A week wouldn't go by on ol' Maximum PC dot com without a flurry of comments erupting over the very mention of that one competing platform. You know, the one whose company is named after a fruit? Anyway, I won't draw out the joke--Maximum PC fans are not quite as enthusiastic about Apple products, Apple platforms, or Apple software as they are about their own custom-built (or purchased), Windows-based PCs. And that's a shame.
We can all agree to disagree on the various parts and pieces of the whole "PC vs. Mac" war that we subscribe to. However, it would be improper--and downright wrong--to deny some of the neat accomplishments that Apple's brought to the table. There are some elements of OSX that are awesome to fire up from a usability standpoint and, at the same time, equally fun to use. But as a Windows user, you're trapped to one system. Good luck getting a legal version of OSX to work on your PC without some interesting sacrifices and workarounds.
Well, that's where this week's Freeware Files leaps into the picture. I can't turn your Windows installation into OSX, nor would I want to--I'm going to show you how you can mimic some of OSX's more fun features in Windows directly. Let's go!
Updated 5/06/10 12:30PST to reflect Seagate comments on pricing.
Yesterday Seagate announced their new FreeAgent GoFlex line of external drives, which is actually more interesting than it sounds. Instead of a standard 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch SATA drive with a SATA-to-USB controller inside, a GoFlex drive wears its controller on the outside. The GoFlex drive is not much more than a hard drive with a minimal plastic sheath and a SATA port, into which the drive controller itself is plugged. This allows you to change out drive controllers when you upgrade your system, plug the bare drive directly into a dock (like the GoFlex Net network-storage device or GoFlex TV HD media player, or (hopefully) just plug it into your rig for SATA speed with no overhead.
The GoFlex has modular cables, so today's USB 2.0 drive can become tomorrow's USB 3.0 drive easily.
As part of our neverending quest to keep Max PC readers up to date on all the latest and greatest tech hardware, we're launching a new monthly feature called Kick Ass Gear. In it, we'll give you a quick rundown of all the products that got a Kick Ass award or a review score of a 9 in the previous month's issue, and we'll link you to the products' online reviews.
Oh woe are we, for yet another freeware application has grown its wings and left the nest of awesome, available software that we can all install on our desktop and laptop systems ad infinitum. In case you haven't heard, Google has picked up BumpTop--technically, Bump Technologies--leaving fans of three-dimensional displays but a scant week or so to download the company's freeware app before it all goes away.
Of course, BumpTop isn't gone for good--it remains to be seen just how Google plans to integrate its multitouch-friendly, three-dimensional desktop transformations into the company's own services. Rest assured that you'll likely see some incarnation of BumpTop emerge in the future. But whether it's coming back as a standalone download or as a part of a brand-new device is anyone's guess.
However, that doesn't mean that you're left with no way to break your two-dimensional desktop out of its existing constraints. I'm taking a look at five different 3D transformation tools in this week's Freeware Files. Don't let the (brief?) demise of BumpTop be the end of your experimentation with three-dimensional system desktops!
AMD’s new Thuban hexa-core CPUs come out swinging with prices that belie their size
If we’ve learned anything from years of watching action movies: You never, ever count out the underdog. Such is the case with perennial underdog AMD.
Bloodied, beaten, and bruised by months and months of Intel chips that outpaced its parts, AMD isn’t giving up. Instead, it’s hitting back with its own hexa-core CPUs and doing everything just short of yelling yippie ki-yay!
And now for the shocker: These hexa-core CPUs are affordable. Hell, one of the parts is practically budget-priced. Intel’s high-flying hexa-core Core i7-980X is $1,000. Contrast that with AMD’s new 3.2GHz Phenom II X6 1090T at $295. Want more? The 2.8GHz Phenom II X6 1055T costs $200. Yes, $200 for a hexa-core processor. So yippie kay-yay mother frakker, ineed!
Want even more good news? AMD’s new chip will be backward compatible with the vast sea of AM3, and even older AM2+, motherboards out there. We’re quite glad to hear this, because at one point the company told us it planned to jettison DDR2 support, which would have cut off the AM2+ folks. Fortunately, the company changed its mind and both new chips include DDR3 and DDR2 support.
Just like with those Hollywood action movies, this story wouldn’t be complete without an element of suspense: Are AMD’s Phenom II X6 processors capable of whopping Intel’s similarly priced quad-cores, or even its $1,000 wonder, the Core i7-980X? To find out, you’re going to have to read on.
Some of my favorite kinds of freeware apps to find (and install) are the ones that build new functionality into the Windows operating system. I'm running Windows 7 right now, but even this latest version of Microsoft's OS has substantial room for third-party improvements.
It's not difficult to find free or open-source apps to boost the common interactions one has with one's operating system. The tough part is in the classification: I'm really not sure how to best lump this week's applications together, save for the fact that they're all awesome ways to enhance Windows with new and useful features. And I'm not talking about super-complex, command-line scripts or what-have-you. No, these apps are all super-easy to use-if you even see them at all, given that most will modify some form of your Windows OS without needing any further interaction past the installation screen.
Anyway, if you can think of a better way to classify this week's Freeware Files other than, "Apps that Make Windows Rock," I'm all ears. Otherwise, click the jump and get ready to take your operating system to new places!
After installing a new OS, most people just jump right in and start driving it through all their favorite applications and games. Makes sense, right? The operating system, after all, should be a background player in the computing experience—a means to an end, with the end being web surfing, content editing, and wanton destruction in the first-person shooter of one’s choice.
The problem, however, is that most people, even a lot of self-described power users, never take the time to really tune the new OS, exploring its menus and setting up the interface for the fastest, most convenient operation based on personal preferences. And as operating systems offer more and more user controls, it’s the curious, performance-minded enthusiast who has the most to gain from tuning an OS to his or her liking.
It’s been about six months since Windows 7 hit the market, so we figure most of our readers have made their upgrades. For those who’ve made that jump, we present a bottle of our favorite Windows 7 tips, each designed to help you extract the very last bits of convenience and GUI-navigating performance from your own personal dream machine. And if you haven’t yet upgraded to Win7, we trust you will after reading this article, as its core features—let alone its actual Lab-benchmarked performance—kicks Vista and XP ass.
We close out our tuning session with a tip designed to supercharge the process of installing the OS. By loading Windows 7 onto a USB key, and making that key a bootable drive, you can do an end-run around slow optical-drive technology and install your OS in (pardon the pun) a flash.
It’s time to get started. Park your computer, but don’t shut down. This is one PC tune-up that can only be done with your engine running.
It's hard to deny the power of Google Docs, especially if you don't have the cash (or the wherewithal) to shell out for Microsoft Office. Sure, you could grab OpenOffice.org, but you would trade away the ability to edit your documents from any Internet-equipped location-one of Google Doc's important, Cloud-based features... as well as its ability to allow multiple users to simultaneously edit a document. You just can't get this kind of stuff in an offline word processor!
Of course, that's not to say that you can't use Google Docs offline. Nor are applications like Microsoft Word completely removed from the Internet-there's Microsoft Office Live for that, if you're so inclined.
Anyway, the point of this Freeware Files is not to confuse you in feature-lists or semantics. I'm here to show you just how easy it is to set up your system to use both offline and online word processing tools. Provided you're ready to jump into the wide world of Google Docs, all of the freeware and open-source applications listed below will do much to help integrate online editing and storage into your traditional offline type-type-typing.