There's a ton of great freeware and open-source software in the online world today. That statement should be a no-brainer, especially if you're been reading these application roundups over the past year and a half or thereabouts.
However, that's not to say that every single application that you install on your PC--including your operating system itself--is immediately minted in gold just because it passed your personal, "do I need this?" test. That's no fault of your own; In fact, it's half the point of the open-source movement to begin with. Industrious users think of new ways to use a piece of software or, rather, new add-ons that they can build into a particular application. This transforms the common application into a forked project, which itself can become the source of inspiration for future spin-offs from an even wider range of users.
Seriously, it's open-source 101.
However, you don‘t have to be a coder, or even a visionary, to reap the benefits of new transformations that run on top of the applications you use day-in and day-out. That's why I'm profiling add-ons in this week's Freeware Files: By now, you should have a pretty healthy laundry-list of common apps that you're always fiddling around in. I'm going to show you how to make them just that much better.
Enrico Fermi gained fame as a key player in the Manhattan Project, which gave the world nuclear fission and the first atomic bomb. Nvidia’s Fermi GPU architecture – now seeing the light of day as the GeForce GTX 480 – hopes to create its own chain reaction among PC gamers looking for the latest and greatest graphics cards.
Originally code-named GF100, the GTX 480’s long and controversial gestation saw numerous delays and lots of sneak peeks, but Nvidia’s new graphics card has finally arrived. Sporting 1.5GB of fast DDR5 memory and an exotic heat-pipe based cooling system, Nvidia’s managed to squeeze this three billion transistor monster onto a card just 10.5 inches long.
Can Nvidia’s long-awaited 480 GTX capture the graphics performance crown? And if it can, is the price of glory worth the cost?
With all due respect to Alexander Graham Bell, he couldn't possibly have known that his patent for "the method of, and apparatus for, transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically" would one day give birth to the modern day smartphone. He couldn't have foreseen the wonders that we take for granted today, like text messaging and voice-to-text searches.
We now live in a connected world, and today's smartphones define what it means to be a power user. Want to look up turn-by-turn driving directions on your phone? There's an app for that. There's an app for just about everything, even if they're sometimes tough to find (we're looking at you, Android Marketplace).
But for as much as we rely on our iPhone, Nexus One, or BlackBerry, it wasn't that long ago when you wouldn't think of trying to cram a mobile phone in your pocket. Remember when pagers were all the craze? Like computers, communication devices continue to evolve at a rapid pace, becoming faster, more portable, and increasingly flexible in functionality. It's been a wild ride getting to where we are today, and to pay homage to that journey, we take a look back at 40 of the most important phone models of all time.
Type "screensaver" into a Web search box - go ahead, I dare you. What you'll come across is a number of scamming, ad-filled, useless sites that care more about lining their own pockets with revenue than actually delivering you the goodies you want for sprucing up the look of your system's display. I can't help you much there. The appeal of a particular screensaver is, after all, in the eyes of its beholder. You might like flying toasters; I might like ports of OSX screensavers. There's little point in me trying to push my tastes on you via some freeware roundup.
That said, there are a number of interesting applications that can help you better manage your display. Regardless of whichever screensaver you choose to use--including none--the freeware tools listed below will let you best manipulate your screen to your liking. Enhance your daily computer use with increased energy-savings or prevent annoying interruptions to your media-watching, amongst other tricks. And, yes, you'll even be able to turn your screensaver on and off at a whim...
You can’t swing a dead Na’vi without hitting a new 3D display product these days. Three-dimensional imaging was actually invented in the 1800s, and has been used sporadically in movies since the 1920s, but James Cameron’s sci-fi epic Avatar is bringing it into the mainstream.
Now that 3D is less of a gimmick, TV manufacturers are beginning to incorporate the technology into their products. Panasonic, Samsung, and Sony all announced new 3D TVs at CES this past January. And Avatar could be the best thing to happen to Nvidia and Zalman in their efforts to sell PC gamers on their respective videocards and 3D displays. Market research firm DisplaySearch projects that annual sales of 3D-ready monitors will grow from 40,000 units in 2009 to 10 million by 2018.
So, given that at least some early adopters will buy a 3D display in due time, it’s worth knowing how this visual trickery works. Knowledge is power in the world of upgrading.
Competing technologies may use different implementations, but all 3D video is based on stereoscopic imaging: An illusion of depth is created by presenting a slightly different image to each eye. Each image is of the same object or scene but from a faintly different perspective. Your brain then synthesizes the two images into a spatial representation. The most common 3D applications depend on the viewer wearing either active eyewear (e.g., liquid-crystal shutter glasses) or passive eyewear (e.g., linearly or circularly polarized 3D glasses).
When AMD announced Eyefinity, we were somewhat skeptical. At first blush, six displays seemed excessive, both in terms of cost and sheer physical space. After setting up and running a six-panel Eyefinity setup, we’re now a little less skeptical – cost turns out to be less of an issue than we imagined. But setup time and physical space requirements are still a bit beyond the pale.
Today, we’ll walk through what it took to get a six display rig going with just one graphics card and one high end PC. It turned out to be a tale full of twisty passages, no two of which were alike (apologies to Underground Kingdom.)
When AMD launched the Radeon HD 5830, they also announced the Radeon HD 5870 Eyefinity edition. This latest variant of the HD 5870 includes 2GB of video memory and six (yes, six) mini-DisplayPort adapters.
How did you interact with your gadgets 5 years ago? Chances are, with a Mouse and keyboard. Maybe some buttons, or a trackpad here and there. But how about today? Probably with a mouse and keyboard, still, but we'll bet that's not all. Does your phone have a touchscreen? Likely. Can it do voice recognition, too? Bet it can. Do you have a Wii or a PS3? Then you’d better add motion control to the list.
Our point is that the way we interface with our gadgets has changed tremendously over the last couple years, and it’s only going to get crazier from here. To help you prepare, we’ve put together a list of 10 of the future interface technologies we’re most excited about. Read on to find out which ones made the list!
Make no mistake, we are living in the future. In a matter of moments, we can publish our thoughts, communicate with people on other continents, or start downloading more information than we can ever consume. We are presented with hundreds of great offers every day—each with a thousand caveats. We hear about hackers stealing identities and kids being sued for copyright infringement, and even a New York socialite slap-fight taking place in an anonymous forum can take the national stage. The future is odd, indeed. To help you get some of it straight, we sat down with various lawyers and asked: How do our rights work in the digital age? Can you get in trouble posting messages about someone online? Are there exceptions to copyright? Is it legal to back up your ebooks? Not all of these questions have clear answers, and some answers don’t make much sense. We might be living in the future, but the legal system was designed to deal with the increasingly obsolete present.
Alright, I'll admit it. I finally got hit with a virus.
Well, sort-of. I first thought that the strange "YOUR COMPUTER IS NOT PROTECTED" icon in my taskbar was some indication that my antivirus software of-choice had finally flipped out for good. Double-clicking on the icon brought up an obviously fake replica of Windows Security Essentials that, more annoyingly, wouldn't close no matter how many times I clicked on it. Over and over, my machine would be assaulted with "*.exe is not secure!" messages. My Internet sessions grinded to a halt no matter which browser I tried using. I started to fear for the safety of my World of Warcraft account.
As it turns out, I only got nailed with an annoying piece of malware. But after running through a number of analysis and removal techniques (which ultimately failed, as I had managed to disable the malware's process from starting up as-is using good ol' msconfig), I had amassed quite a list of rootkit removal programs, hardcore malware eliminators, and antivirus applications that were more surgeons in training than general practitioners.
I now share them with you.
Look, it's easy enough to install a common antivirus scanner on your system and call it a day. But you, like me, might forget to do so throughout the course of your PC building life. Or, worse, your system might become compromised in such a way as to render your analytical tools entirely useless. In that case, it's time to roll up your shirtsleeves and get crackin' with the digital equivalent of bleach for your mucked-up PC. Join me after the jump, and I'll share with you some of my favorite advanced freeware and open-source applications for virus and malware elimination!
Remember that old maxim that says we use only about 10 percent of our brain’s capacity? It’s been proven as hokum by modern neuroscience, but we think we can safely apply the same basic analogy to Google: The vast, vast, vast majority of computer users—even those practiced in hardcore nerdery—are almost certainly using a pitiful fraction of all the applications and features intrinsic to Google’s ever-expanding matrix of software code.
Sure, a Maximum PC reader may be well-versed in Google’s advanced search operators (Google allintext: “advanced search operators” if you missed that chapter), but we’re willing to wager that even the most curious among you haven’t taken the time to play with more than a few Google applications, let alone explore all their advanced features. Indeed, Google HQ is a fan-friggin’-amazing hotbed of R&D, but its developers are relatively quiet about the tools they’ve released. And that’s a shame, because Google’s constant innovation should get more press.
To address your inevitable Google knowledge deficit, we commissioned Gina Trapani to share her favorite tips. Gina launched Lifehacker.com, writes about Google for a bazillion media outlets, co-hosts the “This Week In Google” netcast, and pretty much makes it her job to know as much as possible about Google’s sundry apps and features.