It's been a little while since we've done a hodgepodge roundup of awesome freeware and open-source software. So brace yourself. The following free software applications have absolutely nothing in common with each other, save for them all being free and beneficial to your geek life in some capacity. We're looking at version-tracking applications that help keep all of the different installed software on your PC as up-to-date as it can be, as well as an easy-to-use display calibration app and a whole hodgepodge of must-have PC utilities (arranged neatly via a single installer application, to note).
But that's not all! To check out all of the other helpful applications we've got our dirty little fingers on, you're just going to have to click through to the full article. That's right. In Hollywood, we would call this a "teaser." But really, these apps are useful enough that you should have already scrolled past this introductory rambling and clicked right on the "I want more! I want more!" link--even though it's actually called "read more." You get the idea.
You’re twiddling your thumbs while waiting in the check-out line at your favorite retailer and you hear a great new song over the PA system. You could turn to the next person in line and ask if they know it—engaging in an impromptu but probably fruitless game of Name That Tune—or you could whip out your smartphone, record a snippet of it, and send it to a music-discovery service. It will report back with the name of the song and that of the artist who recorded it, which album it appears on, what year it was released—heck, with a couple of button presses, you can buy the song right then and there.
What technology magic makes such a thing possible? It’s called audio fingerprinting, and it’s gaining significant traction with both music lovers and rights holders looking to protect their assets. There are two basic components to an audio-fingerprinting system: A database containing the unique audio fingerprints of millions of songs, and a tool that can analyze a song and search that database for a match.
We’ve become so accustomed to the ease and convenience of iTunes and blink-and-you-miss-’em CD rips that we forget how in the mid-1990s, ripping a CD was a time-consuming process fraught with peril. Shoot, ripping a single disc to a 128Kbps MP3 could take eight hours on a 200MHz Pentium! Fast forward a decade and faster hardware and better software have made CD ripping so mainstream your mom does it.
Now, ripping DVDs is our great challenge. Copying and transcoding the disc’s video into more efficient formats involves math an order of magnitude scarier than what’s required to rip audio CDs. A machine that will rip the latest Miley Cyrus CD in mere moments could take hours to extract and convert your copy of Alien vs. Predator to an iPod-friendly format. But with the right software, a quad-core-equipped PC, and a little know-how, you can cut your disc-rip time from hours to 30 minutes. Plenty of tricks and traps still await first-time rippers, but we’ll show you the basics and then walk you through some of the most valuable power-user ripping secrets.
Your first decision is simple: What player are you ripping your discs for? Are you ripping for a portable player, like the PSP or iPhone? Would you rather stream to a device in your living room, like the Xbox 360, PS3, or Popcorn Hour? Or are you simply interested in making archival-quality DVD rips in case you lose your collection? More likely, you’re looking for a combination of all three of these things. We’ll show you how to rip your DVD to a file suitable for streaming that consumes a fraction of the disk space of a DVD but maintains full video and audio quality. Then you can take that file and convert it for whatever other devices you might have, like a PSP or an iPod.
With the preliminaries out of the way, let’s get started.
Integrated-circuit design is currently based on three fundamental elements: the resistor, the capacitor, and the inductor. A fourth element was described and named in 1971 by Leon Chua, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences Department, but researchers at HP Labs didn’t prove its existence until April 2008. This fourth element—the memristor (short for memory resistor)—has properties that cannot be reproduced through any combination of the other three elements.
Chua first theorized the memristor’s existence based on symmetry. There are four fundamental circuit variables—current, voltage, charge, and flux (changes in voltage), but until now, relationships had been defined for only three of those variables: A resistor opposes the flow of an electric current, so it relates voltage to current; a capacitor stores energy in an electric field between two conductors, so it relates charge to voltage; and an inductor stores energy in a magnetic field created by the electrical current running through it, so it relates flux to current. Chua believed that there must be an element that relates charge to flux, and he dubbed this undiscovered element the memristor because it would “remember” changes in the current passing through it by changing its resistance.
April Fools' Day might be all fun and games for some, but if you manage to fall prey to the Conficker worm, it's no laughing matter. As reported earlier this month by our very own Mark Soper, the third version of Conficker (Conficker.c) is set to wreak havoc tomorrow, April 1st. Here's what you need to know.
What is Conficker?
Conficker is one of the nastiest computer worms in recent history to go on the warpath against Windows-based PCs. First surfacing in October, 2008, Conficker targets Windows 2000, XP, Vista, Server 2003, Server 2008, Server 2008 R2 Beta, and even Windows 7. To date, Conficker has infected over 9 million PCs, shut down French and British military assests, and prompted a $250,000 reward from Microsoft for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the worm's creators.
What Does it Do?
The first two versions of Conficker -- variants A and B -- exploit a vulnerability in the Server Service on Windows-based PCs to take advantage of an already-infected source computer. Once infected, the worm goes to work exploiting the network hole, cracking administrator passwords, prevents access to security websites and services for automatic updates, disables backup services, erases recently saved documents, and among other things, also leaves you vulnerable to other infected machines.
What Happens Tomorrow?
One of the scariest things about Conficker, including Conficker.c, is that its full potential isn't known. Come tomorrow, those infected might be prompted to buy fake sofware products, or it could start monitoring your keystrokes to lift sensitive information like banking passwords. Files could end up deleted, or it might transform your computer into a zombie PC while staying under the radar. Whatever it ends up doing, it won't be good, and you need to take proper precautions right now.
Join us after the jump to find out how to avoid infection, or what you can do if it's already too late. **Now with April 1st Update!**
We wet your whistle with the wide world of audio mixing in an earlier post. But our exploits in music mash-ups (or remixes, depending on how you arrange your project) were just the tip of the audio iceberg. There's a lot more to DJing and song creation than what you'll be able to pull out of Audacity. Whether you're adept at the turntables or no better than the default iTunes DJ feature, we've tracked down a little something for everybody in this killer list of audio-related applications.
Grab some of the free or open-source software on our list and you'll be making your own musical tracks and killer live remixes faster than you can say "Lady Gaga." And yes, we know she's not a DJ. See? That's just one less hurdle to overcome in your path to complete home audio mastery. Grab some headphones--or "cans," as you might have heard them called--and let's get poppin'. Fame awaits!
Chances are you know what Gmail is and have been using it for quite some time, even if Google’s service is technically still in beta. But did you know that Gmail can be used for many other practical functions other than sending and receiving e-mail? With the appropriate extensions and setting hacks, you can make Gmail do things that other web-based e-mail services and even some desktop clients cannot. In this guide, we will show you how to implement the ten hidden features you need to know about Gmail and introduce you to five of our favorite Gmail Labs add-ons. You may already know or use some of these features, but there are sure to be a few in here that you do not.
Wolfenstein 3D—yes, that Wolfenstein 3D—has been a member of the open-source community since programmer and visionary John Carmack tossed the code out into the open in 1995.That’s not news.What is news is his successful attempt at converting the first-person-shooter, practically old enough to have run on punch cards, onto a next-generation mobile platform.The evil Nazis are now Apple-friendly, and you can get the iPhone version of Wolfenstein 3D for a mere $5 from Apple’s application store.
And how did he do it?Carmack didn’t just go back and start hacking into the Borland C and TASM code of the original title.In a sense, he branched his own game: turning to an open-source variant called Wolfenstein 3D Redux, Carmack used this Wolfenstein OpenGL retrofit as the graphical basis for his mobile release.
Click the jump to find out where you can get Wolfenstein 3D Classic… mobile... for free!
After seven years of stealth development at Rearden Labs (a startup incubator), OnLive today unveiled itself as a new game service to deliver on-demand games. Basically, instead of running your games on a PC or console at home, you connect your HDTV to a small MicroConsole which receives compressed video from a remote server that actually renders and processes your games. The immediate benefits of the service is its low entry cost, since you don't have to build a high-end gaming PC or invest $500 on a next-gen gaming console. Games purchased with OnLive are activated on remote servers and the only data that is streamed to you is gameplay video and audio. You never have to download software, patches, or handle physical media. Think of it as video-on-demand but for games.
We met with OnLive's founders at Rearden Labs last week to get a sneak preview of the service, try out some games, and grill the developers about how OnLive actually works.
Think streaming video is impractical for gaming? You might be surprised...
The Linux graphical user interface (GUI) system may be very different from what you are used to if you are coming from a Windows or Mac OS X background. The GUI of an operating system is commonly referred to as its shell. While virtually all versions of Windows since Windows 95 have used variations of the same basic shell (explorer.exe), there are numerous shells available for the Linux GUI. These Linux shells are called window managers and desktop environments. The term window manager is used to address the simple core user interface of a shell, while the term desktop environment is much more inclusive, covering the shell itself in addition to the various other programs that are integrated with it.
Due to the vast number of window managers available for Linux, many new users often feel overwhelmed at the idea of having to learn their way around them. We must emphasize that many people experiment with several window managers before settling down with one that feels right for them, and there certainly is no need to learn all of them. Due to their modular nature, it is common to have several window managers installed at once.
Much like part one of this series that dealt with choosing a distro, this guide will help you to choose a window manager/desktop environment by introducing you to several of them and addressing their strengths and weaknesses.