CES 2009 – Technology Showcase from Microsoft

•January 8, 2009 • Comments Off on CES 2009 – Technology Showcase from Microsoft

Microsoft Future Products Demo
Kicking things off for Microsoft, CEO Steve Ballmer announced the availability Windows 7 beta which will be downloadable from here when ready for the public.

As expected Microsoft showcases a variety of prototypes and focuses on the upcoming release of Windows 7.

Microsoft demonstrates their future vision of software and hardware including a 1mm think active display which is similar to what is being used in digital text books.

Microsoft unveils their new Xbox Kodu Technology in gaming
According to a Microsoft press release, Kodu’s colorful vistas are “expressed in physical action-reaction terms, using basic concepts like vision, hearing and time to control your character’s behavior.”

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Holiday Gift Guide 2008 – Hotest items for Santa

•November 20, 2008 • Comments Off on Holiday Gift Guide 2008 – Hotest items for Santa

PCWizKid provides tips, tweaks and reviews PC hardware all year, but when the holiday season is near PCWizKid likes to gather up the highlights in a gift guide to make it easy to figure out which items to get your friends and loved ones.

Click on any of the category icons below for the “gifts to consider” recommended for this year.

Gadgets

Laptops

Video Games

PC’s and LCD’s

Free HDTV – over the air with Pinnacle HD PCTV.

•November 5, 2008 • Comments Off on Free HDTV – over the air with Pinnacle HD PCTV.

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pctv_hd_prostick_hw_lgHD Free-to-Air TV viewing has become popular in the past year, specially now that cable companies are switching to fully Digital and HDTV is becoming more of a standard.

However if you arent a HDTV subscriber and would like a free flexible alternative to watching HDTV on your PC, Pinnacle has created a sleek device, the PCTV HD Pro Stick.

The PCTV HD Pro handles Standard definition TV cable (NTSC) , HD (ATSC) and FM Radio. It also allows you to connect to your cable service directly into the wall using ClearQAM for any unencrypted digital signal (in most cases all your basic channels). The HD broadcast playback is up to 1080i, both on ASTC and ClearQAM and handle over-the-air SD/HD programming.

In our video review below PCWizKid sets up and installs the the PCTV HD Pro USB Stick (model 801e) in Windows Vista Ultimate (64 bit edition). However we also test it in Windows XP Pro 32bit which is basically the same when it comes to using the software provided by Pinnacle.

The Minimum System Requirements from Pinnacle are

  • Windows Vista™ (32 bit) or Windows XP with latest service pack
  • Intel Pentium® 4 2.4 GHz, Pentium M 1.3 GHz or AMD Athlon 64 processor (for HDTV reception, a Pentium 4 2.8 0GHz or Pentium M 1.7 GHz or equivalent AMD
  • Athlon 64 processor is recommended)
  • RAM: Windows Vista – 512 MB (1GB recommended) for Windows XP – 256 MB RAM (512 MB recommended)
  • A USB 2.0 port
  • Sound / graphics controller with support for DirectX 9 or higher
  • Hard drive with minimum 1 GB free space (20 GB recommended for TV recording)
  • CD/DVD drive to install the Pinnacle software or burn your recordings to

PCWizKid’s Test System Specs met and exceeded the recommended
– Intel Core Duo T7400(2.16GHz)
– 2 Gig of memory (PC2-5300 DDR2)
– 100 Gig Hard drive (5400 rpm SATA)
– ATI Mobility RADEON X1400
– Windows Vista Ultimate 64Bit and Windows XP Pro 32bit


Feature Summary

  • Supports both digital over-the-air (ATSC) and unencrypted digital cable (ClearQAM) HDTV.
    (The new digital broadcast standard, is now available in many areas of the United States and Canada. ATSC reception is dependent on many factors. The provided antenna will allow reception in areas where there is a good ATSC signal. In regions or rooms where the signal is not strong, an amplified rooftop antenna will be required. It is generally not possible to receive an ATSC signal while en route (e.g. in a car or train). Please consult with your local reseller or go to http://www.antennaweb.org for more information on areas covered and optimizing your reception. For ClearQAM Internet connection required; free 1 year trial. )
  • Stereo sound for both digital and analog TV
  • Stereo FM radio reception
  • Watch SD and free HD TV on your PC with the provided antenna
  • Mini remote control and high-gain telescopic antenna
  • Use your PC as a PVR with TimeShifting: pause, rewind TV
  • Electronic Program Guide (EPG)
  • Compatible with Windows® Media Center (provided in Windows Vista™)
  • VideoSpin editing software included
  • A/V adapter cable included for capture from your cable/satellite box or camcorder
  • Automatically record to your hard drive in MPEG-1/2 or DivX formats

Conclusions
Overall the PCTV HD Pro Stick delivers a terrific package of features for PC TV viewing. The performance is good as long as you have a fast processor and enough free memory. Multitasking will slow things down, and the software included is a litle slow when changing channels in general, however the TVCenter Pro is intuitive to use. The flexibility in being ablt to connect to your existing cable outlet, receiver box or antenna is a big plus which ensures that where ever you go you have options for TV viewing. The free HD (ATSC) viewing was very good when the signal was above 80% and all the regular digital cable channels (using ClearQam) were excellent.
Considering it all, the value for the buck is exceptional for what your getting.

pctv_rating41

Mastering the Windows Registry

•October 19, 2008 • Comments Off on Mastering the Windows Registry

Windows XP TipsWindows XP Tips Windows Vista TipsWindows Vista Tips Ubuntu TipsUbuntu Tips Miscellaneous TipsOther Tips


PCWizKid has demonstrated how to hack and tweak your registry settings for optimizing your Windows configuration. Now lets take a look on how the registry is setup to better give you an understanding on what you are doing when you edit the registry next time.

First I cant stop reminding people to always do a Windows Restore point or backup your registry in case something goes wrong should you edit the registry and do something to it yourself.

To start the Registry Editor, click the Start button (in XP) or the ORB button (in Vista) and then click RUN and type regedit and press OK. Whatch the video walkthrough for a step by step walkthrough.

Hives

The registry is constructed as a database, and offers DB-like features such as automatic updates.

The Registry is split into a number of logical sections, or “hives”. Hives are generally named by their Windows API definitions, which all begin “HKEY”. They are abbreviated to a three- or four-letter short name starting with “HK” (e.g. HKCU and HKLM).

The HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE and HKEY_CURRENT_USER nodes have a similar structure to each other; applications typically look up their settings by first checking for them in “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Vendor’s name\Application’s name\Version\Setting name”, and if the setting is not found look instead in the same location under the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE key. When writing settings back, the reverse approach is used — HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE is written first, but if that cannot be written to (which is usually the case if the logged-in user is not an administrator), the setting is stored in HKEY_CURRENT_USER instead.

HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT

Abbreviated HKCR, HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT stores information about registered applications, such as file associates and Object Class IDs tying them to the applications used to handle these items. On Windows XP and Vista HKCR is a compilation of HKCU\Software\Classes and HKLM\Software\Classes. If a given value exists in both of the subkeys above, the one in HKCU\Software\Classes is used.

HKEY_CURRENT_USER

Abbreviated HKCU, HKEY_CURRENT_USER stores settings that are specific to the currently logged-in user. The HKCU key is a link to the subkey of HKEY_USERS that corresponds to the user; the same information is reflected in both locations. On Windows-NT based systems, each user’s settings are stored in their own files called NTUSER.DAT and USRCLASS.DAT inside their own Documents and Settings subfolder (or their own Users subfolder in Windows Vista). Settings in this hive follow users with a roaming profile from machine to machine.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE

Abbreviated HKLM, HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE stores settings that are general to all users on the computer. On NT-based versions of Windows, HKLM contains four subkeys, SAM, SECURITY, SOFTWARE and SYSTEM, that are found within their respective files located in the %SystemRoot%\System32\Config folder. A fifth subkey, HARDWARE, is volatile and is created dynamically, and as such is not stored in a file. Information about system hardware drivers and services are located under the SYSTEM subkey, while the SOFTWARE subkey contains software and Windows settings.

HKEY_USERS

Abbreviated HKU, HKEY_USERS contains subkeys corresponding to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER keys for each user profile actively loaded on the machine, though user hives are usually only loaded for currently logged-in users.

HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG

Abbreviated HKCC, HKEY_CURRENT_CONFIG contains information gathered at runtime; information stored in this key is not permanently stored on disk, but rather regenerated at the boot time.

Backing up the registry
The entire registry can be backed up more easily as it is just a small number of files in specific locations. Click here to learn how to backup your registry in this video tutorial.

For Windows XP

1. Click Start, click Run, type %SystemRoot%\system32\restore\rstrui.exe, and then click OK.
2. On the Welcome to System Restore page, click Create a restore point, and then click Next .
3. On the Create a Restore Point page, type a name for the restore point and then click Create
4. After the restore point has been created, click Close.

For Windows Vista
1. Click StartStart button, type systempropertiesprotection in the Start Search box, and then press ENTER.
User Access Control permission If you are prompted for an administrator password or for a confirmation, type the password, or click Allow.
2. Wait for Windows to search for available disks and most recent restore points. In the System Properties dialog box, on the System Protection tab, click Create,
3. Type a name for the restore point and then click Create.
4. After the restore point has been created successfully, click OK two times.

Other Registry Tweaks Users read and watched

3D Cube Virtual Desktop for Windows

•October 10, 2008 • Comments Off on 3D Cube Virtual Desktop for Windows

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DeskSpace (formally knows as Yod’m 3D) significantly increases your desktop space, allowing you to work and play on multiple desktops. It is for Windows XP and Vista. We have seen this in Ubuntu’s Compiz Fusion desktop effects already here aswell.

With DeskSpace you can work with multiple desktops in 3D, and quickly switch between desktops using the mouse and keyboard.

PCWizKid has been given the latest version 1.5.5.3 of the software and made a brief video review of the desktop enhancement program from Okatu Software.

The minimum system requirements for DeskSpace are:

* Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows Vista x64.
* 800 Mhz CPU.
* 256 MB RAM.
* 16 MB DirectX 8.1 compatible video card *.

* Minimum ATI Radeon 7200 or nVidia GeForce 2 required. Video cards based on the nVidia TNT2, ATI Rage Pro/128, and Intel Extreme chipsets may work, but are not supported.

Eliminate Desktop Clutter
Don’t have enough space to fit all your icons and windows on a single desktop? DeskSpace gives you more room to store everything you need for your day-to-day work and play.

DeskSpace eliminates desktop clutter by giving you the ability to store your windows and desktop icons across multiple desktops.

Get Organized
Does limited desktop space make it hard for you to stay organized? DeskSpace helps you organize your work flow, allowing you use a separate desktop for each of your tasks. With DeskSpace, you could have a one desktop for web browsing, a separate desktop for word processing, and another desktop for spreadsheets.

Here are some key features of “Deskspace”:

  • Work and play on multiple desktops.
  • Display multiple desktops in stunning 3D.
  • Quickly switch between desktops using the mouse and keyboard.
  • Drag windows between desktops by moving them to the sides of the screen.
  • Display desktops in 3D on multiple monitors.
  • Configure the hot keys and mouse buttons used to switch between desktops, and how DeskSpace displays and manages desktop.
  • Use DeskSpace in multiple languages.

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Windows Vista – Free Expose Desktop Effect

•September 30, 2008 • Comments Off on Windows Vista – Free Expose Desktop Effect

If you have Vista Aero enabled, you can add the popular Expose Switcher effect. This desktop effect has been around in OSX and Ubuntu, however in Vista you can get it for free from insentient.net. Switcher 2.x is a nice free alternative to the built in 3D Flip feature in Vista and uses little memory and resources.
Watch PCWizKid’s video walk through of this expose effect for Windows Vista

Here are sample views you can configure in Switcher.

  • Dock view Dock view places all windows except the active one to the side.
  • Grid view Grid view arranges the windows into a grid.
  • Tile view Tile view shrinks the windows until you can see all of them.

Download Switcher 2.0 directly here

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Google Chrome – First Impressions

•September 3, 2008 • Comments Off on Google Chrome – First Impressions

Google has released its own web browser named “Chrome”. Google claims their new browser combines a minimal design with sophisticated technology to make the web faster, safer, and easier. Though its only out in beta for Windows XP/Vista users , Linux and Mac folks will have to wait a little longer.

Well, lets take a look and see what its all about shall we…

As seen in my video walk through the installation was quick. It did ask to import my Firefox bookmarks which It didn’t allow initially since I had Firefox running at the same time.

My impression on its performance and speed
Opening the browser was quick, then again I had no bookmarks and hadn’t used it yet. However as I visited more and more pages the initial response to opening them was always faster than what I am used to in any other web browser. In other words there was little lag overall. Every tab you’re using is run independently in the browser, so if one app crashes it won’t take anything else down. You also have the ability to end the process and kill off individual items such as a flash video player using a built in google task manager.

My impression on GUI (Graphic User Interface)
The interface is indeed streamlined. Keeping with the minimalistic view and menu options I scrambled to find all the options and icons that I was used to seeing in IE and Firefox. One thing for sure the default theme is the only theme, you cant change it. To access your bookmarks you need to go to the far right and click “Other bookmarks” which is different.

The browser buttons given are BACK, FORWARD, RELOAD and BOOKMARK. I whent into the options to add the HOME icon and that was it. If your wanting a STOP, HISTORY or PRINT button they arent there. You will have to access the History using the alternative methods such as CTRL+H and print a web page using CTRL+P. I did like the default open full screen look that gave me more viewing area.

Along the top the familiar tabs are of fixed width and can be easily added or removed, dragged and dropped. These dynamic tabs allow you to gather multiple tabs into one window or arrange your tabs however you wish. When you open a new tab it shows your most visited websites, recently visited bookmarks, and recently-closed tabs and full history. One thing I didnt find along the top was the search box like in Firefox. Instead the URL field is used as the search, keeping with minimizing options and clutter.

My impression on features
For web developers I was delighted to see that in the view the page source option Google shows it in multiple colors with line numbers and if you use the “inspect element” it displays the code used on a page in great detail.

Like “InPrivate” browsing, a feature in IE8 beta 2, Chrome’s “Incognito” browsing feature allows you to surf the Web without leaving any history behind. This feature is also referred to as the “porn mode” for browsing.

The download bar doesn’t indicate progress, it just shows a megabyte number. Weak.

Without any add-ons for it Google Chrome warns you if you’re about to visit a suspected phishing, malware or otherwise unsafe website.

DOWNLOAD Google’s Chrome browser from here

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