Daylight saving time updates for Windows, home PC buying advice, new Microsoft consumer support sites, and more of what I’ve read

It’s the day before the night before Christmas, and all through the home the boys are sledding after a downpour of snow. The schools were closed and the streets were all slick as many people awaited the jolly Saint Nick.  With no chains for my tires and bundled up tight, I got in my car and made my way to my office.

OK, it doesn’t exactly rhyme, but before I head into the office today, here’s a quick post with a few of the things I’ve read over this snowy weekend.  In all, it looks like we received about a foot and a half (nearly half a metre) of snow over the last few days and today is the first day I won’t have to shovel the driveway.  In all, I dug out our house four times, built two snowmen (each taller than the average ten year old boy), fielded a half dozen or so escalations emails from consumers, and dug out five cars, hopeful that good karma will be with me through the holidays… or at least avoiding any more snowfall when I head home from the office today.

Announcement: Microsoft Windows updates to daylight saving time and time zones now available on Automatic Update — As I posted previously on the December Updates to Daylight Saving Time and Time Zones, we have released a cumulative DST update for Windows operating systems, KB article 955839, December 2008 cumulative time zone update for Microsoft Windows operating systems.  This release replaces KB article 951072, and is now via Automatic Update (as of December 9, 2008), categorized as a roll-up and be included in the ITMU CAB. Additional time zone changes have been included since the previous cumulative update, including (in the form of Registry subkey name and (Display name): Argentina (Buenos Aires), Central Brazilian (Manaus), E. South America (Brasilia), Egypt (Cairo), Iran (Tehran), Israel (Jerusalem), Mauritius (Port Louis), Morocco (Casablanca), Pacific SA (Santiago) and Pakistan (Islamabad,Karachi).

Santa Claus"What kind of a computer should I buy?" with suggestions from Tony Hoffman of PC Magazine — As per a previous Tweet, I recently updated my answer to a popular question around this time of year: "What kind of a computer should I buy?"  I noted that there is something for everyone, at all price points.  It seems that new PCs are high on many people’s holiday shopping lists, and the price:performance is better than ever before.

Announcements: the kick-off of Microsoft Answers beta, courtesy of Chris Kilbourn — A couple of new sites have hit, in support of our customers: the new community on the Microsoft Answers Site, Microsoft’s first consumer-focused support community.  Chris Kilbourn (the Lead Site Manager for TechNet) posted today about the launch… We also recently launched support for Windows Live customers at

Pandora Comes To Windows Mobile | Sarah In Tampa | Channel 10 Posted By: Sarah Perez | Dec 11th @ 9:54 AM The popular music streaming service from Pandora is now available as a Windows Mobile application. With this new app, you can stream free music on your Windows Mobile handset – just go to from your mobile browser. If you’ve never used Pandora before, all you have to do to get started with the app is enter in the name of one of your favorite artists, songs, or – if you like to kick it really old-school – you can enter in the name of a classical composer instead. The app will then create your own personalized radio station based on that entry. The station will play songs from that same artist as well as similar music. If you’re already a Pandora user, all you have to do is sign in to access all of your existing stations from the app. Unfortunately, the only Windows Mobile device the Pandora application currently works on is the Motorola Q9c. Hopefully, they will support more in the future.

Holiday Smackdown: iPod Touch Vs. Zune – — Asher Hawkins, 12.19.08, 02:40 PM EST "Side-by-side comparisons produced some surprising results. "My name is Asher, and I’m a recovering iPod junkie. Last fall I kicked my three-year habit when the earphone jack on my black, 30-gigabyte iPod Classic came loose, leaving me with fuzzy sound on the right side. I didn’t have time to get it fixed–and funny enough, after a few days I didn’t much miss it. "Even so, when an editor asked me to compare Microsoft’s Zune to Apple’s iPod Touch, I was sure my affinity for any and all hardware incubated in Cupertino, Calif., (I’ve been a Mac user since age 5) would destroy my objectivity."

The craziest tech stories ever told | InfoWorld — December 23, 2008 "There are few jobs as, um, interesting as being in IT. InfoWorld has collected some of the most memorable experiences from the trenches. "Amid the everyday IT work of keeping businesses humming arise the ingredients that so captivate the techie’s work life: the blundering coworker, be they manager, colleague, or contractor, or the problem-solving skills gleaned from one day, three years, 20 years in IT. InfoWorld’s readers share the more flavorful ingredients — some surprisingly delectable, others decidedly less so — in InfoWorld’s Off the Record blog. As 2008 comes to an end, we wanted to share some of the year’s more memorable reader tales. Because this blog is written by you, the many people who claim the weekly "Anonymous" byline, no two experiences, situations, or takeaways are exactly alike."

Extend the Range of Your Zune FM Transmitter ( — This mod will guide you through the steps necessary to open your Zune FM transmitter and connect a longer antenna to inscrease the range. Estimated Mod Time: 25-35 minutes Mod Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult

NINE Questions with Scott Hanselman — Talk about a guy who needs no introduction… if you’re in the technology industry, or *gasp* a software developer in the Microsoft space, but haven’t heard of Scott Hanselman before now, then crawl out from under your rock and go check out his blog and podcast, but first read these NINE Questions:

Digital Cable Switch Delayed — Confused Yet? – — By JR Raphael, PC World, Friday, December 19, 2008; 12:19 AM "In a letter to Congress cable companies said they are putting the brakes on the transition to digital TV. Confused? Here’s what you need to know. "Feeling confused with all the digital TV transition talk? You’re not alone. America’s cable TV operators decided this week to delay the migration of their analog channels to digital ones. The operators say too many people were mixing that process up with the big broadcast shift to digital scheduled for next February."

QAM tuner – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia — From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (Redirected from QAM Tuner) Jump to: navigation, search This article is about North American digital television. For other uses of QAM, see quadrature amplitude modulation. In North American digital video, a QAM tuner is a device present in some digital televisions and similar devices which enables direct reception of digital cable channels without the use of a set-top box.

Panasonic to acquire Sanyo Electric | Green Tech – CNET News — December 19, 2008 11:06 AM PST, Posted by Dawn Kawamoto "Panasonic announced Friday it plans to acquire Sanyo Electric in a deal valued at 800 million yen ($8.9 billion), giving the electronics giant a leg up in the rechargeable-battery business. "The deal, which earlier this week reportedly had edged closer to coming together, aims to leverage their operations in light of a weakening economy. "In outlining the deal, the companies stated: Panasonic and Sanyo recognize that existing strategies must not only be accelerated, but also that drastic action is now required for further strengthening initiatives to achieve potential revenue and profit growth in the global economic recession stemming from the financial crisis as well as in the midst of intensified global competition."

This Week on C9: Top 9 MS Stories of 2008 and best of This Week on C9 | This Week On Channel 9, Posted By: Dan Fernandez | Today @ 11:54 AM For our last episode of the year, Dan and Brian do a 2008 retrospective and pick the Top 9 Microsoft-related stories of 2008. 9. Microsoft plus or minus Yahoo 8. The coolness that is Photosynth 7. Windows Live & Live Mesh 6. XNA Community Games 5. Silverlight 2 & NBC Olympics 4. Service Pack 1 for Visual Studio 2008 & .NET Framework 3.5 3. Windows 7 2. Azure Services Platform 1. Bill Gates Leaves Microsoft Plus a compendium of our favorite clips and moments from This Week on Channel 9.

You don’t need satellite TV when times get tough | Wireless – CNET News — December 19, 2008 4:00 AM PST, Posted by Marguerite Reardon (Editor’s note: This is part of a series of stories about the recession’s effect on the tech industry.) "A year before the U.S. economic crisis came to a head, Debra James of Oakland said she saw the writing on the wall and decided to trim the household budget. Topping the list were things like satellite television. "After a few Google searches, James said she found a wealth of legitimate sources for TV programming online. Sites such as Hulu, Fancast, Joost, YouTube, and most major TV networks’ Web sites offer TV shows and other video content for free. Using an existing rooftop antenna, James plugged her TV into the hook-up to get more than 50 high-definition TV channels over-the-air. The cost for these HD channels: zero. And instead of spending an extra $20 a month for HBO or any other premium movie channels, James subscribed to a $17-a-month Netflix service, which allows her to rent three movies at a time…"

The Battle of the Fake Bands – by Mike Musgrove,, Sunday, December 14, 2008; Page F01 "The American people have an important and historic decision to make this holiday season: Guitar Hero World Tour or Rock Band 2? "Here’s how it goes: Fork over about $180 at your local electronics store, and you get a large box. Inside are a drum kit and a guitar — or, at least, video game controllers shaped as such — along with a microphone and a game disc. Get a few friends together, and you can put together a fake rock band. Hit the right notes on the guitar controller and sing the right tones into the microphone, and you and your friends can briefly live a videogame version of the rock-and-roll dream. "I’ve played both quite a bit over the past few weeks and can say one thing for sure: They both offer pretty much the same kick, and neither is a dud. Beyond that, it gets a little more complicated."

Sneak Peek 2009: Elizabeth Corcoran On Technology –, 12.17.08, 06:00 PM EST "Led–and at times goaded–by the Obama administration, companies throughout the U.S. will be scrambling to be part of the reinvest in America program." "The Big Trend: Rebuilding America. Led–and at times goaded–by the Obama administration, companies throughout the U.S. will be scrambling to be part of the reinvest in America program. Silicon Valley companies will show some novel leadership by putting big investments into the U.S. and by looking for innovative ways to spur entrepreneurism.

Survey: Holiday spending on electronics remains in demand | Digital Media – CNET News, December 18, 2008 8:42 AM PST, Posted by Dawn Kawamoto. "Holiday spending on electronics for family members remains high on the to-do list, according to a survey by IDC and the National Research Network (NRN). "According to a survey of more than 3,000 consumers, 62 percent of those surveyed indicated they planned to spend the same amount or more on electronics for family members this holiday. "Those surprising results come as big box electronics retailers face a challenging time. Best Buy announced a 77 percent drop in earnings and call for employee buyouts earlier this month and Circuit City filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month."

No Neutral Position On Net Neutrality –, by Brian Caulfield, 12.15.08, 06:31 PM EST "The argument got muddled today. The blogs had a field day on Monday with the question of whether Google’s plan to stash its content close to the telecommunications networks violates its support for one of theological underpinnings of the Internet age, namely net neutrality. "The basic notion of net neutrality is simple: Network operators must sell access to their networks without regard to who is buying that access and what they plan to do with it. There’s irony in suggesting that Google (nasdaq: GOOG – news – people ) may back away from this idea largely because Google has been–and is likely to remain–one of the great beneficiaries of the tenet. "

Onkyo HT-S9100THX – THX® Integrated System Plus™ Certified 7.1-Channel Home Theater System — The HT-S9100THX is a good HTIB for many home environments. •THX Integrated System Plus Certified •HDMI V1.3a repeater (4 in/1 out, 1080p compatible) •HDMI 1080i upscaling powered by Faroujda DCDi Edge •Audyssey 2EQ for Room Correction and Speaker Calibration •Audyssey Dynamic EQ for Loudness Correction

Building the Perfect Smartphone: PC World’s Design -   MSN Tech & Gadgets, By Danny Allen, PC World What would you include in the perfect smartphone? Here’s a concept we’ve put together; it melds the top features of today’s smartphones to build the dream device of tomorrow. This is not a real product … yet.

TV Has License to Kill Movies at iTunes, Netflix, By Greg Sandoval, CNET News 1 | 2 | Next > Apple is an Internet retailer and Netflix is a Web video rental service, but Hollywood treats them as if they are potential competitors to TV broadcasters. In recent weeks, customers of iTunes and Netflix’s streaming digital-movie service have noticed that a growing number of titles are disappearing from the sites or are scheduled to be removed. MacWorld wrote a story about how one of the site’s contributors noticed that of the 15 films he bookmarked for future viewing at iTunes, nine were no longer available. Among the movies that vanished were "Charlie Wilson’s War," "Eastern Promises" and "Michael Clayton."

Mobile Net Switch: Manage network configurations in a click! ( Community) By Ron Barrett on Wed, 12/17/2008 – 7:29am. If you have the need to connect to more than one network, better yet, if you send out users and need them to connect to multiple networks easily and with minimal pain. Moreover, if they need to map drives, connect to printers and be able to operate without any glitches. Mobile Net Switch is your solution.

Pew Internet & American Life Project Commentary — "The mobile device will be the primary connection tool to the internet for most people in the world in 2020."

Consumers Want Personal, Online Interaction with Brands — "62% of consumers say that direct and personal communication with a company’s online brand representative is preferable to ads" Thanks to @steverubel on Twitter for the links.

The Best Twitter Applications (from A Day in the Life of a Brazilian-American)

Lifehacker Top 10: Top 10 DIY Photography Tools

Google says it still stands by Net neutrality — The Associated Press, 12.15.2008 — Google denied that it had reversed its stance on the issue of "Net neutrality" and dismissed a story in Monday’s edition of The Wall Street Journal on the subject as "confused." Citing undisclosed sources, the newspaper reported that Google had been in talks with major cable and phone companies about getting preferential treatment for traffic to and from its sites.

Nintendo Wii scores huge month as Xbox 360 tops PS3 for second place By Todd Bishop on December 11, 2008 at 3:40 PST — "Nintendo’s Wii ran away with the U.S. video-game console market in November, selling more than 2 million units and setting itself apart as the top choice among holiday shoppers despite aggressive price cuts by Microsoft’s Xbox 360. Numbers just released by the NPD Group market research firm show the Nintendo Wii selling 2.04 million units in the U.S. for the month. Its Nintendo DS handheld gaming system also did well, with 1.57 million units sold. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 sold 836,000 units, while Sony’s PlayStation 3 came in at 378,000 units, according to the NPD data."

How do I … tweak Vista indexing options for better performance? | Microsoft Windows |, December 15th, 2008 by Jack Wallen "Have you ever done a search using the Microsoft Windows Vista search utility? It is pretty fast, isn’t it? The reason for that speed is indexing. Vista indexes many of the files on your machine in order to keep searches fast. But indexing can decrease performance if not managed properly. The more files your machine has to index, or the more you change your files, the more your machine has to work. As you would expect, your machine’s performance can take a serious hit with extensive indexing. Here are some tips for changing the indexing setting in Vista."

New solutions to remotely secure a stolen laptop on – December 12th, 2008 by Paul Mah "In the past, a lost laptop automatically meant a compromise of whatever confidential data it contained. This is changing for the better, however. Here are the latest developments on the anti-theft front, featuring remote management or deletion of data for laptops."

10 mistakes new Windows administrators make | 10 Things | – By Debra Littlejohn Shinder: "Whether you’re new to network administration or to the Windows environment, a few common oversights and mistakes can trip you up. Deb Shinder explains how to avoid some of the problems new Windows admins often encounter."

Transform Windows Vista into Windows VXP — the hybrid ( From Mark Kaelin’s Microsoft Windows blog: "Those of you who are using Vista and are adapting to it, seem to be doing OK. However, those in the disgruntled camp, well, you appear to be absolutely miserable. While some have opted to abandon Vista and go back to XP, it would seem that many don’t have that option and as such are being forced, against their will, to use Vista when all they want is XP. "Well, I gave it some thought and figured that I would throw those poor folks a bone. In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I’m going to show those of you who hate Vista but are stuck with it how to convert Windows Vista into Windows XP by stripping out as many of Vista’s components as possible, thereby making the OS both look and operate more like XP. "We can even come up with a fancy name for the transformed OS. Let’s call it Windows VXP! That way, you can have your cake and eat it too!"

Live Mesh: The Killer App for Netbooks (steve clayton: geek in disguise) "This weekend I was reading 7 Tools To Make Your WinXP Netbook Shine on GigaOm and commented there that they missed a trick IMHO by not including Live Mesh. Okay so Live Mesh as a service is still in beta but in my experience it’s rock solid and is a (perhaps THE) killer app for Netbooks. Here’s my thinking based on my experience of running a Samsung NC10 for a few weeks "(note that you can now to peer to peer sync with Mesh that removes the 5gb limit we have on the cloud store – making both of these scenarios possible)"

Google Wants Its Own Fast Track on the Web – — DECEMBER 15, 2008 By VISHESH KUMAR and CHRISTOPHER RHOADS "The celebrated openness of the Internet — network providers are not supposed to give preferential treatment to any traffic — is quietly losing powerful defenders. "Google Inc. has approached major cable and phone companies that carry Internet traffic with a proposal to create a fast lane for its own content, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Google has traditionally been one of the loudest advocates of equal network access for all content providers."

Two New Devices Give Presentations Some Portability on AllThingsD — December 10, 2008 by Nick Wingfield "Digital projectors are the best way to get the biggest possible image for a PowerPoint presentation or a movie. But the projectors are often pretty big themselves, with even most “pocket projectors” too big to stuff into the typical pocket or laptop bag. "That is changing. A new miniature-chip technology from Texas Instruments (TXN) called pico is making digital projectors truly portable, instead of merely luggable. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been using two of the first pico-based projectors on the market, Dell’s M109S and Optoma’s Pico PK-101. "Despite its extra bulk, the Dell M109S literally outshines the Optoma projector. It produces a bright image that I found very watchable, even if it wasn’t high-definition. I projected the movie “James and the Giant Peach” onto an interior wall of my house, creating an image that was about 7 feet, measured diagonally." – Iwata Asks: Wii Fit — "For the last part of this series, I would like to interview the five development staff members involved in the sound, design and planning of Wii Fit."
6 Best Games for Balance Boarding (Besides Wii Fit) – Green Pixels — by Nicole Tanner Millions of people all around the world put down nearly $100 earlier this year to use their Wiis for something other than games. Wii Fit, which is still in short supply at many retailers, introduced a new peripheral known at the Balance Board. If you have one of these or you’re thinking about buying one, you may wonder if it’s actually worth the cost for basically one game, especially if you’ve fallen out of the Wii Fit habit. But never fear, because this holiday season is brining a number of releases that take advantage of the peripheral. Here are some of your best bets.
Of interest is this great guide to family board games (Wil Wheaton’s blog) "Luckily, there are a lot of games that are fun for nerds like me and normals like my wife and kids, games like Settlers, Carcassonne, Spooks, Last Night on Earth, Apples to Apples, and classics like Sorry and Risk. But if you’re not as seriously OCD about games as I am, you may not know where to start when you’re contemplating a family game purchase. Well, this morning, I came across a fantastic guide to family board games in the SFGate, and I just had to share."

Brier Dudley | Comcast digital switch stirs more questions | Seattle Times Newspaper — Brier provides some FAQs on Comcast digital switcheroo. "Readers had a lot of great questions after Monday’s column about Comcast switching its service in Washington state to digital, a move that’s going to require nearly every customer to add boxes to every one of their TVs. Here are some questions and answers."

Seven Ways to Handle Your Dysfunctional Office from Monster Career Advice, by Margot Carmichael Lester "Workplace dysfunction may be funny when you’re watching “The Office,” but it’s serious business when you’re trying to cope with it every day. "The good news is that it doesn’t have to bring you down. Nobody says dealing with dysfunction is easy…"  Also see Handle a Sabotaging Coworker from Monster Career Advice by Beverly West Monster Contributing Writer "We all like to think of our coworkers as friends, but what happens when you become the target of a coworker’s dirty politics? Here are some strategies that can help you keep the peace without losing your edge, shared by fellow soldiers on the office wars’ front lines."

Hidden Travels of the Atomic Bomb – – By WILLIAM J. BROAD Published: December 8, 2008 — "In 1945, after the atomic destruction of two Japanese cities, J. Robert Oppenheimer expressed foreboding about the spread of nuclear arms. Skip to next paragraph Multimedia Audio & Photos Voices of the Manhattan Project Graphic A Chain Reaction of Proliferation David Corcoran, a science editor, explores some of the topics addressed in this week’s Science Times."

Xbox 360: How To Buy the Cool-Running Xbox 360 ‘Jasper’ — By Mark Wilson, 9:40 AM on Thu Dec 11 2008 — "While Xbox 360s have become increasingly capable at handling their crippling heat defects, you still want the newest, coolest 360 you can buy. Right now, that’s the "Jasper" edition, featuring a new 65nm GPU. You should note, the GPU appears to be Jasper’s major relevant revision, and it keeps the same huge heatsink found on the previous iteration—which is probably a good thing, actually. The other revision is that on-board memory stores NXE in the Jasper Xbox 360 Arcade. (It’s unconfirmed as to whether or not such is true in the 60GB models of the 360.) To pick up a Jasper of your own, look through the hole in the Xbox 360 box."

Windows Mobile Browser Battlemodo: Can You Get the Real Internet? — "Many of you asked for a re-do of Windows Mobile browser testing after our Battlemodo declared the platform beyond worthless for surfing. So here it is, the internet running on Windows Mobile’s finest hardware. Before we get started, a quick note on the last Windows Mobile test, and what we’re doing differently here. Some of you guys complained that the Samsung Epix was a crappy, slow piece of hardware. However, according to Laptop, its 624MHz Marvell processor and 128MB RAM are specs that just about on par with the three phones clamored for in the comments. Still, you get your wish: Here we lined up the Sony Xperia X1, HTC Touch Pro (AT&T’s Fuze) and the Samsung Omnia…"

Windows 7 build 6956 performance test — compares a pre-beta build of Windows 7 against a current Vista SP1 on similarly configured machines. His conclusion? "… I think that the results are very promising. The fact that Windows 7 comes out top in three out of four of these tests at this early stage is very promising indeed. The boot time and PCMark Vantage results are particularly good. This is great for those who are concerned about the OS soaking up too much system resources."

Daily Gift Idea: VOX amPlug – Holiday Gift Guide by PC Magazine by Kyle Monson — Price: $40 (street) — "There’s a cheap way to restore peace and quiet to your home without cutting into a guitar player’s practice time. The amPlug is a tiny little amplifier that plugs into an electric guitar and connects to headphones for personal rocking. It comes in several flavors; I like the "Classic Rock" version, but you can also get one for Metal, Lead, AC30, or even for bass guitar. There are three dials to tweak the volume, gain, and tone, giving the player a surprisingly wide range of sounds to choose from, and the amp includes a line-in port for jamming along with an MP3 player."

Creative Vado Pocket Video Cam HD – At A Glance – Reviews by PC Magazine — "Creative follows in Kodak’s and Pure Digital’s footsteps with its own HD pocket camcorder. The camera has all the charm of the original Vado and enough new features to make it best in show. Pros Records high-quality HD video. Big, bright screen. Removable, rechargeable battery. 8GB of memory. HDMI-out. HDMI cable bundled."

OutTwit – Use Twitter directly from Outlook. "If you are a Microsoft ® Outlook ® user, you probably have it open all the time. Now you can update your Twitter status and follow your friends without having to open any other applications. OutTwit seamlessly integrates Twitter into Outlook."

Featured Windows Download: DVDCoach Express Burns Video Files to Playable DVDs — Windows only: Free application DVDCoach burns any video file (like DivX or Xvid videos you’ve downloaded off BitTorrent) to a playable DVD. The application provides a simple front-end for converting the files to the proper format (using the very popular media conversion tool ffmpeg) and burning the results to a DVD. DVDCoach Express doesn’t have many advanced features—for example, you can’t create custom DVD menus—but what it lacks in features it makes up for in simplicity. Just drag and drop the videos you want to burn to DVD into the application, set the few preferences available (PAL or NTSC, aspect ratio, and quality), and get burning. 

Dimio’s Tools — DShutdown is a stand-alone program that allows you to easily shutdown and wake up local or remote PCs, with many specific options. DShutdown supports more than just standard shutdown options, there are options relating to "pure" shutdown (such as the "force after wait" option which causes a forced, but ‘clear’ shutdown). There are monitoring options that allow you to shutdown a PC after a particular application terminates (useful at the end of compressing several files). There are also options to shutdown a PC when Internet traffic reduces below a particular data-rate (useful to shutdown a PC when it has finished a large download).

Clone2go Free Video Converter –Convert video files between different formats — "Clone2go Free Video Converter can convert video files of different formats. The input format includes: WMV, FLV, MPEG-4, MPG, RM, RMVB, AVI, 3GP, etc. The output format includes: MP4, AVI, WMV, FLV, etc. With so many input and output formats, you can easily convert video files into the correct one for your portable devices such as MP4 player, iPod, iPhone, Sony PSP, Microsoft Zune, Mobile Phone (e.g. Nokia N-Series), Pocket PC and smart phone, making your videos and movies portable. Clone2go Free Video Converter brings convenience in batch file conversion which just needs simple steps."

Screen Shots – Bulk Rename Utility – Just in time for all the holiday shots you’ll take with your digital camera, a free file rename utility for Windows. "Rename multiple files with the click of a button. Batch renaming made easy."

The Best PCs for Everyone – Reviews by PC Magazine — 12.10.08 Whether you’re interested in a gaming rig, a low-priced desktop, a mainstream multimedia system, or an all-in-one PC with a built-in screen, we give you our key choices. By Joel Santo Domingo

Online Shopping: The Savvy Shopper’s Guide to This Year’s Online Deal Finders, By Gina Trapani, 10:00 AM on Mon Dec 8 2008 — With all the belt-tightening going on in this economy, it’s no surprise that coupon codes and deal finders—especially for online shoppers—are the hottest tools on the web right now. With only a week or so left to finish your online holiday shopping in time for the packages to show up at your door before the 24th, it’s time to fill those virtual carts and get to hitting "Checkout." Before you do, make sure you’re getting the best price possible using this year’s latest crop of deal finders, price comparators, and clever product search engines.

How to work with partitions in Windows Vista / XP when Disk Management doesn’t work | Vista Rewired — "Windows Vista’s Disk Management tool can be quite deceiving. It allows you to work with partitions at ease in a presentable GUI format – but with problems. There have been a lot of complaints and confusion as to why Windows Vista grays out the extend volume and shrink volume properties. In response to this, I have found an alternative way to work with partitions, allowing you to easily resize, delete, and create partitions. Diskpart.exe does a very good job at working with partitions. Unlike Disk Management, Diskpart actually works!"
Phone Support: Fonolo Cuts Through Corporate Voicemail Trees, by Kevin Purdy, 7:30 AM on Tue Dec 9 2008 "Fonolo, an online phone tool for getting past all the "Press X for …" prompts on customer service numbers, is now open for public beta. Our sister site Consumerist took a screenshot tour when Fonolo was privately tested, and it looks much the same—in other words, just as cool. Pick a company, browse their phone directory tree by title and automated dialog, choose where you want to jump in, and Fonolo calls you with a direct connection there. We gave Fonolo a quick spin this morning, so read on for screenshots and a quick tutorial on working some auto-dial jujitsu."

Lifehacker Faceoff: Battle of the Hardware-Boosting Hacks — "When like-minded hackers come together to unleash the true power of seemingly simple gear, it’s truly a beautiful thing. We’ve featured a good number of how-tos and hacks over the years that make expensive upgrades unnecessary and unleash seriously cool features in your gear, and 2008 was no exception. In the last year, our iPhones and iPod touches got jailbroken all over again, our wireless routers were graced with a new super-charged firmware, our Canon digi-cams gained pro-level powers, and we learned that our Nintendo Wiis were even neater than we’d thought. Today, however, we wanted to take a long view on the best hacks that unlock the best features in our standard hardware, and ask our readers: What’s the best one you’ve seen so far?"

Tags: articles, what I read, Microsoft, blogs.

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