Network Meter review

Network Meter offers plenty of details about your Internet's performance in an easy-to-install, stylish package. Though it won't tell you everything you might want to know like other desktop tools, it makes most of the details you'd need readily available and is extremely easy to customize. If you want a cool status center for your PC, you probably won't find a better one than this.

This program gives you a desktop widget with internal details about your computer's performance. It will tell you your IP address, whether or not you have a firewall and other … Read more

Visiting Mauna Kea, the world's best spot for stargazing

MAUNA KEA, Hawaii -- I was recently having lunch at a lovely and only slightly overpriced cafe overlooking the Pacific in the historic resort region of Kailua-Kona on the dry side of Hawaii's "Big Island" (the island itself is also named Hawaii). I hopped in a rental car and traveled 60 miles by road, ascending nearly 3 miles in elevation from the dry, breezy coast through thick clouds shedding rain and hail onto my windshield, and finally reemerged into sunshine in the last few miles of the journey as I approached the Mauna Kea observatory complex, a collection of more than a dozen advanced telescopes that arguably serve as the eyes of mankind.

As technology has advanced over the centuries, we've been able to look exponentially farther into the depths of the universe with each new generation of super-sophisticated telescopes and supporting stargazing instruments. But somewhat ironically, getting top performance out of this equipment has meant locating it in increasingly isolated and even extreme spots around the globe, like Spain's Canary Islands, Chile's Atacama Desert, or here, on top of a 13,800-foot dormant volcano in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that last erupted about 4,500 years ago. … Read more

Review: Keep an eye on your graphic card stats with GPU Meter

GPU Meter displays information on your graphics card, from usage to temperature, as well as clock speed and other useful stats. It installs as a Windows gadget and sits on your desktop. If you want an easy way to see GPU information at a glance, GPU Meter fits the bill.

The gadget installs in seconds and places a very small window in the upper-right corner of your desktop, which you can move anywhere. Initially, GPU Meter's window was too small for us to view, but a tabbed Options menu is easily accessible from a right sidebar menu and you … Read more

Google said to be considering a smart thermostat, again

Whenever winter rolls around, it's hard not to think of home energy use -- insulation doesn't seem to quite work, power bills go up, and it still feels cold.

It appears energy is also on Google's mind. According to The Information, the company reportedly has been testing Internet-connected thermostats aimed at making the energy grid more efficient and helping users control their power use. The trial program is said to be called EnergySense.

These "smart" thermostats aren't to be confused with an earlier like-minded project called PowerMeter that Google shuttered in 2011. PowerMeter was … Read more

The 404 1,368: Where we pawn the family jewels (podcast)

Leaked from today's 404 episode:

- Modern manners: what's the protocol for dining alone with your device?

- New type of hacking combines blackmail for digital extortion.

- Neiman Marcus offers $1.5 million outdoor entertainment system.

- Sono concept device attaches to your window; offers peace, quiet.

- Netflix to test extra features for its original shows.… Read more

Review: Monitor your CPU and more with Big Meter Pro

Big Meter Pro shows what your CPU is doing. Or your RAM. Or Disk. Or Processes. This useful gadget can display them all in a customizable analog-style pointer gauge that's big enough to see from across the room yet not so large that it dominates your desktop. It's compact in data size, too, and uses very few system resources, so it doesn't influence the very processes it's monitoring. Big Meter Pro is freeware for both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows XP to 8.

Big Meter Pro launched as soon as its installer closed, and the … Read more

Want salt with that? Sodium meter checks soups, sauces

Most of us consume way too much sodium, either sprinkling it on fries or gobbling it unawares via prepared and processed foods.

We'd all like to cut down to avoid high blood pressure and heart disease, but apart from reading nutritional information labels, it's hard to determine how much sodium a dish contains.

Well, the mighty gadget-spawning samurai at Japan's Thanko have unsheathed the Handy Salt Meter for hot liquid foods. … Read more

Review: Track your network bandwidth use with ShaPlus Bandwidth Meter

If you really need to watch your Internet bandwidth, you need ShaPlus Bandwidth Meter. Unlike online bandwidth meters, ShaPlus monitors your Internet bandwidth instead of testing your connection speed. ShaPlus is designed to stay open in the Windows system tray, with a more detailed (but still compact) display for the notification area or anywhere on the desktop you care to drag and pin it. This free tool keeps track of your bandwidth use for the current session, the day, and the month. You can set it to track your billing period and even to stop tracking between specified times. Recent … Read more

Rate your AV receiver's autosetup program

I've had a run of bad luck with some of the latest AV receivers' autosetup programs; they set the subwoofer volume way too loud, or misidentified the "sizes" of the speakers (one receiver tagged our small Aperion 4B satellites as large speakers). These reviews have yet to post, but that boo-boo played havoc with the sound. Rerunning autosetup sometimes fixes the problem, but not always. When I'm testing speakers I always do a totally manual setup. In this man versus machine contest, I always win.

Automatic calibration programs started to appear on Pioneer's higher-end receivers … Read more

Construction of world's largest optical telescope approved

If you love eye-popping images of space, here's welcome news: the Hawaiian Board of Land and Natural Resources has backed building what's to be the world's largest, most powerful optical telescope above the clouds atop the volcano Mauna Kea.

The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) will have a primary mirror of 492 segments measuring some 100 feet across, giving it the power to image objects 13 billion light years away, near the beginning of the universe.

It may also photograph planets outside our solar system with unprecedented detail. … Read more