Sunday, January 24, 2010

Maximum PC Load Letter #36: Video Encoding, Addictive Flash Games, and Nvidia's GF100



Issue 036

ednoteHappy New Year!

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday and a good start to 2010! We started the year off with CES, and I wanted to share the top five things I saw at the show:

5. Parrot AR.Drone : A small quadricopter with two cameras, auto stabilization, and iPhone control. Sweeeeet.
4. Tablet Concepts from Asus, Foxconn, and Quanta: The hardware is there, so now we're just waiting for a great tablet OS.
3. Alienware MX11 Notebook: Real PC gaming on a laptop that doesn't weight a ton or cost a fortune.
2. Real USB 3.0 consumer hardware: Portable hard drives are sexy again.
1. D-Link's Boxee Box : Most media streamers falter when it comes to user interface, but this Tegra 2-powered device is poised to crush the competition with its speedy Boxee software.

We also have a ton of new features on the site, including a great Handbrake power user's guide and a roundup of totally addiction-worthy Flash games. Check it all out!

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 qualify for giveaways! We've also launched a TechMart, where you can buy special issues of Maximum PC.
Norman Chan
Online Editor, Maximum PC

The Power User's Guide to Video Encoding with Handbrake feature1_newsletter -- Whether you own an iPod touch, Zune HD, Nintendo DSi, or any number of other portable devices, there's one tool that makes easy work out of ripping DVDs and converting incompatible video files into manageable formats: Handbrake. This wonderful utility has just about everything you could ask for, including robust compatibility, a slick interface, and snappy performance. And if that weren't enough, the developers have chosen to give the program away for free.
But do you know how to create, backup, and transfer your own custom settings for the Xbox 360, PS3, and other popular media players not included by default? Do you know how to encode a copy protected DVD with the least amount off fuss? We do, and on the following pages, we'll guide you through a series of advanced tips for getting the most out of Handbrake.
If you like this story, please help us by Digging it!

Everything You Need to Know About Nvidia's GF100 (Fermi) GPU -- Nvidia's latest generation GPU is going through the most painful, drawn out gestation period since the company's first programmable GPU, the GeForce 5800 series. Like the more recent GeForce 280 GTX, the current GF100 (the code name, not the final name) chip represents a major, ground-up architectural redesign.
Recently, we spent the better part of a day being briefed on the GF100, which represents the first actual graphics processor built with Nvidia's Fermi architecture. The basic Fermi architecture layers graphics functionality atop a powerful parallel compute engine. As GPU compute becomes more important, both in games and in certain classes of mainstream applications, it makes sense to build an architecture that builds more general purpose capability.
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Casual Encounters--22 Flash Games Worth Getting Addicted To -- Five minutes here, a lunch break there, the urge to procrastinate. The free browser-based Flash game has evolved with the technology, producing some high-quality time-killers that can interrupt the most productive of days. With volume comes choices. But you don't want to waste time browsing-you need the definitive go-to guide to the best of what's out there. We did the leg (hand and mouse) work for you. Many sites collect hundreds of these free games-check out Kongregate.com, Armorgames.com, Gamebrew.com, as examples-but scan our list and you'll be on the road to fun, free entertainment in no time. Plus, for a hint of nostalgia, or to get your feet wet with casual gaming, spend some quality time with classics of the genre, collected in our list of all-time favorites.
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Reining in the Router Rabble--Six 802.11n Routers Reviewed -- In our last router roundup, way back in November 2007, we wrote, "We're months away from a final IEEE 802.11n standard." We never imagined that months would stretch into nearly two years before that standards body would finally finish ironing out all the details. But now that the spec has been ratified, 802.11n routers abound-and their prices have dropped dramatically. Each of the routers in this roundup implements features of the IEEE 802.11n standard, but not all of them carry the Wi-Fi Alliance's 802.11n certification logo. We'll go into more detail about this in our buyers guide.
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Maximum PC's 2009 Gaming Awards -- The games are played, the votes are tallied, and our crack team of vote tabulators has tabulated the results. We've played literally hundreds of games this year-big games, small games, good games, and games that just plain sucked-solely for the purpose of presenting you, our adoring audience, with the undisputed list of the finest moments, experiences, and surprises in gaming for the year 2009. Without further ado, we now commence Maximum PC's Gaming Awards!





Freeware King of the Hill: TweetDeck Versus Four Twitter Apps!
I've been a stalwart user of TweetDeck for all my 140-character messaging needs for quite some time now. But that's the problem with having a favorite freeware program: Your devotion to a tried-and-true application could be preventing you from reaching out and discovering a program that does an even better job. I mean, TweetDeck--awesome as can be--sure isn't perfect. There are a few features I wish I could get my hands on and, conversely, a few features I wish I could excise from the program with one almighty keystroke.

So, instead of just profiling five different Twitter apps this week, I'm going to make this more of a challenge. TweetDeck has been a top Twitter application on the market for some time now. What has it been up to since we last took a look at the software. More importantly, what other apps have risen the occasion to challenge--or topple--this killer program?
Freeware Files: Nine Must-Have Extensions and Apps for Google Chrome!
It's been exactly a month since we last visited the topic of Google Chrome. With both Windows and OSX beta versions of the browser now supporting add-ons, and with nearly 1,500 possible extensions flooding the Chrome Extensions "marketplace" since December 8, 2009, it's about time to take another look at the overflowing mass of Chrome add-ons. Why? To build the perfect browser, of course.


Bonus Podcast: Gordon's All-Rant Episode 2009 Edition

So much rage, it couldn't be contained in just one audio file. Early-exclusive for newsletter subscribers!

Download Part 1

Download Part 2

Windows 7 Now Officially Supported in Boot Camp
Apple has decided to join the Windows 7 club, or at least let users of Mac hardware to become members. It has released an updated version of Boot Camp that will let you install Windows 7 on intel-based Macs. Hooray?
Boot Camp version 3.1 will let you install either the 32-bit or 64-bit versions of Windows 7 Home, Premium, Professional, and Ultimate. Jason Mick, at DailyTech, says the 32-bit version requires 380.7 MB of disk space, while the 64-bit version checks in at a much slimmer 274.6MB. Mick reports installation is painless, and corrects most all of the deficiencies of running Windows 7 on a Mac prior to this release, including correcting trackpad issues and fixing incompatibilities with Apple's Magic Mouse and bluetooth keyboard.
Boxee Announces Payment Platform for Premium Content
The Boxee folks have found themselves lodged between content owners and its user base for some time. On one hand, Boxee has always promised to deliver as much content for the right price (i.e. free). On the other, premium content owners have gotten wise to the fact that they are missing out on serious cash by not jumping on the internet TV bandwagon.

Hence, Boxee has made some deals with said content owners to offer a Payment Platform for Boxee. They are hoping that by trying to bridge this gap they can make more content available to Boxee users, while still offering even the most premium content at a fair price. They define their business model in terms of transaction fees, which the commit to be less than the 30% charged by other digital storefronts.
GammaTech Unveils High-capacity Durabook D14E Rugged Laptops
GammaTech is poised to release the Durabook D14 E-series ultra rugged laptops. Overall the new model is fairly similar to the older D14RM, but this one will come equipped with a full 1TB of hard drive space. The manufacturer claims the system will be resistant to drops, spills, and dust accumulation thanks to the magnesium case and anti-shock materials. That's a lot of storage that you can toss around with reckless abandon.

Asus to Launch Ion 2-Based Eee PC in April
Netbooks might never become full-blown notebook replacements, but they do keep inching towards powerful companions capable of more than just basic Web surfing and emailing. Nvidia's Ion platform is largely to thank, and come April, Asus said it will have an Eee PC ready built around Nvidia's second-gen Ion platform, Ion 2.
The upcoming Eee PC will probably sport an Intel Atom N450 processor, currently the newest Atom on the block. And so will most other netbooks, as Intel's Atom N270 and N280 chips start to disappear from the limelight, with models built around those two chips starting to be phased out of the market place.
Asus will also tap into AMD's Congo platform with 12-inch Eee PCs. These should start shipping next month, though it's unclear if that includes the U.S. market.




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