which have already put Vista in the rear view mirror. Microsoft's slickest OS to date, Win 7 purports to do everything from improve file transfer performance to solving the world's problems and finally bringing peace around the globe.
On the other side of the tracks, Justin Long and the rest of the Apple allegiant will get a head start on the next-gen OS wars with Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard." And while we can knock Apple for its overpriced hardware and sissy aesthetics, OS X Leopard users will be able to upgrade for just $29, or less than a week's worth of lattes.
But we're not here to diss on Apple (at least not unnecessarily), nor do we intend to crank Microsoft's hype machine (seriously though, Windows 7 officially kicks ass). What we will do is take you all the way back to Windows 3.1 and examine how the OS wars have evolved in the modern era (you can find our pre-Windows 3.1 retrospective here). And for you open- source fans, fear not, you'll get your fill of Linux as well.
So sit back, grab a cold one (beer if you're a PC user, mocha cappuccino if you're a Mac user, and Bawls if you're rocking Linux), and hit the jump to get started!
Having just gotten off a plane, I'm now facing the difficulties that a West-to-East coast trip does to one's sleeping schedule. Thus, this week's freeware roundup has as much of a concrete theme as I have a coherent thought at the moment. But that's ok. Examples of killer freeware or open-source software don't always fall within a single bucket.
So what's on deck for right now? I won't give away too many details. Suffice, if you've ever lost data as a result of a scratched or scuffed CD, you'll want to click on the jump below. While the page loads, go dig though the trash to recover the media that you just tossed--it's not dead. It might be on life support, and you might stand a very good chance of losing parts of your data, but you might also be able to save a portion of the files located on said disc.
That's a great bit of lifesaving... and it's just one of the programs in this week's roundup. Even niftier applications lurk behind the cut below. Get your downloading finger ready.
They’re lighter, they’re (sometimes) faster, and they take up less hard drive space than most programs — they’re Adobe Air applications. Though they appropriately live up to their name, these tiny apps do not skim on features. From shopping to managing online photos or streaming digital music, Adobe Air is making it easier to run multiple processes at one time without straining your system. Sometimes, when Photoshop is too much and Firefox has too many tabs open, we just want to open up one more application without using up all our RAM.
The Adobe Air Marketplace offers a substantial list of freeware and shareware Air applications that simplify our lives and make it just a bit easier to finish the task at hand. Though there’s a great selection of all sorts of useful and entertaining applications and desktop widgets, we’ve compiled our list of our favorite, and free, utilitarian Adobe Air applications.
With all the fuss being made about netbooks, you’d think they were God’s gift to computing convenience. Sure, there’s something to be said for those low-cost, low-power machines, but what if you actually need to get some real work done? There’s nothing convenient about being hobbled by an anemic processor, a relatively low-res screen, a shrunken keyboard, and the various other compromises that contribute to a netbook’s cost savings.
For extreme portability in a machine that packs a punch, you’ll need to set your sights higher, to an ultraportable notebook. Ultraportable notebooks are every bit as light, or lighter than, a netbook, with the added benefit of superior features and a more powerful processor. As a general rule, you’ll find your hardiest ultraportables among the business-class models, which are made for both regular travel and all-around productivity. Of course, convenience of this caliber comes at a premium price—usually four to five times the cost of the average netbook.
Thus, choosing an ultraportable is not a decision to be taken lightly. To help you out, we gathered up four elite representatives of the class and put them through rigorous testing. Obviously, we can’t expect any ultraportable machine to have the muscle required for chores like video editing, batch transcoding, or serious gaming. But we do expect these notebooks to accomplish the gamut of typical day-to-day tasks, including photo editing, slide-show creation, and multitasking. And we expect them to offer all the comfort and features necessary for full-fledged computing on the go.
The surge suppressor is one of the unsung heroes of the computer world. Often valued more for its ability to multiply one electrical receptacle into many than for its role as protector of all things electronic, the surge suppressor is your first line of defense against transient power surges that can damage or destroy sensitive components inside your PC. Let’s take a look at how they work.
Before we tackle the concept of surge suppression, we should first understand what exactly a surge is. In the United States, electrical energy flows through standard household wiring at an average rate of 120 volts. Because the system used is alternating current, the voltage level of every AC cycle reaches a peak value that’s roughly 1.414 times higher than 120 volts. A surge occurs when the voltage level suddenly rises significantly higher than that. A lightning strike on a power line, for instance, will cause a transient spike in the electrical power entering your house. Problems with your utility company’s equipment (anything from a downed power line to a defective transformer) can also cause power surges.
Appliances and other electrically powered devices inside your home, however, are much more common causes of power surges. Any device that requires a large amount of energy to switch on or off—examples include refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, and air conditioners—can disrupt the flow of voltage through your home’s electrical wiring. Surges such as these don’t pack as much destructive power as a lightning strike, but they can cause as much damage, instantly or over time.
In order to surf the web, you need a web browser, and today there are several different ones to choose from. If you're looking for a lean, no-nonsense browser, Chrome is the one for you. Internet Explorer still stands as the odds on favorite when you want to make sure pages load correctly (not because of superior standards support, but because its majority market share have driven developers to code their webpages to look best on IE). Firefox has found more than a niche market by giving users near endless customization, and Apple's Safari purports to run circles around everyone else (it doesn't). And then there's the cornucopia of alternative browsers and browser shells, like Flock (Firefox-based) and Avant (IE-based).
No matter which browser you choose to surf the web with, the features you take for granted today are the result of nearly two decades of browser design. On the following pages, we'll take you through a visual tour, in chronological order, of every major PC-based (read: not Mac) web browser that ever was, starting with the very first one: WorldWideWeb. We'll tell you what made each one unique and, when applicable, what it contributed to modern browser development.
Sit back, buckle up, and hit the jump to get started!
From a distance, the Windows 7 GUI resembles its predecessor, Windows Vista. However, the closer you look, the more you'll see that Windows 7's take on the GUI is a big improvement, adding more power, more customization, and better ways to open frequently-used programs and files. Join us after the jump to learn how you can tap into the power of the Windows 7 desktop, Taskbar, and Start menu.
I'm speaking, of course, of the privacy features that come native to the Windows operating system. Sure, you can tuck your special documents away in a private user folder, but that doesn't mean that your files have been secreted away forever. An industrious user with physical access to your machine can wreak havoc on your personal files, regardless of how much Windows tells you that they're safe from external abuse.
Change that. Beyond the cut of this week's freeware update are five applications that will enhance your ability to secret away that-which-you-don't-want-anyone-else-seeing. Does that involve encryption? Yes. But that's not the end-all be-all technique for hiding things on your computer. Depending on the amount of privacy you need, there are faster and easier solutions than merely locking down your entire drive using a 128-bit cipher.
Grab your Sherlock Holmes pipe. It's time to get cryptic.
We were elated when Firefox 3.5 came out, which brought increased stability and new features to one of our favorite web browsers of all time, including private browsing, tear away tabs and location awareness. We also got a faster browser with enhanced security and user-friendliness. However, what ultimately makes Firefox the choice browser is the appeal of its massive library of add-ons, which not only shed light on the fervent community, but also ensure that Firefox users get a great deal by installing widgets and extensions that only add to the Internet browsing experience. Users have the ability to experience what other web browsers do not — and cannot — offer.
From Mozilla's massive library of add-ons, we've chosen our favorite 16 that we believe are essential to the Firefox experience. These are add-ons that introduce features we wish were pre-installed with Firefox -- enhancements that we can't live without. Because as awesome as Firefox already is, these picks make our web browsing experience that much better.
Windows Vista introduced the Recovery Environment to the world of Windows, and Windows 7 has brought it back with even more improvements. Windows 7's Recovery Environment (also known as System Recovery Options) lives up to its predecessor, adding additional refinements and features.
To learn how Recovery Environment makes fixing a balky Windows 7 installation easy, join us after the jump.