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Best of the Best Hardware from Maximum PC

If you have not read Maximum PC before and you like playing with Hardware then I suggest you sign up for a subscription (only $12 a year). The following table shows the latest and greatest from the current crop of Hardware on the market. Red indicates a change in category for the month. I will work on updating this each month.

Best of the Best Hardware from Maximum PC (February 2004)
High End Video Cards:
ATI Radeon 9800 XT

Budget Video Card:
BFG Asylum GeForce FX 5700 Ultra 

Do everything videocard:
All-in-Wonder Radeon 9800 Pro

Sound Blaster Audigy 2 ZS Platinum

Serial ATA hard drive:
Western Digital 360GD Raptor

Parallel ATA hard drive:
Western Digital 740GD / IBM 7K250

CD-RW drive:
Plextor PlexWriter Premium

DVD burner
Plextor PX-708A

LCD monitor:
Sharp LL-1820

High-end CRT monitor:
Sony F520

Budged CRT monitor:
Cornerstone P1750

P4 motherboard:
Chaintech 9CJS Zenith

Athlon XP motherboard:
Asus A7N8X Deluxe Rev 2

Portable MP3 player:
Apple iPod 40 GB

Photo printer:
Canon i900 

Pocket PC PDA:
HP iPaq 5450

Palm OS PDA:
Palm Tungsten C

5.1 speakers:
Logitech Z-680

4.1 speakers:
Logitech Z-560

2.1 speakers:
Logitech Z-2200

Upgrading Your PC

My latest hardware includes the following: (it is about time for another upgrade)

Motherboard: MSI KT3 Ultra 2
This motherboard has been rock solid for me and has a ton of features. I would advise anyone in the market for a new motherboard to take a close look at MSI's latest offerings.

CPU: AMD AthlonXP 2000
I have been faithful to Athlon for many years now. You cannot beat the price to performance ratio

Video: ATI All-in-Wonder 8500DV
This card has been great!!! Gaming and Tivo all in one.  I record TV shows and burn them to CDs as VCDs to watch in the car on trips.  I am looking towards the Radeon AIW 9700 in the future.

HD: Western Digital 120GB BB


DVD-R: Pioneer DVR-A05 (recent addition)

Wishlist: Radeon 9800 AIW Pro

History of my Computers
Year System Details
1980s Commodore 64
1994 My first PC was a Pentium 60 with 8MB Ram, 730MB HD, and 2MB Video card. I added 8MB of RAM a few months later for only $265!!!
1996 I purchased my first Laptop, a Dell P133, 12.1 inch screen, 24 MB Ram, and a 1.3 GB HD.  All this for $4200!!!!
1997 While I was in Korea I built a 200Mhz Athlon with 128MB Ram and a 4GB HD and a 4MB Video Card
1999 I built another system with a 600Mhz Athlon (slot A) with a 30GB Hd and 256 MB Ram. 
2000 I upgraded the previous system to a 1.2 Ghz Athlon (socket A)and added 256 MB more Ram and a 32 MB TNT2 card.
2002 Next I moved to a new motherboard MSI Ultra 3 and a AthlonXP 2000+ with 512MB DDR and I added an ATI All-in-Wonder 64MB 8500DV video card. 

Viewing by Category: PC Hardware / Main
November 22, 2005
I stumbled across this interesting page that provides a timeline for the history of the internet. I found some interesting entries in the page. One such entry is from Jan 29 1992 when Minix creator Andy Tanenbaum posted the infamous LINUX is obsolete newsgroup posting along with the response from Linux Torvalds. This page is worth a quick history lesson.

July 18, 2004

I am a big fan of the iTunes program and I download all my music through iTunes. I also own an iPod but I found it frustrating I could not listen to the music with our in dash MP3 players that we have in our cars.  I purchase the music but without the iPod the songs are useless if you want to take it with you. A few searches on the internet turned up partial solutions but I thought I would share the entire solution with you. This process only works if you are the actual owner of the song and have it authorized through iTunes. I am in no way promoting piracy, I bought the songs legally from iTunes.

The process involves two pieces of software to handle the decoding. First you will use "hymn" to turn the m4p (protected) file into a m4a that you can play anywhere. Then you will use dbPowerAMP to convert the m4a into an mp3 file.

1. Download hymn To make the instructions as simple as possible download hymn and unzip it to the C:\hymn directory. Hymn is a command line tool for windows that is pretty easy to use. There is a GUI available for the MAC.

2. Copy the mp4 files you want to convert to C:\hymn (if you understand windows you can just add c:\hymn to your path, if not don't worry and continue).
open a MS dos command prompt window start>>accessories>>command prompt

3. Run hymn on each of the files you are converting
C:/> cd hymn
C:/> hymn thenameofthefileiwantoconvert.m4p

You will need to do this for every file you want to convert or put multiple files in the command line

C:/> hymn filetoconvert1.m4p filetoconvert1.m4p

The m4a files will be created in the same directory. You can use the hymn command line options if you want to send them to another directory.
You are now ready to convert the m4a files to mp3 files. In order to do this you will need a converter. I use the dpPowerAmp converter.

4. Download dbPowerAMP you will also need to the m4p codec

5. Download m4p codec (download the decoder)

6. From there you can just highlight the m4a files in windows explorer. Right click with the mouse and select the "Convert To" option. Choose the quality and the folder you want to store the mp3's in and click "Convert".

The end product is a mp3 file that you can play anywhere. It is a bit of extra work, but you could possibly automate the process further. It is worth noting that the m4a file still has the original purchasers information in the file. Do not pass these files around to your friends. If they end up on the internet you could be prosecuted for piracy.

July 7, 2004

I recently acquired an iPod mini and love it. I am researching the best approach for getting the signal to my FM radio. There are two options and I am still weighing which one is best.

FM Modulator - needs to plug into your antenna therefore you have to pull the deck out of the dash. Not a major problem but it makes it less portable and it is not an option if I want to take the iPod in a rental car with me. It provides the best signal though with no interference

FM Transmitter - There are a few options in this area and the Transmitter is the most flexible but can be susceptible to interference. I am looking at the Belkin TuneCast II.

Any thoughts on the best options or experience with either option feel free to comment.

January 7, 2004

I have always found search engines interesting and based on some of the statistics I collect from referring pages I wrote some code that displays the latest referrals from the google search engine. I also like to see where my pages rank and what topics are most viewed on my site. I collect the data by using the cgi.HTTP_REFERER variable and storing it in a db. I parse out the google querystring using a UDF called GetGoogleKeywords from

You can view the realtime google keyword searches on this page.

December 23, 2003
2004 will be a year where we will see many significant upgrades to the PC. An article on Extremetech takes a look at the technology that will be hitting the streets in the upcoming year.

October 17, 2003

I have been thinking about upgrading my system with a new motherboard and CPU.  While I am at it I would like to move to a serial ATA drive since that is the next natural step with upgrading.  Extremetech has an excellent article on four serial ATA drives

I am leaning towards the Seagate Barracuda 7200.7.  Extremetech picked it as their top choice and had the following quote: "It's unusual for us to give the high score to a product that scores lower in performance than the competition. However, we're happy to make an exception for the Seagate Barracuda 7200.7. The combination of lowest cost per gigabyte, plus its native Serial ATA implementation, left us with a highly favorable impression overall."   Although they also mention that all of these drives, even the Seagate, outperformed the older WD800JB, so it's not like you'll be giving up something

September 23, 2003

I just picked up a Pioneer DVD AO5 and I found that it will only write at 1x unless the media is certified by Pioneer.  I found a flash upgrade that gets around this.  .....more to come

August 29, 2003

Extremetech is featuring an excellent article on building and configuring a Linux Server for your home.  The first article featured was an article on building a server.  The next set of articles cover the installation and configration portions.  The articles include the following:

August 27, 2003

I added a section to the PC Hardware section of the website that lists all of the latest and greatest hardware available on the market today.  This information is available from Maximum PC and is updated monthly.

A great document on how hyperthreading works in W2K - Interesting read.....

August 26, 2003
Have you ever wanted to know if a WiFi hotspot was a available? In most cases you needed to boot up your laptop and search for one. Well, your life just got a lot easier. Kensington has introduced the first and only WiFi detector on the market today. Just press a button and the Kensington WiFi Finder lets you know if your location is "hot"...instantly. No software or computer needed. What could be easier? The best part is that it will only set you back 20-30 bucks. Click here for a more detailed review...

July 18, 2003

I am in the market for a new cell phone and I have been looking at the Nokia 3650.  I am particularly looking for bluetooth support to facilitate a wireless headset.  A friend of mine pointed me to the following headset. It is pretty sweet and not too expensive.

May 3, 2003

Pinnacle Instant copy offers copying of a Dual-Layer DVD to a single layer writeable by discarding some of the extra information. The only problem is that it will not copy  copyrighted material.  The slick way around that is to use a freeware tool like DVD Decrypter to copy the disc to your Hard Drive.  Once the DVD is ripped to a Video_ts.ifo file InstantCopy will squeeze the title into one 4.7GB disc through clever compresssion. 

For details about the legality of making backup copies of your own DVD's see  

After reviewing the latest available DVD writers on the market I have found two that are worth looking at. The Pioneer DVR-A05 and the Sony DRX-500ULX.  The Pioneer was rated 5 stars in the May PC Magazine.  It is selling around $240-280 right now (click for latest prices). The Sony offers support for all major formats but costs a bit more at around $400.  The Sony is an external unit connecting by either Firewire or USB 2.0. 

Good link for buying DVD media

April 30, 2003

With the release last week of the $499 Tungsten C, Palm has moved aggressively to bridge this gap. And eWEEK Labs' tests show that it has done so without discarding the solid design and good battery life that marked previous Palm successes. The Tungsten C's most striking feature is its integrated support for 802.11b wireless networkingamong the best we've seen on any mobile device. The Tungsten C is powered by an Intel Corp. 400MHz PXA255 processor and 64MB of RAM. full article on eweek....

April 26, 2003

Palm aficionados will be a lot more satisfied with the impressive Zire 71, which has a sweet screen, a built-in camera, MP3 support, and a Secure Digital (SD) expansion slot, all for a reasonable $299. The question is, should you choose to carry it over Sony's current midrange CLIE offerings? The answer: Yes. I went to Circuit City two days after they were released to check out out and they were already sold out..... Full Review

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