There's nothing wrong with the Windows 7 desktop per se. But for freeware developers, that's no excuse not to tweak, hack, and otherwise modify every possible piece of your screen. And it's not that difficult to add new functionality to your desktop that doesn't otherwise exist in the operating system. The hardest part is finding software that makes a substantive change to what you already have. After all, the last thing you want to do is install a ton of different freeware apps and find your desktop in even worse shape than it was before (if you do, take a quick trip to Revo Uninstaller).
Generalities aside, what exactly can you do with all these desktop add-ons? The choices are near-limitless. I won't spoil all of what's in store, but here are a few tidbits. With the apps featured in this week's freeware roundup, you can re-skin your entire Windows 7 desktop with a brand-new UI, transform normal desktop links into start menu-like item browsers, and build new functionality like middle-click focusing to standard taskbar icons.
It's time to take your desktop to the next level--join me after the jump!
Windows Desktop Gadgets was a feature first introduced in Windows Vista. They are widget engine gadgets calmly docked on either side of the screen for easy access and can performs tasks like displaying the time, updating you on the current weather conditions and showing you CPU usage. Windows already comes equipped with default gadgets and includes an online widget library for additional downloads.
However, the standard Windows sidebar can seem limiting at times. And even though Windows 7 hides the Sidebar in the background, it's still a resource hog and not very customizable. Why not free yourself from Microsoft’s shackles and venture forth to discover other sidebar alternatives that work just as well and enable you to do some really awesome customization.
You’ve probably seen the headlines. They’re pretty hard to miss. After all, when two of mainstream media’s favorite buzzwords – “violent videogames” and “terrorism” – cross streams, things get messy. If you’ve somehow managed to position yourself smack in the eye of the media storm, however, here’s the story: Last week, someone leaked a scene from Modern Warfare 2 in which you, the player, take up arms and gun down some people. As a terrorist. And those people? Innocent civilians who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
And I’m perfectly ok with that. Why? We’ll get to that in a bit.
What I do take issue with, though, is Infinity Ward’s treatment of the whole fiasco. Moments after every videogame blog on the planet’s normal programming was interrupted to bring you this special report, Infinity Ward issued a statement. “Players have the option of skipping over the scene,” it read. “At the beginning of the game, there are two ‘checkpoints’ where the player is advised that some people may find an upcoming segment disturbing. These checkpoints can’t be disabled.”
Which is PR-speak for: “We’re afraid that the mainstream media’s going to tear us to shreds for this one, but we’ve handily built in this failsafe. You’ll never take us alive! Mwahahahaha! *Rockets into the sky using a concealed jetpack*.”
See, while stirring terrorists, innocent slaughter, and videogames into the same stew may initially leave a bad taste in people’s mouths, I think Infinity Ward’s taking a big step in the right direction. It’s a shame, then, that they’re so quickly scrambling to cover their tracks.
Although most Linux users rely on pre-built Linux distros and customize their software configuration after installation, there is nothing quite like having a Linux distro that was custom-designed to your specifications. This allows you to get whatever you want out of the box, but in the past it was difficult to create such a distro since it involved compiling the entire operating system from source. (something firmly in the realm of advanced-to-expert-level users)
In more recent years, it has become possible to create your own Linux distro through various easy-to-use online interfaces. The most well-known distro customization tool is Slax (which we recently discussed) but Novell has a tool called SuSE Studio in closed beta which allows you to assemble your own custom SuSE-based distro from pre-compiled packages. Right now, SuSE Studio is still invite-only since Novell gives you storage space on their servers and bandwidth to both store and download your creations.
Read on to learn how we built our own Maximum PC-themed Linux distro!
As a part of Google's quest to be the undisputed overlords of the Internet, they've made a lot of quality services available for free. Gmail, Google maps and Google Docs are all famous examples, but one of the search giant's coolest free offerings, Sketchup, flies under a lot of peoples' radars.
Sketchup is a free 3D modelling tool developed based on the philosophy that by giving people a small set of powerful, intuitive tools, you can lower the barrier of entry to 3D modelling, so that almost anyone can make quality 3D models with just a couple of sessions of practice.
Still not conviced to give Sketchup a try? We've compiled a list of 7 awesome things you can do with Sketchup that you probably didn't know were possible. Did you know, for instance, that you can create a Left 4 Dead map in Sketchup? How about that you can design your own papercraft models?
There's one thing I think of when Daylight Savings Time hits: zombies. Seriously. All that extra time in the dark just fuels the undead flames for an eventual takeover by our semi-bulletproof, plant-hating masters. It only makes sense, then, that I use this weekly freeware roundup column to provide you with some kind of effective training for fending off the gruesome hordes. And beyond that, you'll also find a few more fun freeware games to busy yourself with as the angry, moaning masses slowly overwhelm your pitiful human defenses.
Now that we've established the plot, let's check out the titles. A hearty mix of retro throwbacks, MMOs, and crazy puzzle games await your attention after the jump!
Organic light-emitting diodes, or OLEDs, are often touted as the next big thing in display technology, offering brighter colors, true black, lower power consumption, and better off-axis viewing than traditional LCD screens. They’ve popped up in gadgets from high-concept to mundane: The infamous Optimus Maximus keyboard, for example, utilizes many tiny OLED screens in its programmable and customizable keycaps, and both Sony’s new X-series Walkman and Microsoft’s new Zune HD have OLED screens. OLED technology has made great strides in the past 10 years, and cheaper and better manufacturing processes mean they’ve started appearing in everything from media players to phones to high-definition televisions—even keyboards. But what are OLEDs?
It’s been a while since we’ve posted a Parts and Price Guide on the site—okay, it’s been a long time. Now we’re back and better than ever, and so are the system specs we’re pairing you up with this month. We’re starting you off with a $1000 PC, which is a happy mid-way price point between the $700 recession special and $1500 budget surplus found in this year's Dream Machine roundup. $1000 may not seem like a steal for the truly frugal, but in a world of fluctuating economies and ever-changing technologies, getting the most “bang for your buck” is more important than getting rock bottom prices at the expense of performance. And in the time since we last posted a buyer's guide, new awesome technologies like Intel's Core i5 and ATI's Evergreen series of GPUs (which powers the Radeon 5870) have redefined our expectations of budget PC performance. With these computing advances in mind, we've carefully pieced together a sub-$1000 spec that doesn't break the bank or compromise performance.
Follow along for the secret to a hearty, healthy computer, for only a grand!
Are you stuck using Outlook at work? We feel your pain. Compared to the alternatives, like Mozilla's light-weight and customizable Thunderbird client, Outlook is slow, bloaty, and downright unwieldy. Add to the fact that it isn't free and Outlook doesn't appear to have much going for it.
But whether you use Outlook because you have to or have grown accustomed to its interface and are reluctant to switch (or maybe you just want to justify the cost of Microsoft Office), we have some tricks to help you manage your email and contacts like a pro. After all, if you're going to use Outlook, no matter what the reason, you might as well get the most out of it, and we're here to help you do just that.
Windows 7 is out, and many of you have gone through the process of upgrading to the new OS with a clean install. And while you'll enjoy the new features like Aero Snap and an ISO burner (finally!), Windows 7 still lacks some basic functionality that we've come to expect from using PCs on a daily basis. For example, cloud storage file syncing and wide compression format compatibility are things we've taken for granted from essential freeware and open-source applications. Here's our list of five utilities that we really wish Microsoft bundled with Windows 7. And if you agree with us, use one of our recommended user-friendly auto-installers to get these apps.