TWT Newsletter, Issue #009 –, Vista and XP Service Packs are coming!
Welcome to February’s TWT newsletter. This month we have a packed newsletter with a number of exciting things to tell you all about including new service packs, the plight of Windows XP and a new super sound card.
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In this months issue:-
1) Windows Vista and XP Service Packs are Coming!
2) Save our Windows XP!
3) Tip of the Month – Make the Most of Searching in Vista
4) Free Utility of the Month – McAfee SiteAdvisor
5) Hardware Mini-Review – Auzentech X-Fi Prelude 7.1 Sound Card
6) amBX Update
Windows Vista and XP Service Packs are Coming!
The long awaited service packs, Service Pack 1 for Vista and Service Pack 3 for Windows XP, should be with us before the end of the month according to several sources around the web. Just what exactly is a service pack anyway? For Windows users, service packs mean fixes, enhancements and sometimes entirely new features. What can Vista users look forward to in their new service pack? As well as several improvements to the speed and stability at the heart of the operating system, you can also expect to see:-
As well as service pack 1 for Vista, Windows XP is going to receive what will almost certainly be its very last service pack, service pack 3. There aren’t any significant new features expected in this service pack, though there have been some promising rumours of improved performance.
Although preview release versions of both service packs are now available, the full feature list is still to be revealed, so who knows, we might even see a few surprises. Both service packs will install automatically through Windows update when they become available, and Top-Windows-Tutorials.com will be on hand to discuss and demonstrate any new features Microsoft decide to give to us!
Save our Windows XP!
Are you an XP user who is concerned about the impending doom of the operating system? Microsoft plans to stop sales of the venerable operating system on June the 30th. Even after all this time several of my favourite applications still don’t work under Vista, and Vista won’t run at all on some of the older computers my family still use. If you would like to see Windows XP supported a little longer, head over to the save Windows XP petition and add your name!
Tip of the Month – Make the Most of Searching in Vista
If you are one of the many users who has switched from XP to Vista, are you making the most of Vista’s powerful search functionality to help you find all your files and folders? If not, you should watch our guide to Vistas new powerful desktop search. XP users, if you are feeling left out, don’t forget Launchy our free utility of the month from Issue 5.
Free Utility of the Month – McAfee SiteAdvisor
The web is still the most popular part of the internet, for some users it is the only part of the internet they ever encounter. Unfortunately, this means the Web is still the most popular place for hackers and criminals to try and hijack your PC. While improvements in browser security have meant that problems are rare for users with adequate anti-virus software and a pinch of common sense, it is often difficult to distinguish between friendly sites and those that merely wish to appear friendly. Step up McAfee’s excellent SiteAdvisor, a free plug-in for your web browser that automatically checks thousands of web sites against an on-line database, rating them green, yellow or red depending on the content on the site, which is reviewed by humans rather than computers. Of course the internet expands far too quickly for every site to be included but on most regular Google searches we tried, almost all of the top ten sites had been reviewed and rated, making this a very useful tool for the safer surfer! You can download McAfee SiteAdvisor for free here.
Hardware Mini-Review – Auzentech X-Fi Prelude 7.1 Sound Card
In my never-ending quest to improve the videos on Top-Windows-Tutorials.com (and possibly so that I could play my games better) I recently decided to upgrade my sound card. We PC gamers are a strange breed, we pay lots of money for the best possible graphics cards, spend hours tinkering with settings and patches when we could have saved ourselves a great deal of hassle and money and just bought a games console. Furthermore, after lashing out serious money on graphics hardware, many of us seem content to hook our machines up to tiny desktop speakers or cheap sound cards. Auzentech inc are one company that wants to change that and their latest sound card, the X-Fi Prelude 7.1 produces sound so sweet that even your grandmother could tell the difference. I tried my new card on both an analogue and digital speaker system and the difference in sound quality between this card and my old Sound Blaster Audigy 2 was breathtaking. There was no background hum whatsoever from either digital or analogue outputs (something most PC sound cards seem to suffer from) and everything from low-bitrate MP3 files to music CD’s sounded crisper, clearer and more vibrant.
The card is the first card to include the X-Fi chipset that was not produced by Creative Labs themselves. Because it includes the X-Fi chipset it is fantastic for gaming and for playing the many X-Fi enabled games that are available. We were especially impressed with the “Dolby Digital Live” function of the card, which is able to convert any sound output into a digital stream, meaning to hook your PC into a 7.1 home cinema system now takes only one wire instead of eight and the sound quality produced is absolutely excellent. The card also includes Creative’s “24-bit Crystalizer” which supposedly improves the sound quality of Mp3 and other compressed audio files and “CMSS-3D”, which can up-mix stereo audio into surround sound. These features might not change the audio to suit everyone’s tastes but they can be easily disabled or enabled at any time.
The card works well under Windows XP or Vista, though under Vista, X-Fi surround sound support may be limited on some titles thanks to the changes Microsoft made to DirectSound under Vista. The card does support creative’s ALchemy software however, which restores full surround sound to many legacy titles when running under Windows Vista. Also, when using the card with Vista, we were not able to output digital and analogue audio at the same time, although we imagine that most people will be content with either one or the other.
While the Auzentech X-Fi Prelude 7.1 isn’t the cheapest sound card, it is by far the best sounding card I have ever used. The card is in stores now priced at around $199.99 US Dollars or