How to Not Buy a New PC  

Posted by Mohammad Talha in , , , , ,

'Tis the season for spending. But between the economy and the environment, do you really need a new PC? Here's how to eke a bit more life out of your older machine.

Tis surely the season for spending. But between the economy and the environment, do you really need a new PC this year? Maybe you do, and maybe you don't! Before blowing your budget on a new desktop or notebook PC, take a few minutes to see whether's library of performance enhancers can eke a bit more speed and reliability—a bit more useful life—out of your older machine.

Clean Out the Gunk
...and dust, pet hair, and everything else that accumulates on and in your keyboard, monitor, printer, fans, and CPU case. This is a pretty simple fix that can lead to dramatically improved performance—and it's not too time-consuming, although if you haven't ever physically cleaned out your system, you may be appalled at the accrued filth. Click for our guide to degunking the works.

For both performance and security, make sure your operating system and all applications are up to date. In Windows XP, that means selecting the Windows Update link from Internet Explorer's Tools menu. If you've bitten the bullet and bought into Vista, launch the Windows Update Control Panel to get the latest patches.

It's common knowledge that insufficient RAM and low hard drive space will cause an otherwise healthy computer's performance to lag terribly. But nearly every part of a desktop PC can be upgraded, often cheaply and without much fuss. Be sure to check out our most recent Upgrade Guide for tips on what to upgrade and how to get it done.

Seek Swifter Software
For everyday activities such as checking e-mail and surfing the Web, your choice of application can make a difference. Various speed tests are now a regular part of PCMag's browser reviews, and Windows' native browser is regularly trounced on these tests by alternative browsers such as Firefox, Opera, and Chrome.

Weed Out Useless Running Processes
The story called "Speed Up Windows XP" focuses on pre-Vista slowdowns, such as how to kill memory-hungry excess processes. But Vista users will benefit as well from learning how to use the free Process Explorer utility. Windows is notorious for keeping dozens of arguably unnecessary processes running in the background, sucking up system resources. Show 'em you're the boss by killing the extraneous ones.

Clean Up Your Start-Up
Both Windows XP and Windows Vista include a Start menu folder called Startup, and in it you'll probably see some application shortcuts. If there are programs listed in Startup that you don't want to load at system start-up (which will slow things down, after all), you can simply delete the shortcuts there. Easy peasy.

These days, however, many programs and processes that load at start-up aren't listed in the Start menu. You can still find them in the System Configuration editor (Start | Run | msconfig). And you'll find our instructions on taking advantage of this powerful dialog box here. There's even a video! (full Story)

64-Bit Computing Has Finally Arrived  

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We uncovered what 64-bit computing means (both to you and the pros) and ran hands-on tests with key apps on high-end workstations. What's more, we built our own 64-bit powerhouse, at a price that's lower than you'd guess. We'll show you how.

In technology, some ideas take time to germinate, none more so than 64-bit computing, where the operating system and software (including most drivers) run on a 64-bit CPU from Intel or AMD. Linux has been 64-bit for eight years, and Apple's operating system for five. But compatibility problems have dogged the 64-bit versions of Windows since its introduction in Windows XP. There are several key advantages, such as improved performance and support for many gigabytes of RAM. The real question is, why 64-bit—and why now? And, why should you care?

Let's be honest: The promise of 64-bit computing has been around for a while—some would say it's a broken promise. Yet the planets have finally aligned: Microsoft offers a 64-bit version of both Windows Vista Ultimate and Windows XP Pro, and 64-bit versions of Linux are freely available. According to Gartner, one out of every four PCs sold today comes with a 64-bit OS installed. As for hardware, both Intel and AMD have offered 64-bit processors for years. And the additional RAM supported by the wider data bus is now amazingly affordable, thanks to a streamlined manufacturing process and mainstream levels of demand.

Most important, companies such as Adobe, Apple, and Autodesk (and that's just those that start with the letter A) now offer their flagship software products in 64-bit versions. Adobe, for the first time, offers its Creative Suite 4 in a 64-bit version—currently for PC only, with a Mac version in the works.

The main benefit has to do with memory addressing. A quick lesson in processor technology: Long ago, the brilliant minds in computer science (engineers working at Intel and other companies) decided that a PC would need only a 32-bit "register size"—the amount of RAM a CPU can access. In mathematical terms, that's 232 or exactly 4GB of RAM. Back then, the high cost of memory and the absence of 64-bit software or operating systems meant that few imagined a CPU running in 64-bit mode. (full Story)

21 Cool iPhone Apps  

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So, you've got a gleaming new iPhone 3G. After you make a few calls to tell your friends, snap a few pictures, and try out the Web browser, it's time to load that thing up with software. After all, this device lets you go way beyond the usual calling, texting, and surfing. Apple's communicator extraordinaire knows how it's moving in space, can tell where it is on the planet, and lets you control it with multi-finger gestures. Few desktop computers give programmers as many possibilities, and developers have responded with hundreds of applications. The 21 apps we've collected here will transform your new device into far more than a phone.

and eReader can turn it into an e-book reader. Zagat to Go '09 makes your phone a restaurant finder that knows where you are, while OneTap Movies does the same for your local talkies. Want more immediate entertainment? Try Ms. Pac-Man and you've got a handheld retro-gaming console.

For aural amusement, soothe your ears with Pandora, which provides tunes you're bound to like based on previous choices you've made. But if you'd rather tune in to your own music collection, stream it from your computer with Simplify Media. Prefer making your own music? Produce dulcet tones with Ocarina, which uses the microphone and speaker of the iPhone to turn the device into a soothing woodwind instrument. The application's "globe view" even lets you share your creations with the world. And for the countless times when you don't want brilliant thoughts to slip away, there's Speakeasy Voice Recorder, which does exactly what its name implies.

We've got sports fans covered here, too. The free Sportacular keeps you up to date on your team's latest results, wherever you are. Lite put the iPhone GPS to clever use. It helps you sink that little white sphere into the cup by letting you know exactly how far you are from the hole. World sports fans will love Real Soccer 2009, which simulates professional footie games and even uses real player's names—now you can take Ronaldinho with you!

Some of the software we include can give your work life a boost, too. Air Sharing lets you wirelessly transfer files to and from computer. And Text Guru is full-featured text editor that finally gives the iPhone cut-and-paste capability. Microsoft's Seadragon, though mostly a technology demo at the moment, brings the promise of a new way to navigate huge amounts of information in a small form factor. Currently, it does impressive things with large collections of images, but its designers expect to extend its capabilities to documents in the future.

We couldn't leave out everyone's favorite after-work Web activity: social networking. The free Facebook app not only lets you keep up with your friends' updates but also chat and take pictures for instant uploading to your profile. The upstart—and also free—Yahoo oneConnect social-networking tool will actually aggregate several social-network feeds into one interface. You can check on your Facebook, bebo, Flickr, and other accounts. You can also chat with Yahoo Instant Messenger contacts using the app. For even more instant messaging, check out BeejiveIM, which hooks you up with multiple IM services. It will set you back $13, though—considerably more than most iPhone apps.

In any case, don't treat your iPhone simply as a mere cell phone, iPod, and mobile Web browser. That's a darned good start, but this device can do much more. To read full reviews of these apps, click on the links in this article or in the short summaries below. And to find even more software and Web applications for phones, PDAs, laptops, and desktops—make sure to visit our Software Product Guide.

Air Sharing for iPhoneAir Sharing (for iPhone)
Editors' Choice Logo
$6.99 direct
Air Sharing turns your iPhone into a networked drive that can wirelessly transfer files to and from your computers, while also letting you view a wide variety of file types on your phone. At $6.99, it's not cheap as iPhone apps go, but well worth the outlay.

BeejiveIM for iPhoneBeejiveIM (for iPhone)

$15.99 direct
Even when this app is closed, it can connect to multiple IM clients and send message notifications to the iPhone Mail app. To switch chats, simply shake the phone! One drawback: It's pricey compared with most iPhone apps, at $15.99.

Caddy.Me Lite (for iPhone)

$9.99 direct
Caddy.Me Lite, which gives golfing yardage estimates accurate to within about 10 yards, can save you strokes when you're caddyless on an unfamiliar course.

CameraBag 1.4CameraBag 1.4 (for iPhone)

$2.99 direct
Whether you're a nostalgia buff, a photography student, or just someone who wants to spruce up your iPhone photos, the easy-to-use CameraBag lets you remake your images to resemble various photographic styles ranging from vintage snapshots to techniques used by noted photographers.

eReader 1.3 (for iPhone) : BookshelfeReader 1.3 (for iPhone)

eReader does a decent job of presenting books on your iPhone, and I like the dictionary option, but acquiring reading matter needs to be easier and the software should support more file formats. Its quick bookmarking and ability to switch to reverse text mode (white letters on a black background) will be a hit with some.

Facebook for the iPhoneFacebook (for iPhone)

Facebook's iPhone app delivers a streamlined version of the immensely popular social-networking service, including status updates and basic chat, mail, and photo functions. But it could stand to be a little more robust—for example, by making use of the iPhone 3G's GPS features.

Ms. Pac-ManMs. Pac-Man (for iPhone)

$5.99 direct
If you have a hankering for some old-school gaming, this version of Ms. Pac-Man for the iPhone delivers most of the fun of the arcade original, with a few extra features that enhance the overall experience.

OcarinaOcarina (for iPhone)
Editors' Choice Logo
$0.99 direct
The first application that turns the iPhone into a musical instrument offers a well-thought-out, fun pastime that's sure to impress your cronies. The app makes innovative, unique use of iPhone's features, teaches music concepts, and sports an eager community of song-score contributors. Not only that, it lets you hear performances from ocarinists around the world.

OneTap Movies for iPhoneOneTap Movies (for iPhone)

The OneTap Movies iPhone app can help you locate a nearby flick when you're on the go. You can watch trailers of movies you're considering, too.

Pandora (for iPhone)Pandora (for iPhone)
Editors' Choice Logo
Pandora's version of its user-customizable Internet music service for the iPhone keeps its simple charms and clean interface while eschewing a few of its more advanced features. It's free, and sports an attractive, uncluttered interface. On it, you can keep using the Web version's thumbs-up, thumbs-down ratings on songs.

Photogene (for iPhone) : LandscapePhotogene (for iPhone)
Editors' Choice Logo
$2.99 direct
The scope of Photogene's editing tools—which includes many that other iPhone photo-editing apps lack—makes this a very appealing app.

Real Soccer 2009Real Soccer 2009 (for iPhone)

$7.99 direct
Soccer diehards who can get past some wonkiness with the controls should be impressed with the graphics and the depth of the game play that Real Soccer 2009 offers. In fact, the number of options may overwhelm more casual fans.

Seadragon Mobile : Splash ScreenSeadragon Mobile (for iPhone)

Seadragon is certainly an impressive technology to see in action on the iPhone. It's free, and lets you view huge images with astounding zoom possibilities without downloading a huge file all at once. As a plus, it offers a slick slideshow feature. However, we await more functionality and a functioning Photosynth viewer.

Simplify MediaSimplify Media (for iPhone)

Simplify Media offers an excellent way to share or listen to music streamed to your iPhone from your computer. It won't stream secure AAC files to the iPhone, but it will let you share streams with up to 30 friends and displays artist bios and song lyrics.

SpeakEasy Voice RecorderSpeakeasy Voice Recorder (for iPhone)

$1.99 direct
SpeakEasy Voice Recorder stands out among the many voice-recording iPhone apps, thanks to its simple interface and ability to download files to play in iTunes. It's very easy to use, lets you download files to listen to using iTunes, and offers five recording-quality options. A few technical limitations keep it from being a perfect solution, however.

SportacularSportacular (for iPhone)

Looking for an easy way to keep track of the latest sports scores or your fantasy lineup on your iPhone? The free Sportacular has most of the bases covered with frequently updated scoring, stats, and other game info for your favorite sports.

StanzaStanza (for iPhone)
Editors' Choice Logo
With support for a broad range of content, Stanza is the most versatile e-book application for the iPhone.

Star Wars: The Force UnleashedStar Wars: The Force Unleashed (for iPhone)

$7.99 direct
The Force Unleashed casts you as an aspiring apprentice to Darth Vader, who dispatches you to eliminate the remaining Jedi knights around the Empire. You can play through Story mode, which moves you from chapter to chapter to face new combatants (and unlock additional Force powers), or you can choose Survival mode, where you encounter an increasing number of enemies while you try to achieve a high score.

TextGuru for iPhoneTextGuru (for iPhone)

$4.99 direct
A full-featured text-editing app, TextGuru finally adds cutting and pasting to the iPhone. Its implementation isn't ideal, however, and the interface could stand a few additions to make this a standout program. (full Story)

Windows 7 Beta 1 is Leaked  

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Just hours ago, Windows 7 Beta 1 (Build 7000) was leaked on major torrent sites (, the and Microsoft was supposed to announce Windows 7 Beta 1 at CES in January and it would have been available only to selected beta-testers.


Windows 7 Beta 1 Properties

The news about leaked version was first available in Russian and Chinese forums and then the leaked version made its way to torrent-sites. Only the 32 bit version of Windows 7 Beta 1 has been leaked and there are rumors of Windows 7 Beta 1 64 bit version being leaked soon too.

We can confirm that the current leaked version 7000.0.081212-1400_client_en-us_Ultimate-GB1CULFRE_EN_DVD is a real deal and it is working fine. (full Story) - Blog Search