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• Building A £500 Entertainment PC • How To Create Your Very Own Wiki • The Best Software For Video Enthusiasts
BUYING THE RIGHT NAS BOOSTING YOUR NETWORK SPEED PICKING THE RIGHT NETWORK HARDWARE TROUBLESHOOTING TIPS AND MUCH MORE!
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Contents This week...
The Best Network Hardware
08 The Best
Common Networking Problems Explained
The Essential NAS Guide 4
Setting up a home network is easier than it’s ever been, but there are still plenty of ways to improve or expand yours. From new routers to wireless extenders and adaptors, James Hunt looks at some of the best hardware on the market
14 Common Networking Problems Explained
Hopefully, your internet and home networking all work smoothly and reliably. If things do go wrong, though, what can you do to fix them? Well, maybe one of our tips can help you get back online again…
20 The Essential NAS Guide
Network attached storage is a marvellous thing. All the devices and computers in your home can share the same files, and you can even access them over the internet. To help you choose the right one, we’ve put together this handy guide
26 Five Ways To
There’s no way we could produce a networking special without at least mentioning security. The very nature of wireless networks means they’re potentially open to uninvited guests. With a few a simple steps, though, you can easily shore up your defences
Five Ways To Improve Security
Security is great, but it’s not all that exciting. No, what everyone really wants is to go faster! We’ve come with five great ways you can get more speed out of your network.
32 Video Editors
Windows Movie Maker is perfectly fine for simple tasks, but if you want to produce higher-quality videos, you’ll need to look further afield. Aaron Birch goes through your options
38 Famous Twitter Namesakes
What happens if you share your Twitter name with the name of a famous brand, like John Lewis? Who has priority? Sarah Dobbs has been finding out
42 Create Your Own Wiki The most famous wiki in the world is obviously Wikipedia, and although you’re unlikely to match up to that, it’s not difficult to set up your own. All you need is a copy of TiddlyWiki and a bit of spare time…
46 £500 Entertainment PC If you want a gaming and media centre in your front room, you could buy a games console. But PCs are, of course, more powerful and versatile. Thankfully, with a decent chunk of cash, you can build a decent system that looks every bit as good as an Xbox or PS4
Alienware 13 Gaming Laptop Gigabyte P34W v5 Lenovo Y70 Asus ROG GL552VW MSI GE72 2QC Apache Scan 3XS Graphite LG157 Sum up
69 70 71 72 73 74
60 61 62
How To Get Better Speeds
28 How To Get
Also In This Issue...
Asus ZenBook UX305CA Minix NGC-1 Lexar Professional 1800x microSD UHS-II 64GB Venturer BravoWin 10K Netgear Arlo Q Tom Clancy’s The Division`
64 66 67 106 108
78 Download Directory
82 Retro Round-up
30 98 100 102 112
Mr Hayward looks back fondly on his hairy-handed hero, Donkey Kong Dave Edwards returns with his monthly look at new games for old machines
Ask Aaron Ask Jason
92 93 94 95 96
Looking for some new software to try? Look no further!
Linux Mart Mac Mart Mobile Mart Hardware Mart Gaming Mart
The Latest News Your Letters
Regulars Subscriptions Ad Index IT Essentials Classifieds Logging Off
86 Should We Be Afraid Of OpenAI?
Sarah Dobbs asks whether we’re headed for something dangerous
91 Alphabet Pi
This week, we find ourselves all at C
111 App Of The Week
Take a deep breath and relax with the iZen meditation app
114 Top 5
Why science fiction gives us good clues about the future
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THE BEST NETWORK HARDWARE Give your internet and file transfers a real boost!
icking out network hardware can be tough. There are tons of options, lots of technologies, and it’s rarely clear what separates the highend expensive brands from the low-end ones that claim to be as good. So whether you’re actively looking for new hardware or just window shopping for upgrades, we’ve put together a collection of the best network hardware items you might want to buy.
1. Budget PCI Wireless Adaptor: D-Link DWA-525 (£17)
Just because USB adaptors are generally cheaper, it doesn’t mean you have no choice when it comes to low-cost PCI adaptors – far from it, in fact. There are plenty of sub-£20 cards around,
and some of them aren’t even made by budget king TP-Link. As proof, here’s an excellent single-band Wireless N150 card, which is only a little more expensive than TP-Link’s equivalent and better in every technical regard. The single antenna reflects its 2.4GHz-only capabilities, but it’s directional and compatible with Wireless AC networks. The bundled software allows for WPS-protected connection, and there’s also a lowprofile bracket in the box for use in slim systems. About the only bad thing you can say about this card is that it doesn’t come with its own Ethernet connection port, but then it’s a safe bet that your PC already has one on its motherboard anyway. It’s not the most thrilling piece of hardware,
BEST NETWORK HARDWARE
Just because USB adaptors are generally cheaper, it doesn’t mean you have no choice when it comes to low-cost PCI adaptors but performance is solid and it gets the job done. If nothing else, it’s potentially three times faster than a Wireless G connection, so that’s reason enough to upgrade.
2. High-end PCI Wireless Adaptor: Asus PCE-AC68 (£69.99)
The only problem with the Asus PCEAC68 is it’s so expensive you’ll have a hard time trying to justify why you need it. But make no mistake, this is a wireless adaptor that qualifies as all-singing and all-dancing, and the feature list alone make you practically beg to pay for it. Don’t believe us? Well, start reading and stop when you get to something you don’t want. It’s a dual-band Wireless AC adaptor that can achieve speeds of up to 1900Mbps (assuming your network is fast enough to handle that). The Broadcom fifthgen AC chipset has its own heatsink to keep performance smooth and uninterrupted even in systems that get a bit hot. A flexible, triple-antenna aerial comes mounted on a cord with a magnetised stand, so you can make sure you’re getting the best signal and that it stays in place, and all three antennas can be removed and replaced at your preference. And of course, it comes with a low-profile bracket if your system requires one. In short, there’s nothing you could want out of a network card that this one doesn’t have, with the possible exception of a gigabit Ethernet port. But let’s face it, when you can get faster speeds wirelessly, it’s far from necessary to have wired support as well. It costs a lot, but seriously, it’s worth it.
3. Budget USB Wireless Adaptor: Asus USB-N10 Nano (£7)
The Asus USB-N10 wireless adaptor is so small that you could potentially forget it exists, and that’s what makes
it so good. Whether you’re adding it to a laptop or desktop system, it’s discreet, stable and completely unlikely to get knocked or yanked out of the socket like many large, cumbersome USB adaptors are. That said, this is single-band N150 hardware, and the fact that it mostly doesn’t seem to exist is proof that it does most of the work in software. But it achieves strong speeds and comes with some interesting features, such as the software access point function, which allows you to securely share your internet connection with other users, and an auto-off function that makes sure you don’t waste power searching for a wi-fi signal while the system is inactive – ideal for situations where battery conservation is a priority. As USB adaptors go, it simply couldn’t be more compact. If anything, that’s its biggest flaw. If you put this in your pocket or drop it on the floor, there’s a good chance if might disappear forever, which is a problem you don’t have with larger dongles. If you want a decent Wireless N connection for the lowest price possible, then frankly it over-delivers.
4. High-end USB Wireless Adaptor: Asus USB-AC53 (£30)
Even when you’re looking for a USB adaptor, there’s no shying away from the high cost of Wireless AC hardware even this far into the technology’s lifespan. But the fact that you can get the Asus USB-AC53 for around £30 is a pleasant surprise, because it means you can get your network hardware from a respected manufacturer, which implies a level of longevity. The AC53 is dual-band, offering combined speeds up to 1200Mbps. The internal patch antennas give you wide coverage, while Asus’s NetClip software helps you locate the optimum positioning. Unlike some USB network adaptors, this one
Wireless bridges occupy a strange space in the market
comes with a cable-integrated cradle so you don’t need to have it sticking inconveniently out of a USB port if you don’t want to. There’s also a WPS instant connect button. The only thing we can imagine criticising it on is that it’s quite large, especially compared to the likes of the N150 Nano. While the cradle is innovative, it does add yet more bulk to an already large piece of hardware. Still, it looks great, connects at fantastically high speeds, and if you don’t want to crack open your PC and install an internal adaptor, there’s no better choice than this one.
5. Budget Wireless Bridge: Edimax EW-7228APn (£17)
It’s possible to find cheaper bridges, but in most cases anything that costs less than the Edimax EW-7228APn will either be a one-port device, support Wireless G connections only, or be so shoddily made that it doesn’t really work anyway. At most, you’ll save £3 to £5 buying a cheaper unit, which is so little that it hardly seems worth shouldering the inconvenience it’ll bring. By comparison, the Edimax EW-7228APn is a very convenient piece of hardware. Its five Fast Ethernet ports allow you to connect five networked devices, which can then use the bridge to attach to any 2.4GHz wireless network – so Wireless B, G and N, which includes the 2.4GHz channel of a wireless AC network. The Wireless N connection offered is single-speed (up to 150Mbps), so it should be fast enough for most network uses. Setup is simple enough: it includes a WPS button (something else that’s often missing from cheaper hardware), so all you have to do is pair it with your preferred network and plug the devices in. If all goes well, you’ll never need to touch it again.
6. High-end Wireless Bridge: Trendnet TEW-800MB (£89) Wireless bridges occupy a strange space in the market. There are a lot of
very cheap ones, and not very many mid-priced ones, and then suddenly a lot of expensive ones again. That’s why there’s such a large difference between the Edimax bridge and this. The leap in price might be nearcolossal in scale, but there’s a good reason for that: the TEW-800MB is a Wireless AC-enabled bridge capable of providing speeds of up to 1200Mbps if connected to a Wireless AC access point. This makes it ideal for situations where you might be attempting to stream high-definition media to a smart TV or other set-top box. It supports up to four devices on its gigabit Ethernet ports, meaning even multiple HD streams are supported. Although the speed improvements are what you’re paying extra for, you still get plenty of convenient features, such as one-touch WPS connections, encryption support and backwards compatibility for all network types. It’s particularly ideal if you’re expecting to stream a lot of HD video and don’t want a wireless connection that might struggle with that.
7. Budget Wireless Repeater: Netgear WN3000RP (£30)
The Netgear WN3000RP is a universal wi-fi range extender, which can be used to increase the reliability of wireless networks using any standard up to and including Wireless N. At £35, you’d expect at least that level of coverage; it is, after all, almost as expensive as buying a second router! To be fair, the WN3000RP makes a fairly convincing case as to why you shouldn’t just do that instead. Setup is incredibly simple: you only have to plug it in and hit the WPS button (for Wireless N networks, at least), and it’ll immediately get to work. The fact that it’s a universal extender means it can be transported, shared and reused without any reconfiguration or adaptation, and it’s much smaller than a second router as well! It’s not a completely perfect device. As there’s no signal strength indicator, you’ll have to guess
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where to place it to get the best performance. All this would be harder to forgive if it wasn’t such good value, but ultimately it’s not too fiddly, even under sub-optimal conditions, and it performs well regardless of circumstance. For those reasons alone, it’s worth recommending.
8. High-end Repeater: Asus RP-AC52 (£48)
As with most types of wireless accessory, if you want Wireless AC support, you have to be prepared to accept a significant jump in pricing. The Asus RP-AC52 is a repeater with Wireless AC support for speeds of up to 750Mbps, which is enough to cover the needs of almost any home user. The RP-AC52 has full dual-band support, so it’s compatible with any 2.4GHz and 5GHz standard, and its variety of on-device indicators eliminate the guesswork involved in making sure it has a strong signal to repeat. A secondary access point mode allows you to connect it to any wired LAN (for example, a library or hotel’s access point) and then create a personal wi-fi hotspot for devices that don’t have an Ethernet connection. And as a bonus, you get some of Asus’s proprietary technologies. The Asus AiPlayer allows you to plug speakers into the repeater and then stream audio from any connected device, meaning you can play music off your phone without having to tie it to the speakers with a cable, and even access internet radio using the repeater’s web interface. There’s even a powerful LED on the back, which turns it into a night-light! As repeaters go, it’s rammed with gimmicks, but if you want a repeater that stands out from the crowd, we’ve got no better recommendations.
9. Budget Router: TP-Link Archer C20i (£30)
Most of the routers we’ve looked at contain an ADSL modem, since that’s overwhelmingly the way most people in the UK get their broadband. However, if you’ve already got a modem – or you’re not averse to running an additional router – you can get a Wireless AC-enabled access point for as little as £30.
Once again, you have to look to TP-Link for this bargain. The Archer C20i isn’t just its first sub£40 Wireless AC750 router – it’s pretty much the only one. As well as supporting gigabit Ethernet, it has dual-band 802.11ac at speeds up to 750Mbps. While you don’t get some of the high-end features seen in the older (and twice as expensive) Archer C7, you do get a USB port, which allows you to share storage and printers over the network through built-in software. It’s an incredibly useful feature and a genuine rarity on entry-level wireless routers. Although TP-Link’s hardware is sometimes a bit too basic and flimsy feeling, the C20i is one of its more solid releases. The upright form factor hides three internal antennas for stable, omnidirectional connectivity, and the software is made to meet modern needs. A guest network allows you to easily share your connection with visitors, while built-in parental controls allow you to restrict access and bandwidth by IP. At this price, it’s hard to overlook it.
10. High-end Router: Belkin F9K1113 (£70)
If you want a more conventional router, with a built-in ADSL modem and the ability to take advantage of even faster multiplexed Wireless AC transmissions, the Belkin F9K1113 is worth checking out. It’s expensive compared to most other routers, but compared to other Wireless AC routers, it’s surprisingly reasonable. Most of the feature set is fairly standard, with four gigabit Ethernet ports, two USB 3.0 ports for detachable storage and some onetouch configuration buttons, but again you’re getting the reliability and quality of the Belkin name. If anything’s likely to be a problem, it’s that the Belkin F9K1113 is quite old as Wireless AC routers go, and that means it’s very much a first try at getting one right. Newer and more expensive Belkins offer performance that while not necessarily faster, is certainly less variable. But if you’re not willing to spend £100+ on what is, even at that price, comfortably mid-level hardware, this router is probably your best option. mm
COMMON NETWORKING PROBLEMS EXPLAINED
If you can’t get online or access shared files, we might be able to help…
nce you’ve set up your network, it instantly becomes essential to everything you do online. That’s why, when one goes wrong, it can be a source of near-infinite frustration. Troubleshooting a network – especially a wireless one – is hardly ever easy. If do you encounter a problem, the best way to fix it is to already know what’s wrong, or know someone who does. Unfortunately, when your network is down, you can’t even get online to Google the problem. It’s just you, your wits, and a near-incomprehensible router administration page to guide you. Unless, of course, you’ve got this article handy…
PROBLEM: Your Network Connection Isn’t Active
If your PC can’t find the network connection, the number of reasons for that are virtually endless. The only way you can approach the problem is to start with the absolute basics. The first thing you have to check is whether your PC and network hub (we’ll assume it’s a router) are actually capable of communicating. So from the bottom up: does your network hardware actually have power? Both the router and your network adaptor need to be active. Check that the router is still plugged in, that it’s switched on, and that your
network adaptor is properly seated (whether that’s in a PCI slot or USB port). If you’re not sure whether it has power, check the LEDs. Even hubs and adaptors that aren’t actively transmitting data should give off some sign of life, even if it’s just the occasional flash as it tests for an available connection. In the case of network hubs, a lack of power should be easy to diagnose and repair (check the power leads and socket), and at worst you might find yourself having to replace a fuse or switch plug sockets. At best, it’ll be a loose cable or accidentally flipped switch.
With adaptors, you’re in a much more precarious position. USB adaptors can simply be swapped between ports to see if they wake up once they’ve been plugged in somewhere else. The main ports at the rear of your system have the best chance of working, because they’re attached directly to the motherboard. If the adaptor doesn’t seem to wake up, then either the LEDs are broken (unlikely) or the USB adaptor itself is dead and should be replaced. It’s always worth trying the adaptor in a different system just to check, though! Internal network adaptors are a little bit more of a chore to move, especially if you don’t
COMMON NETWORK PROBLEMS
Triple-check that the hardware is powered and working
have any PCI slots free. Before you take the step of opening your PC, we recommend checking the Windows device manager. If the network card is present and free from errors, it’s probably receiving power regardless of whether the LEDs are going or not, so use that to guide your decision. In the case of wired networks, you should also check the network cables. It’s not impossible that they can get pulled out, so give them a good push into their sockets and check for any nasty twists or nicks that might have broken the internal wiring. Replace any damaged cables before doing anything else. If you correctly address and fix all of these problems, then your network should hopefully be alive again. If not, triplecheck that the hardware is powered and working and that the operating system still recognises it.
PROBLEM: You’re Connected To The Network But Can’t Reach Web Pages
One of the most frequently encountered (and irritating) problems is when your network seems to be connected but you can’t reach web pages, or you can only reach a small number of them. This is typically a logical problem between your computer and the internet, so given that you can’t troubleshoot the entire internet at once, it makes sense to start with your own PC. First, check that you’re still connected to your router. If you’ve lost your network connection, that would explain why web pages aren’t loading. This could something simple, like a dislodged cable or rebooting router, so check your connections and restart your hardware to try to kick it back into life. If that still doesn’t work and you’re using wi-fi, try connecting directly to your router with a cable. If that works, then the problem can at least be narrowed down to the wireless signal in some way. If the connection exists and you still can’t get to web pages, that’s when things get difficult. First you have to make sure the connection is actually working properly, so check that you can access your router’s administration system. You’ll normally need to browse to 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1 in your browser to do so. If this connection fails, it’s probably that the router has crashed (so reboot it by cycling the power). If you can access the router’s admin page, then at least you know the problem isn’t between your PC and the router. The problem is that it
means there’s likely something wrong between the router and the ISP. But all is not yet lost! To troubleshoot this, try to establish that the connection to your ISP is working. Have a look at the lights on your router, and if the one marked something like ‘ADSL’, ‘DSL’, ‘Cable’ or sometimes just ‘Internet’ is switched off, then it means your modem has no signal. That means the connection has probably gone down (though it could just mean the cable is unplugged, so check that too!). Assuming the cable is fine, the fault is with the ISP, and all you can do is wait for them to fix the problem, though obviously you can call them or check their service status page on your phone’s mobile connection to confirm whether they know of any faults. If the internet connection is working, then there’s one last avenue to pursue: the problem could be that your ISP’s DNS server has gone down. This is most likely if some pages are still working, but others aren’t. Those for which you already have the DNS information will continue to be reachable, but others won’t be. To fix this, open your router’s admin page and change the first two DNS servers to the IP addresses of the free OpenDNS servers: 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206. Make a note of the ones you change, though, in case you need to change them back. Once that’s done, reboot your router and the connection should – hopefully – be working.
PROBLEM: Your Router Keeps Resetting
A spontaneously resetting router is a difficult problem to fix, and usually requires a permanent solution in the form of replacement hardware – but that doesn’t mean always. At the very least, you can try a few things to see if you can manage the problem.
When routers spontaneously reset, it tends to mean that they’ve actually crashed and performed an automatic reboot. This could be the result of a hardware fault, but it’s not always that. There are a few potential causes, so we’ll tackle them in terms of how easy they are to fix. The first is that the router might be overheating. Like all computers, if they get too
traffic, like video streaming or file sharing. You can potentially stop it by limiting the traffic throughput, either in your router’s settings or by slowing down your own system’s demands on it. It’s not an ideal solution (after all, no one wants to limit their connection permanently), but if it works, at least you’ve got a stable connection while you see what can be done.
PROBLEM: Your Wireless Network Isn’t Visible
Being unable to find the wireless network you’re looking for is one of the most irritating problems for wireless hardware, though 90% of the time it means that the access point has reset itself, and the network will reappear as soon as it’s finished rebooting and reinitialising. The other 10% of
Triple-check that the hardware is powered and working
hot, they become prone to errors, which cause crashes. If your router is kept in an enclosed space, near another heat source or has its vents covered, then this might be the problem. Ensure it’s in a cool and well-ventilated area and, with any luck, the crashes will stop. The next problem is that the router might be overheating because it’s overworked. This is something that can happen a lot if you’re using a lot of heavy
Finally, if none of that works, the best thing to do is flash your router’s firmware with the latest version. If the crashes are being caused by a bug or configuration error, flashing the firmware will hopefully fix it. You can obtain the latest version of the firmware from the manufacturer’s website, but be aware that flashing it will probably lose any custom settings you’ve got, so you may want to make a note of them before you do it!
the time, it’s the indication of a much bigger problem. Being unable to see the network name you want in your list of available networks means, on its most basic level, that your wireless antenna isn’t picking up a signal from which it can extract SSID. Several things can cause this, so we’ll try to eliminate them in a logical order. First, check whether you can see any other networks in the list, even if you can’t connect
to them. Assuming you’re not living in a lone house with miles of farmland in every direction, you should see a few other wireless networks around. If you can, you have good reason to believe that your wireless adaptor is working fine. If you can’t, then the problem might be that the antenna isn’t working properly. Check that it’s powered up and, if it’s a full-size aerial, that it’s properly screwed in. If the adaptor definitely working, then the next thing to check is whether the SSID is actually being broadcast. Assuming you’ve checked the wireless access point’s power (remember that even after being switched on, a router takes a minute or two to start broadcasting the SSID), then the best thing to do is quickly check another wi-fi capable device to see if that can pick up the SSID. If it can’t, then you know that the SSID isn’t being broadcast, which can be a consequence of three different things: that the wireless isn’t active, that the SSID has been voluntarily suppressed or that the range simply isn’t long enough to
Being unable to connect to a network is, in many ways, more frustrating than being unable to ﬁnd it at all
reach the antenna. You can fix the second by checking that SSID broadcast is enabled in the router backend, and the third by moving the router and access point closer together (or rearranging the antennas). However, if that doesn’t have an effect, then the only remaining cause is the first: that the wireless access point has stopped working for some reason. The best course of action at this point is to connect to the wireless access point using an Ethernet cable and manually enter the administrative backend. See if the wireless (WLAN) signal has been disabled, and if it has, switch it back on. If it’s already enabled, you may have a hardware problem with the router’s antenna, so check that it’s attached and undamaged. If, for some reason, you can’t access the router via Ethernet or any other device’s wireless signal, then your only
remaining hope is to do a factory reset on the wireless access point. Most wireless access points come in the box with wireless enabled by default, and assuming there isn’t a manual switch for enabling and disabling the feature, a factory reset is the only way to turn it on without accessing the router’s back-end. Check for a pinhole button and/or consult your device’s manual for details on how to do that.
PROBLEM: You Can’t Connect To A Wireless Network
Being unable to connect to a network is, in many ways, more frustrating than being unable to find it at all. In this case, you know that the network is available but something is preventing a stable connection from being established. If the network uses encryption, it’s probable that
the thing preventing you from connecting to it is an incorrect wireless key being used. If you’re manually entering the password, double-check with your source that you’re entering it correctly and that it hasn’t changed. If it has changed and you can’t get the correct one, you have to find an Ethernet cable, connect your device directly to the wireless access point, then use the administrative backend to enter a new wireless password. Alternatively, you can perform a factory reset and use the default wireless password, which should be printed on a sticker somewhere on the device. If the password isn’t what appears to be at fault (i.e. at no point are you asked to enter a password, implying that the one you’re using is correct), then the problem is probably something far harder to get a handle on: a software misconfiguration. To fix this, open the ‘network and sharing centre’ from the control panel and click ‘change adapter settings’. Select your wireless network (probably called ‘wifi’ and right-click on it to access the properties. Here, under the networking tab, open ‘Internet Protocol Version 4’ and make sure both sections under the general tab are set to ‘obtain automatically’. Click OK and restart all of your hardware. With any luck, the configuration problem will be fixed. Hopefully, this helps you fix the most common networking problems, and it gives you some idea about any others that might come up. Let us know if you have any of your own and we’ll try to address them in a future issue! mm
HOME NAS GUIDE
Everything you need to know to get you started with network attached storage…
aving a home network makes it easy to take advantage of lots of different technologies, though most of us only use ours to share an internet connection between several devices. Network attached storage is just one way you can use your home network to make your life easier. But what actually is it, and why should you care?
What Is NAS?
Network attached storage is essentially a hard drive (actually more often a set of hard drives) that you can access from almost any device on your network – and frequently from outside it too, thanks to built-in server software. The technology has been growing in popularity for various reasons. One is the general move towards solid-state storage in home computing devices (whether they’re laptops, smartphones or tablets).
This means that after years of being dirt cheap, storage space is once again priced at a premium. Worse still, the increasing resolution and quality of commercial media means that the entertainment we actually use our computers to view takes up more space than ever. The experience is universal: devices becoming full, and media being deleted and redownloaded. But increasing the space in a phone or tablet from a meagre 16GB to a marginally less meagre 64GB can cause the price to jump up by £100-£200. By comparison, the same amount of money could get you 4TB of mechanical hard drive storage. NAS devices allow you to take advantage of low-cost, high-capacity storage using your network. Acting as a stand-alone file-server, they give you a place to store large files and run the software you need to stream those files direct to your PC, TV,
games console, smartphone or tablet on demand. In some cases, you can even do so over the internet, meaning you don’t even have to be in the same country to gain access to your beloved media. Cross-compatibility means NAS devices can allow easy access to data regardless of device manufacturer or operating system make (something you’ll appreciate if you’ve ever tried to share files between a Mac and PC, or Windows and Linux). They require very little technical knowledge to set up, and they’re cheaper, quieter and smaller than dedicated file server systems. Admittedly, there are disadvantages to using network attached storage instead of local storage: an increase in network traffic, the potential speed limitations of certain types of wireless networks and a greater expense to run. In general, though, the benefits outweigh the problems.
HOME NAS GUIDE
Some models support wi-ﬁ, but it’s worth remembering that slow wireless connections can create a bottleneck What Technologies Do NAS Enclosures Support?
NAS devices contain a variety of technologies, none of which should be especially unfamiliar to any seasoned computer user. When you’re buying one, look for Ethernet support – especially gigabit Ethernet – if you intend to use a physical connection to your router (or other network hub). Some models support wi-fi, but it’s worth remembering that slow wireless connections can create a bottleneck. Only the fastest multi-channel Wireless AC connections come close to gigabit Ethernet speeds, and even then they’re generally much less consistent and far more vulnerable to interference. Software-wise, you may want to check for iTunes compatibility, a DNLA-compatible media server (a standard protocol for media streaming to devices and applications) and, if you’re interested in accessing your files remotely, some ability to stream over the
web. Many NAS devices have their own backup suites too. You may also be interested in extra online features. Some NAS devices come with free online cloud storage, which will automatically back up your data when your internet connection is idle. Indeed, you can get as much as 25GB of online storage ‘free’ with some of them, although they do tend to be priced more highly to cover such an expense. Whether or not you want to use cloud storage may depend on what you’re using the NAS for, but it does give you the ability to access files from anywhere on the internet, even when your home connection is inactive or the NAS is switched off, as well as creating a secondary backup that’s immune to any major catastrophe. Finally, if you see hardware specs for things like cache and CPU, don’t get confused: NAS devices have their own internal controllers and processors (much
like a router), so in that sense, the processor speed lets you know how well that software performs. Similarly, the cache tells you how well disk speeds can be maintained, because more cache means better performance. Don’t get too hung up on paying extra for that type of hardware alone, though. You’re unlikely to notice a huge leap between the low- and high-end processors or cache levels in a home environment. They’re only likely to have tangible effects if you have a lot of simultaneous users.
What Drive Conﬁgurations Are Available?
When buying a NAS device, it’s important to know whether you’re buying a single or multi-bay device. You can’t tell this from capacity alone, though high-capacity drives are more likely to be multi-bay. Neither is especially better than the other, but we’d guide home customers with one or two users towards the cheaper, single-drive solution, and larger networks towards a multi-bay setup. To illustrate using examples, a 2TB capacity NAS might contain either one 2TB drive or two 1TB drives. The former is likely to be cheaper, but the latter gives you better data integrity (backups can
be kept on separate physical drives, or duplicated), as well as the potential to run disks as a RAID array, which will give better speeds when multiple users are accessing the data together.
What Are Driveless NAS Bays?
If you have a spare hard drive hanging around that you think has a few good years left in it, then you’re in luck: you can save money by buying a driveless NAS bay, which will allow you to get a NAS device up and running for as little as £35. NAS bays contain the software and hardware you need to run a NAS device, but are considerably cheaper because they contain no actual storage. If you can provide the remaining component of a hard drive off your own back, it’s undoubtedly the least expensive way to get a NAS up and running. Don’t spend too much on this type of NAS, though; high-end NAS bays contain many features you probably don’t need. Space for multiple hard drives can be useful, but even two high-capacity drives might be much more than any home user needs. As previously noted, the most expensive NAS bays may also have additional hardware, such as memory modules to
If you have a spare hard drive hanging around that you think has a few good years left in it, then you’re in luck
improve their caching capabilities. These are aimed at business and enterprise uses. Such features are far more sophisticated than a home user would need and a potential waste of money – which somewhat ruins the savings inherent in buying a NAS enclosure.
NAS Devices For Every Budget
If you’re wondering where to start with NAS devices, here are a few you can start with no matter what price range you’re looking at, so you know what to expect and what’s available for what the amount you want to spend.
LOWEST PRICE OPTION: Synology DiskStation DS115j (£89)
This diskless enclosure contains one bay, making it perfect for budget home users. It’s a simple unit, with two USB ports, a standard Ethernet port and 250MB of
RAM, but if you’re looking for a basic backup or file server, this is the kind of hardware you need. The File Station software allowed secure sharing over the internet, and the Cloud Station service allows you to sync between multiple devices (including multiple DiskStations) and online services like Google Drive and Dropbox. All you have to do is provide a sufficiently robust hard drive to store the files on. It’s possible to buy with the same unit with pre-installed Western Digital Red drives, and the price then ranges from £151 for a 1TB version to £311 for a 6TB version. Obviously, the lack of a drive is what makes this particularly cheap, so if you don’t have a spare hard drive to put in it, you won’t save a huge amount of money. But even if you don’t, it’s cheaper to buy the enclosure and shop around for a SATA drive than to buy the two together. Just beware
of using low-quality or particularly old drives; the last thing you want is a storage failure wiping any important data stored here!
BUDGET OPTION: Buffalo LinkStation 210 3TB (£104.99)
If you have a little bit more money to spare, the Buffalo LinkStation 210 isn’t much pricier than an enclosure on its own, but when you factor a 3TB drive into the price as well, it becomes substantially better value. As well as the network storage, this NAS unit contains a built-in BitTorrent client, so you can download things (perfectly legal things, of course) directly to your NAS without even needing your PC switched on. The free WebAccess app allows you to get at the contents from anywhere online, on virtually any device. A built-in DLNA service allows any smart devices to access media from the NAS’s own storage, and your entire household’s backup needs are provided for by five bundled licences of the NovaBACKUP software. The built-in interface is designed to be completely operable even from smartphones,
so even if you don’t own a PC, you can take advantage of its storage and capabilities. 250MB of RAM and a gigabit Ethernet connection mean it easily competes with any NAS device in its price class. Note that as a single-bay enclosure, it might be slow if multiple users are trying to access it, but unless you’re expecting lots of people to use it simultaneously, this shouldn’t be a huge problem. And certainly if you want to pay for a multi-bay enclosure, it will mean stepping up your budget a considerable amount.
MID-RANGE OPTION: Buffalo LinkStation LS220 6TB (£190)
If you want a more robust backup solution or a NAS device with faster access times, the Buffalo LinkStation is a two-bay NAS device that remains affordable for home use (just about). Two 3TB drives give it a full capacity of 6TB, which you can either use at the full capacity (if you want more storage) or in tandem as a RAID array (if you want better performance and/or more secure backups).
Cross-compatibility means NAS devices can allow easy access to data regardless of device manufacturer
Additional features include everything you get in the cheaper LinkStation: a gigabit Ethernet connection for high-speed LAN performance, a built-in BitTorrent client, WebAccess apps for all major platforms and novaBACKUP licences as well. In addition, it contains a built-in FTP server for remote access and a print server so you can use it to share any USB printer as well. Support for domains, network access restrictions and active directories means this enclosure could also service small businesses, though in technical terms it’s only recommended for up to two users simultaneously, and any more than four would probably become a problem. Still, for less than £200 it’s a good price considering the features it offers, and anything substantially more expensive would probably be too much for a normal household.
HIGH-END OPTION: WD My Cloud Mirror Gen 2 6TB (£260)
If you don’t want to get into the order of Enterprise-level storage solutions, this kind of device is more or less the upper limit for home NAS units. The Western Digital My Cloud Mirror comes with a pair of automatically RAID mirrored Western Digital Red drives, which are designed for high-integrity and fast access times. The personal storage software gives you the ability to manage photos, videos and other files from any device, while WD SmartWare Pro gives you backup software compatible with all major operating systems, and WD Sync allows you to mirror the contents of any part of the NAS storage to any PC you like. While in technical terms there’s not a huge amount of difference between this and other two-bay drives, what makes it worth paying extra for is the software and pedigree. Western Digital’s storage is highend and reliable, so it’s an ideal choice for anyone who wants their NAS to act as a secure place to store files. Obviously no type of storage is irreplaceable, but it’d take a pretty big disaster to lose data stored here. And that concludes our brief tour of the NAS scene. With any luck you now feel equipped to start investigating which NAS is right for you, whether you want extra storage, better backup abilities or remote access to your files. Remember – if you’re running a home network, then networked storage is just one of the many things it can do that you aren’t already taking advantage of. Don’t leave it any longer! mm
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WAYS TO IMPROVE NETWORK SECURITY
Give yourself the best chance of keeping your network secure and private
etwork security is more important than it has ever been, but since wireless routers now come with a level of security set up by default, many people are less aware than ever of the security issues they face, and what can be done to improve and manage network security in general. That’s why, to help anyone wondering what they can do about their own network security, we’ve put together this list of 5 things you can do to improve it without making any major changes to your setup or hardware.
An Eye On Your 1Keep Network Device List
Most modern routers give you the ability to see and manage a list of all devices that are connected to your network. Properly managing this list will allow you to see if and when something unexpected has hitched a ride on your wireless connection. These device lists mostly work by reading the MAC address of a piece of hardware, so any entries are tied to the specific piece of equipment regardless of its IP address. You can generally assign names (and sometimes a hardware class) to each entry, so whenever you connect a new device take a moment to add it to the list and properly identify it. Not only will this help
with troubleshooting, it’ll mean as soon as you see a device that isn’t identified you’ll be able to tell that it’s unauthorised – or at the very least, new. Just having a device list doesn’t make your network more secure in itself, since there are no access restrictions based on it (at least, not by default) – but it does give you the ability to monitor the status of your network more closely, and that can only be a good thing for its security. MAC address filtering is an option, but easily spoofed by anyone making a serious attempt at unauthorised access – it’s better to keep your own eye on what’s connected rather than assume the router can block it for you.
The Default 2Change Administrator Login Details
Most of us never bother to change the login credentials on our router’s administrator account, assuming that the wireless network key will keep potential snoopers out – but this is a bad idea. If someone manages to connect to your network by some back-door method, such as through malware on your desktop PC, they might be able to gain access to your router’s administration area. Lists of default admin logins aren’t difficult to come by online. Indeed, most
manufacturers list them on their websites in case people customers their hardware but don’t have a manual. If you know the router’s model number the full login details are probably just a Google search away. That’s why it’s a good idea to immediately change the admin password to something secure as soon as you can. The standard rules for a secure password all apply – make it long, ideally unguessable (so no dictionary words) and use a mixture of upper case, lower case and numbers. Any change is better than no change, and it means that even if someone manages to connect to your network without your approval, there’s another layer of security for them to crack before they can open your network up in any serious way.
3Don’t Use The DMZ Server
If you experience connection issues that might be caused by a firewall, it’s often tempting to set your system as the DMZ server for your network. The DMZ server is a reference to “demilitarised zones”, but what it means in practical circumstances is that the system is essentially outside the firewall. This can be a good thing for diagnosing problems that the firewall might be causing, but it’s only ever useful as a short-term solution.
IMPROVE NETWORK SECURITY
That’s because if you leave a system as the DMZ server for any extended amount of time, it essentially becomes vulnerable to all of the online attacks that would previously have been filtered out by the router. If you install a software firewall there’s some ability to get rid of this type of traffic, but a router can do it far more reliably and comprehensively. Essentially, using the DMZ is as bad as having no security, because it leaves one system open to attack, and that in itself creates a weak point that can cause trouble for the entire network. To create a completely secure network, you have to make sure the DMZ is only used temporarily if at all. Any permanent fixture on it is practically issuing an open invitation to hackers.
Turn Your Wi-ﬁ Off If You’re 4Not Using It
While it would be inconvenient to switch your router on and off every time you stop using your network, that’s not what we’re talking about here. If you’re only using a cabled connection (i.e. Ethernet) then having a wireless access point is only going to give hackers the opportunity to attack your network. Turning off wi-fi is a trivial procedure – all you have to do is log into your router’s
MAC address ﬁltering is an option, but easily spoofed by anyone making a serious attempt at unauthorised access
administration backend and click the relevant option, then reboot it. Reversing the process if you decide you need wi-fi at any point in the future is just as simple. Ethernet-only networks are far harder to break into than wi-fi ones just because of the sheer practicality that wi-fi offers potential attackers – after all, you don’t even need to be in a building to try making a connection to networks inside! Make sure you don’t turn off wi-fi while you are using it, though – otherwise you’ll have to drag your computer and/or router somewhere so you can make a cabled Ethernet connection to switch it back on.
The Default 5Change Network Credentials
Your router probably has a sticker on the bottom that identifies its critical details, such as SSID and WPA key. Having access to this combination of information is necessary for anyone wanting to connect to your network – but the fact that it’s easily obtained from the router also makes
it fundamentally insecure, especially if you’re running a network in a public location such as a café or other small business with a lot of traffic. Knowing the SSID of a router can also give attackers ways to learn other things about you, such as the ISP you use, so changing it is a good idea under any circumstance. Make sure you don’t change it to anything that connects you to your address or online identity – keep it nice and generic so no one can be sure whether it’s even yours without personal assurance from you. Similarly, changing the WPA key will ensure that no one can steal that by looking at the router. Many devices can connect to a network using the one-touch WPS (wi-fi Protected Setup) system (which is normally just a button you push on your router to connect new devices) so it’s not even as if you have to enter the WPA key a lot. Just make sure you don’t lose it, otherwise you’ll have to do a factory reset to get it back! mm
FIVE WAYS TO IMPROVE NETWORK SPEED Is your wi-fi underperforming? Take a look at these tips
f you’re worried that your network is slowing down or not performing as well as it used to, you’re not alone. Poor network performance can be incredibly frustrating, and trying to fix it can be even more difficult. So here are five different things you can do to improve your network speed that actually work.
Use Of QoS 1Make And Packet Shaping By default, your router probably assigns all traffic the same priority. That’s fine if you’re only doing very simple things online, but if you’ve got a program that’s taking up a lot of bandwidth in the background – or perhaps one that’s struggling to get the bandwidth it needs because of other things you’re doing online – then reprioritising might be the best way to improve the network’s speed in the areas where it matters to you.
Most routers allow you to shape traffic based on the TCP/ IP port, so if you want standard HTTP traffic (i.e. web pages) to be served first, you’d select port 80 to be a higher priority than others. This would speed up your browsing, even though the connection speed would remain the same as before. It’s worth remembering that packet shaping doesn’t actually speed up your connection as a whole, it only makes certain bits of it faster. Generally traffic shaping features are found under the section of a router’s settings labelled ‘QoS’ (meaning ‘Quality of Service’). As well as shaping traffic on specific ports, you may also be able to shape the traffic based on a system’s IP address or MAC address.
2Install New Firmware When it comes to software, there’s always room for improvement. That’s why companies release firmware updates for their systems.
Installing new firmware is always a gamble on some level, not least because it almost certainly means you’ll lose all of your customised settings during the process, but in the plus column it can add features, iron out bugs and improve compatibility in ways that do give you extra speed and reliability. In some ways, upgrading the firmware makes old routers feel like new.
The latest firmware downloads are normally available from a router’s manufacturer website, and updating the existing firmware is a fairly simple process, which can be accomplished from the system’s administration backend. There’s an element of danger – if the firmware is incorrect or the update is interrupted it could turn your router into little more than a decorative brick –
IMPROVE NETWORK SPEEDS
Removing obstructions and redirecting the antennae might be a surprisingly effective way to get your network back at capacity
but this is very much a worst case scenario. If your router doesn’t have an official firmware update available, you could try using a custom firmware, such as the free, open-source firmware alternative DD-WRT. Available from www.dd-wrt.com, the firmware adds a number of features and even some controls not found in most router software. It’s tricky for novice users to master, but if you’re thinking of replacing the hardware anyway (and it’s compatible – not every router is) then it can’t hurt to try it out!
If network connections aren’t running at the speed you hope, the problem might just be that the connection is weak. If this is the case, removing obstructions and redirecting the antennae might be a simple but surprisingly effective way to get your network back at capacity. Network signals are surprisingly sensitive to interference from any number
of sources – microwave ovens, fluorescent lights and other electrical equipment are obvious ones, but sometimes a reflective or flat surface is enough to cause serious havoc with your connection. Redirecting the aerials on your equipment gives you a chance of establishing a strong, more reliable signal by reorienting the hardware in such a way that the radio waves can be sent and received unobstructed. Although you can get specialist equipment to help, it’s not necessary for a home system. There’s no real art to figuring out what works best in any given situation – just point your aerials (on the router and, if you have them, your adapter) in a new direction and see whether the signal gets stronger or weaker, and whether the speed improves. If you really want to boost a weak connection, it might make sense to move the router completely. As long as your cables are long enough, there’s no reason to leave the router exactly where it was installed the closer it is to your network adaptors the better.
devices, but it will also mean you can take advantage of the faster speeds. Most new tablets, laptops, smartphones and consoles all support Wireless AC, and it’s a simple matter to update a desktop system to do so as well. If you do swap out your router for a Wireless AC one, remember that you also have to upgrade your Wireless N adaptors too if they aren’t already compatible with it. If the network standards don’t match up, the network will automatically run the connection between those devices at the speed of the slower one. Backwards compatibility means you don’t necessarily have to do it if money’s an issue, but you’ll only see significant speed improvements if both ends of the connection are Wireless AC-enabled.
5Use An Extender
If there’s no way you can improve the signal strength between your wireless router and the device you want to connect to, there is still one more thing you can do: buy
a wireless range extender. Sometimes called “wireless repeaters”, these devices can detect and rebroadcast a wireless signal with virtually no delay, giving you the ability to stretch a signal over a much larger distance. This signal amplification makes connections more robust, and are especially useful if you can’t move your other devices around for any specific reason. Typically, they plug into wall sockets and repeat a wireless signal, but it’s also possible to get ones that take a wired Ethernet connection if that’s more useful to you. This sort of hardware is also useful for extending wireless range into the garden or attic, where a normal wireless signal may not reach. Ultimately, a stronger wireless signal is always going to result in better speeds, and that’s exactly what a range extender of this type will provide. They’re relatively cheap and easy to set up, so it’s always worth giving one a try if you think poor signal strength might be what’s behind your troubles. mm
4Step Up To AC
Maybe it goes without saying, but the best way to get the best speed out of a network is to make sure it’s running on the latest protocol. That means getting a router that’s compatible with Wireless AC, also known as 802.11ac. 802.11ac doesn’t have a much better range than 802.11n, but its bandwidth is significantly higher, so even a low-strength connection should be able to carry more data. It’s backwards compatible with older standards, so upgrading your router shouldn’t cause any problems to your existing
Video Editors For Enthusiasts If you need more video editing power than Windows’ built-in tool, take a look at these more powerful apps
ideo editing is a something that anyone can try, but only a few get just right. It’s one of those tasks that many dismiss as easy, but then find is quite complicated if they want to create polished and professional results. The truth is you need imagination, and to develop an eye for design along with the technical skill to operate the software if you want to excel. Even within the YouTube community there’s a wide spectrum of skills on show, from total newcomers using mobile phone cameras, to seasoned professionals with high-end equipment and a real understanding of what it takes to make professional videos. The difference between the two is like night and day, and the magnitude of skill and effort the best YouTubers put in really does show. One of the main reasons for this difference in quality is the software used to edit the videos. Many people starting off on YouTube are still learning, and stick with entry level editors like Windows Movie Maker or YouTube’s own online editor, while more advanced users and enthusiasts graduate to more powerful options that open up all sorts of new possibilities. These more powerful programs allow greater control over cuts and transitions, as well as the addition of professional effect. These features, in turn, gives content creators more options, which can lead to better videos if used properly. We’re going to take a look at some of these editing options, focusing on software that users with more advanced skills should consider moving to – though these programs will take users from entry and mid-level editing all the way to full-on professional creation. Some are expensive, a fairly common drawback in the market, whilst others are free. The latter options obviously don’t always provide quite the same amount of power as expensive suites, but for YouTube content, they should provide ample power. So let’s begin with the freebies.
VirtualDub www.virtualdub.org One of the oldest options available, VirtualDub has long been a staple in the video editor’s toolbox. That is, if you’re a fan of .avi files, which the format supports exclusively. Even with this limitation, and the arrival of more, very popular formats, VirtualDub is still a very useful, and surprisingly effective free tool.
Windows Movie Maker
Windows Movie Maker www.microsoft.com We’re looking at the more advanced programs here, and we’ve already said Movie Maker is a commonly used starter program, but we should include it for reference, and as it can be used to make some good quality clips. Movie Maker features a simple design that focuses on ease of use to make it very approachable even for the video editing layman. It’s mostly drag and drop, and by simply dragging and dropping clips into the timeline, you can easily create many types of movie. Additions of audio tracks, subtitles and other effects are easy to add later on, with the minimal, and familiar interface that borrows from Microsoft’s usual Ribbon GUI. So, if you know how to use Windows, Office, or nay other Microsoft app, it’s not hard to make the jump to Movie Maker.
VIDEO EDITORS be one of the trickier applications to use if you’ve no prior experience. As a more advanced user, however, it’s a good program to try if you want to broaden your skills and try a different way of editing your footage. The interface is well-designed, and the app has a wide range of tools that make it easily better than many competing programs. The addition of a tool that can be used to create movies specifically for mobile devices is a major bonus for social media content creators, as mobile devices are only getting more and more popular as devices to view such content.
VideoPad Video Editor www.nchsoftware.com If you’re focusing on the creation of footage for social media and/ or YouTube, VideoPad Video Editor is surely one of the best options. It’s a powerful editor that supports just about any video format you can name, and it has a respectable amount of features. However, the major draw it it’s ability to handle tasks any online star will relish. It can export videos directly to the likes of Facebook and YouTube, and even has the option of capturing desktop activity, a commonly required ability for YouTube content creators and reviewers. It also has a flexible export option, and can burn footage directly to disc for easy archival. It’s not the most well-designed interface, though, and the actual editing GUI is very cluttered and not as well laid out as some alternatives. If you put in the time, however, you’ll find it is a very competent editor.
VSDC Free Video Editor
The interface is well-designed and not bogged down with clutter, yet is packed with filters and other video manipulation tools. Admittedly, the menu system itself is a little stodgy, and needs work to get used to, but if you need to work with .avi files, VirtualDub is a good option. Lightworks www.lwks.com If we had to pick the most powerful free video editor, as well as possibly the best all-round, Lightworks would almost certainly win. It’s an amazingly powerful editor, especially considering it’s free. It has a full timeline editing suite of tools packed with features such as real time effects, trimming tools, support for HD resolutions (up to 720p) and multi-cam support. The program is so powerful and effective, the developer is keen to point out that it’s even been used in Hollywood, on such films as The Wolf of Wall Street, Pulp Fiction, and LA Confidential, to name but a few. That’s high praise indeed, and if a multi-million dollar movie can make use of it, it’s a sure-fire bet YouTube videos are covered. There is a cost to the program, and that’s your time. Due to its power and flexibility, Lightworks isn’t the easiest editor to use, and will require a lot of practise. However, we’re here to look for more advanced editors, and this perfectly fits the bill. VSDC Free Video Editor www.videosoftdev.com Arguably the most difficult kind of video editing to get to grips with is non-linear. Because of this, VSDC Free Video Editor can
VideoPad Video Editor
Shotcut www.shotcut.org Shotcut is an open source editor that can work with almost any video source, with a very flexible import set up. It supports wide file video formats and packs in a range of filters. However, its real strength comes from its specialisation in the more mundane, practical tasks, such as colour touch-ups, picture quality adjustments, and camera fixes (stability). This makes it a very powerful post-production touch up tool, especially for advanced users, who will certainly get the most out of this. As powerful as it is (and it’s very powerful), it’s specialisation in video optimisation means you’ll likely need another editor if you also need to perform more glamorous edits, such as special effects and the like. ivsEdits LE
Machete Video Editor Lite www.machetesoft.com It’s not hard to guess the speciality of this program. As the name clearly suggests, this tool is all about trimming down video, and you can use it to get rid of unwanted footage. What’s different about this tool than many other apps, even more powerful editors is the fact the program does it’s trimming without the need to re-encode the video. This means that you’ll lose no video quality, no matter how many edits you make. The interface is simple, and the program easy to use, even for beginners. For advanced users, this is a great tool to have alongside a more general purpose editor.
Jahshaka 2.0 www.jahshaka.com This is an open source editor that packs in some unique features that advanced users will no doubt appreciate. Along with a powerful set of timeline editing tools, there’s support for 2D and 3D animation, as well as Chroma key effects (a technical term for the now-ubiquitous ‘green screen’ effects used in almost all major movies), and a lean towards more visually impressive effects that many other competing programs (certainly free ones) don’t feature. On the flip-side of the positives, the program’s core interface is a little confusing, not allowing the almost universal drag and drop loading of clips. It demands a different approach, one that you’ll have to learn to love if you want to make full use of the program. If you’re planning on getting into animation, though, this is a task you might just want to tackle. ivsEdits LE www.ivsedits.com This is an editor that’s aimed at the more advanced user, and although the free incarnation has some restrictions placed on it – mainly in terms of the formats it can work with – it still offers a lot of options. These include support for HD video up to 4K and the real-time video input from external devices. Other features include 3D transitions, the ability to crop video, colour and brightness alteration, multi-camera mixing, and a slew of other higher-level editing tools. It’s quite the app, and clearly has the power for even expert users. The interface isn’t the best, however, and it’s quite complex and counter-intuitive, but again, we’re looking at software for the advanced user, so a complicated interface shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Machete Video Editor Lite
Avidemux fixounet.free.fr/avidemux Compared to some of the other programs we’ve listed here, Avidemux isn’t one of the most powerful, but it still has plenty to offer those looking to expand their editing options. This includes easy to use trimming tools, that perform their task without any need to re-encode, alongside additional features like filters and quality touch-up tools. What’s even more pleasing is that these are all contained in a simple, easy to use GUI that, while still undoubtedly being for the more advanced user, makes it one of the programs that’s easier to get to grips with. It’s also open source and has a very good online wiki that contains plenty of information and tips to get the most out of the title.
Wondershare Filmora www.wondershare.net As our focus is on more advanced applications for users who’ve earned their editing stripes with the simpler options, Wondershare Filmora certainly fits the bill. It’s a powerful application that has a lot of advanced features while staying just the right side of approachable for beginners. It performs this trick by offering up two modes: Easy and Advanced. This allows users of all abilities to use the program, with the more skilled able to delve into the program’s more powerful tools. The interface is well laid out, with an intuitive drag and drop system and image editor-style options and tool layout. Filters, overlays, transitions, split-screen and more are all on offer, and footage can be quickly exported or burned to disc. You can also upload directly for Facebook and YouTube, making it another great options for online video content creators. Sadly, the free version does place a watermark on the final video, so if you plan to use it extensively, you’ll need to purchase a license.
Wax www.debugmode.com/wax This is another very specialised program, and one that focuses on .avi files. Wax isn’t really a powerful editing tool in the strictest sense, but is instead mainly concerned with special effects. It’s here where the program stands out, so much so it’s been used as a plug-in for big name editors from the likes of Adobe and Sony. Along with standard effects and filters, Wax can apply all manner of pro-level additions, including particle effects, masks, and even mapping video footage onto 3D objects. It’s a very interesting app, and its specialised tools make a good addition to any editor’s tool set, It comes into its own in tandem with another editor, though. MPEG Streamclip www.squared5.com This is a very interesting program, and like some of the other apps we’ve looked at, it’s also specialised. It’s also very small in size, with a download smaller than 400KB. Within this tiny package you’ll find a surprisingly competent editor that can manipulate video, rotate it, and work with the soundtrack. It’s able to open a range of file types, including DVD video and video streams via URL. Additionally, it has a very flexible export function that’s one of the best we’ve seen. It may be small, but this app has plenty of power within its tiny frame.
Sony Vegas Pro
Avid (Mac/Win) www.avid.com This is the consumer version of the immensely powerful and expensive Avid Media Composer (which costs around $2,500) that’s routinely used to make movies, TV shows and more. This paireddown incarnation is no slouch, however, and easily stands up to other alternatives. It features all of the standard and advanced tools you’ll need to author any kind of video you’d care to mention, as well as a wide range of tools you’d find in other high-end packages. It supports a large range of file types, has flexible export options, and can handle all smaller-scale projects, including YouTube content and indie movies. Although Avid may not be as well known to many, and not as popular with consumers, it’s often the program of choice for professionals and within the industry, such is its power and flexibility. Adobe Premiere Pro (Mac/Win) www.adobe.com Probably the most popular commercial video editor, certainly at a ‘prosumer’ level, Adobe’s ubiquitous Premiere is a powerhouse, albeit an expensive one. It features support for a vast amount of formats, 3D video editing, HD and 4K, multi-camera, and has a wealth of effects, filters and extras wrapped up in an interface that many users will be familiar with, as it follows Adobe’s standard design scheme. Also available in a watered-down Elements version, it’s possible to get to grips with that before upgrading to the Pro version. It’s integration with other Adobe software makes it even more flexible, and when used in the Creative Suite, many avenues of creativity are opened.
Final Cut Pro
iMovie (Mac OS) www.apple.com/mac/imovie Packaged within the iLife suite on any Mac, but also sold separately, iMovie is basically Apple’s version of Movie Maker, although its users would argue it’s far superior. While it’s aimed at the consumer, it packs enough muscle to also be used in more advanced ways. The dragand-drop interface makes it very simple, and the various effects and transitions – which will be very familiar to many – are great. Videos can be quickly exported to various media, including discs and YouTube. Sony Vegas Pro (Windows) www.sonycreativesoftware.com Sony Vegas Pro is a very expensive (£600), but very powerful set of tools for high-end users. The editor supports full HD and 3D video, Blu-ray authoring and multi-camera editing, as well providing all the effects and filters you’d expect. You can use a very wide range of file types, and the excellent video tools are accompanied by a range of audio options, so you can handle sound and vision in one place. It’s surprisingly easy to use, too, giving it even more appeal to those venturing into the advanced editing sphere with a bigger budget. Final Cut Pro (Mac OS) www.apple.com/final-cut-pro Apple’s Final Cut Pro, as one of the easiest editors to use in this price and power bracket, is a great way of transitioning from basic to advanced editing, It features a superb multi-track editing interface that clearly displays video and audio tracks in one place, making it easy to edit even complex projects. It supports a wide range of file types, including HD and 4K, and its preview mode is an essential tool that allows you to view all edits and changes before you actually commit to them.
There are, of course, many other package out there we’ve not covered, but the above options are, in our opinion, some of the very best. Each is well worth checking out if you’re developing your video editing skills, but need more power under the hood. mm
Adobe Première Pro
What Do You Do If You Share Your Twitter Name With A Brand? Sarah Dobbs looks at the Twitter users who share their names with massive brands
SHARING YOUR TWITTER NAME
very Christmas, @JohnLewis receives a barrage of tweets about the store’s newest Christmas advert. The problem is, @JohnLewis isn’t a shop. He’s a man called John Lewis who lives in Virginia and works as a computer science teacher. The actual Twitter handle for the department store is @johnlewisretail, which is admittedly less obvious than @johnLewis, but, well, John Lewis got there first, and since it’s his actual name, he’s well within his rights to hang onto it. Even if that means endlessly replying to people who want to complain about his café or complement his lingerie selection. Which he does, all year round. He’s good at snappy responses, usually making a silly joke by replying as if they’re actually talking to him before dropping in the handle for the store in a way that gently points out their mistake. This sense of humour has seen his follower count swell to a respectable 15,900 over the last couple of years, but though people tweet at him all the time, he must have to brace himself every November for a fresh onslaught of advert related tweets. Though John Lewis is the most wellknown example of mistaken Twitter identity, there are quite a few others who have similarly confusing handles – people who share names with politicians, or sportspeople, or brands, and who probably never imagined they’d be fielding so many misdirected tweets when they first signed up for the microblogging service. So what can you do when your Twitter handle causes so much confusion? Well, there are a couple of different options…
Christmas is a particularly trying time when you’re called John Lewis
Hand It Over
If your Twitter mentions were getting flooded by tweets directed at someone else, making Twitter basically unusable to you, you might consider just changing your handle. Twitter users tend to be pretty lazy when it comes to tagging people in tweets, particularly the disgruntled ones, and seeing your Notifications tab light up because people are angry about customer service is no fun. The Twitter username @BMW, for example, used to be owned by tech reporter Brian M. Westbrook. As an early adopter, the username made sense – it’s short, which is good for a medium where characters are strictly limited, and it’s also memorable. What’s more, you know... those are his actual initials. He ended up getting a lot of tweets from people who thought the handle belonged to the car brand, of course, and while he was still
Mr Lewis tends to reply to misdirected tweets with humour
replying jokily to them in 2012, he’s since changed his username to @BrianWestcott. Similarly, @AMD used to belong to Adam M. Doppelt, a tech entrepreneur who, like Westbrook, signed up early and nabbed his initials as a username. If you’re reading this magazine, you can probably see the problem: Advanced
Micro Devices, AMD, wanted the account for themselves. Their marketing department got in touch, asking Doppelt to change his handle so they could use it themselves, but he was initially reluctant – after all, it is his name. After a bit of negotiating, though, he agreed to free up the name for AMD the
What If Someone’s Got Your Name?
Twitter has been around long enough now that a lot of the most desirable usernames have already been snapped up. If you go to sign up and find that your name has already been claimed by someone who doesn’t use the account, you might feel really annoyed. However, if you’re hoping to claim the username for yourself, I’ve got some bad news. Twitter used to disable inactive accounts, freeing up the handles for other people, but the policy has changed, and Twitter now just advises users to come up with variations on the name they want – by adding numbers, underscores, or abbreviations.
Brian Westcott probably doesn’t have to field as many tweets like this since changing his handle
brand when they agreed to pay $50,000 to local charities (which is nice). He now goes by @adamdoppelt.
Try To Sell It
Doppelt’s deal might seem like a reasonable response to owning a Twitter username that other people want – after all, plenty of people got payouts by buying up brand-relevant URLs and convincing the real brands to pay them to release them, and now that Twitter accounts are as important as websites were in the early 2000s, you’d think there’d be money to be made there. Certainly some people have tried to either buy or sell desirable Twitter handles. Former pro-skateboard Rob Dyrdek, for example, has tried in the past to buy @rob from its current owner, Rob Bertholf. Unfortunately for him, Bertholf is in marketing, and understands too much about search engine optimisation to be willing to part with it. Naoki Hiroshima, who owns @N, has also said he’s been offered $50,000 to sell his handle, but he too turned it down. Undoubtedly some people have successfully exchanged money for Twitter cred, but before you go registering hundreds of celeb-like Twitter accounts, be careful – it’s actually against Twitter’s rules, and they’re pretty strict about it. On Twitter’s support page, it explains
that username squatting is prohibited, and that attempts to “sell, buy, or solicit other forms of payment in exchange for usernames are also violations and may result in permanent account suspension.” Trying to sell prime Twitter real estate, then, might result in the username being taken out of the equation completely.
Have It Taken Off You
That’s not the only way Twitter handles username squatting, either. If a brand or
Twitter’s Trademark Policy
celebrity approaches Twitter to complain that their username has been taken by an impostor, Twitter sometimes decides to just hand over the account. American blogger Sapphire used to tweet as @sapphirecut, until one day she woke up and found messages from Twitter explaining that, due to a copyright request, her handle had been transferred to someone else and her account had been renamed. After challenging the decision, she ended up with the handle @Sapphire, which is arguably better anyway – although her current bio does note “Am NOT a Lounge, Club, Event.” An even more dramatic battle raged over ownership of the username @Chase. Chase Giunta originally registered the
Twitter has revised its rules on usernames a few times over the years, due to issues of squatting and mistaken identity. Its current policy on trademarks states: “Using a company or business name, logo, or other trademark-protected materials in a manner that may mislead or confuse others with regard to its brand or business affiliation may be considered a trademark policy violation.” In other words, you can’t sign up as @Micro__Mart, use the magazine’s logo, and pretend to be us. When a violation is reported to Twitter, there are a few different outcomes. If Twitter agrees that the account is intended to mislead customers or fans, it’ll suspend the account and email the owner to tell them why. If it’s confusing people, but not intentionally, Twitter will ask the account holder to clarify, and may decide to give the name to the trademark holder. Or, if Twitter thinks there is no violation, because the tweeter is using the name for a completely different purpose, it might just be left alone. Fan accounts are a kind of grey area, since Twitter says users are allowed to use brand names and images for the purpose of reporting news or giving commentary. They do have to make it clear they’re not actually Harry Styles or Lady Gaga or whoever, though, and the username should reflect that. Twitter will, and has, removed accounts that are just trying to trick fans.
SHARING YOUR TWITTER NAME company)… and lots, lots more. None of them set out to be cybersquatters, and they all have fairly obvious claims to the usernames they’re using, so they’re just carrying on as normal.
The Moral Of The Story
One’s a shop, the other… isn’t
name in 2008, using the account for personal musings, but when he started receiving customer complaints meant for the Chase bank, he started retweeting them to make a kind of joke out of it. Unfortunately, JP Morgan Chase didn’t see the funny side, and decided the account ought to belong to it. Giunta says he was contacted by a representative of the bank, who offered him the princely sum of $20,000 for it, but that he turned it down, telling them that it was against Twitter’s rules. The next day, he received an email notifying him that as he was impersonating the bank, he was violating Twitter’s policies. He changed his bio and picture to make it clear that he wasn’t associated with the bank, and was actually just a guy called Chase, but to no avail – his account was suspended, then handed over to JP Morgan Chase. Giunta had to register for a new account. Unsurprisingly, he went with @ChaseGiunta.
Just Deal With It
Of course, if no-one’s trying to actively take your username away from you, and the misdirected mentions aren’t proving too annoying, you could just… do nothing. That’s the path a lot of tweeters who share their usernames with more famous entities do. Like @DavidCameron, which isn’t the official account for the British Prime Minister, but the account of a twentysomething who lives in Oregon. David Cameron is his name, and when
he registered his Twitter account in 2007, Gordon Brown was still Prime Minister. It was only in 2010 that it started to become a bit of a problem. However, though he does get a lot of angry tweets – particularly relating to the NHS – the American David Cameron mostly just thinks it’s funny, and replies to people as if they’re genuinely asking for his opinion (as an added bonus, President Obama’s Twitter account, @potus, follows him, which could be fun). Other tweeters who take a similar approach include @Kraft (a guy called Brandon Kraft, not a cheese seller); @ TheAshes (Ashley Kerekes, not a cricket tournament); @PJHarvey (software developer Phil Harvey, not the musician); @MSG (Michael S. Galpert, not Madison Square Gardens); @Heinz (Austrian academic Heinz Wittenbrink, not the beans
You might think this is a problem you’ll never have to worry about, because your Twitter name is something unique to you, or at least something that no big company is likely to want. But even the most innocuous seeming usernames can become troublesome. Just ask Chris Andrikanich. Nicknamed “Alphabet” because of his difficult-to-spell surname, he’d been using @alphabet since 2007… and then, in August last year, Google announced that it was creating a new parent company for its various services, and calling it Alphabet. Within hours, Andrikanich’s mentions were blowing up. A wry tweet he made about the situation – “Well, that was an interesting way to end a Monday…” garnered thousands of retweets. Suddenly, his Twitter account was in the spotlight, with people speculating that Google would offer him a huge sum of money to hand over the account. So far, though, that hasn’t happened, and Andrikanich is still tweeting using the handle, Since most people still seem to say “Google” instead of “Alphabet”, he probably hasn’t had a huge amount of trouble with it yet, but it does show that, like @DavidCameron, you could find yourself unexpectedly inundated with tweets for someone else, or even with your account suspended. If there’s a lesson here, then it’s not about choosing a username – unless you want to go with a random keyboard smash of letters and numbers, you’re unlikely to be able to guarantee an unassailable one – it’s about making sure you check, before you tweet, that you’re @-ing the right person. mm
The Ones Who Did It On Purpose
This article has mostly been about people who unintentionally ended up with usernames that confused people, but there are some Twitter users, who use established brand or celebrity names as their Twitter aliases, and just find the mix-ups funny – or ignore them completely. Examples include @Lego, @Chipotle, @RickyMartin, @Coke, @ HaagenDazs, and @JackDaniels. Because all of them make it clear that they’re not associated with the brand names they’re using, they aren’t technically breaking the rules… though they might break their own Notifications tab occasionally.
Wiki Links: How To Create Your Own Wiki Chris Salter explores the Tiddlywiki software
ikipedia is one of the top ten websites on the internet, in term of unique users. It has more than five million articles and pages in English, and a large number of these pages are also translated into different languages. The site allows easy access to the world’s knowledge and allows anyone to update specific articles as and when more information is available, presenting everything in a clear, concise format. The idea of the wiki is to create different articles or pages linked together by a number of links within an article or for searching for each article individually. They’re usually collaboratively edited and are usually edited using a simplified markup language. All the editing is done directly on the website itself. Wikis tend to be run on a web server, storing data in a database and using PHP or similar to display data, though there are some exceptions. Wikipedia is collaborative in nature, but that doesn’t stop wikis being locked down and only accessible to specific people. They can be a great way of storing information that can be linked together in specific fashion. Wikis are ideally suited for storing related information.
As there are many different wiki software programs available, how do you know which one to use? The majority of them run on a web server and are accessed from a browser. Some require you to set up databases and therefore can require some knowledge to get used to. Yet it needn’t be this hard to create your own wiki, and that’s where Tiddlywiki comes in. This article covers Tiddlywiki in more detail, enough to get you started using it for your own work.
A completed tiddler, with images, links and formatted text
A brand new TiddlyWiki file downloaded and opened
On downloading, the website detects the browser and gives you some warnings on how saving the file works. Because a Tiddlywiki is a local file, some browsers’ security settings prevent saving the file directly and will instead download a copy of the file (with the changes) each time you save the file. As Tiddlywiki by default tries to save after every change to a tiddler, this means you could be downloading a lot of files regularly. However, there are some workarounds: by using Firefox and the TiddlyFox plug-in, the file can be saved directly from the browser without interaction from the user. There are some thirdparty options as well: TiddlyDesktop is a desktop program for Windows, Mac and Linux, designed to interact and save Tiddly files without any user interaction. If you don’t want to autosave the files, then manually saving the file might not be a big deal, though it’ll download to your browser’s download folder, rather than where you want to keep it. There are apps available, allowing you to edit the Tiddlywiki file on both Android and iOS. Once downloaded, you’re good to get started!
Using the default layout, on the right of the screen, the title of the wiki should be displayed with three icons below it. I’ll call this the control toolbar. The + sign creates a new blank tiddler for you to name and type in, the cog opens the control panel tiddler, and the tick in a circle is the save button for the wiki. If you’re using one of the auto save features above, the wiki will save automatically, but if you’re not, this will appear red until you click it and save the file. Below this is the search box; this will search the entire Tiddlywiki. As you type, the drop-down box indicates if it’s found the word in a title of a tiddler or if it’s in the text of a tiddler. Clicking the small magnifying glass will bring up the advanced search tiddler, which lists all the tiddlers better than the dropdown autocomplete within the search bar! Finally, below this in the menu are a range of tabs. ‘Open’ displays all the currently open tiddlers. Unless you close a tiddler with the cross in the top right of the tiddler, it’ll remain open, so this list can get quite long. The ‘Recent’ tab shows the recently edited and created tiddlers. The ‘Tools’ tab allows you to change what buttons are shown in the control toolbar. The ‘More’ tab brings up some more tabs going vertically now. In the More tab, there are many different tabs; these all related to tiddlers you might have created, so in a blank wiki, they should be fairly blank. Tags allows you to search the tiddlers that have been tagged in that way. The Missing tab displays all the notes that have been created, either from CamelCase or by a link in a tiddler, but which hasn’t actually yet been created. Orphans indicate tiddlers that have not been linked to by another tiddler. This may be intentional, and there isn’t anything wrong with having orphaned tiddlers, but this allows you to view them at a glance. The Type tab describes the type of tiddlers you have, so if you start importing files, the file types will be grouped here. Finally, the ‘Shadows’ and ‘System’ tabs describe the tiddlers that control the
On opening a blank Tiddlywiki file, you’re presented with a Getting Started tiddler. This allows you to make some changes; you can change the title of the wiki, the subtitle and what tiddlers are opened when you open the wiki file. At the minute, the title should be called:
Tiddlywiki’s website is a Tiddlywiki itself
My ~TiddlyWiki Note the tilde character. This has been inserted (and is invisible), because by default, Tiddlywiki creates a tiddler for any word that is formatted in CamelCase. The tilde character acts as an escape and prevents this from happening. If we leave the default tiddler as it is for now, we can create our own tiddlers, and then on next starting up, we can add tiddlers we want here and remove the Getting Started tiddler.
Tiddler editing screen
tiddler if clicked (and will let you edit it there and then). Occasionally, you will want to link to a tiddler but not use the tiddler title. This can be done in a similar fashion to BBCode for forums. [[Displayed Link Title|Tiddler Title]] The same process can be used to link to external websites.
Image tiddler – created by dropping images onto the web browser
Images can be imported into Tiddlywiki so it isn’t just text in your notes. This is done relatively easily by dragging and dropping the image file onto the open TiddlyWiki. This will bring up an import tiddler, asking if you want to import the file. This creates a tiddler with the name of the file being imported. Viewing the tiddler should display the image. Opening up the edit tiddler menu on a graphic tiddler will allow you to add and remove tags just like a normal tiddler. You can also change the file dimensions here. Note that this crops the image and doesn’t resize it. By default, Tiddlywiki supports GIF, ICO (icons), JPEG, PNG and SVG (vector graphic files, which are commonplace on Wikipedia). Images can then be inserted into a text tiddler to be displayed alongside the text by using the following command: [img[Image Name.jpg]] You can also set the size of the file to be different to how it’s stored in the document (useful for displaying thumbnails of a larger image) by setting the height or width in the image code: [img width=640 [Image Name.jpg]]
Tiddlywiki on an iPad
back-end of the wiki file itself. You don’t need to edit these if you don’t want to change anything of the theme or how the file works.
Note that when you import the image file, it becomes inaccessible to the file system (other than the original file you
Tiddlywiki uses WikiText to create tiddlers. It doesn’t have rich text formatting, so if that’s something you need, unfortunately, Tiddlywiki isn’t for you. WikiText is pretty easy to pick up though, so it shouldn’t take to long before you can start editing tiddlers with ease. For those who already know Markdown, check the plug-ins; you can use a mixture of WikiText and Markdown in your wiki if you download a plug-in. The basics of WikiText can be seen in the following table:
Tiddlywiki comes with some built-in palettes to change the colours but keep the underlying theme the same
This allows easy customisation of text while writing. All this is useless if you can’t create a link to another tiddler. This is done by either using CamelCase, or if you want the tiddler to contain a space, you surround the text for the name of the tiddler in square brackets: [[Cup of Tea]] This will link to a tiddler called ‘Cup of Tea’. If this doesn’t exist, the link will be highlighted as a link but will open the create new
The plug-in menu is accessed directly from the Tiddlywiki itself
Tiddlywiki has an active user base and forum
imported from), and the image data is stored within the HTML file itself. This means if you later want access to the image file, you’ll have to download it from the wiki file. If you don’t want images to be stored in the Tiddlywiki file itself (can assist in keeping the file size of the file down), you can link to files on your hard drive. Ideally, create an image folder in the same directory as the Tiddlwiki file, and you can make them appear in the wiki by using a relative file link (which, if you sync the Tiddlywiki file and the image folder means it’ll display the images on all devices). [img[./Folder/Image Name.jpg]] You can display images external images hosted on the internet by using the URL of the image within the image tags.
Tiddlywiki supports creating tables in text. This is can be confusing to start with, especially with large complicated tables where it might actually be better to import an image from a table created in a spreadsheet. However, for smaller tables, it allows tables to be created easily and quickly. A table is created with the following code: |!Header 1 |!Header 2 | |Cell 1 |Cell 2 | This gives… Header 1
You can align text within the columns by changing the location of the space. In the example above, there’s a space at the right end of the cell (after the Header and Cell data). This will create left aligned data. A space on the left (before the data) and no space between the | and the data will align the data to the right. With a space at either end, the data will be centred in the column.
If you don’t want to learn WikiText or you have a good knowledge of HTML, you can write directly into Tiddlywiki in HTML. As Tiddlywiki supports HTML, you can use HTML to override the location of items within the tiddler if you require, such as the text wrapping of text around an image.
Hopefully this guide has given you enough information on Tiddlywiki and getting started in using it. It has a number of uses – blogging, note taking, journaling and, as in my use for it, revising and storing linked data. This has been a very quick and limited look at the abilities of Tiddlywiki. If you visit the website, you can browse the full extent of its editing powers. I haven’t discussed
With some editing, a Tiddlywiki can look totally different
lists, headings and other items you may require for longer notes. I also haven’t covered how to change the theme, other than the default theme or the ones available through the plug-in library. Tiddlywiki is flexible and is able to store data in a format that makes it accessible on any device that has a web browser, so you don’t need to be locked into a single platform, though editing the file is restricted, ironically, due to browser security settings. The single file nature means that the data is highly portable, so you shouldn’t be without your information when it’s needed. mm
Tiddlywiki isn’t the only wiki software that will run on the desktop and allow you to create wiki-style brain dumps. Voodoopad is a Mac program, while there’s Zim, WikidPad or LinkedNotes that will run in either Windows or Linux. Of course, you can create your own online wiki for editing on any device, using something like PmWiki, DokuWiki or MediaWiki (the software behind Wikipedia). However, these options require a server and, in some cases, knowledge of PHP and MySQL to get started. Node.js Node.js is a cross platform runtime environment for developing server-side web applications. It’s possible to install Tiddlywiki using a Node.js server, and this then saves all Tiddlers individually, making it more suited to being served over the internet. However, doing so makes the wiki less portable if you want to sync between machines or use it from a USB stick. Plug-ins Tiddlywiki supports the installation of plug-ins to improve the editing experience. This is usually achieved by simply opening the control panel of the Tiddlywiki and downloading from the plug-in library. Plug-ins range from Markdown plug-ins (allowing you to create Tiddlers using the Markdown format, rather than the Tiddlywiki markup) to different themes and tools to assist in using Tiddlywiki as a blogging platform. CamelCase CamelCase is formed by creating a phrase and removing the spaces between them and capitalising the first letter of each word. So MicroMart would create a tiddler called ‘MicroMart’.
Building A £500 Entertainment Centre We look at creating a modern, multi-functional media machine
e’ve had a fair few media centres and gaming PCs of all shapes and sizes through the Micro Mart doors recently, and it got us into thinking: we could really do with a system to hook up to our TV for gaming and media playback. It’s easy enough to have any old chassis stuck in the corner of the room near your TV, but we’d like to have a more subtle media centre-type build instead. And since we’re also partial to a spot of intense gaming from time to time, we’d like a decent graphics card in there too. Basically it’s a traditional media centre PC, but we wanted to make sure it had the best modern components we could get, while still being suitable for media and Netflix-type streaming duties, as well as giving us a decent frame-rates while playing games. We could just buy a games console, which would be significantly easier than sweating over a PC build, but where’s the fun in that! Anyway, we’ve set ourselves a budget of £500, which should be more than enough to get everything we need to build an entertainment PC that looks every bit as good as it plays.
Thankfully Falcon Computers (falconcomputers.co.uk) kindly stepped up and helped us out with the components, which came to a total of £499.96. They are: • • • • • • • • •
Antec ISK600 mini-ITX case – £42.99 ASRock H110M-ITX motherboard – £65 Intel Core i3-6100 3.7GHz CPU – £99 Asus Strix GTX950 OC 2GB – £134.99 Kingston 2x4GB DDR4 HyperX Fury RAM kit – £39.99 Intensio 128GB SSD – £35 WD Blue 1TB SATA HDD – £40 Samsung SATA laptop DVD/RW optical drive – £13.99 Aerocool Integrator 500W PSU – £29
We could easily chop and change the various components to better suit a budget less than £500, and you’ll notice that there’s no operating system yet. To keep the cost below £500, we’re going to install a flavour of Linux to begin with and see how well the entertainment system performs. After that, we’ll look at a Windows 10 build and see how it goes from there.
It feels like an age since we’ve had a PC-building article in Micro Mart, so while many of you will already know how to put together a computer from parts, there are undoubtedly some who won’t. We’ll start with all our components on a dining room table in their respective boxes. The first thing you’ll need to do is unpack the case and remove the lid. The Antec ISK600 is a pretty small chassis so, you’ll need to make sure you have enough room to manoeuvre when it comes to fitting the components. To get a bit more room to work with, you’ll need to remove the drive bays first. In this case they’re slotted into cut-out sections along the inner chassis frame, on rubber mounts to prevent vibration and reduce noise. It’s also advisable to scoop up the front panel cables and the power cable for any fans and poke them out the sides so they’re not in the way. The first component we’ll fit is the PSU, simply because we prefer to work around the various cables that come off it, and depending on where it’s positioned in the case, it’s often easier to get it in first rather than having to fiddle around an already fitted motherboard. The Antec case, due to the fact that it’s an ITX form, requires the PSU to be fitted toward the front of the chassis and to use a power pass-through from the power plug on the rear of the case, which will fit to the power plug on the PSU. It’s not too much of an effort, and thankfully the Antec ISK600 has a foam backing and a cradle that a full-sized PSU can fit into. You just need to make sure that the PSU fan is pointing out into the case as opposed to pointing toward the front.
ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE BUILD
The components from Falcon Computers,
Open the case up and remove the drive bays
500W is more than enough for what we want here. The Asus GTX950 is a mid-range graphics card, so it shouldn’t take up too much power. And the Aerocool Integrator is 80 Plus Bronze rated too, which helps keep the electricity bill as low as possible. With the PSU screwed into place the next step is to fit the CPU and cooler to the motherboard and fit the motherboard into its appropriate place in the case. We prefer to fit the CPU and the CPU cooler to the motherboard before fitting the motherboard in the case, but we know plenty of people who fit the motherboard then the CPU and cooler. Anyway, the Intel Core i3-6100 and the stock cooler that comes with it are easy to fit. You just flip the CPU clip on the
We could buy a games console, which would be
Sweep the front panel and fan cables to one side, to get enough space to work with
Antec ISK600 ITX Case
signiﬁcantly easier than sweating over a PC build, but where’s the fun in that!
motherboard, drop in the CPU and pop the four plastic pins at the corners of the cooler through the holes in the motherboard. Then hook up the CPU fan plug to its labelled port on the motherboard. It’s a lot easier these days than it used to be. Just to note, the stock cooler comes with a layer of thermal paste on its base – the part that fits on top of the CPU. It’s enough for our purposes and the kind of heat levels that the processor and stock cooler will get to. We’re not planning on overclocking anything here. With the CPU and its cooler fitted, take the motherboard backplate and fit it into the slot at the back of the chassis, then slot the motherboard on to the backplate and over the four raised ports on the bottom of the case. Make sure you’ve got the backplate the right way around, and screw two opposite screws into the ports that should align with the motherboard.
The Antec ISK600 ITX case measures 195 x 260 x 369mm and has a steel frame with brushed aluminium top and side panels. There’s space for a 12.5” graphics card with two PCI expansion slots and five drive bays. It’s compatible with all ATX standard power supplies, a maximum CPU cooler height of 170mm, and it comes with a 120mm rear fluid dynamic bearing fan installed.
The PSU in the Antec ISK600
We prefer to fit the CPU and the
sits toward the front, with a
cooler before fitting the motherboard
pass-through for the power
You can see them in the corners of the ASRock H110M-ITX board we’re using here. With the motherboard screwed into place, find the long ATX power connector from the PSU and plug it into the long ATX connector on the motherboard. In the case of this particular motherboard, the ATX power connector is located just behind the first memory slot. In addition to the long ATX power slot, you’ll also need to fit a smaller four-pin 12V ATX power connector, located on the motherboard in the top corner behind the audio port block on the rear I/O. Corresponding with that is a similar four-pin Molex plug on one of the PSU’s cables. Both plugs will only fit one way, and there’s a clip on one end of the plugs from the PSU, which will attach to a ridge on the connectors on the motherboard. With the power plugs in place, locate the three thin wires with plugs on the end that come from the front of the case. These are the power switch, reset switch and HDD LED. These need to be connected to the area on the motherboard labelled ‘PANEL1’. All you need to do is follow the labelling on the motherboard to line up the right plug – which is also labelled. Often you’ll find the front panel connectors are coloured differently across cases, but most of the time you’ll find the coloured wire is positive, while the black or white wire is negative. It’s not the end of the world if you get them crossed, but the switch or LED may not work correctly (in which case, just flip them over and see if that fixes it). By the way, you can find the front panel connections described in the motherboard manual. And yes, they’re fiddly little things.
The memory should snap into place, but remember to flip the slot catches back first
Screw the motherboard in place. Make sure it’s secure and that you haven’t trapped any loose wires
The ASRock H110M-ITX supports the latest sixth-generation Intel core processors and has two DDR4 memory slots. In addition, there’s a single PCIe x16 slot, 7.1 HD audio, four SATA ports, four USB 3.0 ports (two front, two rear), gigabit Ethernet, DVI, HDMI and a PS/2 mouse/keyboard combo port.
Intel Core i3-6100
Launched last year, the Intel Core i3-6100 CPU features a base frequency of 3.7GHz and a TDP of 51W across two cores and four threads. It incorporates Intel HD 530 graphics with a base frequency of 350MHz, a maximum dynamic frequency of 1.05GHz and a maximum video memory of 1.7GB.
ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE BUILD
Locate the ATX power plugs and make sure the front panel connectors are
The Asus GTX950 is a pretty good GPU. Just slot it into the only PCIe slot
in the ASRock H110M motherboard
The last plug for the motherboard from the front panel is the large USB 3.0, blue-coloured connection. In this case, it fits in the USB 3.0 connector on the motherboard, next to the long ATX power connection on the ASRock H110M-ITX. Next up we have the memory to fit. While a lot of people prefer to fit the memory before fitting the motherboard, just like we do with the CPU and the cooler, we’ve always left it until the motherboard is firmly screwed into place. Why? Because you can give the memory a firm press to click it into place without worrying about squashing whatever you’re leaning on or bending the board. The 8GB of DDR4 memory we have from Falcon Computers here is pretty decent stuff and should help make this system fly. Memory will only fit one way; you just need to make sure that the slot in the middle – or off-centre – is lined up with its partner section in the RAM slot. Make sure you’ve flipped down the end locks on the RAM slot, which are the two clips either end. When you put the memory in the slot, the clips on either end should snap over the indents on the memory chip. Next we chose to install the graphics card, since it’s quite a big component, and it’ll be easier to move the cables around it, rather than having to disconnect anything after finding out it’ll get in the way of the card. The Antec case requires you to remove a bracket with three screws first. One screw fastens the bracket to the rear of the case, while the remaining two fit on the PCI backplates. The current backplates can be removed when you’ve taken the bracket off. The ASRock motherboard has a single PCIe slot, which is obviously where the Asus GTX950 will be fitted. Much like the memory, there’s a bracket at the rear of the PCIe slot, which will snap into place when the graphics card is inserted into the slot. Fitting the graphics card is easy enough: you just line it up with the now open PCI backplate and gently push the card into place along the PCIe slot on the motherboard. With a firm push, the card should snap into place, and you can screw in the PCI backplate and the bracket to the rear of the case to make sure everything is in place and doesn’t move around. Since modern graphics cards tend to draw more power than motherboards can offer, they often require an extra sixpin PCIe power connector to help them along. Some PSUs will already have this, but others will need an adapter, like this: goo.gl/EFqJOe. Since we were planning on using this PC as an all-round entertainment system, we thought it would be handy to include a DVD drive. You could probably get away without an optical drive these days, but it covers all bases in case we ever dig out
an old disc. Falcon Computers included the slimline, laptop spec Samsung DVD/RW with the build, so the next job is to fit it to the first drive bay cradle and pop the slot out on the front of the case so the optical drive can be accessed. Fitting the optical drive in the Antec case is simple: you just screw it in place on the bottom of the drive bay cradle. While we were fitting the optical drive, we thought we’d also fit the Intenso SSD in place. The Antec drive cradle can house several drives; you just need to line up the holes in the cradle to the holes in the drive and screw the two together. With both drives in place, we slotted the front drive cradle back in place and pushed the cradle forward so that the optical drive is in line with the front of the case. Once that’s done, plug in a spare SATA power plug from the PSU and fit a SATA cable from the motherboard’s available SATA connections to the SSD and the optical drive. The secondary hard drive also needs to be hooked up as well, but in this instance we thought it’d be neater to screw it into the second drive bay cradle that the Antec offers. Again, it’s easy enough to line up the holes on the cradle and the drive,
Asus Strix GTX950 OC 2GB
The Asus Strix GTX950 OC edition uses the GM206250-A1 GPU variant and manages a GPU clock speed of 1140MHz (11% faster than the stock 950 GPU), a boost clock speed of 1329MHZ (12% faster than stock) and a memory clock of 1653MHz. It’s a dual slot card measuring 8.7 inches in length, and it has a TDP of 90W. Outputs include two DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort.
You’ll need to make sure the PSU has the correct Molex adapter for the
The slimline DVD can be screwed into place in the front drive bay cradle
screw it into place and plug in the power and SATA cables before slotting it into place behind the first drive bay cradle. That’s it for the hardware side of things, other than fitting the lid to the case back on again. Before you do that, though, it’s worth plugging in a keyboard, mouse and power and seeing if everything powers up and that the fans on the CPU cooler, the graphics card and on the case are all working. If the system boots, then you’ve done everything correctly. If not, take a moment to go back and see if you’ve missed any plugs or if you’ve knocked a plug out while you’ve been feeding cables through the system and fitting other components. Also, check that the PSU is actually powered up.
Disk Or USB?
Once the .iso is downloaded and on your current system, you have a number of choices of what to do with it. Burning the .iso to a DVD one popular. There are countless DVD burning tools available. If you’re using Windows 7 and above, then all you need to do is make sure there’s a blank
Kingston HyperX Fury 8GB
The first time you power up the newly built PC you won’t get much further than the BIOS before it informs you that there’s no operating system installed. Thankfully, that’s a pretty easy thing to rectify. First, we’re going to use Linux as the main operating system. It’s free, easy to use, and we can install the Steam client and play an ever expanding selection of games as they become available. We’re choosing Linux Mint for our main installation for a number of reasons. Mint is easy to install, easy to use and is an ideal distro to get into Linux with. Sadly, it had a bit of a wobble a few weeks ago, with one of its images being hacked to leak data to a server in Bulgaria or something. Although that’s bad news for Mint, the team has since sorted the problem, and everything is now back to normal. We’re also going to assume that to get to the Mint page and download the .iso you’ll already have a computer with access to the internet, and a blank DVD or a handy USB flash drive to copy the image to. Therefore, you’re first port of call is to navigate to the Linux mint 17.3 download page at goo.gl/mFLthG and grab the 64-bit edition of Cinnamon Mint. The Cinnamon element is the desktop environment that comes with this version of Linux Mint. In layman’s terms, it’s how the desktop looks and behaves and what special features it uses and supports. To confuse matters even more, there’s also MATE, KDE and Xfce versions as well. You’re welcome to try each out, of course, as each will offer a different interface to the same core Linux; it’s another of those personal taste things again. Following the link from above, you should be looking at a page filled with servers from varying countries. Choose the one that’s closest to you, and click the link next to it and the 1.5GB download of the Linux Mint .iso will start.
The Kingston HyperX Fury DDR4 kit consists of a pair of 4GB 2400MHz sticks, with low power consumption, CAS latency CL14 – CL15 and a lightweight aluminium heatsink.
Aerocool Integrator 500W PSU
The Aerocool Integrator is aimed at mainstream computing systems with a high efficiency 85% Bronze certificate, 550mm cable lengths, six SATA connectors, a single 12V rail and a single 6+2-pin connector for graphics cards.
ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE BUILD
Test the system before you put The SSD can be placed above the optical drive, with room for SATA power and data
Both drive bays are in place, with the secondary 1TB WD drive fitted with power and data
DVD in the drive (it’s too big for a CD) and double-click the downloaded Mint .iso. This will launch the Disc Burner wizard, where you’ll simply follow the instructions and click ‘Burn’ to start the process. If you’ve opted to install Linux Mint using a handy USB stick (make sure there’s enough space on the stick), then you’ll have an equally numerous amount of programs to achieve this by. For the sake of argument and to keep this section relatively simple,
All in all, it’s a successful project and one that only cost £500 for everything we want played to us on our TV
we’ve used Universal USB Installer for a number of years now, and it’s never failed us. You can find Universal USB Installer at goo.gl/rQUQPh. Just download the executable, plug in the USB stick and run the Universal USB Installer program. After you’ve agreed to the licensing terms, select Linux Mint from the drop-down box labelled Step 1, click on the Browse button and locate the downloaded .iso in Step 2. In Step 3 choose the inserted USB stick from the list. Once you’ve made sure that all is correct (especially the choice of USB drive letter), click on the Create button, and the .iso will begin to transfer to the USB stick.
the lid back on. If all is well, you’re ready for an operating system
won’t. In these cases you’ll need to hit either Delete or F2 to enter your BIOS and set the DVD or USB as the first boot option. In short, though, it’s best to consult your motherboard manual for more information.
Live Desktop And Installation Of Linux Mint
Right then, we’ll assume that everything has gone to plan, you’ve booted into the live environment of Linux Mint and you’re now looking at the Mint 17.3 desktop on your TV. This is the live desktop or environment, and here you can use Linux Mint as if it was already installed on your PC. However, it’ll run much slower than you’d expect, due to the fact that you’re actually running it from the USB or DVD drive. To use Linux Mint as your operating system of choice, you’ll need to install it to the SSD. Thankfully, this is much easier than everything else we’ve done to get to this point. To begin with, double-click the Install Linux Mint icon on the desktop. This will launch the Mint installation wizard that will walk you through the process of making the OS a personal installation. The first option available to you is the language; choose the one that relevant to you and click Continue. The next screen will automatically confirm that you have enough space available on the hard drive you’re installing Mint
Intenso 128GB SSD
Booting Into Mint
Whichever method you’ve chosen, be that DVD or USB, to actually get Linux Mint on your PC you’re going to need to boot the system with either the DVD or the USB as the bootable drive. It’s not quite as complicated as it sounds, really. Most motherboards offer the option to press F11, sometimes F12 (F6 for the EZ Mode on the ASRock motherboard) at the initial powerup to allow you to choose the First Boot Option. Obviously you’ll need to make sure the chosen medium is physically inserted into the PC to begin, with the DVD in the tray and the USB stick in its relevant port, depending on which you’ve opted for. If, after pressing one of the F-keys, you’re presented with a menu of possible boot devices, make sure you highlight the correct DVD or USB from the list and press Enter to continue the boot process. Sadly, not all motherboards are created equal, and where most will offer an F11/12 quick boot menu option, some
Using a high speed MLC NAND flash, the Intenso 128GB SSD can manage a read speed of up to 520MB/s and a write speed of 300MB/s.
Before you install anything, after installing Linux Mint, do an update and upgrade
you’re more confident and you’re a Linux expert, you can opt for different-sized partitions and encryption. For now, though, let’s keep it simple. A quick note: as the warning clearly states, this will wipe the hard drive in the PC, so as we said earlier, make sure you’ve backed everything up. After clicking on the Install Now button, you’ll get a final ‘Write changes to disk?’ window, which will display the default partition setup. If you’re okay with what’s going on, click the Continue button. As the system begins to install, you’ll be asked where you are in the world. Just click on your geographical location, followed by Continue. The next step is to choose your particular keyboard setup; again, when you’re done, click Continue. The ‘Who are you?’ screen is where you can enter your name, the name of the new Linux Mint computer, as it’ll be seen on your network, your account username and your password. You’ll also be able to opt for a quick login automatically or whether you’ll need to enter your password when you boot into Linux Mint. Obviously for security’s sake you’ll want to go for the ‘Require my password to log in’ option, but for ease of use, the auto-login function seems a good choice for most users. After clicking Continue, you’re at the final step in the process, where Linux Mint will complete its installation and configure the target system onto which it’s installing. You won’t need to do anything during this process, other than clicking the Restart Now button when the installation is complete – or you could click on Continue Testing to remain in the live desktop. With this final window, the installation to your hard drive is complete. What you can do now is remove the boot medium when Mint asks you and press Enter to reboot into your new Linux Mint setup.
Games And Videos
The Steam Client is easily installed under Linux, but before you install anything, make sure the system is fully up to date by entering the following into the terminal: Steam for Linux has greatly improved in recent years
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade Once the system is up to date, you can either install Steam via the Mint Software Manager or in the terminal enter: sudo apt-get install steam
WD 1TB Caviar Blue HDD
Once Steam is installed, update it and browse your game library
to and that you’re connected to the internet, to install any available updates. Press Continue when you’re ready. The Installation Type screen is next and asks you how you wish to have Linux Mint installed. There are several options available, but again, for ease of use, we’d recommend you go for the first option, ‘Erase disk and install Linux Mint’. When
The entry-level 1TB Caviar Blue hard drive from Western Digital features a 32MB cache and IntelliSeek performance to maximise seek speeds, while lowering power consumption, noise and vibration.
ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE BUILD
With Windows 10 installed, there’s plenty of gaming with our entertainment build
In our case, the installation worked first time, and we also had the latest graphics drivers identified and installed. However, it’s always that easy, and you may need to hunt around for various fixes before you can get both Steam and a fresh installation of Linux to work. For videos and music, we tend to opt for VLC. Thankfully, VLC is a part of Mint, so we didn’t need to install anything extra.
However good Linux is, it’s still not as well supported by media providers and games companies as Windows is. For that reason, you might be better off with a Microsoft OS. There are a few options available here. A copy of Windows 10 64-bit Home from Falcon Computers comes in at £79.99, which you’ll have to factor into the final cost of the system. Alternatively, if you already have a legal and licensed copy of Windows 7 or 8/8.1, then you can install that. Once you’ve installed Windows, created your user account and set up the desktop, you can begin the laborious task of updating it and installing all the relevant drivers for the motherboard and the graphics card. The Nvidia GeForce Experience is particularly good these days. The Steam installation is pretty self-explanatory. Just browse over to the Steam site and download the client. Once you’ve logged in, you can begin to install the games. We’re installing all the games to the secondary 1TB hard drive, for obvious reasons. The same goes for VLC, and since we’re using Windows 10, we can also get a handy Netflix app from the Windows Store, as well as other TV catch-up services.
With the Windows Store, installing Netflix and such is much easier
saving of £40. These two components off the overall system, including the Asus graphics card, drops the price to a more than reasonable £310.98. If you wanted to change the case, from the £42.99 Antec ISK600 to something a little more stylish, then the Fractal Designs Node 202 slim case can be bought from Falcon Computers for £69.99 (goo.gl/pHlTgN). However, there’s no PSU with that, and they can be a little tricky to come by. With a 450W PSU, the cost of the Node 202 rises to £119.99 (goo. gl/UbQ5h1).
Does It Work?
Our entertainment centre build worked exceedingly well. In the end, we opted for a copy of Windows 10, since we had one lying around and we wanted to play Star Wars: Battlefront and The Division. Not only is it a great little gaming system, but it also plays Netflix and all the other streaming TV catch-up services without any signs of lag, and it’ll happily stream anything from our NAS drive. All in all, it’s a successful project and one that only cost £500 for everything we want played to us on our TV. mm
Samsung SATA Laptop DVD/RW Drive
Where Can We Cut Costs
While £500 is a good amount to spend on an all-round entertainment system, it’s still quite a steep sum. To help cut some of the costs down, you could remove one or two elements to the build. For example, the Asus GTX950 graphics card will allow us to get some decent gaming done, but if you’re not up for gaming, then you can save yourself a £134.99 by removing that from the equation. That brings the total cost down to £364.97. Further to that, you could also shave off £13.99 by removing the Samsung DVD drive. And if you really want to streamline the build and you’re not planning on storing anything other than the OS, you could remove the 1TB hard drive for an extra
This optical drive is has an 8x DVD read and write speed and a 24x CD read and write speed. There’s also buffer under run error protection, and it’s produced using lead-free, environmentally friendly manufacturing techniques.
New Exhibit At Centre For Computing History
Third DLC Pack For The Elder Scrolls Online Thieves Guild now available
ward-winning multiplayer role-playing game The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited now has its third DLC game pack, Thieves Guild. The pack is now available for PC, PS4 and Xbox One and here’s the blurb to whet your appetite: “Join the Thieves Guild of Abah’s Landing to
become the newest recruit in their organization of pickpockets, burglars, robbers, and thieves... Combined with new story content that will bring you back to all your favourite areas of Tamriel, Thieves Guild offers unexplored delves, powerful group bosses, and much more!” The new content, activities, 12-player trial and other rewards and items are all in the download now; get it from www.elderscrollsonline.com.
Quitting iPhone Apps Pointless
Battery life not affected by shutting down applications
ou know how people are always asking how best to preserve battery life on their mobile phone? And you know how, for iPhone users, one of the most common answers has been to 'shut down all of the apps that are open'? Yeah, that’s not going to help, we're afraid. A customer emailed Tim Cook to ask whether he quit apps frequently and whether doing so would improve his phone’s battery life and the head of software for the firm,
Craig Federighi, wrote in reply “No and No”. Of course, the email exchange was subsequently shared with blog 9to5mac.com, because nothing is private anymore. It was a pretty emphatic response, though, and one that debunks a popularly-held myth, for the iPhone at least. Apple’s own advice on maximising battery life includes a long and fairly dull list of ideas, including disabling background refresh, switching off Location Services and, of course, enabling Low Power Mode.
Celebrating cinema’s relationship with gaming
ambridge’s Centre for Computing History is ushering in a brandnew exhibition looking at cinema’s relationship with video games. Its 'Lights! Camera! Play!' exhibit will run from March 26th until May 15thand admission to this in included as part of the standard admission to the Centre. With objects to look at, interactive displays and playable games, the exhibit will look at how games developers and publishers
have been looking to Hollywood for inspiration over the past 40 years, for example how early licensed games tried to piggyback on the success of film franchises like Star Wars and James Bond. Lights! Camera! Play! will also ask whether looking to Hollywood has changed gaming for the better. For more information on this, type www.computinghistory.org.uk into your browser.
Let’s Get Ready To Rumble! WWE title update comes to PC
ny wrestling fans among you? Then get your best spangly leotards on, and have your best putdowns at the ready, because Games publisher 2K Games has announced that WWE 2K16 – the latest addition to its WWE video game franchise – is now available for Windows PCs via Steam. Delivering all of the action and the huge roster of wrestlers that were present in the title's release for the PS4 and Xbox One, the PC version adds all of the game’s previouslyreleased downloadable content too, including new playable characters, moves and storydriven content.
Bizarrely, and forgive us as our knowledge of WWE isn’t perhaps as great as it could be, gamers will also have access to two playable versions of Arnie from the Terminator films alongside the usual Legends of
the the squared circle. Getting all this DLC content for free with the full purchase is good to hear for PC gamers, and represents a power-up from last year’s PC debut for the wrestling franchise.
Go online, and you can easily pick up an Xbox One for £250 or a PlayStation 4 for a little more than that. Why, then, would you spend £500 on a PC to play games in your front room? Well, for a start, you can upgrade a PC, meaning it’s not a dead end, like a console is. There’s more to it than that, of course. Try playing certain media ﬁles on a console, and they just won’t work because they’re of a ﬁle type that isn’t supported. Console manufacturers could easily provide software updates for this, but normally they don’t. With a PC, this is never a problem, because you can play whatever you like. On top of that, if you’re a gamer, you get to play games with a mouse and keyboard, which is much better for certain genres, like shooters and strategy games. Also, PC games are cheaper, because developers don’t have to pay huge licence fees to create them. Yes, your initial investment is higher, but if you can afford it, a PC is still the best way to go.
y n o h t n A
Meanwhile... On The Internet...
e've banged on about NSA and GCHQ surveillance for so long now, even we're starting to get a little weary of the sound of our own voice (and we're quite vain, if we're honest). However, just when we think we can't get any more concerned about it, or maybe even that we can't spare the energy to be concerned about it anymore, a story like the one that appeared in Motherboard last week reminds us of exactly why it's such an important issue (tinyurl.com/MMnet06a ). So bear with us here. Specifically, the story in question tells of research published in Journalism And Mass Communication, a scholarly, peer-reviewed tome issued by the 'Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication'. Titled Under Surveillance: Examining Facebook’s Spiral of Silence Effects in the Wake of NSA Internet Monitoring (read it in full here: tinyurl.com/MMnet06b ) the research, through a series of questions posed to a sample of people that demographically mirrored the US and some clever statistical reasoning, concluded that among its sample group knowledge and acceptance of NSA surveillance, post-Snowden, “significantly reduced the likelihood of speaking out in hostile opinion climates.” The idea is not a new one. First posited by Elisabeth NoelleNorman in the mid-seventies, the 'Spiral Of Silence' theory (tinyurl.com/MMnet06c) around which the article is based, holds that people are more likely to remain silent on a subject concerning morality or ideology when they believe that their views are in the minority. This self censorship, Noelle-Norman said, arises through fear of isolation, reprisal and other negative consequences for speaking out against the crowd. So, basically, the research backs that idea up. Though, the irony in these findings is that it has been suggested that the internet brings minorities together in such a way as to diminish the effect of this spiral. Admittedly, the research is less-than-totally-damning, for a start, it would seem that the censoring effect is felt most keenly by those who already support the idea of online surveillance, rather than those people suspicious of its motives. However, the research seems to imply that it will have an effect on subversive minorities, which will become increasingly marginalised as their non-conformist opinions become ever-less discussed by the wider public not keen express solidarity. It's certainly a fascinating read, and an insight into what effect the new IP Bill could have on online political debate in the UK, or even – perhaps, if you're a cynic... which we're not, oh no – the thinking that motivated its creation in the first place. Still happy about all those abstentions in the vote last week (tinyurl.com/ MMnet06d)? No, neither are we, really...
hile it's true that the internet can be a harsh place sometimes, it also undoubtedly has a soft centre sometimes, and a penchant for making horrible situations a little better, when it collectively turns its mind to it (tinyurl.com/MMnet06e). Which brings us to the sad story of Pokémon designer Eric Medalle, who tragically died in an accident last week aged 42, leaving behind a wife and two daughters (tinyurl.com/MMnet06f ). While there's not much happy we can bring to the table, it is worth noting the generosity of the online Pokémon fanbase, which has chipped into a fundraising effort (tinyurl.com/MMnet06g) to ensure his daughter's college education to the tune of $76,000 (at the time of writing). We're sure that no amount of money could make up for what's happened, or alleviate the pain caused by the horrible randomness of it all (tinyurl.com/MMnet06h), but one day maybe those girls will look back and see the contributions as a mark of the respect people had for their father's work, and the joy which it has bought them over the years. Well done, internet. Well done.
ad Keanu (tinyurl.com/MMnet07i) was a meme for us all, wasn't it? We've all sat and contemplated life over a runof-the-mill lunch, haven't we? All questioned the meaning of it all over a palid, lacklustre coming together of bread, butter, some sort of protein, salad and too much mayonnaise? And it was good to know that, every now and then, Neo did it too. Yes, Keanu was sad, but that was alright, because we were there for him (tinyurl.com/MMnet07j ). Are we ready to deal with a sullen looking George Lucas battling his way through a tray of food court noodles, though (tinyurl.com/MMnet08k )? We're really not sure. Certainly, if the online reaction to Gabrielle Fusco's Twitter post showing the multi-billionaire filmmaker and the man behind Jar-Jar Binks sitting quietly picking away at his plate of Asian 'cuisine' is anything to go by (tinyurl.com/MMnet08l ), the internet is going to need a little bit of time to decide how it really feels about the matter (tinyurl.com/MMnet08m ). Next week: Martin Scorcese enjoys a falafel in Leicester... Maybe.
alking of bittersweet meals, we need to talk about Papaw (tinyurl.com/MMnet08n). Or, specifically, how a tweet bemoaning the fact that only one of six grandchildren managed to make it to eat home-cooked burgers with their grandfather (tinyurl. com/MMnet08o) came to be retweeted over 200,000 times (as we write). Was it schaudenfruede? Mass millenial guilt at how their own grandparents have been sidelined over the years? Who knows, the internet moves in mysterious ways... But Papaw is okay guys (tinyurl. com/MMnet08p). He's okay... (tinyurl.com/MMnet08q).
Videos For Your Eyes...
Not Necessarily For Your Brain
When Nintendo’s Satoru Iwata passed away last year, the outpouring of love and respect was far more marked than you would expect for the CEO of a technology company. Then again, he was definitely not your normal tech CEO. Emerging from a programming and gaming background, he was instrumental in some of the Japanese firm’s now-iconic products – Pokémon, the DS and Wii among them – and his affinity with the people who bought them is best expressed by this seminal 'Heart Of A Gamer' speech, delivered at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in 2005 (tinyurl.com/MMnet08r). It's fitting then, that GDC 2016 should feature this lovely tribute (tinyurl.com/MMnet08s).
QUICK BITS... The third expansion for Blizzardʼs online card game Hearthstone, Whispers of the Old Gods, has been
Caption Competition “It's easy to understand why zombies think this is where people keep their brains.”
Laptops For The Homeless Refurbished machines provided in “groundbreaking” initiative
This rather palid looking smartphone user was the subject of 1404’s caption competition. You are the best offerings: • • • • • • • • • • •
PlaneMan: “I’ll just check if Domino's do brains as a side dish.” JayCeeDee: “The new iPhone 7 was gathering support from it's faithful followers.” ZEDSinBED: “Tarquin soon discovered that using the "JustEat" app was easier than chasing the living.” JayCeeDee: “Damn... the lines gone dead.” doctoryorkie: “Zombie? It's just a face painted England fan crying after the usual result.” ZEDSinBED: “It took Stanley so long to get through to the police that he died waiting and turned into a zombie.” ZEDSinBED: “Well if monkeys can do selfies why not zombies. BullStuff: “Blast this predictive text! I meant Voodoo, not Hoodoo!” EdP: “Darn-it, Baron Samedi isn't around to resurrect my battery!” Thomas Turnbull: “Fell down a cliff while taking a selfie, but still looking good.” Thomas Turnbull: “This is the last time I use a counterfeit charger with my phone.”
Thanks for all your submissions, but the winner was doctoryorkie with “It's easy to understand why zombies think this is where people keep their brains.” If you have something to say about the picture below (come on, you must have), head to the ‘Other Stuff’ section of our forum (forum.micromart.co.uk), or email us your funnies via email@example.com, remembering to add the issue number to the email.
ocial enterprise company Socialbox. biz has introduced a pretty special initiative for the capital. Homeless people in London are being given refurbished laptops thanks to its Laptops for Homeless Initiative. Socialbox. biz specialises in innovative storage and recycling solutions for business and this new
Online Video Lands Cops In Trouble Shocking behaviour towards student
n Baltimore, two police officers who work in public schools in the area are due to appear in court following the emergence online of a video that showed them physically abusing a student. The video, according to US media reports, shows the announced
initiative is helping homeless people to get online, the idea being to help those who are currently cut out of the job market by having no access to computers or the Internet. The organisation is also busy developing new ways to make sure all redundant corporate laptops are collected and used to the fullest of their abilities. Good work, chaps.
police officers hitting a student while shouting obscenities at him. The cops are accused of second-degree assault and misconduct in abuse, and second-degree child abuse, and have been suspended from duty. They’re due to appear in court next month.
Snippets! DOOM Beta's SOON If you pre-ordered Wolfenstein: The New Order and redeemed the Beta code, you’ll also have access to the closed beta of DOOM come March 31st. It’s only running until April 3rd, and for more information you should visit doom.com/beta. To celebrate the fact, Bethesda launched a new multiplayer gameplay trailer. You can find it over on YouTube – expect lots of guns, running and bangs. DOOM launches on PC, PS4 and Xbox One on May 13th.
AlphaGo Wins In a development that may one day feature in the introduction montage of an apocalyptic film, we bring the scary news that Google’s challenge against Go master Lee Sedol resulted in a 4-1 victory for its DeepMind AlphaGo software. Apart from heralding the rise of the machines, it that also meant the South Korean champ didn’t walk away with the $1m on offer. Lee has said since of the defeat that he still doesn’t think that AlphaGo is better than humans and aired regret over the end of the challenge. For now, though, the spoils go to Google.
FB Star Slander Rap News coming in from Egypt tells us that a popular Facebook user in the country has been sent to prison after having said on a television talk show that around a third of married Egyptian women were unfaithful. Taymour el-Sobky, whose ' Diaries of A Suffering Husband' page has 1m+ followers, was later judged to have slandered Egyptian women, a crime that may keep him in prison for the next three years. Cripes.
Minecraft To Become AI Testbed Minecraft rocks!
icrosoft has announced that Minecraft will be used as a platform for artificial intelligence testing. Microsoft claims that using Minecraft as the background to these tests is more sophisticated than current AI research simulations. If you’re interested in this, and who knows you might just be, you’ll need to install open source software code for the AIX software that Microsoft is using when it’s released in the summer. In the blog post on the development, Microsoft wrote of an example of how computer scientists were trying to get a character to climb a hill by training an AI agent to learn how to climb. An AIX developer said: “Minecraft is the perfect platform for this kind of research because
it’s this very open world. You can do survival mode, you can do ‘build battles’ with your friends, you can do courses, you can implement our own games. This is really exciting for artificial intelligence because it allows us to create games that stretch beyond current abilities.”
Typo Costs Hackers Dear Bank transfer hack goes wrong
ith thanks to Reuters for reporting this story, we now bring you news of a hack that went a bit wrong. TThe bad guys first made their move on Bangladesh’s central bank back in February and started to transfer monies into various accounts in the Philippines and Sri Lanka. Four of the transfers went through without a hitch, to the tune of $81m. Another wasn’t so successful, though, and they only had themselves to blame. TTurns out that even in high-level hacking, proofreading and fact-checking is everything. The hackers tried to transfer $20m to a Sri Lankan
organisation called the Shalika Foundation, accidentally writing it as the Shalika Fandation. Bank staff at Deutsche Bank, as a routing bank, spotted the problem, contacted the Bangladesh bankers and the transaction was stopped. The scandal has also cost the head of the country’s central bank his job as he has since resigned. As for the hackers themselves, it’s unclear how easy it’s going to be to track them down and any money they took has reportedly been laundered through casinos in the Philippines. $81m is a lot of money by anyone’s standards. Good job that the hackers messed up when they did, or else it could have been even worse.
QUICK BITS... The first World Drone Prix – yes, thatʼs a thing – has been won by a UK teenager
Online TV Viewing Still Growing Remember when there were only four channels?
ow do you watch television these days? Chances are that, while you’re still more likely to be watching more traditional output like Homes Under The Hammer (what a programme!), you are also going to be turning your attention to the likes of House Of Cards (also outstanding, we should add). This is according to research from market research firm Thinkbox that has discovered
that we’re spending more time binge-watching shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime with an estimated 6.5% of TV viewing falling outside the industry standard measurement of viewing on a TV set within seven days of broadcast. Among 16 to 24-year-olds, that figure is 14%. More of us are turning to YouTube too, growing from 3.5% in 2014 to 4.4% in the past year. TV viewing still resolutely rules in video consumption, however.
New Views From ViewSonic Three new LightStream projectors
isplay specialist ViewSonic has boosted its LightStream range of projectors. The Pro7827HD, PJD7828HDL and PJD7720HD models all promise “incredible colour accuracy” and “enhanced sound technology” for multimedia performance. The most expensive of the lot, the Pro7827HD, is the first in the LightStream line to feature an RGBRGB six-segment colour wheel powered by ViewSonic’s SuperColor technology. The projector also offers five viewing modes, 2,200 lumens and vertical lens shift.
All three models come with Full HD 1080p resolution, deliver a wider colour range and come with a built-in 10W speaker incorporating ViewSonic’s SonicExpert sound enhancement technology. They also support wireless HDMI media streaming devices. Available over the spring, these will cost between £479 and £599.
Google Robots Teach Themselves To Grab
Raspberry Pi 3 Drive From WDLabs
It took quite some time, mind
Low power consumption for use with latest Pi
oogle’s research scientists have put together a study group of robotic arms and managed to get them to learn how to pick up various objects. Y'see, grasping objects is a big deal in the robot world, as machines lack to hand-eye co-ordination and logic that helps us to alter our movements depending on what we see, and thus have to be reprogrammed for every object that they’re asked to grasp. Until now, that is. After two months of training, and over 800,000 attempts, the robotic arms got better and better at working out the movements that resulted in a successful grab. By the end of the testing process, the robots’ failure rate had fallen to a mere 18%. It took one heck of a long time to get there, but that’s still progress, of sorts.
f you've picked up a Raspberry Pi 3 recently – if you haven't you really should – you might also be interested in WDLabs’ hard drive developed just for the single-board computer. The WD PiDrive 314GB is custom-engineered to work more efficiently with the Raspberry Pi 3, promising lower power consumption, custom data recording and electrical design for use with the board and it’s also fully customisable and compatible with WBLabs’ associated enclosures and cable kit. Oh, and it comes with a customised version of Berryboot, an OS installer and boot selection screen for ARM devices. Why 314GB? We’ll leave that for you to work out (hint: the clue’s in Pi, geddit?). If you do want one of these, pay £27 over at wdlabs.wd.com.
REVIEWS Asus ZenBook UX305CA Portable, slim and reasonably quick. What’s not to like?
• Price: £650 • Manufacturer: Asus • Website: goo.gl/fFQSdu • Requirements: Microsoft/Windows account, micro-HDMI for output to TV/ monitor
he Asus ZenBook UX305CA was introduced toward the end of last year as an update to the older version. This update included a new processor and a somewhat better screen, but is it enough to tempt the buyer? The UX305CA comes with a couple of processor flavours: a 2.2GHz Intel Core M 6Y30 (which we’re reviewing here) or a 2.7GHz Intel M 6Y54. In addition to this, the model we had was fitted with 8GB of 1600MHz DDR3L memory, which is more than enough for the pre-installed Windows 10 64-bit OS to whip along nicely. In terms of storage, the ZenBook UX305CA comes with a choice of 128GB M.2, 256GB M.2 or 512GB M.2. Due to the UX305CA’s svelte dimensions, there’s no room for an extra, secondary spinner. However, even 128GB is enough for most users. Other connectivity consists of an SDXC card reader, 802.11 ac wi-fi, Bluetooth 4.0, a combo headphone and microphone jack, three USB 3.0 ports and a micro HDMI port. All of these are spread along the sides of an exceptionally thin laptop that’s just 12.3mm at its thickest point and which weighs just 1.2kg – the same weight as the Asus 12" Transformer Book.
The Asus ZenBook UX305CA looks good, and it performs well too
graphics, it does a good job of displaying media and even some lightweight gaming to a maximum resolution of 2300 x 1800. There’s also an anti-glare finish to the screen, which is a definite plus for those whose desks are located under office strip lights or who have their back to the window. It works well, and the screen is bright and colourful enough to prevent sore eyes at the end of the day. The Asus ZenBook UX305CA performed very well indeed. Windows 10 ran perfectly fine under the new Intel Core M CPU, as did a selection of video viewing and editing programs. Suffice to say, it’s a decent powered laptop, but don’t expect triple-A gaming from it. The Asus ZenBook UX305CA is a well designed and nicely balanced notebook. It fits well into the mid range between gaming-like performance and lightweight portability. And at around £650 it’s not too badly priced either. mm David Hayward
Good performance and an exceptional screen The QHD+ screen is very good indeed, with a high resolution on offer
The UX305CA looks much different to the previous ZenBook we had in for review. Rather than opting for the brushed steel look of the UX303UA, for example, Asus has instead gone for an all-white plastic Mac-like look. It probably wouldn’t be our first choice of colour and style scheme, coming from a traditional PC/laptop background, but it works nonetheless. Opening the lid reveals a nicely laid out recessed
keyboard, with a large trackpad. Asus has kept the oddly located power button, found in the top right of the keyboard, which we’ve seen on other ZenBooks. We’ve grown used to its position now, so we’re less inclined to accidentally hit it when were reaching for the Backspace key, but it’s still a remarkably strange thing to get used to. The 13.3" QHD+ display looks exceptionally good, and thanks to the Intel HD 515
Minix NGC-1 Our favourite mini-PC just got a whole lot better
• Price: ~£299 • Manufacturer: Minix • Website: goo.gl/YMaUhe • Requirements: Microsoft/Windows account, keyboard, mouse, some form of media remote
ne of the best media centre PCs we’ve ever owned is the Minix NEO Z64, a wonderfully small and reasonably powerful machine that still sits in our AV cabinet hooked up to a TV. Now, though, Minix has upped the ante and released a new micro-sized media machine, the NGC-1. There some notable differences between the new NGC-1 and its older brothers. For one, this is a far more powerful PC with a decent specification, which includes an 1.6GHz Intel Celeron N3150 processor with turbo burst clock speeds up to 2.08GHz, 4GB of DDR3L memory, a 128GB M.2 SSD and a copy of Windows 10 64-bit Home Edition. There’s a lot more connectivity this time around too, with three USB 3.0 ports, microphone and headphone combo, HDMI 1.4, miniDisplayPort, gigabit Ethernet and optical S/PDIF. There’s also 802.11ac dual-band wi-fi and Bluetooth 4.2, with the wi-fi being boosted by a pair of screw-on antennas at the rear of the case. The design is of similar to Minix’s other micro PCs, measuring just 126 x 126 x 28mm.
The Minix NGC-1 is a wonderful little media machine
the same that’s used in the Broadwell series of processors. Although the 640MHz clock speed of the GPU won’t be up to running the latest triple-A gaming titles, it does support 4K, H.265 video acceleration without any signs of a struggle – good news for those of you connecting this to your new 4K TVs or monitors. There’s a good balance of performance and features here. Minix has once again done an incredible job of packing everything into a small and stylish case that’s perfect for every media activity. The Minix NGC-1 is an excellent micro PC, and one that we’ll quite happily replace our previous Minix NEO Z64 with. It currently costs around £299, but that’s more than reasonable for such a compact media machine. mm David Hayward
A superb compact media capable PC There’s plenty of connectivity and a powerful pair of wi-fi antennas too
It’s a remarkably sturdy unit, with a metal-grey case and the Minix logo printed on the top. The base is plastic, with four rubber feet to stand on, but the same high degree of quality and design is apparent throughout. The combination of 4GB of memory and the Celeron N3150 make for a nippy, energy-efficient machine. Naturally, it’s fanless, which cuts down on the noise
levels. And due to the fact that the Braswell CPU only has a TDP of 6W, it never gets too hot, even when it’s under considerable stress. Using Windows 10 was great, without any performance problems. Viewing full HD media, both via the Ethernet port and wi-fi, was also excellent and without issues. The HD graphics on the Celeron N3150 is based on the Intel Gen8 architecture,
Lexar Professional 1800x microSD UHS-II 64GB Lexar demonstrates well that the limits of SDXC are about to be breached
• Price: £65.99 (32GB) £109.99 (64GB) £219.99 (128GB) • Manufacturer: Lexar (Micron) • Website: www.lexar.com • Requirements: USB 3.0 port and device that can accept microSDXC or SDXC cards
ith people starting to transition to 4K video capture, the SD and micro-SD card really needs to up its game, given that it’s the most popular flash storage media for cameras. The standards for SD cards were enhanced first by microSDHC and then micro-SDXC specs in 2009. SDXC supports speeds of up to 300MB/s and capacities up to 2TB on SD cards, and 200GB on micro-SDXC. And seven years later we’re at last we’re starting to see cards that really live up to those ambitions, like the very latest Professional 1800x models by Lexar.
Key Features • • • • •
Why they’re still using the multiplier of 1x being the speed of a baseline CDROM is entirely beyond this writer, as it makes as much sense relating it to the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow (African). More useful information is a quoted transfer speed of 270MB/s, taking this UHS-II technology (UHS Speed Class 3) device close to the edge of what SDXC was ever designed to deliver. However, to get those speeds you need a very specific environment where the target or source system has a faster than 270MB/s capability (i.e. an SSD), and you also need a card reader up to the job.
High-speed performance-leverages UHS-II technology (U3) for a read transfer speed up to 1800x (270 MB/s). Includes micro-SD UHS-II reader for high-speed file transfer from card to computer, dramatically accelerating workflow. Includes an SD UHS-II adapter for easy transfer between devices. Designed for high-speed capture of high-quality images and extended lengths of 1080p full-HD, 3D, and 4K video. Includes lifetime copy of downloadable Image Rescue software.
These cards are going to be massively popular with those ﬁlming HD video
Lexar very kindly helps out with the latter necessity by providing a SD UHS-II adapter along with the card, and also a SD adapter with UHS-II contacts for those that use a DSLR or whatever that takes cards that size and spec. You get those accessories regardless of the capacity that you buy, and Lexar delivers this product in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB versions. However, the 32GB model is just micro-SDHC and not micro-SDXC. Testing the 64GB micro-SDXC card, I soon became aware that exactly how fast it would go is dependent on the adapter you use with it, because they’re not all made equally.
For example, the Lexar LRWM05U-7000 micro-SD UHSII card reader that's included accepts the card without the SD adapter and can read the extra UHS-II contacts directly on the micro-SD card. But trying it out on a number of alternative card readers revealed that while many of them do support UHS-II contacts on SD, many don’t bother on micro-SD. Depending on what reader I tried, performance often dropped to much less than 100MB/s, even on those that are connected by USB 3.0. The best results, unsurprisingly, are those with the official adapter included in the packaging.
Using the official Lexar adapter, I was able to get great speeds, even if they never quite reached the 270MB/s levels quoted on the packaging. The best I managed was 238MB/s read and 220MB/s write. That’s nothing to be sniffed at on a micro-SD card, as the 32GB model can be fully read in around two minutes and 15 seconds, give or take. This is the first UHS-II microSD I’ve seen that can achieve this level, and most of the competing products have yet to breach 100MB/s in even their premium product ranges. Another value proposition Lexar slung in here is the
inclusion of a downloadable software tool for when things go utterly wrong. Image Rescue is designed to recover most photo and select video files, even if they’ve been erased or the card has been corrupted, according to Lexar. Obviously, some fiascos aren’t fixable, but it's better than just accepting that your data is lost without exploring some options. I can see that these cards are going to be massively popular with those filming HD video and RAW still images, who typically don’t like waiting for their memory cards to dump onto the computer.
Because this is a ‘Professional’ product, they’ll also have less of an issue with the price, which is good, because this module is least three times what you’d reasonably expect to pay for a decent Class 10 card. I guess it comes down to how much your time is really worth and how that adds up over the course of a working year. For home users, this probably isn’t a factor, but for professional photographers and film makers, it's yet another performance enhancement they can use. As I fully expected from Lexar, these are the micro-SD
UHS-II cards to have, if you can afford them. mm Mark Pickavance
A micro-SD card that can perform like an SSD
Venturer BravoWin 10K Mark reviews an inexpensive hybrid design that is surprisingly well featured
• Price: £149.99 • Manufacturer: Venturer (Alco International) • Website: www.venturer.com • Requirements: Wireless broadband
’ve yet to be really convinced by hybrid laptop/ tablet systems, as these generally seem to offer nothing special either way. However, spending Microsoft Surface levels of cash is one thing, and this the price of the Venturer BravoWin 10K is entirely another. At less than £150 it's truly affordable, yet building a hybrid machine as this price was always going to be challenging for those designing it. What bemused me is how few of those cost-cutting decisions seemed to impact the overall experience, and how little extra you get in a £300 hybrid that isn’t in this one. Venturer understandably chose the Intel Atom Intel as the base platform, and the quad-cored Z3735F (1.33GHz) in particular. That’s fine for
BravoWin 10K Specs.
general office and surfing duties when combined with the 2GB of RAM it has. A tighter fit is the 32GB of storage, which after Windows 10 Home is installed, leaves
OS: Windows 10. Processor: Intel Z3735F (1.33GHz Turbo to 1.83GHz) quadcore CPU. Memory: 2GB RAM + 32GB flash. Display: 10.1" 1280 x 800 (16:9) IPS screen. Camera: Dual camera, 2M + 2M (front and rear). Networking: 802.11b/g/n wi-fi, Bluetooth 4.0. Ports: USB 2.0, micro-USB, mini-HDMI, headphone jack. Extra storage: micro-SD card slot support up to 64GB. Weight: 1080g with keyboard, 600g without. Battery life: Up to eight hours
just 12.4GB left for the user's needs. That might not seem too bad, and it isn’t until Microsoft releases a major update to Windows 10, and your personal files take up space required to do that upgrade. Thankfully, you can augment the space needed either with a USB key or the micro-SD card slot provided, but either is an additional expense you should budget for from the outset. There are no other upgrade directions to take; the BravoWin 10K is going to have this much memory and storage for eternity. Where it started to confront my expectations
was with a 10.1” 1280 x 800 IPS multi-touch panel that is rather sharp and reasonably saturated. The only problem I noticed with it was that in desktop mode (when the keyboard is attached), the icons are generally too small to be operated by finger tips, unless you’re a child. Some system scaling is therefore a necessity if you want to work that way. Once you detach the keyboard, Windows 10 offers you tablet mode, and touch becomes much more useful. Docking is via a simple magnetic edge connector, and the keyboard is no more than that word implies. All ports,
batteries and computing are located exclusively in the tablet, and disconnecting the keyboard has no real implications on performance. The keyboard is of a membrane design, but it's generally serviceable if you can
accept relatively small keys and the fact your hands will obscure the taskbar at times. The port complement is also decent, even if they’re all placed on the same rather cluttered edge. There is one each of USB and
micro-USB, mini-HDMI, the aforementioned micro-SD, and audio jack. There isn’t a LAN port. Instead, networking is provided by 802.11n wi-fi and Bluetooth 4.0. The ‘n’ class wi-fi is probably faster than using USB 2.0 port for installing applications, I’d suggest. There are two 2MP cameras, front and rear, and I promise not to mention them ever again. According to the maker, the battery will last ‘Up to 8 hours’, but that’s a stretch even with the lightest use. If you get more than about five hours, you’re doing well, and doing anything that requires 3D graphics would decimate the battery life even faster. Where this device works best is doing basic office chores, and it has the Mobile version of Microsoft Office pre-installed for you to use immediately. As the Atom CPU implies, this isn’t a gaming
solution, although it can play media files back acceptably. Where this machine isn’t that great is in respect of the fine details, like the ones that the user will stumble into the first time they use it. The power button requires an additional screen swipe to wake the machine, for reasons that this reviewer couldn’t fathom. But my biggest bugbear is undoubtedly the trackpad. As pointing devices go, this is poor on numerous levels, as it uses ‘virtual’ mouse buttons that I could never reliably locate. That’s a shame, but it's cheaply rectified with a USB or Bluetooth mouse. While I don’t think this is the most elegant solution, but what I can’t escape is that it is a fully functioning Windows 10 mobile system for less than £150. And it’s generally a better system than that price would suggest. While I can’t see myself recommending it for a student, for those who want something light to enter some text and browse the internet, it’s more than sufficient. mm Mark Pickavance
A cheap hybrid design that is ﬁne for light duties
Netgear Arlo Q Michael checks out a new addition to Netgear’s home security portfolio bars are available to adjust sensitivity of rules, which can be set to capture a video or snapshot within a user-defined schedule. For viewing live content, you need to select the Camera section. Image quality is good with both day and night-time capture. Running across the bottom of the live feed screen are icons to record, capture a snapshot, initiate a voice communication and adjust the brightness. You can also switch between portrait and landscape orientation, with the latter providing the better view. Switching to the Library section brings up a list of captured content. Organised by date and time, these clips can be viewed, shared, deleted and downloaded. However, I could find no option to zoom into a particular area of a clip. A drop-down Settings panel allows you to make some basic changes to the camera and its performance. You can give the camera a suitable name, plus turn on and adjust the associated time zone. Surprisingly the default video resolution is set at 720p but this can easily be changed to 1080p. All in all, it's a good unit, which is easy to set up and doesn't cost the world. mm Michael Fereday
• Price: £154.50 (Amazon) • Manufacturer: Netgear • Website: www.arlo.com/uk • Requirements: n.a.
dding to its Arlo home security camera range of products, Netgear has released the Arlo Q. This device offers the user 1080p HD camera capability, and it also possesses two-way audio features so it can act in intercom mode when the situation arises. The Arlo Q camera unit is attached to a short stand with a magnetic base for positioning on a metal surface. The whole unit has dimensions of 70 x 73 x 115mm and weighs 149g. Packaged with the camera is a three-pin power lead, and a wallmounting plate and screws. Whether used in free-standing or wall-mounted mode, the generous 3m power lead should help ensure there are no problems in positioning the security camera. The diamond-shaped camera features a centrally positioned lens, surrounded by similarly shaped white and smoky layers. It's capable of delivering a 130º field of vision at 1080p quality. In order to avoid problems with the video quality, you should try to ensure that a great deal of light will not be shining direct into the lens. The actual setting up of this kit should take little more than a few minutes. Once power is supplied to the camera, you can use it to scan a QR code in the quick start guide to download the app required for use with this product. An account can be
created, or you can access one already created earlier. The app should quickly detect the Arlo Q unit and lead you through the connection process of connecting to a router via wi-fi using a sync button found on the side of the camera. Output from the Arlo Q can be viewed live or stored on a free cloud seven-day storage allocation for access later. Although the app can be installed on different
smartphones, it's only possible to log into the Arlo Q from a single device at a time. This restriction doesn't apply to the sending of alerts, which can be dispatched to multiple smartphones. The app offers a choice of three main sections covering Mode, Camera and Library. With Mode you can select from any cameras available plus create rules that will be applied when specific situations, such as motion and audio detection, occur. Slider
Delivers good quality output
Tom Clancy’s The Division Society’s on the brink in Manhattan. And only one (many) can help save it
• Price: £69.99 (Gold Edition) • Developer: Ubisoft Massive • Website: tomclancythedivision.ubi.com • Requirements: Core i5-2400 3.1GHz or equivalent, Radeon HD 7770 2GB or equivalent, 6GB RAM, Windows 7 or later (64-bit), Direct X 11, 40GB disk space
et in an open-world Manahattan, The Division sees you playing as a sleeper agent of the Strategic Homeland Division – a collection of highly trained individuals activated when, one Black Friday, an illness called Green Poison wreaks havoc. This illness – a form of smallpox – is first transmitted by bank notes. Yet whatever you make of such symbolism, rioting, looters and chaos reign as a result. Your job is simple: Help restore order, and root out the dangerous and dastardly elements grabbing power in a screwed-up situation. The premise is a solid one, and The Division keeps you smartly connected to it through the world in which you play. Additional fragments are occasionally uncovered to keep things moving as well. Yet the backdrop doesn’t cause the major fanfare; it’s the combination of highly engaging gameplay elements that offers the level of detail required to keep players coming back. The real achievement here is successfully combining RPG, FPS and a standard missionbase progression model, but
doing so with enough tricks and pizazz for you to almost forget you’ll have seen most of this elsewhere. Destiny is the clearest name-check, but combine that with Watch Dogs, Gears of War and, say, your favourite FPS game, and you’ll have a sense of the action on offer. None of this is a criticism. It’s a combination of tried and tested gameplay and game-world elements that work really rather well in The Division’s setting. To progress the overarching story, the level, and the abilities of your character, you take to the streets to scavenge and find items and people of interest. Your map offers advice on near and far points and missions of which you’ll need to take note. However, what
you choose to do in which order is largely up to you. Completing a mission or a sidequest means listening to guidance from specialists back at your base of operations. And rewards include unlocking items and weapons, but also credits to upgrade the Technology, Security and Medical ‘wings’ of your own HQ. Yes… not only can you upgrade your character and weapons (and mod your weapons too), but the visual representation of success is your own base growing and upgrading around you – offering you better respite and in-the-field-support. Mission success is the only way to progress at pace, but through upgrading your own base you open up active and passive
abilities for you and your team to make use of. Ah, yes, your team. The Division is predominantly single-player, but there’s more to it than roaming the streets helping the artificial intelligence JTF (Joint Task Force) operatives maintain order. Main missions actively encourage matchmaking with other players, or you can team up with friends to comb the city and its many wonders/worries together. This is where the real explosive fun is, even though discovering things on your own will ease the hours past you. Team up and run missions together. Or if you’re feeling brave, enter the game’s PvP space, ‘The Dark Zone’, for a hardcore experience facing elite computer enemies and realworld players ‘gone rogue’. I’d love to tell you more about this area of The Division, but let’s just say it’s not easy to survive – and especially not on your own. But that’s okay. There’ll be plenty of opportunities to team up, I’m sure. Just as soon as I stop attempting to singlehandedly return Manhattan to its former glory. I may be some time though: I’m really quite enjoying it! mm Kevin Pocock
Fun and engaging gameplay aplenty
Alienware 13 Gaming Laptop
Not that long ago, gaming on a laptop was considered positively ridiculous. These days, instead of saying “Why bother?”, onlookers are instead asking you where you got the cool gaming laptop from and how much it cost. We have six gaming laptops here, and we’ll see if we can drag ourselves away from playing long enough to write a group test about them.
• Price: £815 • Manufacturer: Dell/Alienware • Website: goo.gl/VvqI7P • Requirements: Microsoft/Windows account
lienware, which Dell has owned for quite some time now, has a rich history when it comes to creating gaming laptops. The current batch of Alienware products range from the Alienware 13 through to the Alienware 15 and Alienware 17, each being more impressive than the last. As you can guess, the number denotes the size of the screen. In this case the 13" 1366 x 768 TN panel of the Alienware 13 makes this an incredibly small gaming laptop. However, it does pack quite a punch for such a diminutive entry. You get a choice of processors, with the model we're testing here featuring the entry-level 2.8GHz dual-core Intel Core i5-6200U. It also has 8GB of 1600MHz DDR3L memory and a 500GB 5400rpm hybrid hard drive with an 8GB SSD circuit
to help cache the most accessed files. In addition to the above, there’s Bluetooth, Killer 1525 802.11ac wi-fi, three USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, mini DisplayPort, gigabit Ethernet and an Alienware Graphics Amplifier port. The Amplifier port is an external box in which there’s a full-sized desktop GPU complete with its own PSU. It adds a graphical edge, but sadly we don't have one to test with, so we’re going to make do with the laptop itself. Internal graphics come courtesy of an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M, with 2GB of GDDR5 memory. This resulted in a 3DMark 11 score of 3,989, which isn’t too bad considering the size of the laptop, but on the other hand it’s hardly going to set the gaming world alight. In terms of the build quality of the laptop, it’s excellent. Even before Dell took over, Alienware prided itself on designing aesthetically pleasing computers, and it certainly shows. The angled chassis looks great, complete with blue LED splashes on the lid and a glowing Alienware logo. The backlit keyboard is pretty decent to view as well, and it’s surprisingly comfortable to use for a smaller laptop.
You’ve got to hand it Alienware: it knows how to design a decent laptop
The screen, however, doesn't quite match up to the rest of the specification. It's generally good, but in our eyes it seems to lack clarity and sharpness. The colours too feel muted, and the viewing angles aren't great either. We imagine that with the more expensive Alienware 13 models the screens are considerably better. For example, the £2,000 version of the Alienware 13 boasts a 1920 x 1080 FHD IPS panel, whereas the model we have costs £815 and lacks the luxury of IPS. The Alienware 13 base model is a decent enough laptop, but as a gaming machine, it does lack the necessary punch to offer higher-frame rates in modern games. It’s fairly expensive too, for what you get, and the screen isn’t quite up to the same level of quality as the price demands.
It’s a pity it’s not quite as quick as the other examples in the group
Gigabyte P34W v5 DETAILS
• Price: £1,250 • Manufacturer: Gigabyte • Website: goo.gl/MLJMtG • Requirements: Microsoft/Windows account
he Gigabyte P-series of laptops has always impressed us with their carefully balanced design performance and overall quality. The P34W v5 is a fairly recent addition to the fold, roughly positioned in the middle of the P-series, so it’ll make for an interesting mobile gaming choice. The specification of the P34W v5 is certainly enticing. This particular 14" laptop boasts a sixth-generation 3.5GHz Intel i7-6700HQ processor, 16GB of DDR4 memory, a 128GB M.2 SSD with Windows 10 64-bit Home Edition preinstalled and a further 1TB 2.5" hard drive. Graphics come courtesy of an Nvidia GTX 970M with 3GB of memory, which help drive the 14" QHD 2560 x 1440 LCD screen. And in terms of connectivity, there are three USB 3.0 ports, a single USB 3.1 Type-C port, HDMI, VGA, gigabit Ethernet and an SD card reader. There’s also 802.11ac wi-fi, Bluetooth 4.1 and a HD webcam included too. The design of the P34W v5 is very much a Gigabyte standard, with a modern mix of matteblack plastic and aluminium throughout. There’s a nicely spaced backlit keyboard set in a slight recessed area, with the large touchpad and button strip below. It’s also remarkably slim, measuring just 20.9mm thick, and at 1.7kg, it’s not too difficult to carry around either.
The rather splendid-looking Gigabyte P34W v5 It’s incredibly quick
a video, we managed to squeeze a tad over three hours out of it before we needed to plug it in again. On the whole, that’s not too bad, seeing as we're talking about a laptop that could put most gaming desktops to shame. At any rate, it’s enough gaming time to last a commute. Of course, this level of performance doesn’t come cheap. £1,250 may seem a little steep for most users, but considering what you get in terms of raw gaming power, as well as great design, it’s money well spent. The 3DMark 11 test came back with a fantastic 8,933, which is the sort of performance score we’d likely see on a £1,000 desktop. Needless to say, it’s more than enough for the latest games to chew on at the maximum screen resolution at high settings. The quality of the screen is very good indeed. Thanks to the powerful internal components, all the games we tried ran flawlessly.
The colours were good and the image displayed was as close to a top-end IPS panel as you can reasonably expect. Thankfully, the screen seems somewhat brighter than the previous Gigabyte P-series models we’ve tested, which greatly improves the clarity and sharpness of the visuals. Battery life while gaming lasted just short of a couple of hours from a full charge. Using it for everyday tasks and watching
Lenovo Y70 DETAILS
• Price: £999 • Manufacturer: Lenovo • Website: goo.gl/9s6MRZ • Requirements: Microsoft/Windows account
enovo is usually restricted to the professional and enterprise business markets, but every so often the company tends to dip its metaphorical toes into consumer waters, with the Y70 being one such example. The Lenovo Y70 is a 17.3" gaming laptop with an impressive 1920 x 1080, tenpoint multi-touch IPS screen. Inside you’ll find an 2.6GHz Intel i7-4720HQ quad-core processor, a whopping 16GB of DDR3L memory and a 1TB SSHD with Windows 10 64-bit preinstalled. Furthermore there’s gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth, 802.11ac wi-fi, a pair of USB 3.0 ports, a single USB 2.0, HDMI, S/PDIF out and a 4-in-1 card reader. The GPU in this case is an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M with 4GB of GDDR5 memory. This results in a 3DMark score of 4,760, which isn’t as high as we'd expect for the specification, but it’s still enough for the vast majority of games to be enjoyed at the maximum resolution. The design of the Lenovo Y70 is really quite stunning. The brushed, dark-grey aluminium chassis, with red trims and sections of metal throughout is certainly an eye-opener. Lifting the lid reveals a red-backlit fullsized keyboard, which is raised ever so slightly from a rubberised palm rest and touchpad. An odd design choice, though, is the huge amount of space left bare surrounding the
Lenovo isn’t the first company that springs to mind when choosing a gaming laptop
With The Witcher 3 we only managed to get 45
minutes off a full charge
keyboard. The QWERTY keys themselves are well spaced if a little spongy for our personal tastes, but the numpad keys are noticeably smaller. With all that extra space to spare, perhaps the numpad keys could have been bigger? Regardless of our own peculiar tastes, we have to admit it's a wonderful-looking laptop. One flaw we did come to notice quite quickly was the absolutely terrible battery life of the Y70. Having a big touchscreen like this takes a fair bit of power, combined with everything else that’s going on, but we expected it to last a little longer than one and a half hours. Gaming will suck the life out of any battery pretty quickly, and when testing the Y70 with The Witcher 3 we only managed to get 45 minutes off a full charge before we needed to plug it into the wall again. The other laptops lasted for a lot longer. Despite the poor battery, this £999 gaming laptop is quite a splendid-looking showcase model. The large IPS screen is excellent, and its exterior looks pretty amazing as well. Ideally, we'd like to have seen a slightly better benchmark score, but the games we played ran fine. It’s just a pity about the naff battery life.
The Y70 is certainly good, but the poor battery is disappointing
Asus ROG GL552VW The full HD IPS anti-glare screen is a joy to behold. The excellent viewing angles, brightness, colour depth and reproduction are some of the best we’ve ever seen. The screen is only the beginning, though. The solid and attractive exterior opens up to reveal a wonderfully spaced, backlit keyboard with a numpad and a large, responsive trackpad. Remarkably, all this is available for the reasonably low sum of £899. Considering the Asus ROG GL552VW came second in the performance tests, it's impressive that it's also the second cheapest model in the group. We really liked the Asus ROG GL552VW. It has the perfect mix of style, performance and cost. The battery managed to provide a good two hours of gaming before giving up the fight, with a recharge taking a little over two and half hours from empty. This is a superb gaming laptop and one that will keep the majority of mobile gamers happy.
• Price: £899 • Manufacturer: Asus • Website: goo.gl/9g53uU • Requirements: Microsoft/Windows account
sus has really stepped up its range of laptops and notebooks in recent months. Their quality, design and performance have left us in no doubt that the company is on the ball with regards to what the customer wants. Part of that praise is due to the company’s Republic of Gamers (ROG) brand, created in 2006. With peripherals, desktops and laptops under the ROG name, it’s certainly an exciting time for the team. The Asus ROG GL552VW is the company’s only 15.6" gaming laptop on offer, and despite being smaller than its 17.3" stablemate, it packs quite an impressive list of features. With an 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor, 8GB of 2133MHz DDR4 memory, a 256GB M.2 SSD with Windows 10 preinstalled and a secondary 1TB hard drive, the base is already looking quite enticing. Other connectivity includes a pair of headphone and microphone jacks, a single USB 3.1 Type-C port, two USB 3.0 ports and one USB 2.0 port. There’s also a gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11ac wi-fi, a 2-in-1 SD card reader and a multi-purpose DVD optical drive too. Alongside the Intel HD 530 GPU, there’s also an Nvidia
The Asus ROG GL522VW is an exceptionally good laptop
Style, specifications and performance are all top notch
With The Witcher 3 we only managed to get 45
minutes off a full charge GTX 960M with 2GB of memory. This, combined with the rest of the hardware, offers a 3DMark 11 score of 6,652. That puts the Asus ROG GL552VW in second place next to the Gigabyte P34W v5, with a gap of 2,281 points.
As you would assume, then, the GL552VW is an extremely capable gaming laptop. The games we tested flew along quite happily, never dropping below the magical 60fps while at the maximum resolution with as many settings enabled as possible.
MSI GE72 2QC Apache DETAILS
• Price: £1059 • Manufacturer: MSI • Website: goo.gl/oLMP5d • Requirements: Microsoft/Windows account
he MSI Apache range of gaming laptops are a force to be reckoned with. Not only do the Apache machines manage to pack in some of best components, but the cost is generally low (for gaming laptops) and the style and design are exceptional. The MSI GE72 2QC Apache is certainly no exception to that rule. With an 2.9GHz Intel Core i7-5950HQ, 8GB of DDR3L memory, a 256GB M.2 SSD with Windows 10 preinstalled and a further 1TB secondary storage hard drive, all the necessary boxes have been ticked. The i7’s GPU is the excellent Intel Iris Pro Graphics 6200, but MSI has also included an Nvidia GTX 960M with 2GB of memory. The result is a 3DMark 11 score of 6,250 – just behind the Asus system by 402 points. As with the Asus ROG GL552VW, the MSI GE72 2QC should have no problems keeping up with your gaming requirements, with the settings for most games turned up to the maximum. Other connectivity on the GE72 2QC includes a gigbit Ethernet Killer LAN port, HDMI, two USB 3.0 ports and a single USB 2.0 port, miniDisplayPort, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11ac wi-fi, an SD card reader and a Blu-ray drive. The overall design of the laptop is very much the same across the Apache line. The only major difference with
The MSI GE72 2QC Apache is a another great gaming laptop in the Apache range
At more than £1,000, it's a big investment
this particular model is the larger backlit keyboard and the trackpad. The Apache design is one we’ve been impressed by in previous reviews. The angled, almost stealth-bomber-like look is in line with the kind of design
you’d expect from a gaming laptop, and the MSI badge on the lid adds a nice touch of colour to the otherwise wholly black exterior. The 17.3 FHD 1920 x 1080 anti-glare screen displays a good level of colour depth,
brightness and sharpness. It's a great screen, although perhaps not as good as the Asus model. On the whole, though, we’re fairly certain you’ll appreciate its quality. One odd thing we did notice was that the Windows key was moved from the left of the spacebar to the right – between the Ctrl and AltGr keys. While it’s not a big deal, it could be awkward if you have a particular set of keyboard shortcuts you’re used to. For the majority of users, though, it won’t make much of a difference. The MSI GE72 2QC Apache is an impressive mobile gaming platform. The battery life is pretty much equal to that of the Asus ROG model, with the specification being similar too. This particular model costs around £1,059, which isn’t too bad, but it's still over £100 more than the Asus ROG.
Scan 3XS Graphite LG157 DETAILS
• Price: £915 • Manufacturer: Scan.co.uk/3XS • Website: goo.gl/3fe1Ro • Requirements: Microsoft/Windows account
can.co.uk is a familiar name in the pages of Micro Mart, and with it comes the 3XS brand, which has been building some pretty impressive PCs and laptops for the best part of a decade. The 3XS Graphite LG157 is one of the mid-range models, costing around £915 for the base, unaltered design. This particular laptop features a 15.6" 1920 x 1080 IPS panel, a 2.6GHz Intel i7-4720HQ quad-core processor, 8GB of Corsair 1600MHz memory, a 120GB M.2 SSD and a 1TB Hitachi Travelstar 5400rpm hard drive with Windows 10 64-bit preinstalled. Other features include four USB 3.0 ports, VGA, HDMI and mini DisplayPort, S/PDIF output, gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac wi-fi and Bluetooth and a 6-in-1 card reader as well as a DVD optical drive. The GPU used here is an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M, with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, which when combined with all the other processing power gives a 3DMark 11 score of 5,860. This places the 3XS Graphite LG157 in fourth place overall in terms of the performance, but it’s certainly no slouch. The games we tested ran perfectly well, with most at the highest settings. The design of the 3XS Graphite is good and puts us in mind of the earlier Asus
The 3XS Graphite LG157 has a marvellous screen, and it’s a good performer too You can improve the base specs via the configuration tool on the website, but the base is good enough
configure the specification to your particular tastes. More memory, different storage solutions, sound options and so on can be tweaked. The base model, though, is pitched perfectly and will keep most mobile gamers quite happy. models before the company started to use a brushed aluminium look. The chassis has a matte-black finish throughout, including the inside of the laptop. There’s a full-size backlit keyboard, with good spacing and travel for each keypress. All in all, it’s a very good design, which feels considerably more expensive than it actually is. We’d even go so far as to say it looks and feels better than the MSI model. The screen, however, is the best part of the Graphite LG157. It’s excellent, with
bright vibrant colours and superb clarity. For a mid-range laptop, this is an amazing display, especially with regards to the contrast and black levels. There could be a few improvements in the design, perhaps. A splash of colour on the chassis wouldn’t go amiss, for instance. We’re not saying it should be plastered with colours and badges, but the odd flash or two of red would help to catch the eye of prospective customers. Since the 3XS is available via Scan.co.uk, you can of course
HO SC I
Asus ROG GL552VW
Scan 3XS Graphite LG157
The Asus ROG GL552VW has the perfect blend of style, performance and value. It’s a great gaming laptop, with enough grunt to keep you satisfied, while still leaving you with a few pounds in your wallet.
Although the Scan 3XS Graphite LG157 doesn’t score as highly as the Gigabyte P34W v5, it’s a great little laptop – and more than £250 cheaper than the Gigabyte model too. You can of course improve the specs slightly, but as it stands, we think it’s worth every penny and is a fine choice for mobile gamers.
How We Tested Each laptop was tested with a selection of games: The Witcher 3, Elite: Dangerous, Fallout 4, Battlefield 4 and Rise of the Tomb Raider. For benchmarking we used 3DMark 11 and used the score produced after a second run through.
Alienware 13 Gaming Laptop
Gigabyte P34W v5
Asus ROG GL552VW
MSI GE72 2QC Apache
Scan 3XS Graphite LG157
328 x 235 x 27mm
340 x 239 x 20.9mm
422 x 290 x 25.9mm
384 x 256 x 34mm
419 x 280 x 29mm
385 x 268 x 28.5mm
GeForce GTX 960M
GeForce GTX 970M
GeForce GTX 960M
GeForce GTX 960M
GeForce GTX 960M
GeForce GTX 960M
Price Dimensions Weight
3DMark 11 Score
Component Watch Need more storage? Check out these 4TB external drives...
n external drive is a great way to bolster storage when the low-capacity of an SSD isn’t quite enough to meet your needs. If you’re going to buy an external drive, the 4TB class are currently well-priced, offering good value and super-dense storage capacity. What can you expect for your money, though, and where are the best prices to be found? We looked into it... Deal 1: Seagate Expansion 4TB RRP: £130 / Deal Price: £90 You won’t find a 4TB external drive much cheaper than the Seagate Expansion (at least, not outside of any sales) but that doesn’t mean it’s much (or even any) worse than the rest of the models on this page or elsewhere. Seagate is a reliable brand and, while it’s an unashamedly basic unit, you do still get USB 3.0 connectivity and the increased speeds that come with it. This unit would be great for anyone who wantsto save money and doesn’t care about taking a no-frills approach to do it. Seriously, just looking at that saving! £40 is not to be sniffed at Where to get it: Maplin (bit.ly/1R5PUFT) Deal 2: Samsung 4TB D3 RRP: £120 / Deal Price: £99 If you’re a fan of Samsung’s 1TB external drive (and let’s not beat around the bush: we most certainly are) then this 4TB version is likely to be right up your street – if it’s not already climbed in through an open window and settled down on your desk. With the same sleek, simple design and no-nonsense performance, the Samsung D3 is an ideal option for those who like low-price, high-quality hardware. USB 3.0 connectivity is, of course, included, as well as a three year warranty and auto-backup software. The saving offered here is 17.5%, so not as impressive as the Seagate, but this has a bit more in the way of looks and pedigree. Where to get it: Scan (bit.ly/1Mpfbc3)
Deal 3: Western Digital My Book 4TB RRP: £140 / Deal Price: £110 For just a few pounds more, the equally-respected Western Digital offer a 4TB drive with a whole host of extras, including WD SmartWare Pro software (for local and cloud backup) bundled with Acronis’ True Image software for system level backup. There’s software-based encryption and even a Windows app that helps you manage the drive and its contents. At full price it doesn’t quite trounce the Seagate, for but £20 more, it’s hard to argue. Where to get it: Box.co.uk (bit.ly/1VfC4G3) Deal 4: HGST Touro DX3 4TB RRP: £144 / Deal Price: £128 Similar to the Western Digital My Book, the Hitachi Touro Desk DX3 has one unique feature worth mentioning: the units are stackable, so if you buy multiple drives you can pile them on top of each other in a particularly pleasing manner. Aside from that it’s business as usual, and while Hitachi isn’t a poor brand, it does lack the reputation of driveit l and dS t Still specific manufacturers like Western Digital Seagate. Still, att thi this discount, it’s worth a look. Where to get it: ComWales (bit.ly/1RmLWhw) Deal 5: G-Drive 4TB RRP: £250 / Deal Price: £150 If you want something with a few more features than the average external drive, the G-Drive might fit the bill. It has USB 3.0 and Firewire interfaces, and with its aluminium case and integrated heatsink the G-Drive is always cool and quiet. There’s no need for a fan even though it runs full-speed 7200rpm drives, and that makes it a particularly good choice for those who need speed for video and audio. A three year limited warranty only sweetens deal. Where to get it: Apple Store (apple.co/1UiPGAY)
The Download Directory James Hunt scours the internet for the best freeware, shareware and paid-for application releases
his month, The Download Directory’s collection of offbeat and largely undiscovered applications includes 1Clipboard, a program that helps you share your clipboard between multiple devices; DriveLetterView, an application from NirSoft that helps you manage your drive letters simply and easily from within Windows; BlueStacks App Player, an Android Emulator for Windows 8 and up; InDeep File List Maker, a tool for examining and enumerating your computer’s directory structure, and Registry DeleteEx, which can delete locked, damaged or malicious registry keys that other programs might be unable to reach.
Release Type: Freeware Official Site: 1clipboard.io
If you use more than one desktop system for different purposes, getting small amounts of data from one to the other can be frustrating. Either you have to rely on emails, which take time to compose and send, or save the file and wait for your dropbox to sync, which can be irritatingly fiddly if you just want to take some text or a graphic over to another device. 1Clipboard fixes this problem by syncing data across multiple systems as if on the clipboard. Copy it on one machine, then paste it on another. All you need to do is link up your Google Drive account on both systems, and it’ll allow you to easily pass data back and forth as if they were on a single machine. Setup isn’t complicated: you just need to have a Google account already. Beyond that, your system is barely notified. At the moment, it works on both Windows and OS X platforms, though Android and iOS support are promised for the future,
suggesting a program that’s got lofty ambitions to make transferring data snippets as seamless as possible. The only change you’ll notice is an icon in your notification area. Nothing will slow down, and nothing will change. All you have to do is copy and paste as normal while synced-up versions of the app are running, and it’ll be as though they’re one machine. Better still, the software incorporates a clipboard history feature so you can copy and then paste multiple items at once – perfect if your two systems aren’t in the same room but you want to send over more than one thing. You can even search it internally if there’s one specific thing you want to paste. The only potential drawback is that because it automatically copies everything, there’s a small chance of it sharing sensitive data – so don’t share 1Password accounts with just anyone. You can ask it to pause syncing on demand, so it’s not completely useless as a collaborative tool, but only if you remember to hold its behaviour. A potential inconvenience, we admit, but it’s one that’s also nearly impossible to avoid given the nature of the program. It’d also be nice to see the program build in support for more data types. At present, it only supports the transfer of text and images, not things like entire files or audio data. But this is a very early release, and we don’t doubt that more sophisticated capabilities will be added in the future. It’s already a working version of itself, but keep an eye on it: we’re expecting things to get even better in the future.
Pros: Fast and simple. Cons: Support for datatypes could be wider. Rating: 4/5
THE DOWNLOAD DIRECTORY nature of what’s going on. We’re pretty confident anyone could pick it up and use it without any great amount of reading or technical study. When it comes down to it, there’s nothing that DriveLetterView does which isn’t also possible with the default Windows settings as well, but it’s a much easier way of getting results. The program is clean, basic and easy to manage whereas Windows’ version of the same is a mess of options and complicated settings dialogs seemingly designed to make the process as frustrating as possible. Ultimately, while we admit that the tool is of relatively limited use, it’s a good example of what can be done with just a little thought and effort. There’s nothing in this program that requires a huge amount of technical abilities, but it doesn’t disappoint when it comes to getting everything right.
Pros: Powerful but no-nonsense. Cons: Usage is probably quite limited. Rating: 5/5
BlueStacks App Player 2.1.7 Release Type: Adware Official Site: www.bluestacks.com
DriveLetterView 1.41 Release Type: Freeware Official Site: nirsoft.net
In the world of small but perfectly formed software applets, Nirsoft is a quality name. Its tools are almost always brilliant, so every time we see a new update to one, we’re excited to see how it’s doing. In a world where most PCs have multiple internal hard drives, optical media drives and plenty of removable USB keys, memory card storage and external hard drives, keeping track of drive letters can be tough. And that’s assuming they’re even doing what you want, which most of the time they don’t seem to be. DriveLetterView is a free tool that enables you to take control of what drive letter is assigned to which hardware without having to rely on the whims and wishes of Microsoft’s own tools, which seem to treat a lot of simple requests as simply impossible. In addition to changing the letters of currently installed drives, DriveLetterView allows you to hide and reveal drives whether there’s anything connected to the letter or not. In standard mode it operates as a simple enumerator of drive letters, giving you an at-a-glance look at what every device and letter are paired together. Open it in Adminstrator mode, however, and you’ve suddenly got the powerful ability to rearrange and reassign letters as you please. The graphical interface is simple and easy to navigate, but if there are things you want to automate using batch commands, there’s also a built-in command line interface that’ll let you do things like switch letters at a single stroke, or hide and reveal drives automatically. Most of the options are pretty intuitive despite the potentially technical
If you don’t have an Android device, then it can be annoying if there are programs (be they games or applications) that you can’t run, even though any desktop system is surely powerful enough to run them. The people at BlueStacks Inc. clearly agreed with this, because they created an Android emulator that works from within Windows: the BlueStacks App Player. Installing it gives your PC the ability to become a virtual Android tablet. Sign in with your Google account (a prerequisite for all Android use!), and you’ll be able to browse the Google Play app store, selecting and installing programs to run. Because it’s an emulator, it’s worth warning interested users that not everything works. BlueStacks itself claims a 96% compatibility rate with most apps, and 86% with games. We tested it with the Android version of Minecraft, and it worked fine, though we have to admit that the touch-emulation isn’t that great if you’re only using a keyboard and mouse. Apps have the ability to access any of your PC’s hardware, so you can do everything you’d be able to on a phone or tablet, such as use the webcam and microphone, with the added bonus of a mouse and keyboard as inputs. If you’ve got touch input, then BlueStacks does support it, while a toolbar gives you the ability to simulate certain conditions (like device location and device shakes) at a single click. You can also copy and paste from Windows and install APKs directly. It’s as close as you can get to having an actual Android device without actually paying for one. The free version of the software displays sponsored ads on occasion, but if you want to get around that, you can dismiss them for the relatively low sum of $24 (£16.50) a year. The current version contains tabbed browsing to make switching between apps easier, as well as an Android-style back button, and it doubles the emulated storage capabilities to 16GB of ‘internal’ SSD + 16GB of emulated memory card storage. It’s especially useful if you already have an Android device as well, because it puts all of your apps just a click away from the PC desktop. The only things we aren’t massively keen on are its insistence that it launches with Windows and its rare habit of showing pop-up ads even when you’re not using it. But those are minor considerations when you think about the power it offers.
Pros: Just like using Android. Cons: Occasionally intrusive ads and some incompatibilities mean it’ll never be perfect. Rating: 4/5
InDeep File List Maker 1.3.0
Release Type: Freeware Official Site: indeepsoft.blogspot.co.uk
If you’ve ever wanted to create a quick list of files, you’ll know that it tends to involve a lot of complicated batch commands and swearing to get the right combination – all to create a simple file list. InDeep File List Maker has clearly recognises what a chore this is, because that’s what its program does without any fuss of bother. The portable tool creates a list of files in any folder tree and lets you search and filter the results before exporting them to a text report. It’s extremely small and requires no complicated configuration: just click a few buttons and off you go. You’re walked through the process by a helpful toolbar, and figuring out what to do next is never a problem. There are several settings you can change if you want to, including limiting the search to certain depths of subfolder (whether that’s none, one to three folders deep or all), and you can do things like exclude empty folders from your results. If you’ve saved a file list, the search function allows you to explore it and get back matching entries from even a partial input. Better still, the saved outputs are plain text, so you can then repurpose them as you please. We can imagine a number of useful things you could do with this software. Create lists of files on backup media, explore the contents of network drives or other systems even when they’re switched off, or just filter your own files without having to wait for Windows’ own indexing. You could even centralise them on some kind of cloud service so you never have to wonder whether a file is on your PC again. The program’s interface is relatively slick – certainly not as basic as it could have got away with – and the layout is both easy to read and easy to understand. Switching and exploring drives is no problem, and controlling the masked filter options is probably the most difficult thing it asks of you. Hardly a great concern.
To help you stay on the bleeding edge of software releases, Betawatch is a guide to the experimental and unfinished versions of some of the most popular applications around. Can’t wait for new features? Now you don’t have to!
iOS 9.3 Beta 7 beta.apple.com
Released at the start of this month, iOS 9.3 is the new beta version of Apple’s smart-device operating system, available as an opt-in beta program for iOS device and Mac users. Version 9.3 brings a number of additions, including (but not limited to) a new Night Shift mode, which lowers the amount of blue light emitted by your screen to aid sleep; multi-user support for students; password (and fingerprint) protection for Apple Notes; and updates to the proprietary News, Health and CarPlay apps. This release is also expected to fix the date bug, which has been bricking iPads and iPhones left, right and centre and, let’s face it, that one’s long overdue. Unfortunately, there’s still no FitBit integration for Apple Health, though the watch integration is getting an overhaul. Elsewhere, 3D Touch support has been updated and added to a whole bunch of new apps, including Weather, the App Store, Stocks Compass and Settings and Siri now understands Hebrew, Finnish and Malay (for any multi-lingual readers out there). The release is expected to coincide with Apple’s next device announcement, so there’s a chance it’ll be out by the time you’re reading this. And certainly if it isn’t, you can expect to see it within a week or two.
THE DOWNLOAD DIRECTORY
This month, in our regular retrospective section, we’re looking back at the March 2014 instalment of Download Directory to see how the programs we reviewed have fared. Are they better? Worse? Gone completely? Here, we find out.
Preme for Windows
www.premeforwindows.com Reviewed Version: 0.991, Current Version: 0.994
Preme is an odd piece of software. Essentially an addon for Windows’ interface, it creates a large number of new behaviours intended to speed up the way you navigate your way through Windows and make it easier to manipulate the behaviour of applications and software. At the time, its ideas were interesting but confusing, and the fact that Windows has had a major overhaul since seems to render its tricks mostly worthless. That said, it does work on Windows 10, and it received an update as recently as this January, so the developer is clearly trying to keep it relevant. We’re not that into the program itself, but we appreciate its continued support.
www.julien-manici.com Reviewed Version: 0.9.0, Current Version: 1.4.0
Immersive Explorer is a Metro-based file explorer for Windows 8 and 10 focused around file actions, rather than directory structures. It follows the look of the Windows start screen, with large bold-coloured tiles, smooth scrolling and minimalist presentation, so looking through your folders suddenly looks a lot more like the Metro tile system – hence ‘immersive’. Again, we’re not entirely sold on its core idea but the support can’t be denied (it, too, was updated in January),
and it’s come on a lot since we reviewed the visibly unfinished version two years ago. We wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but if you’re interested, there’s no reason to avoid it.
Fragment Image Viewer
www.fragmentapp.info Reviewed Version: 220.127.116.11, Current Version: 1.6
Fragment is an image viewing tool that promises to be fast and lightweight. We tried it out, hoping it’d be both, and we weren’t disappointed. Whether you start by opening a single image or drag and drop an entire folder into Fragment, it’ll quickly display everything you could want to see. Where Windows takes ages to load large files, Fragment speeds through them. Where Windows struggles with all but the most basic image types, Fragment displays animated GIFs, PSDs and more. The latest version adds support for slideshows and transitions, as well as a host of extra features. Well worth a look if you’re after a new image editor.
SoftPerfect Wiﬁ Guard Portable
www.softperfect.com Reviewed Version: 1.0.4, Current Version: 1.0.7
SoftPerfect Wifi Guard is a fully portable network monitoring tool, easy to run at a moment’s notice with no heavyweight installer, no background processes and no attendant drain on system resources. Once active, it’ll scan your network for connections then display information about any device it finds. As an added step, it’ll then ask you to verify each device, filling in those that it already recognises and marking anything trusted in green. Despite the name it isn’t that useful as a security tool, and the lack of any major updates since we last reviewed the software gives us no reason to change our mind about it. That’s not to say it isn’t useful – but essential? Not really.
So while it isn’t going to excite everyone, we think there are people out there who’ll really get on with this program. And if that’s you, there’s absolutely nothing to worry about, because it’s great.
Pros: Quicker than searching manually. Cons: Filter options could be slightly better explained. Rating: 5/5
Registry DeleteEx 18.104.22.168
Release Type: Freeware Official Site: indeepsoft.blogspot.co.uk
Locked registry keys are incredibly annoying, mainly because if they’re locked, it usually means they’re causing some kind of trouble. Registry DeleteEx is a program designed to simply and easily wipe problemcausing registry entries regardless of who or what owns them, whether malicious or legitimate. So be careful! As it happens, it’s hard to cause too much trouble with this program, because it’s quite difficult to delete something unless you know exactly what you’re doing. There’s no Regedit-style tree view here, so you can pick a key at random. You have to know exactly which key you want to be rid of before you even start. All you get is a box and a deletion button, with an option to delete all subkeys as well. The important thing that makes this different from standard Regedit is that it writes to the registry directly, bypassing Windows’ internal tools for doing so. This is what allows it to ignore permissions and locks on individual keys and values, and what makes it a superpowerful tool for fighting malware, which can lock up and/or intercept the Windows API. But that also makes it dangerous. This is a program that could seriously damage your Windows installation if you don’t know what you’re doing. One of its tabs is labelled ‘Experts only’ and we think
that’s probably a bit misleading. The whole program is experts only. If you don’t know how to recover from a severe registry failure, we recommend that you stay away from this program as much as possible. Indeed, our only problems with it are ones that, by its nature, it should probably have. There’s no simple way to find a registry key if you want to delete it; you need to have the location to hand already. That alone is a smart way of ensuring no one wipes something they need, but it does mean casual users have no hope of getting to grips with it even if they’re on the right track.
Pros: Very powerful. Cons: Minimalist to the point of frustration. Rating: 3/5 mm
Remembering… Donkey Kong It’s all about apes, rolling barrels and rescuing damsels in distress this week
t may not be every gamer’s cup of tea, but Nintendo’s moustachioed plumber is one of the most recognised and successful characters in the history of the videogame world. However, he wasn’t always the star of the show. Many years ago, he had a pet ape. Donkey Kong first appeared in the arcade hit of the same name on 9th July 1981. A carpenter called Jumpman once owned him, and after many months of ill treatment Donkey Kong ran off and took with him The Lady, later named Pauline. It was then up to Jumpman to rescue Pauline from the clutches of Donkey Kong. Donkey Kong, the game not the ape, was an instant hit for Nintendo, which hadn’t had a huge amount of success in the arcades. The sequel, Donkey Kong Jr, followed a year later, which saw you playing as Donkey Kong’s son, attempting to rescue him from Jumpman, now named Mario, and his brother, who have you locked in a cage. Donkey Kong was a massive hit in the US, and with a huge global distribution of 40 million units, it soon became a Nintendo icon.
Created by Shigeru Miyamoto in 1981, Donkey Kong came about while Miyamoto was working on a conversion of Radar Scope for Nintendo. The idea was to create a game that American audiences could get behind, which
The original Donkey Kong arcade game
was easy to play and needed very little instructions, but also required fast reflexes and timing. The result was an arcade game that not only spawned Mario, but also one that’s still going strong today, with the latest Donkey Kong game launched in 2014. After Donkey Kong Jr., Donkey Kong 3 was released in 1983, then there was a bit of gap for 11 years until Donkey Kong Country. Return of Donkey Kong was scheduled for release in 1989 but was ultimately cancelled. The gradual improvement of gaming technology meant that Donkey Kong, the character, began to appear in various forms throughout the Mario universe. Whether it was racing, in a 3D environment or as a secret, unlockable stage, Donkey Kong has remained a favourite in the Nintendo world. The game Donkey Kong, has also appeared on various home platforms. Game and Watch, other handhelds, the N64, the Wii, the Atari 7800, the ZX Spectrum and the Commodore 64 have all had the pleasure of Donkey Kong – not to mention a legions of clones. More recently, a Donkey Kong clone appeared in Fallout 4 named The Red Menace, which you can get to play before you escape the Vault.
The game side of Donkey Kong was great fun. Who doesn’t love jumping over barrels, climbing ladders and rescuing fair maidens?
DK appeared on many different platforms
Did You Know? •
There’s a hidden Easter Egg in Donkey Kong for the Atari 400, where the developer’s initials appear on screen under certain circumstances. The Lady, Pauline and soon to be named Princess Peach, was modelled after Fay Wray. For obvious reasons. In 2010, Game and Gamestation had a promotion in which the first dozen customers could get a copy of Donkey Kong Country Returns for a bunch of bananas. Donkey Kong, which was hoped would translate into Stupid Ape, was originally modelled on a character from a Popeye cartoon.
I always felt sorry for Donkey Kong, the character, so I really liked Mario. I still pick Donkey Kong when I have the chance in Mario Kart.
You’ve got to hand it to Nintendo: when it gets behind a concept, there’s no stopping it. Donkey Kong was one such idea, and thanks to its popularity and Nintendo’s clever marketing, the games industry has never been the same since.
The DK clone in Fallout 4
over the years
Retro Round-up This month, Dave Edwards turns his attention to some of the platform games that have recently appeared for retro computers, and finds the best – and worst – that the homebrew community has to offer
elcome to Retro Round Up, our monthly look at some of the new games written for machines originally marketed over 30 years ago. As usual, the tinyurls for each will take you to Everygamegoing.com, which regular readers have now seen develop alongside this column, and now includes information on every game we’ve ever covered in this column (and about 74,000 others!). This month, we’re focusing on new, free, platform games on the Amstrad, Spectrum and Commodore 64. So let’s check out what’s worth checking out… Top Top (Amstrad CPC, Rantan Games, tinyurl.com/jfzv4rr) Amstrad owners/fans are probably as well catered for these days as Spectrum ones but, as far as I know, Spectrum games creators don’t have the chance to win €900 for indulging their creativity. The now annual CPCRetroDev, however, gives Amstrad coders that very chance. And last year, no less than 36 new
The stunning cover art by Rastan Games
Amstrad games competed for the cash and the winner’s trophy. Top Top by Rantan Games eventually charted third, which means the judges rated it better than 33 other games. For a public domain release, it comes with some slick production too: a nice animestyle cover showing its protagonists Eira and Elric battling up a castle wall. As you can see, it looks trendy, indicating a kind of grown-up version of classic co-operative platformer Rodland. And although the game itself lacks the cartoon-like quality of the cover art, the character design is not too shabby either. There’s a nice overhead score bar showing how many lives Eira and Elric each have, the level reached and some other information. The game itself is in the Spanish language (there’s no English version of it available!), and it starts with an opening screen stating “1. Jugar”, which seems to mean “Press 1 to play”. Now that isn’t a problem per se, but it leads me into a criticism I have made of the CPCRetroDev
It’s a two-player game, Jim…
contest elsewhere and several times previously. Top Top is one of 36 (!) games that teams have sweated over to produce for Amstrad fans and, I assume, when it was submitted to the contest, it came with some playing instructions. CPCRetroDev judge the entries and then make the games free to download (Hoorah!), but the downloads consist of the emulator image with no playing instructions at all. In the case of Top Top, pressing 1 indeed launches what appears to be a two-player platform game, but with no instructions to refer to, I initially struggled to work out the game controls for each of them and, indeed, the premise of the game itself… In fact, even now I’m not convinced I appreciate every feature it includes. Even “1. Jugar” initially confused me as a non-Spanish speaker. I thought perhaps it meant “one-player game” and could be altered to a twoplayer one. The lack of instructions really are a crying shame. Top Top has six controls per
…but not as we know it
The loading screen for Fist-Ro Fighter
player, and working them out not only took up my valuable time but also means that one almost begins the game with a sense of frustration. There are movecombinations, for example, that are not immediately apparent; you’re not sure initially whether you can shoot in more than one direction and so on. This is also why I was rather vague when describing the score bar earlier: I’m not exactly sure of what ‘other information’ it contains! There seems to be a box including a blob, which presumably indicates the current weapon. However, since I haven’t found any alternative weapons to pick up, I can’t say for certain that’s what it is. Like I said, the lack of instructions really are a crying shame. The game itself is set, as you might imagine, in a castle. Each room is divided equally in half, with Eira on the left and Elric on the right – and each room is a co-operative puzzle. Also, as you might have reasonably deduced, the aim of the game is to get the two characters to the ‘top’ of it. Doors litter the platforms you need to reach, and pushing the appropriate ‘Enter Door’ control when standing in front of these performs a teleport from one door to another, ‘up’ or ‘down’ the room as appropriate. All the doors in all of the rooms start off closed – at first, that is. Either Eira or Elric will have access to a button that activates the other player’s doors. Hence, each player is dependent on the other to progress. If either player dies, there’s no chance for the other to complete the room on his own. The game instead comes to a sudden end. Despite the limited resolution of an Amstrad screen, the graphics are nice and quite colourful. Eira and Elric can run left and right, jump and crouch, and all movements are well animated. The characters can also fire, and firing in combination with the other four game
The first screen – as far as many will get!
controls sends the bullet (for want of a better description!) in the expected direction. You need to shoot obstructions (invariably green round rock things) out of the way, in order to collect keys, magic potions and extra lives. However, some thought is required as to what rocks need to be blasted to oblivion, and which should remain in place so you can walk on them to reach higher up the room. Spikes on the ground need to be avoided. The game states that it’s a co-operative two-player game and, indeed, it can be played that way. However, when I grabbed a friend, we soon realised that it doesn’t quite work. The problem is that the co-operation extends only to sitting on a button in ‘your’ part of the room. No player is under threat from, say, patrolling nasties, etc, necessitating the other to ‘rescue’ him. Instead, player one (controlling Eira) walks to a red door that he can’t get through, and asks (verbally) player two (controlling Elric) to go and stand on the ‘red’ button. Player two obliges, the red door unlocks, player one enters it, player two then walks to a blue door that he can’t get through, and asks (verbally) player one to go and stand on the ‘blue’ button. And so on. It’s not really co-operative in the true sense that arcade players understand; indeed, you don’t need the second player at all – you can complete every room by simply switching from the set of keys used to control Eira to the set of keys used to control Elric (and vice versa) whenever you encounter a door that you cannot pass. Sadly, this option is not too easy because the movement controls are laid out in a different combination for each player. Player one’s movement control keys ADSFG are all on the same row, while player two’s control keys are the cursor keys plus O and P on the top row. Fiddly stuff, frequently meaning you’ll inadvertently send either Eira or Elric
Two baddies who don’t fear the Fist
Graphics 80% Sound 40% Playability 60% Overall 60% straight to his doom when you press the wrong key and hence making this less viable an option as a direct result. When you’ve worked out what to do, two players will have little difficulty in clearing the first few rooms. They get tougher as the game progresses, although they retain the same simplistic style. Even if I set aside the problems with the lack of instruction, Top Top didn’t exactly bowl me over. It has good graphics, a stringy little tune accompanying the odd bleep or two that signals a particular action (game start, door opening, key collected, etc.), and it moves at a fair pace. Not exceptional, and certainly not nearly in the same league as something like Rodland, but enjoyable enough for a few hours’ play. Fist-Ro Fighter (Spectrum 48K, Retrobytes, tinyurl.com/hpjebnx) In my youth (mid-80s), I bought a BBC Micro game called Subway Vigilante, a monochrome beat-’em-up contender for the worst game of all time. It was practically impossible to hit your opponent, difficult to turn around, had no music or sound, and actually defeating a bad guy involved getting in one lucky punch, retreating for about ten seconds and then repeating. Fist-Ro Fighter is a brand new platform game for the Spectrum and is, to all intents and purposes, Subway Vigilante (with all of its flaws), infused with colour and transferred to a ladders and levels type game. You take control of
one of Barcelona’s top law officials and, according to the daft instructions, are charged with utilising the power of ‘-RO!’ to topple six different bad guys. Actually, the instructions for Fist-Ro Fighter make the game seem a lot more exciting than it ultimately proves to be. They speak of a ‘-RO!’ health bar, which you can build up by hitting villains five times in a row; this will concentrate the power of your ancestors in your fist and allow you to make short work of later attackers. But to say that actually being able to do this is hit and miss is to be exceedingly generous... It’s not often that I read the instructions, start a game and end up being clobbered by the very first fighter over and over again for more than 15 minutes. However, that’s what happened here. Indeed, the whole experience was so vexing that I was on the verge of reviewing it with “Fist-Ro Fighter is unworthy of even being loaded…” The number of sins this game commits are astronomical, but let’s take the most obvious. Firstly, there are only three controls: left, right and punch. There’s an up key, but that’s not used in the fighting. As for the fighting itself, that consists of walking up to an adversary and throwing a punch at his face. Said adversary rarely stands still; you’ll get two punches in at best before he fights back. Hence, raising the ‘-KO’ meter by bashing him five times in quick succession can’t happen; instead you must try to retreat without being hit yourself. If there were a jump key, the game mechanics would change, and you might feasibly be able to escape. But there isn’t, so you’re stuck with running away from him, while he chases you Benny Hill style. Your sprite, and that of your opponents are very similar – same size, same colours – so it’s very easy to lose track of who’s who. It’s also difficult to turn around, and the computer seems to
We’re knights of the round table…
only be able to cope with a direction key or punch. Add to this that you must play the game in a very cramped playing area. You can’t move from screen to screen freely; you must complete them in a strict sequence. Failure sends you all the way back to the beginning. After copying the techniques in FunkySpectrum’s YouTube video of the game, I did manage to progress to the second screen and, after another ten minutes of frantically running left and right with the odd punch, I beat up two more adversaries and could proceed to screen three. I walked into it and found I was now standing on some spikes and was instantly killed. At this point I decided life was too short. I would go so far as to say that FistRo Fighter is virtually unplayable. Any ‘progress’ I made was entirely due to the fact that more energy-giving bowls of rice appeared in some games than others. It is actually worse than Subway Vigilante, which means that it would make it onto my list of the worst games I’ve ever played. And if you’re thinking perhaps it might make up for its flaws with superb sound and music, you’d be wrong. There are none. The only thing I found nice was the animated expressions of the Dragonball Z clone on the right of the screen. Sorry, Retrobytes, you’ll have to do a lot better than this. Little Knight Arthur (Commodore 64, Pasi Hytonen, tinyurl.com/hnoslee) Finnish developer Pasi Hytonen has recently uncovered (and made available) his long-lost C64 platformer Little Knight Arthur (www.pasisbitstuff. net). He has also, rather thoughtfully, made available Little Knight Arthur (Cheat Version). Neither is, alas, much to write home about. The idea of the game is to navigate little knight Arthur around a succession of seven caverns. The mission for each
Spiders move randomly, so progress is very hard
Fist-Ro Fighter Graphics 20% Sound 10% Playability 5% Overall 11%
Little Knight Arthur Graphics 50% Sound 75% Playability 10% Overall 45%
cavern varies from simply making it through the room in one piece to rescuing one of your kidnapped comrades by taking an item in one part of the cavern to another. The overall layout of the game is fairly pleasing, with some basic sprites set against a black background. There’s also music on interrupt, which is reasonably tuneful. Little Knight Arthur also reacts instantly to joystick or keyboard movement. Unfortunately, however, the game is one of almost complete randomness: the spiders, rivers, bats and crab-bat things that inhabit each room don’t follow any set pattern. This makes the game nighon infuriating, as you need both pixelperfect positioning and for the gods of Retrogaming to move your adversary in exactly the right direction at exactly the right time (and keep him moving in that direction throughout your jump over him). This is just too ridiculous; it doesn’t even allow for any kind of increasing difficulty as you venture further into the game. From the very start, it’s just ridiculously unfair. More irritatingly still, the third cavern – if you ever get that far! – is not quite as random as the
The river animations are good!
The download comes with this
Beating one of the Yokai to a fiery end
Watch out for the walking breast-things!
first or second. Put this cavern first and players might be at least encouraged for a while…! This game was written in 1985, which is when the Commodore 64 was coming of age. Nevertheless, in that era of Beach Head and Crystal Castles, it’s difficult to imagine Little Knight Arthur would have competed well. At best, it would’ve been a budget title. This is more or less acknowledged by the author himself, who seems to have released the Cheat Version almost entirely to counter that criticism. The Cheat Version includes an intro ‘trainer’ where all manner of cheats (infinite lives, invulnerability, always have sword, etc.) may be enabled, allowing you to at least see the later caverns. I’ve never been a big fan of such options, and here they seem to be an admission that few will get far in the original version. Do I recommend you download and play either of them? What do you think? Retro Find Of The Month – Seto Taisho Vs Yokai (Spectrum 128K Only, Alessandro Grussu, tinyurl.com/ jlywcf9) Alessandro Grussu has done it again! Largely known for bringing us the Spectrum games Funky Fungus and Cousin Horace, he’s now released Seto Taisho Vs Yokai. And what a unique, barking madcap piece it is! You’re tasked with beating, among others, the BuraBura lanterns, the Kara-Kasa all-seeing triangles and what look like huge pairs of breasts on legs. Thank goodness for the Vs in that title, eh? Otherwise, this would all be nonsense. I’ve seen few new Spectrum games released in so many versions as this. Quite apart from its premise – which I’ll get to in a second – and the amount of research that has gone into its creation,
it seems the entire ZX community has got behind this project. It’s available with English, Italian, Portuguese, German and Spanish instructions and, if a certain key combination is hit, you’ll find the opening screen later rendered in Japanese too. Like all the greats, the game itself is amazingly simple and is a little like Pang. Pang is (in case you don’t know) an oftforgotten classic whereby a number of spheres bounce around the screen and must be blasted. Seto Taisho effortlessly moves this concept to a platform environment, and replaces the spheres with Japanese monsters and goblins, aka the Yokai. A Spectrum 128K only game, Grussu utilises all that extra memory to pack in 14 Yokais and three background symphonies, all of which perfectly complement the action. Indeed, the jangling Eastern tunes have a charm all of their own. So what do you actually do? Well, as if it needed saying, you keep well out of range of the bouncing Yokai and run left and right, jutting out the spear you carry at right angles. A prick of the spear on any Yokai will give a satisfying puncture sound and may cause it to reverse direction. You then run or jump after it, and prick it until it explodes in a cloud of smoke. When you’ve cleared the screen of Yokais, ‘GANBARE!’ (Go On! in Japanese) appears in the centre of the screen and you proceed to the next room. Different Yokais require different strategies but none are so obscure that they can’t be worked out with reference to the inlay card and a bit of applied common sense. I don’t have anything negative to say about Seto Taisho Vs Yokai; it’s very responsive, gorgeous to look at and has easily taken a team the best part of two years to produce. It would be easily
Seto Taisho Vs Yokai Graphics 85% Sound 90% Playability 90% Overall 88%
worth the average £4.99 price of a new Spectrum game. The icing on the cake has to be, therefore, that it’s being given away completely for free. The tragedy of this is simply that it doesn’t have a lot of exposure; I literally just stumbled across it on a World Of Spectrum forum post. Hopefully this review will remedy that situation somewhat, because this is one that, once you’ve played it once, you’ll definitely be coming back to.
That’s All Folks!
Regular readers will remember that this column used to contain a Soapbox and, considering recent (and rather dubious) Kickstarter events (of which retro fans are probably well aware), this month it very nearly made a return. Not for the first time, all things retro were tarnished by the activities of alleged cowboys, and it has left some with a bitter taste in their mouths. However, as I’ve said before, the Retro Round-up is primarily a software roundup; it is a place where those who have produced games for the retro formats can see their work criticised. I even don’t give column space to works in progress, only to completed games. The Coleco Chameleon is a good illustration of why. Sometimes even paying passing regard to a potential new retro machine could be interpreted as an endorsement. See you next month! mm
Could OpenAI stop Terminator Genisys from happening for real?
Should We Be Scared Of OpenAI? Sarah Dobbs provides us with her view on this bold new project
ast month, Google hosted an art exhibition. But it wasn’t just any art exhibition. Every work in the gallery had been created by Google’s art generating neural network, Deep Dream. It’s an extension of the kinds of neural nets Google already uses in its software: if you’ve used Google to search for an image, you’ve come into contact with Deep Dream’s cousins. It just takes things further by elaborating on and emphasising images, making new images that look like someone’s fed the computer hallucinogenic drugs. It’s amazing, and somewhat terrifying, how much this feels like the beginning of a science fiction story. But it’s not fiction. Research into artificial intelligence is rapidly creating computers that can think for themselves (within certain parameters, but those are shifting all the time). If the movies are to be believed, this is really bad news for humanity. Don’t start building an underground bunker in your garden just yet, though. A new project called OpenAI (which we told you about in the last issue)
aims to do responsible work into artificial intelligence – and then to make it available for everyone to build on, for the benefit of the world. The potential of such a project is immense. It could go nowhere at all, or it could actually change the world. If it’s the latter, then there are going to be some difficult questions that we’ll need to answer. Are we ready for what’s to come? Well, before we get to that, let’s remind ourselves of what OpenAI is all about.
What Is It?
The short answer to that question is that OpenAI is a research company. Announced in December and currently hiring, it’s based in San Francisco, and to begin with, it’s planning to focus on deep learning research. ‘Deep learning,’ incidentally, is the kind of machine learning that DeepDream uses; it’s rooted in neuroscience, and researchers apply what we know about the way the human nervous systems work to machine networks. It’s
But given their concerns, it makes sense that they’d want to back a company aimed at making sure AI works to benefit, not destroy, humanity. OpenAI isn’t Cyberdyne Systems. If anything, it’s been set up to ensure that a real-life Skynet never gets built. The OpenAI website also announced the founding members of its research team, and while you might not recognise their names, their credentials might be a little more familiar. Its research director is Ilya Sutskever, formerly a research scientist on the Google Brain team. Joining him are Trevor Blackwell, CEO of robotics company Anybots; Vicki Cheung, cofounder of Duolingo; Andrej Karpathy, a PhD student from Stanford; Durk Kingma, who won Google’s European PhD fellowship in deep learning; Wojciech Zaremba, a PhD student from New York University; John Schulman, another PhD candidate, this time
Google’s Deep Dream creates ‘art’ from photographs through algorithms
all about algorithms, and transforming complex data through multiple processing layers and other ridiculously complicated things we can barely understand, let alone explain. But the crucial thing about OpenAI is that it’s a non-profit company. In their inaugural blog post, the team behind OpenAI explained that not having to make money was essential to its mission. “Our goal is to advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return,” they wrote. “Since our research is free from financial obligations, we can better focus on a positive human impact.” (Read the whole thing at: openai. com/blog/introducing-openai)
If the movies are to be believed, this is really bad news for humanity
Pretty utopian, right? There’s more: OpenAI doesn’t intend to keep its work to itself. Because it doesn’t need to turn a profit, it doesn’t need to worry about competitors, so its researchers will publish their findings, their patents will be shared royalty-free, and they’ll happily collaborate with other companies and institutions to expand on their work. If someone there makes a breakthrough and develops a computer with human level intelligence, that technology will be available to the world, not locked away or sold off to the highest bidder.
Who’s Behind It?
If that still sounds a bit sci-fi, maybe putting some faces to the name will help. To get the company up and running, OpenAI received $1 billion in funding from various investors. They include Space X’s Elon Musk, Y Combinator’s Sam Altman and Jessica Livingston, Stripe’s Greg Brockman, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, PayPal’s Peter Thiel, plus Amazon Web Services, Infosys, and YC Research. That list could almost be a Who’s Who of tech royalty, but there are also a couple of surprising names on there. Elon Musk, for example, has gone on record a few times as saying that the rapid development of artificial intelligence scares him. Sam Altman, too, has written extensively about the risks inherent in teaching robots to be more intelligent than we are.
A Short History Of AI
1912: The first chess automaton, El Ajedrecista, was built by Leonardo Torres y Quevedo, who wanted to prove that machines could think. 1943: McCulloch and Pitts published a paper entitled ‘A Logical Calculus of the Ideas Immanent in Nervous Activity’, which is now widely considered the starting point for study of artificial neural networks. 1950: Alan Turing created the Turing Test, a way of testing a computer’s ability to appear intelligent. 1952: Arthur Samuel developed a checkers-playing computer program that learned as it went along – a pretty fundamental piece of the AI jigsaw. 1956: The Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence was held, cementing “artificial intelligence” as the phrase used for that field of study. 1965: ELIZA, a kind of early chatbot, was invented by Joseph Weizenbaum. 1968: MacHack, another chess playing machine, was developed by Richard Greenblatt and proved good enough to play in actual tournaments with humans. 1969: Shakey The Robot was demonstrated at Stanford Research Institute. 1973: Freddy Robot, a robot that could ‘see’ and build models, was built at the University of Edinburgh. 1979: The Stanford AI Lab created an autonomous, computer-controlled vehicle. In the same year, a backgammon program beat the (human) world champion. 1986: A team at Bundeswehr University of Munich built the first robot cars. 1993: Ian Horswill built Polly, a robot that navigated by vision and could move at one metre per second. 1997: Deep Blue defeated world chess champion Garry Kasparov. 2002: The Roomba was released. 2004: Nasa released autonomous exploration rovers onto the surface of Mars. 2005: The Blue Brain project, which aims to create an entire synthetic brain, was launched. 2009: Google built its own self-driving cars. 2011: Watson beat the reigning Jeopardy! champions. Also, Apple released Siri. 2016: AlphaGo beat Fan Hui, European Go champion, meaning that we should probably stop making computers play games now, because they win at everything.
within the next year, and that, within five years, he imagines the company will be “pretty impressive”.
Should We Be Scared?
Back to thinking about building that nuclear fallout bunker, then. The thing about evil robots in science fiction is that they’re hardly ever developed by someone trying to build an evil robot. And also, robots don’t define ‘evil’ the same way as we would, but sometimes logic dictates that you shouldn’t open the pod bay doors, or that the best way to prevent war is to wipe out humanity. So can any organisation, even one with the best intentions in the world, ever really be sure it’s working for the good of the world? Well, the promising thing about OpenAI is that its board members are just as cautious as we’d be. Elon Musk has gone on record several times as having misgivings about the way AI is being developed. “I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence,” he told students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2014. “If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful.” And Sam Altman, too, has spoken about his concerns, both about AI in general, and also about OpenAI’s altruistic mission.
AI In Action
Artificial intelligence might sound scary, but you’re interacting with it on a daily basis already. Here are some applications for AI that are currently working for good, not evil: Apple’s Siri just wants to help you with your questions…
from Berkeley; and Pamela Vagata, an AI researcher for Facebook.
The way artificial intelligence has developed so far hasn’t been exactly linear
In summary, then: a lot of very clever people with an established track record in computers, robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
And What Are They Doing?
That’s the question that’s hardest to answer, both because the work is complex and because it’s unpredictable. Without studying for a PhD in computer science, most of what the researchers will be doing is likely to be impenetrable to us, but it’ll involve using large data sets to ‘teach’ computers to make connections and deductions. The way artificial intelligence has developed so far hasn’t been exactly linear, and OpenAI is pretty, well, open about the fact that it doesn’t know when – or if – a computer with human level intelligence will be created. But when it does, OpenAI wants to be there to make sure that it’s used for the good of mankind. In the meantime, OpenAI will be publishing its own research – Altman has said that he expects to be releasing research
Diagnosing medical conditions Usually, it’s your doctor who looks at the images that come out of x-rays, MRI scans and ultrasounds, but some hospitals also use computer-aided detection to spot evidence of problems in scans – like cancerous tumours. Responding to disaster In the aftermath of an earthquake or in the middle of a warzone, robots can be used to locate injured people and find a safe path for medical and recovery teams to get to them. Robots that can detect explosives are particularly useful for this kind of work. Detecting fraud Your bank might well use artificial intelligence to analyse transactions made on your credit card and to flag anything that seems unusual. AI is also used in financial organisations to analyse the stock market and make smart investments. Keeping your inbox spam free The kind of AI we can all be grateful for on a daily basis is the kind that filters spam out of our inbox. Google reckons that its AI catches 99.9% of all spam, and it’s only getting better. And, of course, if you use Siri, Cortana or Google Now, you’re already halfway to letting a robot organise your life.
If Deep Dream’s artwork is anything to go by, AI is really scary
Speaking to Vanity Fair, he said, “We could be wrong in our belief that distributing [research] widely is the safest path.” He continued, “I think there are only a couple of ways that keep technology safe, and one that never works is secrecy. So this idea that someone is going to develop AI and keep it secret forever, I think there’s a zero percent chance of success. One of
The thing about evil robots in science ﬁction is that they’re hardly ever developed by someone trying to build an evil robot
the things that I do think works is what I call the ‘more good guys than bad guys’ approach. There are bad humans, but all humans are within a magnitude as powerful as one another, and the good humans band together to stop the bad humans. It’s been that way through all of history so far.” Let’s hope he’s right, and that OpenAI are the good guys they appear to be. mm
Will We See Sentient Computers In Our Lifetime?
It’s not just Elon Musk and Sam Altman who are scared about the possibility of true artificial intelligence. All sorts of other tech and science type people have talked about it; Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking are both in the more-than-slightly-worried camp. But Deep Blue only won its first game in 1997, so surely we’ve got generations to go before someone invents a real Terminator? Not if Ray Kurzweil’s right. The futurist who predicted both that the internet would become a massive worldwide phenomenon and that it would eventually be accessed almost entirely wirelessly has a theory about the speed at which technology develops. Known as Kurzweil’s Law Of Accelerating Returns, “technological change is exponential”, which means that over the next 100 years, progress will speed up so fast it’ll be like 20,000 years of progress. In 2001, Kurzweil wrote that “within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence,” and that will lead to a rupture in human history. Gulp.
I thoroughly enjoyed Mark Pickavance’s ‘The Google Nexus 5X’ article. (Issue 1403) His choice of the 5X 16GB seems great relevant to his work. Although I’m no Luddite in technical matters, my Samsung very early 3G flip-top phone is definitely now very dated. The removeable battery goes for weeks on standby. I don’t need a ‘smart’ phone – yet! If I did, I would certainly look for one that ran ‘vanilla’ Android, free from manufacturers bloatware and unwanted junk; if available at a decent price. However, wishing to dabble with an Android ‘phablet,’ I bought myself (I’m now a widower!) an Archos 70c Xenon tablet for Christmas; £60 including a bonus data Sim card with a year’s free 500MB data per month.
RE: Logging Off’ Issue 1403
Yes, Archos plant their own ‘offerings’ instead of pure Android 5.1, but it’s dual-sim, 2G phone, 3G data, does just about work. The sound is like a rattling tin can. I had to reinstall the OS when an update caused it to spit the dummy, the GPS works in a fashion, but for £60 what do you expect? In between writing my latest novel, I’ve now had enough ‘experience’ with the Archos. If Mark would like to play around with it, ‘root’ or ‘jailbreak’ it and try to install Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, I’ll willingly donate it to him, postage paid. I have a good reason for this. Back in Issue 1394, Chris Salter’s article on ‘Ubuntu Touch 1.0’ was interesting, but I couldn’t see the point of a Ubuntu phone. The other operating systems are too well established.
I must say I enjoyed Mark’s ‘logging off’ section in this week’s issue. I must agree with him about how complicated some home networks can be. I visit my friends houses and they have there router plugged in to the wall and that’s it, everything is run off wi-fi two cables, power and phone line. When they come to mine they look at the corner of my reception room and ask what all the wires are for! I begin to explain, one’s the router, ones the fibre modem, my NAS box, my Hive Box, my ‘MediaNUC’ used for running my emby ‘server’, my LAN Power Adaptor linking the garage, the upstairs office and kitchen, one cable runs
Of far greater utility would be manufacture of, say, virgin 10” tablets, or smaller, that allowed the public to run a tablet version of Ubuntu 14.04 LTS natively (i.e. Download the free Ubuntu iso file to PC, expand it, then side-load, using USB, and install it to the tablet. Once wi-fi (or 3G/4G) is up and running, we then have a bog standard Ubuntu tablet to play around with. Elementary, Dear Watson. After all, a few years back I had a Dell 10.1” netbook laptop with generic Ubuntu, so what’s the big deal about tablets? Proprietory protection? Just say the word Mr Pickavance and I’ll post you the Archos complete with data sim. Best of British.
upstairs to another eight-port hub power all of the my lads’ playroom devices, all of which plug into my 24-port D-Link Gigabit Managed Switch. My Synology eight-bay NAS occupies four ports using link aggregation, all but two of my closest mates understand what LACP support is. I have four different AP’s running, one for the kitchen, office, garage and the ‘main’ and every time someone asks me ‘which do I connect to?’. Home networks for the PC enthusiast can certainly seem a bit over complicated to the ‘average’ user!
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O CAlphabet Pi: C g I d ALPHABET PI
David Briddock meanders through Raspberry Pi technology from A to Z
THIS WEEK: Cameras, cases and Compute Modules
he Raspberry Pi board has always incorporated a 15-pin Camera Serial Interface (CSI) connector. But despite early promises, Pi enthusiasts had to wait simply ages before the official five-megapixel camera module finally appeared – a delay caused by lengthy software driver fettling and tweaking to achieve maximum Pi compatibility. The diminutive (25mm x 20mm x 9mm) module plugs directly into this dedicated camera socket via a 15cm ribbon cable. It supports 1080p at 30 frames per second (fps), 720p at 60fps and VGA90 video modes. There’s also a NoIR version that captures images in the dark (raspberrypi.org/products/pi-noir-camera). It’s actually the same camera but without the infrared filter.
It’s a good idea to invest in a case to protect your Pi
There’s no doubt the quality of this official camera module is first class, so in the end, it was certainly worth the wait. And priced at just £13 from the ModMyPi site (goo.gl/TETOfk), it’s a steal. Of course, once you’ve attached the camera, you’ll also need some software. Python coders have their own dedicated Python picamera library (picamera.readthedocs.org), written and maintained by Dave Jones (github.com/waveform80).
On 7th April 2014, the Raspberry Pi Foundation posted a blog announcing the immediate availability of the Pi Compute Module. Costing $35, this 68mm by 30mm board contains the guts of a Raspberry Pi in a bare-bones format, bereft of ports and connectors. Soldered in place is the familiar Broadcom BCM2835 system-on-a-chip, along with 512MB of RAM plus 4GB of eMMC flash storage. The board is the same size as a DDR2 SO-DIMM laptop memory module and actually connects via an industry standard SO-DIMM connector (although the pin assignments are completely different from the ones on a memory DIMM). At the launch Eben Upton said, “Currently, you need a significant amount of space to accommodate the Pi inside a product, and a wiring loom to connect the various ports on the board.” He went on to say, “The Compute Module lets you accomplish this in a smaller space, with all signals routed on the carrier PCB.”
A Compute Module gives hardware hackers the freedom to design a bespoke printed circuit board (PCB) for each Pi-powered project. Whether you need six USB ports, four camera ports, a proprietary IO connector or an NFC wireless chip; it’s all possible. However, the introduction of the £4 Pi Zero makes the Compute Module look rather dated in terms of cost and flexibility.
It’s a good idea to invest in a case to protect your Pi. And there’s a dizzying collection available. Some have a simple yet practical form while others focus on style. The best solutions cater for GPIOconnected add-on boards or HATs. The Pibow brand (pibow.com) is a particularly attractive and colourful design. And the ModMyPi cases (goo.gl/V3780) come in a variety of colour combinations. Some enterprising retailers have Lego case kits (goo.gl/AK4gQ), complete with raspberry logo. However, if you already have some Lego lying around, why not construct your own case, like the Lego Technic version at goo.gl/ Ldkgn. Alternatively you could construct your own ‘punnet-style’ enclosure from cardboard or download a printable PDF punnet case template (goo.gl/CJnXJ). mm
Microsoft And Linux Going SONiC over what could be
S David Hayward has been using Linux since Red Hat 2.0 in schools, businesses and at home, which either makes him very knowledgeable or a glutton for extreme punishment
uddenly the internet was awash with news that Microsoft had released its very own Linux distro. The news had people around the globe both berating and praising Microsoft for the move. Images of Steve Ballmer, and his infamous Linux comment, were the meme of the day. In short, everything went a little crazy... However, once it all calmed down a little, those people who had took to the tallest buildings to shout about the new Microsoft Linux distro were subdued by the fact that it simply wasn't the case. In fact, the news was dropped as suddenly as it appeared.
92 Issue Issue1406 1191 92
The furore was instigated by news of a collection of software networking components designed work with devices such as switches. SONiC (Software for Open Networking in the Cloud), is a toolkit of code and Kernel patches to allow administrators to better configure network hardware; rather than having to rely on the proprietary software that comes with a device. It’s an open source switch platform that can be used to create software catered for certain Layer 3-like hardware and situations, that can then be shared between users, suppliers and manufacturers. So, where does the Linux side of things come in?
SONiC And Debian
The basis of the original mayhem of news sites was that SONiC sits on top of a Linux distro which, in
the case of the information that got everyone foamy about the jowls, is a Debian based system. It’s really the next step in the process and a continuation of the Microsoft Azure Cloud Switch operating system, which came to the attention of the news sites back in September. With Azure – together with companies such as Broadcom and Dell – SONiC will be able to shape the future
Apparently it’s the core engine behind SQL that’ll be ported, in a move aimed at cloud and enterprise users. As Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President of Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise Group said. “SQL Server on Linux will provide customers with even more flexibility in their data solution”. Since many companies use Linux based servers with SQL
It makes sense for the to launch a Linux version of the database language of networks and take advantage of any new networking hardware as it’s released. Cloud admins, for example, will be able to build open source applications to improve the cloud frameworks they are developing. So no, Microsoft hasn’t launched its own Linux distro.
While all this was going on, though, Microsoft did do something out of the blue. The company announced that its SQL Server software will be ported to Linux and be available next year.
Server virtual machine instances, it makes sense for the company to finally launch a Linux version of the database language. That way, those Linux admins could run the server without having to cater for the Windows-based overhead that the virtual machine will take up on the host server. So there you go, Microsoft can do some surprising things when you’re least expecting it. “The report of an MS Linux distro was an exaggeration”, as Samuel Clemens would say (if he was alive)
Are You Siri-ous? Rumours abound that Siri will soon make the leap to Mac. Craig Grannell thinks that’s a good thing
Naturally, both of these things are down to interface deficiencies within the devices themselves. The Apple Watch tries to be an iPhone but with a tiny display that’s a pain to work with. The Apple TV uses a remote seemingly designed to punish you for every sin committed during your life. The Mac, though, has a perfectly decent keyboard and other input devices that make accessing content a breeze. That said, not everyone is wedded to keyboard shortcuts, and much of a Mac’s functionality (like any modern computer’s) remains ‘hidden’ to those who aren’t already aware of it. On that basis, it would be quite smart of Apple to make its desktop and notebook computers at least respond to natural voice input – and it would certainly make the Macs seem smarter. Even seasoned Mac users would likely find time being saved with certain actions; ‘Siri, launch Photoshop’ would be quicker than fishing around Finder or even opening the app
using Spotlight. ‘Siri, give me directions from home to Glasgow’ could launch Maps and provide a route far more rapidly than your fingers could cope with by hammering away at the relevant keys. Although both Calendar and Photos in OS X already have a modicum of understanding regarding naturallanguage input, speaking those commands would seem an awful lot more, well, natural. Funnily enough, my Mac does already speak to me. One of the ways I proof columns such as this one is by using OS X’s built-in text-to-speech capabilities. (If you’ve not unearthed those before, visit the Text to Speech tab within the Dictation & Speech System Preferences pane.) I often find having my words read aloud makes it easier to spot errors and passages of text that could do with rewriting, which isn’t the case when I’m merely reading them myself. However, it would be good to think that very soon, the ‘conversation’ won’t be all one way.
Siri for iOS is getting smarter and more useful. Surely, it won’t be long before it graces the Mac?
Craig Grannell is a writer, designer, occasional musician and permanent loudmouth. He’s owned Macs since 1996, when Apple was facing certain doom, and is therefore pleasantly surprised by its current success. Find Craig on Twitter at @craiggrannell
t took time for me to get the hang of Siri. In its early days on iPhone, the system was bafflingly useless. Now, although Siri is much handier, and able to understand an awful lot more, I still don’t use it often. Nonetheless, I’m quite excited about the prospect of it coming to the Mac. In part, I think this is due to the notion Apple has increasingly rethought Siri as a helper for very specific – and useful – actions you’d want to perform on certain devices. It’s not yet a kind of artificial intelligence designed to do everything. You’re not soon going to be yammering at Photoshop like your Mac’s some kind of Blade Runner Esper Machine (fortunately, you’re also probably not going to have your face punched in by an errant android shortly beforehand, so it's swings and roundabouts). Instead, Siri for Mac would most likely understand and implement a few choice commands that would make things easier for a large number of people and grow from there. Oddly, it was the Apple Watch and Apple TV that made me reconsider Siri. On the former, launching apps is a nightmare, due to the fiddly interface, but Siri makes it a breeze, even if you do feel an idiot mumbling at your wrist. On the Apple TV, you can use Siri to rapidly filter searches (such as ‘only the good ones’ for movies featuring a specific actor) or turn on subtitles and rewind a TV show a bit with the alarmingly human command ‘what did she say?’
Issue1406 1194 Issue
N The Air Tonight Ian McGurren takes a look at the latest version of Android â€“ N
Ian is a professional IT analyst, a semiprofessional writer and a pretty amateur electronic musician. He likes gadgetry and loves making gadgets do things they were never designed to do
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ell it's not actually called N, given Google is of a want to name its forthcoming operating system revisions initially by only their initial. Last year Android M became Marshmallow, this year its the turn of N, which will become....well that won't be revealed until the full launch in Q4 2016 (technically Q3 if you're an OEM), but the front runners so far a Nutella and Nougat, though personally I'm a fan of New York Cheesecake, and I'd not be surprised if Google were too... The preview has become available for a breadth of Android Play Experience devices, though so far nothing before 2014. Owners of the Nexus 6, 5X, 6P, 9, Player and the Pixel C can head over to the Android Developers page and sign up for the Android N preview, though with the usual caveats of it being a beta, so likely to have bugs and realistically it shouldn't be used as a daily driver. The best bit? This is the first time a preview has been available over the air, so no more annoying flashing and crossing fingers. So what does version N bring to the table? First off, it isn't a huge graphical change, more a refinement, which is no bad thing given how good a UI the material design is. That's not too unusual either with preview builds, often any major UI tweak comes much later
in the preview cycle. There's nothing to suggest this is likely to be the case here, though. That's not to say that there isn't much to get excited about, because wait until you get to use... split screen apps! No, it's not the most vital update given the likes of Touchwiz have had that for a good few years now, but its being baked into the OS now, and for the tablet (and to a lesser degree) phablet side of things, that's a sign that Google is still striving to accommodate the needs of larger screens more than before. There's also rumours of a windowed mode too... Other highlight include changes to notification menu, including more detailed, stacked notifications and customisation of the icons present in the notifications menu, with them easily swapped out on the fly. There's also screen scaling â€“ this is different from text size scaling as it affects the UI in general, so if you want big icons and boxes to take up your big screen, it's here you do that. Conversely, if you want to make the most of that big screen with smaller icons and UI, that's available too. Think changing the resolution on your computer and you're in the ballpark. The left swipe menu that's present in Google apps has now been carried over to the full OS, so using the threestriped 'hamburger' icon in any app will now result in this
action. Given settings on apps are all over the place, putting them in one place is definitely a good thing. In an iOS-like move, notification drop downs, such as messages, can be replied to in the notification. Helpful if you get notified in the middle of watching a YouTube video, for instance. Finally there's the enhanced Doze mode. Not surprisingly, this is a further refinement of the power saving feature introduced in Marshmallow, where now it works from the moment the screen switches off, instead of after a set period of inactivity. Android N is very much a refinement of the existing Android OS. Many of the features being introduced have been around in one form or another either on Android or on other mobile operating systems, but now Google are building them right into the OS, and that can really only be for the better. Whether there are some more goodies around the corner is yet to be revealed, though.
AMD Set To Dominate VR? Andrew Unsworth reports on AMD’s new virtual reality-focused graphics card
frequencies. The Athlon X4 880K comes with a promising new heatsink and fan assembly called the 125W Thermal Solution too, which is the Wraith cooler with the fancy illuminated surround taken off. The 125W Thermal Solution should operate nearsilently, too. If it provides enough cooling to allow a meaningful overclock, then all the better. Benchmarks for 1440p and Ultra HD gaming (with an X4 880K, coupled with a Radeon R7 370 graphics card) look respectable. AMD’s figures claim 66.9fps in Counter Strike: Global Offensive at a 4K resolution, and 126.7fps at 1440p. AMD says these benchmarks were taken with the game running at 8x MSAA and with the highest detail settings enabled. I don’t have UK prices just yet, but the US price for the A107890K is $165, which means it should sell for around £118 going off conversion rates at the time of writing – assuming it’s a straight conversion, of course. Another neat addition is the bundling of the currently available AMD A10-7870K with the 125W Thermal Solution. Any additional cooling is great, but the promise of nearly silent performance will be a big draw for those who want a decent amount of power but don’t want their gaming or work interrupted by the sound of an angry hairdryer.
AMD says all the new products will be on sale at the end of March, so the temptation to buy one of them so soon after pay day will be immense. In my experience, the combination of an AMD A-series chip and an SSD has always produced a snappy, responsive and relatively powerful low-cost computer. The ability to build a bargain PC around them is especially true given the relatively low price of AMD motherboards. The A10-7890K is particularly compelling because, when combined with a £40-£50 liquid cooler, the ability to overclock it makes it a (potentially, depending on UK pricing) walletfriendly chip for enthusiasts that want to tinker but don’t want to risk frying a £200-plus CPU.
Also fresh out is the Raspberry Pi 3, which I’m sure has been covered extensively elsewhere. However, it’s worth saying that if you haven’t already experienced the joy of Pi, then you should put your hand in your pocket and shell out for one. It costs less than the price of a meal, so even if you only tinker with it for a month or two before passing it on to someone else, it’s been a worthwhile investment. I must admit that I don’t give my Pi 2 the attention it deserves, but I’ll be rectifying that in the next few months.
Andrew Unsworth has been writing about technology for several years, he's handy with a spanner, and his handshaking skills are second to none
e’re approaching that time of the year when new components, particularly graphics cards and processors, start to be dropped on a possibly unsuspecting – but most definitely interested – public. At the time of writing, news of the AMD A10-7890K and the Athlon X4 880K has broken, although we won’t be able to buy them until the end of March. The A10-7890K is AMD’s latest accelerated processing unit (APU), which is what it calls its CPUs with built-in Radeon graphics processors. These chips have always been something of a bargain, and while the graphics power of the built-in GPU hasn’t been as good as a discrete card, it’s been better than you’d expect and perfectly capable of light 3D gaming. The A10-7890K is a four-core chip with eight GPU cores and a 95W TDP. Base clock speed is 3.9GHz, with frequency rising to 4.1GHz with turbo boost. However, the A107890K is unlocked, so it can be overclocked to provide even higher performance. The retail version of the A10-7870K comes with the Wraith cooler, which AMD says is near-silent. AMD says the Athlon X4 880K is the “fastest multi-core Athlon processor ever released” and cites its 4.2GHz maximum turbo boost speed as evidence, although the previously fastest Athlon had a 4.1GHz, so the frequency increase isn’t that extreme. The four-core chip has a generous base frequency of 4GHz, and because it’s unlocked, owners will be able to overclock it so that it runs at even higher
Issue Issue1406 1194
Sen Se nso sorry ove overload rload
Ryan Lambie has loved videogames since he first stared up in awe at a Galaxian arcade cabinet in his local chip shop. 28 years on, Ryan writes about gaming for Micro Mart. He’s still addicted to chips and still useless at Galaxian
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Thanks to a nicely built playable demo, Descent successor Overload managed to make its $300,000 minimum goal just two hours before its Kickstarter deadline
This week, Ryan looks at the Descent spiritual sequel Overload, and checks out the sudden cancellation of EverQuest Next... Plug & Play
It was touch and go for a while. Overload, the spiritual successor to 90s shooter Descent, took to Kickstarter in February with a proposed goal of $300,000. Four days before its 11th March deadline, it was little more than halfway to reaching its funding threshold. Ultimately, the game squeaked over the $300,000 finished line just two hours before its deadline fell – final total: $306,537. In retrospect, it’s a little surprising that Overload didn’t find its funding with greater ease. The developer behind it, Revival Productions, comprises some talented industry veterans, including Matt Toschlog, the cofounder of Parallax – the company behind the original Descent. Unlike some campaigns, which often have little more to present than some concept art, Overload had plenty of prototype footage to show off, which looked very much in keeping with the original descent. A nimble ship navigating a maze of corridors and caverns? Check. Patrolling robots destroyed by screaming laser fire? Check. It could well be that Descent fans had already scratched their nostalgic itch last year, when Descent Underground successfully garnered $600,000
on Kickstarter. Or it could be that, as Kickstarter enters its seventh year of existence, punters are becoming a little more cautious about the campaigns they back. It’s easy to be dazzled by the grand promises of leading lights from the games industry and their glittering backer rewards, but the disappointing stories behind such titles as Godus or entire systems like the faltering Ouya may have had something of a cooling effect. It’s telling that Overload’s funding only really started to take off when Revival released a playable demo in the campaign’s
final four days – probably in a lastgasp attempt to drum up more interest in their project. The move worked, of course. Although the early build of Overload is rough around the edges, as Revival admits, the demo gave backers a clearer idea of the studio’s design talent. User responses to the Overload demo were positively glowing on Steam, and enthusiasm for the project finally began to spread. Quite right, too: Overload really does feel like a worthy successor to Descent, with that snappy, responsive feel to the player’s
Lionhead Roars Its Last
Well, here’s something we never saw coming. Lionhead Studios, the firm behind the Black & White and Fable games, is to close down. The news first emerged from Microsoft Studios, which announced that co-op action game Fable Legends has been cancelled and that Microsoft is in “discussions” with Lionhead over its “proposed closure”. What’s surprising is that Fable Legends seemed so close to completion; the game was due to enter its open beta this spring. Whatever happened behind closed doors, it’s now clear that Lionhead’s 20-year story has drawn to a sudden and unfortunate end. With that, another British studio is no more. Lionhead is to close, with its co-op action game Fable Legends now cancelled
“It wasn’t fun,” Daybreak says of EverQuest Next, its now cancelled MMORPG. Shame – we quite liked the look of this one
ship and that same exhilaration of escaping a mine just seconds before the core explodes. Appropriately, Overload secured a similarly last-second victory on Kickstarter. Revival now has some intriguing plans for the shooter, with a multiplayer expansion due to launch around six months after the initial game’s release next March. If you haven’t caught up with Overload yet, the demo is well worth checking out at kck. st/1WegO1o.
If The Division seemed like something of a risk before its launch, it’s fair to say that multi-million dollar gamble has paid off. Shortly after the RPGshooter hybrid’s launch, Ubisoft announced that the game had sold "more copies in its first 24 hours of availability than any
previous title in the company's history." The firm doesn’t provide any figures to back up the claim, but assuming it’s correct, then The Division’s initial burst of interest means that its sales have managed to beat established Ubisoft franchises like Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry. The Division has taken a long and no doubt expensive road to completion, with development first beginning about four years ago. There have certainly been one or two bumps along the way too (a proposed tie-in mobile app which allowed players to control aerial drones was cancelled last year), but Ubisoft ultimately delivered a game worthy of the hype. You only have to look at games like Lionhead’s Fable Legends to see how abruptly a game can vanish from history even after years of development and
refinement. Likewise, EverQuest Next, another promising online game that, like Fable Legends, has recently seen its production come to a sudden halt. EverQuest Next, you may remember, was Daybreak’s ambitious fusion of classic EverQuest RPG and Minecraftstyle construction and crafting. Development on EverQuest Next may have begun as long as six or seven years ago; all we know for certain is that the game got its first overhaul in 2012. Four years on, and Daybreak has decided to call time on the MMO. Why? Because, the studio says, it wasn’t much fun. “Unfortunately, as we put together the pieces, we found that it wasn’t fun,” wrote Daybreak boss Russell Shank. “We know you have high standards when it comes to Norrath and we do too. In final review, we had to face the fact that EverQuest Next would not meet the expectations we – and all of you – have for the worlds of Norrath.” The irony is that Landmark, the construction-focused spin-off designed as a kind of appetiser before the release of EverQuest Next, is now set to receive a
major update before its spring launch. Remarkably, the original EverQuest games are still going strong; anyone hoping for a successor to those classic MMOs will now have to wait for a very long time.
Io Interactive’s episodic approach to its Hitman reboot seems to have breathed new life into a flagging series. The complex, freeform stealth of the classic Hitman: Blood Money is back, and the game feels fresh and creative, whereas Absolution felt narrow and unimaginative. The only bad news, if you’ve already played through the first episode, is that you’ll have to wait until April for the next, set in Italy. May’s episode will be set in Marrakech, while globe-trotting locations for the rest of the seven episodes will include America and Japan. PC gamers who prefer their entertainment to come on plastic discs will have to wait even longer to get their Agent 47 kicks; the Full Experience edition, containing all seven episodes, has had its release delayed until January 2017. Delays aside, it’s great to see Hitman enjoying such a satisfying return to form.
The rebooted Hitman’s got off to a great start with its first episode. Let’s hope the rest of the episodic stealth series, which continues with Italy in April, is just as much fun
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HARDWARE FOR SALE Have you got old kit lying around? Fancy making a few pounds while you’re at it? Why not advertise here? It’s easy and it’s free, just email what you’ve got, how much you’d like for it, and your contact details to micromartclassifieds@ gmail.com, and we’ll do the rest. There are thousands of enthusiastic readers out there looking for components every week, and you may have something unwanted they’ve been searching for, so get in touch and save your kit from going to the tip! Ergotron LX Dual Side-by-Side LCD Monitor Arm Model: 45245-026. Create a fully adjustable side-by-side monitor configuration, suitable for screens up to 24" Tel: Ian (01932) 856971 Email: email@example.com PS/2 Keyboard These are standard keyboards please email or call me for more information Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org AT Keyboard These are standard keyboards please email or call me for more information Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: email@example.com Zalman Z11 SSD 3.5 Inch To 5.25 Inch Converter Tray £5 inc p&p. Tel: Gary (01415) 712822 or (07941) 486760 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Minolta Dimage Scan Dual 35mm film/negative scanner together with AP10 APS cassette adaptor. 2438 DPI. SCSI 2 interface. Working condition. Complete with original software, instructions and cables. £15. Tel: (02084) 497724 Email: email@example.com
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Sapphire ATi Radeon HD3850 512MB 256Bit GDDR3 AGP 8x DUAL DVI/HDTV Graphics Card to of the range AGP GFX card i beleve it supports DirectX 10 great for gaming, watching movies, video editing, CAD/CAM applications and any other hight demand gfx programs generally a good all rounder £80 +p&p please email or call me for more info Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 2.1 speakers with sub woofer slight buzzing £25 Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: email@example.com Internal 3 1/4 floppy drives choice of white/black/silver/no face plate please email or call me for a price Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org WI-FI wireless pcmcia card will fit in older laptops to enable them to connect to wireless networks £10 +p&p if intrested please email me Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: email@example.com Brand new Laptop bag still sealed in the plastic bag and never used (it came as part of a bundle) please email or call me for a price Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Windows 7 Computers Fresh install of Windows 7 this Computer great for gaming, office work, surfing the net, watching movies generally a good all round system from £150 +p&p might also have laptops price on request please email or call me for info. Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: email@example.com Internal 3 1/4 floppy drives choice of white/black/silver/no face plate please email or call me for a price Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 160GB 3½" desktop hard drive. IDE and SATA clean pull (little to no use) no bad sectors tested all you need to do is plug in. £20 +p&p please email or call for more info. Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: email@example.com
Laptop RAM 2x1GB PC3-8500 DDR3 1067MHz pulled form a working Macbook pro but can be used in other laptops. The quickest way to boost you laptop speed please email or call me for a price Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Retro Win98se Computers Fresh install of Windows 98SE ideal for running legacy programs and for playing older "memory lane" games as well as for car garage or industrial use as heavy duty and has serial parallel ports. from £50 +p&p might also have laptops price on request please email or call me for more information Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: email@example.com Fans different sizes and types please email or call me for a price Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Laptop CPUs mainly intel different speeds please email or call me for a price Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: email@example.com Different types of ram SDRAM SIMM DIMM DDR DDR2 DDR3 call or email me requirements Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Desktop cases AT and ATX types and tower and flatbed form factor different sizes and colors can be posted or picked up from Manchester please email or call me with your requirements for a price Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: email@example.com
Motherboard Bundle 2.4Ghz AMD Athlon XP 32bit CPU 512MB Ram 5xpci 2IDE LAN sound good for gaming, office work, surfing the net, watching movies generally a good all round system spec can slightly be changed if required please email or call me for a price Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org PS/2 Keyboard. These are standard keyboards please email or call me for more information Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: email@example.com PC gaming hardware. I have 1x force feedback steering wheel 1x force feedback joystick 1x normal joystick lots of game pads please email or call me for a price Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org AMD PHENOM 905E. Socket AM3CPU in perfect working order and cosmetic condition. 65W TDP, so it runs cool. 2.5ghz. 6mb cache. Bare chip only. Will send recorded delivery.£43 inc. postage. Tel: (02088) 899344 Email: email@example.com As New/Unused PCCHIPS M811LU R3.1. Box scruffy but contents are new/unused. Contents Motherboard/cableset/ backplate/cd driver disk. 7 day warranty. Socket A/462. £25 including recorded delivery. Tel: (02088) 899344 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
AGP graphics cards also PCI and PCI-e graphics cards please email or call me for a price Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: email@example.com
SSD 120 GB. Sandisk Plus Solid state hard drive. SATA 3 – 6GB/s. Perfect. Very fast drive. Only two months old and never used. Free delivery. PayPal accepted. £36. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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RADIOACTIVE FAIR - Civic Hall, Nantwich, Cheshire, CW55DG. Sunday 14th Feb 2016. Computers, Electronics, Ham Radio. ~100 Traders, Catering, Free Parking. Sun 14 Feb. Trade enquiries, Roger Reeves Tel: (07747) 618131 Web: www.radioactivefair.co.uk
Like new hardly used Mac Mini. 2014, w/ upgraded storage to 128GB SSD. i5 3rd generation and 4GB RAM, Optional Bluetooth keyboard. £360 text/email. Tel: (07950) 298812 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org IDE CD ROM Disk Drives Different colours/white/black all tested and fully working £10 +p&p please email or call me for more info Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: email@example.com Floppy Disk Drives different colours white black silver all tested and working £10 +p&p please email or call me for more info Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org PCI GFX VGA cards I got lots of these of different brands all tested and working please let me know what you are looking for I will try and match up as close as possible please email or call me for a price Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: email@example.com NVIDIA AGP 128MB Graphics Video Card; model number P162 £3 plus postage. (untested) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Sound cards i got lots of these of PCI and ISA types all tested and working please let me know what you are looking for i will try and match up as close as possible please email or call me for a price Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: email@example.com 35x Ram modules: mostly Kingston 133x64cs 258mb (168 pin) and a few 128mb and 512mb modules as well. Only £30 inc pp so less than £1 per module! (untested) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Socket 370 CPUs Intel. I got lots of these of different speeds all tested and working please let me know what kind of speed you are looking for I will try and match up as close as possible please email or call me for a price. Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: email@example.com
ATX PSUs. I got lots of these of different types and wattage all tested and working please let me know what you are looking for I will try and match up as close as possible please email or call me for a price. Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org AT Keyboard. These are standard keyboards please email or call me for more information Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: email@example.com Socket 939 CPUs AMD. Four of these of different speeds all tested and working please let me know what you are looking for I will try and match up as close as possible please email or call me for a price Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org LAN network cards. Various PCI and ISA types wired and wireless all tested and working please let me know what you are looking for I will try and match up as close as possible please email or call me for a price Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: email@example.com NVIDIA AGP 128MB Graphics Video Card; model number P162 £3 plus postage. (untested) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Netgear; RangeMax DG834PN & WPN824 routers. No Cables or adaptors. £5 plus postage for the pair. (untested). Email: email@example.com D-Link DWL-G510 Wireless LAN 54Mbps Low Pro PCI Network Interface Card £2 + P&P (untested) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org HP Compaq NX7010 Laptop. Very good all round condition. Comes with a new charger. 60gb H.D. 2 G.B. Ram. £60.00 o.v.n.o. Tel: (01726) 61355 Email: email@example.com Toshiba L450 laptop. 2.1 ghz -2gb ram windows 7 home premium 64bit- plastic backspace button missing £50 inclusive of post Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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PC Desktop Ram (DIMM) Memory: Siemens PC100 222- 620 16M x 64 SDRAM. HYS64V16222GU-8 Only £8. Tel: Gordon (01314) 660205 Email: email@example.com Webcam (Trust Spacecam). Boxed with CD of installation software and manual. Perfect condition. £10. Tel: Gordon (01314) 660205 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 20" HP LP2065 LCD monitor. High res 1200 x 1600. Couple of USB 2.0 ports, ideal for connecting a mouse and keyboard. Also has 2x DVI ports. One dead pixel in upper left corner. Hardly noticeable. No other defects. Perfect upgrade from older 17 or 19” model. Just £40! Tel: Ian Matthew (01132) 629028 Email: email@example.com Laptops different specs please let me know what you are looking for or what you will be using it for and i will let you i know what i have please email or call me for info Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Laptop Hard Disk Drive. Fujitsu. 20GB. Excellent condition: £10.00. Tel: Gordon (01314) 660205 Email: email@example.com Western Digital Cavier SE Desktop Hard Disk Drive 160GB. Perfect condition. Only £10 Tel: Gordon (01314) 660205 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Motherboard Bundle 3.33Ghz intel 64 bit CPU 1gb Ram (max4gb) 3pci agp 2IDE 2SATA 8usb ports LAN sound Great for gaming, office work, surfing the net, watching movies generally a good all round system spec can slightly be changed if required. email or call for a price Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: email@example.com Toshiba Satellite Pro A210 Laptop. AMD Dual Core 1.90GHz CPU. 3GB RAM. 120GB SSD Drive. Wifi. Windows 7 Ultimate. Office 2007. BitDefender 2015 AV. £95 ovno. Tel: Paul (01564) 200162 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dell Latitude E5410 i5 (very fast) 2.4, 4gb ram, 160 gb Hard drive DVDRW fantastic condition. Cheaper than any on Ebay. Very good battery life. You can collect from Manchester or Portsmouth or I can courier out to you next day for an extra £10. Please call or email for any questions. It has Window 7 64 bit installed and activated with a genuine certificate of authenticity Bargain price ONLY £124 Tel: Dave Thomas (07828) 982930 or (01942) 706571 Email: email@example.com Gigabyte Z68X-UD3P-B3 motherboard with Core i5 2300 AND 8GB 1333Mhz RAM. All you need is a HDD, case and PSU. Very reliable. Runs XP up to 10. Drivers included. All for £175!! Tel: Ian Matthew (01132) 629028 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 56kb Fax Modem External. £10. Tel: Gordon (01314) 660205 Email: email@example.com Laptop DDR2 RAM Just ask what you want pulled from a working laptops this is the quickest way to boost your laptop speed please email or call me for a price. Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Brand new USB brackets Add 2 extra USB2 ports to your computer at little cost and very simple to fit cable connect onto the motherboard and uses a spare slot on the back of your computer no drivers required please email or call me for a price Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: email@example.com Western Digital Cavier SE Desktop Hard Disk Drive 160GB. Perfect condition. Only £10 Tel: Gordon (01314) 660205 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org PC Desktop Ram (DIMM) Memory. Siemens PC100 222- 620 16M x 64 SDRAM. HYS64V16222GU-8 Only £8. Tel: Gordon (01314) 660205 E-mail: email@example.com
Netgear DGND3700-100UKS Gigabit Dual Band WiFi ADSL2+ Router. UK N600 Wireless Gigabit Modem Router. Five Gigabit Ethernet ports, two USB2 ports PLUS an ADSL2+ port. Comes in original packing with Ethernet cable, ADSL filter and cable Tel: Ian (01932) 856971 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 56kb Fax Modem External. Only £10.00. Tel: Gordon (01314) 660205 Email: email@example.com HP Photosmart C4585 All-in-One multifunction colour printer. Perfect condition. Includes software and manual. £20.00 Tel: Gordon (01314) 660205 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Brand new USB brackets Add 2 extra USB2 ports to your computer at little cost and very simple to fit cable connect onto the motherboard and uses a spare slot on the back of your computer no drivers required please email or call me for a price Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: email@example.com Laptop Hard Disk Drive. Fujitsu. 20GB. Excellent condition: £10.00. Tel: Gordon (01314) 660205 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Laptop RAM 2x1GB PC38500 DDR3 1067MHz from a working mac book pro but can be used in other laptops this is the quickest way to boost you laptop speed please email or call me for a price Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: email@example.com Windows 7 Computers Fresh install of Windows 7 this Computer great for gaming, office work, surfing the net, watching movies generally a good all round system from £150 +p&p might also have laptops price on request please email or call me for more information Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Sapphire ATi Radeon HD3850 512MB 256Bit GDDR3 AGP 8x DUAL DVI/HDTV Graphics Card to of the range AGP GFX card i beleve it supports DirectX 10 great for gaming, watching movies, video editing, CAD/ CAM applications and any other hight demand gfx programs generally a good all rounder £80 +p&p please email or call me for more info Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: email@example.com Windows XP Pro Computers Fresh install of Windows XP Pro this Computer great for gaming, office work, surfing the net, watching movies generally a good all round system from £100 +p&p might also have laptops price on request please email or call me for more information Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Motherboard Bundle 3Ghz AMD 64bit CPU 512MB Ram 5xpci 2xSATA 2IDE 1Gb LAN 6 channel sound firewire COMES WITH DRIVER CD AND MANUAL great for gaming, office work, surfing the net, watching movies generally a good all round system spec can slightly be changed if required £35 + p&p please email or call me for info Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: email@example.com Fans different sizes and types please email or call me for a price Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Laptop CPUs mainly Intel different speeds please email or call for prices Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: email@example.com Motherboard Bundle 3.2Ghz Intel 64 bit CPU 1GB Ram 2pci-e 2xpci 2IDE 2SATA 8usb ports LAN 6ch sound COMES WITH DRIVER CD AND MANUAL Great for gaming, office work, surfing the net, watching movies generally a good all round system spec can slightly be changed if required please email or call me for a price Tel: David (01616) 888119 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
HARDWARE WANTED Trying to breathe life back into an old machine? Why not submit a wanted ad to MicroMartClassifiedAdverts@ gmail.com and see if any of the thousands of computer enthusiasts who read the magazine each week have what you’re looking for? WANTED: Tape drive backup. Either DAT320 or later generation LTO system in good condition. Please contact me. Tel: (07949) 407022 Email: tape.20. email@example.com WANTED: You bought a Corsair water cooler, with a square block. You fitted it to your Intel processor. You want to make a few pounds from the spare A.M.D. bits? Contact me! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org WANTED: Gigabyte GA-Z77XD3H motherboard wanted. Email: email@example.com WANTED: PC Tower case (beige colour if possible) to rehome an Amiga A1200 vintage computer. The Amiga motherboard is H 410mm x L 190mm (H 16" x L 7.5"). PSU not an issue but if available 250 watt more than enough. Tel: Bill (07742) 061569 or (02641) 769503. WANTED: 3G dongle for Archos 80 G9 tablet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
SOFTWARE FOR SALE Sim City 2000: Boxed and original. Classic gaming. £15.00 Tel: Gordon (01314) 660205 Email: email@example.com Adobe Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements 12 Full Version - Windows/Mac. Original Boxed CD with unused product key. £47.50 Tel: Ian (01932) 856971 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
PCB design software. 127 layers, schematic entry, PCB entry, PCB to Gerber file converter, output to printer. £9.99 Tel: Nigel Wright (07967) 527693 Email: email@example.com Microsoft Office 2013. Original Software only £100. Tel: Gordon (01314) 660205 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Cyberlink PowerDVD 12 Standard. Runs under Windows 8, 7, Vista or XP. Original CD with unused product key £7.50 Tel: Ian (01932) 856971 Email: email@example.com
IMPORTANT BUYING ADVICE We work very hard to police our classified ads, and make them as secure as possible. However, please do your bit too and use the following guidelines: • Never - NEVER - pay by bank transfer or post out cash,
Nuance Omnipage 18. OCR; Windows 8, 7, Vista or XP, Original CD with unused product key £25. Tel: Ian (01932) 856971 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
unless you know the trader
Acronis True Image Home 2012. Bootable CD. Application runs under Windows 8, 7, Vista or XP. Original Acronis CD with unused product key £5. Tel: Ian (01932) 856971 Email: email@example.com
• Be wary of anyone who insists
Norton Family Premier 2.0. Runs under Windows 8, 7, Vista or XP, Original Symantec unused product key £15. Tel: Ian (01932) 856971 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
SOFTWARE WANTED Good Text to Speech program WinXP or 7 to read ebooks aloud for a pensioner with few resources. Tel: Wilf James (01767) 699809 Wanted: PictureToExe software, for making picture shows. Tel: (01202) 610602 Email: email@example.com Wanted: Quicken 2001. I desperately require a copy of QUICKEN 2001, UK Edition. I need to reinstall the program but have lost my original installation CD. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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A Core 2 Far?
I have been given an old HP Media Center m7270.uk. I would like to replace Windows with Linux and use it as a file server, but the CPU is a Pentium D820 2.8GHz. This means the system has the same power draw as my Core i5 desktop, and the cooling fans are very noisy. I would like to upgrade the processor to an Intel Core 2 Duo E6600, but I am not sure if it would be compatible with the motherboard, which is an Asus P5LP-LE. I checked the specifications online and it ought to take E6x00 CPUs, but if I search for it under the HP/Compaq name of Lithium-UL8E it looks as if it only accepts Pentium D or Pentium 4. Would this be a BIOS problem? I have been unable to find a BIOS update for this system.
Meet Aaron Birch. He’s here to help you with any general upgrading, software and system building problems. He’s got advice aplenty and you’re very much welcome to it! Send your questions to:
Aaron Birch Micro Mart Dennis Publishing 30 Cleveland Street London W1T 4JD
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Please try to keep your queries brief and limit them to just one question per letter, simply so we can squeeze in as many as we can each week. Please include relevant technical information too.
According to the specifications of the board on HP's website, this version of the ASUS doesn't support Dual core CPUs, including Core 2 Duo models (it differs from the actual ASUS model). It'll only support Pentium D and Pentium 4 CPUs, and although the socket (775) will physically hold a Core 2 Duo, the system won't POST correctly if one is installed.
You're correct in assuming it's likely a BIOS problem, but as far as I can see, there's no update for the board's BIOS to enable support for Core 2 Duo, meaning you'll not be able to use the more up to date CPU in the system. You could replace the motherboard with a Core 2 Duo compatible model, but that's more extra cost.
You're correct in assuming it's likely a BIOS problem In terms of noise, you could also replace the cooler with a passive cooling model, which would eliminate some of the noise, and may even help cut down power use a little. Unfortunately, there's little else you can do I'm afraid, due to the limitations of the HP variation of the motherboard. Although HP's Lithium-UL8E is a socket 775 board, it doesn't support Core 2 Duo CPUs
I have enjoyed reading Micro Mart for some time now. I know you are fans of the MotoG, and so I hope that you can answer my questions. When I log in to my Hotmail account using Mozilla Firefox 45.0 on my Windows 10 laptop – I type the first letter of my user name (now called my Microsoft account!) and the machine offers my full user name for selection. Yes, I am old enough to have a @hotmail.com instead of an @outlook.com account. When I try the same thing on my Android phone or Hudl it does not, I have to type it in in full, and my on-screen typing is rubbish! In both cases I, quite correctly, have to type in my password (it is my practice to log out when I am not actively using e-mail). Is there any way to get the Android devices to remember my user name? If not, is there any way to set up a hot key to fill it in on Android? Phone: MotoG running Android 5.1 – I've had it for two years now. Hudl Details: HT7S3 running Android 4.2.2 Also, is there any easy way to change between full and mobile versions of websites?
An Error Occurred...
Recently, YouTube has started showing a message saying an error has occurred when I try to play videos. It doesn't seem to happen all the time, maybe eight out of ten, and although the error is shown, after a few seconds, the video plays as normal. Because of this, it's not a major problem, but it is a little annoying, and has only started to happen recently. Do you know what might be causing this, and how to fix it?
Ben This is problem that's been reported by a lot of users recently, and although it's not 100% confirmed, it would appear to be related to the ads that play before videos – or more accurately, should play, as the problem is linked to ad-blockers like AdBlock Plus it would seem.
By the sound of it, it looks as though your Autofill forms feature is disabled, or the stored data has problem. So, I'd recommend you check this, and make sure you activate the Autofill function. To do this, in Chrome click the top-right menu button and go into Settings. Under the basics section, make sure Autofill forms is enabled. You can also set up profiles here, adding log in information to save you time. If Autofill is already on, it may be worth clearing the data so you can start again and rebuild the database. To do this, go into the Autofill setting and delete the corresponding entries. You can also edit data here too if you prefer. Third party tools like LastPass can also help, and may be an option to consider. They offer more features, and can make using the Internet on a mobile device much easier. There is a way to switch between mobile and full versions of websites. A lot of sites will give you this option, but not all do, so you need to use a workaround which is hidden in the secret debug menu. To get to this, type 'about:debug' into the browser's address bar and press Enter. Press the menu key and then go to More and then Settings. Scroll down the list and locate the entry 'UAString' and expand it. Select the Desktop option from the list that appears. Now, when you browse the Internet, any sites that'll usually load up the special mobile
version will load up the standard Desktop version of the site instead. You can force Android's browser to open sites in desktop mode with a simple tweak
The error message will usually stay for the duration of the ad, and the video will play as normal after. You should be able to fix this by simply allowing ads on YouTube, although this does mean you'll need to view these ads. As you can't skip the error anyway, this isn't really a problem, though. Some users have noted that the problem doesn't seem to be directly related to the ad blocking software, but is instead on the YouTube side of things. At the time of writing, however, I couldn't find any solid evidence of this, so I can't confirm. I'd try disabling any ad-blocking software you may be running to see if it fixes the problem. If so, try uninstalling the program and reinstalling it. This has apparently fixed the problem for some. If you're getting errors when loading up YouTube videos, try disabling your ad-blocker
Getting Into Gear
I’ve just bought a Gear VR headset to go with my Galaxy S6 phone. I love it, but I think some of the games would be more enjoyable with a gamepad. I guess Samsung’s own gamepad is probably the way to go, but I can’t find one anywhere, at least not new. Can you point me in the right direction or perhaps suggest an alternative? Or could I use one of my PlayStation 4 controllers?
Meet Jason D’Allison, a veteran of Micro Mart’s panel of experts. He’s here to help with any technical questions, including anything to do with tablets or smartphones, as well as PCs
You really do need a gamepad to make the most of the Gear VR. Samsung has done a fine job with the headset’s touchpad, but it still makes for a clumsy way to play games. And for many games, a gamepad is a requirement, not just an option. Oculus, Samsung’s development partner for the Gear VR and the designer of the Oculus Rift, offers three recommendations (see goo.gl/ QTuSRD): the Samsung EI-GP20; the SteelSeries Stratus XL (not the iOS model); and the MOGA Pro Power. I think Samsung’s unit has been discontinued – like you, I’m struggling to find one
on sale. Maybe Samsung has something new in the offing? The SteelSeries unit is also hard to track down. There are second-hand models going for around £65, but I’m sure you weren’t born yesterday, Chuka. That leaves the Pro Power. Thankfully, it’s very good.* It’s well-built, robust, and has a balanced weight. I know this because I’ve bought one! Clearly the design is heavily influenced by Xbox controllers. A handy feature is the fold-out phone bracket in the centre, letting you turn almost any Android phone into a full-blown portable gaming system. I bagged mine for a penny shy of £35 (from Amazon). There are less expensive options, of course. In theory, any gamepad with Bluetooth v3.0 support should work with Android, but I know from experience that cheap often isn’t cheerful. The Oculus recommendations are ‘optimised’ for Gear VR, whatever that means. Can you use a PS4 controller? Well, yes, but setting things up can be a game in itself (see goo. gl/WfXvN0), and many people report a good deal of input lag. Xbox controllers can be used via a USB OTG cable, but not
wirelessly (they don’t support Bluetooth). Controllers from other consoles may also work – or not. In my view, if you want plug-and-play instead of plugand-pray, stump up a few quid and do the job right. * The MOGA Pro Power has two modes: A and B. Mode A is for ‘MOGA-enhanced’ games, an idea that appears to have been abandoned. The games are accessible through the Pivot app (in Google Play), which doesn’t work with Android 5.x or later. For standard use, ensure the mode slider is set to B. Which gamepads are best for Android and Gear VR?
Send your questions to:
Jason D’Allison Micro Mart Dennis Publishing 30 Cleveland Street London W1T 4JD
Contact Jason by email at:
While we try to cover as many questions as we can, we regret that Jason cannot answer your questions personally, but he’ll cover as many as he possibly can each week. Please ask one question per letter and remember to include the full specification of your computer, including its operating system.
Issue 1406 1361
Search And Rescue
What’s wrong with Windows Update? Wanting to give my Dell Inspiron Mini 1012 a speed boost, I recently fitted a 250GB SSD and clean-installed Windows 7. I then started on the mammoth update process. However, after SP1 was in place, nothing would download – Windows Update just got stuck on the search phase. Nothing changed after trying Microsoft’s Windows Update Troubleshooter (goo.gl/5qJmfI) and the relevant ‘Fix it’ tool (goo.gl/Z2J9Ao). The above was with Windows 7 Starter, so I’ve now begun again, this time with Professional, with SP1 already integrated. But I’ve hit the same problem. I’ve installed a little program called Network Activity Indicator (goo.gl/JIQ9Pw), which shows inbound and outbound Internet traffic (replicating Windows XP’s system-tray icon), and this confirms that during the endless
search phase Windows Update is idle. I can successfully get the updates manually by entering the Knowledge Base numbers in Microsoft’s website, but life’s too short!
Jonathan N. Palmer, South Yorkshire I feel your pain. I’ve been here many times. As recounted in previous columns, the big-hitting anti-virus programs – Norton, McAfee, and the like – can sometimes cause update problems. If you’ve got such a thing installed, Jonathan, try temporarily disabling it. A bit dangerous, perhaps, but needs must. If that’s no help, install the latest Windows Update Agent (you may find you’ve already got it). Download it from here: goo.gl/w4Ushz. Next, type ‘services’ in the Windows search bar and select the top result. In the new window, scroll
THE EXPERTS down to the Windows Update service, rightclick it, and select Stop (assuming it’s already running). Next, locate the folder C:\Windows\ SoftwareDistribution in Windows Explorer and delete all contents. And finally, back in the services window, right-click Windows Update and select Start. Does that do the business? If not, I’m out of ideas, I’m afraid. Some say that Microsoft has crippled Windows Update for Windows 7 deliberately, aiming to push people towards Windows 10. No doubt Windows 7 is no longer a priority, but sabotage? I can’t see it. Something worth a look is Windows Downloads Updater. This’ll enable you to download all required Windows updates in one fell swoop, saving you the hassle of getting them one by one from Microsoft. Grab it from here: goo.gl/BhWT8a. When you fire it up, you’ll receive a warning that there are no update lists. Don’t panic! Head back to the website and click the ‘Update Lists (ULs)’ tab. Download the relevant one for Windows 7 – either x86 (32-bit) or x64 (64-bit). Next, open the file as normal – click it at the bottom of your browser or double-click it in Windows Explorer. Back in the program, the list will
What speed of microSD card do I need to record 4K video without dropped frames? I bought a Galaxy S7 Edge on launch day (11th March), but I’m very quickly running out of the 32GB inbuilt storage. I’ve tried an old 4GB card I had lying around and it’s just far too slow. M Richard, Gmail Well, 4K video on a phone typically eats about 6.25MB/s (at the usual 30fps). Even a regular Class 10 card will support that. The Class number, written inside a ‘C’ logo, represents the guaranteed minimum sustained write speed (the read speed will usually be higher). However, the S7 and S7 Edge also support UHS-I, a newer, faster standard. UHS-I Class 1, like regular Class 10, supports a guaranteed minimum sustained write speed of 10MB/s, while UHS-I Class 3 increases this to 30MB/s. In practice, many UHS cards are much faster. The Class number is written inside a ‘U’ logo. Tests on the S7 and S7 Edge show that the card bus tops out at around 72MB/s for
Grab all Windows updates in one go (except for Windows 10’s)
now be in place. Tick the updates you want and hit Download. Now, the idea of the program is that you can slipstream the updates into a custom Windows setup disc. If you fancy doing that, take a look at NTLite (the revamped nLite): www.ntlite.com. However, as you’ve
already got Windows 7 installed, ideally you’ll want all the updates to auto-install, without your intervention. I don’t know a way to do this, sadly. You’ll have to install them individually. After each dozen or so, try Windows Update again. Maybe one of the manual updates will get things moving.
reads and around 54MB/s for writes. That’s good for a phone, but the very best cards obviously won’t reach their full potential. A card with faster speeds may still be worthwhile if you’ll sometimes be plugging it into a PC via a USB 3.0 reader, as the quicker the card, the quicker you’ll be able to shunt data back and forth. Capacity-wise, the S7 and S7 Edge, like most modern phones, support the SDXC standard, for cards above 32GB. Many phones have a limit of 64GB or 128GB, though, while the S7 models are good for 200GB (currently the biggest microSDXC cards available). The sweet spot is probably 64GB. Stick to the known brands and buy from a reliable source, one with a decent returns procedure. There are a great many counterfeit cards in circulation, and even the likes of Amazon have unwittingly been caught out. As examples of what’s out there, Kingston’s 64GB UHS-I Class 3 card, with 90MB/s reads and 80MB/s writes, costs about £24. Kingston also sells two 64GB UHS-I Class 1 cards (with almost identical packaging): one with 45MB/s reads and
10MB/s writes, priced at around £13; the other with 90MB/s reads and 45MB/s writes, priced at around £21. There’s little point in looking at regular Class 10 cards, to be honest – there’s no real cost saving these days. Note – There’s also UHS-II, again at Class 1 and Class 3. Speeds can be as high as 312MB/s. No current phone supports UHS-II cards – they’ll work but only as UHS-I cards (the top theoretical speed is 104MB/s).
What on earth does it all mean?
Crowdfunding Corner Ever feel like your backpack doesn’t quite do everything you want? You are not alone, it would seem – because it looks like smart backpacks are the future
URL: kck.st/1pvXV05 Funding Ends: Thursday, April 21st 2016
URL: kck.st/1ppUDuA Funding Ends: Wednesday, April 13th 2016
The GoPlug is a lightweight and compact backpack with a smart power bank inside, capable of charging and powering a huge variety of devices. Funding it could mean you’ll never have to worry about your phone or laptop being without emergency power again because, as well as a power outlet the GoPlug power bank has two USB ports capable of charging any mobile device, and both a 12v and a 19v adaptor for charging larger devices. However, if you want a UK or European outlet you have to buy the more expensive 220v option, though. Additional features include optional Bluetooth on/off controls, timer-based and conditional charging (i.e. for an hour, or until your device reaches a certain percentage – even when you’re in a certain location). A proximity sensor allows you to keep track of devices within a 50ft range, and there’s a notification system to tell you when the power is low or when your hardware is charged. The cheapest price that gets you everything is $299 (£206), and that includes the backpack, a GoPlug power bank and a magnetic docking station, discounted from the retail price of $399 (£275). If you want a Solar Panel to go with that, you can get one for $369 (£255), discounted from the retail of $479 (£330). The project already hit double its target, so there’s no need to worry about that. If you want one, now’s the time to get in on it!
If you’re looking for a backpack that’s a little more complete, the iBackPack 2.0 might be what you need to take a look at. Its extensive list of features include RFID-blocking pockets, notebook safety paddings, retractable USB cable for its internal power-bank, four-port USB hub, Bluetooth audio speakers and headset, a side handle, and top handle, 30+ internal compartments, weatherproof zips and even a bullet-proof pocket for a Kevlar plate (eek)! It has wi-fi/mi-fi with 4G support so that you can turn it into a wireless hotspot, and there’s a flashlight built into the main 20,000 mAh power bank. In addition to all of those niche features, there’s a controller app to help you manage and monitor the hardware from your Android or iOS device so you don’t even have to stop moving to know where you stand, power-wise. There are several different variations on the backpack with different accessories and feature sets, but the cheapest (“Starter”) version is priced at $149 (£100), and the most expensive (“Sales Pro”) version can be picked up for $399 (£275). With just days past the project is half way to its $50,000 (£35,000) goal, so we expect this one to do just fine within its project limit – the end of which comes on April 13th. The iBackpacks will ship in September 2016, if all goes to plan, so there isn’t even that long to wait! Shame they won’t be here for summer, though.
Disclaimer: Images shown may be prototypes and Micro Mart does not formally endorse or guarantee any of the projects listed. Back them at your own risk!
APP OF THE WEEK
App Of The Week iZen – The Art of Zen Meditation David Hayward becomes one with everything
here are times when even we in the Micro Mart shed are prone to moments of stress – like when we get a particularly big gas bill or we find someone’s put a wet spoon back in the communal sugar. It’s during those times that we turn to iZen, the Art of Zen Meditation. A soothing app for Android devices, it aims to help you attain a higher state of awareness and spiritual fulfilment.
Zen meditation (aka Zazen) is a type of meditation unique to Zen Buddhism, apparently. It’s also often referred to as ‘seated meditation’ which, to be honest, suits us just fine. What you need to do is fairly simple. After all if it was complicated, then it wouldn’t be very relaxing. Grab yourself a zafu or, as the rest of us refer to it, a pillow, then get your Android device and install the app from the Play store.
There are some relaxing images displayed in iZen
Next, make sure you’re perfectly relaxed, and tap the icon to start your journey into your inner self and find spiritual enlightenment. Or you could just look at the nice images that crop up, tastefully fading from one to the other, while listening to the eight included tracks: Drifting away, The Voice of Wisdom, Zen Garden, The Milky Way, Peaceful Passage, Quiet Mountain Oriental Spring and Rainy Night. Beyond this, there are options to play a single track, repeat the track, play them in a random order or play them in the default order one after the other. There’s also an option to create a play time, so you can set in hours and minutes the desired amount of time you wish to listen to the relaxing sound of birdies chirping in the trees, water flowing over a stony river and so on.
Be At One
Lose yourself in the path
• Free. • Relaxing sounds and pleasing images. • Set track repeats or continuous play. • Timer function.
Micro Mart has never looked so calm
Now, just get the app running, get your legs painfully bent into the one-quarter
Features At A Glance
The ambient music flows through the universe and your third eye. Be one and do
Lotus position, and listen to the sounds of Tibetan horns and little cymbals occasionally crashing together. Did we feel relaxed after using iZen? Yes, we did. It was actually quite pleasant closing our eyes and listening to the calming sounds of nature mixed with relaxing music. Either way, it was considerably healthier than the bottle of Fleet Street Comfort we have stashed in the bottom drawer of our desk for overshot deadlines. Should you aspire to walk the narrow path towards self-enlightenment and you like to commune with your third eye, inner self and whatever else Zen meditation enthusiasts go about doing, then give iZen a try and see if it’ll work for you.
a Lobsang Rampa
n the earliest days of the internet, I recall being really impressed with some content I found. Many contributors presented deeply considered ideas, proportional arguments often as initiators of discussion, and not the final word. Yes, the internet had a halcyon era when you could surf with a firewall made by Microsoft and not expect to be turned into a malware distributing bot.
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1213 Issue 1406
But these days we’re a long way from Kansas, Toto, because half the postings I digest each day are either alternate-reality based or intentionally disingenuous. My encouragement for talking about this here is the new Ghostbusters movie and some of the entirely outrageous posts I’ve seen coming off the back of its trailer. What I’d expect is that some blogs would like it, others less so, and those reading would get to decide how they felt about a studio reworking this seminal classic. But something supernatural has definitely been unleashed, because I’ve seen a vast majority of sites running overly gushing responses to the trailer, to the point that it all smells a funny colour. The first of these that struck the wrong chord was a piece Gizmodo ran ‘The New Ghostbusters Trailer Is Here, and Everything Looks Perfect’. Eh? Does it? The talk-back on that piece was quite vicious, and probably justifiably so, because however you looked at the trailer, ‘perfect’ wasn’t the response that even the more supportive fans could muster. And then Ain’t it Cool News ran an equally positive puff piece by Horrorella, where she talked about the trailer receiving, “both cheers and groans (though, happily, more cheers)”. Those comments got equally reamed, because if you go to YouTube and looks at the likes/dislikes quota, it’s running at 184,000 versus 420,000 at the time of going to press. Unless your maths is really bad, that’s not ‘more cheers’ is it? The obvious answer is that the rules of click-bait apply, and blogs are just trying to get traffic into specific pages by writing something outrageous at the top, but that doesn’t quite fit much of what has transpired around Ghostbusters. I suspect it has more to do with the large amount of promotional cash that Sony is putting behind this movie, and those blogs that think they can snag a chunk by saying positive things from the outset.
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But what really made me wonder about shadow agendas was the way that Sony went after negative comments posted below its trailer on YouTube, getting a large number of them deleted. And I’m not just talking about ones were people said horrible things about the cast or acting. No, they deleted things where people just said they didn’t find it funny! That’s a moronic thing to do, because the whole internet, Twittersphere, Facebook-arama is absolutely knee deep in people saying less than gracious things about the trailer, and Sony is assaulting a Titanic-sized leak with a thimble. The director, Paul Feig, isn’t helping by going on Twitter and lambasting people because of how they’ve reacted, and making a largely spurious connection between the outpouring of hate and the all-female main cast. Paul, they didn’t like what you’d done with one of their favourite franchises. Stop making that face or you’ll be wearing it for eternity! In July, Sony and Feig get to find out just how busted there really are. I wonder who they’re going to call?
Mark Pickavance LAST WEEK'S CROSSWORD Across: 7 Magniloquence, 8 Skidoo, 9 Appeal, 10 Polymer, 12 Knobs, 14 Codec, 16 Unscrew, 19 Reduce, 20 Haggle, 22 Victor Grinich. Down: 1 Bank, 2 One Day, 3 Blooper, 4 Equal, 5 Tempon, 6 Scramble, 11 Orogenic, 13 Unsharp, 15 Equity, 17 CoGeNT, 18 Henry, 21 Lucy.
DISCLAIMER The views expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the publishers. Every care is taken to ensure that the contents of the magazine are accurate but the publishers cannot accept responsibility for errors. While reasonable care is taken when accepting advertisements, the publishers cannot accept any responsibility for any resulting unsatisfactory transactions. We know it happens every year, but we still get a little bit excited when the weather gets warm enough to leave the house in the morning without first putting on a coat. And for some of us here, that day arrived this week. Yes, there
was actual sunshine! And the temperature very nearly reached room temperature! Exciting stuff, indeed – although probably not enough to break out the ice cream just yet. Speaking of ice cream (as if we need an excuse to talk about it), we’ve been thinking about making our very own homemade ice cream cake. The only problem is we’ve never eaten an ice cream cake, and we’re not entirely what it is. All we know is that it gets mentioned occasionally in American TV shows, and it has the words ‘ice cream’ and cake in its name. That alone, though, is enough to tell us it’s obviously the greatest thing in the entire world.
THIS WEEK'S CROSSWORD Across 7 In formal language theory and computer programming the operation of joining character strings end-toend. (13) 8 A function that is infinitely differentiable – used in calculus and topology. (6) 9 Change a portion of text to capitals. (6) 10 In meteorology, the rapid inward circulation of air masses about a low pressure centre. (7) 12 A rule adopted by an organisation in order to regulate its own affairs and the behaviour of its members. (5) 14 A series of commands and procedures that are carried out in response to a single command or keystroke. (5) 16 The nasty bit of a computer virus. (7) 19 Arrange for compensation in the event of damage, injury or loss in exchange for regular payments to a company. (6) 20 A warning or proviso of specific stipulations, conditions, or limitations. (6) 22 A punctuation mark used to attribute the enclosed text to someone else. (8,5) Down 1 A port of the Doom source code by TeamTNT that fixed numerous
software glitches and added other software enhancements into the engine. (4) 2 Move through text or graphics in order to display parts that do not fit on the screen. (6) 3 The process of using strong acid or mordant to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface to create an incised design into the metal. (7) 4 The complete unabridged version of a movie. (5) 5 In economics a situation in which the nominal price is resistant to change. (6) 6 .bw TLD (8) 11 A feeling of intense longing for something. (8) 13 A series of printed vertical bars that are scanned by a laser to identify the item for sale and stock control purposes. (3,4) 15 A device that forwards data packets between computer networks. (6) 17 A complete bootable computer installation including operating system, which runs in a computer’s memory, rather than loading from disk. (4,2) 18 Phone or email messages containing sexually explicit material. (5) 21 The point at which something is at its best or most highly developed. (4)
Issue 1358 1406
Things Sci-Fi Got Right Just because something’s made up, doesn’t mean it can’t happen for real…
Talking To Computers
When it comes to talking to software, you can’t help but think of Star Trek. It’s no surprise that way back in the 60s, the idea of computers able to understand human speech seemed far fetched and fitting only for science fiction. But decades on, in 1896’s Voyage Home, it still seemed beyond our reach. As Scotty famously spoke the words “Hello computer” into a mouse, we all laughed. But today, our PCs can type our words as we speak, and even mobile phones have the ability to listen to what we say and carry out instructions.
Speaking of mobile phones, personal communications are another technology that once belonged firmly in the world of make-believe. Now, of course, everyone has one, and you can get hold of anyone, pretty much wherever they are in the world. But it’s not just mobile phones that could have been pulled straight out of a sci-fi novel. Smartwatches, too, are another technology that would have been almost unbelievable just a couple of decades ago. From their touchscreens to their wi-fi and accelerometers, it’s all rather wonderful when you think about it (even though it might seem like it when the person next to you on the train is having a loud and very obnoxious conversation on their phone).
Whether it’s aliens in Star Trek or family members in Back to the Future II, the idea of video chat has been around for ages. And it’s actually a problem that companies managed to crack quite some time ago. To begin with, video chat was expensive, but thanks to modern broadband connections and VoIP, it’s become simple and cheap - which is why it’s odd that no one really bothers to use it. Text-based communication has become far more popular than video chat, so in that sense sci-fi got it wrong. What it got right is that it’s easy to do and open to pretty much everyone.
Although the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive won’t enable you to turn yourself into software and travel through phone wires and servers, a la The Lawnmower Man, they do point to a future of total electronic immersion. Just like the movies, we can explore vast virtual environments and engage with the creations of VR developers. We’re still nowhere near the realistic experiences seen in things like Star Trek’s holodeck or the slug-like pods of Extistenz, but it certainly feels like we’re on the cusp of something big.
Self Driving Cars
If you want proof of how fast technology moves, just consider the self-driving car. It was only in 2004 that this idea was considered far-fetched enough to be a feature of the Will Smith movie iRobot. Just over a decade on, we have several companies actually trialling real driverless vehicles. They’re not quite as fancy as the one the Fresh Prince drove in that movie, but it’s still hugely impressive how quickly they’ve gone from fantasy to reality. “Hello, Siri!”
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The only problem with the Asus PCE- AC68 is it’s so expensive you’ll have a hard time trying to justify why you need it. But make no mistake...
Published on Mar 25, 2016
The only problem with the Asus PCE- AC68 is it’s so expensive you’ll have a hard time trying to justify why you need it. But make no mistake...