After our USB 3.0 coverage last week, we figured it would be a good time to turn our attention back to USB 2.0 (aka High Speed), and one of the classic nerd hobbies: USB hacking. Because of its highly-accessible wiring, USB can be easily modified for all sorts of purposes, even by neophyte hardware hackers. In the past, we've shown you how to perform some simple hacks, but now we want to highlight some of our favorite hacks created by members of the DIY community.
Some are of questionable utility, some of them are downright dangerous, but all of them are good, old-fashioned fun. Read on for our picks for the 10 most amazing USB hacks!
One of Mozilla Firefox's bigger advantages over Google Chrome has just been wiped away and, dare we say, Google Chrome has actually one-upped its rival in terms of overall usability and ease-of-installation. We're referring, of course, to Greasemonkey. You might have heard this name echoed across tech and tweak sites far and wide. As well you should have--the functionality you can achieve by this upgrade to your surfing experience is simply unsurpassed in its depth or scope by any conventional add-on or extension.
Sound good? Because now, Google Chrome users have the ability to tap into Greasemonkey scripts as much as any other browser user. You don't even have to install a separate add-on, since scripts work natively in the browser!
But here's the catch: not all Greasemonkey scripts work perfectly in Google Chrome. The running estimation is that roughly 20 percent of what's out there is currently broken for Google's browser. That's not great news for a person who's easily frustrated by failure. However, here's where Maximum PC comes into the picture. We've run through a large swath of awesome Google Greasemonkey scripts to achieve two key goals: to see what works and to see which scripts, of the 40,000+ available, are awesome tweaks for your browser. Click the jump for a look at some of the top Greasemonkey scripts you could (or should) be slapping into your Google Chrome browser right now.
The performance of an LCD monitor ultimately depends on how its liquid crystals are manipulated to channel light. We’ll examine the three most common technologies: Twisted Nematic (TN), In-plane Switching (IPS), and Vertical Alignment (VA).
Each of these three technologies creates a pixel using a cell of liquid-crystal molecules controlled by a thin-film transistor. Liquid crystals are used because they’re capable of effecting light as though they’re a solid, while exhibiting the malleability of a fluid. In a color LCD, each pixel is subdivided into three cells, or subpixels, which are colored red, green, and blue, respectively, by additional filters. These cells are arranged in a matrix of rows and columns sandwiched between two panes of glass, with a polarizing film on the exterior side of each pane.
A light source, such as a cold cathode fluorescent lamp or an LED grid, is placed behind the first glass panel. Light waves from the backlight follow the alignment of the liquid-crystal molecules, but they must pass through the two polarizing filters before reaching the surface of the display. Light waves must be oriented perfectly parallel to the first filter to pass, but since the second filter is oriented perpendicular to the first, no light will pass unless it’s reoriented first.
After this years CES, it's clear that USB 3.0 is here to stay. Wtih a tidal wave of consumer devices looming on the horizon, we've decided to help clear up confusion about USB 2.0's successor. Here's all the information you need to know about USB 3.0, organized into a brief FAQ.
Optical drives aren't potatoes. You can't boil them, mash them, or stick 'em in a stew. And by that, I mean there's simply not that much you can do with your average digital coffee holder. Optical drives read CDs. Optical drives write CDs. And... well, unless you have your drive hooked up to some kind of crazy Rube Goldberg device that feeds your guinea pig whenever you eject the tray, there's simply not much else you're going to be able to do with this essential part of your PC. CD goes in; CD goes out--end of story.
Of course, I'm being a little tongue-in-cheek with this description. There's a great deal you can do with your optical drive on the software side of things. Here's the problem: There are a ton of different programs out there for ripping, burning, and mounting images, amongst other behaviors. Finding the best-in-class application for your device can be like trying to find a tiny scratch on the bottom of the disc itself--a mind-numbing task that's sure to frustrate you as you sift through the 30 different utilities you've pulled down onto your desktop.
Allow me ease the pain a bit. In this week's freeware files, I'll be taking a look at some of the must-have software to supplement your CD drive. With these five apps, you'll be covered for a wide range of uses--ripping all different kinds of media to your (presumably) terabytes of storage space, burning your own custom discs and presentations based on preexisting files, and converting physical media to digital images that you can pull up off of your hard drive instead of ever having to fiddle with a disc again.
Grab a CD-R coaster for your drink and join me after the jump for all the software goodies!
Today, we’re starting to see the first motherboards with USB 3.0 support. That support exists in the form of a discrete controller chip, typically the NEC uPD720200; it will likely be late 2010 or sometime in 2011 before we see USB 3.0 integrated into motherboard chipsets. Still, USB 3.0 is a major leap beyond USB 2.0, so peripheral manufacturers are already announcing products to support the new standard.
First, let’s clarify some terminology. USB 1.0/1.1 was typically just called USB, and supported throughput up to 12Mb/s. When USB 2.0 arrived, with its 480Mb/s speed, the USB Working Group (www.usb.org) needed a distinguishing name, hence Hi-Speed USB. USB 3.0 will be called SuperSpeed USB. Got that?
Micro-management just isn't Microsoft's thing. Why do we say that? It's because the folks from Redmond are regular Babe Ruths when it comes to coding an OS and knocked the ball out of the park with Windows 7. But when it comes to integrated apps -- all those things we would expect Microsoft to excel at -- the software giant is more like Casey at the bat and we're all just a bunch of Mudville suckers wondering how Microsoft manages to whiff it at the easy pitches. Internet Explorer? Most of us are rocking Firefox or Chrome. And while we don't want to be too hard on Windows Media Player, there are certainly better media frontends out there.
One of them is XBMC, an open-source project formerly known as Xbox Media Center. XBMC was originally developed for the first Xbox console, and through the years, it has evolved as a fully fledged, cross-platform media hub with a rabid following and plenty of user-created plugins and scripts. It's also given birth to more familiar projects like Boxee, Voddler, and others, all of which initially borrowed from XBMC's source code.
If you've never played with XBMC, it's time for a test drive. To help you kick the tires, we've assembled 12 terrific tips and tricks so you can spend more time cruising the media byways and less time fumbling with the controls.
You know Adobe's portable document format: PDF. It's everywhere, from downloadable documentation for a motherboard you need to tweak to press releases from the assemblyman from Lower Someplace, PDFs rule. Why? It's not hard to understand:
PDF files are supported by computers and mobile devices, including smartphones; comparable formats such as Microsoft's XPS don't enjoy nearly as wide a level of support
PDF files are cross-platform, enabling you to create a PDF on a PC and read it on any other device with PDF support
PDF documents can be optimized for web display, eBook readers, PC printing, and high-resolution professional printing
Add up these reasons, and it's easy to see why PDF make sense if you need to distribute a document that can be read everywhere.
Although Adobe sets the standards for PDF files with its Acrobat PDF creation and Reader PDF display software, Adobe isn't the only game in town when it comes to PDF creation. In this article, you'll discover if your system is already ready to spit out a PDF on demand, how to add PDF output to your system, and how to track down free tools that enable you to perform some PDF editing.
It's a new year, a new decade, with bigger hard disks than ever and new technologies like SATA 6Gbps, USB 3.0, and bigger solid-state drives to choose from. So, what do you do with the drives you've replaced (or will replace this year)? From drive enclosures and media streamers to storage for home servers and salvage fodder, find out the best ways to decide which drives get promoted, which drives are out, and which drives deserve a second life.
To casual observers, PC builders who fixate on benchmarks are geeks unable to see the forest from the trees. “Why,” they ask, “can’t you just enjoy your new computer and let it be?” Our answer: the difference between a person who cares about benchmarking and one who doesn’t is how much that person values their free time.
Case in point, we recently did something as simple as download two large zip files at the end of the work day. Instead of strolling out at 6 p.m., we ended up waiting 15 minutes for the files to be decompressed on our work-issued PC. To care about benchmark is to care about performance. And to care about performance is to care about having more free time on your hand.
But you shouldn’t just download any benchmarking tool to run--there’s a right and wrong way to benchmark your machine if you want to get meaningful results. We’ll teach you proper benchmarking techniques and how to interpret your results. Read on to learn how to benchmark the Maximum PC way.