Brrzap! Not all hardware failures start that way, but there's a good chance they'll end up sounding like that as a result of you chucking an unruly piece of hardware through the nearest exit of your dwelling. Before you hulk up next time, know that there are ways to get a little bit more information about the status of your components. Applications that assess the health of your system's various parts serve a twofold purpose. You can deduce that equipment on your system might be going kaput or is otherwise screwed up in some fashion. Armed with that knowledge, you can then attempt to make an effective repair. If there is no way to repair your parts, you'll at least get an advanced notice that disaster is about to strike and that a trip to the electronics store might be in your soon-to-immediate future.
In this week's freeware roundup, I'm going to give you a list of applications that will help you assess your system's CPU, hard drives, optical drives, network connections, and memory. Don't delay in installing these applications--every second wasted puts you but one step closer to a catastrophic meltdown--or, at the very least, an unexpected failure in a critical piece of your PC. And nobody wants to be left hanging on the one day you really, really, really need to access the Internet, for example.
Click the jump, put on your medic's coat, and let's run some diagnostics!
The days of ugly Linux desktops are a thing of the past. Modern distros include many tools and options that enable them to look good and be more useful.
Unlike Windows, Linux has several different widget toolkits. The most well-known widget engines are GTK+, (distributed with GNOME) and QT. (pronounced “cute”) Widgets are the various elements which make up a program's GUI: scrollbars, arrows, checkboxes, etc. However, take note that QT or GTK widgets are not the same thing as desktop widgets.
Widgets and other things like window chrome (the toolbars, panels, etc. of a programs interface) and window decoration (the window's title bar, minimize/maximize/close buttons, and the window border) are the various elements that, when joined together, create a theme for QT or GTK. It is possible to modify the various themes in Linux to change how they look or even create your own. This article will address the various resources that are out there to help make your desktop look its best and help you get the most out of it.
With the influx of Open Source applications flooding the web, it’s no wonder that people are scoping out alternatives to paying for word processing software. However, what those people don’t realize is the truth behind the phrase “More bang for your buck.” Paying for software means it comes with a multitude of features not included with a free clone, and in the case with popular programs like Microsoft Office, this is entirely true.
We’ve been using Office for years, whether it came bundled with our new machine or purchased at a brick and mortar store, only to take for granted the fact that it comes with a multitude of fully fledged features that makes, well, getting through life much easier. Whether it’s a school assignment, a dissertation, an expense report or a presentation on that idea you’re looking to pitch to your department, Microsoft Office has made our lives much more organized in the ways of word processing and delivering information.
So we took a bit of time to play around with the latest version of Microsoft Word to see if we could rekindle our relationship one more time. Needless to say, we’re still committed. For that reason, we’ve brought you five useful Microsoft Word tips you probably weren’t aware of before or didn’t know how to enable.
If all goes to plan, Mozilla will be releasing its much anticipated Firefox 3.5 browser any day now, and certainly by the end of the month. It's been a long wait for the Firefox faithful, who first got a glimpse of the oft-delayed browser in Alpha form back in July of 2008. More recently, Mozilla has rolled out a pair of Release Candidates, giving fans (and critics) a pretty good idea of what to expect when the final version goes Gold.
The most ambitious update to Firefox yet, version 3.5 delivers a ton of coding improvements and a handful additional features Mozilla hopes will help close the market share gap with Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Join us as we take an in-depth look at what's new and highlight which features have us most excited about Firefox 3.5!
Dealing with your data is a critical part of the Windows experience. "No, really," you ask? I know, I know. But the kinds of file operations you perform on any given day represent the bread and butter of your operating system. You drag your pictures around, copy and paste your documents to other places, maybe send a file or two over email. It's simple stuff. That's not a value judgment, just a comment about the basic functionality that everyone uses on a modern OS.
When you're ready to step out of this minor league of file management and head into the majors, you'll find a host of freeware applications waiting to hit a pitch or two. These applications take the common elements of your Windows file operations and inject them with a dose of raw energy. For example, you can customize and jack up the very process of copying files from one directory to another. You can also beat back Windows' default system for batch file renaming and instead transform a large number of files with very specific titles and extensions. You can even map out just how much space your files take up on your drive, giving you the perfect opportunity to catch up on some spring cleaning across your battered hard drive.
While these kinds of processes are a mainstay of this week's roundup, I'm also taking a look at two additional programs that pack additional functionality into your operating system as a whole. So what are you waiting for? Quit your file transfers, click the jump, and get ready for a brand new world.
There was a ton of great feedback to my column last week, where I dreamed up (blabbed out loud) the idea of a Windows-based application store for open-source downloads. For the Linux layman, this would be something like a wicked hybrid of iTunes and apt-get. A package manager featuring pretty icons, one-click downloads, descriptions, and community interaction that could help bring the open source world just one step closer to the hearts and minds of average computer users.
As it turns out, a number of package managers already exist for the Windows operating system. In theory, they provide you the convenience of being able to hunt down a number of open-source projects, categorized by operation, which you can install without having to pore over the Web for the right file. Beyond that, they also give you a way to learn about newer open source projects that you might not have heard about or seen by your casual browsing on SourceForge. But are these applications as glorious as my dream from last week? Are these applications even worth your time at all?
Unlike typical open-source roundups, where I recommend five awesome programs that you. must. have. I'm actually going to give you the pros and cons of a series of five different package managers so you can decide for yourself as to which one would best fit your PC habits. So without further ado, I present: Windows Package Managers.
Click the link to get started -- I hope you've cleared off some space on your hard drive!
Power users routinely punch into the BIOS in order to fine tune their system, but it can be an intimidating place to go exploring if you've never before burrowed beneath the surface. And just like in real life, poking around in unknown places can be a dangerous affair if you don't know what you're doing or where you're going. On the other hand, once you understand the inner workings of your PC's control center, a whole world of overclocking and troubleshooting suddenly opens up. But what exactly is the BIOS?
Every modern motherboard comes with an embedded Flash EEPROM module, otherwise known as the BIOS chip. Short for Basic Input Out System, this is the first bit of code executed when you boot your PC. The BIOS stores all kinds of essential information about your system, such as your CPU's clockspeed, the size and type of RAM you're running, the boot order of your media, what onboard devices are present, and much, much more. An improperly configured BIOS can prevent Windows (or Linux) from loading, while a finely tuned BIOS has the potential to significantly improve performance over that of a similarly spec'd machine.
Whatever your goal is, this is your go-to guide for everything you've ever wanted to know about the BIOS. We cover every setting -- even the obscure ones -- so you'll never feel lost or out of your element, no matter what motherboard you're rocking under the hood.
Since before Ashton Kutcher championed the service, Twitter has been a cacophony of meaningless vapid personal updates, narcissistic celebrity feeds (not including Levar Burton, of course), and bored Facebook users looking for a new way to stalk that girl next door. There’s no denying that the microblogging social network has managed to grow at epic proportions - easily becoming one of the most popular Internet fads of the year - but it's not easy filtering the signal from the noise.
Here’s a novel idea: what if we could get more from Twitter than simply monotonous, (intentionally?) typo-plagued status updates? Newly created Twitter-spinoff sites suggest that the tweets of millions can be manipulated for the forces of good, and we're absolutely keen to the idea. Some tech-savvy companies have used the service to improve customer communications, and news organizations have used it as a way to reach audiences not possible with television and print. For those of us who’ve managed to remain optimistic about why we signed up for the service in the first place, we’ve discovered several ways to make the most out of Twitter, even if you don't have an account!
Troubleshooting has always been one of the most frustrating aspects of computer ownership. Due to the practically infinite number of potential problems, it would be utterly impossible to write a how-to guide to fix all of them, but in this article we are going to address some of the most common problems and then present more generalized guidelines that will help you troubleshoot your own problems in an emergency.
Last week's freeware gaming roundup generated a mixed bag of reactions from the community. Some of you liked the unique perspectives on traditional gameplay offered by the nominees and finalists of the 2008 Independent Games Festival. Others... thought I was crazy. That's okay. I can take the heat. In fact, I welcome the commentary -- one of Maximum PC's community members, Mojosico, offered up a number of titles that he enjoys playing in the article's comments thread. I checked out the games on his list and was pretty pleased with what I saw. If you like traditional run-and-gun gameplay, with a single driving-based game adding a little spice to the freeware mix, I think you'll enjoy this week's gaming roundup.
Consider these titles penance for last week's out-of-the-box batch of gameplay. For the first-person-shooters, third-person-shooters, and racing games I'm checking out this week represent the meat and potatoes of any gamer's plate. If you don't find something you like in this batch of games, you're getting nothing but Tetris variants next week. Just kidding. Let me know what genres or titles you like in the comments, and I'll see if I can't find a way to boost your spirits by +5 in next week's freeware roundup!
Click the jump to check out this week's top titles!