Saturday, November 21, 2009

Maximum PC Load Letter #32: 20 Essential Firefox Tweaks, Windows 7 Makeover!

Issue 032

ednote Sweet, sweet, November has arrived and we're pumped for the Holiday season. In fact, we're getting in the spirit of giving by running 4 weeks of awesome contests on This week, we're giving away a custom-engraved Zune HD portable media player. Just click the picture to your right to get all the important rules. Later this week, we'll also be announcing a HP Envy laptop giveaway, but you'll have to check back on the website for more details. I promise we won't make you write an essay or film a corny video to participate!

We also have a ton of great features lined up for you. Yesterday, Firefox turned 5 years old, so we commemorated the occasion by posting our favorite and most essential Firefox tips. If you like this kind of story, expect more software tweak guides in the near future!

As always, shoot me an email if you have any comments! Please digg our stories, and be sure to become a fan of our Facebook group to quality for the Zune HD contest and other giveaways!
Norman Chan
Online Editor, Maximum PC

20 Essential Tweaks and Tips Every Firefox User Should Know feature1_newsletter -- Firefox may be your default browser, but that doesn't mean you really use it to its full potential. Mozilla's browser (which just celebrated its 5th birthday!) is a big threat to Microsoft not because it's fast and full of unique features, but because it's also extremely customizable. Add-ons, style scripts, and hidden preferences let you personalize your Firefox experience to meet your tastes and needs. Sure, you may know about hidden easter eggs like the about:robots page, but we're going show you the 20 most essential tips, tricks, and tweaks for this super browser.

If you like this story, please help us by Digging it!
7 Surprising Kick-Ass Things You Can Do with Google Sketchup -- As a part of Google's quest to be the undisputed overlords of the Internet, they've made a lot of quality services available for free. Gmail, Google maps and Google Docs are all famous examples, but one of the search giant's coolest free offerings, Sketchup, flies under a lot of peoples' radars.
Sketchup is a free 3D modelling tool developed based on the philosophy that by giving people a small set of powerful, intuitive tools, you can lower the barrier of entry to 3D modelling, so that almost anyone can make quality 3D models with just a couple of sessions of practice. We've compiled a list of 7 awesome things you can do with Sketchup that you probably didn't know were possible. Did you know, for instance, that you can create a Left 4 Dead map in Sketchup? Read on to find out more!

20 Essential Tricks Every Outlook User Needs to Know -- Are you stuck using Outlook at work? We feel your pain. Compared to the alternatives, like Mozilla's light-weight and customizable Thunderbird client, Outlook is slow, bloaty, and downright unwieldy. Add to the fact that it isn't free and Outlook doesn't appear to have much going for it.
But whether you use Outlook because you have to or have grown accustomed to its interface and are reluctant to switch (or maybe you just want to justify the cost of Microsoft Office), we have some tricks to help you manage your email and contacts like a pro. After all, if you're going to use Outlook, no matter what the reason, you might as well get the most out of it, and we're here to help you do just that.
$1000 Budget PC Buyer's Guide - October 2009 -- It's been a while since we've posted a Parts and Price Guide on the site-okay, it's been a long time. Now we're back and better than ever, and so are the system specs we're pairing you up with this month. We're starting you off with a $1000 PC, which is a happy mid-way price point between the $700 recession special and $1500 budget surplus found in this year's Dream Machine roundup.

$1000 may not seem like a steal for the truly frugal, but in a world of fluctuating economies and ever-changing technologies, getting the most "bang for your buck" is more important than getting rock bottom prices at the expense of performance. And in the time since we last posted a buyer's guide, new awesome technologies like Intel's Core i5 and ATI's Evergreen series of GPUs (which powers the Radeon 5870) have redefined our expectations of budget PC performance. With these computing advances in mind, we've carefully pieced together a sub-$1000 spec that doesn't break the bank or compromise performance.
How to Build Your Own Custom Linux Distro -- Although most Linux users rely on pre-built Linux distros and customize their software configuration after installation, there is nothing quite like having a Linux distro that was custom-designed to your specifications. This allows you to get whatever you want out of the box, but in the past it was difficult to create such a distro since it involved compiling the entire operating system from source. (something firmly in the realm of advanced-to-expert-level users) OpenSuse Studio changes that.

Freeware Files: Five Apps for a Windows 7 Desktop Makeover!

There's nothing wrong with the Windows 7 desktop per se. But for freeware developers, that's no excuse not to tweak, hack, and otherwise modify every possible piece of your screen. And it's not that difficult to add new functionality to your desktop that doesn't otherwise exist in the operating system. The hardest part is finding software that makes a substantive change to what you already have. After all, the last thing you want to do is install a ton of different freeware apps and find your desktop in even worse shape than it was before (if you do, take a quick trip to Revo Uninstaller).
The intensity of the following five free applications ranges from apps that completely revamp your desktop's look and feel to programs that add new ways for accessing common apps and folders straight off your desktop. How far you want to go with your tweaking is entirely up to you--these are just some of the more interesting tools I've come across that should go a long way toward raising your "Windows Power User" level a few notches.


No BS Podcast #123: The Toledo Effect
Remember, remember the fifth of November! Topics discussed this week: On a slow news week, Will fueled Gordon's rage by briefing him on the Call of Duty PC controversies, then the guy discussed Left4Dead 2 a bit more, and closed the show with an extra-long Doctor section and another vitriolic episode of Rant of the Week!

Barnes and Nobles Delays Nook Reader, Citing High Demand

If the Barnes and Noble Nook sounds like a great Christmas present, you might want to preorder one now. Everyone's favorite bookseller has announced that due to massive demand, Nook preorders have been pushed into December. There are also reports that Barnes and Noble stores will have no in-store Nooks until mid December.

According to a Barnes and Noble spokesperson, "Nook has quickly become the fastest selling product at Barnes & Noble. In fact, there is so much consumer interest in Nook, that pre-orders have exceeded our expectations." The Nook will be selling for $259 whenever you can find one. Barnes and Noble opened their eBook store back in July and it currently offers over 700,000 titles.

Microsoft to Give Away Free WiFi if You Search with Bing

Microsoft's Bing and JiWire have a proposition for you. Free WiFi in exchange for using Bing. Interested? The promotion would give users free Internet access at participating hotspots if they do just one search with Bing. In conjunction with JiWire's advertising network, Microsoft will be extending the offer to various hotels and airports.

The campaign was started in September at several thousand locations. It managed to attract between 30 and 40 percent of visitors to the hotspots. This is extremely high, as most ads only get interaction from 0.1 to 0.2 percent of people. Microsoft reportedly plans to continue with the promotion, which is a part of JiWire's Ads for Access campaign. The campaign allows companies to give customers something in exchange for their time. This can be taking a survey, watching a video ad, or (in this case) using the Bing search engine.

AT&T Announces 3G USB Stick for Use with HSPA 7.2
AT&T plans to deploy HSPA 7.2 in six US cities by the end of the year. Today, it took a small step towards that launch by announcing a new 3G LaptopConnect device from Sierra Wireless. Compatible with HSPA 7.2 and called the AT&T USBConnect Lightning, the USB stick will become available on November 22. It will be available for free with a data plan of at least $35 a month. AT&T will be upgrading its existing 3G network to HSPA 7.2 in Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles and Miami before the end of this year, with further plans "to reach about 90 percent of its existing 3G network footprint with HSPA 7.2 by the end of 2011."

Google Buys Mobile Advertising Company AdMob for $750 Million

Mobile advertising is about to get a lot more Googly. Search giant Google has announced that they have purchased mobile advertiser AdMob for a healthy $750 million. Ads powered by the small startup have been seen in numerous apps on the iPhone and Android platforms.

AdMob was started in 2006 by Omar Hamoui, and has grown into a major player in mobile advertising. Google points out that the mobile world is becoming as increasingly important part of our daily lives. As such, Google would like to advertise to us in that part of our lives. Google said in a blog post that app developers will enjoy better monetization of their content because of this deal. They also promise advertisers a more engaged audience.

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