diagnostic

Garmin communicates with your car via ESP

We stopped by Garmin's booth at the 2009 SEMA Show expecting a new GPS device or news of another OEM integration deal, but we stumbled upon something even better. Sometime next year, Garmin's Nuvi GPS devices will gain the ability to communicate with your car through ESP. In this case, we're not talking about psychic extra-sensory perception, but the EcoRoutes ESP module for Nuvi navigation devices.

The ESP module is a hideaway box that connects to (and is powered by) your vehicle's OBD-II diagnostics port. The device gathers information about your vehicle's performance and relays … Read more

Apple releases Pro Applications Update; Apple Server Diagnostics 3X106

Two support updates have been made available by Apple. Pro Applications Update 2009-01 contains updates for Apple's Final Cut Studio including Final Cut Pro 7.0.1, Motion 4.0.1, Soundtrack Pro 3.0.1, Color 1.5.1, and Compressor 3.5.1. Apple Server Diagnostics 3X106 provides support for Snow Leopard Server. Downloads are available via Software Update for qualifying systems or via Apple's Downloads page.

That Mac is hot. Too hot.

If you've got burnt thighs from an old MacBook Pro or you notice that your computer is always overheating and crashing from using CPU-intensive apps (like playing PC games in a virtual Windows environment), you might want to check out smcFanControl. This free, GPL-licensed utility has a single purpose: letting you increase the minimum speed of built-in fans, so your Intel computer will run cooler.

smcFanControl lets you monitor the current temperature (in Celsius or Fahrenheit), assign different minimum speeds for each fan using sliders, and even apply different settings when your power source changes (for example, going back … Read more

Root out hidden infections with HijackThis

Editors' note: This article was first published on February 27, 2008, and was titled, "Clean your PC with Trend Micro HijackThis." It was updated on May 21, 2009.

Malware has gotten more sophisticated at hiding its tracks compared with a few years ago. Adware, it seems, with its pop-ups and unwanted browser toolbars, has taken a backseat to the sly, ever-dangerous, and much more lucrative realm of the botnet, also known as that class of malware that conscripts your computer into an army of spam-spewing zombies, or worse.

If you suspect your Windows computer may be compromised, you should always try running standard adware-removal programs first. Ad-Aware and Avira AntiVir Personal Free are two good starts. If they can't seem to keep the nasties at bay, Trend Micro HijackThis digs deep. For most, HijackThis will be diagnostic software for Windows XP (with high compatibility for Vista) that creates a log of your Windows Registry and file settings. It is not a spyware removal tool. However, its capability to identify commonly abused methods of altering your computer can help you (and the Internet community) determine your next course of action.

Step 1: Install it

Version 2.0.2 of HijackThis contains an installer, unlike the previous version that launched from a ZIP file or EXE. If you're using that legacy version, be sure to update. You'll find that this build also downloads a desktop icon for quick-launching.

Step 2: Scan your system

Trend Micro HijackThis opens with a simple interface that offers limited instruction. Running the program and interpreting its results can be confusing. Click either of the two "system scan" buttons to bring up a list of registry and file entries. Expect to see a mess of entries--even a Firefox plug-in on a completely healthy computer can produce multiple listings. If you choose to scan the system only, you can still save a record after the scan by selecting the "Save log" button on the bottom left. This will save the log as a plain text document that you'll be able to open in Notepad.

Step 3: Identify problems

Here's the rub--now that you've got a long list of your computer's contents, how do you determine which results are critical, and which benign?

There are a few determining factors. Some entries may be obviously tied to a legitimate program you installed. A browser helper object like Adobe PDF Reader Link Helper is clearly harmless and installs with the Adobe Reader application. Listings like these you can ignore or can add to the Ignore List to bypass in future scans. To excuse any entry from showing up in the results list in the future, click the adjacent box to add a check mark and choose the button reading "Add checked to ignorelist." See it in action in this video (Note: The video accurately demonstrates using the ignore list on a previous version of HijackThis.)… Read more

Purdue researchers create a speed bump that detects damage

A team of researchers from Purdue University's Center for Systems Integrity created a high-tech "speed bump" that can detect damage to Army vehicles.

Unlike the speed-deterring cement humps in the road that drivers typically encounter, Purdue's invention is a rubber-jacketed "diagnostic cleat" that contains sensors. The sensors measure vibrations created by a vehicle as it moves over the cleat, and signal-processing software interprets the data to check for damage to the tires, wheel bearings, and suspension components.

Researchers conducted tests with high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles, or HMMWVs, commonly known as Humvees and found the … Read more

Telltale signs of a computer virus infection

PCs do the darnedest things. When a program crashes, your system slows down, or a file or program refuses to open, it's probably due to a problem with an application or device. But not always. Computer viruses and worms will cause your PC to exhibit many of the same symptoms as a failed or failing component or program.

Here are some of the primary indicators that your system is infected:

• Your system slows to a crawl for no apparent reason. • The machine crashes, with or without an automatic restart. • Error messages pop up repeatedly. • Programs or files open slowly … Read more

Lackluster performance

1 Click Boost is a diagnostic program that is supposed to quickly optimize your system's performance. However, when we put it to the test, we found no discernible difference in our system's memory and Internet connection speeds.

The user interface is colorful and easy to navigate. Menu shortcuts at the top of the window organize the program's functions into categories: Internet, Memory, Process, and Cache. Within each function are tune-up options. For example, under the Internet function, we could choose to enable automatic discovery and acknowledge optimization. Thankfully, the program does include an extensive Help file to … Read more

Quickly test and compare CPU speed

Get an accurate reading of your CPU speed and compare it online with other computers around the globe with this application.

CPU Speed Professional has a sleek, easy-to-use interface that resembles gauges from an automobile. The main function of this program is to test the speed of your CPU. It does its job quickly and efficiently in four automated steps. Results from the test are displayed in a pop-up window, on the gauge, and also in a flashing box below the gauges. It's hard to miss! There is a selection of tabs to choose from, including the CPU details … Read more

Unreliable results

This free diagnostic program tests your processor speed, but the unreliable readings and error messages left a lot to be desired.

MSC CPU Benchmark 2008's user interface displays a graph that appears to display your CPU usage, along with your system's processor, model, type, and the availability of physical and virtual RAM. There are options along the left side of the interface for testing your processor speed, configuring the settings, and showing past and present test results. The program doesn't include any kind of temperature gauge commonly found in similar tools. From the Configurations menu, you can … Read more

Free but helpful

Tracking how your system uses its resources can help you determine what may be limiting your system's performance. This free utility monitors 29 resources--including CPU, memory, network, and HDD usages--so you can pinpoint where your system needs optimizing.

Moo0 SystemMonitor launches a vertical bar you can drag anywhere on your desktop. You can specify its transparency or modify as a toolbar button through a right-click menu. Resizing the bar by turning the middle scroll button of the mouse made viewing and hiding the bar easier. Its color coding--light green for satisfactory or optimal usage, red for spikes and resource … Read more