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will celebrities kill twitter? JUNE 2009

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CAmCorder Superguide • The Best Cameras • Hot Accessories • Best Photo Printers

pLuS Pro Photo Tips for everyone!

june 2009

vol. 28 no. 6


CoveR SToRY THE ENDLESS SHOTS OF SUMMER Summertime is photo time. So ditch that outdated digicam and see our reviews of the top point-and-shooters and D-SlRs, as well as lots of cool accessories.

62 TAKE BETTER PICTURES Stop shooting in auto! our experts show you how to maximize manual settings for perfect shots.


HD VIDEO FOR EVERY BUDGET Whether it’s family events, yourlowbudget masterpiece movie, or stupid pet tricks for YouTube, HD is where you need to be. We have 15 models that won’t break your bank account.


Photo: (Top) Andrew o’Toole/Corbis


20 26 22





Dell Adamo


lenovo IdeaCentre K220

7 FRONT SIDE Craigslist is forced to clean up its act; legalizing online gambling; amazing case mods; thin-and-light laptops for the road.

Kanguru e-Flash (32GB) Plus Quick looks 20 BUSINESS Apple Mac Pro (Quad-Core) Konica Minolta magicolor 1690MF


24 CONSUMER ELECTRONICS Bluetooth Headset Comparison nintendo DSi Plus Quick looks 30 NETWORKING Apple Time Capsule 1TB Cloudengines Pogoplug 32 SOFTWARE Hulu (Spring 2009) viigo for BlackBerry Plus Quick looks 90 THE BEST STUFF


Spiceworks 3.5

Motorola MoTo W233 Renew



SoluTIonS 76 SUPER SEARCH TIPS Stop wading through irrelevant results. Here’s how to find what you want on the first try. 83 OFFICE Simplify networking with Windows 7’s HomeGroup. 86 SECURITY Safety on social networks. 88 TECH TIPS

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Facebook and Twitter: Celebrity Deathmatch!


lame Shaquille O’Neal. Facebook’s sudden, desperate move to help celebrities, sports personalities, and big brands transform their somewhat static Facebook pages into full-blown profiles is, I think, a direct response to the excitement created by relative Twitter newbie and basketball icon Shaquille O’Neal. Although you can find numerous celebrities on Twitter, most employ handlers and sycophants to post updates—and virtually all of those posts are pointless or full of selfpromotion. There are exceptions: Web 2.0 poster child and sometimes actor Ashton Kutcher and his wife, actress Demi Moore, are both on Twitter, and they clearly Tweet for themselves (though this is not always a good thing). Shaq’s posts, however, are something else entirely. First of all, Shaq’s Tweets are frequent and, more important, he is constantly encouraging average Twitter users to engage with him. Sometimes he asks people to guess where he is. Other times, he challenges fel-

low Twitter members to find him and say hello. This is a new level of celeb engagement, and something far beyond what any celebrity or brand could accomplish with one of Facebook’s advertising-centric pages. This, I think, has scared the crap out of Facebook execs. There’s a Facebook press release that details all the celebs and brands that are currently on Facebook and how they can transform those pages into profiles and share with the masses. (Profiles are essentially what average users have on Facebook.) My favorite document, however, is Facebook’s new best practice guides for public figures, musicians, and communities. I dug into the public figures (celebrities, athletes, politicians, etc.) part of this PDF and saw that Facebook is using Ashton “I’m Everywhere” Kutcher as the example. Aside from the somewhat helpful tips on how to set up your Facebook profile (they’re talking to you, Britney Spears!), the PDF is almost a parody: “If you are a celebrity, athlete, politician or public figure, with Facebook public pro-


Facebook seems torn between writing for Steve Carell and Carell’s handlers. files, you can create an authentic connection with millions of fans and supporters on Facebook by communicating with your real voice and participating in the conversations already happening about you online.” I have a small following. Do I count as a public figure? Probably not. But these guides are written for people who typically don’t know much about technology. Most are actors, sports figures, or people who are just famous for being, well, famous. They’re not out there reading PCMag reviews or managing their own MySpace pages. These “guides” are not an introduction to a new kind of Facebook page, but an introduction to Facebook. The company wants big-brand entities to read this and understand why they should use the service. Static FBML for Dummies, or Celebs To be fair, there’s great, basic information in this Facebook documentation about how you can connect, share content, and reach a global audience through your news feed. It explains Facebook’s wall and how notes are like blog posts. However, the PDF goes off the rails and mentions Static FBML (Facebook Markup Language), the Flash player, and, later, third-party applications. It’s at this point that—unless we’re talking about Ashton Kutcher or Shaq—celebs start scratching their heads. Do you think Miley Cyrus or Kiefer Sutherland knows what any of that means? Facebook seems torn between

writing for Steve Carell and Carell’s handlers, who would hire a Web developer. The effort to drive brands to profiles only highlights how much more complex Facebook is than Twitter. Shaq’s account has not been around that long and, thanks to just 471 updates (or Tweets), he has amassed over 233,000 followers and a ton of invaluable press. The work necessary to drive all of Facebook’s various parts is a lot more intense, and the return will likely not be as great. I’m not saying I don’t like Facebook. And the social platform is experiencing a new surge in users. But this is about Facebook execs realizing that celebs (or their handlers) now think that having a Twitter account is more important than reaching fans via any other social networks. And if you doubt that Shaq’s wild success spurred this rushed and somewhat confusing announcement, take note of one of Facebook’s examples in the Best Practices PDF: “Discussion Boards – Discussion Boards can be used by you to spark a conversation among people you are connected to and get feedback on a particular topic or for users to start discussions on their own (such as your latest public appearance or game winning dunk).” “Game winning dunk?” Come on. They’re talking to you Mr. The_Real_Shaq. Follow me on TwiTTer! Catch the chief’s comments on the latest tech developments at JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION


Editor-in-ChiEf, pC magazinE nEtwork Editor

Lance Ulanoff

Stephanie Chang

Vicki B. Jacobson Dan Costa (reviews), Jeremy A. Kaplan (features) art dirECtor Richard J. Demler EditoriaL prodUCtion dirECtor Nicholas Cosmo pC LabS dirECtor, SEnior Editor (hardwarE) Laarni Almendrala Ragaza SEnior EditorS Sean Carroll (software, Internet, networking), Wendy Sheehan Donnell (consumer electronics), Carol Mangis (blogs), Kyle Monson, Sarah Pike (Solutions), Erik Rhey (Digital Edition) SEnior writEr Eric Griffith rEViEwS EditorS Tony Hoffman (hardware), Matthew Murray (consumer electronics) Copy ChiEf Elizabeth A. Parry Copy EditorS Margaret McVeigh, Ann Ovodow pC LabS LEad anaLyStS Cisco Cheng (laptops), Tim Gideon (audio and video), Robert Heron (HDTV and home theater), Mario Morejon (networking and small business), Michael Muchmore (software), Neil J. Rubenking (security), Joel Santo Domingo (desktops), Sascha Segan (mobile devices), M. David Stone (printers and scanners) anaLySt Dan Evans (DIY, gaming) jUnior anaLySt PJ Jacobowitz (digital cameras and camcorders) prodUCt rEViEwS Coordinator Zachary Honig inVEntory ControL Coordinator Nicole Graham Staff photographEr Scott Schedivy pCmag.Com managEr, onLinE prodUCtion Yun-San Tsai prodUCErS Gregg Binder, Mark Lamorgese, Whitney A. Reynolds nEwS Editor Mark Hachman nEwS rEportEr Chloe Albanesius aSSoCiatE EditorS Jennifer L. DeLeo, Brian Heater (blogs) Staff EditorS Corinne Iozzio (reviews), Nicole Price Fasig (reviews) aSSiStant Editor Sean Ludwig rEViEwS prodUCEr Errol Pierre-Louis CommErCE prodUCErS Iman Edwards, Arielle Rochette UtiLity program managEr Tim Smith CommUnity managEr Jim Lynch CrEatiVE dirECtor Chris Phillips prodUCtion artiSt Guyang Chen VidEo EditoriaL dirECtor, VidEo and digitaL EVEntS Sebastian Rupley ContribUting EditorS Helen Bradley, John R. Delaney, Richard V. Dragan, John C. Dvorak, Craig Ellison, Galen Fott, Bill Howard, Don Labriola, Jamie Lendino, Jim Louderback, Bill Machrone, Edward Mendelson, Jan Ozer, Neil Randall, Matthew D. Sarrel, Larry Seltzer EXtrEmEtECh.Com Editor Loyd Case SEnior tEChnoLogy anaLyStS Jason Cross, Joel Durham prodUCEr Jeremy Atkinson jUnior prodUCEr Mike Nguyen intErnS Matt Reichman, Natalie Shoemaker dirECtor of onLinE ContEnt, EXECUtiVE prodUCEr EXECUtiVE EditorS

ChiEf EXECUtiVE offiCEr

Jason Young

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Feed Life with the Digital Edition Enjoying PC Magazine Digital Edition as much as I did PC Magazine print has been a difficult transition. Following your migration to the digital format, I realized how much I appreciated access to the printed version on airplanes, in my home office, taking it to work, putting it in the magazine rack, and so on. Now, as I try to adapt, I get to see my favorite computer magazine as part of my 5:00-to-6:30 a.m. regimen, which includes checking e-mail and my Quicken account, reading software and utility reviews, scanning my blog feeds, and so forth. I considered canceling my subscription, but after opening the February issue and experiencing the digital format, I feel differently about it going forward. I found it very convenient to print out precisely those article elements and ads I was interested in rather than tearing out pages for future reference. Now I’m able to select those elements I want to focus on and still have them available to me. I’ll work to join the future; you continue to build in features to make my transition easier and every bit as convenient. —Stephen W. Carstensen

An Ivory Tower—with Broadband I feel that Lance Ulanoff’s column “Broadband Deception Must Stop” and the responses to it in’s forum reflect a common elitism regarding Internet access. Believe it or not, not everyone can afford FiOS, or even cable broadband for that matter—and those who can may not have access to it in their area. And the suggestion of going to a Wi-Fi hotspot once a week is really quite obnoxious. Of course, every low-income or fixedincome person out there has a hot new laptop or netbook and the technical sophistication to cruise down to Starbucks to do their tweeting and update their Facebook status, right? Wrong. Many may not even have an easy way to get there. You need to get out into the real world, outside the high-income, high-tech bubble that you inhabit. For many people, $30 to $50 a month is real money, and if they only use the Internet occasionally, and for lowbandwidth purposes, then a broadband connection is indeed a luxury that can be lived without in tough times. And a FiOS connection is something they could never have afforded in the first place.—TomDG

how to contact us We welcome your comments and suggestions. When sending e-mail to Feedback, please state in the subject line which article or column prompted your response. E-mail All letters become the property of PC Magazine and are subject to editing. We regret that we cannot answer letters individually. JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION


Tricked by magicJack? It is unbelievable that you let a company like magicJack display your logo on its site. That organization has the worst customer service of any company I have ever dealt with. Their product is absolutely horrible no matter how many different PCs I try it on. You should be ashamed of yourselves. I bought magicJack because you awarded it an Editors’ Choice. Now, I almost never use the device. You should be more careful about whom you endorse.—John Primrose Our executive editor Dan Costa wrote a column that discusses the very issue you raise. Basically we reviewed the product

before the company’s tech support issues came to light. Costa states, “After a great deal of testing, we found that magicJack actually worked as advertised. Fast-forward a year, and even though magicJack’s network and firmware have been upgraded, our opinion of the product is considerably lower.” Netbooks Not for Business In response to Lance Ulanoff’s column “Netbooks: The New Norm for Laptops,” I think recommending netbooks for business employees is terrible advice. Most businesspeople are best served by laptops with faster processors and larger screens but costing and weighing only a little more.—Czmyt

Front What’s New from the World of Tech

Wanted: A Cleaner Craigslist In the wake of the “Craigslist Killer,” state attorneys general are demanding that the site make changes.

In the wild, wild Web, perhaps no site is more untamed than craigslist. The site that revolutionized classified ads has been a free and open forum for users throughout the world to buy, sell, barter, and swap everything from topsoil to baseball tickets. But some say craigslist is too unregulated, particularly in its “Erotic Services” section.

This section of craigslist drew sharp criticism after 23-year-old Boston University medical student Philip Markoff was arrested in May and charged with killing a masseuse whose services he found on craigslist. In a related incident, he is accused of robbing and assaulting a Rhode Island woman he reportedly also met on the site. The media JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 

Illustration by Robert Neubecker


immediately dubbed him the soever for filing a lawsuit “Craigslist Killer.” against craigslist or its princiAs a result, South Caropals and hope that the Attorlina Attorney General Henry ney General will realize this McMaster threatened to prosupon further reflection.” Furecute craigslist execs if they ther, craigslist contended that did not remove the Erotic Serthe vast majority of its users vices section from all South CrACKING DOwN South are law abiding, and many Carolina versions of the site. Carolina AG Henry McMaster. more violent incidents have McMaster maintained that occurred thanks to old-fashthe site is allowing the solicitation of prosti- ioned print classified ads in newspapers and tution and the dissemination and posting of magazines than their online counterparts. graphic pornographic material. But in a surprising reversal, craigslist Attorneys general from Connecticut, announced on May 13 that it was taking Missouri, and Illinois backed McMaster by down the Erotic Services section on all its expressing similar concerns about the same sites in favor of a revamped, for-pay “Adult section of the site in their states. Prior to the Services” section. All posts made to the new meeting, Missouri Attorney General Chris section will be reviewed by craigslist staff Koster said, “craigslist is allowing advertise- prior to posting. Each ad will cost $10 and ments for illegal activities like prostitution cannot be edited once it is accepted. The on its site. It is blatant. It is irresponsible. It is site will also allow users to re-post the same illegal.” ad for $5. Koster praised the change, sayInitially, craigslist expressed no plans ing “While no solution is likely to be perfect to dismantle the Erotic Services section, given the nature of prostitution, craigslist’s defending itself and its users in a blog post response is a step in the right direction.” by stating, “We see no legal basis what- —Chloe Albanesius and Erik Rhey

BEST of ThE InTErnET Our shELf OurShelf lets you organize your media library, share your item lists with others, and even lend them out if you like. It also helps you find new items you might like and network with others who own them or share your interests. —Alan Henry

PACKwhIZ PackWhiz is a Web service that helps you build a travel packing list based on the type of trip you’re taking and where you’re headed. You can customize your list as well as get started with a pregenerated list of common items.—AH


TrACKLE Trackle generates alerts and widgets to help you stay abreast of topics that interest you. In addition to giving you handy ways to personalize and share information, Trackle makes it easy to post alerts to services such as Twitter and Facebook.—AH

Place Your Bets—Online New legislation could legalize Internet gambling in the u.s.

ThE GAMbLEr Rep. Barney Frank, sponsor of a new Internet gambling bill.

Interpreting U.S. laws regarding online gambling can be as difficult as trying to read the “tells” of a master poker player. Sure, there are clear state laws in place. But a web of federal statutes leaves the debate open. New legislation could finally clear the way for online gambling. U.S. Representative Barney Frank (D– Mass.) introduced a bill that would establish a framework for legal, Internet-based gambling in the United States. Frank said his bill will contain “significant consumer protections,” including safeguards to prevent underage and compulsive gambling, money laundering, identity theft, and fraud. “Rather than tell Americans what they can and cannot do online in the privacy of their homes, Chairman Frank’s approach to regulate Internet gambling would protect consumers and allow the U.S. to gener-

ate billions in new revenue to fund critical government programs,” Jeffrey Sandman, spokesperson for the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative, said in a statement. Congress debated the Internet gambling issue for years without action until 2006, when the Senate inserted into an unrelated security bill last-minute language that made it illegal for banks and credit-card companies to process online bets. President Bush signed the bill into law in October 2006, and companies have until December 1, 2009, to comply. So as it stands, the onus is on gambling companies and Web sites to decipher the state and federal laws to determine what is legal. To combat the new bill, Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety asked 11 phone companies and ISPs to block access to 200 gambling Web sites and their phone numbers.—Chloe Albanesius JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION


Extreme Home-Built PCs The winners of ExtremeTech’s Case Mod Contest run the gamut of ingenuity and tech know-how.

wEEK 1 wINNEr:

Dark Carbon by Dan Coe, Omaha, Nebraska This octagonal beauty (left), constructed from carbon fiber, features windowed hard drives, a hot-swappable drive bay, and LEDs everywhere. It even has a motorized panel that lifts out of the top to show LED status lights and a LCD temperature monitor.

tem with an Intel dual-core 6750 processor, an ASUS P5K motherboard, 2GB of RAM, and Nvidia 8600 GT graphics—all housed in Do’s handmade wooden chest. The system also contains eight USB ports, as well as a 19-inch monitor built into the lid.

wEEK 2 wINNEr:

Ingraham Case Mod by Jeffrey stephenson, McAlpin, florida Stephenson’s Ingraham case mod (middle) is a blast from the past, inspired by a 1946 Stromberg-Carlson radio design. This PC has the new 1.6-GHz Nano CPU and a Crucial 64GB Solid State Drive (SSD). Case cooling is provided by a rheostat-controlled PCI slot-mounted system blower. wEEK 4 wINNEr:

Dead Man’s Chest by Thang Do Inspired by Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Man’s Chest (right) is a swashbuckling sys-


CinematographhD by will urbina, Novato, California The “missing link between desktop and laptop,” as Urbina puts it, this superluggable houses 10W stereo speakers, four hard drives in a RAID 0 array, and two 22-inch displays.


BEST of our BlogS

GEArLOG Play John Lennon’s Guitar for $99 Behold John Lennon’s Rickenbacker 325, at least as envisioned by Harmonix. The controller will be sold for $99 alongside The Beatles: Rock Band, which goes on sale on September 9. For those who want every last semblance of the Beatles experience, Harmonix is also selling the Gretsch Duo Jet guitar used by George Harrison. The $249.99 Special Edition package features Paul McCartney’s bass, along with Ringo’s drums and a microphone. The game reportedly will allow up to three mics, enabling three-part harmonies. Harmonix is accepting preorders at Fans who preorder will receive “exclusive news and access to exclusive game elements,” according to the company.—Mark Hachman

MIChAEL J. MILLEr’s fOrwArD ThINKING Video Editing—In Space LoiLoScope MARS is an unusual video-editing package in that it has a space theme. You drag and drop files to the interface, and they then appear as thumbnails. You can easily play them, or click on them for basic editing such as setting in and out points. You can also move them into timelines for more specific editing, such as skewing the video. LoiLoScope has a number of cool special effects: You can control the level of blur, change colors, and highlight the edges in a video. The program currently supports AVI, FLV, MOV, WMV, and MPEG-4 video formats. You can download a free trial version at —Michael J. Miller

GOODCLEANTECh Drive Greener with Garmin Update Automobiles on the road are a tremendous source of pollution. Do your part to keep your car on the road less—and learn some fascinating facts most cars don’t tell you—with ecoRoute, a free software update to the Garmin nüvi 2X5 and 7X5 series GPS devices. The goal of the update, according to Garmin, is to “save money on fuel costs by finding more fuel-efficient routes. ecoRoute also gives you real-time feedback on the efficiency of your driving.”—Jeremy Kaplan

sMArT DEVICE CENTrAL Verizon Launches MiFi Hotspot Without Subscription Verizon Wireless is the first carrier to launch Novatel’s MiFi personal hotspot gadget, and no subscription is required. The MiFi is a Wi-Fi router with a twist: It’s battery powered and has a cellular modem built in. So just turn it on anywhere Verizon has a signal, and you’re broadcasting Wi-Fi to up to five PCs. The battery lasts for 4 hours of use and 40 hours of standby on a charge. The device costs $269.99, and an unlimited “day pass” is $15.—Sascha Segan JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 11





Connected Traveler

When a Netbook’s Not Enough sometimes you need real power on the road. That’s where a thin-and-light laptop comes in. Recently, netbooks have garnered a lot of attention, and deservedly so. These tiny, inexpensive, underpowered laptops (with screens up to 12 inches, though most are only 10 inches) seem tailor-made for the Not-So-Great Depression we find ourselves in. With prices in some cases dipping below $400, they’re flying off the shelves. Sure, they’re cheap, light, and convenient. But some travelers need real power on the road. If you want processing power for grown-ups,

a full-size keyboard, and lots of storage—all in a portable package—a thin-and-light laptop is the way to go. There is a wide variety on the market for businesspeople, graphics pros, penny-pinchers, or just plain geeks on the go. Here are some of our top picks. One of the undisputed thin-and-light leaders right now is the [1] Apple Macbook Air (Nvidia 400M GT) ($1,799 direct, l l l m m ). A stunning 0.76 inch thick at its base, this version has bumped-up graphics Product name in rED indicates Editors’ Choice.


and a sturdy chassis with a gorgeous screen and a great keyboard. The trade-off for this thin, sleek package is mediocre battery life and a scaled-down feature set. If you’re looking for something with more oomph, the [2] Lenovo IdeaPad u330 ($1,199 direct, l l l h m ) is the bee’s knees for business travelers. This 13-inch powerhouse has a dual-layer DVD burner, an HDMI port, FireWire, a 6-in-1 card reader, and switchable graphics that let you choose between power-saving integrated graphics and performance-oriented discrete graphics. If those models are out of your price range, there are some sub-$1,000 choices, including the [3] Gateway uC0u ($800 street, l l l h m ), which has a brushed aluminum interior, a lacquered top, a responsive keyboard, and a slot-loading DVD drive—though at 5.3 pounds, it’s a bit heavier than others here. Another bargain option is

the [4] hP Pavilion dv2 (1030-us) ($749 direct, l l l h m ), a laptop that straddles the divide between netbook and notebook, with a small form factor, an AMD Neo processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 12-inch screen. And, of course, there is our current Editors’ Choice for budget notebooks, the [5] Acer Aspire 335 ($900 street, l l l l h ). This 4.1-pound beauty has great battery life and processing power, and a 1-inch-thick case. Speaking of battery life, the [6] hP Elitebook 2530p ($2,099 direct, l l l l m ) stands alone with an amazing 8 hours 24 minutes of runtime with a six-cell battery. It also has dual pointing devices and multiple wireless options. Right behind it is the [] Toshiba Portégé r600-s4202 ($3,000 direct, l l l h m ), a superthin wonder with 7 hours of battery life, as well as an optical drive and full-size keyboard.—Tony Hoffman and Erik Rhey

5 6 4


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INSIDE Hardware Business Consumer eleCtroniCs networking software


dell adamo

Dell’s Oh-So-Pretty Adamo


ired of seeing one professed Apple MacBook Air killer after another, Dell decided to offer its own take on what a luxury brand should look like. The Dell Adamo (derived from the Latin word that means “to fall in love with”), has an elegant profile and a posh design. The glass screen, excellent typing experience, and extensive wireless options are all pluses. And the reason for its seemingly expensive price is the standard 128GB solid-state drive (SSD). The Adamo’s real Achilles’ heel is the lackluster performance of its parts and its battery life. Aside from these issues, the design lives up to its name. All around, the Adamo measures 0.65 inch thick, about 0.1 inch thinner than the thickest part of the MacBook Air. The Adamo’s 4-pound frame, however, is heavier than that of the MacBook Air (3 pounds), though


its stunning aluminum “unibody” enclosure is similar to the Air’s. The Adamo is one of the first laptops to use a 13.4-inch glass screen. The Adamo one-ups the MacBook Air in features, with a DisplayPort, three USB ports, Ethernet, 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth, and integrated 3G mobile broadband. Even though the MacBook Air’s processor should have bested the Adamo’s 1.2-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U9300, the Adamo came out ahead on every test except Photoshop. (This result was due in large part to our having to test the MacBook running Vista via Boot Camp, instead of in its native OS X). The Adamo’s battery life, at 3 hours 40 minutes, was 22 minutes better than the MacBook’s. In the end, however, the Adamo will appeal to those who value a great design over blazing performance.—Cisco Cheng >>CliCk Here for more

sPeCs 1.2-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU9600 processor; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM; 128GB SSD; Integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD, 64MB; 13.4-inch, 1,366-by-768 screen; 4 pounds system weight (4.4 pounds travel); three USB ports; 40-Wh lithium ion battery; Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit.

14 PC magaZine digital edition JUNE 2009

our ratINgS kEy: l l l l l eXCellent l l l l m VerY good l l l m m good l l m m m fair l m m m m Poor

0.65-inch chassis —thinner than the MacBook Air

Dell adamo $2,000 direct l l l h m

Pros Jaw-dropping design. Incredibly thin. Very nice glass screen. 128GB SSD is standard with this price. Embedded mobile broadband. Excellent typing experience. Illuminated keyboard. PerformanCe tests

Cons Expensive, for now. Non-removable battery didn’t impress on battery life tests. ULV parts aren’t for performance seekers. Too heavy for a luxury ultraportable.


hr: min



Dell Adamo





Apple MacBook Air (Nvidia)





L High scores are best.

M Low scores are best.

Bold type denotes first place.



JUNE 2009 PC magaZine digital edition 15


Lenovo IdeaCentre K220 $699 list, $998 with 21.5-inch widescreen monitor L l l l h

PROs Quad-core in a value-priced desktop. Light on crapware. One-key rescue system. Antibacterial keyboard. Tool-less upgrades. Large hard drive. VeriFace visual log-on (when paired with optional webcam). CONs Memory slots full. 90-day Trend Micro Internet Security trial subscription. Office trial.

Lenovo IdeaCentre K220

A Rockin’ Cheap Desktop The K220 desktop succeeds the K210 with a whole lot more power for not much more money. It’s an improvement over its predecessor across the board, with its doubled memory, hard drive size, and number of CPU cores. This system is one of the first that I’ve seen that can satisfy the needs of both the technically inclined power user and the accountant in your family. The K220 has the standard minitower chassis, with subtle beveling and indentations. The case door, drive bays, and PCI/ PCIe expansion card slots are all designed for tool-less access. In fact, this system is one of the easiest value systems to upgrade


or expand that I’ve seen. Like all Lenovos, the K220 has a one-touch Rescue system for backup or returning to factory defaults. The K220’s quad-core processor and 4GB of memory gave it a leg up on our benchmark tests: It proved to be faster than pricier systems like the Apple Mac mini. The K220 scored an above-average 4,922 points on the PCMark Vantage test. Also, the K220’s times on Windows Media Encoder (46 seconds) and Photoshop CS4 (1:42) mean that the K220 is suitable for multimedia work. Overall, this system is attractive and full of features, and it smokes the competition in performance.—Joel Santo Domingo >>CLICK HERE FOR MORE

sPECs 2.33-GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q8200 processor, 4GB 1,066-MHz DDR3 SDRAM, 640GB 7,200-rpm SATA hard drive, 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9300GE graphics card, dual-layer DVD±RW drive, eight USB 2.0 ports, Windows Vista Home Premium 64-bit.



Kanguru e-Flash (32GB) $119.95 list l l l l m

PROs Supports both USB 2.0 and eSATA. Fastest 32GB drive we’ve tested. Comes with eSATA cables and external eSATA desktop port. CONs No lanyard or carrying case. eSATA connection may require USB port for power.

Kanguru e-Flash

An External Drive with eSATA Lightning


he Kanguru e-Flash (32GB) looks like a standard USB flash drive until you pop off the left end cap. Whereas most drives would sport a lanyard loop, the e-Flash reveals an eSATA port—the high-speed connector usually reserved for pricey external hard drives. This rare addition enables the drive to boost its write speeds to almost double its alreadyblazing average. The drive also includes a USB 2.0 port, at the other end, which is certainly fast enough for regular use. But for moving huge files, the eSATA connection— with its 86 percent boost in average write speed over USB—comes in handy. The e-Flash is slightly larger than other USB flash drives we’ve tested. The larger form was necessary to support the second

external connector. At 0.9 inch wide, the drive may obstruct a second USB port on your computer, depending on the configuration of its ports. Kanguru ships the drive with a “HotSwap!” application for safely removing the drive when it’s connected over eSATA, but no other software is included. I tested read and write speeds with five file types and folder structures, recording the average speeds. The e-Flash proved impressively fast with USB 2.0, achieving an average write speed of 14.2 megabytes per second and an average read speed of 25.2 Mbps. It excelled further with eSATA, clocking 26.4 Mbps. So for users who don’t mind spending a bit more for premium features and performance, the e-Flash is an excellent choice.—Zach Honig >>CLICK HERE FOR MORE JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 17

fIrsT LOOks hArDwArE

HP Firebird with VoodooDNA 803 $2,099 list

Vigor Force Recon T7n $3,699 direct

MSI Wind CS120 $320 street

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• Compact and portable • Top-of-the-line, SLI-configured, dual-card graphics • No crapware • Huge solid-state drives

• Dead sexy-looking • Blu-ray player • Energy-saving mode • SLI graphics power when you need it • No crapware

• Top gaming performance • A lot cheaper than some rivals

• Small-form-factor PC • Runs Windows • Quiet • Doesn’t use much energy • DVD burner • Full-size 160GB hard drive

• Blu-ray drive is read only • A little loud • Price is astronomical • No internal expansion space

• Limited internal expandability • External power brick • No Blu-ray burner option • Slower 5,400-rpm hard drives

• C: drive’s capacity is tiny • Really loud • Requires extensive disassembly for upgrades • Wiring could be neater

• Only 1GB of RAM • No mouse or keyboard • Weak 3D graphics • No Internet security software included


To create the FragBox 2, Falcon Northwest took everything good in its Mach V monster gaming system and jammed it into the smaller FragBox case.

The Firebird 803 is one of those “love it or hate it” gaming desktops. Its looks are slick, but some gamers will be put off by the lack of expandability.

The T7n is a gaming box that succeeds at its single purpose: to crush your enemies. After the pillaging, though, it’s not so easy to live with.

Cheap, quiet, and power efficient, the MSI fulfills the role of Web terminal. Just don’t expect it to keep up with your “real” desktop or laptop.

3.2-GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 12GB SDRAM, four 256GB SSDs in a RAID 0 array, two 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 285 graphics cards, BD-ROM/DVD±RW combo drive, Vista Home Premium.

2.83-GHz Intel Core 2 processor, 4GB SDRAM, two 320GB hard drives, dual 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9800S and nForce 760i graphics, 160MB BD-ROM/ DVD±RW combo drive, Vista Home Premium.

2.66-GHz Intel Core i7 processor, 6GB SDRAM, one 32GB Intel X25-E SSD, two 1TB SATA hard drives (RAID 0), three 1GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 285 graphics cards, HD DVD-ROM/BDRW, Vista Home Premium.

1.6-GHz Intel Atom 230 processor, 1GB 533-MHz DDR2 SDRAM, 160GB SATA hard drive, 128MB Intel GMA 950 graphics, DVD±RW drive, six USB 2.0 ports, Windows XP Home.



Falcon Northwest FragBox 2 (Core i7) $8,895 direct



RED indicates Editors’ Choice.





Gateway TC7804u $700 street

ASUS G71G-Q1 $2,000 street

Canon CanoScan 5600F $149.99 direct

Seagate FreeAgent Desk $149.99 direct

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• Bargain price • 4GB of memory • Generous 320GB hard drive • Included eSATA port • Good processing for the money

• Intel quad-core processor • 6GB of memory • High-resolution screen • Nice design • Two-year warranty • Competitive price

• High-quality scans of both prints and film (slides and negatives) • LED light source for reflective scans eliminates warm-up time

• Sleek design • Easy-to-use software • Lets you encrypt folders • Value price

• A bigger battery would sweeten the pot • No HDMI port

• Graphics card is not a match for such a powerful system • An illuminated keyboard should’ve accompanied the LED lights

• Scans only four slides at a time • Dust and scratch removal feature does little for scratches

• USB connectivity only • Lacks disaster recovery software

The TC7804u is one of the most affordable laptops on the market—yet it doesn’t cut corners on processing and features to get there.

The G71G-Q1 makes a perfect media center or desktop replacement laptop, but if frame rates are important, other systems have better graphics cards.

Although it’s a bit slow and comes with little software, the CanoScan 5600F offers lots of value, thanks to its high-quality scans and low price.

The metallic-accented Seagate FreeAgent Desk external hard drive adds storage and art to your desktop.

2.0-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6400; 4GB DDR2 SDRAM; 320GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive; 14-inch LED widescreen; 802.11n; 5.2 pounds; 49-Wh battery; Vista Home Premium.

2.0-GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Q9000 processor; 6GB SDRAM; two 320GB hard drives; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 9800M GS graphics; 17-inch display; 9.1 pounds; 75-Wh battery; Vista Home Premium.

Flatbed; 4,800-pixel maximum optical resolution; up to letter-size scans; USB connection.

640GB; USB 2.0; 6.9 by 1.3 by 6.8 inches (HWD); 2.2 pounds.



Apple Mac Pro (Quad-Core)

Solid to Its Four Cores


he Apple Mac Pro has always been an object of desire in the world of graphic artists. But the biggest question about its latest iterations of the system is: What’s better, four cores or eight cores? The latest Mac Pro (Quad-Core) turns out to be a better day-to-day performer than the 8-Core version. For a little more than what you’d pay for the base 8-Core, you get an upgraded quad-core system with both the oomph and the sensible features you need to justify spending almost $4,000. The CPU in the Quad-Core I tested is a W3540 (3500-series) Xeon processor that runs at 2.93 GHz, while the 8-Core has two E5520 (5500-series) Xeons that each run at 2.26 GHz. The extra clock speed in the Quad-Core definitely helps day-to-day performance. And since the Quad-Core has four of the same hard drive trays found in previous Mac Pros, you can swap in your older drives. The system is made primarily of highly recyclable aluminum, and like all Macs


released since early 2009, it is EPEAT Gold certified and Energy Star 5.0 pre-certified. This system uses 160 watts of power while idle, so make sure you tweak the energy savings control panel to set the sleep functions (it uses only 6W while sleeping). When I tested the Quad-Core running Mac OS X, it finished the Photoshop CS4 test in a speedy 1 minute 27 seconds, while the 8-Core system took 1:50 to perform the same set of actions. The Quad Core also bested the 8-Core system on PCMark Vantage, with a score of 7,048 points compared with the 8-Core’s 5,432. And even though the Mac Pro is not marketed as a gaming PC, it can play Crysis smoothly at 1,280-by-1,024 resolution at 69 frames per second (fps) and World in Conflict (WIC) at 84 fps at 1,280 by 1,024. Those who work in video are probably better off with the 8-Core system. But if you’re a graphic artist who works on deadline, the Quad-Core is actually a better deal than the stock 8-Core Mac Pro.—Joel Santo Domingo >>CLICK HERE FOR MORE

SPECS 2.93-GHz Intel Xeon E3500 processor, 6GB 1,066-MHz DDR3 ECC SDRAM, two 1TB 7,200-rpm SATA hard drives, 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4870 graphics card, dual-layer DVD±RW drive, five USB 2.0 ports, two FireWire 800 ports, Mac OS 10.5.


Apple Mac Pro (Quad-Core) $3,749 direct l l l l m

PROS Easy expansion. Quadcore power. High-end graphics. Functional design. Outperforms 8-core Mac Pro on day-to-day tasks. CONS Big and bulky. Only 90-day phone tech support. CTO upgrades are pricey.

PERFORMANCE TESTS L High scores are best. M Low scores are best. Bold type denotes first place.

PHotosHoP Cs4 M

PCMark Vantage* L

3DMark Vantage* L

CineBenCH r10 L

Apple Mac Pro (Quad-Core)





Apple iMac (Nvidia GeForce 9400M)





Apple Mac Pro (8-Core)






RED indicates editors’ Choice. n/a—not applicable: the product could not complete this test. * resolution was set to 1,024 by 768 for this test.



Konica Minolta magicolor 1690MF

Cheap Color Laser AIO


ou may have noticed that color laser all-in-ones (AIOs) aimed at the small office, home office, and single-user desktop are slowly becoming more common. Their key characteristics are that they’re small enough to share a desk with and cheap enough to justify buying as a personal printer. The Konica Minolta magicolor 1690MF is not only the latest example but the least expensive yet, with a $300 price tag that makes it cheaper than some inkjet AIOs. Unfortunately, it stumbles badly in some ways, including its tricky setup and quirky copying. The 1690MF offers a full set of features. It can print, scan, and fax, even over a network, and its 35-page automatic document feeder (ADF) can handle multipage documents and legal-size paper with ease. The 1690MF can even scan to (but not print from) a USB key plugged into the connector on the front of the printer, with the choice of saving the file in TIF, JPG, or PDF formats. And at 17 by 16 by 16.9 inches (HWD), it takes up less flat space than many inkjets. On our tests, the 1690MF performed on a par with others in this class. On our business applications suite, it came in at a reasonably fast 21 minutes 5 seconds. Output quality for text was passable, and graphics quality was

Konica Minolta magicolor 1690MF $300 street l l l m m

PROs Low initial cost. Prints, scans, and faxes over network. Standalone fax and copier. CONs Relatively high cost per page. Difficult setup.

solid, with fully saturated color and no serious flaws. So although the 1690MF leaves plenty of room for improvement, it delivers a respectable mix of speed and output quality for the price.—M. David Stone



FIRST LOOKS BUSINESS Spiceworks 3.5 Ad-supported version, free; without ads, $20 monthly L l l l m

PROS Provides a thorough network inventory. Helps detect network problems. Free (with ads) or very inexpensive (without ads). Rich, active user community. CONS Slow to collect network-asset metadata.

Spiceworks 3.5

Powerful (and Free) Network Monitoring A business doesn’t have to be large to benefit from asset management. But many of the available options are priced out of the reach of small businesses. Spiceworks 3.5 is a free-to-low-cost Web-based offering suited to businesses running one or two servers and a handful of network devices. This powerful online app creates an inventory of your network hardware and software, then helps you manage it. Spiceworks performs a passive scan updating the inventory information at scheduled intervals, so you have to do a complete rescan whenever you add a new device. Scans took about 3 minutes with only three devices on my network. Once your scan finishes, you can view all your devices on a dashboard. Using WMI and SNMP, the tool

monitors the status of devices, antivirus suites (Windows XP SP2 only), hotfixes, and Windows services. (It also supports hardware running Linux, Mac OS X, and Unix.) The application can monitor changes to desktop and server software, alert you whenever devices disconnect, and send an e-mail when certain conditions arise, such as a hard drive reaching capacity. Spiceworks also supports VNC for remote access to servers and workstations. If you run into trouble, there is an active user forum, and there are webinars and howto pages. With Spiceworks, almost anyone can do IT work at home or in the office. This ease of use and flexibility (all free) make Spiceworks a shoo-in for Editors’ Choice in this category.—Mario Morejon >>CLICK HERE FOR MORE JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 23



Next-Gen Bluetooth Headsets


ow that many states are implementing laws that require drivers to talk handsfree, having a headset for the car is vital. While many cell-phone makers include them with their handsets, most of the freebie ones are wired. Instead, skip the messy wires and pick up a Bluetooth headset. The latest models offer a compelling balance of design, features, sound quality, and endurance. Here we compare two top models: the Aliph Jawbone Prime and the Plantronics Voyager Pro.

Aliph Jawbone Prime The Jawbone Prime takes our former favorite Bluetooth headset, the New Jawbone, and makes it better. The Prime is small, attractive, comfortable, and does a very good job of canceling noise, especially in windy areas. This model uses a new, softer earpiece tip for improved performance and a loop on the back to stabilize the fit. As with previous Jawbone headsets, the Prime’s buttons are large but a bit confusing. However, the device’s range was very good: It maintained a solid signal up to 30 feet away. When tested in noisy situations, the Prime blocked out noise better than the Voyager Pro but transmitted voices at a softer volume, sometimes making them hard to hear.

Aliph Jawbone Prime $129.99 direct l l l l m

PROS Top-notch wind noise cancellation. Very good voice transmission quality. Stylish. More comfortable than its predecessor. CONS Low earpiece volume. Expensive. Short battery life. CLICK HERE FOR MORE 24 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION JUNE 2009

Plantronics Voyager Pro $99.99 list L l l l m

PROS Superb voice quality. Excellent noise cancellation. Solid battery life. Comfortable. CONS Huge size. Some issues with wind noise. CLICK HERE FOR MORE

Along with its high price, the Prime’s biggest drawback is its short battery life. I could eke out only 3.5 hours of talk time on a full day’s charge (well below Aliph’s claim of 4.5 hours) and eight days of standby time. Plantronics Voyager Pro The Voyager Pro’s strength is in its earpiece: Even if you’re standing in the middle of a traffic jam, you’ll still be able to hear your calls loud and clear. But make no mistake, the Voyager Pro doesn’t win any points for style. The headset fits all the way over your ear, with a 3-inch boom pointing toward your mouth. The battery lives in a bulge behind your ear, and there’s a big power button. But because the Voyager Pro’s 0.6ounce weight is distributed over your entire ear, it’s more comfortable to wear for long periods than the Jawbone Prime.

On our range tests, the Voyager Pro fell a little short of the Jawbone Prime, effective to about 20 feet versus the Prime’s 30 feet. But it delivered unusually clear sound in noisy situations. The one exception to its good noise performance is that windy conditions occasionally caused it to pop, skip, or drop out. Battery life is excellent at 6 hours 28 minutes of talk time. The Winner While the Jawbone Prime has a longer range and handles wind noise more effectively, the Voyager Pro is more comfortable, has a better battery, costs less, and delivers equal if not better performance. If you value style and compactness, you can’t go wrong with the Prime. But in this round, we have to give the victory—and an Editors’ Choice—to the Voyager Pro.—Sascha Segan JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 25


Motorola MOTO W233 Renew (T-Mobile)

Motorola’s Eco-Friendly Cell Phone The first cell phone to receive our GreenTech Approved seal, the Motorola MOTO W233 Renew for T-Mobile is the first U.S. phone whose body is made from recycled plastic. Aside from being very green, it doesn’t offer a lot of features, but the Renew is a good choice if all you need is a solid voice-only phone.

A small, cute, candy bar–style phone, the Renew has a rather dim 1.6-inch screen and a stiff keypad. However, the dual-band Renew is an excellent voice phone—one of the best we’ve tested on T-Mobile’s 2G network. Reception is strong, the earpiece is loud yet clear, and voice quality is very good. The speakerphone is loud enough for indoor or outdoor use, though its mic does let some background noise in. Battery life is acceptable at 9 hours 5 minutes talk time. Apart from voice calls, the Renew doesn’t do much. WAP Web browsing on T-Mobile’s GPRS network is dismal, text messages display only a few words at a time, and there’s no camera. Although the Renew is touted as a music phone, the microSD card (2GB max) is buried under the battery. The Renew is almost too devoid of features to recommend, but it is nonetheless a solid voice phone and one of very few truly green options.—Sascha Segan >>CLICK HERE FOR MORE

Motorola MOTO W233 Renew (T-Mobile) $9.99 to $59.99 direct L l l m m

PROs The case is made of recycled materials. Inexpensive. Excellent voice quality. CONs Dim screen. No Bluetooth or voice dialing. Poor media capabilities. No camera. 26 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION JUNE 2009


Nintendo DSi $169.99 list L l l h m

PROS Improved Wi-Fi access. Dual cameras. SD card slot. CONS No GameBoy Advance slot. Small library of downloadable games.

Nintendo DSi

Nintendo’s New Portable Game Console


he new Nintendo DSi portable game system follows Nintendo’s new tack of making its consoles less about a given game and more about the overall playing experience. Other handheld gaming consoles, such as the Sony PSP, focus on flashy graphics, high-res games, and video. Nintendo aims to make the new DSi a fun part of your life. And for a lot of casual gamers, it will do just that. The first things you notice when opening up the DSi are two 3.25-inch screens and a pair of 0.3-megapixel cameras. Each camera has 11 different virtual lenses that provide special effects, such as image distortion, mir-

roring images, and adding graphics. Aside from the smaller form factor, larger screen size, and two cameras, the other major difference between the DSi and the earlier DS is the enhanced Wi-Fi support, which lets you download games and surf the Web. The DSi comes with music software for recording clips and adding effects. You can also play music from an SD card—but only AAC files. My main reservations are that its music file support is so limited and that the camera and sound-editing features might lose their appeal sooner rather than later. Even so, the DSi is a marked improvement over the DS. —Daniel S. Evans >>CLICK HERE FOR MORE JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 27



Pantech Matrix Pro (AT&T) $179.99 to $379.99 list

Nextar SNAP7 $349.99 list

iriver P7 8GB, $179.99 list; 16GB, $209.99 list

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• Solid voice quality and reception • GPS radio works independently of cellular reception

• Flexible, dual-slider design • Good call quality • Solid reception • Excellent battery life

• Good value for a GPS with a huge screen • Text-to-speech conversion • Simple and advanced interface options

• Sleek, minimalist design • Large screen • MicroSD slot • Supports several multimedia file types • Voice and FM recorder

• Very slow performance • Buggy software • Poor camera • Dialing phone numbers is difficult • Clumsy microSD slot

• Weak speakerphone • Clumsy dongle required when using headphones • Poor Web browser and video playback

• Small POI database • No support for live traffic • Audio output too soft • Screen appears washed out in sunlight

• Touch screen requires stylus for optimal performance • Large for a low-capacity player • No Web access

Given the high up-front cost, unlocked phones are already a tough sell. It’s even worse when one has as many shortcomings as Pharos’s GPS smartphone.

The Matrix Pro is a solid handset for messaging and business use, but multimedia fans should look elsewhere.

For those who want a huge screen, the Nextar SNAP7 GPS serves up 7 sprawling inches and plenty of features, all for a palatable price.

The P7 is the size of a hard disk–based media player but is slim on built-in memory, and there’s no Web access.

Windows Mobile Pocket PC; 2.5-inch, 320-by-240 LCD; 2MP camera; 4.6 by 2.4 by 0.6 inches (HWD); 5.1 ounces.

Windows Mobile Smartphone; 2.4-inch, 320-by-240 screen; 2MP camera; 4.2 by 2 by 0.9 inches (HWD); 5.3 ounces.

Supports Secure Digital flash memory; 7-inch touch-screen display; 1.6 million POI database; 7.7 by 3.9 by 0.7 inches (HWD); 6.9 ounces.

Flash memory; FM radio; voice recording; supports FLAC, MP3, OGG, WAV, and WMA files; 4.3-inch screen; 2.8 by 4.4 by 0.5 inches; 6.1 ounces.



Pharos Traveler 127 $529.95 list










Monster Beats by Dr. Dre Tour In-Ear Headphones $149.95 list

Vizio VF550XVT $1,999.99 list

Samsung BD-P1600 $299.99 list

Logitech Harmony 1100 $499.99 direct

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• Strong sonic performance • Deep bass response • Excellent, consistent fit

• Low price • PCMag GreenTech Approved • Produces detailed HD video • HDMI cable included

• Fast start-up • Supports Netflix and Pandora multimedia streaming • Updated remote and menus

• Beautifully designed • Sharp 3.5-inch touch screen • Controls up to 15 devices • Highly customizable • Intuitive software

• Can be uncomfortable if worn for long periods • Not for audiophiles

• Diminished picture quality with some SD sources • Picture calibration recommended • Unique design might not appeal to all tastes

• Add-on memory required for BD-Live support • Minor BD-Live compatibility issue

• Very pricey • Touch-screen buttons are tough to manipulate • Complicated setup • No Bluetooth support

The in-ear entry in the Beats by Dr. Dre line, the Tour offers a consistent fit and strong but not overwhelming bass.

Vizio’s VF550XVT is an undeniable value for a 55inch 1080p LCD television, but it requires some tweaking to achieve its full picture potential.

The Samsung BD-P1600 is a capable Blu-ray player that features a compelling selection of multimedia streaming abilities.

If you have big bucks and insist on a touch-screen remote, the Harmony 1100 isn’t bad. But the Harmony One is much easier to use—and affordable.

In-canal earbuds; passive noise canceling; 114 dB SPL maximum output; 0.7 ounce.

55-inch LCD; 1,920 by 1,080 native resolution; 60-Hz refresh rate; 16:9 aspect ratio; component, composite, HDMI, RF, and S-Video connections; 36 by 51.5 by 13.5 inches (HWD); 86 pounds.

Ethernet, HDMI, component video, RCA stereo, and stereo optical connections; 2.1 by 17.0 by 7.8 inches (HWD).

IR signal; 3.5-inch touchscreen; 4 by 5.5 by 0.6 inch (HWD); 6.9 ounces.



Apple Time Capsule 1TB

Mass Storage, Extended Wireless from Apple


he Apple Time Capsule 1TB is an unusual network device in that it combines a wireless-n router (the Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station 802.11n) with a network-accessible hard drive. It’s extremely quiet and has good wireless range, and the storage drive is delightfully simple to set up for Windows, Mac OS X, or mixed networks. The Time Capsule comes with a single drive, however, which means there’s no RAID redundancy. This is a bit of a surprise when you consider the price of this product. But in light of the features it does offer, the Time Capsule is a good solution for many different types of networks. The Time Capsule is pretty much identical to the AirPort Extreme 802.11n both in setup (which for the most part was quick and simple) and in looks. There are three LAN ports (and their LEDs), an Internet connection, and a port for connecting a network-accessible USB hard drive. The Time Capsule’s two radios (2.4-GHz and 5-GHz) can broadcast in simultaneous dual-band 802.11n mode—a relative rarity. You can also create multiple networks with different access privileges. So, for example, you can create a guest network with limited access for visitors or clients. As for NAS capabilities, the Time Capsule can

Apple Time Capsule 1TB $499 direct l l l l m

PROs Quiet, high-capacity hard drive. USB port for external drives, printers. Simultaneous dual-band Wi-Fi. Allows extension of wireless range. CONs No automated backup included for Windows machines. No front-facing indicator lights. Can’t act as an iTunes server. No hardware redundancy.

automate backups for Mac clients, but not, unfortunately, for Windows. Not surprisingly, the Time Capsule’s wireless throughput was very similar to the AirPort Extreme’s: 65 megabits per second with our test laptop 3 feet away. Its hard drive read/write score, though, was only 5.3 megabytes per second. So for Windowsonly networks, you’d do better elsewhere. But the Time Capsule is still a great choice for Mac or mixed networks.—Mario Morejon




CloudEngines Pogoplug $99 direct L l l l m

PROs Extremely quick setup. Easy to use. Makes sharing files easy. Handy iPhone compatibility via iPhone app. CONs A few minor glitches. Web site could be better organized.

Pogoplug’s site lets you view and manage your files CloudEngines Pogoplug

Easy Web Access to Your Network Storage The Pogoplug is a clever device that, combined with CloudEngines’ free service, can give you Web access to multiple storage devices in your home or office in minutes. Though the product performs just one task, it achieves its goal amazingly well. I did encounter a few glitches in the process, but they were minor. The Pogoplug is a small, white wall wart with one Gigabit Ethernet and one USB 2.0 port. First, you connect the device to your router via Ethernet and plug in your USB storage device (or connect multiple devices via a USB hub). Once the Pogoplug is connected, you run an online registration wizard from a network-connected PC. From

there, you log in to a secure area of the Web site, which works with Chrome, Firefox 3, Internet Explorer, and Safari. You can create folders, upload files, copy files between folders, and share files with others. There is also an iPhone access app that worked like a charm. In addition, CloudEngines is opening the device to developers by providing an API, which I found quite easy to use. The Pogoplug does not support the older Windows FAT file format, so you might have to reformat your drive. True, this is a limited-purpose device. But setting up the Pogoplug is a breeze, and using it couldn’t be easier—all of which makes it worthy of an Editors’ Choice.—Mario Morejon >>CLICK HERE FOR MORE JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGItAL EDItION 31


Hulu (Spring 09)

The Best Way to Watch TV Online Since its public launch a year ago, Hulu has been the number one reason I don’t miss having a TV set. The free online video service provides loads of full-length commercial programming and movies you can stream from your browser. Not only has the service added tons of new content, it’s also instituted subtle enhancements to make finding and viewing your favorite shows a breeze. Hulu is celebrating its anniversary by adding even more content as well as a new dimension to the user experience—social networking. When Hulu launched it had 50 content providers, the biggest being NBC and FOX, and over 90 show titles. Now it has more than 130 providers, including the newly added Comedy Central, and for anime fans, Viz Media. Together they contribute over 11,000 titles. The library of full-length movies has increased as well, going from 150 to 550. And ABC/Disney just announced a deal with Hulu to include a slew of shows, including Lost. There’s still no programming from CBS or CW, but there’s plenty of content to keep most viewers happy.

Hulu Friends expands the service’s old Profile section and adds social-networking capabilities, such as integrating with your Facebook or MySpace profile as well as your e-mail address books. The Friends section also has a Notifications feed that alerts you to new shows added to your queue and videos in your queue that are about to be removed from the service. Hulu has made a number of enhancements, some of which improve the player so it can deliver higher-quality video. The new Watch Hi-Res option lets you view videos in crisp 480p resolution. The site has also added channels, which let you browse content by genre or theme. You also get recommendations based on your viewing habits. Hulu still has some annoying limitations: For example, it hosts only the past five episodes of on-air programs. It’s also hard to predict when episodes of older shows will suddenly and mysteriously disappear. But Hulu is still clearly the best Web site for getting streamed commercial video content, and it remains our Editors’ Choice. —Errol Pierre-Louis



Hulu (Spring 09) Free L l l l h

PROS Tons of free professional video content. Improved site navigation. Hulu Friends feature lets you connect with friends on the site. Users can view high-res content in 480p resolution. CONS Offers only the past five episodes of currently on-air shows. Content can disappear from the site randomly.

PubLIC ACCESS Your Hulu account also includes social networking features. JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 33


To order your space saving ZPC– GX31 Risk Free, call us at 888.834.4577. SPECIFICATIONS: Intel® CoreTM 2 Quad CPU | Up to 4GB DDR2/667MHz | Up to 750GB SATA HDD | 1Gb LAN Internal Wireless LAN | For a complete list of specifications, please visit our web site at

® Windows VistaTM

© 2008 Cybernet Manufacturing, Inc. All rights reserved. The Cybernet logo is a trademark of Cybernet Manufacturing, Inc. Intel and Intel Core 2 Quad are trademarks of Intel Corporation, or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries. Windows Vista is a trademark of Microsoft Corporation. All other registered trademarks are property of their respective owners.


Viigo for BlackBerry

A Fast RSS Reader for Your BlackBerry Viigo for BlackBerry is free, fast, and easy to customize, and it offers a single UI for catching up on all your favorite news, blogs, sports, finance, and RSS feeds. Version 3.0 adds a number of new features, such as stock portfolio management, flight status information, and entertainment news. You can install Viigo direct from your handset via either BlackBerry App World or, or you can install it via text message link or desktop sync. When you launch the app, the home page shows a list of your active channels. You can also browse the hundreds of popular channels in the Channel Library. The app also imports custom feed lists from Bloglines, Google Reader, and My Yahoo accounts. In general, reading news in Viigo is a pleasure. The app displays all your content in the same UI so you don’t have to navigate multiple mobile sites. Viigo is ad-supported, but I didn’t find the display ads at the top of each page particularly intrusive. Minor flaws with Version 3.0 include the lack of a scroll bar in the full-article display and that it doesn’t strip out navigational text, so you must scroll past several screens worth of gibberish to get to the main article. But for pure news and blog posts via

Viigo for BlackBerry Free L l l l h

PROs Fast. Comprehensive channel library. Can import feed lists from Google Reader. Plenty of customization options. COns Coarse adjustments for time between updates. Full-article displays could use improvement.

RSS, you simply can’t beat Viigo for BlackBerry, which is why I converted to it, as well as awarding it an Editors’ Choice. —Jamie Lendino >>CLICK HERE FOR MORE JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZInE DIGItAL EDItIOn 35

fIrsT LOOks sOfTWArE


Skype (for iPhone) Free

Truveo (for iPhone) Free

imeem for Android Free

Winamp 5.55 Free

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• Free calls • Clear interface • Instant messaging

• Large catalog of accessible professionally produced videos, including some full-length TV shows from Hulu • Excellent search features

• Lets you stream your own uploaded custom playlists • Saves all your favorite artist stations • Plays in background, letting you run other apps • Spot-on recommendations

• Supports iPod/musicplayer syncing • Built-in artist bio information • Sleek new interface, but still skinnable • Desktop song alerts • Enhanced audio/video playback support

• Doesn’t work with 3G or Edge connections • No video • You still have to authorize contacts on the PC

• No video bookmarking • Lots of stuttering over 3G connection

• Limits you to six skips an hour per station • Can’t search by genre or tab • Lacks the social musicdiscovery feature found on

• A bit of a memory hog • Too many versions to choose from • Too many key features (CD-ripping, full-speed CD-burning) are limited to overpriced paid version

Skype for iPhone may not have video support or work over connections other than Wi-Fi, but it’s elegantly turned out, and very cool.

Truveo offers up lots of great video content with its free, user-friendly iPhone application.

The free imeem app for Android gives you an easy, fun way to listen to your favorite tunes on your Android-powered mobile phone.

The new Winamp brings the features and services needed to make it competitive with modern desktop players but retains enough familiarity to lure back users who may have left it behind.








Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware 1.36 Free

SugarSync $4.99 to $49 direct

Facebook (Spring 2009) Free

Photobucket (Spring 2009) 1GB, free; 10GB, $39.95 direct per year

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• Free for noncommercial use • Small download, superfast install, quick scan • Simple settings • Especially effective at removing rogue security products (“scareware”)

• Lots of file-synchronization options • Support for mobile phones

• More immediate updates • Comments appear live in the stream • Easier to create friend lists • Easier to filter posts by lists and networks

• Lots of free storage • Unlimited video uploads within storage limit • Powerful, free photoediting tools • Online community for viewing public photos and videos

• No blocking of malicious Web sites • Not effective against commercial keyloggers or rootkits • Rudimentary help system

• Confusing range of features • Limited OS integration • Problems syncing some Mac files • Only five previous versions of edited files are retained on the server

• No look-and-feel customizations • Three-column layout looks more cluttered • Chat feature is less robust than those of other IM systems

• Many ads • No drag-and-drop uploading • No face- or geotagging • No straighten tool • Bulk upload tool downsizes pictures, video • Limited video editing

Malwarebytes’ Anti-Malware does a good job of cleaning up malware, especially those annoying rogue security programs, though it’s not effective against commercial keyloggers or rootkits.

Of the file-synchronization services we’ve seen, SugarSync has the most features. But there may be too many to keep track of conveniently.

Facebook still lacks any customizability, and the return to a three-column layout makes it more cluttered than the previous edition. But the redesign actually brings some new control over content.

The Photobucket sharing site should appeal to people who like to jazz up their images and get lots of free photo hosting. It even offers tolerable video mixing.


jOhN C. DvOrAk

Whither MySQL, Whither LAMP?


he sale of Sun Microsystems to Oracle, along with the various GNU-GPL license changes going on in this world, brings up an interesting issue regarding the future of the LAMP platform. Will it live or die? LAMP refers to Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP—the core development platform for open-source development projects used on the Web. This includes dedicated Web sites, blogging software, content management, online retailing, and even search-engine back ends. Sun recently bought MySQL, which should be the first of the big four to fall by the wayside when Oracle gets hold of it. The guys who developed it in the first place have gone their separate ways with variations called “forks,” which will soon compete with each other for attention. And in the meantime, the licensing arrangements for many of these products are gravitating away from the GNU General Public License (GPL), which is so onerous

that if you build a system around a GPL software bundle and want to sell the product, you will lose ownership of the code and it becomes public domain by rule. Until now, what everyone has done is distribute products with a requirement that hosts or buyers obtain the LAMP components on their own so as not to contaminate the application program with the onerous GPL. The situation is so bad with the GNU GPL that large law firms now have to be contracted so a company doesn’t “screw up” and accidentally touch some of the wrong open-source software and instantly lose its intellectual property rights. There are already a slew of lawsuits over this. Companies have even cropped up that develop what are termed “shims” to isolate one piece of code from another. This whole process is now officially ludicrous. The scene makes selling a commercial and completely integrated and optimized buy-and-run system impossible if any GNU GPL software is involved. And because you have no control over the bundle, you end up


One whopping killer of an RDBMS has emerged from this BSD pack: PostgrSQL. with all these weird problems on the server side as one system or another is constantly being upgraded and screwing up the other cogs in the LAMP wheel. Moving Toward BSD The solution to this dilemma within the open-source community is to ditch the GPL and use the license model adopted by BSD, which allows the vendor to develop something that incorporates open-source code without losing his or her license and ownership. Even Microsoft uses parts of the BSD Unix without worrying. Apple’s entire OS kernel is based on software developed under this arrangement. The open-source community has been coughing and sputtering under the GNU GPL because one guy, Richard Stallman, believes all software should be free, and he dominates the conversation regarding licensing. Even the open-source developers are beginning to realize that none of this is in their best interests, and they are moving toward BSD as the model. That said, one whopping killer of an RDBMS has emerged from this BSD pack: PostgrSQL. This product has a number of interesting qualities. First, it seems as if any number of MySQL implementations, such as those employed by WordPress, can easily be migrated to PostgrSQL. The maximum table size is 32TB, and a single record can be an entire gigabyte. This thing has been

in development for 15 years and may be the best of breed. When you read the history of this product and check the heritage you’ll realize that this will be the successor to MySQL and a serious threat to Oracle. In fact you’ll find that the Oracle-program compatible RDBMS called EnterpriseDB is based on PostgrSQL, and that IBM’s recent announcement that it has Oracle compatibility stems from EnterpriseDB compatibility code. It’s all very interesting to watch. Oracle must have known that this sort of attack would happen eventually, and it makes me rethink why Oracle bought Sun. Some think it was for the Java expertise, but that can be had without buying the whole company and might have been available at a bankruptcy auction or by raiding employees. I’m beginning to think it may actually be for the hardware, the servers. By incorporating the hardware, Oracle can build a totally proprietary DB server that is a standalone solution to integration problems. Once you are locked into the box itself, the company can steer you away from cloners in tricky ways. We must assume that the “M” in LAMP is doomed and the next iteration will be LAPP. But all the other elements are at risk, too. The LAMP might be turned off completely within the next few years. DvORAk Live On the WeB John’s Internet TV show airs every Wednesday at 3:30 ET on You can download back episodes whenever you like. JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 39

In he Sun Also Rises Dept.: With Oracle buying out Sun Microsystems, another Silicon Valley icon bites the dust. If the economy ever recovers, all the valuable real estate owned by companies such as Sun will eventually pay for the deal. The fact is that nobody really knows why Oracle bought Sun. It’s possible that it was a defensive measure since IBM wanted the company so badly. Some say it was so that Oracle could get control of Java. But why? I assume it has something to do with hidden assets. And it’s also possible that Oracle would like to sell a turnkey database server built on Sun hardware. There would be nothing like it on the market. And despite what people say about the various flavors of Unix, Solaris is one of the genuine workhorses in the industry. I was recently told about some Solaris-based server that was taken offline for a replacement. It had been running for something like eight years solid with never a reboot. This sort of reliable uptime is actually rare nowadays with both Linux and Windows servers. Death Has a Partner Dept.: According to at least one researcher, ultra wideband (UWB) transmission will be completely dead as a consumer/business technology by 2013. While it looked good on a Power-

Point presentation, it never managed to get past the critics and the FCC. The closest it got to me was a wireless USB product that I heard about but never actually owned. The technology remains in the military and is used for ground-penetrating radar. Emerging Wi-Fi variants will replace it in the home and office. Der Kindle Ist Der Bomb Dept.: The newest Kindle from Amazon is getting a lot of attention lately, and now everyone is coming out of the woodwork either to condemn the device as a looming threat to the publishing industry or to praise it as its savior. I have mixed feelings about it, but I’ve talked to a lot of heavy readers who love the thing. I’ll reserve judgment until I actually use the device for a while. Meanwhile, Hearst and Dow Jones are considering a larger-format version of an e-reader for their newspapers. Let me assure you that while reading a trade paperback on the Kindle might be viable, perusing a newspaper on a reader like this is not. Newspapers are meant to be read and discarded. With an e-reader you are essentially carrying around a boat anchor to read the newspaper. Dumb idea of the decade. In related news, there is a strong rumor that Barnes & Noble intends to compete with the Kindle with a device of its own. In the future the e-book people will be able


nsideTrack to browse at a Barnes & Noble store, and, once they’ve found the book they want, push a nearby button to have it delivered to their reader on the spot. The bill would come later, or you could pay at the counter. Lots of cool gimmicks are possible. You’d be able to get excerpts downloaded or catalogs, or whatever they are promoting. Odd Bedfellows Dept.: One of the screwiest trends in the industry seems to be emerging as the Android OS, used in the Google phone, begins to crop up in netbooks. So now people are beginning to see an interesting symbiosis between the netbook and the smartphone. People can tether the smartphone to a netbook and use its extended capabilities to augment the phone itself. Both thus become part of the same unified platform. I can see moments when I need a full-size keyboard to punch a lot of data into the phone or load a PowerPoint show or extract photos and other data from the phone for further distribution. For years I’ve imagined a small computer that acted as a phone and could be tethered to a real computer. I can see this catching on. If this is any sort of trend, then Apple has to be faster to the punch with its netbook initiative, which it denies exists. The initiative may or may not exist, but it does seem as if Apple is going to revisit the notepad

or tablet computer, according to many inside sources. Newton II! I knew it! Buzzword Dept.: Microsoft doesn’t dream up cute buzz phrases too often, and I’m not sure it originated this one, but while discussing the possibility of a new iPhone killer, the term “lust-worthy” was used. This means something people would lust after no matter what the product was or actually did. The joke, here, of course, is that the likelihood of Microsoft actually making a phone that’s lust-worthy compared with the iPhone is close to nil. Microsoft usually can get to buzzworthy, but seldom farther. That said, we can expect some money to be flying in the phone sector, since Microsoft wants to redouble its efforts with Windows Mobile with a refresh of some sort. It’s probably too little too late, and the Android OS still looks to be the winner in the non-iPhone game. While on the Subject of Microsoft Dept.: I see no reason why people should not download and try the first release candidate for Windows 7, RC1. It will run on your machine for a year, at which time you can decide to buy the release final version or kill it and load Ubuntu. WANT MORE DVORAK? John writes a weekly column for our Web site, too. Log on to You can also e-mail him at



The Apple iPad Could Kill the Kindle


he new Amazon Kindle DX has a few weeks to live— and the magazine and news­ paper industries may not have much longer. As soon as Apple unleashes the rumored iPad, Ama­ zon’s attempt at hardware design will vanish quicker than Betamax. Amazon won’t mind, but magazine and newspaper publishers sure will. Apple and Amazon could be the best of enemies. Look at their complementary busi­ ness strategies. Amazon sells content. The company went into the hardware business to spur more e­book sales. It intends to make a killing selling e­textbooks for the new Kindle DX. Sure, Amazon makes money on the Kin­ dle, but its heart is in the books. Apple sells hardware. Apple became the world’s lead­ ing online media store so it could sell more iPods. Its heart is in the iPods. Along Comes the iPad The Apple people usually go on about how much they hate a product category just

before they enter it. Recently, Apple’s COO, Tim Cook, said he thinks netbooks are use­ less, and that the iPod touch is Apple’s net­ book. This feeds BusinessWeek’s rumor about the prospective “iPad”—a $699 tab­ let that would look like a bigger iPod touch. Apple hates netbooks because netbooks cannibalize notebooks. But the company would love to sell another Apple device. The iPad doesn’t replace anything Apple currently sells. You type on your laptop at your desk. You surf with your iPhone while on the go. But you’d relax with an iPad on the couch, prop it up by your bed, or rest it on the airplane tray table. That’s all stuff you do with existing devices, but an iPad would make it more natural, just as a Kindle does. A Closer Look at the Kindle The Kindle’s success doesn’t come from its brilliant hardware. Yes, the new Kindles are much prettier and slimmer than the origi­ nal Kindle, but they’re compelling because of their 3G networking and their tight inte­ gration with Amazon’s store. Apple has that


The Apple people usually dis a product category just before they enter it. integration, too, via the iPhone Kindle app, and it has a much deeper legacy of building multipurpose hardware than Amazon does. The Kindle DX seems to have three pri­ mary markets: textbooks, newspapers, and magazines. Other companies, including Hearst and News Corp., are said to be going into the media pad space to save their mag­ azine subscription dollars. But the iPad will give you the whole Internet, and 35,000 iPod touch applications, including—get this!—the Amazon Kindle application. Amazon won’t stress out about this too much. It will still be selling e­books, and now it will be selling e­textbooks, too. The big losers will be newspapers and magazines that hope to sell Kindle subscriptions. They’ll be forced to put their free Web sites behind a pay wall or find some other way of making money. Textbook companies and traditional book publishers aren’t in so much danger, because they’ve never offered all of their content online free. What the iPad will do The iPad also won’t just be an e­book/Inter­ net reader. It’s sure to be a terrific media player—a sort of widescreen iPod. Apple won’t position it as a general­purpose com­ puter because it doesn’t want to cannibalize its MacBook business. Don’t worry too much about the iPad’s $699 price. Apple has been open to carrier subsidies, which typically shave $200 or

more off the price of a device in exchange for locking you into a contract. That business model has been tremendously successful— so successful that unlocked phones, while available in the U.S., have never been able to take off. Apple has also always had strong relationships with colleges and universities, so we’re sure to see educational discounts to promote the iPad as a virtual textbook. The iPad’s monthly fee will be a sticking point, of course, but it’s not an insurmount­ able one. Verizon’s new Open Develop­ ment Initiative has been letting makers of non­voice devices roll their own service plans. The ODI hasn’t been used for a big consumer device yet, but it could let Apple roll out an iPad with bucket plans for data at various tiers. So far, the ODI hasn’t been compatible with subsidies, but Verizon seems to be very enthusiastic about work­ ing with Apple. The big question is whether Apple will release an iPad at its next big press event on June 8. Typically, Apple announces products in June, September, and January. Whenever the announcement comes, Amazon and the magazine companies shouldn’t just be pre­ paring competing devices—they should be preparing new business models for a world where anyone can access Web content on a large­format pad, anywhere, at any time. STAY PHONE-SMART Keep up with the latest on smartphones by reading Sascha’s column at JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 43


Pulling the Plug on Plasma


he story is nothing new: A superior technology that offers higher quality, an enhanced user experience, and better value gets killed off by a technologically inferior rival. VHS killed Betamax. Plain CDs outlasted Super Audio CDs. Vista wiped out Mac OS X. Wait. There are exceptions to the rule. Still, there’s every reason to think it’s happening again. The current economic crisis is hurting the entire electronics industry, but television manufacturers are literally running away from plasma HDTVs. A research report released by DisplaySearch this week showed plasma shipments in the first quarter are down 22 percent from last year, and few industry analysts think plasma will rebound. And that’s a shame. Plasma technology has a lot of advantages. Its fast-motion performance is perfect for watching sports, its darker black levels are great for watching movies, and in larger sizes (think 50 inches and up), plasma sets have typically offered more competi-

tive prices. Yes, they use more power than LCDs of similar size, but this is hardly a key factor for most HDTV buyers. Despite the best efforts of the editors at and, most people don’t know or even care how much power a prospective HDTV uses. Yet vendor after vendor is pulling the plasma plug. Just look at the last few months. Vizio, the number two flat-panel television vendor in the U.S., decided it was ending its plasma production to focus exclusively on LCD HDTVs. Vizio made its mark selling affordable sets direct and at retail, so perhaps it’s to be expected that the company wouldn’t hang in with premium plasmas, which tend to come in very large sizes. For sets under 42 inches, LCD TVs have always had an edge in terms of price, so it makes sense that a value player would choose to focus on that segment of the market. But that doesn’t explain Pioneer. A couple years ago, Pioneer released its KURO line of plasmas, probably the most advanced HDTVs ever made. Last year’s


If plasmas can’t find a market on the low end or high end, where do they fit in? Pioneer KURO PDP-5020FD has a contrast ratio of 8,809:1, and our review included the terms “flawless” and “utterly stunning.” It was the best 50-inch HDTV you could buy, and it still is. But earlier this year, Pioneer decided it would stop making KUROs. Or any other plasma HDTVs, for that matter. So if plasma HDTVs can’t find a market on the low end, and they can’t find a market at the high end, where do they fit in? The answer seems to be nowhere. The technology is losing steam. How did this happen? The LCD Insurrection First of all, LCD panels got larger. Plasmas used to have a size advantage over LCD TVs, but now LCD owns the 40-to-42-inch sweet spot, dominates all sizes under 50 inches, and seems poised to compete even at 60 inches in 2009. Second, growing LCD volume has meant there’s a lot more manufacturing capacity, which has kept prices down. Finally, plasmas in the segment where the technology still have an advantage, massive 60-inch-or-larger HDTVs, are just too damn expensive when your 401K looks like a 16K. Declaring plasma dead may seem a bit premature. To be fair, you can still walk into a Best Buy, CompUSA, or Fry’s or hop online to buy a plasma HDTV. As I mentioned earlier, some manufacturers, among them LG, Hitachi, Panasonic, and Samsung, are sticking with plasma, and sets will be available for a while. And we’ll keep reviewing them. Still,

these companies all make LCDs, too, and I have to wonder how long it will be before more of them give up on plasma. I bet at least one will be out by the end of the year. After LCDs Finally, let me say a few words about OLED (organic light-emitting diode) technology. To read the gushing prose of the technical press, you would think that OLEDs will rise up to replace every existing screen technology as early as the end of the year (in other words, OLEDs will appear on everything from your cell phone to giant wall-size HDTVs). There are two problems with that. First, OLEDs are still years away from practical, affordable commercialization. Second, the largest OLED display available today measures 11 inches diagonal. As we saw with Sony’s OLED-based XEL-1, picture quality is superb, but don’t plan on watching the big game on an OLED set anytime soon. Now, I’m not saying I wouldn’t buy a plasma right now. HDTVs last for years, and bargains abound. The Pioneer KURO PDP5020FD, arguably one of best HDTVs ever, cost $4,000 when it launched six months ago and is now selling for less than $2,000 online. An amazing deal on an amazing TV; but you have to act quickly, because this plasma, like all the rest, won’t be around for long. TALK bAcK To DAn E-mail your thoughts to JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 45

The Endless Sho Capture your fun in the sun with a new digital camera. We have the best point-and-shooters and D-SLRs for any budget. By Erik Rhey


ots of Summer If photogRaphY haD an offICIaL SeaSon, It WouLD be SummeR. Vacations in beautiful locales, family picnics, baseball games, weddings, and graduations are all perfect fodder for gorgeous photos that capture those memorable moments. By now, almost everyone has a digital camera. But if you’ve been plodding along with a three-year-old model that never quite gets the right shot (because of slow recycle time, bad battery life, low resolution, or a blinding flash), it’s time to think about a new camera. Yes, times are tough, and maybe you’re thinking you can’t afford one right now. But think of it as an investment. You won’t get a second chance to shoot that summer trip or wedding. For those who are waiting because they think a new camera will just get bumped by a cheaper, higher-resolution model two months later, here’s the good news: The megapixel wars are over. These days, any camera will have as many megapixels as you’re likely to need. And today’s selection of point-and-shooters and D-SLRs are loaded with advanced features, such as in-camera editing, Wi-Fi, HD video, and fast-shooting modes. The next-generation point-and-shooters are smaller and lighter, with bigger screens. D-SLR prices have dropped dramatically, making them accessible to a whole new crowd of hobbyists. Also, many D-SLRs now have video, so they can replace your old clunky camcorder. The models in this story are good representatives of the new breed of digital cameras, covering the spectrum of price and features. So don’t let another summer pass with mediocre photos that go into cold storage on your hard drive. Take shots that you’ll want to share, and even frame for your own wall of fame.


Photo: Andrew O’Toole/Corbis


Two-toned body color (front and back) and 2.8inch widescreen

Canon PowerShot SD960 IS $329.99 list L l l m m

PROs Fast. Captures HD video. 16:9 LCD. HDMI-out. Long battery life. Produces less noise in images at ISO 1600 than its predecessor did. CONs Pricey. Quality problems at outer edges of images.

Canon Goes Wide The 12.1-megapixel PowerShot SD960 IS is Canon’s first and only model in the Elph line to get a widescreen LCD. This slick little point-and-shooter still gives you the option to take pictures in the traditional 4:3 aspect ratio, but the 2.8-inch LCD, with its wide 16:9 aspect ratio, makes it much easier to frame your shots. The SD960 is also extremely fast, with an average recycle time of 1.8 seconds. It also records dazzling HD video (at 30 frames per second) that you can easily output to an HDTV.

The 5.11-ounce SD960 sports spiffy rounded edges and comes in five colors (blue, green, silver, pink, and gold). The new interface is straightforward, so navigation is a breeze. Although the SD960 is responsive, its images were not as sharp as some competitors’, and we saw some color fringing. This camera is for those who aren’t overly concerned with photo quality and instead want a light, fast shooter with cool features and great battery life.—PJ Jacobowitz



Canon PowerShot SD780 IS $279.99 list L l l l m

PROs Excellent image quality. Lower noise at high ISOs than in previous generations. Records high-definition video. Mini HDMIout. Small and thin. Fast operation. Sharp screen. CONs Small screen. Average amount of shutter lag. Viewfinder is tiny and useless. HDMI does not support “Consumer Electronic Control.”

Canon’s small shooter with HD Video Among the new Canon point-and-shooters with high-def video capability, the 12.1megapixel Canon PowerShot SD780 IS is the smallest and least expensive. This tiny but speedy camera also has an HDMI-out, rather than a proprietary docking cradle. Though diminutive, this camera feels sturdy, thanks to its solid, brushed-metal construction. The 2.5-inch LCD is a bit small—but then, so is the camera. The SD780 IS’s 3X optical zoom lens has a focal range of 5.9mm to 17.9mm, with corresponding max-

imum f-stops of f/3.2 to f/5.8. It averaged 0.5 second of lag on our test, and its boot time was an average of only 1.75 seconds. Noise was dramatically lower at the highest ISO sensitivity (ISO 1600) than with any Canon point-and-shooter I’ve seen in the past year. This camera also has the highestresolution video of any Canon point-andshooter (1,280 by 720 pixels progressive resolution at 30 frames per second). Overall, it delivers all the basics well.—PJJ >>CLICK HERE FOR MORE JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 49

Casio Exilim EX-FC100 $349.99 list L l l m m

PROs 5X optical zoom lens. Captures photos before shutter button is pressed. Records video in 720p30 HD and in slow motion. Integrated Eye-Fi support helps preserve battery life. CONs Pricey. Images are less sharp than those of competitively priced cameras. Purple fringing in highcontrast areas. Boots slowly.

Never Miss a shot with This Exilim The 9.1-megapixel Casio Exilim EX-FC100 has some cool features that no other compact point-and-shooter offers. It can snap 30 6MP images in 1 second. And it can capture some of these before you hit the shutter release, so you’ll have the image you want even if you didn’t push the button in time. It can also record high-quality slow-motion video. The relatively thick 5.1-ounce FC100 has a 5X optical zoom lens with a focal length of 6.4mm to 32.1mm. Most of the buttons on

the camera are large and easy to operate, but others are tricky, such as some high-speed options that require you to flip a physical hinge. Boot time was slow at 6.13 seconds; shutter lag, at 0.72 second, was typical for this category. Image sharpness was average, but outdoor shots in auto mode were sharp. The EX-FC100 also has extended support for Eye-Fi memory cards. Overall, this is a decent pocket camera with the very cool pluses of fast shooting and HD video.—PJJ



Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR $370 street l l l h m

PROs Fantastic image quality. Low noise levels at ISOs 100 to 400. Fast recycle times. CONs Pricey. Heavy barrel distortion at widest angle. Outdated user interface. Unexceptional design. Proprietary USB and A/V port.

Fujifilm’s Quality Point-and-shooter The 12-megapixel Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR is a no-frills camera that excels where it counts: recycle time and image quality. Sure the price is a bit steep. And for the money, you could get a camera with more features (such as HD video) and maybe even a waterproof or touch-screen model. But chances are that those models with the bells and whistles won’t produce images on the F200EXR’s level. This camera is bit heftier than most in its category, at 2.3 by 3.8 by 0.9 inches (HWD)

and 6.2 ounces. The massive lens has 5X optical zoom, and the user interface is simple and straightforward. Recycle time was a zippy 2.45 seconds, and images were very sharp, with low noise—outdoor shots looked fantastic. There is also standard-def video. So while it’s not the thinnest or flashiest camera, the F200EXR is ideal for those who want the convenience of a point-andshooter but don’t want to sacrifice image quality.—PJJ >>CLICK HERE FOR MORE JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 51

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-G3 $499.99 direct L l l m m

PROs Sharp images. Large, highresolution LCD screen. Intuitive touch-screen interface. Smile Shutter feature can be useful. CONs Poor battery life. Slow uploading of photos via Wi-Fi. Camera records only standard-definition video. Touch-screen buttons in Web browser are less responsive.

A shooter for the Facebook set Like other Sony touch-screen cameras in its price range, the 10.1-megapixel Sony Cybershot DSC-G3 takes gorgeous photos and has an intuitive interface. Its tightly integrated Wi-Fi radio and Web browser let users upload pictures and video directly to photosharing services. There’s even support for the DLNA network protocol, which lets the camera act as a media server to stream photos to other DLNA-enabled devices. The G3 resembles the Sony Cyber-shot T-500 and T-700 (down to the 3.5-inch wide-

screen touch-screen LCD), but with the G3, instead of a panel moving down, the entire camera slides sideways to reveal the lens and the zoom buttons. Shutter lag was minimal, and photo quality was passable. This camera gets a couple of dings for poor battery life, slow upload times, and menu icons for the DLNA feature that look pixelated and too small. Nonetheless, the G3 is an interesting option for social networkers on the go.—PJJ




Canon EOS Rebel XSi Body only, $699 list; with 18-to-55mm IS kit lens, $799; 55-to-250mm IS lens, $299 L l l l h

PROs Magnificent resolution and image quality. Larger LCD than its predecessor. Image stabilization with kit lens. CONs Max ISO is only 1600. RAW format not compatible with some photo software.

A Rebel Without Compare The Canon EOS Rebel XSi is the fourth model in Canon’s Digital Rebel class, a series that sparked the prosumer D-SLR revolution. In snatching the Editors’ Choice crown from the EOS Digital Rebel XTi, the XSi continues Canon’s tradition of adding substantial new features and improving on the previous model. The XSi has a 12.2-megapixel resolution, up from 10MP in the XTi and double that of the original Rebel. Among its new features are an image-stabilized kit lens, a larger LCD display (3 inches), Live

View, a revamped control scheme/button layout, SD/SDHC-card compatibility, and longer battery life. The 55-to-250mm lens took exquisite pictures, with well-balanced colors and sharp focus. Daytime shots rarely showed fringing, and night shots without flash were reasonably noise-free. Add to that excellent boot and recycle times of 0.6 and 0.8 seconds, respectively, and you’ve got a D-SLR currently without compare.—Tony Hoffman >>CLICK HERE FOR MORE JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 53

Canon EOS 50D $1,299 list (body only) l l l l m

PROs Lightning-fast. Produces beautiful low-light images. Large, high-resolution LCD screen. HDMI-out. CONs Expensive. Big and heavy. Compatible only with Canon’s own lenses.

A Low-Light Master for Canon Fans The Canon EOS 50D is a great D-SLR, if all you need is a new body. Like its predecessor, the 40D, the 15.1-megapixel 50D is fast and includes Live View and an HDMI-out. Although it has the same 3-inch LCD as the 40D, it quadruples the number of pixels (to 920,000). The 50D’s biggest selling point over Canon’s entry-level Rebel line is its ability to shoot images in low light with very low amounts of noise. If you’re a Rebel owner looking for a step up, or if you already own

Canon lenses, the 50D is worth considering. Canon markets the 50D as “bridging the gap between the novice and seasoned pro,” and to drive that point home, the company has given the camera the look, feel, and heft of a professional camera as well as a multitude of pro features. With a lightning-fast shutter speed, crisp images, and an intuitive navigation system, the 50D is a great buy for Canon die-hards.—PJ Jacobowitz



Nikon D90 $999.95 list (body only) l l l l m

PROs Solid image quality. Excellent color fidelity. Low noise, even at high ISOs. Shoots HD video. CONs Controls aren’t very intuitive. Relatively low still-image resolution. Video features are limited.

A Midrange D-sLR with Video The 12.3-megapixel Nikon D90 was the first D-SLR to offer HD video. Although the D90 now has video-enabled competition from Canon and others, it is still a solid camera with fast shooting and long battery life. The D90 is the same size as its predecessor, the D80, but this camera has a bigger LCD (3 inches instead of 2.5). For the D90 Nikon has switched to a DX-format CMOS sensor, which does wonders for reducing noise. In the labs and in real-world testing,

daylight still shots tended to be bright, with pleasing, natural-looking color. And the D90’s boot (0.85 second), recycle (1.42 seconds), and shutter lag (0.25 second) times were all excellent. The quality of the 720p HD video at 24 frames per second wasn’t mind-blowing, but it was decent. So if you want the extra amenity of video on a reliable middle-of-the-road D-SLR, the D90 is a good choice.—TH >>CLICK HERE FOR MORE JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 55

Pentax K2000 $599.95 direct l l l l m

PROs Takes sharp pictures. Fast operation and autofocus. Help button provides useful information about other camera functions. Includes additional flash accessory. CONs Images can be noisy at or above ISO 800. Camera recycle times slow down after a few seconds of consistent shots. LCD can’t be used as a viewfinder.

Pentax’s Teaching D-sLR For those looking for an entry into D-SLR photography, the K2000 is a great choice at a great price. This 10.2-megapixel camera performs quite well in well-lit outdoor shots, where its photos are just as sharp as those of its closest competitors. And this Pentax has plenty of entry-level appeal, thanks to its Help button. Simply tap Help and then any other button or dial on the camera, and a short description of that function (and often a tip) is displayed. Once you’ve outgrown the button, you can reprogram it as a

shortcut to one of four other functions: Custom Preview, Digital Preview, Digital Filter, or RAW image format. The K2000 did a good job of retaining sharpness at higher ISOs (though a couple of pics in our tests tended to be grainy). It is also relatively fast, clocking a practically unnoticeable 0.1 second of shutter lag with pre-focus enabled. Combine this with a bargain price and you have a great camera for D-SLR newbies.—PJJ



The 2.7-inch LCD swivels outward

Olympus E-30 $1,299.99 list (body only) l l l h m

PROs Very sharp pictures. Fast. In-camera Photoshop-esque effects. Swiveling LCD. CONs Noisy at high ISOs. A bit pricey. No HDMI-out.

Fun Effects set This Olympus Apart The E-30 has enough nifty features to turn heads. For example, you can add Photoshop-like effects such as “pop art,” “soft focus,” “light tone,” “grainy film,” and “pinhole” right on the camera. And though the E-30’s 2.7-inch screen is slightly smaller than many others in its class, the LCD is attached to an extendable arm that you can swing out for different views. With its many dials, buttons, and switches, the E-30 put its shooting modes and features right at your fingertips.

The E-30 excelled at picture sharpness: At its sharpest f-stop (f/5.6), it averaged 2,059 lines per picture height, which is slightly better than most competitors’ scores. However, it did not do as well with image noise. At ISO 3200, it produced a picture with a noise level of 2.7 percent—over twice as much noise as the competition had. Though not without its problems, the E-30 should impress those who like advanced on-camera features.—PJJ >>CLICK HERE FOR MORE JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 57






Do your photos justice with one of these top new printers. By M. David Stone

Canon Pixma MP980 Wireless Photo All-In-One Printer $299.99 direct

Canon Pixma iP4600 $99.99 direct

Canon Selphy ES3 $199.99 direct

Dell P703w A Wireless Pho $199.00 direct

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• High-quality photos • Scans and prints from 35mm film • Network and Wi-Fi support • Built-in duplexer

• High-quality photos • Prints directly from cameras • Two paper trays • Automatic duplexing

• Internal memory can store 999 photos • Print pack holds both dye roll and paper • Photos are highly waterresistant

• Fast photo pr • Wi-Fi suppor • Separate tra photos • Prints, copie

• No fax support • Clumsy network installation • Can’t set network support to accept both wired and wireless connections

• Slower than the last-generation printer it replaces • Full-page graphics tend to make plain paper curl

• Relatively big and heavy for a small-format printer • Diagonal lines (for instance, spokes in a wheel) can print with jagged edges

• Slow print sp applications • Slightly subp • No automatic • No fax capab

The Canon Pixma MP980 Wireless Photo All-In-One Printer is a prime example of a photocentric all-in-one (AIO) that can also function as a standalone home photo lab.

The Canon Pixma iP4600 is a surprising step down in speed from the printer it replaces, but it offers similar output quality and paper handling at a lower price.

Despite a problem with printing diagonal lines, the Canon Selphy ES3 is one of the most impressive small-format photo printers on the market.

Designed as a with an empha Dell P703w All Photo Printer fast speeds an quality.

All-in-one inkjet; USB, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi connections; 6 colors; 11-in-1 memory card slot; LCD preview screen; flatbed scanner; 7.9 by 15.2 by 18.5 inches (HWD); 23.6 pounds.

Inkjet; USB connection; 1-pass color; duplexing capability; 6 by 11.7 by 17 inches (HWD); 12.4 pounds.

Thermal dye technology; USB connection; 4-pass color; 10-in-1 memory card reader; LCD preview screen; 8.9 by 8.9 by 5.4 inches (HWD); 4.6 pounds.

All-in-one inkj connections; 1 memory card ner, standalon 20.3 by 14.5 in 22.1 pounds.

RED indicates Editors’ Choice.


All-In-One oto Printer t

Dell Wasabi PZ310 Mobile Photo Printer $149 direct

Epson Artisan 800 $299.99 direct

Epson WorkForce 600 $199.99 direct

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• Highly portable • Photos are waterand scratch-resistant • Peel-off back turns photos into stickers

• Fast • High-quality photos • Prints and scans over network • Prints on discs • Ethernet and Wi-Fi • Standalone fax and copier

• Fast • Wired and wireless network support • Prints and scans over a network • Standalone fax and copier

• Photos are only 2 by 3 inches • Color quality is less than ideal, but good enough for small photos

• Subpar text quality • Low paper capacity

• Subpar text quality • Paper capacity is only 100 sheets • Can’t fax directly from a PC

a home printer asis on photos, the l-In-One Wireless prints photos at nd reasonably high

Only the second printer in the U.S. to use ZINK technology, the Dell Wasabi PZ310 Mobile Photo Printer is small enough to be carried everywhere.

Suitable for home and lightduty home office use, the Epson Artisan 800 is a little weak on text quality but strong on features and photo quality.

The WorkForce 600 has impressive features (fast speed) with some limitations (low paper capacity), so although it’s an attractive choice it falls just short of being a slam-dunk winner.

jet; USB, and Wi-Fi 1-pass color; 6-in-1 slot; flatbed scanne copier; 8.7 by nches (HWD);

Zero-ink technology; USB and Wi-Fi connections; direct printing from camera; 0.9 by 4.8 by 2.9 inches (HWD); 8.0 ounces.

All-in-one inkjet; USB, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi connections; 1-pass color; 11-in-1 memory card slot; flatbed scanner; 7.8 by 18.4 by 15.2 inches (HWD); 23.8 pounds.

All-in-one inkjet; USB, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi connections; 4 colors; 11-in-1 memory card slot; flatbed scanner; 12 by 18.2 by 22.1 inches (HWD); 18.3 pounds.

rinting rt ay for 4-by-6-inch

es, and scans

peeds for business

par text c document feeder bility

Visit for the full reviews of these and other hardware products.


Gadgets for Photo These accessories can help you take better shots—or just look cool with your camera. By PC Mag Staff

Aqua Case Datacolor SpyderCube $59 direct The SpyderCube is a tool to help you calibrate your photos (to achieve the brightest and darkest colors) before you take them and after. The three-dimensional design of this tool provides a few important color tones in a material that is “fade proof, extremely durable, and flame/shock resistant.” Throw the cube into the scene you’re about to photograph, manually adjust white balance, take the shot, remove the cube, and shoot away. In Photoshop, you use the cube shot to set color temperature values.

$39.99 direct The Aqua Case is a much more affordable option than other custom waterproof cases. It comes in three sizes and is waterproof to 100 feet, as well as sandproof and shockproof. The clear, soft case also lets you access all the buttons. There are models with and without articulated lens enclosures, and all are heat resistant to 158 degrees Fahrenheit.

Think Tank Streetwalker HardDrive $179 direct If you’re looking for a backpack that carries both a laptop and camera gear, check out the memorably named Think Tank Streetwalker HardDrive backpack bag. This bag carries a 15-inch laptop and a ton of camera gear. The thinner padding allows for more camera gear, yet you’re still protected from routine bumps and jostling.


Gearheads Sony VAIO Wi-Fi Photo Frame (VGF-CP1)

EyeFi Explore Video

Joby Gorillapod

$99.99 list With the Eye-Fi Explore flash storage card, you can upload your photos and videos to your computer wirelessly, thanks to the card’s built-in Wi-Fi. This 4GB card also offers unlimited geotagging and free Wi-Fi hotspot access for one year.

$24.95 direct The Gorillapod is a small, tripod-like, bendable, and grippable structure that attaches your digital camera to the surface of just about anything: guard rail, cabinet, chair, tree branch, and so on, freeing your hands to capture those memory-making moments. The Gorillapod weighs 1.6 ounces and can hold any camera up to 12.5 ounces.

$299 list The 800-by-480-pixel VAIO photo frame takes full advantage of its Wi-Fi connectivity, offering Picasa photo feeds, news reports, and even full Web-browsing capabilities. Although it has a high price tag, it offers much more in the way of features and capabilities than its competition.

Lensbaby Composer $270 direct The Lensbaby Composer is the latest lens to join the company’s line of selectivefocus optics. Just tilt the lens to the angle you want and it stays without locking—thanks to a ball-and-socket design. And the Double-Glass Optic produces sharp images.

X-Rite Mini ColorChecker $61.50 direct The Mini ColorChecker is a good way for serious photographers to match color. Many of its 24 colored squares represent naturally occurring colors—skin tone, blue sky, and so on—and they reflect light the way the actual objects would. The ColorChecker is 3.25 by 2.25 inches.


don’t Shoot in how to Take Be Get to know your settings to take the exact photos you want. By Geoff Fox


re you a digital neophyte, too scared to turn off the Auto mode on your fancy new digital camera? You’re certainly not alone. Fortunately, with a little information and experimentation, you can learn how the various features on your camera work. Read on, and you’ll be tweaking your camera’s settings in no time to get the exact shots you want.

Three Fundamentals Assuming your shots are already in focus, there are really only three adjustments to think about: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. Each acts to control the light or the effect of the light that reaches your camera’s sensor. ShuTTer Speed Shutter speed refers to how long your camera’s sensor is exposed to light. When your camera’s shutter speed reads “100,” the shutter is open for 1/100th of a second. At “50,” it’s open twice as long,

1/50th of a second. With shutter speed, lower is slower. When your shutter is slower, or open longer, more light will reach the sensor. Slow the shutter speed and your shots will be brighter. Of course there’s also a downside. If you’re shooting in Auto mode, you’ve probably already seen this and cursed at your camera: Say you’re indoors, somewhere without a lot of light. Your camera wants your scene to have good exposure, so it slows the shutter to brighten things up—and your shot gets blurry. Most blurry shots aren’t out of focus;


Auto! Better pictures The ShuTTerSpeed dIFFereNCe By slowing your camera’s shutter speed, you can go from the traditional waterfall shot (left) to a more silky, dreamy waterfall shot (right).

they’re the product of a slow shutter speed showing motion—like small lens movements as you hold the camera. A very fast shutter speed captures a very brief moment; it can stop motion. A slower shutter speed allows that motion to be seen. Faster shutter speeds almost always bring sharper pictures. Unfortunately your camera’s shutter can be set so fast that there won’t be enough light to take the shot. Getting confused? Use this simple rule of thumb, which works under most circumstances: You can slow the shutter to 1

divided by the lens focal length. So, if you have a 300mm lens, you must shoot at least 1/300 second. For a 50mm lens it’s at least 1/50. If your camera has a multiplier for focal length (most D-SLRs do), you need to factor that in, too. My camera has a 1.6 multiplier (you’ll find yours in your camera manual); 300mm times 1.6 means I need approximately 1/500 second. Take your camera and put it in shutter priority mode (so you can adjust the shutter speed while the camera controls everything else), point at anything and take a bunch JUNE 2009 pC MAGAZINe dIGITAL edITION 63

AperTure MATTerS These shots were taken at different apertures: f/1.4 (left) and f/16 (right).

of shots while adjusting the shutter speed. Don’t look for artistry, just look to see how you’ve changed the shot. I promise, once it sinks in, you’ll be doing shutter speed by instinct. AperTure The aperture controls the volume of light that hits your D-SLR’s sensor by reducing the area through which light flows. It works a lot like your eye’s pupil. Unfortunately some mathematical showoff decided to measure it with f-stops. The f-stop may be the most confusing concept in photography. It’s a real number, and it does make sense mathematically, but it could have been presented in a way that was clearer and easier to understand. Sit down for this. F/2.8 is the f-stop between f/2 and f/4. It gets worse: f/11 is the midpoint between f/8 and f/16. Here’s the progression of f-stops available on most lenses: 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16. Every time you move up by an f-stop, you halve the light going to the lens. The lower the lowest f-stop your lens offers, the “faster” your camera is. Photographers are constantly lusting after faster lenses; the 30mm f/1.4 lens is my favorite. Luckily you can be a great photographer

without remembering exactly which f-stop fits where. But you do need to remember that each lens has a limit as to how wide or narrow the aperture can be set. The higher the f-stop, the less light you get. Lenses vary. Fast lenses with lower f-stops always cost more, and are usually worth it! In most cases those guys on the sidelines at the football game are using lenses that can operate nicely on 25 percent of the available light the lens that came with your camera needs. If all the aperture did was control the light to the sensor, it still would be a big deal. But the aperture does something more—and once you understand it, your photos will be changed forever. The higher the f-stop, the larger the in-focus area of your shot. If you need a large area in focus, choose a higher f-stop number. For shallower depth of field, choose a lower f-stop. Large apertures (represented as lower-numbered f-stops) are often used for portrait work, leaving the subject sharp and the background pleasingly blurry. ISO Setting your camera correctly for a shot begins with making sure sufficient light passes through the lens to the sensor. Within reason, you can control how much or how


INCreASING The ISO The bird in this shot was made bright by turning up the ISO setting.

little light gets there with your aperture and shutter controls. Those are physical controls: The aperture is the opening through which light passes into the camera, and the shutter speed controls how long light can pass. ISO is a little more ethereal, because it’s a totally electronic parameter. When I was a kid, film sensitivity (more commonly called film speed) was measured by an ASA number. When the International Organization for Standardization got involved, the name was changed. Name aside, the scale itself remained the same. I mention this in case you find an ancient but working light meter. ASA equals ISO. Have no fear, the meter is still good. Of course, increasing the ISO doesn’t come free—there’s always a price to pay. With ISO on a D-SLR, the price is noise, or

distortion. Turning up the ISO brightens your photo and amplifies noise from your camera’s sensor. This noise fades into the background when amplification isn’t necessary. My opinion is that if higher ISO buys you a faster shutter speed or the narrower aperture you’re looking for, the extra noise is worth it. I’m not shy about shooting at ISO 1600. Sharpness is more important than noise, and I’m willing to make that trade. I understand my shot will be different in a way that’s not always good. Go rAW or Go home Now that you’ve got the fundamentals down—or at least on the way to being so— there are a few more basic issues to consider. By default most cameras save photos as JPEG files, because RAW-format files aren’t JUNE 2009 pC MAGAZINe dIGITAL edITION 65

A FLASh IN BrOAd dAyLIGhT A camera’s flash can be a lifesaver in bright sunlight. Without it, this man would have been a mere silhouette against the brightly lit Connecticut River.

always handled natively by PCs. Imagine shooting photos and not being able to view them! I’m here to convince you that RAW is the way to go. Let me make my case. When PCs used to come with mere kilobytes of RAM, megabytes of hard drive storage, and a CPU clocked in the dozens of megahertz, large files were daunting. Today? Not so much. Still, saving JPEG files can typically cut an image file’s size by 90 percent— not an insignificant number. That’s because JPEG is a lossy compression method. A JPEG image is different from the original. You might not see that difference in a 4-by-6 snapshot, but you will in a photo you enlarge or splash across a widescreen monitor. At its core, a JPEG file takes advantage of your eye’s reliance on brightness, sacrificing color detail you might not notice. It also cheats in areas of sharp contrast, corners, and straight edges. The bottom line is that it does what it’s supposed to do: save space. It just does it at a cost.

A RAW file contains the image that goes into the JPEG before processing. Lines are clean. Contrast is maintained. It’s as close to what the sensor saw as possible. It is virtually lossless. That sounds too good to be true—and it is. RAW’s simplicity makes it more complex for you. Every manufacturer has its own idea of what a RAW file should look like. Wikipedia notes that “several major camera manufacturers, including Nikon, Canon and Sony, encrypt portions of the file in an attempt to prevent third-party tools from accessing them.” To play with RAW files you might be forced to install a codec that lets your software make sense of the RAW files—if your software can deal with RAW files at all! So why would I recommend it? Easy: RAW gives you more creative latitude. With the ability to adjust color temperature, tweak levels, and crop before doing anything else, you will produce a cleaner output that’s truer to your original. Photographers can


TIp: LONG-expOSure phOTOGrAphy The use of long-duration exposure can enable you to capture images like stars in motion at night, or the movement of cars on the Strip in Las Vegas (left).

even compensate for shooting conditions by manipulating a RAW file, with little bad effect. If you need to “push” an exposure, doing it with the RAW file will leave you happiest. Yes, you will have massively larger files that will tax your computer’s CPU, strain your camera’s ability to write data to your memory card, and fill your hard drive. Yes, you will have to check into whether your photo manipulation programs will handle it. But as you learn to love your photos more, you’ll want only the best for them and you. And RAW is best when quality counts. Built-In Flash Is the built-in flash on your D-SLR (or any camera, really) awful? If you don’t think so, I have two words for you: red-eye! It’s the bane of amateur photographers worldwide. The pros don’t have the problem, because they move the flash away from the lens so that a bolt of light doesn’t illuminate the

very red back of your eyeball. But red-eye is only one of the many bad features built into every on-camera flash. The light from on-camera flash units falls off very quickly. So when your subjects are far from a wall, the photo’s background is poorly lit and looks awful. When they’re close to the wall, the single source of light produces harsh shadows and looks awful. Awful is built in with an on-camera flash! If you’re shooting in Auto, there is one situation in which you should be using the on-camera flash—in bright sunlight. If you’re within a few feet of your subject, pop the flash. It will help fill in harsh shadows. You may need to override your camera, which may be resistant to flash because its sensors say there is plenty of light already. Look for a lightning-bolt icon and work your way from there. (For even more tips, on things like shooting panoramas and understanding white balance, click here.) JUNE 2009 pC MAGAZINe dIGITAL edITION 67

HD Video for Every Budget Movies, TV, and even YouTube have gone HD, and your videos should, too, with one of these shooters. By PJ Jacobowitz


hese days, it seems as if the entire world is in HD. Shooting your video in high definition can capture a moment in a way that standard video simply can’t. The resulting footage is sharper, faster-moving, and just plain better looking—especially when you view it on an HDTV. Starting at less than $200, these devices—ranging from tiny camcorders to still cameras with HD recording capability to dedicated, full-featured digital videocams— will help you capture and share HD video. Kodak Zi6 Pocket Video Camera $179.95 direct l l l l m

Kodak’s first dedicated video camera carves out its niche in the YouTube camcorder space, offering HD capabilities and still-image capture at a palatable price. CLICK HERE FOR MORE Product name in RED indicates Editors’ Choice.


Creative Vado Pocket Video Cam HD $229.99 direct L L L L M

Creative follows in Kodak’s and Pure Digital’s footsteps with its own HD pocket camcorder. This camera has all the charm of the original Vado and enough new features to make it best in show. CLICK HERE FOR MORE

Pure Digital Flip MinoHD $229.99 direct L L L M M

Pure Digital takes the next logical step, adding highdefinition recording to its popular Flip Mino mini camcorder. While there are few physical changes, you do get more built-in storage—and you pay more. CLICK HERE FOR MORE



he least expensive of your HD recording options, these basic pocket camcorders are small, stripped down, and start as low as $180. They build on the idea of the standard-def YouTube camcorder, the object being to let you capture HD video quickly and easily anytime, anywhere. These palm-size devices are extremely easy to use; there aren’t many settings to worry about, and you don’t need any special software to transfer videos to

your computer. Since they shoot video in MPEG-4 format, all you have to do is drag and drop the files onto your desktop or plug the camera right into your HDTV to view your movies. What you sacrifice with these little guys, though, is big LCDs, optical zoom lenses, image stabilization, and noise reduction. Another concession: You’re limited to shooting at the lower end of the HD spectrum, 1,280 by 720 pixels progressive resolution at 60 frames per second (720p60). JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 69


Kodak EasyShare V1073 $229.95 direct l l l h m

The V1073 has an uninspired design and a convoluted menu system, but its pleasing color values and highdefinition video-capture abilities go a long way toward making up for those flaws. CLICK HERE FOR MORE

Kodak EasyShare M1033 $199.95 direct l l l l m

With an easy-to-use interface, excellent images, and a generous feature set that includes HD video capture, this moderately priced camera packs a lot of value. CLICK HERE FOR MORE

Want more than just moving pictures? The upside here is clear: Not only can you snap still images, you can capture 720p HD video, too—all in one versatile, easy-to-pocket device. If you opt for a point-and-shoot camera instead of a dedicated camcorder for your video, you get a much broader selection of design and feature choices. And, like their pocket-size camcorder counterparts, these shooters are plug-and-play, so they require no extra software.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX37 $349.95 direct l l l m m

The Panasonic Lumix DMCFX37 can record gorgeous HD video, but it loses points for so-so still images that exhibit some color fringing. CLICK HERE FOR MORE


Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T500 $399.99 direct l l l l m

Sony’s Cyber-shot DSC-T500 offers a slick design, a fast and intuitive touch screen, superb image quality, and HD video—but expect poor battery performance and shutter lag, too. CLICK HERE FOR MORE

Samsung NV24HD $349.00 direct l l l h m

Those looking for a basic camera might not enjoy the many buttons, dials, and retro feel, but if you like to tinker, you’ll appreciate all the features of this 10.2-megapixel camera— including solid HD video capture. CLICK HERE FOR MORE JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 71


Nikon D90 $999.95 list (body only) l l l l m

The Nikon D90 is notable for being the first digital SLR to shoot video (in HD, no less), a nice extra for an already quite capable shooter. CLICK HERE FOR MORE

Canon EOS 5D Mark II $2,699.00 direct (body only) Not yet rated. The first and only (so far) D-SLR capable of shooting video at full 1080p HD resolution. CLICK HERE FOR MORE


ideo has only recently made its way into D-SLRs, so there are just a couple of models available—and they’re not cheap. Prices for these high-def videocapable cameras start at $1,000—and that’s for the body only; add a few hundred dol-

lars more for a lens. Along with breathtaking still shots, though, you’ll get video with the potential to rival and even exceed that of consumer-grade HD camcorders. Still, D-SLRs lose out to some dedicated HD camcorders in storage and surround-sound recording.



Canon Vixia HV30 $899.00 direct l l l l m

The HV30 delivers stellar video quality, though recording video to miniDV tape feels low-tech and slows down your operation. CLICK HERE FOR MORE


hese consumer-grade camcorders let you shoot hours of video in full HD resolution (1,920-by-1,080 at 60 interlaced frames per second, or 1080i60). Many of them have built-in hard drives that can handle several hours of HD footage, while others record to tape or microSD cards. There are plenty of fun video and audio features, too. A few models here can shoot video at 24 fps to simulate film-like motion, and a couple can record audio in

Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. These products also have superb image stabilization to combat shaky hands, and they include optical zoom lenses up to 12X. The best part: Video quality is a lot sharper and less noisy than that of pocket camcorders and point-and-shoot cameras. Video handling is not as simple, though. Most require you to install third-party software like iMovie or Microsoft Movie Maker to play your movies back on your PC. JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 73


JVC Everio GZ-HD10 $799.99 direct l l l m m

Panasonic HDC-SD9-8GB

Despite some flaws, JVC’s Everio GZ-HD10 is a decent starter HD camcorder choice if you’re not hung up on capturing the highest-resolution video possible. What’s more, it comes bundled with video-editing and Blu-ray–burning software.

$699.95 direct


l l h m m

This Panasonic camcorder is small and lightweight, but its video quality is below par. CLICK HERE FOR MORE


Sony HDR-SR11 60GB High Definition Handycam Camcorder $1,099.99 direct l l l l m

Sony’s HDR-SR11 features a 60GB hard drive and delivers dazzling 1080i HD video, along with some cool extra features. But if you don’t already own compatible video-editing software, you’ll have to add that to its price. CLICK HERE FOR MORE

Samsung SC-HMX20C $849.99 list l l l h m

Samsung’s small, sleek SC-HMX20C camcorder is dead simple to operate, but Canon and Sony reign supreme in video image quality. CLICK HERE FOR MORE JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 75

Solutions Eight Tips for Super Searching Plain old Web searching doesn’t do the trick anymore: It yields too much random data. Here’s how to get what you want when you want it—sometimes before you ask for it. By Bill Dyszel


obody “surfs” the Web anymore. Some 80 percent of all online sessions begin with a search. Just look at Google: It makes over $1 billion every quarter on search ads. But plain old Web searching doesn’t do the trick anymore. Most Web searches turn up too much random data, or they don’t give you what you need when you need it.

If you’re an efficient searcher, you know to hit the Web running. Here are tricks that will help you get what you want when you want it—sometimes before you ask for it. Go on the Alert Why search every day for news about the next release of your favorite game? Google Alerts can send you a daily, weekly, or up-tothe-minute e-mail that sums everything up.

TOPIC TRACKER Let Google keep an eye out for topics of interest to you with Google Alerts.


80 AT WORK Market your business inexpensively

86 SecuRiTy 83 Office Take advantage Keep your of HomeGroup identity safe on in Windows 7 social networks

88 TipS iPhone, Word, and Windows tips, and more

LIvE MACrOS Microsoft Live Search macros let you build and save frequent searches within specific sites.

Yahoo alerts don’t offer Google’s level of detail, though the menu-oriented interface gives novices a clear idea of what alerts are available. But Yahoo makes you sign in before you can create an alert, a task that could easily sidetrack distractable users. Know an Operator or Two You can create tightly defined searches through search operators. For example, if you want to search only, append the operator to your query. If you really want to geek out on all the search possibilities, peruse Google’s and Yahoo’s lists of search modifiers. Take a Shortcut Firefox launches a search when you rightclick selected text and choose Search in Google from the shortcut menu. See “Firefox 3: 8 Things You Didn’t Know You

Could Do” to learn how to get zippier performance from Firefox. Get Personal Vanity surfing isn’t just an exercise in ego building. If you have a reputation to protect for any reason, you need to know what people can find out about you. Google’s Profiles service allows you to set up a personal page in which you describe yourself to the world of Google searchers (you know, everybody). This page gets priority in Google search results. Google profiles don’t erase nasty comments others may have made about you on the Web, but they do give you equal time to make your case. When you’re looking for personal information about other people, Web searches are often too general, but if you go to www, you can find a slightly scary level of detailed personal information about JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 77


FIREFOx SHORTCuT Firefox users can select text on a page and rightclick, then choose Search in Google to do a quick search on that text.

yourself or anyone else. The information you find on Pipl is frequently much more detailed than what you’ll get from Google. Even if you don’t like bad news, it’s usually better if you find the dirt on yourself before someone else does. Troll Twitter for Timely Tips Despite its reputation for disseminating drivel, Twitter is probably your best source for fresh, time-sensitive information, and an essential resource for ensuring that you’re dealing with current information. It also delivers information of a different nature—search engines tell you what a machine thinks you’re looking for, but a Twitter search tells you what other people are choosing to say about that topic right now. The mainstream search engines also conflate today’s information with stuff that’s been hanging around for years, while Twitter searches skew toward recent relevance. Twitter’s plain old search box can deliver a

mother lode of information about what’s on the world’s collective unconscious right this minute, as can the search tools in the most popular third-party services like Twitscoop and Twitterfall. You can also ferret out current trends through the search tools built into many of the free, downloadable helper applications for Twitter, including Tweetdeck, Seesmic Desktop, and AlertThingy. Live a Little Microsoft Live Search macros let you build and save frequent searches. For example, if you’re new to the Linux OS distribution Ubuntu and search the forums a lot, you can build a search (or use the already available macro) that includes those sites. When you’re ready to search, just plug in what you’re looking for and the search will automatically be limited to those sites. The macros are buried in the More menu at the right end of the main Live Search screen, and they can be really helpful. Go to the bot-


tom of the More menu and choose See All. You’ll see two headings that refer to Macros: Edit Macros and Find Macros. The Find Macros menu lets you browse macros other people have created, while Edit Macros is your choice for creating menus yourself. Tailor the Responses You Get The Internet makes more wrong information available to more people than ever before. Google now invites you to promote items from your search results (that is, move them up in the search ranking), or remove them altogether, by clicking the gray icons next to each returned link. As you repeat this action in different searches, Google’s soft-

ware learns to deliver results that are more reliable for you—more in line with what you tend to look for. So, for example, you might get recipes when you search on “chicken,” while Farmer Pete gets items about the care and feeding of laying hens. In addition, Google now tries to deliver “personalized” results by taking into account what you’ve clicked on in the past, so your own past search habits could affect the results you get as well. If you can’t have Web search results injected directly into your brain, that’s only because Google’s engineers haven’t yet figured out how to push advertising up there, too. The minute they do, you’ll know. n

solutions At WoRK

16 Cheap or Free Marketing Ideas How can you get your business noticed without breaking your budget during these tough economic times? By Kathy Yakal


n this economy, you need all the help you can get to ensure that your business is noticed amid all the noise. Marketing is key, but which approach to take? The first thing you may think of is to send out e-mail blasts or hire a consultant. While these are good ideas, everyone’s already doing the first, and the latter can be pricey. Besides, there are lots of things you can do on your own that are cheap or free. increase Visibility in Your Community Join local organizations that provide business networking opportunities, or start your own. Do volunteer work for a large charity. You’d be surprised at the marketing support such activities can bring. Participate in online Marketing Groups Search Twitter and other social-networking sites for groups meeting to discuss marketing. For example, Understanding Marketing holds a chat on Twitter for small businesses. It’s live each Tuesday from 8 to 9 p.m. eastern time. Search #smallbiz on Tweetgrid .com.

submit information to Blogs Blog writers are always looking for content for their sites. Target appropriate ones and send them press releases or descriptive e-mails. Reward Existing Customers Offer an exclusive incentive to your regular customers—only your regular customers. Notify them via e-mail or other contact methods, and direct them to an otherwise inaccessible page on your Web site where the offer appears. Get Your Customers to Bring in new Customers Offer an incentive like a discount for every customer who gets a friend to make a transaction with your business. Provide Free, Helpful information to Your Customers Such content should be related to your type of business and can include tips, hints, reviews, and other information that can drive sales. For example, a business selling paint can provide a guide to selecting the

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inExPEnsiVE iDEAs The Web site Good Marketing Ideas offers excellent marketing tips that cost very little to implement.

best paint for different uses. Such informative content is often available from suppliers. Use it. spruce up Your Web site Stale sites don’t attract customers. Fresh, frequently updated Web sites show browsers you’re a vibrant and active business. Let users subscribe to get update notices, then add new material regularly and often. offer Your noncompeting Business Customers a link Exchange A link exchange is much like a bulletin board that holds your customers’ business cards. The more links your business has to its Web site, the better your search engine placement. If more people see your business’s links, more will visit you. use Downtime for Marketing When times are slow, keep employees busy contacting customers. Create e-mail marketing documents your employees can send

to individual customers. Personal contact with customers gets results. Mass e-mails are less effective and, given today’s e-mail spam filters, may not be seen by many. Go for quality contacts rather than quantity. Visit Your own Web site Frequently Look for ways it can be improved. Too often, small business Web sites load slowly, are poorly organized, and are difficult to navigate. Fix bottlenecks that impede customers, and look for ways to get customers to act. Make sure all links work and lead to upto-date content. Test campaigns with printable coupons and other incentives. For more tips, see our story “Build a Better Web Site.” Get Active in the online Community Encourage employees to do the same. Don’t spam discussion forums or other social sites, but don’t be afraid to use signature lines containing links to your Web site. Establish common-sense rules for yourself and your employees regarding these socialJUNE 2009 PC MAGAZinE DiGitAl EDition 81

solutions At WoRK

networking and discussion sites, and always strive to be positive and helpful on them. Check out Your suppliers’ Web sites thoroughly Add links on your site to informative and helpful content. Many corporate sites offer instructional videos and other material that can inform your customers and lead them back to you, ready to do business. Get a toll-Free Phone number It makes you look more professional and encourages business—and the fees aren’t as high as you might think. launch a Blog and update it Daily Nothing reads “I don’t care” like a blog whose most recent entry is days old. Assign this task to employees who can write and spell—an illiterate blog is worse than no blog at all. Introduce people to your com-

CHAt on tWittER The site Understanding Marketing holds a weekly chat and Q&A session geared toward small-business marketing.

pany and its staff. Highlight products. Run contests and give away company swag. Announce specials and upcoming productline changes. Establish a “customer-of-themonth” tradition and do regular write-ups. Yes, use Facebook and twitter Having a Facebook page may not earn you any new business, but not having one may cause customers to ask why you don’t. Use the page to somehow put a more human face on your company identity (perhaps with photos of your office and employees). Twitter is a young technology, and everyone’s scrambling to figure out useful applications. In the meantime, let your customers at least follow you, and implement a strategy similar to what you’re using in your blog. Visit online Marketing sites Good Marketing Ideas is an excellent site, with plenty of useful tips. The suggestions here cost little or nothing to implement, and will likely lead you to resources you might never have thought of on your own. never surrender Getting new and potential customers to notice you is an ongoing—and sometimes uphill—battle, and one you can’t ever stop fighting. Pick a new idea every week or two and implement it, no matter how small it is. Call a meeting of employees, order pizza for lunch, and brainstorm; offer prizes for ideas that get picked. Before long your marketing might just pay off in new sales—and happier, more committed customers. n

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solutions office/oPeRAtinG sYsteMs

Windows 7 Homegroup

Networking Made Easy At long last, Windows has made home networks easy. Here’s what you need to know. By Neil Randall


icrosoft has been trying for a long while to make home networks easy to use, with automatic connection and ready access to shared files and folders. With the Windows 7 feature known as “HomeGroup,” it seems that the company has finally succeeded. HomeGroup lets you create a home network with built-in and expandable sharing and access capabilities. It’s a neat new feature of Windows 7—and it works only with Windows 7, so Vista, XP, Mac, and Linux users can’t join in on the fun. Windows 7 lets you establish three types of networks—Home, Work, and Public—and a homegroup can exist only if the networks on all your PCs are set to Home. To configure your Windows 7 PC’s network as Home, open the Control Panel and choose Network and Internet, then Network and Sharing Center (you can also access the Network and Sharing Center by right-clicking on the network icon in the system tray). Verify that under the Network icon you show “Home

cHoose netWoRk tYPe You must be part of a Home network to use a homegroup.

network.” If not, click the link—Public network or Work network—and choose Home Network instead. From that point on, you can create a homegroup. After you set your network to Home, in fact, Windows 7 takes you directly to the Create a homegroup dialog box. If your network is already set to Home, click the link named Choose homegroup and sharing options, and in the subsequent dialog box click Create. JUNE 2009 Pc MAGAZine DiGitAl eDition 83

solutions office/oPeRAtinG sYsteMs

HoMeGRouP PRoPeRties From the Change homegroup settings control panel, you can change the password and move to the Advanced Sharing dialog.

The next step is choosing which kinds of media you want to share with other members of the homegroup. The options are pictures, music, videos, documents, and (oddly enough) printers. These options correspond with the libraries Windows 7 creates by default when it’s installed on each PC, and in turn with the folders created by default in each user profile. Essentially, what you’re doing by opting to share any of these items is giving other PCs in the homegroup access to the specified folders in your user profile. In my case, for example, that means C:\Users\Neil\Pictures, C:\Users\Neil\Music, and so forth. In addition, the homegroup gives users access to the C:\Users\Public folder on your drive. You can add other shareable locations to the homegroup later, as we’ll see. Once you’ve finished this step, Windows 7 opens a screen containing a password for your homegroup; as we’ll also see, a sec-

ond PC will require that password to join the homegroup. For now, be sure to store the password (you can simply highlight and copy it to a text file or an e-mail message, for example) or make a printout of the info, which includes a brief set of instructions for other users. Click Finish and your homegroup is set up. The Change homegroup settings control panel gives you an opportunity to change the password you’ve established and access the Advanced Sharing Settings screen, but one important thing it does not allow you to do—at least from here—is add more libraries, folders, or files to the homegroup. This seems a rather strange omission, given that the point of homegroups is customizability of resource access. At this point, even though it’s not really necessary, check out the Advanced Sharing Settings screen by clicking Change advanced sharing settings. On the subse-

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quent two-item dialog, click the down arrow beside Home or Work. Here you’ll find a long screen of six options, a useful guide to how Windows 7 home networks are configured (in fact, all Windows 7 networks use these basic simple configuration options). The most important points to note in the Advanced Sharing dialog are network discovery (allowing other PCs to find yours), file and printer sharing, and media sharing. Without these turned on, you lose much of the point of having a homegroup: the seamless sharing among computers in your house of files that are stored in a central location and on a single large hard drive to which files are constantly added. Once you’ve established the homegroup, computers that see your network can join it. To do so, the user of each computer opens the Network and Sharing Center from Control Panel on that computer and clicks “Choose homegroup”—the resulting screen asks “Do you want to join a homegroup?” and displays those available. Click Join Now to become a member of that homegroup. When your computer joins the homegroup, a link on the dialog box will take you to the Windows Help screen about accessing resources on the homegroup. This is good introductory material for any users unfamiliar with this kind of resource sharing, especially those unacquainted with making their own resources available. By default, all the libraries created with the installation of Windows 7 are shared on the homegroup. You are not, however, restricted to these libraries when it comes

libRARY sHARinG To change existing sharing of libraries, right-click the library and reselect your Share With option, choosing the option you want.

to sharing. As you and other members add libraries, you can share each of them manually. Open the Libraries window from the taskbar and find the one you want to share. Right-click it and choose Share With | Homegroup. There are two such choices: Read and Read/Write. If you want other users to be able to access the folder without being able to add to it from their machines, choose Read; if you want the library to be fully functional for all users, choose Read/ Write. You can share individual folders and even files on the homegroup as well, although putting folders inside libraries is by far the more efficient way to do this. n JUNE 2009 Pc MAGAZine DiGitAl eDition 85

solutions sECuRitY

I Stole My Friend’s Online Identity Even if you haven’t yet jumped on the social-networking bandwagon, you’re not safe. Here’s how to keep someone from creating an account in your name. By Matthew D. Sarrel


’m sure we’re all familiar with Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 tale The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It centers on a series of odd occurrences involving the kind and responsible Dr. Henry Jekyll and his hidden side, the morally bereft Mr. Edward Hyde. Anyone wanting to bring out his evil side can easily do so online. Remember, on the Internet no one knows you’re a dog; you can be whoever you wish. Isn’t that fun? Flip over the coin and it might no longer be fun for you. If you can be whoever you wish, then so can everyone else. Everyone can be anyone and do anything—isn’t that why we love the Web so much? I’ve written a lot about the problem of identity theft—the kind in which your financial identity in the real world gets stolen— but this time I’m talking about protecting your online identity. Your fragile and public online identity is protected haphazardly at best. Web 2.0’s collaborative nature and social networking’s ease of access have seen to that. Compromising these accounts is a

fairly trivial feat. A criminal could break into your account and misrepresent your online persona, damaging your reputation, exploiting the trust relationships with your friends and colleagues, and leaving you to wake up in the morning as Dr. Jekyll did—with a big mess of unknown origin to clean up. no Hacking necessary Guess what? It’s even easier if you don’t yet have an online identity. A person doesn’t need to hack your existing account and can just set up a fraudulent one to begin with. This ought to light a fire under you to create those profiles, if only to lock them down. Fifteen years ago the threat was domain squatting; now the threat is social squatting. If you’ve never signed up for sites like Blogspot, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Twitter, then it’s disturbingly easy for a miscreant to do so for you. And then there’s no telling what kind of other, more malicious activities your co-opted identity can serve as a jumping-off spot for. To demonstrate how easy it is to take

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over an online identity, I created a series of accounts (, LinkedIn, and Facebook) in someone else’s name. I obtained basic info about her from a public document search on the Web to make the profiles look more realistic. About a minute after joining Facebook, I (she) had already started receiving friend invitations. By the end of the day, I (she) had amassed a nice little following. I even exchanged heartfelt greetings on her account with some of my (her) new friends. Despite the fact that I’d larded her profiles with clearly false information, no one expressed the slightest suspicion. This was little more than a proof-ofconcept exploit, although I did enjoy my brief stint as a woman. From here, the attack landscape is pretty broad. I could do anything from posting an embarrassing profile

or status to using that profile as a way to attack others. I could use my fake profile to send malware masquerading as a Facebook “gift” app. And I could learn more about my victim and her friends, enough to seriously mess with their lives. For example, I could go rob someone whose Facebook status says he or she is on vacation. Even easier, I could use PayPal’s Pay Me or Spare Change Facebook apps to ask friends for money. How does this happen, and why is it so easy? And does a Web site have a responsibility to its customers to keep them safe? Of course, Facebook and MySpace argue that they just built the playground and that it’s not their job to nanny us, but I take exception to that. They should have made safe playgrounds—but in social networks, it’s up to us to ensure our own safety. n

Keeping Yourself safe 1. C laim your name with every new social network that comes out. Even if you leave a blank profile, you are at least protecting that username and perhaps part of your online identity. 2. Monitor social networks for your name. Build custom queries on search engines and check up on them monthly. Start with SocialMention, where you can save your search as an RSS feed, for quick notification if your name shows up somewhere it shouldn’t. 3. When you do find someone using your name, read the profile carefully to make sure the person is in fact an imposter. Then immediately contact customer service and request that the fraudulent profile be taken down. Don’t contact the owner of the fraudulent profile. The last thing you need to do is add fuel to the fire. 6. Facebook safety: As a general rule, never follow an external link or grant a Facebook app full access to your profile. 7. Use out-of-network means to verify invitations to connect. Try to contact the invitee through another e-mail account to ask if the invitation is indeed legit.—MDS

JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZinE DiGitAl EDition 87


Tips Useful tidbits from PCMag editorial staff, Labs analysts, and readers IPHONE

Sync Your iPhone’s Calendar with Google Calendar This new sync capability was announced by Google just before we were set to publish this tip roundup. Yes, you can now sync your Google Calendar with your iPhone without resorting to any third-party services, but it won’t happen automatically. First, you need to make sure your iPhone firmware is Version 2.2 or later. Then you visit .com/mobile/apple/sync.html, and take a few proactive steps. Don’t ignore the step of backing up your contacts, as the Google Sync setup will delete them from the device. There are a couple of disadvantages to backing up your contacts to Google Contacts— doing so means you’re no longer syncing with Outlook or MobileMe contacts, if you’d set one of those up. And you’re sharing all your contacts with Google, which may or may not be a problem, depending on your comfort level. Finally, don’t be confused by the fact that you actually set up your Gmail account as a Microsoft Exchange account rather than the Google Mail choice—Google Sync uses an Exchange server to accomplish the syncing.

In the next 13 steps of the process, you’ll enter Google’s server name and choose whether you want Contacts, Calendars, or both synced; and finally pass a couple of scary red warning screens reminding you that you’ll lose the existing contacts and calendar entries on the phone. Thereafter, your contacts and calendar entries will sync with the beta Google services rather than MobileMe or Exchange. If you’ve enabled Push in your iPhone’s Fetch New Data control panel, you won’t have to do anything for the info to update. Otherwise, you can sync every 15 or 30 minutes, or manually when in your Gmail inbox. WORD 2007

The Word Status Bar In Word 2003 the status bar displays a number of useful status items that have vanished in Word 2007. Maybe you don’t need an indicator to let you know that macro recording is on, or that extended selection is enabled, but it can be awfully handy to see at a glance that Word is tracking changes or that your keystrokes will overtype existing text. The Word Options dialog won’t help. You can scan it ’til your eyes cross without find-


STATuS uPDATE Right-click the status bar in Word 2007 to customize it, so that the indicators you enjoyed viewing in Word 2003 return to you.

ing any settings to bring back those handy indicators. What you need to do is rightclick the status bar itself. That brings up a menu of 20 distinct items that can appear on the status bar. Now you can have it your own way.—Neil J. Rubenking WINDOWS

Save Screen Grabs the Right Way A lot of people know that pressing the PrintScreen/PrtSc key puts an image of the entire desktop into the clipboard, and pressing Alt along with that key takes a screenshot of the active application. But many people don’t know what to do next. They paste the screenshot into a Word document—bad idea! The resulting file is way bigger than it needs to be. Instead, launch the Paint applet from the Accessories menu and paste the image into Paint. Now save it in a compressed image format to save space. The Portable Network Graphics (PNG) format is a great choice because it compresses the image

without losing any detail. Next best is JPG, which loses some detail during the compression process. Just don’t save as a BMP file. A BMP screenshot of a 1,280-by-1,024 desktop always takes 3.75MB of disk space. The file size of that same screenshot as a PNG image will vary, but it can be closer to 100KB.—NJR MuLTIMEDIA

IR Not Working? Move the Sensor Find out where the IR sensor is on your Media Center PC, TV, or other bit of hometheater equipment. If you put the equipment way over to the right or left, and deep in a cabinet (even with an open front), you may not be able to use your remote. Can you move it somewhere more accessible? If not, you might want to look into an RF-to-IR repeater like the ones on Logitech Harmony remotes for these situations. You’ll also be able to control your stereo from another room (with an RF remote) as a fringe benefit.—Joel Santo Domingo JUNE 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 89


Editors’ Choices in Key Categories For the complete reviews of these products and more Editors’ Choices check out


HP Pavilion Elite m9400t $843 list BuDGET/VALuE



HP Pavilion dv2800t

Canon Pixma MP980 Wireless $299.99 direct

$1,049 direct NEW Acer Aspire 3935 n

$900 street

NEW Lenovo IdeaCentre k220 n


Velocity Micro raptor signature Edition $6,999 direct Maingear Ephex (Core i7) $7,799 direct

Dell studio XPs 435 $1,769 direct



HP Photosmart A636 Compact Photo Printer $149.99 direct


Lenovo ThinkPad usB Portable secure Drive $319 list

NETWOrkING Netgear Powerline Adapter kit (XAVB101) $130 street

Clickfree HD325 $180 list

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OCZ rally2 Turbo usB 2.0 Flash Drive (32GB)

NEW spiceworks 3.5 Free n NEW CloudEngines Pogoplug n

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Apple iMac (Nvidia GeForce 9400M) $799 list

Western Digital MyBook studio Edition II $430 list


sony VAIO VGC-Js130J/P


Vizio VP505XVT $1,499.99 list

HP storageWorks AiO400t


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Dell OptiPlex 755 $1,183 direct LAPTOPs & NOTEBOOks MAINsTrEAM

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Penryn) $2,899 direct GAMING

Alienware M17 $2,059 direct MuLTIMEDIA

Lenovo ThinkPad W700 $4,240 direct

HP LP2275w $349 direct Dell ultrasharp 2408WFP $689 direct

Canon Canoscan 5600F

Asus EeePC 1000HE $400 street BusINEss

Lenovo ThinkPad T400 $1,580 direct

n sony Bravia kDL-46XBr8 $3,999.99 list

samsung LN52A750 $3,999 list sony XEL-1 OLED Digital TV $2,499.99 list

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PrOJECTOrs Canon realis X700 $2,500 list NEC VT800 $1,000 street Dell M109s $499 direct PrINTErs

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Acer Aspire 6930G-6723 Dell studio XPs 16 $1,804 direct

sharp Aquos LC-52D85u





samsung ML-2851ND $150 street COLOr LAsEr

Lexmark C544dn $499 direct sTANDArD INkJET

Canon Pixma iP4300 $99.99 direct



Canon Powershot A1000 Is $349.99 list D-sLr

Nikon D300 $1,800 street Canon EOs rebel Xsi $699 list suPErZOOM

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 $399.95 list

DIGITAL VIDEO CAMErAs Creative Vado Pocket Video Cam HD $299.99 direct sony HDr-sr11 $1,099.99 direct


Adobe Creative suite 3 $999 direct VIDEO-EDITING sOFTWArE

CyberLink DVD suite 7 ultra $129.95 direct PHOTO EDITING

Adobe Photoshop Cs4 $1,150 list Picasa 3 (beta) Free DIGITAL PHOTO FrAME

sony VAIO VGF-CP1 $299 list MP3 PLAyErs




Air sharing $6.99 direct

rIM BlackBerry Curve 8330

stanza Free

From $229.99 with contract

Photogene $2.99 direct


Apple iPhone 3G


From $199.99 with contract sPrINT

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rIM BlackBerry Curve 8330

rhapsody From $12.99/month

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slacker Free


Apple iLife ’09 $79 direct

samsung Memoir sGH-T929

Google Earth 5.0 Free

$299 direct

simCity 2009 (for iPhone) Free


samsung knack sCH-u310


Microsoft Zune 120GB $249 list

MLB 09: The show $59.99 list

$39.99 with contract

NEW Hulu (spring 2009) Free n



Apple iPod touch 8GB,

Nokia N82 $629 direct

$229 direct

Apple iPod nano 16GB, $199 direct

samsung yP-u3 (2GB) $90 list


$549 direct

Hercules XPs 2.1 Lounge $60 street

Logitech Pure-Fi Dream $200 direct

MEDIA EXTENDErs sonos Bundle 150 $999 direct slingbox PrO-HD $299 list GAMING CONsOLEs sony Playstation 3 $399 direct GPs DEVICEs Garmin nüvi 265T $279.99 list TomTom One 140-s $199.95 list GADGETs Amazon kindle 2 $359 direct


Aliph New Jawbone $129.99 list

LastPass 1.5 Free

NEW Plantronics Voyager Pro n


Webroot AntiVirus with Antispyware 6.0 $39.95 direct

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sPEAkErs/DOCks Chestnut Hill sound George




NEW ultimate Ears MetroFi 170 n

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Norton Internet security 2009 $69.99 yearly Norton 360 version 3.0


$69.99 yearly


sierra Wireless 598u $249.99 list

Net Nanny 6.0 $39.99 yearly BACkuP


sOs Online Backup (beta)

Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro

$19.95 direct

$449 direct


QuickBase $250 direct/month

2GB, free; 50GB, $9.95 monthly

skype 4.0 Free Ipswitch Imail server Premium v10 25 licenses, $1,195 direct NEW Viigo for BlackBerry n


Dragon Naturally speaking 10 $99.99 direct

Adobe Illustrator Cs4

FINANCIAL QuickBooks Accounting Pro Edition 2009 $199.95 list Quicken Home & Business 2009 $79.99 direct (Winter 2009) Free

$599 direct june 2009 PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION 91

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