Play Games on Your HDTV
You have a fast gaming PC and a big HDTV--why not combine the two for a full-on HD computing experience? Many graphics cards have an analog component output, and most HDTVs have a component video input. Just connect the two and then set the computer to generate the appropriate type of signal. (It's best to have both your normal monitor and the HDTV connected while you set this up so that you can see what you're doing.) With nVidia-based graphics cards, right-click the desktop and choose NVidia display, TV. In the Nview screen, click the HDTV icon and select Device Settings, TV Wizard. For an ATI-based card, open the ATI Catalyst Control Center, go to Displays Manager, click the TV icon, and select enable this display. Now click Video in the Graphics Settings to the left and pick the HDTV mode you want.
If the HDTV has a DVI input, use the same DVI cable that connects to your flat-panel monitor to hook up the HDTV. If your TV has only an HDMI input, a DVI-to-HDMI adapter (like a $30 model from Monster Cable) can connect the two. Then link the sound to your hi-fi, fire up Quake 4, and enjoy the blood and gore on the big-screen set.
Back Up Your Cell Phone
Some people store their lives on their cell phone: It holds important phone numbers, photos, videos, and messages. But what would happen if by some chance their phone dropped into the toilet? All of their vital information would get flushed away. Unless, that is, they previously backed up their cell phone's data to their PC.
The $70 DataPilot Universal kit contains a cable, software, and nine connectors that work with many brands of phones (the $45 version has just one connector for one brand of phone). Check before you buy, though, as the device doesn't work with all phones. The software quickly sucks in your cell phone contacts, stores them in Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express, and saves the candid shots you took with your cell phone's camera for later use as blackmail material. It also transfers your phone numbers, photos, and, ahem, priceless ring tones to a new phone, which is really handy when you're upgrading. If you have a Nokia phone, that company's free Nokia PC suite can perform similar cell-phone backup chores.
Make a Video Podcast
You've discovered a shocking secret that the world needs to know about, but CNN isn't returning your calls. Why not try putting up a video podcast? Vlog It from Serious Magic is the simplest way we've found to create a video podcast: You write the script; select your graphics, titles, and background music; and then record your video, using either a Webcam or a digital camcorder, straight to disc. If you choose a green or blue background, you can use Hollywood's famous "blue-screen" effect to superimpose a picture behind you and make it look like you're broadcasting from somewhere else (useful for throwing The Powers That Be off your trail).
The $50 software compresses the video to prepare it for your blog. It also automatically uploads your blog posting to a video hosting service. The beta version we tested includes a 15-day hosting trial with Playstream, but Serious Magic claims that the full version will work with a range of video-hosting services. Adding the video to your blog is easy: Drag an icon from the program onto the Web page containing your blog posts. (Browse hereto see a rundown of blog services.) And don't forget: The truth is out there.