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!
OS X is out there. You’ve seen it in coffee shops, on TV, in the laps of hipsters at the local taqueria. There‘s no shame in wondering what all the fuss is about. Hell, it’s healthy to mix it up a little bit. If only the idea of sending Steve Jobs and the rest of Apple, Inc. thousands of your hard-earned dollars didn’t send you into a cold sweat that only a game of Left4Dead can cure. Still, OS X is the subject of many glowing reviews. Even hardcore PC users are singing its praises. If you have the itch to try out OS X, but you’re not down with shelling out the cash for a new Mac, we have one word for you: Hackintosh.
When Apple announced the move to Intel processors for its computer lineup, the search was on for a practical way to install OS X on non-Apple hardware. Over the years, the best way to achieve this feat was to patch a retail version of the OS X install from Apple. Users would scour the Internet for the patches—always hoping that what they downloaded was indeed the correct patch, and not some virus or trojan horse ready to wreck havoc on their PCs.
But these days the quest for OS X needn’t be so perilous. Read on to see how an inventive little USB device can let you easily dual boot OS X on non-Apple hardware, using a legitimate copy of OS X.
E3! E3! E3! There is seemingly nothing more important right now than checking out the latest iteration of some made-for-14-year-old-girls title at that big LA convention. Feh. You know what the worst thing about E3 is? It's not the lack of awkward-looking hot actors to stare at, nor is it the barrage of press meetings, demonstrations, and pomp and circumstance for less-than-stellar titles. The worst thing about E3 is that all the games you see there cost money. That's right. Cash. For every neat title you're seeing, there's a price tag attached at the end of the day. Want new graphics in a hot sequel? You'll pay for it. Want to blow up 255 of your closest console friends? Ask for your allowance early. Feel like waving your hand around to simulate an activity you can do in real life? Get a real-life job.
This week, I'm strolling down memory lane and profiling some of the best games from that other gaming conference in California. You know the one--good ol' GDC, or the Game Developers Conference. Each year, the Independent Games Festival takes up shop amidst the chaos of this convention and awards a host of independent (and often free) titles awards of various persuasions. There's a long list of contenders that come to the IGF every year: here's a list of five of the most interesting, enjoyable, and free titles I've found.
Click the jump to check out the cream of the freeware gaming crop!
Imagine a world in which all cars are like the Toyota Prius: four-door midsize hybrids. Sure, they aren’t bad cars, you can paint them any way you want and even modify some parts, but in the end you still just have a generic Toyota with a funky paint job.
That’s the world of personal computing today. It doesn’t matter if you’re running Windows, Mac OS, or Linux. Your machine is almost certainly using Intel chips at its core and almost everything else is fairly generic—even the world’s greatest case mod with water-cooled dual-Xeons and quad-SLI graphics is just a really fast PC.
This was definitely not the case 35 years ago. A quick tour of the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA, reveals machines that were as varied and unique as the companies that made them.
The microprocessors, if there even was one, were supplied by Intel, MOS, Zilog, RCA, or any number of other companies. Memory was static, dynamic, and shift-register. And without the Internet, programs were loaded from paper tape, punched cards, cassette tape, floppy disks, cartridge, or even manually switched in by hand.
In the following pages, we take a close look at some of the most influential personal computers of the past 40 years. From pre-microprocessor machines to the venerated IBM PC, each of these systems contributed in some way to the modern personal computing era.
Stop surfing the internet for a minute (we know, a tall order) and go get your last cable or satellite TV bill. Back? Good. Now skim to the bottom and look at the total amount of money you paid for TV last month. Do you feel like you got a reasonable amount of entertainment for that $60, $80, or even $100-plus? Are you happy about the money you spend for the privilege of watching TV? We’re not. The vast majority of TV we watch is available for free, over the air. Sure, we’ll occasionally watch an episode of Flight of the Conchords on HBO or a documentary on Discovery, but most of the TV we watch is on one of the big over-the-air networks—ABC, CBS, Fox, the CW, and NBC. So we started looking for alternatives.
It turns out that the vast majority of new TV shows are available online, either as part of an ad-driven website like Hulu or TV.com, or available for sale on iTunes or Amazon’s Unbox service. However, having a PC in the living room has traditionally sucked. After all, you don’t want to hear a big, noisy PC when you’re enjoying a movie or a TV show, and using a mouse and keyboard as the primary interface just doesn’t cut it when you’re kicking back on the couch. But times have changed. These days, it’s easy to build a PC that’s quiet enough to be virtually unheard, yet powerful enough to play all the high-definition video that’s currently available.
And making the proposition even more appealing, there are software frontends like Boxee and the new Hulu Desktop that let you harness all that hardware power in an easy-to-use, remote-friendly interface that combines the massive library of streaming video on the web with the DRM-free content you rip from discs or purchase legally on the web. We’ll introduce you to a couple of the options, then help you configure our favorite. By combining a few hundred bucks’ worth of hardware with a free software app and your broadband connection, you can reduce the money you spend on entertainment from $100 a month to $100 a year.