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Out of the box, Mozilla Firefox’s open-source browser has more privacy functions than most other mainstream options. While a few of the default settings are powerful bastions against malicious cyber activity, the majority of this safety stems from settings—and as with any kind of software, you can improve the functionality by changing and modifying these settings.
There are add-ons galore that affect your Firefox experience. We’ll get into those later in the article, but for now, let’s start with the basics: the simplest steps you can take to improve Firefox’s security.
Table of Contents1. Set up a Master Password
Open any modern browser and you’ll be given the option to save your username and password when you log into a website. This is a small convenience that most take for granted, but it’s also a major security flaw. Anyone that uses your computer will have access to your accounts just by visiting that website.
Firefox solves this problem with the master password option. When enabled, this forces the user to enter the master password before any saved information can be used. In addition, if you want to view the saved passwords via the options menu you will need to enter the master password again.
Your master password has to be secure. Make sure you do not save it on your computer, but instead write it down somewhere in your home or use memorization techniques to track it. Use best practices for password creation when making it.2. Make Sure Privacy Settings are Enabled.
After you install Firefox, make sure the various privacy and security settings are enabled. Go to the Firefox Menu, then to Preferences, and then select General. Scroll down to the “Firefox
Next, choose the “Privacy and Security” tab. The first section you will see is “Content Blocking.” By default, Firefox is set to the “Standard” option—to only block known trackers in Private Windows. Switch this to “Strict,” but be aware that some websites might not operate properly with this chosen.
Below that, choose “Always” for the “Do not track” option.
Scroll down to the “Permissions” section. You’ll see several options. Make sure the following are checked:
“Block websites from automatically playing sound.”
“Block pop-up windows.”
“Warn you when websites try to install add-ons.”
“Prevent accessibility services from accessing your browser.”
A note on accessibility services: if you require these services to effectively browse the Internet and use your computer, make sure you research and know what services you can trust. Some malicious software can use these services to gain access to your browser, and via that, to your computer.
Next, scroll down to the “Security” tab. You’ll see several boxes. Make sure they are all checked.
“Block dangerous and deceptive content.”
“Block dangerous and uncommon software.”Add-Ons for Safety and Privacy
Add-ons are the Firefox equivalent to Chrome’s extensions. These applications give users the ability to customize their browser to their hearts’ content and implement security features that no other browsers come close to matching.
Of course, not all add-ons are created equal. We’ve compiled a list of the best options that have a positive effect on the overall privacy and security of Firefox.HTTPS Everywhere
HTTPS Everywhere is a favorite add-on because of how simple it is. In layman’s terms, it enables secure browsing on any website that supports it. In more technical terms, it provides three layers of security: server authentication, data confidentiality, and data integrity. Should anyone intercept data transmitted through HTTPS Everywhere, they would be unable to interpret it without the encryption key.uBlock Origin
No one likes annoying pop-up adds, especially when some of them have the ability to pull personal information from your browser. While Firefox has a suite of built-in tools to stop pop-ups, it doesn’t catch them all.Privacy Badger
Privacy Badger is another add-on developed by the Electronics Frontier Foundation, the same team behind HTTPS Everywhere. Many anti-tracking tools keep a list of misbehaving websites, but Privacy Badger monitors your browsing experience in real time and watches what domains track you. If any of these domains violate your privacy and security settings, then Privacy Badger will automatically block them.Privacy Possum
Redundant security is always a good thing. While most trackers will be caught by Firefox’s built-in anti-tracking tools and Privacy Badger, Privacy Possum makes sure than any that slip through the cracks gather nothing more than falsified, scrambled data.
With both add-ons installed, you don’t have to worry about companies finding out more about you than you want them to, at least from your browsing habits.Cookie AutoDelete
This add-on is about as straightforward as it gets. When you close Firefox, any cookies not actively in use are automatically deleted. You can whitelist specific cookies that you want to keep, but any others will vanish. It’s a great protective measure against websites trying to pull data you haven’t given permission to take.Disconnect for Facebook
This add-on blocks requests for Facebook information from third-party websites. It will also block traffic from third-party websites to Facebook, but does not interfere with the standard operation of your Facebook account.How to Install Add-ons to Firefox
You do not have to use all of these add-ons, but we do recommend at least installing Privacy Badger, HTTPS Everywhere, and uBlock Origin. There are hundreds of other add-ons you can browse and install if you want even more options than we have listed out here.
Installing an add-on is not complicated. Here’s how.
the far-right side to open the settings menu.
4. A new tab will open. In the search bar in the top-right corner, type in the name of the add-on you want.
7. The browser will request permission to install
8. Voila! You now have the add-on you searched for. Rinse and repeat for the rest.A Final Note on Cybersecurity
You might think to yourself, “Why is all of this necessary? Hackers aren’t interested in me.” The problem isn’t reason is because a website or service is tracking your searches. Perhaps there’s no malicious intent behind it, but it is a violation of your privacy.
According to statistics, there is a cyber attack every 39 seconds—and 43% of all cyber attacks target small businesses. Even a stray credit card number can be a massive headache to correct. If you’ve never dealt with identity theft before, count yourself lucky. It’s not at all fun to resolve.
Take the time to read through this article and think about how you can improve your cybersecurity. While we recommend Firefox as a browser option, there are steps you can take to improve your online safety no matter what your preferred browser is. As the world moves towards an increasingly online society, it’s up to individual users to protect
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If you’ve been using Firefox for a long time, you may have noticed it getting slower as time passed. Maybe it takes a few seconds to start up or takes a bit longer loading webpages. You might start noticing that it takes a second or so to switch between tabs or that the menu option doesn’t pop up instantly.
If your installation of Firefox runs slow or freezes more than you’d care for, there are a lot of different ways to speed things up a bit. In this article, I’m going to go through all the tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years to keep Firefox fast and efficient. Depending on your operating system and system configuration, some tweaks might give you more of a boost than others.
Table of Contents
Note that some tweaks require changing the browser settings in about:config. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read my previous post on backing up and modifying the about:config configuration in Firefox.Enable HTTP Cache browser.cache.use_new_backend Refresh Firefox
It will delete extensions and themes, website permissions, added search engines, download history, security settings, plugin settings, toolbar customizations, user styles and social feature. To get to it, you have to type in about:support in the address bar.Enable Safe Mode
Firefox has a nice feature called Safe mode that disables extensions and themes in order to determine whether an extension is causing problems. Since Firefox is all about extensions, you’ll definitely run into some with poorly written code that can cause a lot of grief.
Now choose Restart with Add-ons Disabled to get into safe mode.
Safe mode will also turn off hardware acceleration and will reset toolbar and button customizations. Everything will go back to normal when you restart Firefox normally so don’t think you’ve lost any customizations you might have made.
Also, when you restart, it’ll ask you to Start in Safe Mode or Refresh Firefox, which is the the other tip I already mentioned above.
The more add-ons and plugins you disable or delete, the faster Firefox will run. Some plugins will be set to Ask to Activate, which is ok. You want to check all the ones that are set to Always Activate and see which ones can be switched to Ask to Activate.Minimize Memory Usage
Firefox has quite a few of these built-in performance tricks and another one is to minimize the memory usage. Go ahead and type in about:memory into the address bar and you can get detailed memory usage information about Firefox.Clear Cache
Another easy way to make Firefox faster is to periodically clear the cache. By default, Firefox will cache the contents of most websites you visit, so that they load faster when you visit them again. In the short term, this works well and does speed up browsing, however, once the cache becomes very large, it can start to slow things down.
I don’t suggest clearing the cache very often, as that will slow down browsing. The best thing to do is to check every few months or to check the Override automatic cache management box and set the value depending on what type of hard drive you have. Since this cache is accessed via disk, it can be pretty slow if you have a slow hard drive.
However, if you have an extremely fast SSD drive, then using the cache can be more beneficial. So keep it small (<250 MB) if you hard drive is slow and leave it alone if you have a very fast hard disk.Firefox Pipelining
If you have used Firefox for a long time, you have probably come across this hack on many blogs. Pipelining is a feature that basically lets Firefox open multiple connections to a server, theoretically loading pages faster. I’ve had mixed results with this setting, so it’s best to test it yourself first to see whether it’s worth keeping enabled.
The values you need to change are shown in the image above. I have also listed them below if it’s not clear.Other Settings
There are a couple of more obscure settings that could possibly speed up your Firefox browsing, but results are not guaranteed. It’s best to test these and see if there is any noticeable difference.
network.dns.disableIPv6 – true
browser.tabs.animate – false
browser.display.show_image_placeholders – false
Have you had enough water today? This question is often left out of the nutrition conversation but has an enormous impact on our health and day-to-day function. Our body is composed of roughly 60% water and every major system is influenced by fluid balance.
Water transports nutrients to cells and organs, carries toxins away, acts as a lubricant for joints and bones, helps us regulate our body temperature and also affects brain function. With no water, we just can’t survive.
Nevertheless, you do not need to be on the edge of death to feel the effects of dehydration. A 2% decline in body fat because of fluid losses may affect physical and psychological performance.HOW MUCH WATER DO WE NEED?
The Institute of Medicine recommends 3.7 liters/day for adult men and 2.7 liters/day for adult women; however, you may need more if you’re physically active, breastfeeding and/or during the warmer months.
It’s also important to keep in mind that water losses vary from person to person, and some people naturally need more fluid than others. Yes, you can have too much water.WHAT COUNTS AS HYDRATION?
Basically 80% of our hydration needs come from fluids like water, milk and tea.
The remaining 20 percent comes out of high-water foods like fruit, veggies and yogurt. Some food and fluid options are far better than others for hydration. By way of instance, alcoholic drinks are fluids which increase water reduction by obstructing anti-diuretic hormones.TOP HYDRATION CHOICES
Milk (especially for children)
Low-sodium beef/chicken/vegetable broth
Also read: How to Start An E-commerce Business From Scratch in 2023RULES OF HYDRATION AND EXERCISE
Water declines via perspiration (and, to a lesser degree, breathing) increase during workout , along with the longer and harder you work, the more water you drop. Water, however, isn’t the one thing which escapes from us throughout workout — electrolytes like potassium and sodium are missing, also.
Before a Workout
Hydrate frequently through the day. Cap off your liquid tank with 1/2–1 cup of water 15–20 minutes prior to exercise.
During a Workout
While you Workout, Eat 1/2 cup Liquid for every 20 minutes of exercise
After a Workout
Drink 2 cups of water for every pound of body weight lost.
Insert a sports beverage or electrolyte supplement during and following exercise if you are a specially heavy sweater or workout for over 45 minutes.SIGNS OF DEHYDRATION
Common signs of dehydration include:
Brain fog, fatigue and irritability
Dark yellow urine
Rapid or irregular heartbeat
Sunken eyes and dry skin
Reduced urine or sweat output
Headache, joint pain and cramps
Elevated body temperature
How to Calculate Your Body Temperature with an iPhone Using Smart ThermometerTIPS FOR STAYING HYDRATED
Monitor your urine colour: Lemonade or milder generally means you are hydrated.
Maintain a water bottle visible in your home, work, on your vehicle and anywhere else you devote a substantial quantity of time.
Track your water consumption using a program like MyFitnessPal.
Add taste (and nourishment): Add pieces of lime and lemon, fruit and fresh herbs to keep things interesting.
Add taste (and nourishment): Add pieces of lime and lemon, fruit and fresh herbs to keep things interesting.
Get in the habit of pouring a glass of water with each meal and snack.Daniel Abbott
Daniel Abbott is editor in chief & research analyst at The Next Tech. He is deeply interested in the moral ramifications of new technologies and believes in leveraging the data scientist, research and content enhancement to help build a better world for everyone.
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Whether you have just started using Photoshop or are a seasoned user, understanding the Photoshop interface is essential for an efficient workflow. Opening the program is daunting for some, with all the panels, bars, and tools to learn. Knowing what each section does helps you understand the program better.
I will show you each element of the interface, including the Toolbar, Options bar, Layers panel, and more. You can use this as a starting point or a refresher on what you already know. I also include some valuable tricks to help you get the most out of Photoshop.The Home Screen
Opening an image using Photoshop takes you directly to the workspace. However, when opening the program itself, you first see the Home Screen, which gives you options to start your project.A. Create Or Open A Document
The panel on the left is where you can start a new project, open a saved project, or open an image to begin editing.
Select New File to open the New Document window. This section is where you can set the canvas size, resolution, color mode, and more.
In the New Document window, select a default or saved preset from the top bar or input your own settings in the right-hand panel. Select Create when you are ready to open the document in the workspace.
If you have a file saved in a specific place, you can open it with the options at the bottom, such as cloud photos from Lightroom or images shared with you by your team members.B. The Menu Bar
On the Home Screen, you can access some aspects of the Menu bar if you need them, such as using Automate to create an HDR image. I will explain the Menu bar in more detail later on.C. Quick Access Panel D. Photoshop Suggestions
The area at the top of the Home Screen offers tips to teach you how to carry out certain functions in Photoshop. You can hide these suggestions if you’d rather view more of your recent files.The Photoshop Workspace Basics Explained
Once you have created a new document or selected an image, the Photoshop workspace is opened. In the workspace, you can see your canvas or artboards, select tools, make adjustments, and add effects to your project. Let’s find out the basics of this workspace.1. The Document Window & Tabs
In the center of the Photoshop interface is the Document window, where your canvas is situated. The canvas is the area where the image and other elements are visible. The canvas size depends on the size of the image you opened or the document you created.
To create your project, you can add shapes, new layers, objects, and other images to the canvas.
Any enlarged elements that are too big to fit on the canvas will extend into the Pasteboard surrounding the image. The pasteboard’s purpose is to create a border around the image, hold the elements that extend beyond the canvas, and separate artboards when using the artboard feature.
You can also use the pasteboard to make creative edits to your image by enlarging a particular element, for example, adding a torn paper image to begin the process of making a photo look torn.
Around the pasteboard on the top and left-hand side is the Ruler, which you can choose to have visible or hidden. The ruler helps you align and measure elements and is a quick way to create a new guideline.
Then, at the bottom of the Document window is the Status bar, which gives you information about your document.
You can also change the zoom percentage by typing in a new number next to the status information.
Lastly, in the Document window are the Scrollbars, which let you move the document around in the window. To move the document, drag the bar on the right up or down and the bar at the bottom left or right.2. The Toolbar & Expanded Panels
On the left-hand side of the Photoshop interface is the Toolbar, which holds all the tools you might need to access while working on your project.
Once the tool is activated, it has a darker gray around it, and you can start using the tool on your project.
The tools with an Expanded panel holding additional tools have a small triangle icon to indicate that more tools are available.
You can use the same icon to revert to the single-column Toolbar view.
Once the Customize Toolbar window opens, rearrange the tools as you’d like to.Rich Tooltips 3. The Options Bar
The Options bar is near the top of the interface and changes based on which tool is selected. The purpose of the Options bar is to customize and provide settings for the activated tool.
Once you select a different tool, for example, the Quick Selection Tool (W), you will notice the Options bar change to provide the customization options for this tool.
The first option for each tool, situated next to the tool’s icon, is the Tool Preset picker, where you will find any default or saved presets for the selected tool.4. The Menu Bar
The Menu bar — also known as the Application bar — is situated at the very top of the Photoshop interface. This bar holds multiple actions and commands grouped into various categories. You can alter the document settings, add effects to layers, change the image dimensions, and much more from the Menu bar.
Situated on the far right of the Menu bar (Win) or the far left, just underneath the Menu bar (Mac) on the right, are the options to Close, Minimize, or Maximize the Photoshop window.
A helpful menu category in this bar is the View menu. This menu path provides you with several options to change how you view the document, such as zooming in and out, adding guidelines to the canvas, or changing the screen mode.
You can move through the different menu paths to see what each category holds and all the options the menus provide.5. The Layers Panel
There are several types of panels in Photoshop, but the most important one is the Layers panel, which is situated on the right-hand side of the interface. The Layers panel contains information about all the layers in your document and is the key to making changes and organizing the layers in the document.
When you open an image in Photoshop, it automatically becomes a locked background layer. As you add different elements to your project, such as Text, Shapes, and Adjustments, they will all be added to the Layers panel above the image layer.
Whenever you want to edit a specific layer, you need to ensure that it’s selected in this panel before you can make any changes to the layer.
The Layers panel also has quick links for adding a layer mask, an adjustment layer, or a layer style to a particular layer. These icons are found at the bottom of the panel. From left to right, the icons are:
Add a Layer Style
Add layer mask or vector mask
Create new fill or adjustment layer
Create a new group
Create a new layer
For example, selecting Filter for type layers hides every other layer and leaves the one text layer I have on the document. These filters don’t affect what is visible on the canvas.
Below the filter icons are options to change the layer’s Blend Mode, Opacity, Fill, and options to lock elements or the entire layer.
As you add layers, they automatically appear above the layer you were previously on. The order of the layers in the panel directly relates to the order of the layers on the canvas. The layer order means that some layers may hide certain elements.6. Panels & Panel Tabs
Other than the Layers panel, several other panels offer more settings and options to modify different layers, tools, and effects for the project. The panels are situated on the right-hand side of the interface and may differ based on which panels are visible in your workspace.
Next to the panels are the Panel tabs, which contain more panel options hidden away.Customize And Organize The Photoshop Workspace
Photoshop organizes panels, tools, and windows in a default manner for all users. However, you can customize these elements in different ways. For example, you can dock, group, or stack panels. You can also hide or show different panels, the Toolbar, and other elements to create a customized workspace.How To Move Panels In Photoshop
You can move panels and other windows around in Photoshop to better suit your workflow. By default, panels are either docked, stacked, or grouped in Photoshop.
The panel will now sit in the panel group or tab where you moved it.How To Customize Windows And The Workspace In Photoshop
You can easily customize your workspace to match the projects on which you are working. For instance, you can have a photo editing workspace where you keep the tools you usually edit images with visible while hiding the rest of the tools.
However, you may need multiple workspaces since you might not only work on one type of project the whole time. You can easily create and toggle between various workspaces.
The panels with a checkmark indicate that the panel is visible in the workspace. The panels without a checkmark are hidden, which includes panels that are stacked and grouped but not open. For example, the Color panel is checked, but the Gradients panel isn’t.How To Customize Preferences In Photoshop
Another customization option in Photoshop is to customize various preferences, including the color of the pasteboard, hiding or revealing Rich Tooltips, and much more. There are so many customization options in Photoshop preferences that you can have a look through for yourself.
When the Preference window opens, you can select any tabs on the left-hand side and change the settings for tools, units, measurements, and much more.
For example, head to the Interface tab and change the color theme to a darker gray.
There are several other customization options in the Preferences window you can check out to create a workspace that works for you. With a solid understanding of the layout of Photoshop, it’s important to optimize the program to ensure it runs well before you start. I outline how to optimize Photoshop to run faster here.
ELT (Extract, Load, Transform), and ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) are data integration approaches that facilitate the transfer and processing of data from multiple sources into a destination storage system. These methods ensure the efficient handling and organization of data, enabling seamless management and analysis for various business applications.What is ELT?
ELT stands for Extract, Load, and Transform. It is a type of data integration process used to transfer and manipulate raw data from a source system to a target system, such as a data lake or data warehouse. ELT is the inverse of the ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) method, which transforms data before loading it into the target system. This allows for faster loading times.How ELT works
ELT consists of three main steps: Extract, Load, and Transform.1. Extract
Data is extracted from multiple source systems, including NoSQL databases, CRM and ERP systems, and websites. To extract data from source locations, you need to establish connections to them using a data extraction tool or library.
The variety of data sources and types introduces several challenges during the data integration process. For instance, relational databases (such as MySQL) contain structured data, while text files (like logs) contain unstructured data. When working with such a diverse range of data sets, it is crucial to approach data extraction to address the specific requirements of each data source and type.
Bright Data’s Web Scraper IDE enables businesses to extract mass data from any data source. They provide pre-made web scraper templates, making it easy for individuals with limited technical skills to extract the desired data.2. Load
The second stage of the ELT process is the “Load” step. Extracted data is loaded into the target data store, typically a cloud data warehouse, in its original raw format. This step includes choosing a target storage system, mapping source data to the target schema, and selecting the loading method. The data loading process varies based on variables such as the capabilities of the target system. Some of the most common data-loading methods include:
Once the data is loaded into the target system, the data transformation process begins. In this stage, raw data is cleaned, aggregated, and transformed for business intelligence (BI) and big data analytics.ETL vs ELT – what is the difference?
ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) and ELT (Extract, Load, Transform) are data integration methods that can extract, process, and store data from multiple data sources into target storage. Although they share similarities, there are notable differences between ETL and ELT. The main difference between ELT and ETL lies in the sequence and location of the data transformation step.
Figure 1: Key distinctions between ETL and ELTThe order of steps:
ETL: The transformation step is performed in the ETL process before loading the data into the target system. The target system receives data in a format that has already been transformed.The target data store:
ETL and ELT tools can both be adapted to work with data lakes. However, it is important to note that the target data store is usually a data lake in the ELT process. Unlike traditional data warehouses, data lakes can process and store structured and unstructured data at a massive scale.Transformation process
ETL: In ETL, data scientists may have limited flexibility in manipulating raw data, making tailoring to specific requirements difficult.
ELT: It enables data scientists to tailor data transformation to the specific needs of each project.Top 5 benefits of ELT
Faster data availability: ELT provides faster data availability by loading raw data directly into the target storage system before performing any transformations. This is particularly beneficial for real-time or near-real-time data analysis requirements.
Simplified data pipeline: ELT eliminates the need for a separate intermediary system or dedicated ETL tool by performing transformations directly within the target data store. This simplifies the overall data pipeline and reduces the complexity associated with ETL tools.
Real-time or near-real-time processing: ELT enables real-time or near-real-time data processing, which can benefit organizations that require timely insights, such as responsive customer service. It continuously analyzes incoming data to provide actionable insights in real-time.
Data transformation flexibility: ELT allows data engineers to perform custom data transformations within the target data store based on their specific requirements. Data scientists can load raw data from multiple sources directly into a data lake or a cloud-based data warehouse. The collected raw data is available for data analysis since it is not transformed before loading.
Reducing server scaling issues: ELT (Extract, Load, Transform) enables organizations to mitigate server scaling issues associated with traditional ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) processes. It utilizes the power and scalability of modern data storage systems, such as cloud-based data warehouses and data lakes. For instance, modern cloud data warehouses allow organizations to handle large volumes of raw data and scale resources on demand.Challenges of ELT
ELT and ETL approaches employ distinct techniques for managing data integration. Organizations implementing ETL processes may encounter difficulties when transitioning to an ELT framework. When you switch from an ETL to an ELT architecture, the transformation step is moved from an intermediary system or ETL tool to the target data storage system. There is a risk of data interception or leakage during data transfer from source systems to target storage. Utilizing encryption and securing communication protocols is crucial to minimize such risks.Use cases of ELT
ELT is mostly used in scenarios involving large amounts of data or real-time data processing, such as financial market analysis and social media monitoring. Here are some typical applications of ELT:
Gülbahar is an AIMultiple industry analyst focused on web data collections and applications of web data.
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Think your CPU is king? Think again.
The most complex processor inside your computer is bolted to your graphics card. Capable of massive parallel processing, the best GPUs render games at high speed with superb image quality, stutter-free video and excellent fidelity. GPU drivers include software that gives you granular control over image quality and performance, but these control panels tend to be complex and confusing.
This guide will walk your through the various settings in the control panels supplied by AMD and Nvidia. We won’t try to cover every possible setting; instead, we’ll offer rules of thumb to help you understand what to tweak and what to leave alone. When possible, we’ll show the same settings on the different control panels, side by side, since AMD and Nvidia often use different terminology for the same setting.
Let’s start with general display control, and then move on to video. We’ll discuss 3D settings last, as these can be the most confusing. By the time we’re finished, you’ll have mastered the most complex GPU settings and be able to start tweaking your display like a pro.Two basic rules of thumb
Before plunging into control-panel specifics, we should review two important guidelines that everyone ought to follow.
Use Windows system controls for basic settings: If all you need to do is set the resolution for one monitor, work from the display control panel built directly into your operating system. Sure, you could work in the GPU control panel instead, but if you ever changed graphics cards later on, you’d need to learn a new control panel. In contrast, if you handle the operation through Windows, the behavior will remain the same.
You’ll still want to use the graphics control panels to deal with GPU-specific settings. For example, you can set up Windows for multimonitor support, but if you want additional features such as bezel compensation (which lines up pixels on bezel boundaries to create a seamless image), you should use the graphics control panel.
When possible, use in-game controls to change 3D settings: Changing settings inside a game is the best way to control image quality and performance. GPU control panels let you tweak various 3D settings, but the settings they may be impractical and imprecise. Consider antialiasing, which eliminates jagged edges but tends to reduce your frame rate: The game’s designers have optimized in-game antialiasing settings for the game, applying antialiasing algorithms only when they consider those adjustments necessary. But turning on antialiasing from your dektop’s GPU control panel may apply it to every pixel of every frame at all times, dramatically reducing (in some cases) the frame rate your system can deliver.
On the other hand, sometimes you may benefit from using the GPU control panels for 3D settings. We’ll discuss those situations in the section on 3D graphics.Know your controls
AMD makes additional control options available from the tray icon; unfortunately, the layout is ridiculous and confusing.
Following the cascading menu choices can be a little daunting, however. Unless you know exactly what you want to tweak, however, you’ll probably do better to bring up the entire control panel and then navigate the choices in a more visual way. Let’s do that, starting with basic display settings.Display settings
Your GPU has one crucial job: to drive your PC monitor through analog (VGA) or digital (DisplayPort, DVI, or HDMI, for example) interfaces. Performing this duty gets a little tricky in a system that runs multiple monitors simultaneously; but even if you have just one monitor, you may want to adjust some important settings. For example, if you’re connecting via HDMI to an HDTV panel, you’ll probably want to set a custom resolution to avoid overscan, a problem that arises when the GPU doesn’t correctly match its display resolution to your display’s resolution, causing the edges of your screen to get cut off (so you can’t see the Start menu in Windows 7, for example.) Old standard-definition TVs, many older HDTVs, and even some current models are susceptible to overscanning an input signal; to compensate, you must instruct your GPU to kick out video at a custom resolution. Both Nvidia and AMD let you do so via their graphics control panels.
You can instruct your GPU to use any resolution you want, though usually your goal will be to fix overscan issues.
Nvidia provides a convenient way to set a custom resolution via its graphics control panel while including extra options like ‘sync width’. For the most part, you should leave the exotic settings alone and just tweak the pixel resolution. However, if you’re connecting to a really old TV, you might need to fiddle with parameters such as ‘front porch’, a timing setting (specifically, the time between when the last scan line displays and when the next sync pulse from the GPU arrives) used in analog video
Another display setting you should know how to tweak is the aspect ratio. Older games and standard-definition TV might run in a 4:3 aspect ratio, such as 640 by 480 pixels or 1024 by 768 pixels. When you play them on a modern widescreen monitor, they may look unnatural when stretched to match the full width of the display. GPU control panels have settings to let you tweak aspect ratio; and though some monitors have aspect ratio controls built-in, using the GPU control panel is simpler and ensures that your settings remain the same if you should ever switch displays.
The best aspect ratio is scaled, but you should avoid altering the aspect ratio used by the source materials.
To adjust the aspect ratio, open your GPU control panel and find the radio buttons that control this setting. The top button leaves the source materials’ aspect ratio unchanged, but enlarges the image to use as much of the monitor space as possible (meaning that you’ll probably have gray or black bars on either side of the image, if your source material is 4:3). This is the preferable setting.
Normally, the ‘Scale image to full size’ option is switched on by default, but you’ll want to avoid this option if you’re having scaling issues.
The third option—which Nvidia calls ‘no scaling’ and AMD refers to as ‘use centered timings’—prevents the image from being scaled at all. If you try to display a 640 by 480 image on a 2560 by 1600 display with this setting enabled, you’ll end up with a tiny picture at the center of your screen. Though this may represent the most accurate image possible, you probably won’t find it a pleasing option.
Your graphics control panel has a few more-specific aspect ratio settings that you can tweak, but you can ignore these if you’re using a widescreen monitor manufactured in the past five years.Desktop color settings
The two types of color settings in GPU control panels are desktop color and video color. The latter term refers to color settings for video playback. The different panels exist due to differences in the way that PC graphics and video playback handle color. We’ll discuss video color settings in more detail shortly, but first let’s look at desktop color.
A single control panel handles desktop color settings for Nvidia-based graphics cards.
Nvidia’s desktop color settings aren’t especially helpful.
You can set the application to control desktop color, or you can make the changes in the graphics card. Aside from specific color calibration tools, most applications don’t tinker with desktop color. Nevertheless, if you have a high-end monitor with sophisticated color controls, it may be best to use them. If your display offers no color controls—as happens both with very cheap and with high-end 30-inch monitors—you’ll want to enable color setting changes with the Nvidia controls.
AMD splits its desktop color controls into two different panels.
AMD splits color settings between analog and digital flat panels
The left panel deals with general color controls, and works even if you have an analog (VGA) connection; the color changes are internal to the card. The panel on the right, listed under digital flat panels, alters the values in the digital output signal sent via DisplayPort, DVI, or HDMI. You also get controls for such variables as color temperature. Setting the color temperature to 6500K (degrees Kelvin) is generally appropriate for video. However, this adjustment changes only the output color temperature to 6500K; you may still need to calibrate your display to achieve accurate color temperature settings.Multiple monitors
Using two or more displays can significantly improve productivity. If you just want to configure two displays for independent use as spanned or cloned displays, the Windows display control panel generally produces adequate results.
On the other hand, both AMD and Nvidia offer feature support for multiple displays beyond what Windows does. AMD’s Eyefinity lets you locate the Windows 7 start button on either display. If you configure an Eyefinity group, it treats multiple displays as one surface, with a single resolution that combines the span of multiple displays. For example, you can configure two 1920 by 1080 displays to behave like a single 3840 by 1080 monitor.
Eyefinity allows you to treat multiple monitors as one display.
Nvidia doesn’t offer as much flexibility for desktop spanning as AMD. However, Nvidia’s control panel makes it easier to create a surround gaming setup, if you want to have stereoscopic 3D gaming over three monitors. The downside? The three displays must be essentially identical, and must have high refresh rates (120Hz or greater.)Video and video quality
Both AMD and Nvidia offer controls to improve your video viewing experience.
Here again, if you’re using a third-party video player, such as CyberLink’s PowerDVD, you may want to use the applications’ controls to manage video hardware. Most users, however, don’t use sophisticated tools for viewing online or downloaded videos, so being aware of how the GPU control panels handle video is useful.
Nvidia’s video color settings are hidden under tabs.
If you aren’t sure about what you’re doing, proceed with care; Nvidia’s control panels are sparse, and don’t provide much guidance. Make changes in small increments, and be especially cautious about changing gamma settings. (Gamma alters the color tonality based on differences between video signals and human perception of color in a well-lit room.)
AMD’s video color controls offer even more-granular control, though they replicate the controls you might see on an HDTV display. For example, presets labeled ‘vivid’, ‘theater’, and the like are available. Again, tweak on the basis of what looks pleasing to your eye, and avoid large scale-changes where possible.
AMD’s video color controls resemble what you see on TV controls.
Video quality settings let you deal with problems such as noisy video shot in low light. Both AMD and Nvidia offer tweaks for edge enhancement.
Nvidia’s video quality settings are quite basic. You can set edge enhancement, noise reduction, and inverse telecine. Inverse telecine takes care of de-interlacing video; you may see this called “3:2 pulldown,” which refers to converting film shot at 24 fps into 30-fps video—an operation that involves inserting extra frames into the video stream to maintain smooth video playback and maintain audio sync. Because video plays at various different standard rates in different places around the world, your GPU has to be able to handle a range of frame-rate conversions.
Nvidia gives you the basics for video quality.
Nvidia’s control panel gives you just the basics: de-interlacing, edge enhancement, and noise reduction. If your video player doesn’t have direct hardware controls, you should enable noise reduction and inverse telecine. For most video, keeping noise reduction at around 25 to 30 percent is good enough.
In general, it’s a good idea to avoid edge enhancement, as that option tends to introduce other artifacts, such as bright white edges around objects in the video. If you must use it for blurry video, then keep edge enhancement to a minimum.
As with color, AMD offers a much wider range of video quality controls, all built into a single, scrolling control panel.
AMD offers a rich set of video quality settings, but you’ll never use most of them.
Finally, modern AMD graphics cards can perform acceleration techniques that improve the quality of downloaded video files, or video you may have shot with your own camcorder or smartphone. For example, AMD Steady Video uses algorithms to smooth out the shaky nature of video shot with small handheld devices. AMD also offers accelerated video conversion, which makes it easier to convert videos from one format to another. The video conversion feature offers no quality settings and works only when you drag your video onto a portable media device that supports MP4 video.3D graphics
In most cases you shouldn’t fiddle with the 3D graphics setting in your GPU control panel. You’ll do better to adjust 3D graphics settings inside games, than at the system level. However, at times when you may want to adjust some settings from the GPU control panel. Before going any farther, let’s look at the control panels.
Nvidia’s 3D control panel has many options that you should probably leave alone.
One thing you’ll notice is the array of antialiasing (AA) settings. We’ll discuss those shortly, since changing AA in the control panel is probably the most common change that users make. In general, leaving settings at their default values is the most sensible course. Scrolling down will reveal several other settings that you may find useful, including texture filtering quality and vertical sync.
AMD’s control panel is pretty similar to Nvidia’s.
AMD offers a similar set of 3D controls to Nvidia’s.
Nvidia uses pull-down dialog boxes for most of its settings, while AMD uses sliders. But overall, the settings and jargon are similar.Antialiasing
Antialiasing minimizes jagged edges along lines and edges in computer graphics. With games, AA can hurt performance, since games with AA enabled typically run at 30 fps or faster. Most gamers prefer frame rates of 60 fps on average.
Games that are five years old or older may not support any form of antialiasing, and even relatively recent games may not support the latest AA techniques. You can use control panel settings to enable antialiasing. But which type of AA do you enable? Here are a couple of rules.
Before enabling any form of AA, consider your graphics card: If you have a sub-$200 card, you may want to avoid AA of any type. Enabling AA on a low-cost card can result in substantially lower frame rates.
Newer AA techniques affect performance less: Nvidia’s FXAA and AMD’s Morphological AA use the GPU to compute antialiasing enhancements after the image is rendered. This contrasts to older multisampling and supersampling techniques that are applied while the scene is rendered. It also permits AA in certain types of games that couldn’t support AA in the past. Deferred rendering, where lighting calculations were applied after the geometry was rendered, affected how these games handled transparency, which in turn vastly increased the amount of work the GPU needed to perform when performing AA. Modern antialiasing techniques, like Nvidia’s TXAA, offer great image quality with a minimal performance hit.
In contrast, FXAA and Morphological AA look at the final scene when the frame is finished, and then apply AA, reducing the overall GPU load. These techniques also improve compatibility, since different rendering techniques don’t affect antialiasing quality or performance.
Unfortunately, most games don’t yet support these new techniques. So rather than enabling antialiasing in a particular game, you can turn on FXAA for Nvidia cards or Morphological AA for AMD cards. Your games will look better, and you should still see decent frame rates.Vertical sync
When a game renders a frame, the GPU usually defaults to displaying each frame when the monitor refreshes the display. This is called vertical sync, because the image is set up for display during the vertical blanking interval between screen refreshes. This approach works very well when the GPU can keep up with the monitor’s refresh rate; but when it can’t, you’ll see sharp drops in frame rate, since the GPU will simply wait until the next vertical blanking interval.
Many games don’t give you control over vsync, so you may need to turn it off in the GPU control panel. Nvidia has another setting, called adaptive vsync, in which the card will sync to the refresh rate until the frame rate drops below the refresh rate, at which point the card will automatically turn off vsync. This can result in very smooth frame rates.Texture filtering quality
Pushing texture filtering quality up to high quality can be beneficial, but only if you have a high-end graphics card with lots of memory. Better-quality filtering means less popping and fewer texture “sparkles” during gameplay. But better quality can hamper performance, so use this option with care.Bottom line: be a control freak
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