We like you. We spend all year being nice to you—giving you the scoop on hardware, software, games, and news from the industry. We may not always be nice to companies or products, but we're always nice to our readers.
Well, nearly always. You see, every year the editors at Maximum PC get together in a big room with no windows or doors or air and hash out a series of questions for our annual Geek Quiz. Some are easy. Some are not. Some might have you pulling out your hair in frustration (those are our favorites).
But we're not doing this just to be cruel. See, if you do well, you get the satisfaction of showing us up, plus a standardized score that you can show people to prove how awesome you are. And if you don't do so well, hey, you get to learn stuff! Looking up answers on your favorite search engine, by the way, is strictly verboten.
So, whip out those #2 pencils and that slide rule, step away from the Google, and get ready to prove your mettle.
You could buy a used car -- albeit not a very good one -- for the same scratch it takes to pick up a copy of Adobe Photoshop, the de facto standard in high-end photo editing software. Or a pair of GTX 285 graphics cards for that killer SLI setup you've always wanted. We could go on, but at $700 for a piece of software, Photoshop's MSRP hardly needs put into perspective. In short, it's expensive.
It's also powerful, but don't worry if you don't have a handful of Benjamins laying around. Thankfully, you can perform a lot of the same photo editing tricks for free with GIMP. Short for GNU Image Manipulation Program, GIMP is the open source (and no-cost) equivalent to Photoshop, and like it's paid counterpart, GIMP can be a little overwhelming at first. That's where we come in.
Like swimming, it's best if you just dive in. To help give you that push, we waded through the gazillion tutorials floating around the Web and brought back a sundry collection of groovy tips and tricks that, along with some touches of our own, will have you learning the ins and outs of GIMP while having fun doing it. We'll show you how to make lifeless photos pop with detail, how to tap into the Force and add a lightsaber to any pic, make your own custom brushes, and much more.
Designing and manufacturing a modern CPU is a huge project. It requires both backward compatibility and an understanding of where PC workloads are going in the future—a delicate balancing act made more difficult by the huge engineering staffs and massive dollar outlays involved. Let’s take a look at the steps needed to build a Core i7 or AMD Phenom II processor.
Before the manufacturing plant starts churning out chips, there are a few critical preliminary steps. Prior to the first circuit being laid out or the first simulation run, the designers need to know exactly what it is they’re designing. This phase takes input from many sources. Marketing gets involved, with predictions of what users will need when the CPU actually ships, usually two to four years in the future. Engineering and performance teams feed in billions of traces of actual applications being run on current-gen CPUs, so the designers can see how existing CPUs perform under real-world conditions.
Continue reading about the CPU production process after the jump.
Welcome to the wonderful world of URL shorteners, where internet links hide behind abridged monikers to sheath their unwieldy length. You may have seen them fluttering about on the Internet; they’re currently infesting Twitter feeds, blog posts, Facebook status updates, and yes, even in print publications. Long winded web addresses, with tracking codes and web stats, have become so passé. Linking to one will make you seem like a Jurassic entity, which is why URL shorteners have shot up in popularity. The first of these services, TinyURL began rapidly proliferating when social networking and blogging stormed the web scene. Users everywhere needed a simple way to share their favorite links and ensure that their web friends and followers had an accessible way to navigate their content. With the advent of microblogging sites where every character counts, more of these services have emerged to become an essential part of internet life.
We take a look five popular URL shorteners, evaluate the merits of each, and ponder on the future of this link shrinking technology.
Your PC’s hard drive is probably packed to the platter’s edge with hundreds of ripped DVD videos, gigabytes of digital photos from your camera, and tens of thousands of songs. And that’s not even counting the high-definition digital video from your last family vacation that you’re still planning to unload. But with terabytes of media just gathering dust on your desktop PC, you risk losing years of aggregated files when your hard drive inevitably gives out (don’t even think about backing it all up to the cloud). Our solution: Keep all your data backed up on a Windows Home Sever. More than just a generic NAS box, Windows Home Server maintains backups, streams media files, and works as a file share across your home network. And the best part is that you can build one yourself—we’ll show you how!
From the first time we saw Borderlands, we were intrigued. By mixing a fast-paced first-person shooter with the procedurally generated weapon system of a loot-hoarding RPG like Diablo, and letting you play the game cooperatively with three of your pals, the kids at Gearbox have made a game we simply can’t wait to play. We went down to Plano, Texas to play the first three hours of the game and to chat with Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford about what the future holds for PC gaming, why Steam is not an ideal method of distribution, and why Randy loves Wal-Mart.
Home broadband routers are remarkably complex devices that few ever take the time to truly understand. As long as the lights are blinking, and webpages load, most people are inclined to leave them be. The few brave souls who venture into the firmware are often rewarded with a maze of menus that betray the true complexity of these underappreciated appliances. Wireless channels, security modes, and even port forwarding can be frustrating concepts for those without a networking background, but are absolutely critical to understanding how to optimize your home network.
In this guide we will teach you the finer points of security, as well as give you surefire ways to boost your router's performance. Topics covered include:
How to Safely Secure and Isolate a Network
How to Maximize Your Route's Broadcast Strength
How to Make Your Router Play Nice with Skype and BitTorrent
Although many graphics professionals turn to Windows or Mac OS to execute their designs, Linux is far from helpless in this area. While it helps that Adobe Photoshop, the undisputed gold-standard program that most professionals use for raster graphics, runs on Linux through Wine, there are several native Linux programs that offer some of the same functionality. Furthermore, there are many free vector graphics programs that can produce infinitely scalable graphics much like what Adobe Illustrator can do. Aside from the software situation, there is no reason why Linux could not be just as effective with graphics applications as OS X and Windows, since Linux supports many peripherals like tablets out of the box with full plug-and-play support.
Are the Linux programs drop-in replacements for Photoshop and Illustrator? The answer could be either yes and no, depending on the way you look at it and what your needs are. If you compare the Linux alternatives to Photoshop/Illustrator feature-by-feature, the free open source tools will come up short by a significant margin and there is simply no way to get around that fact. If you actually need those features on a day-to-day basis, then you should get your wallet out and purchase Photoshop and/or Illustrator. However, if you can get by with less, the free open source software tools may be enough to get the job done and save you considerable money in the process.
With the imminent launch of Windows 7 and its much-hyped Windows XP mode, the word "virtualization" is going to be everyone's lips throughout the month of October. Never one to let a fad slide on by, I'm jumping on the bandwagon in this week's freeware and open-source application roundup. I'll be taking a look at five different programs that enrich your computing experience with some kind of virtual add-on.
What does that even mean? A number of things. Windows XP mode is a great example of the common definition of virtualization--running a second operating system inside your primary operating system in a way that typically allows you to quickly switch between the two and access the contents of your primary machine's hard drives from the virtualized environment. Virtual desktops are a lesser derivative of this concept. Instead of running a separate operating system, you're merely extending the size of your workspace by stacking on additional desktop layers that you can swap back-and-forth. You can also install a virtual keyboard that sits overtop your programs--analogous to what Windows offers for tablet PCs--if you're concerned about keyloggers somehow getting their hands on your mission-critical information.
I won't go on, as that might spoil some of the fun applications you'll find after the jump. The virtual world, er, world of virtualized software is vast and interesting, featuring many applications that can expand your computer's functionality without adding a crazy amount of complexity. The coolness of these apps is only rivaled by their ability to save you precious time and headaches from doing things the old-fashioned way.
These days, netbooks have become a very popular alternative to conventional notebooks for mobile computing. Netbooks are lightweight, have great battery life, and are relatively inexpensive compared to full-sized notebooks. This makes them ideal for students or people on a budget. Of course, the lower cost and extended battery life does not come without a trade-off—many netbooks have lower system specs as well, which means that they are not designed for heavy-computing applications.
Although many netbooks now run Windows XP because of Microsoft's hurried entry into that market, many earlier models were built to run Linux. (For instance, the Asus Eee 700 Series ran Xandros, and the current models are offered with either Linux or Windows) And although most current netbooks are x86-based (running the Intel Atom CPU), the usage of ARM-based CPU chips is likely to increase in the future since ARM offers far superior energy efficiency over x86 and battery life has always been a major factor in mobile computing. ARM chips have been used successfully for some time in smartphones and music players, including the newest Zune HD. Since ARM is a different CPU architecture than x86, Windows will not work on ARM. Earlier this year, Microsoft's Steve Guggenheim said that the company currently has no plans to port Windows 7 to the ARM architecture. Therefore, any new wave of ARM-based netbooks will run Linux once again. Unlike Windows, most Linux distros can be compiled for ARM if you have the requisite skills for doing so.
Linux is an ideal choice for netbooks for multiple reasons in addition to CPU architecture. Netbooks generally have lower specs than most full-size notebooks (not to mention desktops) so they are ideal for lightweight applications like web browsing, document preparation, etc. Linux does these tasks very well without the bloat that Windows systems have to deal with from anti-malware utilities. This primer will help you set up and optimize Linux for your netbook.