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first looks - Parent Directory
THE BEST Photo Printers • $20 Keyboards
Parental Control Software • Smartphones
SPECIAL WINDOWS EXPOSÉ
Unauthorized
Windows
Vista
19 Secrets from
Our Microsoft Mole
PLUS
The Truth
Behind the Delay
ALSO INSIDE
MAY 9, 2006
www.pcmag.com
11 Cool Sci-Fi Gadgets
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PCONTENTS
MAY 9, 2006 VOL. 25 NO. 8
C OV E R S T O R Y
WHY YOU WANT
VISTA NOW
58
The much-anticipated and
oft-delayed Windows Vista is
still months away from shipping. So why do
you want it now? Easy: Even at this early
date, Vista is damn cool, and it’s bursting at
the seams with new tools for productivity,
entertainment, and computing safety.
TM
23 FIRST LOOKS
24 Hardware
HP Pavilion Media Center
TV m7360n PC
32 Consumer
Electronics
Olympus Evolt E-330
Sony VAIO VGC-RC210G
LG CU320
Lenovo ThinkPad X60s
Samsung Yepp YP-Z5
Sony VAIO VGN-SZ170P
StarTech MP3 AirLink
42 Software
ClipMarks
Buying Guide: Parental
Controls
Safe Eyes
46 Small Business
Lexmark E120n
Sennheiser CX-300
ReadyNAS NV
Iomega ScreenPlay
NEC 42XR4
Yellow Machine P400T
Lenovo 3000 C100
Buying Guide: Windows
Mobile Devices
Symantec Backup Exec 10d
for Windows Servers with
Continuous Protection
Server 10.1
Buying Guide: Dedicated
Photo Printers
T-Mobile SDA
Epson PictureMate Deluxe
Viewer Edition
ClearOne Chat 50
50 What to Buy
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Cover Illustration by Joe Zeff, Bill Gates Photograph: Reuters/Corbis
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 7
PCONTENTS
FUTURE GADGETS
KEEPING UP WITH THE JETSONS
80
We asked the industry’s top design experts to reveal their most
innovative ideas for future products. Here are some of the most
inspired concepts that help propel tech gear into tomorrow.
OPINIONS
11 First Word
Jim Louderback
53 Inside Track
John C. Dvorak
55 Michael J. Miller
56 Bill Machrone
144 John C. Dvorak
PIPELINE
18 Control your PC
through your phone
Visit the pocket doctor;
Running Windows—
on a Mac?
19 Future Watch
The brain-to-computer
interface
SOLUTIONS
113 The Connected
Traveler in
San Francisco
San Francisco has the
Exploratorium, Sony’s
Metreon, and a wirelessenabled ballpark. Coming
soon: free citywide Wi-Fi.
116 Security Watch
Why plain passwords are
dangerous, and how to
create strong ones.
117 Ask Loyd
SATA and PATA hard
drives; Intel vs. AMD; a
disconnecting network.
118 Ask Neil
Make words blink in
Access; make thumbnails
larger in Windows XP; turn
off peripherals at shutdown,
and more.
122 SMB Boot Camp
Web site analytics can help
your business know its
customers and maximize
its profits.
125 Software Solutions
Replay AV is like a VCR for
your PC.
GAMING &
CULTURE
TECHNORIDE
REAL-WORLD TESTING
KEYBOARDS FOR LESS
20 Mercedes ML 250
86
Keyboards that are great for typing may not work as well for gaming, and vice versa. Is there a keyboard that’s good for both—and
that you can have for less than $20? We rounded up six low-priced boards and
put them to the test. Here we reveal our favorites.
Geneva Auto Show
tech highlights; Hymotion:
more hybrid efficiency;
diesel cars are back.
GEARLOG
143 Toshiba’s jazzy
MP3 players
21 Bill Howard
ALSO INSIDE
BUILD IT
16 Feedback
A SILENT PC
16 Abort, Retry, Fail
91
More processing and graphics power means more heat, thus more
whirring fans. You want your high-performance computer to run like
a race car—not to sound like one! Our hints and mods hit noise at its sources;
we show you how to make a screamer that’s as quiet as a library.
PC Magazine, ISSN 0888-8507, is published semi-monthly except monthly in January and July at $44.97 for one
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8 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
140 PlayStation 3:
What we know
PCMAG ONLINE
Want to learn more
about Microsoft’s
impending operating
system? Go to
PCMag.com for all
the Windows Vista
info you need, including news articles,
expert opinions, and
screenshots of the
test builds. See
go.pcmag.com/vista.
F I R ST WO R D
BY JIM LOUDERBACK, EDITOR
Just as Windows 95 delivered a radically improved experience
compared with Windows 3.11, Vista promises a similar leap.
A
should last for around two hours between charges.
That’s what I remember most
Spawned via a sad ménage à trois between the Portable
from Microsoft’s gala launch
Media Center, the Tablet PC, and Windows CE, this
of Windows 95. That operating
unfortunate love child is doomed. It will inherit the
system—a great improvement
failures of its parents, including tepid sales and poor
over its predecessor, Windows
industry support.
3.11—debuted at a big party in
Microsoft has high hopes for the UMPC, promising
a field on Microsoft’s Redmond
that it “will eventually become as indispensable and
campus. But Microsoft didn’t need the carnival or the
ubiquitous as mobile phones are today.” But the dearth
comic; Windows 95 stood on its own.
of launch partners belies the optimism: Where were
Eleven years later, it’s déjà vu all over again. DeToshiba, Dell, HP, and Gateway? Samsung will deliver
spite a recently announced delay, the long, slow slog to
a UMPC, but it won’t confirm a U.S. launch. Asian PC
Windows Vista is drawing to a close. Just as Windows
maker Asus is the lone vendor that has promised the
95 delivered a radically improved experience comtablet to the U.S. That’s hardly a ringing endorsement.
pared with Windows 3.11, Vista promises a similar
Considering a UMPC? Think about what you’d use
leap over XP.
it for. The upcoming Sony Reader for e-books promises
Although it won’t ship until early next year, you can
far better battery life in a much more readable format.
actually start using it within a few weeks, if not already.
Want a tiny, extremely mobile PC? Both the OQO and
Microsoft plans to offer a beta copy of Vista to anyone
Toshiba’s Libretto offer more, albeit at higher prices.
with a few bucks.
We’re looking forward to testing the UMPC, and I’ll
If you’re like most PC Magazine readers, you enjoy
even promise to carry one for a few weeks and report
sampling revolutionary products and applying their
back. But my prognosis, so far, is not good. Q
benefits before others catch a clue. But something as
complex as an overhauled operating system resembles
the original “Adventure” text game—at times it can be
a tangled maze of many paths.
Lucky you, though. In this issue we reveal the results of hundreds of hours of Vista exploration. PC
Magazine was granted unprecedented access to Microsoft’s Vista development team; contributing editor
John Clyman has been embedded inside Redmond
for months. We’ve found nine great reasons why you’ll
want Vista now, along with lots of secrets to help you
get the most out of Microsoft’s latest OS.
Considering the Vista plunge? Come on in, the
water’s fine. Whether you like playing games, exploring the Internet, or enjoying multimedia, Vista will
greatly enhance your Windows experience. Our collection of secrets and insights will help you navigate
the deep pools and rocky coves of the new OS. We
don’t know what entertainment Microsoft will feature
at Vista’s launch party, but that’s about all we’re still
foggy about.
Origami. I’m bullish about Microsoft’s updated
operating system, but I’m far less sanguine about its
newest portable platform. Originally code-named Origami, it’s now called the Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC).
This Windows XP–based tablet weighs two pounds,
includes a 7-inch touch screen but no keyboard, YYePG
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Illustration by Sashimi
FERRIS WHEEL AND JAY LENO.
MORE ON THE WEB
You can contact
Jim Louderback at
Jim_Louderback
@ziffdavis.com.
For more of his
columns, go to
go.pcmag.com/
louderback.
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 11
姞
www.pcmag.com
Jim Louderback
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Lance Ulanoff
EDITOR, TECHNOLOGY Ben Z. Gottesman
EXECUTIVE EDITORS Stephanie Chang, Carol L. Gonsher, Vicki B. Jacobson (online),
Jeremy A. Kaplan
ART DIRECTOR Richard J. Demler
MANAGING EDITOR Paul B. Ross
EDITOR, REVIEWS
REVIEWS
Sean Carroll (software, Internet, networking), Dan Costa (consumer electronics),
Jennifer DeFeo (hardware), Carol Mangis (TechnoRide), Sebastian Rupley (West Coast, Pipeline)
LEAD ANALYSTS Cisco Cheng, Robert Heron, Davis D. Janowski, Oliver Kaven, Mike Kobrin,
Neil J. Rubenking, Joel Santo Domingo, Sascha Segan, M. David Stone, Terry Sullivan
REVIEWS EDITORS Brian Bennett (hardware), Gary Berline (software, Internet, networking),
Laarni Almendrala Ragaza (consumer electronics)
WEB PRODUCERS Rachel B. Florman, Molly K. McLaughlin, Jenn Trolio
PRODUCT DATABASE MANAGER Gina Suk COMMERCE PRODUCER Arielle Rochette
PRODUCT REVIEW COORDINATOR PJ Jacobowitz
INVENTORY CONTROL COORDINATOR Nicole Graham
SENIOR EDITORS
FEATURES
FEATURES EDITORS
Dan Evans, Sarah Pike, Erik Rhey
Metz STAFF EDITOR Tony Hoffman
SENIOR WRITER Cade
ART
Michael St. George ASSOCIATE ART DIRECTOR Liana Zamora
Aaron Able GRAPHICS DIRECTOR David Foster
Scott Schedivy
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ASSISTANT ART DIRECTOR
STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
PRODUCTION
Michal Dluginski PRODUCTION MANAGER Jennifer Murray
Elizabeth A. Parry COPY EDITORS Ann Ovodow, Steven Wishnia
ASSOCIATE MANAGING EDITOR
COPY CHIEF
ONLINE
This year, the hands-down-choice
band for the Honda Civic Tour was
The Black Eyed Peas. Their funky style
and off-the-hook energy are a perfect
match for the 2006 Civic, redesigned
with more spirit, performance savvy
and flat-out fun than ever. As part
of the tour, The Peas got to add their
unique flair to a shiny new Civic Hybrid.
To view their customized ride and
get info on when The Peas will be
driving their groove to your town,
go to hondacivictour.com.
Yun-San Tsai PRODUCER Mark Lamorgese
Whitney A. Reynolds PRODUCTION ARTIST Erin Simon
NEWS EDITOR Mark Hachman NEWS REPORTER Bary Alyssa Johnson
ASSOCIATE EDITOR Kyle Monson ASSISTANT EDITOR Jennifer L. DeLeo
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INTERNS
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FEEDBACK
SAFEGUARDING YOUR PHOTO COLLECTION
Thanks to Lance Ulanoff for an excellent article (“Are Your Photos Safe?”, go.pcmag.com/lu
photossafe). I find that people are very gullible.
Many of them don’t understand the capitalistic
system we live under. Some folks really think that
a Web site is their personal storage! Many don’t
know that photos posted online can be pilfered
and used elsewhere if good enough. I don’t
post my images anywhere, even though I get
dozens of offers from dotPhoto and others.
I keep my images in my iPhoto—all
15,000 of them, across three libraries. Each
one is backed up weekly to three separate
external FireWire drives, of which at least
one is kept off-site at all times on a rotating
basis.—Jorge Moro
C’MON, MICROSOFT
I read Jim Louderback’s column in the April
11 issue, then searched the Internet for the
elusive retail copy of Windows XP Media
Center Edition, but I had the same results.
It seems that all you can purchase is
an OEM copy. I found several Web sites
(Newegg.com, Royal Discount, PCDirect
.com, TigerDirect.com) that sell the OEM
version at a price ranging from $114.95 to
$139.99 (with remote).—Russ
the best options. Now, if only I had an article
instructing me on how to get dirt-cheap airfare.—Kristin Carew
Glad you liked it, Kristin. Remember, Skype is
a great way to stay connected. And for decent
airfare, I love Kayak.com here in the U.S., but
if you’re flying around Europe, their low-cost
airlines can be difficult to find. Check out Ryan
Air, EasyJet, and Air Berlin for starters. Opodo
offers a continental variant of our own Expedia and Travelocity, while OctopusTravel
.com aggregates discount lodging and more.
Oh, and have fun! —Jim Louderback
Ironically, I just finished reading your March
21 issue on a flight from Burbank to Phoenix.
I’m sending you this e-mail during my layover
en route to Baltimore at gate A21 on the free
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
wireless network. Signal strength, excellent.
E-mails received. Thanks, Phoenix.
—Larry Yaffe
APPLE’S IPOD HI-FI
I liked Lance Ulanoff ’s column, “The Apple
Effect” (go.pcmag.com/appleeffect). He mentions the new speakers and Apple “eating its
young.” I felt that way when Microsoft benefited from and then crushed products like
WordPerfect. But I sense this is different.
Other speaker systems will continue working—and likely continue selling—just fine.
I am very enthusiastic about my Apple
iPod Hi Fi speakers—and I’m glad Apple
is having a shot at that side of technology. I
already own four or five other iPod speaker
products, but the sound on these is the best,
ABORT, RETRY, FAIL
BY DON WILLMOTT
That’s weird. We
thought Kelly was
a hard worker.
Yes, it’s weird that Microsoft makes you get it
through this back channel. I’ve seen it for sale
with just a remote control or another piece of
cheap hardware. They should just sell it outright.
—Jim Louderback
CONNECTING IN TRANSIT
“The Well-Connected Traveler” (March 21,
page 68) showed up at the perfect time for
me. I’m planning a summer trip to Europe; it
will be my first time going overseas. I’m hopelessly addicted to my gadgets and to the Internet, and after reading this piece, I feel confident I’ll be able to manage technologically
during my vacation. Thanks for all the great
ideas about what to bring; I never manage
to pack light, but this should help me select
16 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
Lookin’ good,
Simon!
He lives right
down the street
from the Giffs.
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and the possibility of running on batteries
now and then has its appeal. For now the
speakers are on top of the TV, using their
audio-in connector for the TV (and DVD)
sound input into the speakers. They get gorgeous sound that way. And using my video
iPod, mounted on the speakers on top of the
TV, I can run a line out from the iPod into the
DVD player and so into the TV. This lets me
show good movie images from the iPod on
the TV with sound coming through the iPod
Hi Fi speakers. Since the speakers are so
new, I thought you might be interested in this
note on how one customer uses them. Can
the iPod TV be far behind?! —Bill Youngs
Glad you enjoyed it, Bill. I hope you’re right
about Apple encroaching on the third-party
market. If this serves to grow it, that’s a good
thing. Still, only time will tell. As for the
way you’re using the Hi-Fi speakers and your
iPod with video, I am suitably impressed.
—Lance Ulanoff
WHY NOT LIMIT WINDOWS
ADMINISTRATOR ACCESS?
“The Sorry State of Security” (February 21,
page 78) was a great article; I hope that everyone who ever buys a computer will read it.
The problem with computers is that they allow such a level of communication that everyone wants to play. But people forget that this
tool simplifies others’ communication to you,
whether warranted or not. Unlike the phone
system, which can be tapped or called only so
many times a day, computer communication
lets you receive a flood of information without much effort.
I think that your article missed one important point. It’s strange that Microsoft would
default every user on Windows XP Home and
Professional as Administrator; that is not the
case in Pro when you are in a domain scenario. This opens up the floodgates for anything
to override security and install itself. When
our company migrated to XP, we immediately
revoked this level of access to anyone who
didn’t explicitly need it. Viruses and spyware
decreased dramatically, and our OS reload
percentage dropped to almost nil.
This posed other challenges, such as
forcing IT to do more software installations and to access computers remotely
to do things the users can’t, but the payoff
was great. About six months ago I reloaded
my neighbor’s computer for the third time.
As I run mostly in a domain environment, I
didn’t pick up the Administrator glitch in XP
Home. On this third attempt, I noticed that,
on newly created user accounts, Administrator was the default. Users could do whatever
CORRECTIONS & AMPLIFICATIONS
We gave a direct price of $3,299.99 for the T-Mobile
SDA (April 11, page 69); the correct price is $299.99.
they wanted with the computer, and so could
anyone on the Internet. So I created the users myself and revoked Administrator. I have
not heard a peep lately.
Thank you for a wonderful breakdown of
the problems plaguing the future of computing.—Juan Gamboa
It’s an excellent point. We did a Security
Watch last year on trying to run as a limited
user (go.pcmag.com/limiteduser). Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to do in a home environment. Microsoft is partly to blame, but so
are ISVs who don’t bother to make sure that
their apps (games, especially) work in limiteduser mode. Vista should really improve this
situation, since even admins don’t run with
complete privileges all the time. Of course I’m
sure it won’t take long for social engineers to
exploit this.—Ben Z. Gottesman
ON VENDOR RESPONSIBILITY
I disagree with the degree of responsibility
you place with vendors. No one would expect GM or Ford, before selling you a car, to
make sure you knew how to drive. Or track
that you didn’t exceed the speed limit or follow too close. Nor do we expect automakers
to tell us that the trunk can be used to carry
groceries or that we need to be wary of icy
roads. Yet we expect people to buy PCs without any idea of what they’ll do with them or
the attendant risks.
PCs are incredible devices, but deciding
to purchase one shouldn’t be considered as
trivial as buying a magazine about PCs.
—P.A. Gendron
Years ago my dad bought a Ford Pinto under
the assumption that they had built a car that
wouldn’t blow up. Fortunately he sold it before
finding out how dangerous that assumption
could be.—Ben Z. Gottesman
THE DOG-EAR TEST
I bring the latest issue of PC Magazine with
me to the gym and read through it while
working out on the treadmill and stair climber. Since there are no notepads or voice recorders to be bothered with, a dog-eared
page is my best reference for articles and tips
I want to revisit when I’m back at my computer. Thus, each issue’s merit is based on
the number of dog-ears. Sometimes I have
none, sometimes two or three, but April 11’s
brought in seven. Thanks for the helpful edition.—Pat Carroll
HOW TO CONTACT US
We welcome your comments and suggestions.
When sending e-mail to Feedback, please state
in the subject line of your message which article or column prompted your response. E-mail
pcmag@ziffdavis.com. All letters become the
property of PC Magazine and are subject to editing. We regret that we cannot answer letters
individually.
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software
training.
Free
business skills
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Free
technical
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On your
own time.
In your
own way.
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from Microsoft that helps small businesses
get more value from their Microsoft®
software investment. Discover how you
can get more value today:
www.microsoft.com/sbplusG
© 2006 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Microsoft is
a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United
States and/or other countries.
PIPELINE
WHAT’S NEW FROM THE WORLD OF TECH
WINMAC
When Apple confirmed last year that
it would begin building computers with
Intel chips, predictions of dual-boot
systems running both
Windows and the
Mac OS abounded.
Now, with official
approval from neither
Microsoft nor Apple,
several code warriors
are pulling that off.
AirmanPika, a
member of the OSx86Project (forum
.osx86project.org), has
posted photos of his
iMac running Windows
Media Center Edition
2005, as shown above.
Our own experts have
loaded Windows XP
on Mac systems and
found it to run faster
on Apple computers
than it does on many
PCs. Find the details at
go.pcmag.com
/windowsonamac.
In PC Magazine’s
cover story on Apple’s
move to Intel last
year, Apple spokesperson Natalie Kerris
said, “We’re not shipping and supporting
Windows, but we’re
doing nothing in our
hardware designs to
preclude running it.”
And where there’s a
will, there’s a way.—SR
Phone Home
Y
Free services are giving almost anyone with a cell phone remote access to PCs.
presentation that’s on your home PC,
and all you’ve got is a cell phone. What to
do? A new crop of online startups is solving such remote-access problems—and
you don’t need a smartphone or a phone
running Microsoft Windows to use them. SoonR (www
.soonr.com) and Avvenu (www.avvenu.com) provide nocost solutions for retrieving and sharing anything on
your remote PC, even if you’re carrying a cheap phone.
SoonR’s service is in beta now, but that hasn’t
stopped tens of thousands of people from signing up.
The service requires you to load a small client on your
PC, but no software is needed on your phone. That, in
addition to SoonR’s focus on business users, differenti-
ates the service from big players such as Citrix Online’s
GoToMyPC and Orb Networks’ Orb.
“There are almost a billion phones out there that
aren’t considered smartphones,” says Song Huang,
SoonR’s cofounder and VP of marketing. The service’s
only phone requirement is a WAP browser, so you
might, for example, access your remote files using Opera. SoonR has also integrated its service with Google
Desktop Search and X1, so you can quickly find files by
typing queries on your phone. The service will remain
free, although premium extensions will be available.
Avvenu offers similar services, also costs nothing,
and integrates with the free Motorola Share service for
sharing images. If your phone is your constant companion, take note.—Sebastian Rupley
POCKET DOCTOR
MOBILE TV TAKES OFF
OU’RE ON THE GO, YOU NEED A
Why shouldn’t checking
your body’s status be as
easy as glancing at the
temperature gauge in
your car? At the recent
CeBIT show, Vodafone
showed off its biozoom
device, which tests a
person’s water levels, enzyme levels, body fat percentage, and more, then
displays the results on a
mobile phone.—SR
As carriers, content providers, and
marketers are ramping up their
mobile TV and video initiatives,
3G subscribers are also
increasing their usage.
40
35
30
25
20
Watch video
on phones
Watch TV
on phones
Projected
U.S.
viewers
(in
millions)
15
10
5
0
2006
2007
2008
2009
Source: eMarketer, March 2006
QUICK ON THE DRAW How fast does your brain process information? At www.positscience
.com you can take an online test and determine the precise answer. The process takes 10
minutes, and results are compared
to averages for your age range, using charts.
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
18 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
FUTURE WATCH
SMART
GLASS
Thinking It Through
W
HO DOESN’T YEARN TO HEAR “YOUR WISH IS MY COMMAND”?
That’s the idea behind the Berlin Brain-Computer Interface
(BBCI), shown here, which is being developed by Fraunhofer FIRST and Benjamin Franklin University in Europe.
The BBCI uses the brain’s electrical activity, in the form of an
electroencephalogram (EEG).
Electrodes attached to the scalp—128 of them—measure the brain’s electrical
signals, which are amplified, transmitted to a computer, and converted into actions.
Users can already control cursors and software applications by imagining motions.
“Electrical activity in the brain reflects the conception of a particular behavior, such as moving a hand or foot,” says principal researcher Benjamin Blankertz.
BBCI may allow paralyzed people to write documents and control prosthetic and
electronic devices. It could also have a role in next-generation computer games. No
controller required!—SR
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
Photograph (right) courtesy of Oakley Photography
Consider the possibilities of a “mirage display,” visible one minute
on a pane of glass and
gone the next. Oregon
State University electronics engineer John
Wager (shown) has
invented the world’s
first transparent integrated circuit, which
could be the basis of
now-you-see-it, nowyou-don’t displays.
In conjunction with
a remote sensor, “a
pop-up display could
suddenly be visible to
a driver on a car windshield to make him
aware of a potential
accident,” says Wager.
There are many other
potential applications
for “smart glass,” from
advertising to medical
concepts. The breakthrough may even
create entirely new
industries.
Wager developed
the see-through circuit
using the transparent
conductor material
indium gallium oxide.
Hewlett-Packard has
already licensed the
technology for a variety
of products. Keep your
eyes peeled.—SR
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 19
TECHNORIDE
MERCEDES
ML 350
$40,525 to $69,250
lllhm
PROS LCD panel in all
MORE ON THE WEB
Want the full story on
these reviews, plus news
and opinions? Go to
www.technoride.com,
the car site for tech fans.
models. Reasonably
priced nav system
available.
CONS The Comand controller is complex to use.
No Bluetooth until the
2007 model this summer.
Options are pricey.
BOTTOM LINE Though
tech and entertainment
options abound in the
second-generation MClass SUV, the Comand
cockpit controller is
tough to use.
NEARLY IRRESISTIBLE
M
ERCEDES-BENZ PACKS A HOST
of technology and entertainment features into its secondgeneration midsize M-Class SUV.
Every M-Class includes a 7-inch
in-dash LCD panel. On the dash
is a fussy Comand control dial that has lots of buttons,
but this device doesn’t compare well with the Audi
MMI controller or with the console-mount Comand
knob in the new Mercedes S-Class. An audio line-in
jack and three power sockets come standard; an iPod
jack, backseat DVD, Sirius satellite radio, and a Logic
7 sound system are available as options. A hands-free
phone adapter runs about $1,000; dealer-installed
Bluetooth will cost about $500 when it’s available this
summer in the 2007 model. Because the LCD is standard, the passable DVD nav system can be added by
the dealer for about $1,300—very reasonable by Mercedes or BMW standards.
The ML 350 comes with all-wheel drive, sevenspeed automatic transmission, and roomy comfort for
four passengers and baggage. Unlike the first generation (1998 to 2005), the new M-Class no longer rides
like a truck. Most buyers should be satisfied with the
V6 ML 350 at about $50,000, passably equipped; add
$10,000 for the V8 ML 500.—BH
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
20 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
GREEN CAR TECH
In February, Hymotion
unveiled the Plug-In
Hybrid Electric Vehicle
(PHEV) technology
for hybrid cars: Users
can charge their PHEV
batteries in any normal
120V outlet, enabling
a hybrid car to travel
longer distances solely
on battery power and
resulting in fuel efficiencies reaching 100 mpg.
The kit, expected
within a year, is under
development for the
Lexus Rx400h, Toyota
Highlander hybrid, and
Toyota Camry hybrid.
— Bary Alyssa Johnson
LCD panel
comes standard
B I L L H O WA R D
W
DIESEL CARS ARE BACK
HAT WOULD IT TAKE
to get you into a diesel engine car? Will
you wait till diesels
run clean, and until
there’s no engine clatter? Until somebody
makes diesel airplane
engines? Until a diesel engine car wins an auto race?
Done, done, and done.
In March, an Audi won the Sebring 12-hour
endurance race, four laps ahead of the gasoline-powered runner-up. This is the first time a diesel engine vehicle has triumphed in a major automobile endurance
race, and it’s a shot in the arm for the image of such vehicles. Diesels account for nearly half of all passenger
cars sold in Europe but for only a fraction in the U.S.
Technology has eliminated much of the noise that
diesel engines make; there’s none inside the car and
hardly any outside. A sophisticated common-rail fuelinjection system propels an atomized stream of fuel
into the cylinders at twice the speed of sound, ensuring
that air and fuel are properly mixed. They start almost
instantly, even in the cold.
As for running clean, this year the EPA ordered fuel
companies to stop whining and start refining diesel
fuel with low levels of sulfur, the pollutant that’s responsible for the rotten-egg smell and black soot. Most
diesels also run on biodiesel—fuels made in part from
Steerable headlights
vegetable oils or animal fats. So if the Jetta ahead of
track you through corne
you smells like a McDonald’s, now you know why.
rs
New technologies, such as particulate filters (here
now) and the injection of urea into the exhaust stream
(coming), make diesels even cleaner.
In European countries, Herr Doktor Rudolf
Diesel’s 1892 invention purrs along under the hoods
of one-third to two-thirds of all cars. But here in the
U.S., only a dozen passenger-vehicle models with diesel engines are offered: a bunch of brawny American
trucks/SUVs, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and four
Volkswagens. California, Maine, Massachusetts, New
York, and Vermont effectively outlaw diesels, and some
automakers say they won’t introduce diesel cars until
they’re allowed in every state.
Still, I don’t think you can deny that we’re entering
a golden era of performance coming from a wider array
of engine types: gasoline or diesel boosted by hybrid,
BLUE&ME : Low-Cost Telematics
turbocharged, or supercharged technologies.
The technology star of the 76th International Motor Show in Geneva was
If you’re a stop-and-go driver, hybrids make sense.
Blue&Me, the first product of a joint venture by Fiat and Microsoft. The device, a
But if you rack up a lot of highway miles and/or spend
low-cost telematics box, works as an in-car communication system that enables
a lot of time idling, a diesel may be your best bet. Wait
hands-free Bluetooth-based talk, voice recognition, music player connectivity for
a year and you’ll see more choices. Diesels are defiMP3 and WMA files, and remote diagnostics. It also has the potential for turn-byturn navigation downloads via cell phone.—BH
nitely back.
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 21
FIRST LOOKS
WHAT THE RATINGS MEAN:
lllll
EXCELLENT |
llllm
VERY GOOD |
lllmm
GOOD |
llmmm
FAIR |
lmmmm
POOR
INSIDE...
L
IKE THIS SPIFFY OLYMPUS E-330 DIGI-
tal SLR, many of the products covered in
this edition of First Looks look familiar
but feature subtle yet important differences that set them apart from all that’s
come before. The E-330, for example,
is the first D-SLR with a live-view/articulating LCD
screen. HP’s Pavilion Media Center (in our hardware
section) looks like any other MCE desktop, but it’s our
first Viiv-certified system. We have hands-on reviews
of Lenovo’s new laptops, small business NAS’s, and
Samsung’s Nano competitor. Plus, there’s advice on
how to make some of your most important purchases:
photo printers, parental-control software, and Windows Mobile Devices. Come check out products you’ll
be buying today.
Olympus Evolt E-330
Flawless? No, but
for now, this camera
stands apart from all
other D-SLRs on the
market. Full review
starts on page 32.
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 23
F I R ST LO O KS
HARD WA RE
oor hidsess
Sliding d
-acce
the easy
ports
Analog input
for VCR
Easy-access
FireWire port for
DV camcorder
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
24 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
HP Personal Meditia
Drive for unlim ed
storage
Dual 160GeBs
hard driv
HP Pavilion
Media Center
TV m7360n PC
As a Media
Center PC,
the m7360n
has some outstanding
features, such as the
Personal Media Drive,
wireless networking, and
good dual-core performance.
$1,200 direct, without
monitor
go.pcmag.com/
hpM7360n
llllm
MEDIA MAVEN
T
HIS PC LOOKS BORING, BUT THE
m7360n is a powerful media center system. It can handle regular
multimedia projects like composing, encoding, and burning video
DVDs, and its included TV/PVR
capability makes it a welcome addition to any
home office or bedroom, especially when a family
feud breaks out in the living room over whether to
watch Lost or American Idol. It’s also Viiv-certified,
so when Viiv takes off, you’re ready.
Thanks to its dual-core Pentium D 9 Series
processor and 2GB of memory, the Media Center
operates smoothly, and the picture from the internal TV tuner is jitter-free. The m7360n also has
instant-on capability, letting you put the system
into a quiet, deep sleep (no rotating fans) from
which it can wake within seconds.
I’m particularly fond of HP’s Personal Media
Drive. This unique component lets you easily swap
hard drive cartridges that also hook up to other
PCs via USB. It gives you virtually limitless storage
(drives cost about $1 per GB). The more storage
the better, especially when you’re recording TV and
video. The m7360n also has a LightScribe duallayer DVD SuperMulti drive that can read and
write DVD±RW discs and can read DVD-RAM.
I’m a big fan of the HP Pavilion Media Center
TV m7360n PC. Families looking to do more than
just view photos, videos, and TV should seriously
consider it.—Joel Santo Domingo
STYLE MEETS MEDIA SAVVY
S
PORTING A SLICK-LOOKING CASE AND
the latest Intel Viiv hardware, the Sony
VAIO VGC-RC210G is one seductive,
powerful Media Center PC. Our tests
prove that this desktop has enough
oomph to breeze through all your challenging multimedia projects, from editing video and
creating graphics to burning DVDs of exciting (at least
to you) holiday snapshots and home movies.
The RC 210G’s premium dual-core Pentium D 930
processor helped it complete a Windows Media Encoder benchmark test about 40 percent faster than similarly configured single-core systems and about as fast
as the Editors’ Choice HP. Better yet, its 320GB hard
drive offers plenty of room to house all the data you accumulate as you live your digital life. Moving content
onto the RC210G is easy, thanks to the 9-in-1 memory
card reader, a dual-layer DVD burner, and integrated
Wi-Fi networking. Using Microsoft Windows Media
Center 2005 OS with an internal TV tuner, the system
handily records live programming TiVo-style, too.
There are drawbacks, such as the system’s ugly
Microsoft IR receiver and the weak 3D graphics card.
And the storage isn’t as convenient to upgrade as that
of the HP m7360n. Still, the RC210G is an excellent
home workhorse and multimedia showcase.—JSD
Sony VAIO VGC-RC210G
This attractive Media
Center PC is a great
option if you’re looking
to trick out your home
with a chic desktop that
has oodles of storage
space and serious dualcore muscle.
$1,380 direct, without
monitor
go.pcmag.com/
sonyrc210g
llllm
THE CURRENT FORMULA FOR VIIV
Pentium D
+
+
975X
+
=
975X
Processor
Chipset
Network card
Media Center
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 25
F I R ST LO O KS
HARD WA RE
hours
An amazing li7fe!
ry
e
of batt
Lenovo
ThinkPad
X60s
The 3.5pound
ThinkPad
X60s is ideal for
anyone who spends
more time on the
road than in the
office. For many,
it’s pretty much the
perfect ultraportable.
$2,299 direct
go.pcmag.com/
thinkpadx60s
A PERFECT TRAVEL COMPANION
S
TAYING CONNECTED AND EDGING OUT THE
competition are two musts for any business traveler, and the Lenovo ThinkPad X60s helps you do
both. This 3.5-pound laptop has great connectivity by way of Verizon’s EV-DO. And, as we found
in testing, it can work off battery power for more
than 7 hours.
Some of my favorite things about this system, as with any
ThinkPad I can get my hands on, are the unmatched keyboard
and TrackPoint. Although the X60s’s 12.1-inch screen is good
enough for most travelers, as a writer I prefer a slightly larger
screen. However, I certainly can’t complain about the inclusion
of EV-DO: While roaming Manhattan, I was able to access my
e-mail, surf the Web, and download video clips at broadbandlike speeds. Talk about staying productive!
The X60s uses a low-voltage Intel Core Duo processor, the
1.66-GHz L2400, which helps it achieve a pleasing balance
of power and battery life. If your primary tasks on the road
are presenting slide shows, managing e-mails, Web surfing, and working in Excel or Word files, the X60s is
the ultraportable for you.—Cisco Cheng
llllh
SEXY, SLEEK, POWERFUL
T
Razor-thin
13.3 inch LCD
HE SONY VAIO VGN-SZ170P SUCCESS-
fully combines good looks with interesting features—and a lot of power.
Two features I’m crazy about, and
that are rarely found on a sub-4-pound
system, are the wide 13.3-inch LCD
and internal DVD±RW drive.
To extend battery life, Sony integrates a hybrid
graphics system. A switch above the keyboard lets you
choose between the nVidia GeForce Go 7400 graphics
chipset (for better performance) and the integrated
Intel GMA 950/945GM graphics chipset (for better
battery life). It’s a great concept, but you have to reboot
every time you flip the switch. When I used the Intel
graphics setting, I got only 42 extra minutes of battery
life, for a total 4 hours 15 minutes. I expected more.
The SZ170P comes with only two USB ports, and
I think every laptop should have at least three. Nonetheless, I’m pleased about the large 100GB hard drive,
and I love the addition of the 0.3-megapixel webcam—
perfect for the growing number of video chatters and
Skype users. As long as it’s not a long trip, anyone who
travels with the SZ170P will be very pleased.—CC YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
26 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
Sony VAIO
VGN-SZ170P
For a 3.8-pound system,
the Sony VAIO VGNSZ170P offers an
irresistible combination of sleekness, cool
features, superb performance, and top-ofthe-line components.
$2,799 direct
go.pcmag.com/
sonysz170p
llllm
Antenna for
Cingular’s
Edge network
F I R ST LO O KS
HARD WA RE
Lexmark E120n
With its small footprint,
fast performance, and
network connectivity,
the Lexmark E120n is a
good choice for sharing
on a home or smalloffice network.
$149 direct
go.pcmag.com/
lexmarke120n
lllhm
NETWORK POWER ON
A PERSONAL PRINTER
W
ITH A BARGAIN PRICE, SMALL
size, and paper capacity suitable only for light-duty printing, the Lexmark E120n is
decidedly a personal laser printer. This one, however, has networking capabilities, which makes it a good choice for a
home office or very small office. It’s still a monochrome
printer, though, so if you plan on printing a lot of color
graphics or photos, an ink jet is a better solution.
Setup is as simple as it gets. The E120n’s speed and
text quality is, according to our tests, more than good
enough for any text you’re likely to print. Graphics qual-
ity is just okay, which is typical for most monochrome
lasers. For internal documents it’s fine, but I wouldn’t
use it if I were trying to impress a potential client.
The only real drawback is the low paper capacity.
If you print as few as 50 pages a day, you’ll be refilling
the tray roughly every third day, which can be quite
annoying. But if that’s not a concern, the E120n offers
a better balance of speed and quality than its direct
competition, and it’s a network printer at a stunningly
low price.—M. David Stone
THIS DREAMY DEVICE
DOESN’T WORK
T
hes
5.2 inc
Iomega ScreenPlay
Great in concept but a
failure in execution, the
Iomega ScreenPlay has
more things wrong than
right. Don’t buy this
product.
$220 direct
go.pcmag.com/
iomegascreenplay
l m m m m
28 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
H E I O M E G A S C R E E N P L AY S E E M S
like a dream come true: a 60GB hard
drive that plays video, photos, and music on a TV. Sadly, the ScreenPlay has
limited playback capabilities, is pricey,
and simply doesn’t work.
The ScreenPlay claims to support most flavors
of MPEG video, but on our tests, I had trouble playing unprotected MPEG-4 files. QuickTime, Real,
and WMV aren’t supported, either. Photo and music
playback is better, although still not top-notch. The
ScreenPlay doesn’t support some common audio formats like M4P/M4A and WMA. And if you do have
music that’s supported, good luck finding it. The navigation is awkward: You must play or scroll through all
your music just to find the song you want.
And yet, that’s not the worst part: The ScreenPlay is
slooooooooow. Unbearably slow. It took me 14 minutes
to boot up to a navigational screen on my TV, and then
once I got there, clicking on any of the icons resulted in
a 5-minute—or longer—wait.
The Iomega ScreenPlay needs work—lots of work.
First, the performance needs to be fixed so that you
can actually browse and view content. Adding playlist
support, better file navigation, and search capabilities
should also top that “needs fixing” list.
—Joel Santo Domingo
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
LENOVO GOES FOR VALUE
L
The best
keyboard op!
in any lapt
ENOVO IS TRYING HARD TO DISTIN-
guish its new 3000 series from the successful high-end ThinkPad series, and,
if judged on looks alone, it succeeds.
Still, even though the Lenovo
3000 C100 is a capable value
notebook, it doesn’t distinguish itself from
popular value offerings from Acer, Dell, and
HP. If anything, it’s less attractive than any of
those three.
The C100 is thick, weighs 6.3 pounds, and has a
15-inch display. Lenovo endows this beast with some
good features, such as four USB ports and an S-Video
port. In addition, the 80GB hard drive is fairly roomy,
and the DVD+R dual-layer drive is better than the
combo drives found on most budget laptops.
Though not the fastest laptop on the market, the
C100, as our testing shows, is capable of handling
everyday Office applications. As dual-core optimized
apps come down the line, however, this single-core
processor system may be
begging for an upgrade sooner than you’d like.
Five months ago, I would’ve told you that any laptop from Lenovo is worth every penny. But with new,
more powerful, sleeker systems available from Dell
and HP for the same price, it’s hard to recommend
the C100, even if it shares a stable with the excellent
ThinkPad line of notebooks.—Cisco Cheng
Lenovo 3000 C100
At less than $1,000, the
C100 is decidedly budgetfriendly. But if you’re looking for a true value, better
offerings are available.
Our online review details
those offerings.
$999 direct
go.pcmag.com/
lenovoc100
llhmm
Stan, I depend on that Ricoh printer
for just about everything.
You’re still getting
your own lunch, right Jerry?
Ricoh dependability moves your ideas forward.
ricoh-usa.com/itchannel
1.800.RICOH.43
©2006 Ricoh Corporation
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
F I R ST LO O KS
HARD WA RE
BUY ING GUID E
Dedicated
Photo Printers
ch LCD
Large, 2.4-inot
o editing
ph
for easy
EPSON PICTUREMATE
DELUXE VIEWER EDITION
The Epson PictureMate has been our highend Editors’ Choice for so long that we
keep thinking the next printer we test will
surely replace it. But it’s stayed on top,
thanks to its true photo-quality output,
memory slots, 2.4-inch color LCD, kioskstyle print menus, battery option, and reasonable
29-cent cost per photo.
Its six-color ink system helps produce highquality, waterproof, smear-proof images. You can
print easily from your camera, an external CD or
ZIP drive, a USB memory key, memory card, or your
computer. A color LCD screen lets you easily preview your prints, and an intuitive menu offers options such as cropping and resizing of images. And
if you love your PictureMate so much that you want
to take it with you everywhere, fear not: With a carrying handle and optional battery, the PictureMate
is designed for maximum portability.
$199.99 direct
go.pcmag.com/epsondeluxe.
llllh
STAY AWAY!
Lexmark P315
The lack of resistance
to water makes photos
printed on the P315 easy
to ruin just by handling.
$99.99 direct
go.pcmag.com/
lexmarkp315
llhmm
Samsung SPP-2020
Digital Photo Printer
At 42 cents per photo,
the SPP-2020 is far less
of a bargain than its
price suggests.
$80 street
go.pcmag.com/
samsungspp2020
lllhm
y photos
Lab-qualit
I
than 4 by 6 inches. But part of the goal of dedicated
the freedom to print your own photos—even
photo printers is to make printing your photos as easy
if it’s moments after you take them—a dedias dropping off a roll of film at the drug store. Few stancated photo printer is the way to go. A dedidard computer printers offer the same ease of use for
cated photo printer qualifies more as a camprinting photos. And even the ones that do don’t offer
era accessory than as a computer peripheral
the same portability. Because they print at a maximum
because you don’t even need a PC to print. And you
of 4-by-6 or, in some cases, 5-by-7 format, virtually all
can find a dedicated photo printer to fit just about any
dedicated photo printers are small and light enough to
budget, with prices ranging from $80 up to about $400
take anywhere.
for printers aimed at casual users, and up to four figures
Output quality is the most important, yet most diffifor more serious photographers.
cult, issue to check before buying. Most photo printers
Sure, you can print photos on almost any ink jet
will print at least some photos at true photo quality, so
printer, and you canYYePG
even print
them
at
sizes
larger
take any samples a store shows you with a grain of salt.
Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
30 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
F YOU HAVE A DIGITAL CAMERA AND YOU WANT
A N A LY S T ’ S V I E W
BY M. DAVI D S TONE
Almost as important is what the printer can print
from: cameras, computers, or memory cards. Nearly
all dedicated photo printers today include a PictBridge
connector, which lets you use a PictBridge-enabled
camera’s LCD and menus to print. Most photo printers can also connect to a computer by USB cable,
which may or may not be included with the printer, and
they typically come with software that lets you manage
your photos as well as edit and print them. This can be
handy if you want to reprint photos later. Unless you’re
convinced you’ll never want to store your photos on your
computer and you have another storage plan, make sure
that the printer can connect to your computer.
You’ll generally have to pay more for printers with
memory card slots, because the slots are usually paired
with a color LCD and built-in menus. The combination lets you preview photos as well as crop or enhance
them, much like using a photo kiosk. If a printer offers
these features, find out what editing tools it has; some
printers offer lots more than others. And don’t overlook
the LCD size. It’s much easier to preview photos on a
2.5-inch screen than on a 1.5-inch one.
You’ll want to consider paper size, cost per photo,
and portability. In addition to the usual 4-by-6 size, a
few photo printers offer smaller or larger paper sizes,
or both.
Cost per 4-by-6 print ranges from about 28 cents
up to more than 60 cents. If you don’t print a lot of photos, the cost may not matter much, particularly if the
printer offers some other feature you want, like a low
initial price or fast print speed. But the more photos
you print, the more critical the cost per photo will be.
In almost all cases you can buy packs of paper and ink
or paper and dye rolls for a specific number of photos,
so you’ll know exactly how many photos you can print
and at what price: simply divide the price of the pack
by the number of photos it can print. —MDS
OTHER
OPTIONS
PRINT BIG
HP Photosmart 475
GoGo Photo Printer
The HP Photosmart 475
is portable, easy to use,
and one of the few that
print 5-by-7 photos.
$250 street
go.pcmag.com/
hp425gogo
l l llm
PRINTING CHOICES
Canon Selphy DS810
This printer lets you print
on its less expensive
paper, but you can also
step up to quality suitable for framing.
$149.99 direct
go.pcmag.com/
canonDS810
l l llm
AFFORDABLE
ALTERNATIVE
Canon Selphy CP510
Compact Photo Printer
Small, lightweight, and
offers the best combination of running cost (at
29 cents per photo) and
output quality for the
price.
$99.99 direct
go.pcmag.com/
canonCP510
l l llm
RECENT REVIEWS
Canon Pixma
iP5200R
$230
street
l l l l m
Fast, prints great photos, and has
support for wireless networking.
Olympus P-11
$150
street
l l l h m
It's compact, inexpensive, and delivers swift 4-by-6 prints.
Dell Photo Allin-One 964
$199.00
direct
l l l m m
It's not fast, but it's fine for mundane
home office work.
Kodak EasyShare 500
$199.95
direct
l l l l m
This Kodak prints excellent 4-by-6
photos and has plenty of ports.
Canon Pixma
MP950
$399.99
direct
l l l l m
A talented multifunction printer that
will tackle almost any printing task.
Canon Pixma
iP6600D
$199.99
direct
l l l h m
Foremost an excellent photo printer.
Text output is average.
T
HE PHONE CALL USUALLY COMES
right after friends and family go
shopping on their own for a photo
printer and come back confused.
There are so many choices. First
they need to decide if they want
a standard desktop ink jet or a
dedicated photo printer. If they
settle on buying a dedicated unit, they’ll have to figure
out if they want ink jet or thermal dye. That’s when
they remember they have an expert resource to call on.
The most common question I get is, What’s the difference between thermal dye and ink jet printers? I usually take a deep breath, because as simple as the answer
is (at least to me), it’s equally complicated to convey.
The short answer is that there’s plenty of difference in
the printer technologies themselves, but a tremendous
overlap in the features—those features being cost-perphoto ratio, photo quality, and water resistance. And of
course, at the end of the day, your choice will depend
on the features you value most. The tips below have
helped many a friend and family member choose the
perfect printer.
First, let’s clear up a common misconception.
Thermal dye printers do not print better-looking photos than ink jets. They did several years ago, but they
no longer do. The reality today is that both technologies can produce good-looking output, but four of the
five best photo printers I’ve seen since mid-2004 are
ink jets.
The bad news about prints generated by ink jet
printers is that most ink jet output isn’t waterproof.
Even after the ink is dry, you can ruin a typical ink jet
photo easily: Just pass it around for people to handle
on a humid day. The ribbons in thermal dye printers,
however, include an overcoat panel to coat the finished
photo and protect it. The result is a photo that you can
handle without ruining, even immediately after printing. Try that with most ink jets and you’ll smudge the
photo—or at least get fingerprints on it. Some ink jets,
like the Epson PictureMate Deluxe, offer the same
level of waterproofing as a thermal dye printer, but
most don’t.
Ultimately, ink jets are more likely to give you
better-quality photos, yet you risk unpredictable costs
and smudging. Thermal dye photo quality isn’t as highly
rated, but with thermal dye you know your photos won’t
smudge and you can calculate costs more efficiently.
Instead of calling me, research your printers until you
find one that can give you everything you want. They’re
out there—like the 29-cent-per-photo Epson PictureMate Deluxe ink jet. Q
M. David Stone is PC Magazine’s Lead Analyst for
Printers.
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
MORE DEDICATED PHOTO PRINTER REVIEWS ONLINE
Check out all our photo printer reviews at go.pcmag.com/photoprinters.
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 31
F I R ST LO O KS
CO NS U M E R E L E C T R O N I CS
Pop-up flash
CF and xD
card slot
Olympus Evolt E-330
The Olympus Evolt
E-330 is the first D-SLR
that lets you compose
your subjects on its LCD
screen.
$1,100 street, with
14mm-to-45mm lens
go.pcmag.com/e330
llllm
3.1 x optical
zoom
LIVE FROM YOUR D-SLR
T
The LCD’s ability to articulate is another feature
at this year’s PMA show in Orlando.
new to D-SLR cameras. If you want to take a Hail
And for good reason: It’s the first
Mary shot (hold your camera above your head and
D-SLR to give consumers the option
pray you get the shot), you can adjust the screen,
of framing their shots on the LCD, a
extend your arm, and still see precisely where you’re
feature that’s been available on loweraiming the E-330.
end digital cameras for years. It’s also the first D-SLR
The E-330 weighs 1.2 pounds without a battery,
with an articulating LCD.
about the same as the Nikon D50 (1 pound 3 ounces).
This breakthrough product gives you the best of
I enjoyed holding it. Also, it has one of the nicest conboth worlds: You can compose a shot on the 2.5-inch
trol sets I’ve seen on an entry-level D-SLR.
LCD screen or peer through the viewfinder—it’s your
Olympus lets you choose between two options for
choice. How Olympus achieved this Live View was
composing images on the LCD: Live View A Mode, for
relatively simple: It added an additional CCD sensor
general-purpose shooting, and Live View B Mode, for
into the reflected path that carries the image from the
close-ups (see the diagram on page 34). Both modes
lens, through the camera,
and
into
the
viewfi
nder.
are easy to use, and it’s simple to toggle between them.
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
32 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
HE OLYMPUS EVOLT E-330 WAS A BIG HIT
F I R ST LO O KS
CO NS U M E R E L E C T R O N I CS
The specs of the Olympus Evolt E-330 make it an
entry-level D-SLR: It’s a 7.5MP camera that comes
with a Zuiko Digital Specific lens, which has a 3.1X
optical zoom with a 14mm-to-45mm range (equivalent
to a 35mm lens with a 28mm-to-90mm zoom) and corresponding maximum f-stops of f/3.5 to f/5.6.
The menu structure was decent enough, although
I hope future Olympus D-SLRs will include the guide
features found on some of their latest Stylus models. I
like that the camera gives you a wide array of image-file
choices, including TIFF and various combinations of
RAW and JPEG files.
I was happy to see that there is no solarization on
the 2.5-inch Hyper Crystal LCD panel. This means
you can view the image at an angle without having it become obscured the way it would be on an older LCD.
The E-330 isn’t without some shortcomings. The
camera has just three autofocus points, rather disappointing for a somewhat expensive entry-level D-SLR.
Most other D-SLRs have at least five AF points. There
is also no way to change between the three points
quickly; you have to use the menus. Other D-SLRs use
a multiselector controller. These AF points can help
you track your subjects more precisely and keep them
in focus, although most of the time this will apply only
to action shooters.
The E-330’s full feature set and variety of options
make it competitive with other D-SLRs, although
Olympus will need to add some improvements to
render it flawless: In testing I found the image quality
quite good but just a notch below that of the Nikon
D50 and the Canon Rebel XT. But by giving me that
best-of-both-worlds feeling, it’s a camera that truly
stands apart from the pack.—Terry Sullivan
Articulatingreen
live view sc
HOW IT WORKS: LIVE VIEW
Until now, no D-SLR let you view a live image of your subject on the LCD screen. Instead, you were forced to put
your eye up to the viewfinder. With its innovative Live View display, the Olympus Evolt E-330 gives you two ways
to view your subjects on the LCD screen: Live View A Mode and Live View B Mode.
A MODE: For General Photography
B MODE: For Closeups
In Live View A Mode,
when you take the
picture, this mirror will
swing out of the way and
let the image register on
the 7.5MP MOS sensor.
to LCD
MOS
2
As with all D-SLRs, the
image enters through
the lens here.
3
to LCD
MOS
2
3
The E-330 has special
mirrors, called Porro
mirrors, which reflect the
image around the side of
the camera body instead of
up through its center.
34 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
The image is reflected
through the glass
viewfinder and also to an
8MP CCD sensor, which
sends a digital image to the
LCD YYePG
at the back.
Proudly Presents,
The image travels
through the lens into
the camera body, as it
does in A Mode. When
you press the Live View
button, however, the
image is not reflected
around the camera
body but instead travels
back to the main 7.5MP
MOS sensor.
2
4
1
1
2
CCD
4
1
1
Thx for Support
In B mode, the
digital image is sent
directly to the LCD for a
live preview. Because
the autofocus is
disengaged you have to
focus manually. To help
with that, you can view
the image magnified
10X on the LCD.
1.3-megapixel
camera
CINGULAR’S MODEST 3G HANDSET
T
HE LG CU320 IS A PLEASANT, MIDRANGE
phone that plays fun, boredom-banishing
video clips. But it’s a modest introduction
for Cingular’s new 3G network.
A solid, slightly techy-looking slider
phone, the tri-band CU320 performs
pretty well in terms of reception and sound quality. The
phone’s major feature is Cingular Video, a package of clips
from HBO, CNN, ESPN, NBC, and others. The selection is better than Verizon’s, but Sprint leads the pack with
live TV channels. Videos look sharper than on Sprint or
Verizon, and they even look good in EDGE cities without
Cingular’s 3G network. Photos taken with the CU320’s
1.3-megapixel camera were bright but blurrier than I would
have liked. There’s also a POP3/IMAP e-mail program and
AIM, ICQ, and Yahoo! instant messaging.
Unfortunately, the CU320 doesn’t use Cingular’s 16city UMTS/HSDPA network to its fullest. There’s no video
calling or full HSDPA speed, though the phone works as a
PC modem on the 200-to-300-Kbps UMTS system. For a
high-speed modem on Cingular, get a PC Card or wait for
HSDPA phones this fall.—Sascha Segan
LG CU320
Although it doesn’t take
full advantage of Cingular’s new 3G data network,
this is a solid midrange
phone with some nice
entertainment features.
$299.99; from $149.99
with contract
go.pcmag.com/cu320
lllhm
Keypad ut
slides sh
Stan, you can depend on
Ricoh color to stand out.
We could use
a little color, Jerry.
Ricoh dependability moves your ideas forward.
ricoh-usa.com/itchannel
1.800.RICOH.43
©2006 Ricoh Corporation
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
F I R ST LO O KS
CO NS U M E R E L E C T R O N I CS
THANKS FOR THE MEMORY
T
HE SAMSUNG YEPP YP-Z5 IS PART OF THE OPENING
salvo in what will soon be a slew of non-Apple
high-capacity flash MP3 players hitting the shelves.
Although not quite an iPod nano–killer, it does have
some advantages, including an impressive 30-hour battery life,
a bright 1.8-inch LCD screen, and photo panning/zooming.
It is also the first PlaysForSure-compatible 4GB flash player
on the market, though it will soon be followed by many similar
devices. The Z5’s screen seems fairly rugged, though I did find
a few scuffs on the silver plastic casing. Nearly twice as thick as
the nano, the Z5 still qualifies as “thin.” The somewhat finicky
controls are probably what will keep this otherwise satisfying
player out of the limelight, but techies will love nice touches
like Ogg Vorbis support. Overall sound quality is good, but not
the best I’ve heard; at least the included earbuds aren’t bad. The
Z5 is available in black or silver, and pricing is comparable with
that of the iPod nano.—Mike Kobrin
Samsung Yepp
YP-Z5
It’s the first 4GB
flash player to be
compatible with
PlaysForSure, but
it’s still no iPod
nano–killer.
4GB: $249.99 list;
2GB: $199.99
go.pcmag.com/
ypz5
llllm
TINY BASS THUMPERS
F
Sennheiser CX-300
If you want thumping bass
with minimal mud, you’ll
love these compact in-ear
headphones.
$69.99 list
go.pcmag.com/cx300
OR BASS LOVERS AND SUBWAY COM-
muters, the Sennheiser CX-300
in-ear headphones are a very good
step up from stock earbuds. They’re
small, fairly nonintrusive, and the sound
quality is noticeably better than that of the
slightly cheaper Sony MDR-EX series, with
more clarity and crisper highs.
The bass is very powerful, but it doesn’t
overwhelm the rest of the sound. Also, the
16-ohm CX-300 headphones are more
efficient than Sony’s, which means you
don’t have to turn your player up as loud
to get a comfortable listening volume. In
addition, the CX-300’s noise isolation is
reasonably effective. These are a good alternative to your player’s included earbuds,
especially if you dig a beefy low end.—MK
llllm
Drivers are
covered with
a screen
36 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
StarTech MP3 AirLink
With a dead-simple setup and
a price that won’t hurt your
wallet, this is an excellent
wireless music system.
$92.99 direct
go.pcmag.com/airlink
llllm
Channel button
WIRELESS MUSIC MADE SIMPLE
T
HE STARTECH MP3 AIRLINK LETS YOU SEND MUSIC
across your home without making your floor look
like a snake pit. The 2.4-GHz transmitter and receiver are two nearly identical 1- by 3.1- by 3.1inch (HWD) plastic boxes. Each box has its own wall-wart
AC power adapter, and the system comes with two sets of
RCA-to-3.5mm cables and one 3.5mm-to-3.5mm cable.
Overall, I’m impressed with the AirLink’s sound
quality and ease of use. It has a significantly clearer signal than Bluetooth-based products. But if you have a
lot of interference in your space from other devices that
use the 2.4-GHz frequency band (Bluetooth headsets,
microwaves, some RF remotes), the AirLink may disappoint. If you don’t, you’ll find this is a very useful, and
affordable, product.—MK
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
are
Controlsed into
s
s
e
rec ame
the fr
THE BEST 42-INCH PLASMA—FOR NOW
W
ITH A NATIVE RESOLUTION OF
1,024 by 768 pixels, the NEC
42XR4 is, to date, the most
impressive 42-inch plasma
display panel I’ve ever seen. It
doesn’t include many extras,
and its advanced picture controls demand professional
setup, but with some tweaking, this TV’s accurate
and faithful video reproduction is a pleasure for the
eyes. The 42XR4 is officially labeled a monitor, since
it lacks a television tuner (DTV or otherwise), but for
cable and satellite set-top box users, this is mostly irrelevant. After calibration, the 42XR4 produces an ANSI
contrast ratio of 1,001:1, the best among all displays
(plasma or otherwise) that I’ve tested to date. Subjectively, both DVD movies and HDTV appear pleasingly
correct, with accurate colors and detailed imagery. Yes,
the near $4,000 42XR4 costs more than most other 42inch plasma displays, but I have yet to see a 42-inch TV
come this close to image perfection.—Robert Heron
NEC 42XR4
The 42XR4 is a
superb plasma
display. It needs
professional
installation to
set the advanced picture
controls, however.
$3,995 list
go.pcmag.com/nec42xr4
llllm
®
Learn Excel on your lunch break,
take a marketing class on the train,
and get technical support anytime,
anywhere.
Free.
Introducing Microsoft® Small Business +. This free online business resource is designed to help you get the most
out of your Microsoft software investment. Small Business + provides you and your employees with free training,
technical support, and practical tips and how-tos to help you improve overall business practices. Best of all, the
program is based on your business needs, and is customized around what you tell us is important to you.
Just go to: www.microsoft.com/sbplusG
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
© 2006 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Microsoft and Excel are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.
F I R ST LO O KS
CO NS U M E R E L E C T R O N I CS
BUY ING GUID E
Windows
Mobile
Devices
40
320-by-r2een
VGA sc
T-MOBILE SDA
A total fireball of a smartphone, the T-Mobile
SDA syncs with Outlook, plays music, and
surfs the Web over Wi-Fi. The chubby candy-bar phone has plenty of buttons, giving
you great power once you get the hang of it.
Though the phone isn’t very loud, it gets
excellent reception, and the talk time is outstanding.
Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 5.0 plus T-Mobile’s allyou-can-eat Wi-Fi/EDGE data plan make the SDA a
great way to carry around your calendar, play music
synced from Windows Media Player, and find that
Mexican restaurant using the built-in Web browser. I
wish it had more memory for add-in programs, but
no phone is perfect.
$299.99 list
go.pcmag.com/sda
l l l l m
W
MORE ON THE WEB
Check out all our Windows
Mobile Device reviews at
go.pcmag.com/wmd
INDOWS MOBILE IS WINNING
Dedicated
the mobile OS wars. Once a
music buttons
clunky also-ran, Microsoft’s
operating system now appears
Pick Your Favorite Flavor
on devices for every major
Windows Mobile comes in three flavors—and two verwireless carrier.
sions. Traditional PDAs like the Dell Axim X51v are
Flexibility and power put Windows Mobile in the
the most powerful of the bunch, but obviously, they
lead. The OS comes on a wide range of devices, from
don’t make phone calls. Right now, only traditional
candy-bar phones to laptop-style mini-PCs. It supPDAs offer features like 640-by-480 VGA screens,
ports the fastest mobile processors and wireless congraphics acceleration, 624-MHz processors, and finnections. You’ll also find that Windows Mobile devices
gerprint scanners. That makes them ideal for gaming,
are on the cutting edge of mobile video and gaming.
multimedia, remote-desktop access, or other demandWindows Mobile devices sync with Windows XP
ing business applications.
PCs, letting you carry your Outlook contacts, calendars,
Smartphones such as the T-Mobile SDA look like
e-mail, and Windows Media Player music and video
regular phones, and they don’t have touch screens.
wherever you go. They also surf the Web with Pocket
They’re best for people who will be receiving informaInternet Explorer, play games, read Microsoft Office
tion on the go. You can surf the Web, read e-mail, or
documents, and run hundreds
of
other
applications.
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
40 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
A N A LY S T ’ S V I E W
BY S AS C HA S E G AN
listen to MP3s on your smartphone, but editing documents or writing e-mail is only for the very patient.
Pocket PC phones such as the Sprint PPC-6700
balance power and phone capabilities. All have touch
screens, and many have full keyboards. But they’re a
bit clunkier than smartphones.
You’ll also have to choose between the newer Windows Mobile 5.0 and the older 2003 OS. Windows
Mobile 5.0 devices use persistent memory, so your data
doesn’t disappear if the battery dies, and they’re better
at reading Microsoft Office documents and Web browsing. Also, they hold out the promise of true push e-mail
from corporate Outlook 2003 SP2 servers with a future
upgrade. But Mobile 5.0 devices feel a little slower than
devices running the older OS. Still, we think you should
buy Mobile 5.0 devices whenever possible.
Once you’ve picked your flavor and version, scope
out the features you need. If you plan to talk a lot on a
Pocket PC phone, you’ll probably want Bluetooth. If
you’re into e-mail, try out your device’s keyboard first. A
few Pocket PCs, such as the HP iPAQ hw6515, even
come with built-in GPS, useful for road warriors.
High-speed cellular networking, such as EV-DO,
will cost a lot monthly but will give you the best browsing experience. To save on monthly fees, you can find a
Wi-Fi device and restrict yourself to hot spots.
Processor speed matters only if you’re going to try
to watch full-screen video or run voice-over-Internet
applications like Skype. In such cases, look for a device
with a 416-MHz or faster processor.
Once you’ve settled on a Windows Mobile device,
stop by an online store such as Handango or PocketGear to see the wide range of software available.
Whether you’re an office drone, a gamer, or a multimedia maven, you’ll be amazed at what you can hold
in your hand.—SS
OTHER
OPTIONS
BEST FOR SPRINT
Sprint PPC-6700
This is the best Windows
Mobile PDA/phone we’ve
seen for Sprint,
with a nearly
ideal balance
of size and
power, and
good EV-DO/
Wi-Fi integration.
$479 list
go.pcmag.com/ppc6700
l l llm
BEST FOR VERIZON
Palm Treo 700w
The first Windows
Treo isn’t a huge
step forward, but
it offers zippy EVDO speeds and
good reception.
$619.99 direct
go.pcmag.com/700w
l l lmm
BEST FOR CINGULAR
Cingular 2125
A truly pocket-sized
phone for syncing
with Microsoft
Outlook or Exchange servers, it
also has a terrific
battery life.
$299.99 list
go.pcmag.
com/2125
l l llm
RECENTLY REVIEWED
HP iPAQ
rx1950
$299.00
list
l l l h m
A good business PDA for PIM and
integrating into corporate networks.
Samsung i730
$599.99
list
l l l l m
The most powerful cellular device
available; just recharge it daily.
i-mate JAM
$639.00
direct
l l l l m
This little Pocket PC phone offers a lot
of performance for its size.
Sprint
PPC-6600
$629.99
list
l l l h m
The most powerful Sprint handheld
doesn’t offer a high-speed network.
Siemens SX66
$549.99
list
l l l l m
This powerful PDA/phone has a wide
range of networking options.
Audiovox
XV-6600
$549.99
list
l l l l m
Surf at near-broadband speeds in 16
cities with this PDA/phone.
Sprint PCS
PPC-6601
$629.99
list
l l l l m
This smartphone works very well for
what it's meant to do, but at a price.
HP iPAQ
hx2750
$549.00
list
l l l l m
A fast, handsome business PDA with
top-of-the-line performance.
J
UST A FEW YEARS AGO, PALM OS
ruled the mobile landscape. Handspring, Qualcomm, and Samsung
all brought out compelling smartphones with the easy-to-use PalmSource software.
But in 2006, it’s increasingly
becoming a Windows Mobile world.
Windows gadgets from Dell, HP, HTC, and even Palm
flood wireless carriers’ stores. The formidable PalmSource has been reduced to one smartphone, the Treo
650, and a handful of PDAs.
In the fourth quarter of 2005, Microsoft licensees
shipped 2.1 million Windows Mobile PDAs, almost
double the number of Palm OS PDAs shipped that
quarter, according to Gartner Dataquest. In-Stat principal analyst Bill Hughes sees Windows smartphone
sales jumping to 6.7 million in 2006, with RIM and
Palm at about 3.7 million each.
How did Microsoft jump from worst to first? The
company embraced the latest technologies faster than
anyone else. Looking for a handheld with hardware
graphics acceleration? Check out Windows Mobile.
How about EV-DO high-speed networking? Windows
Mobile again. How about EV-DO and Wi-Fi? Yup,
Windows Mobile.
Microsoft also listened to its licensees, and signed
up new partners. PalmSource’s Cobalt OS was supposed to be the next generation of the Palm OS. But it
wasn’t designed to accord with the needs of licensees,
and nobody picked it up.
Microsoft played up its strengths. Exchange ActiveSync leverages corporate IT departments’ existing investments, and Microsoft has provided a clear road
map toward Microsoft-based push e-mail. That takes
some of the wind out of RIM’s sales.
The company also waited for technology to be on
its side. Microsoft’s OSs are not terribly efficient. That
was a drawback when PDAs ran on slow processors
with little memory. Now that handhelds can pack 624MHz processors and 128MB of RAM, the efficiency
advantages held by Linux, Symbian, and PalmSource
have begun to evaporate.
And finally, Microsoft delivered. PalmSource
might be more of a contender if it actually had a new
product. Instead, after the Cobalt debacle of 2004, the
company practically went into hiding, coming out only
to announce that its new ALP platform might appear
on devices sometime in 2007. That will leave Microsoft crossing the finish line while PalmSource is still
tying its running shoes. For 2006, at least, Windows
Mobile is the OS to watch. Q
Sascha Segan is PC Magazine’s Lead Analyst for cell
phones and handheld devices.
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 41
F I R ST LO O KS
S OF T WA RE
Typical lip
,
political csa
tir
Current
hippest
clips
e
Search by tag
Clipmarks
This addictive app/Website combo is an effective
way to store pieces of
Web pages for future reference, sharing, and gathering commentary.
Free
go.pcmag.com/clipmarks
llllm
Public
comments
area
A TRULY SOCIAL BOOKMARKING SITE
T
tag items with common-sense categories and create
nation defies easy classification. When
tags that others can search on or use themselves,
you browse, it lets you clip (select and
members can easily find clips, subscribe to RSS
save) and tag content, as you might
feeds based on tags, and even stitch clips together
guess from the name, but the sharing
into personalized cliprolls.
and social components at its heart are
Although there are just 10,000 registered users
its most compelling and entertaining attributes. Aland 2,500 active clippers currently, someone will
though you can, of course, keep your content private,
nearly always be interested in what you post, and
the site’s very nature invites you to share it, as well as peyou’ll come across a lot of fascinating content posted
ruse and comment on what your fellow clippers post.
by others. Despite the relatively small community,
Using tools that the plug-in app puts on the
there are a wide variety of clips with topics from
menu bar of your browser (Firefox, Internet Explornews and celebrity gossip to shopping. I find it—for
er, or the little-known Flock), you snag Web connow at least—a far more intimate and inviting place
tent and store it on Clipmarks.com, a thoroughly
to spend time than del.icio.us, digg, or Yahoo! My
intriguing interactive site that has a very intuitive
Web—and that makes part of me sad to recommend
and responsive interface.
Because
you
can
easily
this free tool so highly.—Davis D. Janowski
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
42 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
HE CLIPMARKS APP/WEB-SITE COMBI-
F I R ST LO O KS
S OF T WA RE
BUY ING GUID E
Parental Controls
Control settings, alerts, and
logs with the menu bar
SAFE EYES 2006
Keep your kids away from bad
sites and control how much time
they spend online. If they go wild
on the Web, Safe Eyes rats them
out so you can take control from
wherever you are. The product is
tough—I tried but failed to get around its
site blocking and could not gain access outside scheduled hours. One license allows installation on three PCs or Macs, which can
conveniently share the same online user
profiles—that’s great for the multicomputer
family. And filtering happens at the server
level, so it works with any browser. Add logging of Web and IM activity, and you’ve got
near-complete parental control.
$49.95 per year for up to three computers
go.pcmag.com/safeeyes2006
llllm
I
gs
Vary settin
ount
c
c
a
r
by use
N A PERFECT WORLD, YOU’D GUIDE YOUR
children through the vast resources of the
Internet, and they’d follow your guidance.
They’d use the computer only when permitted, eschew violent games, and avoid inappropriate sites. But this isn’t a perfect world.
You may not be able to supervise your kids all the time:
Maybe they get home before you do, maybe they have
computers in their rooms—and maybe they don’t do
what they’re told. Parental-control software can help.
Most of these programs filter HTML traffic and
block access to Web sites that match from a dozen-odd
to 40 or more specific categories. The products use a
MORE ON THE WEB
For in-depth reviews of
parental-control software and
hardware, visit us online at
go.pcmag.com/
parentalcontrols
HOW THEY RATE
local or online database to categorize Web sites; a few
actually analyze each page. You may have the option of
logging violations without blocking them or just displaying a warning. Naturally, you should have the option of overriding the category filtering to allow access
to specific sites; the database won’t always be right.
But don’t even look at a product that relies solely on
lists of good and bad sites. And be sure the filter blocks
inappropriate sites regardless of the browser used.
Time Management
In most cases, these products let you limit time
children spend on the computer to a daily or weekly
Site blocking
Image
blocking
Time control
Alerts &
remote access
Robustness
Overall
ContentProtect
l l l l m
N/A
llllm
lllmm
lllhm
lllhm
iShield
N/A
l l l h m
N/A
N/A
lllmm
lllhm
PC Moderator
N/A
N/A
llllm
N/A
lllll
llllh
Safe Eyes 2006
l l l l m
N/A
llllm
llllh
llllm
llllm
RED denotes Editors' Choice.
44 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
N/A—Not applicable: The product does not perform this function.
A N A LY S T ’ S V I E W
BY N E I L J. RU BE N KI NG
allowance, a weekly matrix of permissible times, or a
combination of the two. Some let you set an allowance
in minutes, and others use half-hour or hour blocks.
And some let you separately schedule overall computer usage, Internet usage, and individual programs. Of
course, if a program lets the kids change the system
clock, all bets are off; the best products defend against
such chicanery.
Look for a solution that supports multiple users so
you don’t have to put the same restrictions on a teenager that you do on a preschooler. User accounts may
be tied to Windows accounts, or they may require a
separate log-on; the best products give you both options. And of course, anything designed for parental
control should log users off automatically when there’s
no activity.
Invade Their Privacy
Activity logging may feel a bit like reading your child’s
diary, but virtually all parental-control programs do it
to some degree. They’ll at least log Web sites visited
and any attempts to reach blocked Web sites. They
may also log the time spent using specific programs,
record both sides of IM or e-mail conversations, or
even record every keystroke typed, along with which
program it was typed in. If you opt for activity logging,
make sure the logs are stored where kids can’t modify
or delete them.
If the content filter mistakenly blocks a site needed
for research, or if your child runs out of computer time
before running out of homework, remote management
can be a lifesaver. Many modern parental-control systems let you view reports and change settings from any
browser. They may even notify you by e-mail, phone,
or text message when specific events occur, such as
multiple attempts to reach blocked sites.
Of course, none of the restrictions mean squat if
the kids can break the parental-control system. Firewalls and antimalware programs have to resist attack
by hackers and viruses—parental controls need to be
just as tough. Your kids may know more about computers than you do, so you’ll want a product that’s hardened against meddling.—NJR
OTHER
OPTIONS
CONTENT FILTERING
ContentProtect
This full-featured parental-control app analyzes
Web-page text in real
time and applies categories on a per-page basis.
$39.99 per year
go.pcmag.com/
contentprotect
l l lhm
GRAPHICS BLOCKER
iShield
Blocks pornographic
images rather than
pornographic text. Use
it with a text-based or
URL-based Web filter.
$24.95
go.pcmag.com/ishield
l l lhm
ACCESS CONTROL
PC Moderator
This gadget is the best
way we’ve found to control time spent on the
PC, but that’s all it does.
Still, it accomplishes
its mission well, and
that earns it an Editors’
Choice.
$79.95 analog, $89.95
digital
go.pcmag.com/
pcmoderator
l l llh
STAY AWAY!
CyberSitter 9.0
Unchanged for years, this former Editors’ Choice no longer measures up.
$39.95 direct. go.pcmag.com/cybersitter90 l l l m m
NetNanny 5
No Web filtering by category, no improvements in years—no thanks.
$39.95 direct. go.pcmag.com/netnanny5 l l h m m
Chaperone Pro 5
What’s worse—that it lacks many common features, or that it’s easy to hack?
$59.95 direct. go.pcmag.com/chaperonepro5 l h m m m
I
DON’T KNOW HOW LONG MY KIDS
would stay on the computer if I let them—
I’ve never waited long enough to find out!
I’ve tried all sorts of techniques for anchoring them in the real world: changing their
passwords, rewarding good behavior with
“computer time tokens,” and limiting nonhomework computer use to weekends.
One thing I haven’t done is automate the limits, because I can see their computer from my home-office
desk. If I didn’t have the luxury of direct supervision,
however, I’d consider a time-limiting utility.
As for where they go on the Internet, I’m reluctant
to apply filtering software. Site-category databases
can lag behind reality, so a new site or one that has
changed from kiddie games to kiddie porn might not
be blocked.
And these utilities can err the other way, too, preventing acces to perfectly innocent sites. Some have
even been accused of promoting their own agendas,
inappropriately blocking topics such as feminism, gay
rights, or progressive politics.
The real-time approach, categorizing pages by
analyzing text, may be more timely, though sites with
text in images can fool it. And it’s only useful when the
software analyzes entire pages to derive meaning from
words in context.
I have no patience for applications that block
pages because they contain keywords—and those
that find keywords within other words are even worse.
To illustrate, here’s an example using a nonoffensive
word: Put the term “reside” on the keyword list, and
the software might block sites containing “president.”
Pointless!
I’m on the fence about activity logging. If I were
an employer, I’d have to notify employees they were
being logged, and there still could be ethical issues if I
recorded private e-mail and IM conversations. Perhaps
the situation’s different for my preteen kids, but what
about when they get older?
There’s no substitute for actually paying attention
to what your children are doing. But when you can’t
be there to cast a watchful eye, software can control
how and when they use their computers and can track
what they do.
Still, don’t forget this one important fact: Your
kids are smart. You need to talk with them about
their favorite Web sites, and you should ask what
they’ve discovered each day. Explain why you’re
imposing restrictions. Let them know if their IM
conversations aren’t private. And hope they’re
not so smart that they can hack whatever parental-control software you do decide to use. Q
Neil J. Rubenking is a lead analyst at PC Magazine.
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 45
F I R ST LO O KS
S MA L L B U SI N E SS
KICKIN’ NAS
W
ANT TO MAKE STORAGE EXCIT-
ing? Run out of it or lose some
data. If your small business
doesn’t need that sort of thrill,
though, the ReadyNAS NV
will keep you happily bored.
This Network Attached Storage (NAS) appliance can
hold four SATA drives running in a RAID (Redundant
Array of Inexpensive Drives) 0, 1, or 5 configuration.
My test unit came with four 250MB drives.
Few NAS boxes at this price let you hot-swap, but
I yanked a bad drive while the NV ran and popped in a
new one with no problem. Another plus: OS and configuration info—which are held in integrated memory,
not on the drives—stay put when drives crash.
The firmware and software are stellar. The installer
lets devices auto-detect the NAS, and the impressively
thorough setup wizard (a bit daunting for networking
newbies) walks you through configuration. The NV’s
smart DHCP server bows out if your network already
assigns IP addresses. The NV’s X-RAID technology
adjusts the RAID configuration (a tough task if you’re
new to RAID) when, say, you expand storage.
Small businesses, departments in large companies,
and tech-savvy people with home multimedia networks—here’s your shopping list for a compact NAS:
the ReadyNAS NV.—Oliver Kaven
One-touch
backup button
Infrant
Technologies’
ReadyNAS
NV
You can
replace a
bad drive in this RAID
appliance without
turning off the power.
1TB configuration,
$1,300 street
go.pcmag.com/
readynasnv
llllm
ed
Eight switcpohrts
t
e
Ethern ck
on the ba
SWISS ARMY NAS
Anthology Solutions’
Yellow Machine P400T
This RAID system packs
capabilities far beyond
storage.
1TB configuration, $999
direct
go.pcmag.com/
yellowmachinep400t
llllm
W
HY BUY AND SUPPORT A NAS
d e v i c e , r o u t e r, f i r e w a l l ,
switch, and Web server when
your small business can get
the same features in one
toaster-size package? Not only
does the Yellow Machine P400T combine all that,
but it also supports RAID 0, 0+1, and 5 (the default);
contains eight built-in Ethernet ports; and comes
preloaded with excellent backup software—Retromarginal understanding of networking. The managespect Professional—licensed for five clients. I tested
ment interface is very rough, though—one reason the
a P400T that had four 250MB drives.
P400T loses the Editors’ Choice to the ReadyNAS NV.
To configure the applicance, you simply plug a PC
Still, this appliance gives serious bang for the buck to
into one of the eight Ethernet switch ports, point to
those needing more than a NAS device. If you’re one of
the IP address of the administration interface, and
them, put it high on your list.—OK
follow a wizard. Setup
is
relatively
easy
if
you
have
a
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
46 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
F I R ST LO O KS
S MALL BU S I N E SS
mplify
Wizards sisk
s
admin ta
SYMANTEC ENTERS
THE BACKUP GAME
I
N BACKUP EXEC 10D, SYMANTEC BLENDS
the continuous file protection and selfservice restore capabilities of Continuous
Protection Server (CPS) with the functionality of the mature, full-featured backup solution, Backup Exec. (Symantec acquired both
in its 2005 merger with Veritas.) The combination
best suits companies with multiple servers, perhaps
in separate locations.
Backup Exec kicks in nightly, which protects
against major failures but not daytime user mishaps.
CPS, though, works throughout the day. By default, it
immediately saves any file changes made on the servers
it protects. A Web interface called Backup Retrieve lets
users see their own file copies—but no others—and
restore those made very recently or further back. This
capability is valuable for administrators who spend a lot
of time helping users restore files selectively.
Continuous protection works only for standard files
right now, though, not for the more complex files found
on database or Exchange servers. For these (and other
data types), Backup Exec has a full set of agents and
options that allow backups of Oracle and Microsoft
databases, e-mail systems such as Lotus Domino and
Microsoft Exchange, Linux and Unix servers, and a
number of other enterprise software packages. And
naturally, the product provides the features you’d
expect in a traditional enterprise backup solution: full,
incremental, and differential backups, scheduled jobs,
tape-drive support, and more.—Robert P. Lipschutz
Symantec Backup Exec
10d for Windows Servers with Continuous
Protection Server 10.1
This backstop lets
admins recover from
disasters, but also lets
users retrieve files that
have been deleted by
mistake recently.
With three CPS agents,
$795
go.pcmag.com/
backupexec10d
lllhm
YOU’RE ON, SPEAKERPHONE
T
HE WELL-MADE AND DURABLE
ClearOne Chat 50 is a cut above the
chintzy toy-like gadgets typical of
USB speakerphones. More important,
though, is its excellent, full-bodied
sound. I found the audio comparable
to that of high-end Polycom conference-room models—which cost far more.
Simply plug the Chat 50’s USB cable into your
PC, and you’re ready to use your VoIP phone service.
A mini DIN headphone jack lets you connect your cell
phone, PDA, or even your MP3 player (in a pinch, the
Chat 50 isn’t half bad for playing music).
While you’ll enjoy the sound quality, you’ll really
love the full-duplex operation (which is excellent),
Smart LED is blue
because it lets you simultaneously speak to and hear
whe
n powered,
the person on the other end.
red when muted
If you hate the speakerphone quality on your
laptop or you’re sick of constantly wearing a headset, consider the Chat 50. It’s well worth the investment.—Oliver Kaven
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
ClearOne Chat 50
This USB speakerphone provides
business-quality
full-duplex sound
for PCs using
Skype or similar software or
cell phones.
$149 direct
go.pcmag.com/chat50
llllh
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 49
W H AT T O B U Y
DEDICATED PHOTO
PRINTER
Canon Selphy CP510
Compact Photo Printer
Canon U.S.A. Inc.; $99.99
direct
Fast performance and
low running cost. Very
good photo quality for
the price. Battery option.
go.pcmag.com/canoncp510
ALL-PURPOSE PRINTER
HP OfficeJet Pro K550
Color Printer
Hewlett-Packard Development Co.; $200 street
Super-fast performance.
Suited to a small office
or home office.
Dell Inc.; $968.80 direct
(E-Value Code 1111-i6004pc)
go.pcmag.com/hpM7360n
Media Center OS. 15.4inch widescreen display.
Very good performance.
go.pcmag.com/
inspiron6000mce
Apple Computer Inc.;
$349.99 list
Excellent sound quality.
Big-room sound. Can run
on alkaline batteries or
AC power.
Optical and analog
audio inputs.
Altiris Inc.; free for
personal use
go.pcmag.com/altirissvs
ANTISPYWARE
Spyware Doctor 3.5
PC Tools; $29.95 direct
BUDGET PDA
Palm Z22
Best version yet. Removed more spyware
than other tested products did.
Palm Inc.; $99.99 list
go.pcmag.com/spydoc35
SMALL-BUSINESS
BACKUP
NTI Shadow
Dual-core processor.
TV tuner. Media Center.
Massive amounts of
storage.
UTILITY
Altiris Software Virtualization Solution 2.0
Gorgeous. Excellent
voice quality. Good
reception. Supports
EV-DO.
go.pcmag.com/palmz22
IPOD SPEAKERS/DOCK
Apple iPod Hi-Fi
go.pcmag.com/rangemax240
Motorola Inc.; $349.99 direct
Small, light, easy to use.
Excellent battery life.
MEDIA CENTER LAPTOP
Dell Inspiron 6000
(Media Center)
Our wireless router of
choice, it has the highest
throughput (more than
100 Mbps) we’ve ever
seen at short distances.
MOBILE PHONE
Motorola RAZR V3c
go.pcmag.com/razrv3c
Hewlett-Packard Development Co.; $1,610 direct;
$1,200 without monitor.
Netgear; router, $135 street;
CardBus adapter, $100 street
Installs, uninstalls, or
resets software; prevents
conflicts between apps;
leaves Windows base
unaltered.
go.pcmag.com/hpK550
MEDIA CENTER
DESKTOP
HP Pavilion Media
Center TV m7360n PC
HOME NETWORKING
Netgear RangeMax
240 WPNT834 wireless
router and WPNT511
CardBus adapter
NewTech Infosystems Inc.;
$29.99 direct
Fast, simple, continuous
backup.
go.pcmag.com/ntishadow
FLASH DRIVE
Memorex U3 smart Mini
TravelDrive
Memorex Products Inc.;
$35 list
256MB. Offers a great
mix of storage capacity, U3 applications, and
security features.
go.pcmag.com/
memorexdrive
go.pcmag.com/ipodhifi
42-INCH HDTV
(PLASMA)
NEC 42XR4
NEC Display Solutions of
America; $3,995.99 list
Exceptional picture
quality. Comprehensive
display options. Good
video processor.
MORE ON THE WEB
go.pcmag.com/nec42xr4
We’ve got 87 Product Guides
and thousands of up-to-date
reviews on the Web.
See them all at:
go.pcmag.com/guides
DEDICATED ULTRAPORTABLE LAPTOP
Lenovo ThinkPad X60s
Lenovo; $2,299 direct
Just 3.5 lbs. Over 7
hours of battery life.
Integrated EV-DO.
Excellent management
utilities. Very good
screen and keyboard.
go.pcmag.com/lenovox60s
DESKTOP (APPLE OS)
Apple iMac
(Intel Core Duo)
Apple Computer Inc.; $1,699
direct, $1,799 as tested
Dual-core processor.
Front Row. Mini-DVI port
for true dual-monitor
use. Excellent all-in-one
design.
go.pcmag.com/
appleimacintel
OPTICAL DEVICE
Sony DVDirect VRD-MC1
Sony Corp.; $299.99 direct
Easily transfers video
directly to DVD from
camcorder or VCR. Easy
to use. 2" preview LCD.
go.pcmag.com/sonydvdirect
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
50 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
DIGITAL CAMERA
(COMPACT)
Canon PowerShot S80
Canon U.S.A. Inc.;
$549.95 list
Outstanding picture
quality. Good performance. Wide-angle lens.
go.pcmag.com/S80
I N S I D E T R AC K
BY JOHN C . DVORAK
T
thing expensive and bound to break—a classic unGermany, will become the
necessary gizmo.
world’s dominant computer
Another hot topic was RFID. It’s generating worldwide interest now that the devices have come down to
technology show unless a new
the size of a grain of rice. Now they want to put these
U.S. show can fill the void left
things everywhere, from trucks to pets to you and me.
by the collapse of the Comdex
event. Such a shift in dominance
Everyone was talking about getting “chipped.” I
think not.
from the U.S. to Europe could
Strange Bedfellows Dept.: I find it amusing
be a disaster for American companies, which have
that Dell just bought Alienware, a maker of high-end
tended not to participate heavily in CeBit. If interest
AMD-based computers for gamers. It’s odd, since Dell
in CeBit were to grow in the U.S. market, then the
actually got rolling in the PC business by developing
show would be impossible to unseat as leader. That
said, CeBit could veer off in the wrong direction and
some of the fastest computers available. I remember
self-destruct or stall.
Michael Dell, at a PC Magazine Editors’ Day in TexOne of Comdex’s wrong turns was to downplay
as about 20 years ago, personally showing off a 286
interesting gadgets and technologies. The show
machine that at the time was clocked faster than
any competitive computer. Back then, the company
suddenly changed its focus, choosing to concentrate
instead on enterprise computing and the needs of the
Fortune 1000 companies. I hate to have to point out
Attempts to make the mobile phone into
continually that although the Fortune 1000 companies
can each purchase tens of thousands of computers
some sort of all-purpose device will never
and software systems, there are only 1,000 of these
companies, hence the name. This makes for a show
end and will never succeed.
with low attendance, if you just do the math. Though
1,000 people might go to the show, each representing
was designing its own motherboards and pushing the
one of the 1,000 companies, nobody wants to exhibit
envelope. I wonder just what it is that Alienware does
in an empty hall that resembles a ghost town without
the tumbleweeds.
that Dell itself can’t do. My guess is that it’s just an
excuse to get into bed with AMD after all the years
This was the kind of target market CeBit chose
Dell chose to be an Intel-only shop. An expensive
for its CeBit America show in New York a few years
divorce, if you ask me.
ago, which proved short-lived. But at this year’s HanBooting Windows XP on a Mac Dept.: Someone
nover show, the promoters were again talking about
finally came up with a quick-booting version of Microde-emphasizing devices and technologies and instead
soft Windows XP that boots just fine on an x86 Mac.
focusing on solutions. Solutions, by their nature, are
I had the opportunity to play with it; it looks just like
boring. The booth that was packed to the gills with
showgoers was Microsoft’s pavilion, loaded with gizany Windows XP until you go into the device manager
mos and technologies. This was followed by the moand see more yellow question marks than you’ll ever
see anywhere. It works, but it doesn’t really like being
bile-phone makers’ booths, which displayed all sorts
on a Mac—yet.
of jazzy phones. The “solutions” booths were empty,
How Did They Do That? Dept.: I had no idea that
and the TV crews covered the jazzy new stuff. Can
you could manage to get a video feed out of a USB 2.0
you imagine otherwise? “Yes, Brent, our back-office
port, but Tritton seems to have done it with the TRIdatabase subsystems rely on an SQL database which
UV100 USB 2.0 Interface. As many of you know, you
our proprietary software accesses via VPN and our
can run multiple monitors with Windows XP and crespecial nodal software. Let me give you an example of
ate a large desktop. An nVidia SLI card can support
a complex query search here on the monitor.” Yawn.
two monitors from a single card. Most cards can drive
If any one theme dominated the show, it was the
copycat attempts to make the mobile phone into some
only one monitor; to run another monitor you need
sort of all-purpose device. This will never end and
to add a second card. Enter the Tritton. This small,
will never succeed. The spotlight this year was on
widely available USB device gives you an additional
1024-by-768 output for a second monitor. I didn’t
games and flip-around screens. I think every phone
maker had one of these screens. They slide up and
know that this was even possible. You could probably
then flip sideways to form kind of a “T.”
add another display card for less than the $80 that this
This is useful for watching TV and playing games
thing costs, but with closed systems, or for its simplicwith a controller below the screen. I see it as someity, it’s a very interesting idea. Q
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
HE CEBIT SHOW IN HANNOVER ,
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 53
MICHAEL J. MILLER
An Open Letter
to Security Vendors
To: John Thompson, CEO, Symantec
George Samenuk, CEO, McAfee
Eva Chen, CEO, Trend Micro
Laura Yecies, General Manager, Zone Labs
A
LL OF YOU HAVE REASON TO
McAfee Internet Security’s antivirus and firewall
modules have worked well for me, but its antispam
module is very slow and inadequate. In addition, the
privacy control is very annoying, and it doesn’t offer
parental filtering.
Trend Micro has all the right tools in the box, but
its antispyware component is a major disappointment.
One of my children downloaded a Tetris game that
came with spyware, and I spent days removing it.
In my testing, ZoneAlarm Security Suite has been
the most stable, with good antivirus and antispam
modules in addition to its best-in-class firewall, but
its antispyware is weak. And many of the people I talk
worry about the prospect of
Microsoft entering the security
market this summer with a
new service called OneCare.
But you’re focused on the
wrong problem. Instead of
focusing on Microsoft, you need
to take a good hard look at the effectiveness of your
own wares. I’ve talked with a lot of computer users
You haven’t clearly told your customers that
lately, and the conclusion is inescapable: Your products just aren’t good enough.
the standalone solutions aren’t enough.
Some of your products don’t do a complete job;
others are packaged in ways that customers don’t unwith who have tried ZoneAlarm are confused by its
derstand; parts of some software don’t work properly,
messages. The same goes for Computer Associates’
and other programs are so big that they cause the very
eTrust, which also includes the ZoneAlarm firewall.
problems customers want to avoid.
Still, each of you continues to believe you’ll be able
It starts with marketing. Many of you promote
to compete against OneCare because you offer better
single-solution products—typically your antivirus
software. So far we haven’t been completely thrilled
software—as if they provided enough protection. So
with the beta versions of OneCare (particularly its antipeople install Norton Antivirus or McAfee VirusScan,
spyware), but Microsoft will continue to improve it.
or get computers with these products preinstalled, and
And though many people will avoid a Microsoft add-in
they think they’re protected. Yet we all know that’s not
because they want an outside vendor, I know others
true. Most of the threats these days are blended, so
who just trust Microsoft because it makes Windows.
people need multiple defenses: antivirus, a firewall,
OneCare changes the model to a pure subscripMORE ON THE WEB
spyware protection, and an antispam program.
tion service, something you all like. But you need to do
Read Michael J.
Miller’s insights daily
True, each one of you now offers suites that cover all
more. All of you have been more active than Microsoft
on his blog, at
the bases. But you haven’t clearly told your customers
in getting fixes out and alerting customers to security
blog.pcmag.com/miller.
that the standalone solutions aren’t enough protection.
threats. This needs to continue. But you also have to
Even for the most technical of us, running separate probuild products that are easier to use, by making their
grams can lead to conflicts and confusion. And most
messages and help systems clearer and by making your
users don’t want the hassle of multiple interfaces.
products work better with the software most people
I’ve installed each of your products on at least one
run. And you need to make them easier to keep up to
of my systems and have had problems with every one
date, perhaps requiring fewer reboots.
of them. Norton Internet Security is bloated and ocBetween now and when Vista ships in early 2007,
casionally messes up my machine. When I upgraded
I hope and expect that you’ll focus on improving your
it this year, my Web browsers stopped working, and I
products so they’re more stable, functional, easier to
spent two hours on an Internet chat to get the Registry
upgrade, and simpler to run. Not only is that the best
patch to fix it. The software still sometimes interferes
way to fend off Microsoft, but it’s also the best way to
with my Internet access for no apparent reason. YYePG Proudly
make everyone
a better computer user. Q
Presents, Thx for Support
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 55
B I L L M AC H R O N E
Steal-Me White
I
F YOU HAVE EVEN A SHRED OF INTEREST IN
audio devices, you have probably checked
out the iPod Hi-Fi, that shiny white boom
box with the iPod dock on top. It garnered
an Editors’ Choice here in PC Magazine
and has been well reviewed elsewhere.
Everyone agrees that it sounds good and
that it’s loud. No one disputes that it has
visual appeal. Apple didn’t cut corners on construction quality, magnet weight in the speakers, or amplifier power, although the company is coy about citing
wattage.
I think it’s silly.
Real Hassles
Dogg’s neckwear. Most other speakers equipped with
docks nestle or partially envelop the iPod in a protective nook. Not so the iPod Hi-Fi, which leaves it dangerously exposed.
Real Home Stereo
If you really want to use your iPod with your home
stereo, you should get a good dock such as the Xitel
HiFi-Link iPod dock. We have one and will probably
get a second one. The unit is sometimes hooked up
to the stereo in the kitchen, the home theater in the
family room, or the boom box in the basement shop.
And when it’s not playing music, it’s charging my son’s
iPod or mine.
The Xitel unit has its own remote control, which
comes in handy for tasks such as adjusting the volume
from across the room or skipping that song that you
didn’t want to hear. Of course, you can always use a
generic 1/8-inch stereo cable with suitable adapters to
MORE ON THE WEB
You can contact Bill Machrone
at Bill_Machrone@ziffdavis
.com. For more of his
columns, go to go.pcmag
.com/machrone.
First of all, if you look around the average home or
apartment, you will find an abundance of Things That
Play Music: these may include home theaters, highend and midrange stereo systems, bookshelf systems,
Bose and Bose-like table or shelf radios, even upscale
clock radios with CD players. Which of them will you
Where will you take the iPod Hi-Fi so it
displace to make room for an iPod Hi-Fi, which has no
radio and only an inconveniently located input jack at
won’t attract the wrong kind of attention?
the rear?
In an ideal location—say, on a credenza located
A picnic in a state park? The beach? Sure,
against an uncluttered wall and placed equidistant
from the side walls—the iPod Hi-Fi sounds very
if you’re going to hire security for the day.
good for its size, but it is somewhat midrangey for my
hook the iPod up to anything that has an auxiliary port.
tastes and unable to create a true stereo sound stage.
But the charger, the remote control, and the stand-up
Other locations further compromise stereo imaging.
dock all make the Xitel dock worthwhile. It also has
Granted, imaging isn’t important if you’re just filling
video-out, but we haven’t taken the iPod video plunge
the room with sound, but Apple advertises this thing as
yet. My son likes the Xitel dock’s SRS TruBass bass
a replacement for an audiophile system. Audiophiles
boost, but I don’t—I suspect that it’s one of those gencare about imaging.
erational things.
Second, there’s the blindingly white case. I jokingly coined the phrase “mug-me white” to describe
Real Portability
the iPod earbuds, but the phrase has been all too acIf you really want to share your tunes with a small
curate in some locales. So where will you take the iPod
crowd, we have an ideal do-it-yourself project for you,
Hi-Fi so it won’t attract the wrong kind of attention? A
which we are featuring in the next issue. I converted
picnic in a state park? The beach? Sure, if you’re going
an old stereo cassette player–radio (it’s not quite big
to hire security for the day. Perhaps a more appropriate
enough to break into the boom box category) so that
venue would be the fenced patio in your gated comit stealthily conceals an iPod inside the cassette community. Seriously, when you look at the iPod Hi-Fi,
partment. You can control the iPod by using the casyou have to wonder why Apple bothered to put in a
sette buttons. It won’t rattle the windows like the iPod
battery capability at all—it definitely looks like a stayHi-Fi, but it’s loud enough to make itself heard. And
at-home.
it’s ratty enough that no one will think about stealing
Finally, consider the iPod itself, waving idiotically
it, even if you leave it on your beach towel while you
from the top of the unit, in the most blatant bit of
take a dip. Q
hey-look-at-me style self-consciousness since Snoop
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
56 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
58 PC MAGAZINE
MAY 9, 2006
Illustration by Zohar Lazar
VISTA
PREVIEW
Why You Want
Vista Now!
It won’t be on Wal-Mart’s shelves until next year, but
Microsoft has let loose the next Windows. We went
under the covers to find the secrets in the new OS.
M
BY JOHN CLYMAN
duce Vista into your organization and manage migraVista, the long-awaited
tion and training. At PC Magazine, we’ve been diving
and long-delayed sucdeeper into Vista with each new CTP (Community
cessor to Windows XP,
Technology Preview), uncovering useful little secrets
is still in the beta-testing
and powerful new capabilities, excitedly sharing our
stages. Until recently,
discoveries with each other—and now with you.
Microsoft held firm to a
In February, Microsoft released a version of Vista
release date in the secthat it calls “feature complete”—that is, including all
ond half of this year. (And let’s be candid: When
the basic functions that will be in the final product.
Microsoft uses a vague term like “second half,” that
That CTP was available only to select beta testers and
sure doesn’t mean July). But then, on March 21,
members of MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network)
the company announced that though Vista would
and Microsoft TechNet. Soon after you read this,
be available to businesses in November, consumers
we expect Microsoft to release a consumer-oriented
would have to wait until January 2007. So why would
CTP that anyone should be able to get their hands
you want Vista now, when the product is likely six to
on. As we go to press, Microsoft hasn’t said how that
nine months away from shipping?
public CTP will be distributed, but as soon as that
Two words: More fun. Like a new car, Vista pracinformation is released, we’ll have it at go.pcmag
tically begs you to play with all its shiny new gad.com/vista with the rest of our ongoing coverage.
gets, see how hard you can drive it, and luxuriate in
Make no mistake: We’re not advocating that
the novelty of the experience.
you urge Uncle Jim—or whoever calls you for help
We admit that’s not the most rational justificaafter his system has ground to a halt because he’s
tion. Fair enough. There are plenty of down-to-earth
installed too many adware-laden screensavers—to
reasons Vista is appealing. Improved security, for
start working with Vista today. Nor would we recomone. Dramatic improvements in tools that can help
mend installing Vista on a production system where
you cope with information overload, for another.
incompatibilities, crashes, or data loss would prove
Better support for multimedia and mobile devices,
catastrophic. Betas are by definition unfinished
a better version of Internet Explorer, and a dramatiproducts, and our experience with Vista has been far
cally revamped UI, to name a few more. If Vista defrom seamless—it can be slow, crash unpredictably,
livers on all its promises, you’ll spend much less time
refuse to work with various hardware, cause glitches
performing tedious maintenance and configuration
in a variety of software, and generally be a hassle.
tasks and much more time being productive—or
(And yes, we can hear the more cynical among you
just keeping yourself entertained.
grumbling about how that doesn’t sound any differIf you’re an übergeek, you’ll want to try Vista
ent from any other Microsoft OS, but we disagree;
so you can retain your reputation of staying on the
if you’ve kept Windows XP patched and up to date,
bleeding edge. If you’re a developer, you’ll want to see
your computing should be pretty predictable.) But if
how Vista offers the opportunity to write compelling
you’ve got a spare machine around and are comfortnew applications. If you’re an IT manager, you need
able living on the edge in exchange for a little exciteto start thinking about how you’ll eventually introment, then get your hands on Vista now.
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
ICROSOFT WINDOWS
MORE ON THE WEB
You’ll find PC Magazine’s ongoing coverage of Vista as it’s
revealed at go.pcmag.com/
vista. This page includes reviews of Vista CTPs (Community Technology Previews) as
they’re released, columnists’
opinions on the emerging OS,
and “Vista Revealed,” handson, in-depth looks at new
features.
And don’t miss the Vista
coverage at ExtremeTech, our
sister site, including Jason
Cross’s optimistic “Why Windows Vista Won’t Suck,” at
go.extremetech.com/vista.
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 59
VISTA
PREVIEW
Because It’s Cool
I
NSTALL IT AND YOUR JAW WILL DROP. THE VISTA GUI IS SO SLICK,
so cleverly put together, that it may even impress a few Mac users. Unlike Windows XP, which had a “new” look and feel that seemed like
the same ol’ same ol’, Vista takes you to a different world. Tiny widgets
hover in the corner. Translucent windows flit to and fro like Disney
characters. The Start Menu is actually easy to use. Not since the
summer of ’95 has the Windows interface taken such a giant leap forward.
—Cade Metz
Vista Secrets
Vista includes speech
recognition for both
entering text and
executing Windows
commands. Get
started in the Control
Panel’s Speech Recognition applet.
There are six Vista
variants: For the
home, Home Basic,
Home Premium, and
Ultimate; for businesses, Business and
Enterprise; and for
emerging markets,
Starter.
SEE-THROUGH
WINDOWS
Partially translucent
windows cast thin
shadows on items
below, giving a 3D
look and feel.
TASK
SWITCHING
The old Alt-Tab key
combination provides thumbnails
and descriptions
as well.
MINIAPPLICATIONS
Running along
the edge of your
desktop, Sidebar
gives quick access to all sorts of
mini-applications.
You can even
drag the miniapps onto the
desktop.
THUMBNAIL
Mousing over a
minimized window
gives not only a description of the app, but also
a live thumbnail.
THE START MENU
Rather than fanning out
across your desktop, as it
did in the past, the Start
Menu stays compact.
60 PC MAGAZINE
MAY 9, 2006
NEW AND IMPROVED TASK SWITCHING
Using the new “Windows-Tab” key combination, you can instantly spin through a
3D “Rolodex” of open applications.
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
VISTA
PREVIEW
For a Better Internet Experience
A
NOTHER
REASON
YOU’LL
WANT
to try Vista now is that it offers an
improved Internet experience—at
least compared with the one you get
with a vanilla version of Windows
XP. Vista includes Internet Explorer
7, a revised version of Outlook Express called Windows Mail, and a unified RSS store.
RSS FEEDS Right on the cutting edge of a few years ago, Microsoft has built an
RSS reader into IE7. As shown here, your feeds can appear in the IE7 Explorer bar.
MAIL CONTACTS You can now find your contacts right in Windows Explorer and
even use the context menu to send a message.
VISTA: BECAUSE YOU’RE A GAMER? Microsoft has made a
good show of talking up Vista for games, but gamers have remained uninterested, at best, and can you blame them? Thus far
the big points have been a rich set of parental controls, pretty
icons, and info pages for cataloging your library. Hardly sexy—at
least, not to performance-hungry gamers.
Recently, though, a Microsoft representative mentioned
something that could heat gamers’ interest up quickly. No,
not the exclusive PC release of Halo 2 on Vista. But there is
something to be learned from the excitement over being able
to play a two-year-old Xbox game. Most of us would consider
the Xbox antiquated. Its 733-MHz Pentium III, 64MB of RAM,
and nVidia video chip derived from the now four-generationsout-of-date GeForce 3 would barely be suitable for surfing the
Net. But because the architecture allows a direct path to the
Let’s start with IE7, since Web browsing is what
most users associate most strongly with the Internet. Microsoft has packed quite a few new capabilities into IE7—capabilities that are new to IE anyway, though many may seem ho-hum to Firefox and
Opera users: tabbed browsing and a streamlined
menu bar, antiphishing and antispoofing capabilities, an integrated RSS reader, improved printing
support, and features for Web developers.
I’m pleased with the way IE is shaping up, but
I can’t help saying: It’s about time. Microsoft released IE6 in 2001, and aside from some hotfixes
and service packs—admittedly with important features such as a pop-up blocker and a better UI, to
help protect naïve users against dangerous downloads—the company’s browser development had
languished.
I long ago stopped using IE as my primary
browser because it lacked tabs, but IE7 just might
win me back. If you’ve somehow missed out on the
tabbed-browsing revolution, IE7 might give you the
shove you need. Tabbed browsing lets you keep a
number of Web pages open within a single browser
window, using tabs to select among them. To open
a link in a new tab, you can click the center mouse
button (or the wheel, depending on your mouse
configuration), hold the Control key while you click
a link, or right-click a link and choose Open in New
Tab. IE7 always keeps a blank tab open, so you can
simply click it and enter a new URL. I’m psyched
that tabs have finally arrived, but most of this was
already available in other browsers—even in IE6 if
you added the MSN Search Toolbar. But IE7 does
add one unique feature, a useful “quick tabs” view
that shows thumbnails of all the Web pages you
have open in different tabs.
IE7 includes a Web-search box at the top right
corner—it uses MSN search by default, but you
can easily select a different search engine. I’m
disappointed, though, that the browser can’t perform incremental search (aka search-as-you-type or
hardware, it puts on a terrific show with Halo 2 and dozens of
other fantastic-looking games.
PCs, on the other hand, have been saddled with the Windows graphics device interface (GDI). Applications didn’t talk to
the drivers, much less the video card, directly; they talked to the
GDI, which in turn interacted with the drivers for the application.
So, what’s the big news here? Well, Vista removes this roadblock. It’s another benefit of the OS’s requirement of a DirectX
9–capable video card. Though there will be a compatibility
mode for older applications that need the GDI, new applications—namely, games—written specifically for Vista will be able
to take the same direct path the Xbox has enjoyed, and with it
get a performance boost that representatives have said may be
around 30 to 40 percent. Now that’s something to get excited
about.—Garnett Lee
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
62 PC MAGAZINE
MAY 9, 2006
word-wheel search) within a Web page, an unfortuARE YOU READY? Jon Peddie Research (JPR) estimates there are around 1.2 billion computers in use today—not sitting on shelves in the garage, but actually in
nate shortcoming considering how extensively Vista
use. A good percentage of these are running pre-XP Windows OSs.
emphasizes this capability elsewhere—and that
Based on two decades of data collection on shipments of both add-in graphother browsers have been doing it for some time.
ics processors and integrated graphics cards, JPR determined that approxiIE7 also offers simplified menus and adds welmately 51 percent of the PCs in use as of the end of 2005 weren’t ready to run
Vista (see chart). But Vista interacts with PC hardware differently from previous
come conveniences such as shrink-to-fit printing,
versions of Windows, as it taps the power of the graphics processor. The resultwhich helps ensure that you don’t cut off the righting interface improvements, collectively known as Aero Glass, go far beyond eye
hand side of wide pages. For Web developers, IE7
candy like transparent window edges and truly change the computing experiincludes improved support for CSS (Cascading
ence. According to JPR, only about one in ten PCs is ready to mine Aero Glass’s
richness.
Style Sheets) fixed positioning and for alpha-channel
You don’t have to be left out in the cold, though—and you don’t necessarily
transparency in PNG (Portable Network Graphics)
need to buy a new computer. To enjoy the nice Aero Glass interface in Vista, you’ll
images, which lets images on Web pages be partially
need a reasonably modern DirectX 9–capable graphics card—integrated graphics
transparent.
just won’t do. This doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money on something
high-end. The nVidia GeForce 7600 GT and Radeon X1600 Pro cards run Vista
Then there’s RSS—Really Simple Syndication,
great, are available in both AGP and PCI Express, and cost under $200.
a technology that serious Web surfers have come
PCMag.com sister site ExtremeTech recently put a new crop of graphics cards
to rely on for delivering regular streams of updated
through the wringer. You’ll find the results online at go.extremetech.com
information, the Internet equivalent of newspaper
/graphicscards.—Jon Peddie & Jason Cross
headlines or TV-news crawls. IE7 automatically
discovers RSS feeds on pages you visit and lets you
PCs Ready for Vista
view and subscribe to those feeds. But RSS supPercentage of PCs in active use
port isn’t limited to IE; Vista itself provides unified
100%
RSS storage, so all applications (with suitable work
Vista Aero–capable
on the part of developers) can share a single set
90%
of RSS content. You can see this in action in the
80%
simple RSS headline component for Vista’s Sidebar,
Vista-capable
which automatically picks up feeds you add in the
70%
browser.
60%
IE7 takes steps forward in security as well, which
we enumerate in the section “Because You Need
50%
Better Security,” on page 74.
40%
If you use Outlook Express for your e-mail, you’ll
find Vista’s Windows Mail client—a tweaked version
30%
of Outlook Express—offers some advantages as well.
Not Vista-capable
20%
For starters, you’ve got to try the incremental search:
Start typing in the search box and watch as your e10%
mail morass gets rapidly whittled down. (Too bad
Outlook itself can’t do this yet.) Windows Mail also
0%
includes spam and phishing filters like those in Out2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006*
2007*
look. And despite its name, Windows Mail still serves
Source: Jon Peddie Research.
*Projected.
as a newsgroup reader as well; in fact, it includes a
link to Microsoft Help newsgroups by default.
Windows Mail stores its data differently from
Outlook Express, using a combination of Vista’s
OUR CONTRIBUTORS: John Clyman is a contributVista Secret
file system and built-in Jet database engine, which
ing editor of PC Magazine and president of the technolFeeling some trepidation
Microsoft claims will make for more bulletproof
ogy consulting firm Narrative Logic. Cade Metz is senior
about installing the beta?
storage. And here’s something really cool we found:
writer at PC Magazine, and Oliver Kaven and Neil J.
Make Vista coexist with
your existing OS: You can
Rubenking are PC Magazine Labs lead analysts. Garnett
Windows Mail stores contacts right in the file sysinstall it on a separate
Lee is the managing editor of 1up.com, Ziff Davis’s site
tem, so you can view and sort your contacts, or send
partition (we recommend
for gamers, Jason Cross is a lead analyst for Extremethem e-mail, from directly within the shell.
PartitionMagic, www.
Tech.com, Mary Jo Foley is the editor of Microsoft
I might not consider any one of Vista’s Internetpartitionmagic.com), or
Watch (www.microsoft-watch.com), and Jon Peddie is
install it on a virtual
related features compelling by itself, especially given
the founder of Jon Peddie Research, a consulting firm
machine by using Microhow many of them are just a download away if you’re
specializing in graphics and digital media technology.
soft Virtual PC (www
Features editor Sarah Pike was in charge of this story.
using Windows XP. But put them together and Vista
.microsoft.com/virtualpc)
makes using the Internet a bit safer, more producor VMware Workstation
(www.vmware.com).
tive, and more enjoyable.—John Clyman
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 63
VISTA
PREVIEW
To Regain Control of Your Files,
Your E-mails, Your Photos....
O
THE START MENU
More contained and efficient than before, the
Start menu includes an
incremental search box.
day-to-day work onto Vista to see just how effectively
it helps me with these masses of data.
Search is just about everywhere in Vista. Open
the Start menu and you’ll see an embedded text box.
As you type in the box, Vista starts showing data that
matches your search term: application names, file
contents, even e-mails. It’s very satisfying to know
you can get to all your data from this one box—I’m
even considering giving up Google Desktop Search.
Many users will probably find the single text-box
search interface meets most of their search needs.
But here’s a secret: Try Vista’s parametric searches,
such as “all the music files from albums released
in 2005 that I’ve rated 4 stars or higher,” which are
sophisticated and easier than ever. You build these
searches using the simple point-and-click interface
in the Advanced Filter Pane, accessible from the
drop-down menu to the right of the Search box, then
save them as Search Folders, which you can open at
any time to see dynamic, current results.
File browsing is improved as well. The expanding
list view that shows all your applications in the Windows menu is easier to navigate than the cascading
program menus in Windows XP. One feature you
don’t want to miss is Windows Explorer’s scalable
live icons—thumbnails of documents’ actual contents rather than simply the icon of the application
that created them. These make it far easier to find
the file you’re looking for at a glance (with some file
types, such as Microsoft Office’s, you may need to
check the “Save preview picture” check box in the
File | Properties dialog). Windows Explorer lets you
tag files with metadata such as ratings or keywords
and then use this data for grouping, sorting, filtering,
or searching within it, providing hope for escaping
the tyranny of having to organize all your files within
a fixed directory hierarchy.
Vista also includes file-synchronization features,
improved backup, and the ability to roll back to previous versions of files.
What about transferring your existing
data and apps to a new PC? Vista includes
an updated migration wizard, though we
haven’t yet gotten it to work in beta builds.
This wizard transfers only data and settings, not entire applications—but in
March, Microsoft acquired Apptimum
(formerly Eisenworld), maker of the Alohabob utilities for transferring programs
from one PC to another, so we wouldn’t be
surprised if Microsoft makes it possible to
move apps in the future.—John Clyman
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
one of the best inducements to want it
now—is to help you regain the upper
hand in the battle against information
overload. We’ve all experienced it: the
inbox bursting with e-mails you don’t
have time to sort, the directory tree with files buried
a dozen levels deep, and the mass of digital photos
you never figured out how to organize.
Originally, Microsoft was going to solve this problem with WinFS (Windows Future Storage)—but
WinFS won’t make it into Vista in time. Still, my
experience so far indicates that Microsoft is making strides in this direction after all. With pervasive
search, I can easily find files regardless of what dark
corner of my hard drive they’re hiding in. New ways
of viewing and entering metadata to help identify files
are just taking shape, but they look promising. And
I particularly like Vista’s “Search Folders,” which let
you dynamically collect files that meet certain criteria, regardless of where they’re actually located.
In Vista, Microsoft has revamped Windows Explorer to make it easier to navigate your hard drive—
its nifty “breadcrumb” facility for selecting directories
is especially convenient. The breadcrumbs are the
clickable trail of directories a user has followed to get
to the current location, for example, YourComputerName > Pictures > Vacation photos > 2006. New file
dialogs are a big improvement as well. Although these
capabilities aren’t likely to be a panacea, they’re sure
tantalizing, and I’m eager to start moving more of my
SAVED SEARCHES You
can save a group of
search criteria, then go
back to the “folder” for
dynamically updated
results.
SEARCH These incremental search boxes are
just about everywhere
in Vista. As you type, the
search results narrow
down.
64 PC MAGAZINE
NE OF VISTA’S BIGGEST PROMISES—and
MAY 9, 2006
J U M P T O N E X T PA G E >>
VISTA
PREVIEW
Because It’s Loaded with
New Multimedia Tools
A
LL
IN
THOSE
MULTIMEDIA
TOOLS
Windows XP? Child’s play. If
you’re serious about PC audio and
video—about watching TV, listening to music, making movies,
managing your digital photos, all
from your PC—Vista is the place to do it all. For
the first time, Microsoft includes a bona fide photo
manager—not the skimpy “photo viewer” you’ll find
in Win XP. In addition, you get beefed-up versions
of Windows Media Player and Movie Maker. And
with the Premium or Ultimate versions of the OS,
you even get an updated version of Media Center,
the home entertainment system that used to be a
PHOTO GALLERY Vista adds basic photo organizing,
editing, and sharing tools to its photo viewer.
separate operating system.
The moment I first opened
Vista’s new Photo Gallery
tool, I knew Microsoft had
gotten it right. Finally, a
single place where we can
organize, edit, and share our
digital photos. Win XP failed
to offer any editing or sharing
options, and its organizational
tools were almost an insult.
Windows Photo Gallery can’t
quite compete with free photo managers like Picasa (my
favorite) and Preclick, or with
Apple’s iPhoto, but it’s still a
big step for the OS.
With Photo Gallery, you
can organize videos as well
as photos, quickly searching WINDOWS MEDIA PLAYER 11 WMP has a fresh new interface to help users
and sorting them via tags, better organize their music, as well as sync their music libraries with portable
dates, and ratings. I love the devices and, of course, burn discs.
“slider” button, which lets you
instantly resize the thumbnails on your virtual lightMeanwhile, Windows Media Player 11 offers a
table, and the default “Ken Burns” slide-show effect,
fresh interface, making it easier to organize, find,
which dynamically pans and zooms each photo.
rip, and burn your audio files. My favorite perks:
And here’s a little secret: Photo Gallery actuYou set up songs for burning with a mere drag and
ally integrates with the updated Windows Movie
drop, and you can add cover art with a simple paste
Maker, which means you can instantly, easily move
command. I’m into browsing by album cover, too.
photos and videos from one to the other. You can
Media Player is also better at syncing portable despice your movies up with all sorts of new effects
vices, certainly a welcome improvement. Check out
and transitions. Perhaps best of all, now that Movie
the “random sync” feature, which can turn any MP3
Maker takes advantage of your graphics processor,
player into an iPod shuffle. (Whether that’s a good
it no longer limits movie previews to a tiny 320thing is still up for debate.) And when Vista finally
by-240 window. And when your movie is finished,
debuts, Player will work hand in hand with URGE,
you can seamlessly burn it to disc using Microsoft’s
MTV’s new online music service, which will offer
new DVD Maker tool; you can even add chapters
more than two million digital tracks. Make no misand menus.
take: Vista can excite the senses.—Cade Metz
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Vista Secrets
Want to see what Vista
looks like with Aero Glass
disabled? Press Ctrl-ShiftF9. (This will work in beta
releases only, not production versions.)
You can control volume
levels on an applicationby-application basis
using Vista’s new audio
control panel.
Having trouble installing a
hardware device in Vista?
Try using the Windows
XP version of the driver.
Press Windows-Tab to get
the cool “Flip 3D” view of
all your open applications.
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 73
VISTA
PREVIEW
Because You Need Better Security
I
Vista Secret
In any folder containing
image files, click “Slide
Show” in Windows Explorer to create a greatlooking impromptu slide
show, albeit one that
takes a decent amount
of graphics horsepower.
Windows XP’s included
slide show is rudimentary
by comparison.
XP in administrator mode.
There’s no cause and effect
here. It’s just that, while Win
XP allows and recommends
creation of Limited user accounts that
make many exploits impossible, a vast
number of programs and common
activities don’t work under a Limited
account, so typically, everybody’s an
Administrator. This is one of Win XP’s
biggest security problems.
Vista’s User Account Control (formerly User Account Protection)
should go a long way toward fixing
this. Microsoft aims to allow the widest possible range of activity in a Standard (don’t call it Limited!) account
and handles legacy programs that assume greater privilege. Any Administrator can grant one-time permission
when necessary. And now, even Administrators run
at Standard level, with a warning from Vista when
elevated privilege is required. Unfortunately the frequent “Windows needs your permission . . . ” warnings can get pretty annoying.
The implementation of Windows Service Hardening, a related feature, has been completed since
Vista Beta 1. It minimizes the impact of malware
that exploits Windows services by allowing each service access only to the resources it actually needs.
These protections may make it harder for hackers to take advantage of the OS, but today the bad
guys are just as likely to try to take advantage of
you instead. That’s why IE7 in Vista now implements Microsoft’s antiphishing scheme. I tried it on
known phishing sites and one with an invalid security certificate—it red-flagged them and blocked access. Sites with verified security are green-flagged;
Red=Danger!
Yellow=Suspicious
Green=Certified
74 PC MAGAZINE
F YOU CAN READ THIS, YOU
PROBABLY run Windows
MAY 9, 2006
PARENTAL CONTROLS Parents can limit kids’ Web
site access and game-playing—and see detailed
activity reports (above). The clear, simple Time Restrictions grid (right) lets parents easily define which
hours on which days which kids can be logged on.
others get a yellow rating if analysis of their HTML
code reveals suspicious elements. Spyware protection from Windows Defender (for a review, see
go.pcmag.com/vista) is now built into Vista, and it
automatically scans any files downloaded through
IE. And as IE7 is a prime target, Vista safeguards it
further by having it run in Protected Mode, a stilllower privilege level designed to thwart browsersubverting malware.
In Beta 1, Vista’s Parental Controls system could
limit access to games by name, content, or ESRB
rating. This was nice, but most parents are more
concerned about what their kids are doing online
and how long they’re spending soldered to their systems. Now that the Parental Controls system has all
its planned features it addresses these issues, going
much further than in Beta 1 and rivaling some thirdparty products. The administrator can limit the days
and times each user is allowed on the computer and
establish a list of approved programs (denying access
to all others). Web-site filtering based on content,
whitelists, and blacklists is available on a per-user
basis. And Activity Monitoring will report a wealth of
details about the user’s actions, including the top ten
sites visited, blocked sites, files downloaded, applications launched, and more. I put a Standard account
under Parental Control and tried to hack the protection, but I couldn’t break it.
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Unlike the firewall in Windows XP, the Windows
Firewall in Vista protects against unauthorized outbound connections. New in the latest CTP, this
outbound protection has a configuration interface.
It’s not for the faint of heart, but an expert user can
tweak dozens of existing exceptions or create new
exceptions to let specific programs do their job.
When I travel with my notebook, I’m always
concerned that someone will swipe it and use the
many tools out there to get a peek behind the PCMag curtain. Vista’s BitLocker Drive Encryption
(formerly Secure Startup Volume Encryption) will help, making the drive unreadable to all but me. In the earlier beta this
would work only on a system containing
a Trusted Platform Module chip. Mercifully, BitLocker now works on any system,
encrypting all but a sliver of the boot disk.
Systems can be decrypted at start-up after
you supply the password or insert a coded
USB drive. A laptop thus protected may
still be lost or stolen, but the data on it
won’t be revealed.
Digging into the Group Policy settings,
I discovered two useful security secrets.
The new Removable Storage Access policy can deny
read, write, or execute status to removable devices
—from CD drives to personal audio players—to
prohibit “slurping” files into an iPod or thumb
drive. And the Device Installation Restrictions
policy limits the types of devices that can be installed, though you need to know the Device ID
or Device Class.
Will hackers find weak spots in Vista? Most definitely—but from what I can see, they’re going to
have to work a lot harder at it.—Neil J. Rubenking
WHAT ABOUT LONGHORN SERVER? Though most of the excitement in the OS world is focusing on Windows Vista, some
people may be even more anxious to see Longhorn Server,
scheduled to be released next year. I spoke with Microsoft about
its plans for the next Windows Server.
As with the client OS, the development team cites security,
management, system health, and reliability as chief concerns.
This new server release will have major improvements, starting
with the installation process, which includes a significant procedural change: The system remains in a “shields-up” mode until
it is sufficiently secured. The Administrator can specify roles
with a system definition model, such as Web server or terminal
server, at install time, and the system will automatically search
for and apply the appropriate patches. It will also limit the attack surface by disabling services and features not necessary for
the server’s defined role.
To ensure good system and network health, Longhorn
Server adds NAP, or Network Address Protection. NAP can be
configured to require that computers attempting to connect to
your network comply with predefined requirements. Administrators can create policies to validate each new computer’s system health before any general communication on the network
takes place. Noncompliant computers can be automatically
updated or restricted until they become compliant.
Longhorn’s new error-reporting system is tied closely into
other administrative elements. It will allow for far greater log
data storage and help with analytical troubleshooting. Rather
than browsing miles of log entries in the log viewer, administrators will have access to the data where they actually configure
specific system components.
Longhorn Server will also include a host of other improvements and new features, including improved management
capabilities, a new version of Internet Information Services, and
a distributed cached-storage technology. In addition, Longhorn
will include “Windows Communications Foundation,” which will
Vista Secret
If you accidentally overwrite a document, you
can use Vista’s implementation of Volume
Shadow Copy to roll back
changes—just click on the
file and select “Previous
Versions” on the Windows Explorer toolbar.
aid in distributing applications over the network, and a “selfhealing” filing system.
Alongside the long-awaited Longhorn Beta 2 release, Microsoft will also release management improvements like “Monad,”
a new scripting shell that provides Unix/Linux–style commandline administration.
Since the initial Beta 1 release last July, Microsoft has released some builds of the next Windows Server, but none were
classified as CTPs or betas. Before the actual release, we expect
to see another major beta, and I for one can’t wait to get my
hands on it.—Oliver Kaven
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Illustration by Alex Eban Meyer
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 75
VISTA
PREVIEW
Because You’re Mobile
ail)
indow (det
w
w
o
h
S
e
Sid
SIDESHOW Splice
some flip-phone genes
onto your laptop and
you have SideShow.
PortalPlayer is working
with notebook vendors
on prototypes that support this very cool, integrated display, which
works even when the
laptop is off.
Vista Secrets
In IE7, hold Control and
spin the mouse wheel to
zoom in or out on an entire Web page, including
graphics.
To show all the shared
files and folders on your
computer, open File and
Printer Sharing from the
Control Panel and follow
the links.
You can detach gadgets
from the Sidebar so they
float on your desktop.
76 PC MAGAZINE
B
SideShow may not be here today, but Vista’s new
power management features are something you can
frequent travelers—or really, any of us
benefit from right now. Notebooks running the new
who carry notebook computers—have
OS at last approach the near-instant on-off switching
some particularly compelling reasons
that we’ve come to expect from consumer electronto want Windows Vista now.
ics devices. Vista’s new Sleep mode replaces distinct
To begin with, I really like the way Vista collects
Standby and Hibernate modes. Press the powerkey mobility-related features into a convenient Mobilbutton icon on the Start menu and your machine
ity Center. The new OS also improves power managewill fall into a slumber almost instantaneously. Vista
ment, includes better wireless-networking features,
writes the contents of memory to disk so they won’t
and promises to enhance performance and security.
be lost if the battery runs out of juice; but it also keeps
Vista’s slick Aero Glass interface will even run on sufthat information in memory, so a typical restart is
ficiently high-powered notebooks—but temper your
very quick, since Vista doesn’t need to read from the
enthusiasm; using it on notebooks has presented nudisk. Although the sleep/resume sequence has been
merous compatibility and stability problems. Lately I’ve
crash-prone in the releases we’ve tested so far, I like
been traveling with a Vista notebook in my bag—but it’s
the direction Microsoft is taking here. The Control
nestled in there alongside another notebook that runs
Panel also includes a new Power Options applet with
Windows XP and serves as an essential backup.
easy-to-understand “power plans”—profiles that let
Vista’s sexiest mobility feature is what Microyou select device timeouts and choose to favor faster
soft calls SideShow. Think of the external display
performance or longer battery life.
on a clamshell cell phone. A SideShow display can
Be sure to check out the convenient mobility cenperform a similar purpose, displaying for example,
ter, which unifies all your laptop-centric features in
a calendar, contact information, stock quotes, or eone place. Try plugging in an external display; Vista
mail subject lines. The coolest part: The SideShow
automatically detects it and helps you configure it.
display will work even when the computer itself is
Vista also includes improved options for configuring
powered down. That means no more waiting for your
wireless networking.
machine to boot up just so you can get directions to
Another feature is an interesting performance-enyour next appointment. Now all that remains is for
hancement technique called SuperFetch. If you carry
hardware manufacturers to start designing devices
around a USB key for storing data, you can instruct Vista
with SideShow-capable
secondary
displays.
to use the storage on that key as a quicker alternative to
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MAY 9, 2006
EYOND THE NEW AD HOC NETWORKING and collaboration capabilities,
VISTA
PREVIEW
To Work Together Better
W
Vista Secret
When multiple instances
of an application are
grouped into a single
taskbar button, clicking the button and then
mousing over individual
instances of the application previews each app
window independently.
operating systems and applications, Microsoft hasn’t always been first to recognize
the importance of networking and collaboration. Vista,
though, makes some significant strides in this area,
with several new features built in. The changes extend all the way from the low-level TCP/IP stack to
the application level. Vista even includes—at last!—
a simple calendar application that lets you schedule
meetings with others.
The feature I’m most excited about here is Windows Collaboration. Now, when you walk into
a meeting room (or café) full of other notebooktoting users, Windows gives you an easy way to
work collaboratively. Windows Collaboration provides an impressively seamless way to share applications and supporting files ad hoc among a small
group of other Vista users. Vista is supposed to let
Wi-Fi–enabled notebooks establish a peer-to-peer
network in spots that lack Wi-Fi infrastructure or
even an Internet connection.
When you launch it,
Windows Collaboration
asks if you’d like it to enable file synchronization
automatically and set up
the required Windows
Firewall exceptions. You
then have an opportunity
to start a new collaboration session or join an existing one. Choose people to invite—via e-mail
or a file share—and set
a password. Invitees just
WINDOWS
COLLABORATION Walk
into a meeting and Windows will help you work
with other participants,
sharing applications and
information.
WINDOWS CALENDAR
Finally, a simple calendar app right in the OS.
It’s not terribly sophisticated, but it’s a very
welcome addition.
78 PC MAGAZINE
open the invitation and enter the password, and you
all then find yourselves in a shared workspace. You
can share individual application windows or files,
transfer control to other users, and instant-message
other participants.
Vista also includes a Network Projection feature
that lets you connect to networked LCD projectors,
which are becoming more commonplace, either by
entering a specific known address or by browsing
the LAN for suitable devices.
In general, I like Vista’s simplified facilities for
configuring and browsing networks. The new Network Center applet in the Control Panel provides
a one-stop overview of all your network settings.
Vista’s network map automatically discovers and
displays various devices on your network. And I was
psyched to find that Vista maintains multiple network profiles (no more reconfiguring network settings manually every time I visit a different office),
simplifies connection to wireless networks, and provides additional network-troubleshooting tools. Vista
also simplifies common tasks such as file sharing.
There’s more below the surface. Vista’s “People
Near Me” API gives developers a suite of tools to
help build peer-to-peer applications that can automatically identify people who are physically nearby
on the network. Similarly, a Network Awareness API
lets applications detect when a PC starts using a
different connection—and behave appropriately.
And Microsoft has largely rewritten the operating
system’s TCP/IP stack; among other improvements,
it directly supports IPv6 and enables it by default.
As in Windows XP, Microsoft will include different sets of networking features in different editions
of Windows. Remote Desktop, for example, will be
available in the Vista Business, Vista Enterprise,
and Vista Ultimate editions, but not in the Home
editions.
Calendar applications might not seem all that exciting or important—until you need to schedule a
meeting between various members of a work team
or a family. Windows Calendar’s interface will be
familiar to Outlook calendar users. The app lets
you create appointments, including all-day and recurring appointments, and specify reminders with
variable lead times. You can invite other users to a
meeting via e-mail, publish a calendar to a WebDAV
server to share it over the Internet, and subscribe to
other users’ published calendars. Windows Calendar
(nominally) supports multiple time zones and task
tracking. It’s not a substitute for Outlook—it can’t
sync with mobile devices, for example—but it does
support the iCalendar calendar-sharing format and
certainly should fulfill casual users’ appointmenttracking needs.—John Clyman
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ITH ITS ROOTS IN DESKTOP
MAY 9, 2006
Keeping Up
with the
E ASKED THE INDUSTRY’S TOP DESIGN EXPERTS TO
reveal their most innovative ideas for future products.
Some of these concepts will become commercial products in the near future. For others, we’ll have to wait
until the technology catches up with the imagination.
Freeing themselves from the real-life limitations of
bandwidth, processing power, battery life, and screen resolution, our designers imagined a fascinating array of inventions, including a snowboard
that displays messages, a video postcard, a personal projection necklace,
and a networking pen. Here are some of their most inspired concepts.
TORTUGO
The Concept: Designed
by a mother to keep the
kids entertained during
long trips, this portable
DVD player/activity
center conceals a digital
scribble pad underneath
the digital camera (the
flat circular component).
A child can pop out the
camera and snap some
shots. Photos are automatically downloaded
and displayed on screen.
A retractable shoulder
strap and a soft pouch
for snacks are included.
Designer: Lunar Design
SANDRINE LEBAS
Senior Industrial
Designer,Lunar Design
We observed children
throughout their day
—the way they use
technology and
what activities they
do. We came up with
the idea that a lot of
products are still to be
designed with existing
technology. Sometimes
you don’t have to go
to advanced technologies for newness. My
daughter is 2 1/2, and
I can totally see her
using this product.
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80 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
Photograph/Illustration by Tk
A fleet of concept designs that
propel tech gear into tomorrow.
BY CAROL L. GONSHER AND ERIK RHEY
Jetsons
DIGITAL
BRACELET
The Concept: The
high-tech hub of Nokia’s
always-connected Star
Trek lifestyle, this bracelet
contains a cell phone
and a remote to control
your personal content
and entertainment gear.
Through an indoor
positioning system it
will automatically sync
with whatever “ecosystem” you step into
(home, work, or the
mall). It also recognizes
voices and gestures and
has built-in RFID and
broadband. A great
idea for an all-in-one
convergence device—
as long as you don’t
misplace it.
Designer: Nokia
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MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 81
MAX YOSHIMOTO
VP, Design,
Lunar Design
Our goal is to get
people to think
differently about
how to trade media
back and forth. It’s
an idea based around
flexible electronics
techniques—flexible
printed circuit boards,
displays, and power.
It’s almost like a
postcard of the future.
MICROMEDIA PAPER
The Concept: Bringing
the concept of moving,
talking photos from
Harry Potter to real life,
this paper-thin media
player—complete with
display, battery, and
memory—lets you
record video. Send it
as a greeting card to
Grandma and she
can watch it without
fiddling with a PC or
DVD player. A tenpack will sell for around
$35. All the enabling
technologies are now
in development.
Designer: Lunar Design
GELFROG
The Concept: For kids
only: This super-pliable
rubberized notebook
is not only rugged
and lightweight but
light-years ahead in
software design. The
gelfrog’s smart skin acts
as a mobile mirror, a
photo slide show, or a
video projector. Using its
microcamera, it can run
a cloning algorithm that
scans the owner’s outfit
and projects a matching pattern on its own
surface. Students can
scan images from their
surroundings and can
study several topics
via a single interface.
Designer: frog design
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82 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
SMART PILL
BOTTLE
The Concept: Electronic
ink is just the prescription for this smart
pill bottle that does
everything but take
your pills for you.
Twisting the cap onto
the base activates the
label, which displays
information such as
when the last dose
was taken, when a
refill will be needed,
and warning messages.
The brains are built
into the cap, which
communicates wirelessly
with your pharmacist.
Designer: Design
Continuum
MICHEL ALVAREZ
Industrial designer,
Design Continuum
In redesigning one of
the most misused and
prevalent products in
our society, I wanted
to improve the communication between
consumers and their
prescriptions. Flexible
display technology
from E Ink lets this
product speak more
to the user’s necessities.
EXO OVERMOLDING
SYSTEM
The Concept: Prefer
your notebook in suede
or denim? Inclosia
Solutions, a spin-off
from Dow Chemical,
has developed an
injection molding
process that bakes
fabric, leather, wood,
or metal onto the
plastic housing of
notebooks. But luxury
trim won’t come cheap.
In a consumer study
the company ran, people
said they’d pay an extra
$62 for a cell phone and
$143 for a notebook
with the new treatment.
Look for it initially in
Europe this year.
Designer: Inclosia
Solutions
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MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 83
SPARK
PAUL BRADLEY
Project Lead, IDEO
It really needed to be
compelling to kids so
that they could play and
learn. Spark doesn’t say
“education” like a laptop.
We were going for a
much more personal
feel, for the way kids
relate to gaming devices
that become precious
to them.
The Concept: Hatched
in collaboration with
Project Inkwell, a group
aiming to bring the tech
industry together on
a spec for educational
computers for the K-12
set, the ultraportable,
ruggedized Spark is
designed to withstand
abuse. It has alwayson real-time access to
the Internet, peer-topeer networking and
online journaling, a
docking station, a pen,
a headphone, and a
personalized cover. It’s
also waterproof. Design
house IDEO gets an A+
for this one.
Designer: IDEO
TRIBONS
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84 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
The Concept: Guaranteed
to garner odd looks, the
Tribons is a wearable
laser projection system
that exists mostly in
the imagination of
frog design CEO Hartmut Esslinger, the legendary visionary behind
early Apple computers.
Controlled by an
intuitive 3D interface,
the Tribons projects
educational material
and gives kids access
to environments they
would otherwise not
be able to experience.
An extra medical
module can monitor
the wearer’s health.
Designer: frog design
Photo (Top Left) Skylar Reeves
E- SNOWBOARD
The Concept: The next
phase of multitasking
for teens is checking
your stats while nailing
a frontside ollie or an
Andrecht. Your kids will
impress their friends
with this totally sick
snowboard that displays
reminders, real-time
directions, time, and
compass and altimeter
readings via an electronic
ink display that covers
almost its entire surface.
Power is created by
tapping, stomping,
bending, or riding
the board.
Designer: Design
Continuum
Power for the
display is created
by tapping,
stomping, bending,
or riding the board.
MIKE TRACZ
Industrial Designer,
Design Continuum
The risks associated
with snowboarding, like
getting lost, equipment
theft, being separated
from one’s group, or
losing track of time,
presented an interesting
chance to incorporate
design to improve the
experience or prevent
these potential pitfalls.
Piezoelectric
power source
TAG
The Concept: For
cell-phone klutzes or
techno-fashionistas, this
NEC “soft-shell” mobile
phone is de rigueur for
your wardrobe. The
phone is so flexible it
can wrap around your
arm. Shape-memorizing
material and multiple
pressure sensors allow
it to change shape from
its phone mode to its
video mode.
Designer: NEC
P-ISM
The Concept: If you
think the fanciest
pen you can buy is a
Mont Blanc, NEC has
one-upped it with the
minimalist personal
networking pen. It’s a
cell phone with handwriting recognition, a
virtual keyboard, a tiny
projector, a camera
scanner, and a personal
ID key with cashless pass
function. P-ISMs can
connect to each other
wirelessly, and the whole
set is connected to the
Internet through the
cell phone.
Designer: NEC
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MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 85
R E A L- WO R L D T E S T I N G
Keyboards
For Less
Talk is cheap—and so is Loyd Case. Our
man hits the stores for $20 keyboards.
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86 PC
PC MAGAZINE
MAGAZINE MAY
MAY 9,
9, 2006
2006
86
I
BY LOYD CASE
if you do find them, they may not be as cheap in your
boards. We write a lot of stories here at
local store as they were in mine. It takes some hunting
PC Magazine, and the right keyboard
to be a true cheap geek.
makes typing thousands ofwords
Smaller, Not Better
a week much easier to bear. We also
First out of the shopping bag: the Inland Pro Keyboard
play a few PC games. It’s a shocking
Typematic, pulled from the shelves at Central Comidea, I know—after all, it’s obvious that
puters for a mere $7.99. If you have a snug work area,
we’re a very serious bunch.
this may be a useful keyboard. It offers buttons for
Interestingly, the needs of PC gamers and the
Power and Sleep, plus a unique Turbo button. When
wants of touch typists aren’t always the same. A touch
you press the Turbo button simultaneously with one
typist needs to be able, well, to type—often at fairly
of the first seven Function keys, you can increase or
high speeds, with reliable key presses and tactile
decrease the speed of repeated keys.
feedback. A gamer needs a responsive keyboard with
The Inland feels cramped. The width of the home
a layout that’s not too odd. Therein lies the problem
key row is 2mm less than on most of the other keywith dedicated gamer keyboards, like the Wolf Claw,
boards—a minute number but a big difference: It
a mostly normal keyboard with a wacky circular gamfelt small, and my fingers felt too close when typing.
ing area. It’s great for gaming but impractical for most
And it’s a noisy keyboard, making lots of loose clickanything else. Logitech’s G15 is a good compromise,
ing noises and requiring extra force to press the keys.
or Microsoft’s Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000,
Pressing the Turbo and F11 keys locks and unlocks
but these are pricey, and not everyone needs (or can
the keyboard. If you have cats or small children, this
afford) a $50-to-$70 keyboard.
is a useful feature, but it’s not for security, since you
I wanted to help. Knowing the ideal solution was
don’t need a password to unlock it. The only things
out there somewhere, I grabbed a credit card and did a
this keyboard really has going for it are its low price
little shopping. The keyboards I found weren’t oneand compact size. Everything else is something to
off, Internet-only specials, and none were special
avoid. Next!
sale items. Four were on the shelf at a local
Fry’s Electronics, and two were bought at
Cheap Fry’s Gear
Central Computers, a white-box outfit
In disgust I turned to my giant Fry’s shopping bag and
in the San Francisco Bay Area. But
pulled out the $8.99 Labtec Media Keyboard. Labtec
all were under $20, and three
is part of Logitech now, although you’d never know
were less than ten bucks.
it from this keyboard, which feels nothing like most
Of the six items I found,
Logitech keyboards.
all were essentially
The Labtec’s keys feel mushy and take a fair
straight keyboards,
amount of pressure. Tactile feedback is also poor, and
not split designs,
often when I thought I had pressed the right key, I
though the Microfound that I had made a typing error. I got better over
soft model does add
time but still made a lot more mistakes than I would
a curve to the keyboard
have on a good keyboard. Playing UT2004 was just
row to relax the wrist pofine, although after the session my fingers were a bit
sition slightly. Oh, and none
tired. Overall, this keyboard is hardly a joy to type on,
are wireless. While you may
but it gets the job done. And some users may apprecioccasionally see deals on wireless
ate the full set of customizable buttons. I’ll pass.
keyboards online, the cheapest one
Another Fry’s gem was next, from Key Tronic—a
I could find was $29. All connected via
brand that’s been around about as long as the IBM
the PS/2 port except the Microsoft ComPC. The overall spacing, layout, and key depth of the
fort Curve 2000, which is USB.
$9.95 Key Tronic KT800PS2 are actually reminisI tested the keyboards by typing parts of several
cent of the original PC keyboard, but the Key Tronic
articles on each one and gaming with Unreal Tournadoesn’t offer that clicky key feedback that endeared
ment 2004 for relatively extended sessions—workthe original IBM unit to its users. In fact, the Key
ing around here can be a tough job sometimes. With
Tronic required the greatest pressure of any keyboard
these thoughts in mind, let’s take a look at the individI tested—an excessive amount, really. Nevertheless,
ual keyboards. We’ll start with the lowest-priced keythis keyboard is built like a tank, so if you need a rugboards and work our way up. A final thought: These
ged model, this will serve you well.
keyboards may not be available everywhere. And even
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
T ’ S T RUE . WE’RE FINICKY ABOUT KEY-
Jim Louderback’s
Keyboard Tips
I’m a bit of a keyboard
nut. I’ve got a basement
full of old IBM PS/2
keyboards, because the
buckling spring action
delivers the best tactile
feedback of any I’ve
found—way better than
those rubber domes inside cheaper models. If
you can afford a few more
bucks, check out my
favorite, from Unicomp
(www.pckeyboard
.com). Unicomp purchased IBM’s keyboard
technology and continues to make what I consider the best keyboards
on earth. If you touchtype and value
mechanical tactile feedback, these are the ones
for you. Even better,
they’re not too expensive—they start at $50.
For a few more bucks
you can get an integrated
pointing stick, and the
space-saver model emulates the best of IBM’s
notebook keyboards.
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 87
REAL-WORLD TESTING
KEY TRONIC KT800PS2
INLAND PRO KEYBOARD TYPEMATIC
Nicely sculpted keys and rugged design. Built like a tank, this keyboard is
so solid you’ll never wear it out.
Feels very cheap, and key spacing seems tight.
To be fair, it is wicked cheap—just $7.99!
LOGITECH MEDIA KEYBOARD
Nice set of amenities, including a useful customization
utility. Rotated Home/Page Down cluster may annoy
some. Physically large compared to other keyboards.
LABTEC MEDIA KEYBOARD
Good layout; very nice utility for customizing special buttons. But keys feel
mushy, and presses take too much effort.
MORE ON THE WEB
Looking for a fancier keyboard? Or something with
slightly more style? Go shopping at shop.pcmag.com.
MICROSOFT COMFORT CURVE
KEYBOARD 2000
Relaxes the wrist angle a bit
for easier typing. Raised curve
to Function keys is less than
ideal for gaming.
BTC MULTIMEDIA KEYBOARD
Direction arrows too close to
the Page Down cluster. Multimedia transports laid out well.
Next up: the BTC Multimedia Keyboard ($12.99),
Is There a Winner?
Fry’s merchandise was exhausted, and I hadn’t found
which offers the same Internet and multimedia keys
the perfect cheapo keyboard, so I swung back to Cenas the Labtec, Logitech, and Microsoft models. The
tral Computer—and found the full-featured Logitech
transport keys are a full set, including a Skip Track ForMedia Keyboard ($19.95), all of four cents cheaper
ward and Backward button, though the Up Arrow key
than Microsoft’s Comfort Curve. Keystrokes are
butts against the End key, which makes it too easy to
pleasantly light, and the keyboard offers good tactile
press the wrong one.
feedback, although it’s a tad mushy. Media and InterThe keyboard ships with a floppy (!) that installs
net buttons work without any need to install a custom
a utility for redefining the special Function buttons.
driver. I thought the rounded function keys would be
The keyboard is the only one I tested with multiple
distracting during gaming, but this fear proved baseheight angle adjustments, but the process seems to
less. The spacing between the buttons meant no inmake for fragile results. Playing UT2004 worked well,
correct presses, and extended game sessions weren’t
and the light key presses make game play easier. Your
overly taxing to my tired hands.
$12.99 buys some nice amenities with the BTC.
Logitech supplies a full version of their SetPoint
Finally, at the bottom of my shopping bag, the good
keyboard driver and utility software with the keystuff. At nearly $20, the Microsoft Comfort Curve
board, allowing you to customize the buttons easily.
Keyboard 2000 is sort of expensive, but it’s the closest
Setup will happily install extraneous stuff, like eBay
approximation to a split ergonomic keyboard I tested.
links and Musicmatch, so be sure you uncheck those
Microsoft curves the main keyboard layout around an
if you don’t want them. This is a pleasant keyboard for
invisible inverted arc at the top, which seems to relax
both typing and gaming, with some additional amenithe wrist a bit.
ties. Then again, if you’re mostly typing, the Microsoft
Keyboard presses are harder than they should be,
Comfort Curve Keyboard 2000 is worth considering
though not as hard as on the Key Tronic or Labtec
for its wrist relief.
boards, and the depth of press is a little shallow,
Keyboards are very personal choices, of course, and
though not as shallow as on a laptop. Additionally, this
your needs may differ. Consider the layout, the feel,
is the only USB keyboard I found. It was great to type
and your application before choosing one that’s right
on but less useful for gaming. The raised top of the
for you. There are some fine keyboards out there for
function keys makes it easy to slide off and press an
less than $20. All you need to do is a little shopping. Q
adjacent function key—a
real
nuisance
for
gamers.
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
88 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
A DV E R T I S E M E N T
Maximum System Performance
Getting To The Bottom Of Common Reliability Problems
Top 5 reasons customers use Diskeeper
s an IT Professional, you
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Is Daily Defragmentation
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The weak link
in today’s computers
The disk drive is by far the
slowest of the three main components of your computer: CPU,
More than ever! Large disks,
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systems,
system
updates, virus signatures – all
dramatically increase the rate of
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access files for all common
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searching for emails, opening web
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scans. To keep performance at
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Advanced, automated
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BUILD IT
A Silent PC
BY LOYD CASE
H
IGH-PER FOR M A NCE PERSONA L COMPU T ERS A R E T HER M A L
nightmares. As GPUs and CPUs have become more powerful, their heat
output has skyrocketed. AMD’s top-of-the-line Athlon 64 X2 4800+
is rated at 105W, while Intel’s Pentium D 840 runs even higher, at
130W—as Paris Hilton would say, that’s hot. The typical way to dissipate
all that heat? Throw extra cooling at the system—in other words, add
more fans. Pretty soon, you’ve got more fans in your system than a B-36 bomber had propellers—and your system is as loud, too. You can’t control the heat output (without moving to
lower-performing components), but you can control the noise. Read on to find out how.
When your gaming
PC is as loud as a
refrigerator, you know
you’ve got trouble. YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
Photograph by Bonnie Holland
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 91
BUILD IT
Making a Quiet Case Quieter
Buying precsiuetr
foam is eaing
than mak
your own
Fix Fans To nullify
your noise problems,
first identify the loudest
component in your
system—then do
something about it.
If fan noise is a problem,
place a finger on the
center of each fan to
halt it and listen for
the noise drop. A
quick pause in any
one fan won’t cause
the hardware under
it to overheat, but it
will let you find out
which one is making
the biggest racket.
Replace a Case Fan
If one of your case
fans is too noisy (and
it probably is), buy a
new one. Held in by just
four screws and two
wires, case fans are easy
to replace, and the new
ones are very cheap
and noticeably quieter.
We like Antec’s popular
SmartCool fans: They
have internal temperature sensors, which let
them adjust their speed
second by second to suit
your PC’s cooling needs.
SmartCool fans don’t
require the generic
three-prong motherboard connectors that
your current fans
probably have; they
use standard Molex
connectors for power.
Their temperaturesensing technology is
internal and operates
independently of the
computer system. Each
fan costs around $18.
Silent and deadly
We went with the
Antec Sonata II because
it looks good—and
because we could get
an aftermarket noise
reduction kit. Inside,
foam bits adhere to
the case’s panels.
HERE ARE A HANDFUL OF SMALL COM-
panies that will “pre-mod” a case for
you, adding noise-reducing panels,
extra-quiet fans, fan-speed controllers, and even vibration-reducing
grommets. The well-respected premodder mnpctech produces a customized Thermaltake Tsunami that does a respectable job (we should
know, having spent considerable time with one). But
we wanted to do it ourselves, using a case we liked a
little better. The Tsunami is a decent case, but we’re
not really into its heavy, full-length swinging door.
Besides, the Tsunami out of the box isn’t really designed for low noise.
We chose an old standby, the Antec Sonata II.
It’s an attractive case and has room for expansion.
This case also has a sturdy but relatively accessible
interior, so it’s fairly easy to work on. (A large cool-
ing duct that vents air from the CPU cooler out of
the case gets in the way, but that part is easy to
remove.) Those are not the only reasons for choosing the Sonata II, however: the AcoustiPack precut
noise reduction kit really won us over. You can buy
noise reduction plastic or foam materials, of course,
and you can cut them yourself for any PC case. But
anyone who’s tried to cut a straight line through a
piece of foam with a craft knife or Dremel will understand the appeal of a precut kit. You can find it
at www.acoustiproducts.com.
The AcoustiPack foam is a semi-open-cell material that can absorb sound. It’s backed by a highdensity layer of plastic that attenuates whatever
audio energy makes it past the foam. This plastic
is also the backing material for the adhesive layer,
which attaches the foam to the case. The kit comes
with 18 precut pieces.
SILENCE THE CASE
1
Expose adhesive The
AcoustiPack kit has to
be installed in a certain
order. The thin manual
is surprisingly complete,
but it takes deciphering;
the key is to follow the
directions, but take extra
care. All the pieces are
sticky on one side, with a
thin layer of plastic backing you have to peel off.
2
Wedge in the foam
In some cases,
you need to slide the
foam—with the adhesive
exposed—into crevices.
Orient the case so gravity
pulls on the nonadhesive
side. The good news: If
you make a mistake, the
foam pulls up fairly easily,
and it’s tough enough
not to tear.
3
Remove the bezel
For a complete job,
remove the front bezel.
The left-side panel can’t
be removed, so carefully
lever the latches on that
side of the bezel out
by wiggling it back and
forth—just be careful getting the plastic tabs out
of their holes, or you’ll
break them.
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
92 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
4
Reduce noise leaks
Carefully remove the
cabling from the interior
of the case. You’ll need
to remove four screws
to detach the lower half
of the front bezel. Once
that’s done, you can
install the foam that’s
specially cut for it. The
precut sections should
adhere easily.
Power Supply and Motherboard
W
E WANTED A FAIRLY POTENT POWER
supply, on the off chance that
we might someday want to install
two graphics cards in the system.
We’re not big fans of the two systems out there, CrossFire and SLI—the gain isn’t
always worth the configuration pain. But if the right
game comes along. . . . So we ripped out the included
450W unit and sought something else.
Not all power supplies are created equal, of
course, as we discovered in recent power supply
testing (see go.extremetech.com/powersupplies). One
model that impressed us with its efficiency and relatively low noise is the 600W Seasonic S12. Rated at
better than 80 percent efficiency (meaning it wastes
little power and generates less unnecessary heat),
the S12 is one of the quieter high-performance power supplies available. It even has two PCIe six-pin
graphics card power connectors, and it passed our
CrossFire and SLI tests with aplomb.
We wanted a leading-edge motherboard, and the
spanking-new ABIT AN8 32X motherboard seemed
just the ticket. The key is the passively cooled chipset, called Silent OTES (short for outside thermal
exhaust system, of course). ABIT uses a combination of passive heat sinks and a heat pipe to direct
the chipset’s heat to the rear of the chassis, where
it’s exhausted out of the case. That removes a substantial source of annoying noise: the northbridge
fan. Two gigabytes of Corsair’s Twinx2048-4000PT
memory and an AMD Athlon 64 FX-57 processor
rounded out the system.
Mother of all boards
The ABIT AN8 32X
supports the nVidia SLI
X16 chipset, with a full
16 lanes of PCI Express
to each channel. That’s a
lot of graphics goodness.
Drive Noise Out
For many systems,
it’s easy to identify the
loudest part, even from
clear across the room: an
ancient (or, as we like to
say, classic) hard drive.
Molex makes a product
called SilentDrive, basically a foam-lined sleeve
that swallows most
standard-size IDE and
SCSI drives (recommended for 5,400-rpm
drives only) while still
allowing them to
function normally. It’ll
silence the high-pitched
whine of a noisy
hard drive.
t the
Don’t forgera
CPU ’s sepa cate
ble!
12V power
Look! N
northbroid
ge fan!
Add a Drive There’s
a second solution for
loud hard disks: Buy a
new one. We bet you
can find a faster, larger,
quieter drive for under
a hundred dollars. Use
Norton Ghost or a similar
tool to replicate the old
drive’s partition onto
the new drive, set aside
the old one, and it’s
business as usual. You’ve
got a backup as well!
Samsung’s SpinPoint
line is popular for its
quiet operation.
Foam goes
inside the
duct
5
Foam the side door
Install the foam in
other parts of the case,
including the side door.
Note the thin strip just
below the latch. Remove
it so the Sonata’s support
bar has room. The lowest
rectangle stays in place
on the Sonata II (it needs
to be removed for the
older Sonata I).
6
Open the air duct
The Sonata II ships
with a removable plastic
duct that directs airflow
from the CPU out the
back of the case. The
AcoustiPack kit comes
with precut foam sections for the duct, but
you’ll need to disassemble the duct. First, take
the cooling duct apart.
7
Add foam to it Then
install the AcoustiPack foam and reassemble the duct. When
you’re done, it will look
mostly the same but
should run substantially
quieter. Grab your reassembled duct and your
screwdriver and mount
the duct back into the
Sonata case.
8
Quiet your drives
Shove a couple of
foam blocks around the
hard drive area. Acousti
recommends not using
these blocks if you plan
on having more than two
drives. The foam is an
additional sound-absorbing layer, but it also traps
heat, which could shorten
your drives’ lifespans.
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 93
BUILD IT
CPU Cooler and Graphics
Volume Control
How loud is our
super-quiet gaming rig?
To find out, we picked
up a sound meter and
compared our new
computer with a few
others in the office. We
include a few reference
points to set your
bearings.
Bigger and Slower
As cooling fans get
bigger, they can turn
more slowly and
still move the same
amount of air.
Normal
conversation
60 dBA
Quiet office air
conditioner
50 dBA
3.46-GHz P4EEbased PC
42 dBA
mnpc Modded
Tsunami PC
35 dBA
Super-quiet
gaming rig
29 dBA
Ambient room
26 dBA
Go Totally Passive
For the ultimate in
silence, look to Zalman,
which builds a line of
fanless cases that have
heat pipes distributed
throughout. They’re
a bit limiting: Building
an overclocked,
7800GTX SLI system
is impractical, for
example. Still, you can
build a pretty decent
system using one
of these cases. The
downside is that they’re
enormously heavy and
extremely expensive.
HE CPU COOLER IS A KEY COMPONENT
in reducing noise. And remember, we
didn’t want to sacrifice performance
to cut down on noise. Since we used
normal-profile DDR memory (unlike
the brightly lit but extra-tall Corsair
XMS Pro), and since the motherboard doesn’t have
any tall heat sinks or other obstructions, we could
use a big cooler. So in went a Zalman CNPS7700AlCu cooler. This giant hunk of metal has a copper
core and a mixture of aluminum and copper fins.
More important, it uses a slow-rotating 120mm fan,
which keeps the CPU cool while generating little
noise. Tall coolers, like the Zalman CNPS9500, are
quite popular, but we couldn’t fit one in because of
the presence of the case’s cooling duct.
If we were striving for a purely silent system, then
we might have hunted for a fairly high-performance,
passively cooled graphics card. After all, both ATI
and nVidia have spent quite a few dollars engineering fairly low-noise cooling solutions. The fans on
ATI’s graphics cards tend to spin at full speed until
the driver kicks in, however, which can be a little
annoying. So we went with an nVidia-based card
and put a lone EVGA e-GeForce 7900 GTX into the
system. It uses a 92mm cooling fan and exhausts air
out the back of the case. The result is a surprisingly
quiet graphics solution.
ilwaukee
We use areMwdriver
power sc ime
all the t
BUILD THE COMPUTER
1
Start with the power
For the most part,
assemble the rest of the
system as you would any
home-brew computer.
But do things in the right
order. Install the power
supply first. Otherwise,
you may have to pull
the motherboard out of
the PC just to install the
power supply.
2
Affix the back plate
Make sure you attach
the special back plate
required by the Zalman
cooler before you screw
the motherboard down
permanently into the
case. The small nipples
on either side of the processor above are for the
Zalman CNPS7700-AlCu
CPU cooler.
3
Lock in the memory
Route the wires
from the reattached
front bezel next, and
then attach the SATA
and drive power cables
before you slip the drives
into their bays. Install the
memory before the Zalman heat sink, since the
modules will live under
the heat sink fins.
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
94 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
4
Finally, the cooler
Two screws attach
the Zalman cooler to the
nut that holds the plate
to the motherboard.
Install the fan sensor control and set it for minimum speed. The Sonata
II ships with a threespeed 12cm rear case fan.
Set that to the minimum
speed as well.
BUILD IT
Before and After
Parts List
Case
Antec Sonata II ………$100
Power supply
Seasonic S12-600W .$155
CPU
Athlon 64 FX-57……….$811
Memory
Corsair Twinx20484000PT …………………….$217
Motherboard
ABIT AN8 32X …………$185
CPU cooler
Zalman CNPS
7700-AlCu ………………....$35
Hard drive
Western Digital
WD4000YR …………….$185
DVD drive
Pioneer DVR-108B…...$69
Graphics card
EVGA e-GeForce 7900
GTX 512MB………………$520
Sound card
Creative Sound
Blaster Audigy 2 ZS
..…………………$72
Sound insulator
AcoustiPack Pre-Cut
Sonata Kit ………………….$69
Total…………………......$2,418
BD (before duct) All the
hardware is in. We just
have to add the cooling
duct and button it up.
S
PEND A LITTLE TIME ROUTING CABLES
inside the case. The large, exposed fan on
the Zalman CPU cooler means you need
to make sure no stray wires fall into the
fan blades. And don’t forget to reinstall
the CPU duct. Here’s what it all looked
like, before and after installing the CPU duct.
But we know what you’re waiting to hear: Just
how quiet was this rig? Overall, the system was
eerily quiet—this in a quiet office with nothing else
running. It measured 29 decibels (dBA), quieter
than most systems and much quieter than the average gaming PC cum jumbo jet. At 1 meter from the
front, you had to strain to hear the system run, even
at full bore. (By the way, our system scored 5,206
on 3DMark 2006. That’s not bad for a system you
can’t hear.)
Pricewise, our PC’s not too expensive—at least
not for a bleeding-edge gaming system. Note that
the AcoustiPack kit costs only about $69; you can
After: Case closed
We’ve reinstalled the air
duct, now packed with
sound-absorbing foam.
find dealers at www.acoustiproducts.com. The heat
sink adds another $35, and the power supply isn’t
cheap, either. But you’re still paying way less than
$2,500 for a very quiet PC.
Of course, you can use this approach with any PC
you build. All you really need is the Antec Sonata II
and the AcoustiPack insulation kit. Even if you don’t
go with a higher-performance power supply, the
Antec 450W unit supplied with the case is pretty
quiet. And the AcoustiPack kit provides substantial
noise reduction, even with fairly stock CPU coolers.
If you want to use another case, AcoustiPack offers
sheets of sound-deadening material that you can
buy, but you’ll have to do the cutting yourself. And
as we’ve seen, some of the pieces can have fairly
eccentric shapes.
So go ahead, build a quiet high-performance PC.
Your ears and your housemates will thank you. Q
Sucks m
heat fro
your CPU
MORE ON THE WEB
Learn everything you ever
wanted to know about power
supply testing (but couldn’t
frame into a sentence) at our
sister site: go.extremetech
.com/powersupplies
A N A LT E R N AT E S I L E N C E R For decades, the
Peltier effect has served humanity well. Fulfilling a
humble but indispensable service inside mankind’s
second most important box (the ice chest), the Peltier
cooler has kept countless gallons of beer, soda, and
potato salad frosty and refreshing. It works thanks to
the miracle of thermodynamics: When a current passes
through dissimilar metals connected at two junctions,
heat also transfers between the two points, cooling
one area and heating another.
The much more common liquid cooling system
found in car radiators has issues. Most have reservoirs
that require filling and use hand-cut and mounted
plastic tubing—points of failure that can result in
catastrophic leaks. Enter CoolIT Systems’ Freezone
CPU Cooler, the love child of Peltier and liquid cooling.
It employs a water block to transfer heat to a stack of
six Peltier coolers. At stock speeds, idle temperatures
seesawed from 16° C to 21° C, and this system was real,
real quiet. Spending a small fortune on this cooler is a
decision you should make with your financial adviser
(it retails for $399.99). But you’d blow that money
on beer anyway.—Victor Loh, analyst, ExtremeTech
Air flow
The radiator The water block, which CoolIT calls
the Fluid Heat Exchanger (FHE), comes with a layer
of thermal paste from the factory.
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
96 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
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222 Mason St.
www.hotelnikkosf.com
All 510 rooms and 22
suites include high-speed
Internet, two-line speakerphones, bathroom phone,
fax machine, and CD
player. There’s even an
e-fridge that notifies the
front desk the moment
you grab a beer, so there’s
always another waiting
for you the next morning.
Hotel Triton
WORLD’S BIGGEST HOT SPOT In 2004, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced plans to blanket the entire city with free Wi-Fi Internet access. That’s right:
Three hundred kilobits per second, from one end of San Francisco to the other. And
you won’t have to pay a penny to log on. Last October, Google made headlines
when it took up the mayor’s challenge, and the company’s joint bid with EarthLink
is one of six under consideration. IBM and Cisco are also in the mix, but our money’s
on Larry, Sergey, and the rest of the crew from Mountain View. Expect work to start
sometime this year.
TOP TECH
ATTRACTIONS
FREE WI-FI HOT SPOTS
Central Computers
Two doors down from Mission Dolores, where Jimmy
Stewart stalked Kim Novak in Hitchcock’s famous
flick Vertigo.
Maggie Mudd 903 Cortland Ave.
Not only can you get lactose-free vegan ice cream,
you can get lactose-free vegan wireless. You’ll have to
pay for the ice cream. But not the wireless.
Rockin’ Java 1821 Haight St.
The place to find geeky Deadheads in the Haight.
The wireless is free, and the coffee’s organic.
837 Howard St.
Where we go for all things
geek in a pinch.
The Metreon
101 4th St.
A new high-tech playpen
with an Imax theater,
a Sony Style Store, a
high-tech arcade, great
restaurants, and a Jillian’s
pool hall.
Maxfield’s House of Caffeine 398 Dolores St.
342 Grant Ave.
www.hoteltriton.com
This whimsical ecoconscious hotel is so San
Francisco. Located just
off Union Square, this
unique and fun hotel
features celebrity suites
designed by Jerry Garcia
and Santana. The rooms
also feature iPod docking
stations, LCD flat-panel
televisions, Wi-Fi and
wired broadband, and
in-room laptop safes.
Hotel Diva
440 Geary St.
www.hoteldiva.com
This ultramodern boutique hotel has a sleek
stainless steel decor and
free wireless throughout
the entire hotel. It’s adjacent to a Starbucks and
right across the street
from two movie theaters.
They even rent iPods to
hotel guests.
The Exploratorium
3601 Lyon St.
Offers high-tech exhibits.
Cable Car Museum.
1201 Mason St.
If you’re in the mood for
some old-school 19thcentury technology.
FAST FACTS Google and local start-up Feeva already offer free Wi-Fi access
in Union Square, San Francisco’s Tourist Central. After a trip to Saks and a
theater matinee, you can sit down at the Dewey Monument and log on to
PCMag.com • Sure, the Giants are at AT&T Park in San Francisco (which also
doubles as an enormous hot spot). But if you wanna watch major league
baseball at a park named for an antivirus company, take the short BART ride
to McAfee Coliseum, home of the Oakland A’s and Moneyball.
WHILE YOU’RE IN TOWN Forget the tourist traps. Coit Tower, Chinatown, and the Wharf are all well and good, but if you want
something out of the ordinary, we’ve got two recommendations. First, head over to the Mission and grab lunch at La Taqueria (2889 Mission
St.)—the best tacos, burritos, and quesadillas north of the border. And that might be an understatement. We recommend the carnitas burrito
with guacamole. Then head across town to the Castro Theatre (www.castrotheatre.com), one of the country’s great old-time movie houses.
Get there well before the show: They still play the organ before the curtain goes up . . .
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
Photographs: (Top) Taxi/Getty; (Bottom) Metreon
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 113
SECURITY WATCH
Password Policies
A simple password could be the weak link that leaves
your data open to attack.
SMART
GUIDELINES
1
Create strong passwords. Use multiple
words, mixed-case alphanumerics, and at least
12 characters to secure
your passwords. Change
your company policies to
increase minimum password character length
to at least 12 characters.
2
Use a different
password for each
system. If a mailing list
gets hacked, you don’t
want your bank account
put in jeopardy. Use different passwords to protect all critical accounts,
such as company e-mail
and online banking.
3
Use a password vault
to store your digital
keys. Find a trustworthy
browser password manager, such as those built
into Firefox, Safari, and
Internet Explorer.
4
If a service offers a
second form of authentication, use it. Some
banks offer several forms
of authentication, such as
number generators and
smart cards. If your bank
doesn’t offer them, consider switching.
BY ROBERT LEMOS
P
A S S W O R D S A R E Q U I C K LY B E C O M I N G
passé. For years, security experts have
warned that our reliance on passwords
leaves valuable data unprotected. Last year,
federal banking regulators approved guidelines urging the adoption of other forms of authentication for online banking, such as number generators or
smart cards. In February, Bill Gates told attendees at a
computer-security industry conference that “Password
systems simply won’t cut it.” But switching to a more
secure way of doing business will require time, and until then, users are left with password security.
The problem is that people are not good at remembering secure passwords, such as a series of random
numbers, letters, and punctuation marks. A random
eight-character password of only lowercase letters and
numbers can be cracked within days by generating all
possible combinations of the character set. Dictionary
words that have some characters replaced with similarlooking numbers can be broken faster.
Faster processors and improved attack tools are
shrinking the time needed to attack passwords every
year. For example, John the Ripper, a popular bruteforce password-cracking tool, can now crunch more
than one million password possibilities a second, compared with only a few hundred a second a decade ago.
Cheap memory is also a catalyst for password
cracking. A technique known as rainbow tables precal-
culates a large percentage of all possible passwords and
creates multigigabyte lookup tables that can reduce
the time needed to find most passwords to seconds.
Such techniques are particularly dangerous because
an attacker can use the password on a single computer
to find the password of every user, including the administrator, who did not use a password with more than
eight random letters and numbers. Because most IT administrators use the same passwords on many systems,
the compromise of one user’s computer can result in a
breach of the entire company’s network.
The immediate solution to password security problems is educating users to generate better passwords
and giving them the tools to manage their digital keys.
Most browsers have password managers. Standalone
apps are also available, and many Web sites, such as
Diceware.com, have online forms and strategies for
generating secure passwords. For Mac users, Apple has
a system for generating passwords built into Mac OS
X. In the future, digital wallets for managing passwords
and credentials will be built into every OS. For example,
Microsoft’s InfoCard utility will be added to Vista.
The best solution is not to rely solely on passwords.
Companies should add a second method of authentication, and consumers should seek financial services
that offer such security. Q
Robert Lemos is a freelance technology journalist
and the editor-at-large for SecurityFocus.
WHEN WORDS FAIL
Dictionary words or letter-number combinations make passwords that are easy to crack, but passphrases
generated by advanced methods such as Diceware are virtually uncrackable.
Password strength (In bits of entropy). Higher numbers are better.
70
Dicewaregenerated
60
KEEP YOURSELF SAFE!
Subscribe to our Security
Watch newsletter and get
up-to-date info on the
latest threats delivered to
your inbox automatically:
go.pcmag.com/
securitywatchletter.
50
40
30
Random
lowercase
letters
Alphanumerics
Mixed-case
alphanumerics
20
10
Dictionary
word
0
Time to break
1
2
1
second days month
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
116 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
2
years
Half million
years
Source: John the Ripper and Diceware, 2006.
A S K LOY D
Q
SATA AND PATA HARD DRIVES
I am adding a SATA hard drive to a
computer with an existing parallel
ATA hard drive. Do I leave the PATA
hard drive on IDE 0, or should I actually remove the PATA drive and
use the SATA drive exclusively? —Robert Cammack
A
NEED ANSWERS?
ExtremeTech.com’s
editor, Loyd Case, tackles
your toughest hardware
problems each issue.
Send him yours at
askloyd@ziffdavis.com.
You can use a SATA drive alongside an existing
parallel ATA (PATA, often referred to as IDE)
drive. This is a good option if the PATA drive is
still worth using. If it’s an older drive with a small capacity (by today’s standards), it may be best to remove it,
but I’ve successfully run large PATA and SATA drives
simultaneously. One system was configured to boot
from a single PATA drive, and it had two SATA drives
configured as a RAID 1 array for the secondary drive.
Microsoft Windows booted from the PATA drive, but
critical data was stored on the SATA RAID 1 array.
You can set up the system to boot off either drive. If
you add a PATA drive to a system with an existing SATA
boot drive, you may need to go into the system BIOS
and reconfigure the SATA drive as the primary boot
drive. Many PCs will assume that a new PATA master
drive on the primary IDE controller is the boot drive,
even if you’ve been booting from a SATA drive.
A
Despite all the work on ACPI and other powermanagement technologies, power management for desktop systems still tends to trail the
abilities of laptop computers in this area.
In standard home router setups, the PC automatically picks up an IP address from the router through a
mechanism called DHCP (dynamic host configuration
protocol). The router maintains a pool of IP addresses.
When a system disconnects, it needs to issue a DHCP
request to obtain a new IP address. When you use the
“repair” function, the system re-establishes a connection to the router and requests a new IP address.
What you might try to do is to allocate the IP address permanently from the PC. You need to do this in
the Internet Protocol control panel, which is reachable
from the Network control panel.
INTEL VS. AMD
Q
After reading the article on building a PC
(go.pcmag.com/buildyourownpc; March 7,
page 97), I was curious as to why one
would choose one processor over another. It
would appear that AMD has faster, more advanced, and less expensive chips than Intel does.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of
one chip over another? —Mark
A
You ask a question that’s been argued for years
on Internet chat rooms and Web sites. Each
processor has different strengths and weakCP
DH
es
bl
Disa
nesses. For example, an Intel Pentium 4 will often perform software rendering on 3ds Max much faster than
A DISCONNECTING
an AMD Athlon 64 will. On the other hand, the AMD
WIRELESS NETWORK
I have a combination
CPUs generally beat Intel’s at PC games.
wireless/wired network
Recently, since dual-core processors became comSpecify your PC’s
at home. One PC is
mon, AMD dual-core processors have tended to outIP address
connected to a Linksys Wirepace their Intel equivalents, and the Intel CPUs also
less 802.11b router’s built-in
run very hot. It looks as if this will probably change as
Ethernet switch. The other PC
soon as Intel shifts to its new architecture later this
is connected wirelessly via a
year. But for now, AMD’s dual-core CPUs tend to be
Linksys WMP11 card. When the
a bit faster and put out less heat than Intel’s, and they
Typically the same
wireless PC goes to sleep, or
cost about the same.
even just goes to the screen
It’s not just the CPU that comes into play. For exsaver, the wireless network disample, you may require a flexible, high-performance
connects. I lose e-mail and Web
disk subsystem. In that case, Intel chipsets often
connectivity, though when I
outperform the chipsets used on AMD-compatible
wake up the PC, the tray icon
motherboards. But if you want to run dual graphics
tells me I have an excellent concards for gaming, an AMD is better.
nection. I’ve tried updating the
In the end, the average office computer user may
router firmware, and I’ve disabled the hardwired
not be faced with these issues. The raw performance
Ethernet port on the Asus P4P800 motherboard,
of the CPU isn’t as important as the overall responbut that doesn’t help. I always have to perform a
siveness of the system, which often depends on the
“repair” on the wireless card.—Andy Craig
memory, hard drive, and other factors. Q
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
Q
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 117
ASK NEIL
Q
BLINKING LABELS IN ACCESS
In older versions of Access you could
set the text/field on a form to Blink,
but I cannot seem to find anything
on how to do it now in 2000 or 2003.
I’d like to draw attention to a field by
having it blink. Do you have any suggestions as
to how to do this?—Michael Mattingly
A
NEED ANSWERS?
Each issue, PC Magazine’s
software expert
Neil J. Rubenking
answers your toughest
software and Internet
problems. Send yours
to askneil@ziffdavis.com.
To create a blinking
label in modern versions of Access, you
need to write a snippet
of Visual Basic code.
You may be thinking of much older versions
of Access, predating Windows. On a text-only
system it was possible to set an attribute that
would cause one or more characters to blink. That’s no
longer a possibility. If you want a blinking label, you
need to write a tiny bit of VBA code. Start by opening the form in design view. Right-click the label that
should blink and choose Properties. Click the All tab
in the Properties dialog and change the label’s Name
property to blinkingLabel. Check to make sure that
the ForeColor property’s value is -2147483630, a code
representing the default window text color.
At the top of the Properties dialog, select Form in
the drop-down list: Now you’re editing the properties
for the form itself. Click the Event tab and scroll down
to the item titled Timer Interval. Here you’ll enter the
blink rate in milliseconds: 500 (one half-second) is a
good choice. Now comes that tiny bit of VBA code.
Click the box titled On Timer. A small ellipsis (…) but-
ton will appear at the right; click it and choose Code
Builder. The lines “Private Sub Form_Timer()” and
“End Sub” will appear in the Microsoft Visual Basic
window. Between them add these lines:
With blinkingLabel
.ForeColor = (IIf(.ForeColor =
-2147483640, _-2147483633, -2147483640))
End With
Press Alt+Q to save and quit the VB editor, then
select View | Form View from the menu. Your label will
blink on and off, alternating between its original color
and the default background color for forms.
MORE ON XP’S FOLDER AMNESIA
Q
I ran across your article “A Solution
for Windows XP Folder Amnesia” (go
.pcmag.com/folderamnesia) and I think it
needs to be updated. The locations of BagMRU
and other subkeys have changed. The current
locations in Microsoft Windows XP SP2 are
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Win
dows\CurrentVersion\Shell
and
HKEY_CUR
RENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\Cur
rentVersion\ShellNoRoam. The article does not
mention these locations; it omits the CurrentVersion part of the locations.
I applied the fix successfully using a value
of 5,000 for BagMRU Size around the time you
wrote the article, and since then have had no
problems.—Geoff Walker
A
As explained in the earlier article, Windows
XP is supposed to remember your desired view
settings on a per-folder basis, but a glitch can
make it stop recording this information. The article
offered a Registry tweak that can sometimes cure this
problem. It spelled out changes in the Registry keys
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Win
dows\Shell and HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\
Microsoft\Windows\ShellNoRoam—specifically, it
recommended deleting subkeys named BagMRU and
Bags if they are present, and setting a larger number
for the value named BagMRU Size.
The keys were clearly found as described on our
test systems, and the Registry locations described
in the earlier article can be verified in the Microsoft
Knowledge Base article #812003 at support.microsoft
.com/kb/812003/EN-US. Yet this reader was just as
clearly successful using a different location. The main
difference seems to be that our test systems had all
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
Adds Code Builder
118 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
ASK NEIL
96 pixels wide
For those who just have to get their hands dirty (you
know who you are!), the size and quality settings are stored
in the Registry key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\
Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer, in
DWORD values named ThumbnailSize and Thumb
nailQuality. As always, if these values are absent,
you’ll create them. You can set ThumbnailSize from
32 to 256 (decimal) and ThumbnailQuality from 32
to 100. Changes won’t take effect until you restart Windows, so it’s really much easier to use TweakUI.
OPERA BROWSER IN DRAG
Q
I recently noticed that the Opera browser
offers the choice to identify itself as Opera,
Internet Explorer, or Firefox. What does that
mean? If I choose to identify Opera as IE, does it
mean the Opera browser would be as vulnerable
to attack as IE? —Xinxin Dai
A
Thumbnails in
Windows Explorer
default to 96 pixels in
their longest dimension, but you can set
them as large as 256.
256 pixels wide
been upgraded to Windows XP SP2, but the reader’s
system had an original installation of SP2. We checked
with Microsoft, but it didn’t have any information
about this difference.
If you attempt to apply the “folder amnesia” tip and
find that the specified value and subkeys are not present in the Registry keys we specified, do take a look at
the alternate locations listed above.
BIGGER THUMBNAILS IN WINDOWS XP
Q
I have Windows XP SP2 loaded. Is it possible
to increase the size of the thumbnail images
in Windows Explorer’s thumbnail view? I
know that you can choose the filmstrip view to get
a bigger preview of one image, but I want to see
all the thumbnails larger.—David Senior
A
Every time your browser requests a page from
a Web site, it includes several pieces of information, among them the browser type. That
gives the site a chance to return a page specifically
tuned for the browser in question, or at least to omit
features not supported by the calling browser. However, Web designers don’t always handle this information correctly. For example, they may assume that
every non-IE browser is Netscape or suppress more
features than necessary for non-IE browsers. In most
cases you’ll want to have Opera identify itself as IE (the
default). This does not in any way open up your system
to IE-specific vulnerabilities. All it does is lie to each
and every Web site you visit, forcing them to give you
the IE version of the requested Web page.
TURN OFF PERIPHERALS AT SHUTDOWN
Q
Our computers are connected to power
strips, so one switch turns everything off.
We intend to switch it off every night, for
reasons of energy efficiency and security. However, our new computer shuts down automatically without showing the “It is now safe to turn
your computer off” screen, so we often forget
to switch the power off. That leaves the monitor,
printer, and various Ethernet and FireWire devices running and wasting energy. Is there a way
to get the computer to display the old message
at shutdown? —Allen Stanbury
The easiest way to do this is with Microsoft’s free (and support-free) TweakUI utility. You can download it from www.microsoft
.com/windowsxp/downloads/powertoys/xppowertoys
.mspx. Launch TweakUI, open the Explorer item in
The old shutdown screen isn’t going to come
the tree at right, and click Thumbnails. Here you
back—it’s a thing of the past. You need a solucan adjust the thumbnail size from 32 to 256 pixels
tion for the future. I checked with PC Magasquare (the default is 96). Do note that a 256 by
zine columnist Bill Machrone, who has written in
256 image has over seven times as many pixels as
the past about wasting power (“The Electron Leak,”
a 96 by 96 image. You may want to also slide the
go.pcmag.com/electronleak). Bill suggests a modern
Image Quality slider to a lower setting, so you don’t
power strip like the Smart Strip from BITS Ltd. (www
expend too much disk space caching those extra.bitsltd.net). When the computer stops drawing power,
large thumbnails. After you’ve made the change,
the Smart Strip senses it and automatically shuts off
you’ll see larger thumbnails in both thumbnail
power to the other devices. Another possibility is the
view and filmstrip view.
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
A
120 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
Port Authority Mini Power Minder, from Cables To Go
(www.cablestogo.com). This one connects to the PC
through a USB cable. It has one always-on outlet and
another that turns on and off when the PC turns on
and off—you’d plug your existing power strip into the
latter. One of these products (or something similar)
should solve your problem.
KEEPING U3 UNDER CONTROL
Q
Several companies now make U3-enabled
USB flash drives that let you carry applications with you and use them on any
computer without installing them and without
leaving any traces (see go.pcmag.com/u3usb).
The key is formatted into a read-only portion
containing the apps and a read-write portion
for your data. When you plug it in, Windows
sees the read-only portion as a CD drive and
launches the U3 software automatically. Yet
sometimes you just want your key to be a USB
drive. You may want to transfer a file without
waiting for the U3 launcher and applications
to load. Or the apps may conflict with the host
system, which can make it impossible to properly eject the key. Some people have probably
bought U3 drives inadvertently when all they
wanted was a normal USB key. How can we help
readers disable AutoPlay when they don’t want
these capabilities? —Ben Z. Gottesman
A
You can suppress the U3 drive’s AutoPlay
functionality on a one-time basis by holding
down the Shift key while inserting the drive.
Wait for the audible indication that Windows has recognized the drive before letting go. You can now use
the drive simply as a storage device. You can still access
the U3 features on demand by right-clicking on the
drive letter representing the read-only portion of the
key and choosing AutoPlay.
To suppress automatic launching permanently on
your own PCs, insert the drive and wait for it to initialize. Right-click My Computer on the desktop and
choose Properties. Click the Hardware tab and click
the Device Manager button. Double-click the entry for
DVD/CD-ROM drives, right click the line representing
the U3 drive, and choose Disable. Now when you insert
the key, only the flash drive portion should be recognized. The downside to this approach is that the U3
features aren’t available on these PCs until you reverse
these steps. Q
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YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 121
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N
OW THAT YOU HAVE A WEB SITE, IT’S
time to learn how to analyze the traffic
that your visitors generate. By understanding a few simple metrics, you’ll
learn a lot about how your site is structured, how it functions, and the products and information that you offer. It’s important to know whether your
Web site is boosting your bottom line by bringing in
new customers and visitors and retaining loyal ones.
A company with a content-heavy Web site that relies
on ad revenue should focus on how many people visit
and how many pages each visitor views. Those with an
e-commerce site will want to know which products visitors view and how far along each customer advances in
the purchasing process. In many cases, you can combine the two metrics. A good content strategy results in
higher sales, and a successful sales experience encourages visitors to spend more time at your site.
For a content site looking to optimize navigation, improve layout and design, and enhance content in order
to retain visitors, the right tool should measure unique
visitors, page views, navigation paths, and the amount
of time spent on the site. Then you can develop more
targeted content for your customers. Analyzing reports
that measure the clickstream (the record of a user’s activity on the Internet) patterns can help you reorganize
your site so readers can find information quickly.
The essence of Web metrics for an
e-commerce site is determining how effective the site is at converting visits into
sales. Here are some questions a good
e-commerce metrics tool should answer:
How effective are e-mail marketing campaigns? What percentage of site visitors
buy something? Are visitors abandoning
their shopping carts, and if so, at which
point? How much of the business consists
of repeat customers? Is it easy for customers to find what they’re looking for?
By measuring page hits, you can identify popular items in your Web store and
feature them prominently on your home
page. And following clickstreams can tell
you where customers are dropping out.
For both kinds of sites, you’ll want to
know referring addresses, or how visitors are
finding your site. Knowing this can help you identify
who links to your site and why, so you can approach
similar sites and offer to trade links. Keywords are another important source. By knowing which keywords
people use to find your site, you can increase your
rankings on search engines, a process known as search
engine optimization. Your top keywords are also good
Google AdWords to purchase to advertise on the Web.
Who should you choose to provide the right solution?
One basic tool is Google Analytics. Free for AdWords
customers, Google Analytics provides basic Web analytics. Ideal for pay-per-click advertisers, it provides
excellent keyword reporting and AdWords return-oninvestment reports, which advertisers can then use to
tweak their ad campaigns. The service also includes
executive summaries for traffic, e-commerce and conversion trends, and powerful trend-reporting features to
help you understand how site traffic varies over time.
For a more robust solution, VisiStat 3.0 provides
in-depth site-traffic analytics. Real-time stats are an
addictive way to get quick data about who is browsing
your site and which pages they’re viewing. You can get
geographic or ISP reports, referral links, and keyword
tracking. Add-ons such as PageAlarm, a site-availability
monitoring tool, and AdCam, an advertising-campaign
tracker, can contribute significant functionality. Q
Matthew D. Sarrel is a consultant and former PC
Magazine Labs technical director.
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
122 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
SOFTWARE SOLUTIONS
1. GET REPLAY A/V
First, download Replay
A/V from www.applian
.com. To get the demo,
click on Products, then
scroll down to Replay
A/V, then choose Free
Demo. The demo lets
you save three streams
up to 15 minutes or 5MB
each.
Download the free demo
of Replay A/V
d
sound car
Test your
3. CHOOSE A STREAM
Next, click on the Media
Guide icon. To record a TV
station stream, click the TV
icon. Find stations fast by
clicking Languages, then
English. Find the show you
want and click Add. Click
Record Now, then OK.
2. CONFIGURE THE PROGRAM
Before you start, we recommend downloading the Enhanced Sound Card Driver, available at www.applian
.com/downloads.php. Then, start Replay A/V and follow
the prompts to choose where you want your file saved
and to test your sound card with the new driver.
record
Click and
Capture Streaming Video
BY JOHN BRANDON
W
EB VIDEO AND AUDIO STREAMS ARE A LITTLE RESTRICTIVE,
aren’t they? We love streaming services like Real’s Rhapsody and
the live ABC News stream, but they don’t let you save files and
use them on an iPod, or burn media files onto a CD without paying. Sure, they’ll let you transfer streams to a set of “approved”
devices like the Creative Zen Vision:M. But you can watch only when and how they
want you to.
You could get around these hurdles by recording streams to a home stereo or
VHS, and then rerecording back to a PC. That’s a convoluted process, though.
Instead, try Replay A/V ($49.90, www.applian.com), which records just about any
Internet stream, letting you save unprotected audio or video files and use them any
way you want. Recorded streams look super-clean at a high bit rate, although their
window size is typically only about 320-by-240. To watch shows when you want,
just browse the Replay A/V guide and click a few buttons to record and save your
files. Or find a stream on the Web and do a quick record.
Now, we have to mention that, in some cases, this might violate the site’s terms
of use agreement. Although it’s all for personal use—right?—you’ll want to check
and comply with copyright restrictions, and I certainly don’t recommend sharing
Replay A/V–recorded files, which could get you in a boatload of trouble. Q
4. RECORD
Replay A/V will record an unprotected
stream as a 320-by-240 Windows Video file
at about 177 Kbps. If there’s a higher-quality
download available, it will save that file instead. Then you can play it on an iPod or
other media player or burn it to a disc.
John Brandon is a freelance writer based near Minneapolis.
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 125
G A M I N G + C U LT U R E
PS3:
What
We
Know
Details about Sony’s PlayStation 3
console are finally arriving.
I
B Y J A K E M c N E I L L A N D S A M K E N N E D Y, 1U P. C O M
MORE ON THE WEB
Get the inside scoop on the
gaming world, as well as all
the news and reviews you can
sink your teeth into, at
www.1up.com.
140 PC MAGAZINE
like. What follows is a summary of everything we know
don’t know what to make of the Sony Playabout Sony’s machine and our best guesses about what
Station 3. Sony planned to release the nextwe can expect later this year.
generation console this spring but recently
Under the Hood
slipped its shipping date back to November.
The driving force behind the PS3 will be the 3.2-GHz
Meanwhile, many aspects of the PS3 remain
Cell processor, a multicore chip designed to handle
a mystery. What will the system cost? How powerful
several tasks simultaneously and to scale to meet
will it be? Some of the answers still elude us, but little
the needs of its various duties. The graphics will be
by little the picture is becoming clearer.
powered by an nVidia-designed 550-MHz RSX GPU,
Sony seems to be promising the world with the
which nVidia claims will be more powerful than two
PS3, and while not everything about the console has
GeForce 6800 Ultra video cards combined. In addibeen finalized yet, many facts have been released.
tion, the PS3 will have 256MB of main RAM comWe know what hardware powers the system, which
bined with 256MB of VRAM. The console will supdevelopers are making games for it, what types of disc
port TVs running in 1080p progressive-scan mode,
formats it will read, YYePG
and even
what
the
controller
is
Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
MAY 9, 2006
T’S EASY TO UNDERSTAND WHY GAMERS
TOP10
MOST POPULAR
XBOX 360 GAMES
and it will be able to run sound in Dolby 5.1, DTS, and
PCM. It will also have a 2.5-inch detachable, upgradable 60GB hard drive with Linux installed.
Blu-ray
Sony is using the PS3 to push the new Blu-ray disc format; it believes the unit will entice consumers to adopt
in the same way that the PS2 encouraged adoption of
DVDs. Ironically, copy-protection issues related to Blu-ray are also why Sony has moved the PS3’s shipping date
to November. The company believes
Blu-ray will replace DVDs, which were
also dogged by content-protection
problems.
Though the Blu-ray drive is believed to contribute significantly to the
PS3’s cost, Sony sees the fast transfer
rate and larger capacity (initially 50GB
on dual-layer discs) as essential to the
upcoming generation of games. The
drive will also cater to older formats,
playing PlayStation and PS2 games,
DVD movies, and audio CDs.
and accessories don’t work with the Xbox 360 either).
The PS3 controller—mockingly referred to as the
“batarang” or “banana” by critics—will be a great departure from the DualShock-style controllers that have
previously been Sony’s standard, with a look that’s like
. . . well, like a “batarang”— a cross between a baseball
bat and a boomerang—or a banana. The console will
support up to seven of these standard controllers using
its wireless Bluetooth connectivity. The
other connection methods will also be
used to interface with the PS3 in various ways, including the ability to interact with the PSP via Wi-Fi. Sony has also noted that the popular EyeToy device
will work with the PS3, and it’s actually
used for a few announced titles.
Third-Party Support
Much like the original PlayStation and
PlayStation 2, the PlayStation 3 will
have strong third-party support, with
most major publishers and developers already working on titles for the
machine, including Activision, Atari,
Capcom, EA, Konami, Midway, NamGAMES ON DECK Alan
Wake, a psychological thrillConnectivity and Control
co, Rockstar, Sega, Square Enix, and
The PS3 will include gigabit Ether- er from Remedy, is one of
Ubisoft. Almost a hundred Japanese
net and 802.11b/g Wi-Fi (the same many PS3 titles in the works. publishers are producing titles. Sufwireless technology the PSP uses), as
fice it to say that game companies seem
well as Bluetooth 2.0. It will also have six USB 2.0
confident the PS3 will be just as successful as the PS2,
ports (four in front and two in back) and ports for Sony
if not more so. The system will be backward-compatMemory Stick, SD, and CF cards. But it won’t have
ible with the entire PS1 and PS2 libraries, and will play
ports for the old PlayStation 2 controllers and memory
their titles in high definition.
cards, so new PS3 accessories will be required. (It’s
Stay tuned for more news. The PS3 promises to be
only fair to say that older Microsoft Xbox controllers
one of the biggest gaming attractions of the year. Q
Raider:
1Tomb
Legend
Due April
28, it’s far beyond “buzz”
among gamers.
2 Viva Piñata
What
happens when you
mix Pokémon with The
Sims? Weirdness.
Treasures
3 FFXI:
of Aht Urhgan
The next step for Final
Fantasy. Due April 18.
Recon Ad4 Ghost
vanced Warfighter
The third game in this
war shooter franchise.
5 Rumble Roses XX
Elder Scrolls
6 The
IV
The vixens of wrestling are back.
The fourth title in
this best-selling fantasy
series.
7 Dead Rising
Cry Instincts
8 Far
Predator
Third-person
zombie-killing fest.
An enhanced version of the
first-person shooter
game.
9 Superman Returns
Electronic Arts
revives the Superman
franchise.
10 Burnout
Revenge
The
next generation of driving and racing games.
Source: 1Up.com. Ranked by
online buzz
AUCTION BLOCK MOD WORLD
Jango Fett Water Maze
A rare Star Wars
gaming relic.
eBay price: $52.70
Xbox Air Moderator
Xbox to ice box with
this plug-in cooler.
eBay price: $4
Mortal Kombat Goro
statue Perfect for any
mantle or bathroom.
eBay price: $26
Believe it or not, excluding the cost of the
PC parts inside, the
total price tag for this
slick see-through case
mod was $22. Reader
Frank Clark got a hold
of a free promotional
plastic case from E&J
Brandy, then used
drills, rivets, and a saw
to mount everything
from the drives to the
Intel-based motherboard to blue LED
lights. (The E&J logo
is faintly visible on the
side of the case.) “My
mother-in-law has
decided that it would
be a great eBay item,”
quips Clark.
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 141
GEARLOG
Full-color reens
OLED sc
MORE ON THE WEB
Read up on Edge Tech’s
Digital Picture Frame and MP3
player at www.gearlog.com.
31/4 inches tall
I
TECHNICOLOR TUNES
Voice-record
button
Top view
(actual size)
F W HITE A ND BL ACK DIGI-
tal music players put you in
too somber a mood, check
out Toshiba’s racy Gigabeat
designs. The color-splashed
MEP-05FR flash MP3 player costs $99.99, includes 512MB of
memory, and comes with several features not found in the iPod, including
a voice recorder and a recordable FM
tuner. Both Gigabeat models seen here
have screen savers that can replace
your watch, with readouts viewable
in any of three modes. They have easy
Windows Media Player 10 interfaces
and are compatible with Napster To
Go. You can also view photos on any of
the Gigabeats.
The black MEP-10FK Gigabeat
player offers 1GB capacity and goes
for $129.99. Our nod goes to the jazzy
color designs, though. Music and
monochrome just don’t go together.
—Sebastian Rupley
YYePG Proudly Presents, Thx for Support
MAY 9, 2006 PC MAGAZINE 143
J O H N C. D V O R A K
It is hard to blame declines in newspapers’ readership on
the Internet. There are other factors involved that nobody
seems willing to discuss.
The New York Times pulled off a marketing coup by
syndicating essentially the whole paper to cheapskate
publishers across the country. As columns were included, many local columnists were fired. This whetted
the public’s appetite for the Times and created a megabrand; it’s one of the few growing papers in the U.S.
Boring professionalism. Joseph Pulitzer invented
the idea of the journalism school before 1900. These
institutions spread over time but didn’t really take
hold until the 1960s. By 1970, newspapers had begun
to decline. Coincidence?
A sign quoting Pulitzer, posted at the Columbia
School of Journalism as a kind of mantra, epitomizes
the problem: “Our Republic and its press will rise or fall
together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press,
with trained intelligence to know the right and courage
to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which
popular government is a sham and a mockery.”
The problem is the word “disinterested.” It’s the
hallmark of journalism today and translates to bored
HE NEWSPAPER INDUSTRY IS
and boring. Besides not giving a hoot about the story,
losing readership. So let’s
the disinterested observer is often hoodwinked and
blame the Internet, right? In
subject to public-relations manipulations. Apparently,
fact, circulation began to denobody sees this as a problem.
The disappearance of the paperboy. I was a
cline around 1970, with the
paperboy as a kid. It was good money, and my knockfading of the once powerful
ing on doors seeking subscriptions or asking to be paid
evening newspapers. TV news
put a human face on the paper. Circulation grew with
is to blame there. Circulation of
the population, but now newspapers must offer free
morning and Sunday papers was still increasing gradusubscriptions to sucker the rubes to renew. These offers
ally, but according to Journalism.org’s The State of the
come from Mumbai by phone, usually when you’re at
News Media 2004, “By 1990… even the boost from a
dinner. The bean counters love it. Some middle-aged
growing population was not enough to maintain how
man now delivers the paper out of an old Chevy.
many newspapers were sold each day. Circulation beNo sense of humor. Today’s papers have no colgan dropping at the rate of 1 percent every year from
lective sense of humor or fun. This is partly because
1990 to 2002.” The slide continues, and now the voice
of the J-schools and the need to be “professional.” I
of Silicon Valley, the once powerful San Jose Mercury
haven’t seen anyone laugh in a newsroom for decades.
News, appears to be on the auction block.
This may come from political correctness, or perhaps
It is hard to blame these declines, especially those
from some public-guardian ego trip. Maybe too many
from 1970 to 1990, on the Internet. There are other
of the people working daily news beats are just duds.
factors involved that nobody seems willing to discuss.
Syndication. Local papers have become cookieWhile recently perusing 1950s-era San Francisco
cutter products loaded with syndicated material, mostly
Examiner issues, I was shocked to find that the paper
from The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the
was crammed with small and interesting stories, many
Los Angeles Times. Filling space in the San Francisco
of which now would go into the reject folder. The
Chronicle with New York Times articles saves money,
paper had real life to it then—life that is now missing.
but many people nowYYePG
just getProudly
the Times
instead.
Let’s not blame the Internet for this. Q
Presents, Thx for Support
T
MORE ON THE WEB
Can’t get enough
Dvorak? A new rant goes
up every Monday at
go.pcmag.com/dvorak.
You can e-mail him directly
at pcmag@dvorak.org.
144 PC MAGAZINE MAY 9, 2006
Illustration by mariowagner/agoodson.com
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