Whether you’re copying your movie discs to your hard drive for archival purposes or queuing them up in HandBrake for a batch transcode, your optical drive’s performance can make a big difference in time spent on this menial chore. The trouble is, there’s no obvious way of knowing which optical drive will do the job fastest.
The optical drive spec that gets the most attention is the DVD+/-R write speed. It’s the spec that’s prominently featured on the packaging and often even integrated into the drive’s name. But if you assume that the newest drive with the fastest-rated write speed will also kick butt at copying the contents of your movie discs to your hard drive, you’re mistaken.
For this task, read speed is what matters. But even knowing that, you can’t judge a drive’s real-world performance at copying video files simply by looking at its read specs. Not only do the specs indicate maximum capability as opposed to average speed, but a drive’s read time with video files can differ from its read time with data files. To find out which is the fastest drive for DVD copiers, we grabbed a bunch of DVD drives, a copy of Batman Begins, and got ripping.
The personal computer has a storied history, stretching all the way back to the days of the Commodore 64 and IBM PC. But for us, the most interesting PC hardware developments really started about 15 years ago. Along with the eminent arrival of Windows 95, this was when Moore's law would really kick into high gear and bring us amazingly fast PC components like Intel's front side bus-multiplying Pentium, AMD's gigahertz-breaking Athlon, and yes, the wonderful world of 3D graphics accelerators.
We take an in-depth look back at the 50 most important pieces of PC hardware in the modern computing area. From CPUs to videocards and even monitors, these components were the envy of every PC enthusiast, whether you could afford them or not. They might not have been the fastest parts at the time, but they sure were the most notable. And before you ask, many of these entries were used of our Dream Machines. Join us as we journey with the ghost of PC past, and share your own favorite PC parts in the comments section!
Bonus question: can you name the card in the image above, and the issue of Maximum PC where the image was used?
The Windows desktop can do a lot of things. You can drag and drop your programs all across your display, then resize the windows--or have the operating system tile them for you--to maximize your multi-application productivity. If you're using Vista, you can call forth a cascading, three-dimensional display of your Windows and cycle through live displays of each until you're ready to select an active panel. You can create new toolbars and assign them to new edges of the screen. You can minimize everything at once to show you a clean desktop image.
The Windows desktop can do a lot of things. But you can't do everything. And that's why I've hunted down five freeware applications that give you just-that-much-more control over the programs, windows, and taskbars that clog up your PC's display. Split your desktop into individual regions for maximum display control, or take matters into your own hands and assign the customized height, width, and positining of every application you use.
That's just a slice of the Windows pie I'm ready to dish up. Fire up some programs, put on a bib, and let's chow down on some freeware.
Some people want their rigs to be an approximation of what computers will look like at some point in the far-off future. Richard Clinton, though, wanted to look back to a simpler time: the 8-bit era. But while computer technology was less complex back then, building the Black Mage was anything but easy.
In order to re-create his favorite Final Fantasy II character type, Richard organized, glued, and painted 2,000 1”x1” cubes. All told, it took four months to assemble the Black Mage. To see the process shortened to 10 minutes, check out Richard’s build video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoUVgK65FIA.
Green. It's all the rage in the technology world nowadays. You've got green hard drives. Green laptops. Green desktops. Green printers (with soy ink!). Green displays. Green power strips. Louis Armstrong saw skies of blue and clouds of white, but any geek worth his electric bill sees nothing but green. It's the color of the environment, and it's the color of all the cash you'll be saving by using green-themed applications to curtail your out-of-control PC habits. Or normal PC habits, because anyone can benefit from the open-source and freeware applications we're profiling in this week's software roundup. Best of all, most of these applications automatically take care of your green actions for you--set them up to run, and you won't have to lift a finger to tap into increased savings and Captain Planet-style goodwill.
Earth Day is the one hippie-holiday of the year everyone can partake in—it’s a celebration of this giant rock we call home! This annual event strives to bring awareness and appreciation for the Earth’s environment. Some people throw festivals or plant trees, but what about those of us who wish to celebrate Earth Day in a technology-friendly way?
Dust off your Google Earth application (or download it, if you don’t already have it) as we’re going to show you five amazing things Google Earth can do to celebrate Earth Day.
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!