Friday, October 23, 2009

Maximum PC Load Letter #28 -- Windows 7 Reviewed!

Issue 028

ednoteHello, readers!

We've returned after a short hiatus, and have updated the website with a ton of feature stories enjoyment. In addition to new entries to our weekly Windows 7 Feature Focus, we've also posted our highly anticipated Dream Machine 2009 feature, as well as our annual Comic-Con cosplay gallery (with over 600 photos this year!).

Other must-read stories: Gordon shows you how to buy the right SD card for your digital camera, we look into the guts of PC parts, and Linux guru Will Kraft goes over running Windows games in Ubuntu with Wine.

And finally, we're also extremely proud to share with you Editor-in-Chief Will Smith's Windows 7 review. Will extensively benchmarked and tested the final build of Windows 7, comparing it to both XP and Vista in an expansive suite of applications and games. Is it everything we hoped it would be? You'll have to read the full review to find out!
As always, shoot me an email if you have any comments! And please, help us by Digging our stories!

Norman Chan
Online Editor, Maximum PC

win7_newsletter Windows 7 Review -- For the Windows faithful, it's been a tough eight years. With the launch of Windows XP in 2001, we thought we were poised on a brink of a new world of NT-based goodness-but two years and uncountable exploits later, the future of Windows was grim. Facing a never-ending torrent of new 'sploits, worms, and trojans, Microsoft fired back with the single greatest operating system update of all time-Service Pack 2. In the single fell swoop of SP2, Windows XP went from Swiss cheese to secure, and once again we were poised to enter the promised land with... (wait for it)... Vista.

Of course, we all know how Vista turned out. But, as 2009 draws to a close, we find ourselves testing another new Microsoft OS: Windows 7. Building on the now-mature technologies introduced with Vista, but with a renewed focus on performance and ease-of-use, Windows 7 seems poised to succeed where Vista couldn't. We've finally received a final build of Win7, and have run it through the wringer in both the Lab and in the real-world. Here's what we found. Please help us by digging this story!
The 16 Most Essential Firefox 3.5 Add-ons -- We were elated when Firefox 3.5 came out, which brought increased stability and new features to one of our favorite web browsers of all time, including private browsing, tear away tabs and location awareness. We also got a faster browser with enhanced security and user-friendliness. However, what ultimately makes Firefox the choice browser is the appeal of its massive library of add-ons, which not only shed light on the fervent community, but also ensure that Firefox users get a great deal by installing widgets and extensions that only add to the Internet browsing experience. Users have the ability to experience what other web browsers do not - and cannot - offer.

Dream Machine 2009: How To Build the Best PC For Any Budget! -- Sometimes, you just have to keep things real. Last year, our Dream Machine was a paean to excess, a chrome-plated $17,000 w√ľnder-rig. While we're still quite fond of that machine, this year we decided to take a different tack and see if we could build a more reasonably priced, but still lust-worthy Dream Machine. Well, actually, we built three of them. While the combined cost of these three machines is about half the price of last year's rig, we packed a lot of awesome into our relatively tight budgets. The lesson is simple: Dream Machine isn't about spending a ludicrous amount of cash on a PC, it's about getting the best rig you can for the money you spend. I think you'll agree that these three machines pack a ton of power and are all great values.
The Comic-Con 2009 Cosplay Gallery -- 600 Amazing Costumes -- This is it - the post you've been waiting for. After four days of wandering the show floor, sitting in on movie studio panels, and epic line waiting, we've come out of Comic-Con 2009 with the mother load: 600 (yes, SIX HUNDRED) photos of the most intricate, sexy, and spellbinding cosplay that showed up this year. Star Wars and Superheroes were well represented, but we also snapped up shots of PC gaming icons, including several Team Fortress 2 teams and an amazing Left 4 Dead group. Legions of slave Leias weren't afraid to bare their skin and the forces of Cobra proudly showed off their guns. We even saw a bunch of familiar faces from last year's pictorial. Grab and seat, put your day on hold, and enjoy the best cosplay gallery from the best year of Comic-Con ever!
Your Hardware Exposed! 22 PC Parts Bare All -- You may know what the inside of a PC looks like, but what about the parts which make up your PC components? Over the past few years, we've dissected hard drives, keyboards, soundcards, and a plethora of other PC hardware, just to see what makes them tick. Here, we've picked out 22 of these autopsies to showcase. If you've ever wanted to see the guts of a netbook or the silicon that makes a network router work, read on!
Custom Firmware Rocks! How to Hack Gadgets with New Software -- While we're big fans of the proven awesomeness of open-source software, we don't automatically download every free application that's labeled as an open-source project. What make more sense is the use of open-source as the tool that effects some kind of massive or otherwise unreachable change in a common device. Case in point is open-source firmware, which lets you add undocumented functionality to your gadgets. An entire ocean of open-source firmware fixes awaits your perusal -- we take a look at some outstanding examples of open-source firmware, and teach you how to install them on your own gadgets!

Freeware Files: Enhance Google Chrome with Great Plugins!
We've covered some awesome Firefox plugins a little bit ago, and it only seems fitting for Google Chrome to receive the same treatment. But as you're undoubtedly aware, Google Chrome doesn't feature built-in extension support like other popular browsers on the market. Or does it?
Actually, if you run the developer builds of Chrome, you can access the wonderful (beta) world of browser add-ons with but a few extra commands and tweaks. Seeing as very few people who use Chrome know or care about this little modification, it stands that the actual world of add-ons for the browser is pretty small right now. That said, there are still some neat extras that you can build into your browser--including some add-ons that mimic the best of what you'll find in Firefox's expansive database.
Freeware Files: Games, Games, and More Games--Five Graphics-Crazy Titles!
We begin another trip through the freeware files with a focus on graphics this time around--graphics and zombies.  While a majority of the free games in this roundup feature some kind of interesting graphical treatment, there's one straggler that looks a bit like the sprites from SimCopter. But this little gem, of all the games on said list, features a healthy dose of zombie-killing. So for that, I can forgive its less-than-ideal looks.
But enough about that. You want to get to the games. I don't blame you. In fact, just to make sure I'm appeasing your interests, I'm taking a look at a number of different genres this time around. If zombies aren't your thing, or you can't stand the thought of an 8-bit, FPS-style puzzle title, then you'll surely find a winner in one of the other titles on this week's list.  From marble-smashing arcade games to awesome little racecar rallies, you're guaranteed to find at least one gem amongst these super-fun freeware titles.

No BS Podcast #113: The Return of the Rage

For the second week in a row, the gang returns with another news-packed podcast. This week, we talk about our first hands-on with the ZuneHD, the RTM of Windows 7, Logitech's new G500 laser mouse, oh yeah, and the rumors about Intel's new Core i5 CPU. Listener questions are answered, technical difficulties get resolved, and everyone involved has a great time. Most importantly, Gordon makes a triumphant return to the Rant of the Week!

Google Unveils Caffeine: The Next-Gen Search Architecture
Google this week announced that for the last several months,  it has been working on a secret project of a next-generation architecture for the company's web search. The new architecture includes crawling, indexing, and ranking changes and is the "first step in a process that will let us push the envelope on size, indexing speed, accuracy, comprehensiveness, and other dimensions," Google wrote in a blog.
Rather than incorporate these changes into their existing search infrastructure, Google is instead providing a developer preview and is asking webmasters and "power searchers" to give it a try.
Bargain Shoppers, Meet Yahoo! Deals
Yahoo on Monday launched what it claims is the first website to provide daily deals, online coupons, grocery coupons, local coupons, store circulars, and exclusive deals all in one place. Dubbed 'Yahoo! Deals," the new portal also integrates social and community features, as well as videos offering tips on how to save money.
"Frugality is the new 'cool,'" said Greg Hintz, head of Yahoo! Shopping. "We now know that couponing and bargain hunting are losing their stigma and are now a regular habit for many people. Our goal at Yahoo! is to be the center of people's online lives and we're making Yahoo! the easiest place for consumers to find and manage the coupons and deals that are relevant to their lives."
Some of the features on Yahoo! Deals include a gas finder module that helps users find the cheapest gas by zip code, improved search functions to help users find deals from across the site, offers for local chain and neighborhood restaurants, retailers, and service providers provided by Valpak, and exclusive deals from partners like, LogicBUY, CouponAlbum, and others.
Intel, Micron Announce Development of New High Capacity Flash Memory
Intel and Micron have developed a new 34nm NAND flash memory technology that is capable of 3 bits per cell, which allows for greater density than the standard 2 bits per cell technology currently in use, the two companies announced this week.. According to Micron, this will pave the way for high-capacity USB flash drives.
Micron also said the technology isn't yet as reliable as flash memory based on 2 bits per cell technology. Because of this, the 3 bits per cell chips will only be used in the manufacturer of flash drives that don't require the data storage reliability of an SSD.

Sony Launches a New Kind of Lithium
Sony on Tuesday announced it has launched a new type of lithium ion secondary battery using olivine-type lithium iron phosphate as the cathode material.
What exactly does that mean? According to Sony, both high-power and long-life performance in a single package. The company claims olivine's robust crystal structure and stable performance make the material an ideal fit for use as a cathode material. In addition, Sony says its new battery technology is able to charge rapidly.
Sony has already started shipping the first battery to use the olivine material, which the company sells under its Fortelion series branding. It holds a capacity of 1.1Ah with 80 percent capacity retention after 2,000 charge-discharge cycles, and is able to recharge to 99 percent of its full capacity in 30 minutes, Sony says.

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