Archive for May, 2015

New site, more content, a lot more Kick-Ass

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article letting everyone know that Maximum PC would be going through a transition. It’s here. During this weekend, www.maximumpc.com will go through a short content freeze. The new site and platform will go live on Monday around noon PST. That means, you’ll have enough time to be productive at work before drifting away into PC information land. So what exactly will you see?

The current website is aging, and there’s a lot of content coming that we want to highlight and make finding easier. The current platform that we use to publish on will change too. We’re doing this for two main reasons: more articles presented in an easier to digest method, and making publishing less painful for our staff. It takes some wrangling in our current CMS to get articles to appear just right, and we would like to make everything as efficient as possible.

So the site will change. Some may not like it and that’s okay. Since it’s all code and software, we can improve and tweak things as time goes on. We can do that because the new platform is more flexible and modular. Comments will change over to Disqus, so make sure you snatch the name you want. If none of this matters to you and you just want more content, we have that too.

We’re going to launch with a rewritten Best of the Best section. We’ll keep it more frequently updated on what we think are the top picks for your money. But this time around, we’re going to split categories into three: The best choice, the smart choice, and the value choice. We’d like to get a section on the worst stuff to avoid too, but that’ll come a little later on. Our build guides are also relaunching with a focus on three price points: $2000, $1500, and $800. We attempt to pick smart choices in components for each one, with a lean towards being open for future upgrades. You’ll see that go live on Monday as well. Reviews are being increased as well. You’ll see more products and more product categories, and you’ll also be able to see real time price tracking.

You may have also noticed that we have some new friends on staff. I’d like to mention them now in case you didn’t already see their names pop up on the site and the magazine. Say hi to:

Jarred Walton, Senior Editor
Jarred comes to us most recently from The Wirecutter, and AnandTech before that, where he spent 11 years distilling through an ocean of hardware and tech. Jarred is versed in everything from CPUs to GPUs to displays to laptops.

Alex Campbell, Associate Editor
Alex is our build commando and in-house Linux aficionado. He deeply cares about the Linux community and previously spent several years writing at IDG. Alex authored some of the new Linux guides you’ve been seeing. He also tends to stay at work until late at night, tinkering with hardware and benchmarks.

Chris Angelini, Contributing Editor
Chris comes to us most recently from Tom’s Hardware, where he spent over 6 years as Editor-in-Chief. He’s a great friend of mine and has penned for many publications. Chris has actually been with us for several months now and he may have answered some of your questions, as The Doctor.

We’re moving in this direction: more tech, more how-tos, more builds, more gear. There are other things in the works that I’m excited to introduce but are in the cooking stages, so I’ll have to leave you hanging for a little. Rest assured, they’re features you will like. So, as we prepare for the new platform, enjoy the weekend! We’ll see you on the other side.


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MacBookBragging rights

Comparing Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system to Apple’s OS X falls into the apples and oranges category, right? You could make that argument, though in terms of speed and performance, one need only install Windows 10 on a MacBook using Boot Camp and run cross-platform benchmarks in order to reach some conclusions. That’s exactly what a Computer Science student at Tufts University in Medford-Somerville, Massachusetts did, which led him to conclude that Windows 10 is faster than OS X.

His name is Alex King and in his latest blog post titled “Testing the 12-inch MacBook’s Performance with Windows 10,” he details his experience upgrading Windows 8.1 to the Windows 10 Insider Preview on his 2015 MacBook. He had previously given Windows 10 a whirl a month ago through virtualization, though at the time, he wasn’t sure he wanted to commit to using the OS full time.

One of the first things King did after installing Windows 10 was to increase desktop scaling to 150 percent, as the new MacBook boasts a 2304×1440 (16:10) resolution. After adjusting the resolution, he begain playing around with Windows 10.

“Here’s the real kicker: it’s fast. It’s smooth. It renders at 60FPS unless you have a lot going on,” King said in his blog post. “It’s unequivocally better than performance on OS X, further leading me to believe that Apple really needs to overhaul how animations are done. Even when I turn Transparency off in OS X, Mission Control isn’t completely smooth. Here, even after some Aero Glass transparency has been added in, everything is smooth. It’s remarkable, and it makes me believe in the 12-inch MacBook more than ever before.”

That’s high praise from a MacBook user. Incidentally, King also had good things to say about Microsoft Edge, the new browser formerly known as Project Spartan. While he noted it was still “rough around the edges,” he still came away with the impression that it’s an “absolute champion” at this early stage.

“Maybe it’s ironic that in some regards, the new MacBook runs Windows 10 (a prerelease version, at that) better than it runs OS X. But it’s a testament to two things: Apple’s fantastic MacBook hardware, which is forward-thinking yet surprisingly agile; and Microsoft’s excellent Windows software, which entices and excites with its beautiful interface, useful new features, and rock-solid UI transitions,” King added.

Either way, it bodes well for Windows 10, which is due to release in final form sometime this summer.

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MSI GT72Buying gaming street cred

MSI has built up quite a stable of gaming laptops, many of which offer a decent bang-for-buck. They’ve gotten the attention of mobile gamers, and apparently Lenovo is paying attention as well. That’s assuming the latest rumor is true — word on the web is that Lenovo wants to buy MSI’s gaming notebook business. It wouldn’t be a bad acquisition for Lenovo, but would MSI be interested in such a deal?

According to Digitimes, MSI has denied the reports, though sources from within the supply chain industry hold firm that Lenovo is at least interested in the idea of owning MSI’s gaming laptop division. The motivation for Lenovo would be to fasttrack its way to competing in the gaming notebook sector, a business segment that the Chinese OEM is only marginally participating in at the moment.

Not only is Lenovo supposedly interested, Digitimes‘ sources say there’s an offer on the table that hasn’t yet been turned down. Both sides are said to be in the negotiating phase.

The gaming laptop market is fairly competitive with options from Acer, Asus, Toshiba, MSI, and others. It’s seen as a growing sector, so it’s easy to see why Lenovo would be interested in joining the fray. At present, the best Lenovo has to offer is its Y Series of gaming laptops, all of which are based on Nvidia’s last generation GTX 800M Series, save for the Y40-80 (Radeon R9 M275).

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United AirlinesBug bounty program pays out frequent flier miles

United Airlines is inviting security researchers and anyone else to participate in a bug bounty program for a chance to claim up to 1 million award miles, depending on what kind(s) of vulnerabilities you discover. However, it’s important to note that United Airlines is looking for specific bug submissions related to its website — hacking its planes or hitting the company with a denial of service (DoS) attack are both on the list of no-nos.

Same goes for brute force attacks; code injection on live systems; the compromise or testing of MileagePlus accounts that are not your own; any testing on aircraft or aircraft systems such as inflight entertainment or inflight Wi-Fi; any threats, attempts at coercion, or extortion of United employees, Star Alliance member airline employees, other partner airline employees, or customers; physical attacks against the same groups just mentioned; and vulnerability scans or automated scans on United servers.

Attempting any of those will, at minimum, disqualify you from the bug bounty program, but could also lead to criminal charges, United warns. So, what does that leave?

Remote code execution is at the top of United’s list and is the only type of vulnerability that carries a 1 million award mile bounty. Authentication bypass, brute force attacks, potential for personally identifiable information (PII) disclosure, and timing attacks are all potentially worth 250,000 award miles, while cross-site scripting, cross-site request forgery, and third-party issues that affect United could net you 50,000 award miles each.

If you want to particpate in United’s bug bounty program, you can find more details here.

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Jarred WaltonOld school meets new school!

Hello Maximum PC! It’s great to be here. As the latest addition to the Maximum PC team, it’s tradition for me to take a moment to introduce myself. I could tell you all about what I’ve done, about how I’m something of the “Old Man of the Mountain” now, but that’s no fun. Instead, if you’ll grant me some lenience as this is my first post here, join me as I reminisce about my computer history.

Like many of our readers, I’ve been involved with computers and technology since a young age, hailing all the way back to the time of the Commodore 64 and BASIC – or if you want to really dig, the first computing device I can remember using was the Magnavox Odyssey2, chugging along at 1.79MHz. Yeehaw! That showed up under a Christmas tree when I was just six years old, but we could all tell what was in the package. My brother “ruined Christmas” when he decided to get a sneak peak on Christmas Eve…the cartridges weren’t all that robust, and he broke one of the games. Oops.

But as I was saying, my computer addiction (no, really, I can quit any time I want!) started with the C-64 and its rocking 1MHz processor, playing games like the Bard’s Tale, SSI Gold Box D&D, Wasteland, Neuromancer, and many others. I also spent time typing in programs from a book and learning a bit of crude BASIC in the process. I didn’t know what all the commands and instructions did at the time, but I knew how to load games and it was a start. I later learned how to dial the local BBS (Bulletin Board System) as a precursor to the Internet. Watching ASCII stream across the screen using a 300 baud (300 bits per second) connection resulted in about one 40 character line per second. When we later upgraded to a 2400 baud modem, let me tell you, it was amazing!

For the younger generation, talk of such crazy slow computing devices likely sounds incomprehensible. But then even for someone of my generation – those that grew up with computers being taught in elementary schools – the earlier days of vacuum tubes, ENIAC, and punch card readers seem equally absurd. Our job here is to look at the present and future of computing, however, so I think it’s great to also remember where we started.

The changes in my youth came fast and furious (no, not the movies). We went from an early IBM compatible PC XT to a PC AT within a year, and the first time I used a hard drive was a revelation. I was twelve and used to waiting minutes to load games or other programs from floppy disks; now we had a computer that could load up a game in seconds. I was hooked. Goodbye C-64, hello DOS! The graphics were crude on those early ASCII games, sometimes worse than the C-64 sprites, but thankfully my father was enough of a computer geek that he fueled the fire within me, moving to a 286, adding an EGA card then VGA…

Commodore 64
Image courtesy of theoldcomputer.com

As soon as I came of age, I saved up my pennies for an entire summer and plunked down a not-insubstantial chunk of money on a custom 386 with a whopping 4MB RAM, 40MB HDD, an early Cirrus Logic SVGA card with a 15-inch SVGA monitor, an AdLib sound card… and thanks to Origin Systems and Sierra Online, I just had to have a Roland CM-32L sound module. If Maximum PC had been around at the time, we would have been recommending the Roland MT-32/CM-32L for those that absolutely had to own the best sound money could buy. I was able to play Wing Commander in all its glory. Huzzah!

And just like today’s high-end GPUs that cost $500+, the life of such a component was relatively short and it was retired from active use four years later. When people complain about how expensive PCs are today, they’re forgetting the past. My $3000 system wasn’t even top of the line at the time, and in today’s dollars that would be like spending closer to $6000 on a new PC. You can certainly do that, but $1500 will buy a system that can handle any reasonable task, including QHD gaming. We’ve never had it so good! It was also money well spent as far as I’m concerned. My passion for technology has allowed me to play all the latest and greatest games, but more importantly it got me involved with PCs and hardware at a much deeper level, with job opportunities always around for computer geeks.

Anyway, that’s where my passion for technology was born, and I’ve kept it over the following decades. From my “Dream Machine” back in 1990 to the present day, I’ve used and abused more processors and components than I could hope to recall. I’ve run just about every major x86 CPU at one point or another, from the 8088 and 8086 through the latest Core i7 Haswell parts, and everything in between – including the AMD K6/K6-2/K6-III, Cyrix 5×86/6×86, and Transmeta to name a few. From CGA to EGA and VGA, then later to the 3dfx Voodoo paired with a ViRGE/325 and now the GeForce GTX 980, I’ve had the joy of sampling the best – and also the worst – that computer graphics chips have to offer. These days you can reasonably expect to run the latest and greatest PC games on a $200 GPU, though not necessarily at maximum quality or resolutions above 1080p. Again, we’ve never had it so good.

I’ve spent most of the past decade writing about technology, covering systems, displays, notebooks, and more. And as much as I enjoy a good laptop, tablet, or smartphone, when it comes time to get “real” work done or play “real” games, I still typically end up at my desktop PC. There’s just no beating the large displays, powerful processors, and amazing graphics you can get with a PC. My personal system is about due for an upgrade – not because I really need it, mind you – and it’s as good a place as any to wrap things up. Here’s what I’m running right now:

  • Intel i7-4770K (Overclocked to a mild 4.1GHz on all cores)
  • Gigabyte G1.Sniper M5 Z87 motherboard
  • 2x8GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1866 CL9 RAM
  • 2x ZOTAC GTX 970 4GB GPUs in SLI
  • 480GB Corsair Neutron GTX SSD
  • 1TB Samsung HDD
  • be quiet! 850W Straight Power 80 Plus Gold PSU
  • Corsair Obsidian 350D Case
  • Acer XB280HK 4K G-SYNC Display
  • Truly Ergonomic Mechanical Keyboard Model 229
  • Logitech G303 Daedalus Apex Mouse

With Intel’s Broadwell and Skylake looming ever closer, not to mention Fiji, NVMe, Pascal, Oculus Rift, Windows 10, and dozens of other topics, it’s a great time to be a technology enthusiast. I’ve been building, troubleshooting, upgrading, and enjoying PCs and all they have to offer as far back as my memory goes. At times, it amazes me just how far we’ve come…but then I read a sci-fi book and wonder where we’ll go next.

The Internet is both more and less than William Gibson’s cyberspace, but we’re not done with it. Companies are investing heavily in VR, software continues to improve, and smartphones are all part and parcel of our daily lives now. How do we make the most of these new technologies? When will the next quantum leap strike and what will it be? I’m as eager to find out as the rest of you, and I’m looking forward to the journey.

Along with all the computing hardware I’ve used over the years there are stacks of computer magazines buried somewhere that I poured over. I used to dream about working for a computer magazine and I thought it would be the coolest job in the world. And you know what? I was right. I’m excited to join the team at Maximum PC, writing about the technology that makes our digital realm possible and sharing my passion with the world.


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