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www.connect.co.za

ISSUE #09

FEATURES 10 Online Albums From Flickr to Facebook, we help make your memories come alive

14 Free Mac Apps Must-try free software to make your Mac sing

18 Better Budgeting Home accountancy has never been easier

20 Back to School Helpful hardware 101 – what you need and what you don’t

26 All the News You Need to Know Really understanding RSS Readers

28 Presentations that Pop! Become a PowerPoint Pro

JANUARY NUARY 2010


REGULARS 04 06 08 68 70 72

Editor’s Letter News Trouble-free Technobabble Tamsin the Tech Tannie Competition Disconnect

REVIEWS 34 40 43 44 46 50 51 60

Top 5 Peripherals Printers Cellphones Networking Security Software Books

GAMING 62

PUBLISHER Brett Haggard brett@connect.co.za EDITOR Tiana Cline tiana@connect.co.za CONTRIBUTING Johann Barnard EDITOR johann@connect.co.za

27

Reviews

TECHNOLOGY Deon du Plessis EDITOR deon@connect.co.za CONTRIBUTORS Peter Dawoud, Tamsin Mackay, Tamaryn Watkins, Adam Oxford ART DIRECTION Infiltrate Media www.infiltratemedia.co.za

SUBSCRIPTIONS subscriptions@connect.co.za ADVERTISING Dorothy Haggard dorothy@connect.co.za CONTACT Hypertext Media Communications (011) 783-7886 info@hypertext.co.za

Connect is a joint venture between Hypertext Media Communications and Incredible Connection


ed’s note

e m o c l We

0 1 0 2 Y R A U N A J TO THE ! T C E N N O C F O N EDITIO

I WANT TO TALK TO THE CONNECT TEAM? E-mail your feedback to tiana@ connect.co.za Fax your letter to 011- 7837886 Post your letter, addressed “Connect Magazine”, to 39 6th Avenue, Highlands North, 2192

4 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

t’s a new year and a new issue and this month we’re looking at a lot of to-do topics: from putting all your holiday snaps in online albums to becoming a PowerPoint pro. With the December break behind us, there is a good chance all your vacation pictures are where you left them – on the camera. If you’re looking for the easiest way to share these memories with loved ones, then online albums are something simple to consider. In this issue, we look at free websites that make photo sharing a breeze. Another programme we look at, and a crucial part of the Microsoft Office Suite, is PowerPoint. No matter whether you’re planning a presentation or puttering around with all those slides, Connect will give you some seriously handy hints. We also shed some light on what makes for a home computer system, printer and Internet connection that is worth owning. There are so many options out there that it’s useful to see a breakdown of the individual parts and aspects of each in order to make a more informed buying decision, which is what we do in our feature on page 20.

From informed buying to budgeting, you may have seen the range of accounting products available, but how about taking one home? Mention money or business and you’ll think back to last year’s tough times. To beef up your budgeting and make home accountancy a reality, Connect introduces you to the right range for you. In the reviews section, we take a look at a number of locally produced educational software titles this month, in a bid to let readers know what is out there that may help their school-age children learn more. We show you just how local software companies are improving the quality of SA syllabus-focused programs. Selling more than 100 million units across the globe, Nintendo’s handheld double-screen game machine, the DS, is as popular as it is practical. For those who think gaming is all about guns and violence, think again. The Nintendo DS has a variety of family-friendly titles that promise to train your brain, teach you how to cook and even give all the classic books worth reading in one go. Want to know more? See page 62. Tamsin the Tech Tannie is back again this month as is our helpful, demystifying jargon busting pages. Be sure to look into our January competition – subscribe and you could be one of 20 lucky readers who win a copy of McAfee Total Protection – all the virus, span and spyware security you need. Here’s to a terrific 2010. Enjoy the issue, Tiana Cline


news

Wher Where Wh W her ere te ere technology ech chno hnoolo logy ggyy and and nd ffashion aasshi hioonn me m eeett meet

iPhone virus writer cracks cushy job with iPhone An unemployed Australian computer fundi made headlines last month by creating a relatively harmless virus affecting iPhones. Shortly thereafter he announced he had landed a job writing software applications for iPhone. Ashley Towns created what became known as the ‘Rickrolling virus’, it installed background wallpapers of the 1980’s pop sensation Rick Astley onto infected iPhones. While it wasn’t meant to be a malicious virus, the 21-year old creator said it should serve as a warning to those who “jailbreak” their iPhones and leave them unprotected. This man’s claim to fame? His virus is the first successful assault on the security system of the Apple Inc product. Of course, the only way to neutralise such a threat is to bring him on board. Ashley Towns is now joining leading Australian iPhone application developer, Mogeneration.

Your wallet in your cell phone Pocit (www.pocit.co.za) is a mobile phone application that lets you use your cell phone to make secure payments, anywhere, any time, using your cell phone. The concept has proven popular, and most of the growth has been viral – users enjoying the freedom of making anytime, anywhere payments and encouraging their friends, family, acquaintances and associates to try it. Pocit’s cellphone payments platform allows users and merchants to make and receive payments knowing only

one another’s cellphone numbers. A South African start-up, Pocit has signed up 90 000 registered users since its launch in March this year. It’s a simple, easy-to-use and easy-to-download application that works on your phone, regardless of your service provider, regardless of who you bank with. The next few months are likely to see the launch of new cell phone payment services, some home grown and others based on international examples.

Windows 7 to speak our language 2009: The Year of Twitter The year isn’t over yet, but Microsoft has named ‘Twitter’ the top search term of the year on its new search engine, Bing. ‘Michael Jackson’, ‘swine flu’ and ‘Patrick Swayze’ were among the other top searched-for phrases. Global Language Monitor (GLM), a company based in Texas that tracks and analyses language trends on search engines, said that “in a year dominated by world-shaking political events, a pandemic, the after-effects of a financial tsunami and the death of a revered pop icon, the word Twitter stands above all the other words.” This, along with the fact that it’s predicted there will be more than 18 million registered users by 2010, make it apparent that what lies ahead in the future for social media networking site, Twitter, can only be big things.

6 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

In 2011 Microsoft will launch the Windows 7 operating system in 10 different African languages, 5 of which will be official South African languages. The company will make available downloadable language interface packs, free of charge, for people who prefer to access programs such as Microsoft Office 2007, Windows Vista and XP in their mother tongue. Microsoft SA representative, Vis Naidoo said studies have shown that people learn better in their first language, and that providing access to computer technology in local languages would open many doors to education and economic participation to millions of people. The language packs would be available in Afrikaans, Sotho, Xhosa, Zulu and Tswana as well as Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba in Nigeria, Swahili in Kenya and Amharic in Ethiopia.


techno jargon // BY DEON DU PLESSIS

TROUBLE-FREE

TECHNO BABBLE

8 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010


Deon du Plessis delves into some of the words you’ll find in this month’s issue of Connect.

TRANSCODING- Transcoding is the digital conversion of one type of data to another. In the case of the Pulse Smartpen on page 39, it is from handwritten data to computer-readable text data. FTP- File Transfer Protocol. This is the set of instructions that determines how a file is transferred between two computers. An FTP server is a computer dedicated to “serving” files to other computers. Secure FTP servers usually make use of a username and password combination to ensure that only specific people can download files. OCR- Optical Character Recognition. This technology is used to identify written characters on a sheet of paper, and then covert it to computer-readable text. Scanning a physical document in to your computer and then converting it to a format that can be edited in, say, Microsoft Word, is an example of OCR technology at work. HYPERTEXT MARKUP LANGUAGE- This is the programming language used to create web pages. It allows objects like links to other web pages, images, video files and more to be embedded in the page to create what are, essentially, interactive documents. BEHAVIOURAL ANALYSISIn addition to creating ‘fixes’ for virus behaviour, modern security companies are monitoring all files on your computer (its behaviour), and stopping them from causing damage when their behaviour becomes suspicious. This is known as behavioural analysis, and is a far quicker method for defeating viruses and malware than signature-based prevention alone. BLU-RAY- Sony won the High Definition movie format war, which is why Blu-ray movies are the only HD options you have at your local video store. You’ll need a Blu-ray player and a high definition television to make use of it, though, and since this is new technology it’s not cheap. A Playstation 3 has a built-in Blu-ray drive and is therefore a great way to hop on the HD movie bandwagon. 1080P- If you see this on a TV, it means it supports high definition video in its best form. 1080 stands for the number of vertical lines the screen can show at any one time, and the p stands for “progressive scan”, a method of displaying a single frame of a movie with all lines on the screen at the same time. This is a far superior method than “interlacing”, an older technique that only displays half the lines in a single frame, and alternates with the other half in the next frame. This leads to a flickering not seen in “progressive scan” screens.

SUBWOOFER- This is a speaker dedicated to reproducing low-frequency sounds, like bass beats in a dance song. They are usually encased in a big box and have at least one big hole so that air can rush in and out of the box as sound plays. BLUE TRACK TECHNOLOGYBlue Track is Microsoft’s new mouse technology that increases the sensitivity of a mouse’s sensor so that it can pick up far more detail on whatever surface it is resting on. This increased detail is what allows the mouse a more accurate sense of which way it is being pushed, resulting in the ability to be used on a wider variety of surfaces. INSTANT MESSAGING- This is the collective term for small programs that let you talk to friends using either text messages, audio clips and even video. Popular examples of these are Google Talk, Skype, Yahoo! Messenger and Windows Live Messenger. They are all available for free, and only require an Internet connection, valid e-mail address and a relatively small download. Just be careful, though, if installed at work they are rather good at sapping productivity… MULTI-TASKING- This can refer to both a computer’s ability to run more than one programme at a time, as well as a human’s ability to juggle more than one physical task at a time. In Connect, it is far more likely to be the latter than the former. How effective your computer is at multi-tasking depends on how much RAM (system memory) you have, how fast your processor is, and what operating system you’re running. Windows 7 and Windows XP are fantastic at this, while Windows Vista is a little more sluggish. FIREWIRE- Similar to USB, this is a method of connecting devices to your computer. Advantages include very fast data transfer speeds – FireWire 800 maintains a speedy 80MB/s transfer rate – and the ability to chain more than one FireWire device together so that you have multiple devices connected to your computer using only one FireWire port. This practice is known as “daisy-chaining”. PICTBRIDGE- Any printer that is “PictBridge” compatible can transfer photos directly off a digital camera without the need for an intervening computer. This makes it very easy to print photos, and built-in editing capabilities in some modern printers mean common problems like redeyed subjects can be corrected before printing. DUPLEX PRINTING- Simply put, this is the ability of a printer to print to both sides of a page. It usually involves pulling the paper back into the printer after the first page is completed in order to print. WWW.CONNECT.CO.ZA | 9


photo albums //BY TIANA CLINE

[ GET YOUR HOLIDAY SNAPS IN ORDER ]

Back from vacation with a memory card filled with photos and not sure how to share them with your family and friends? Today’s digital cameras have the capability to store thousands of images, and instead of storing all your negatives in a shoebox as you would have in years gone by, today’s snap happy shots tend to live on memory cards or on your own computer – no-one else gets to see them. So why not share them with those you love? We’ve already helped you pick the perfect camera and shown you how to edit your images – here is the next step.

10 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010


I

t’s easy to be snap-happy with a digital camera and why not? Today’s photographic options hold as many pictures as you wish to take, battery and memory card allowing. Instead of keeping all the images on your camera and having to delete some so that you can to take more later, there are easier and free ways to store your favourite photographs. Online albums are a great way to store, categorise and share photos with family, friends and business colleagues. There’s a good chance you’re already using a programme with photo sharing capabilities, and there are many other free and feature-rich options out there.

FACEBOOK FUN

If you’re one of the 300 million people using Facebook, there’s a good chance you’ve come across albums uploaded by fellow social networkers. Over and above being an amazing and accessible way to keep in contact, Facebook albums let you share your memories with the world, or with those few you want to – the option is yours. How to make an album > For photos to appear under the “View Photos of” profile link, you will need to be tagged in the photos. To tag yourself in a photo that you have uploaded, just go to the photo and click the “Tag This Photo” link beneath it, then select “me.” However, to simply create an album and upload photos, go to your profile. Select “Add Photos” from the Publisher box at the top of the Wall tab. Provide an album name, description and privacy level, and click “Create Album.” You will be prompted to install a small application that allows easy uploading of your photos. Please click “Trust” to any prompts that appear while the application is uploading. If you are having any trouble installing or using the photo upload application, try the simple version located at the bottom of the “Add More Photos” tab.

WWW.CONNECT.CO.ZA | 11


photo albums

PICTURE-PERFECT PICASA

FLICKR AND YOUR PICS

Flickr is one of the best online photo management and sharing applications available. It’s a great way to get your photos and videos to the people who matter to you. After uploading photos from your desktop, sending them by e-mail, or from your phone, there is an editing suite to get rid of red eye, crop photos, or be creative with fonts and effects. In Flickr, photos are easily accessible in sets and groups. Sets are groupings of photos and videos that you can organise around a certain theme and collections are a grouping of Sets (or other Collections) that you can organise around grander theme. There are five simple ways to upload your photos and videos How to edit > Start by clicking the “Edit Photo” button in the toolbar above your photo to get started. If this is the first time you’ve clicked on the “Edit Photos” button, you will be asked to pass through the step of authorising Picnik to upload your photos - you’ll only have to do this once. Enable Picnik to open inside your Flickr account. After you’ve authorised Picnik, edit your photo to your heart’s content! Then just click “Save” and you’re all done.

12 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

to Flickr. You can use the Flickr Uploadr (available for both PC and Mac), iPhoto, Aperture, or Windows XP plugins on the official Flickr web page, by e-mail, or using free third-party desktop programs. And if you’re not near a computer, you can snap a photo (or video) on your mobile phone, e-mail it to Flickr, and have it appear on the site in seconds. Editing your photos in Flickr is easy, using Picnik. Flickr also helps you keep in touch by using a contacts system. When you add someone as a contact, you can also choose to add them as your Friend or Family (or both). But if you’d like to share your private photos and videos with people who don’t have a Flickr account, you can use its Guest Pass feature to grant them special access. You’re able to expire the passes whenever you like. When you post photos on Flickr for others to see, they’re able leave you feedback in notes and comments. Notes allow your contacts to leave messages directly on your photos and videos that only appear when you mouse over the image, while comments allow for a more general discussion below the image.

Those looking for a simple way to get photos from your camera and computer onto the web, Picasa Web Albums provide 1 GB of free storage – enough online space to make sharing your photos quick and easy. What’s nice is that you can also edit your photos and organise them into an album on your computer using Picasa’s downloadable desktop application. There are several options for uploading your photos and videos to the web. This can be done from a PC, Mac or mobile phone. If you decide to upload using the (free) Picasa software, you can control the upload size as well as the privacy settings on your album. To let other people see your pics, you’ll need to select the Share button – located in the folder or album header – and you’ll be able to send email invitations to your friends and family. If you decide to share your stuff, you’ll not only be able to keep track of who you’ve shared with, you can decide on one web album address that will take visitors to one page where all your galleries are found. With Picasa, you can also upload photos directly from your hard drive by signing into Picasa Web Albums and choosing either the basic uploader – this works with all browsers – or the upload control that only runs if you’re running Internet Explorer. Picasa Web Albums have some great features, one of them being the ability to add searchable nametags and geo-tags. Burning your photos to CD or DVD is a convenient option to store your images, but should your hard drive ever fail, or should a power surge hit your external drive, you will thank your lucky stars that you can recover all of your photos and edits from your online albums. How to share > Need to get those pics off your camera? From within Picasa, click the Import button. Select your device or folder from the drop-down menu (your camera should automatically be detected). To help you import images from a particular day or event, Picasa segments your images according to the time period in which they were taken. Each group of images in the import window will be marked by a clock icon. Select the specific photos you’d like to import, or choose All. These photos will be saved on your computer and displayed as a new folder in Picasa.


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free mac apps //BY BRETT HAGGARD

10 FREE

SOFTWARE SELECTIONS YOUR MAC SIN G TO MAKE

14 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

‘Googling’ for ‘free mac software’ should point you in the right direction – but be prepared for more choices than you could possibly imagine. To get you started we’ve compiled a list of our top 10 Mac applications – right from free web browsers, to word processors, photo editing solutions, multimedia tools, backup and restore applications and general productivity boosters.


> 1. Fire up the Fox With more of the computing world moving online, choosing a web browser that does everything you want is super important. This is where Mozilla’s Firefox browser really shines. Quick, light and customisable through extensions that people have built themselves, Firefox can be molded to do things no other browser can today. Extensions include social networking front-ends, pop-up ad blockers, security add-ons, file downloaders, short-cut handlers and tons more. Get Firefox at http://www.getfirefox.com.

M

ac owners are among the most loyal and passionate computer users on the planet. They love the superior look, design, build quality and reliability of their Apple hardware and aren’t afraid to spend that little bit extra for it. They’re also generally the first to flaunt the fact that they’re a little different from the masses on account of the fact that they own a MacBook, iMac or anything else Apple. While the variety of Mac packages available in computer stores isn’t nearly as many as the PC packages on offer, the Internet has a ton to offer those users prepared to download. As is the case with software you find on the Internet though, one should proceed with caution, by considering how reputable the source of the software is, checking out what others say about the package and noting things like whether it’s freeware, shareware or open source.

OPEN, FREE OR SHARED

Open source software, is generally free to download and use, with the exception that the source code is available to any developer who wants to look under the hood, tinker in their programming language of choice and make the software better or more suited to their needs. Thankfully, there are enough of these types on the Internet that some of the top software offerings available are robust, feature rich and extremely polished, both in terms of their functionality and their looks. Freeware is very much like open source, except for the fact that the source code isn’t open to developers – and generally held internally by a group of programmers looking to either make a name for themselves, or make some money from the benevolent donations of users who find their software useful. Lastly, shareware is software that’s either limited to free use for a period of time, such as 30 or 60 days, or a hamstrung version of a full software package that gives you an idea of what the software has to offer, but won’t allow you to use the full functionality until you’ve signed on to the developer’s website and paid for a license code. That said, however, it’s considered the done thing for you to donate some money to the developers behind open source or freeware software, since it allows them to keep up the good work and evolve the software so that it’s even more stable and functional in the years to come.

> 2. Thundering e-mail From the same crowd that made the Firefox browser, comes one of the most popular e-mail clients on the Internet, namely Mozilla Thunderbird. With support for all e-mail engines (POP3, IMAP and SMTP), great search features and an extremely light design that works perfectly on lower spec computers and low bandwidth Internet connections, Thunderbird is a must-have addition to your application arsenal if Mail.app is too complex for your needs, or not tough enough on spam and junk mail. Get Thunderbird at http://www.getthunderbird.com.

> 3. Open your office Productivity tools such as Microsoft’s office and Apple’s iWork are great for professional Mac users, but with price tags that range between R800 and R5000 depending on which derivative you choose, these applications suites are out of the reach of most students and a fair number of business users. Why not take a look at what the open source community has on offer with Open Office – a free suite of word processing, spreadsheeting and presentation authoring tools that many users rate as highly as their paid-for cousins. There’s even versions of the Open Office dictionary in the 11 official South African languages for those who want to work in their native tongue. Get a generic version of Open Office from http://www.openoffice.org or get a localised language pack for African tongue by following the links from http://www.translate.org.za.

> 4. The do-all chat client Despite it having been around for an age now, instant messaging remains one of the most inexpensive and useful ways of staying in contact with friends, family and work colleagues. The only problem is staying in contact with everyone when some people use MSN, others use GTalk and others still are on obscure services such as Yahoo Messenger, ICQ or AOL Instant Messenger. Where you needed a chat client for each of these services before, today all you need is a piece of software called Adium X – and of course a user account on each of the services your friends and family members make use of. Adium even has built-in support for Facebook chat, meaning you can converse with friends on Facebook without having to log-into your home page. Get it from http://www.adiumx.com.

WWW.CONNECT.CO.ZA | 15


free mac apps > 5. The play-all video player While Macs are great media machines due to their generally high hardware specifications, the number of different video formats in use today – MP4, MOV, AVI and MKV – mean that not all kinds of video content are playable on a Mac out the box. While many users go through the rigmarole of installing each of the individual codecs (decoders for different media formats), you can skip that process by installing a player to play them all, namely VLC. Completely free and open source, we haven’t come across a video or audio file VLC can’t open or play. Quite simply, if VLC doesn’t play it, the file is locked with digital rights management or corrupted. VLC is the must-have media player for every platform – Mac included. Get it at http://www.videolan.org.

> 8. File decompression in a snap Sending big files around the Internet over e-mail requires a decent compression tool (like the built-in ‘compress’ tool in Mac OS X). Since people use different file formats however – Macs use .zip files, but some PCs use .arj or .rar compression – you generally need a host of tools capable of extracting the compressed data from one of these archives. The unarchiver does the lot (even some we weren’t aware existed), and like the other software showcased here is free. Get it at http://theunarchiver.googlecode.com.

> 6. Free CD/DVD burning Unlike many other computer systems, Apple computers come pre-bundled with software that allows users to burn CDs and DVDs easily. The only problem is, with that ease of use comes a lack of control and functionality – i.e. insert blank disk, drag files to disk, click burn. Burn is a free application that uses the inherent functionality Mac OS provides in the disk burning department, but presents the functionality in a much more logical format. Options exist for burning audio, video and plain data disks, as well as copying disks in a couple of clicks. It’s a worthwhile addition to every Mac user’s application arsenal.

> 9. Backup with confidence With the arrival of Mac OS Leopard, users who had never before backed up a thing in their lives, simply added a hard disk to their hardware portfolio and let Time Machine handle the rest. The problem is, however, Time Machine doesn’t give the user too much control over their backups. That’s where SuperDuper shines though. It’s a separate backup application that makes exact copies of users’ hard disks – meaning that, should a disk crash happen, you can boot up off of your SuperDuper backup disk and carry on working as per normal until you’ve done a restore. This is Shareware though, which means that some of the functionality – like automatically scheduling and smart updating backups – is blocked off until you buy a license for $28 online.

Get it at http://burn-osx.sourceforge.net.

Get it at http://www.shirt-pocket.com/SuperDuper/.

> 7. Powerful image editing Choosing a Mac as your primary computer has a great deal to do with how much you use media, like images, audio and video. And even though all new Macs come bundled with iLIfe and by virtue of that, iPhoto, the image editing functionality available to the average user is limited. ‘The Gimp’ (Gimp is an abbreviation for GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a photo-editing tool that offers much of the same functionality available in the industry leader, namely Adobe’s Photoshop, but because the menus are placed a little differently, many users gloss over this as a choice. ‘Gimpshop’ on the other hand is exactly what these users might be looking for, since it’s the open source ‘Gimp’ engine that’s been customised to look and work like PhotoShop. And it’s totally free.

> 10. Give file transfers the duck If you live online and work with websites, chances are you’ll need a good FTP (file transfer protocol) client to move images, data and other web assets around from one server to another. And Cyberduck is the best Mac-based FTP client in existence. Completely free (although, you can say thank you, by donating some cash to the developers), it works with both secure and unsecure connections, has a bookmarks feature that allows you to save the credentials for the different sites you use regularly and with the latest release supports resuming of transfers, so you don’t have to start from scratch if your connection times out in the middle of one of those 200MB down or uploads.

Get it at http://www.gimpshop.com/.

Get it at http://cyberduck.ch/.

Extra Applications to Explore Skype > The best free voice calling application available online. Get the Mac version at http://www.skype.com. Seashore > If Gimp or Gimpshop is too complex for you, Seashore is in between iPhoto and Photoshop in terms of functionality. Get it at http://seashore.sourceforge.net. Bean > Need nothing more than basic word processing? Bean gives you some formatting choices, a word count and more. Very basic, very useful. Get it at http://www.bean-osx.com. 16 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010


better budgeting //BY TAMARYN WATKINS

W SHOW ME THE MONEY! If you find yourself resolving to budget smarter, to save money and to keep a better record of your finances, then this will help you turn the numbers nightmare into a useful habit. A personal accountant and a degree in finance aren’t necessary, especially when you can buy it all in a box. Connect looks at how to best stick to your financial resolutions and examines a few choice accounting software packages along with how to get the most out of them.

18 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

ith 2009 done and dusted, you have the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and pursue new resolutions. One goal that should be top of the list in 2010 is whipping your finances into shape. Be clear about what you want to achieve when you make financial resolutions for the year ahead. Think long term and short term, the short-term goal being to gain control over your money so that you can achieve your long-term goals. Accounting software helps you keep an eye on your money situation and to stay on track with related long term financial goals. Stuck in the mindset of “spend now, save later”? You’re not alone. Instead, you should be thinking “save now, spend later”. Experts say you should be saving between 10-15% of your monthly income. With the prices of food, petrol and electricity constantly increasing this seems easier said than done. But remember, every little bit helps.

Once you’ve got all your ducks in a row, you’re going to need some help keeping them in line. This is where personal or business accounting software packages can come in handy. Choose your package wisely as once you’ve chosen the right package, everything you need is right there on your computer. No need to even pick up a calculator, as there’s one on your PC. Keep it simple as the less hassle involved, the easier it will be to stick to your resolutions. WHAT IS ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE?

Very simply, accounting software refers to computer programs that “do the books” for you. The most straightforward program is a single-entry system and is used as a personal finance manager. This system facilitates making payments and keeping records. The double-entry system consists of more complex tools like general ledger, accounts receivable and payable, payroll, inventory, invoicing and time-based billing.


What’s out there?

Before making your choice and final purchase, it’s important to bear in mind that all software providers offer a trial period before you buy. So play around until you find something that suits your needs. QUICKBOOKS

QuickBooks SimpleStart is an accounting package for new and home-based businesses. Helping to easily manage your business’s income and expenditure, it is specifically designed to help entrepreneurs through that first, critical year of business. QuickBooks Pro incorporates all the great elements of QuickBooks SimpleStart, along with added tools and customised features to help bring greater organisation and efficiency to your business’s accounts. QuickBooks Payroll and Payroll Lite manage all aspects regarding payroll, including payroll calculations, leave registers, report writing, tax year-end, and more. OMNI ACCOUNTS WHAT CAN IT DO FOR YOU?

One of the most important factors to look out for when buying accounting software is to check whether the software is user-friendly. The most important functions to look for are: PERSONAL: the basics include Accounts payable and receivable: manage money coming in and going out General ledger and trial balance: compare debits and credits and get an overview of your finances VAT management: keep the taxman happy by keeping on top of your VAT eCommerce and Internet features: connect to your banking website and keep track of payments and purchases. BUSINESS: (including the functionality mentioned above) Billing/invoicing: generate invoices to send to customers/clients Stock/inventory: manage your inventory, based on sales and purchases Purchase order/sales order: order stock and keep track of customers’ orders to populate inventory Debt collection: easily manage the collection of money owed Business expenses: track where your business is spending money Timesheets and financial reports: see where time is spent tp get an overview of finances. PAYROLL: (to be used in conjunction with business software) • Payroll calculation • Leave registers • Reports • Tax year-end • Taw law and statutory updates as they happen

A unique system in that each download/CD delivers the entire range of Omni features allowing for seamless growth at any time, no matter when or where you started. Suitable for any business, small or large, as each package can be tailor-made according to your requirements. Additional individual features can be sampled, and then paid for at a later stage, allowing you to custom-build your own accounting solution. SOFTLINE PASTEL INCHECK

Pastel has launched its first personal finance product, InCheck, and has taken it online, meaning you can control your finances from anywhere you have Internet access. Designed specifically using South African financial services regulations and banking practices, it is more suited to local conditions. All your transactions are captured and recorded in sensible categories and then presented to you in graph format, making it easier to see where and how you spend your money. See your income compared with your spending, and check on your savings progress. With the service being web-based, if your PC or laptop gets stolen, you don’t have to worry about having lost all your data. It’s stored safely and securely by Pastel Online.

WWW.CONNECT.CO.ZA | 19


back to school //BY DEON DU PLESSIS

ONBOARD GRAPHICS Onboard graphics adapters, such as that which the M265 is outfitted with, are perfectly adequate for everyday computing. Add-on cards, known as discrete graphics adapters, provide better performance for games. If gaming is not a priority, and it shouldn’t be for a PC used primarily for its educational benefits, then you don’t need one. PROS

CONS

Onboard graphics make for inexpensive For games, a discrete card is highly computers, and they are adequate for recommended. everyday tasks like surfing the ‘net and writing documents etc.

BUYING ADVICE:

home computing It’s back-to-school time, and you might be wondering how you can best-equip your child or even your whole family to embrace technology in the year ahead. Here at Connect, we highly recommend a home PC and printer, and a highspeed connection to the Internet. HOME COMPUTER ACER VERITON M265 E5300 R5 999.95 (excl monitor) We’ve taken an example of a mid-range home computer and deciphered what each component does for you, and why you need it. This should mean that you’re fully equipped to make sure that you get the best deal for your requirements when the time comes to go shopping.

20 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

SCREEN SCR EEN We firmly believe that bigger is better when it t screens, but b t a goodd compromise i isi th A comes to the Acer P191W. It boasts a quick 5ms response time, runs at a resolution of 1400 x 900, and is nice and bright. PROS

CONS

A good compromise None. A screen like this between size and price. is likely to give you great It’s widescreen, too, giving service for years. you lots of on-screen space for applications.


USB PORTS No computer is complete without lots of USB ports. Since everything from digital cameras to camcorders to printers and more use the USB standard to connect to a PC, the more you have, the better. The M265 has eight USB ports. PROS Allows you to connect multiple USB devices to your PC. CONS Transfer speeds over USB are not the quickest - the theoretical maximum is 480Mbits/s, and the average real-world speed is less.

MEDIA M E DIA Super Sup per Multi Mult DVD Writer: The recordable DVD drive that thee M265 comes c with is great for creating DVDs of videos, pho otograpp and for backing up valuable data. There is also a photographs, very ver r y useful usefuu card reader, which can read various memory cards from cell pphones and digital cameras, making transferring infoo to andd from these devices a breeze. PROS P ROS

CONS

Multiple ways w to read and write data, and ttransfer it to and from cell phones and digital cameras. Most programs progr come on DVDs because of their excellent capacity. storage cap

A DVD drive cannot read Blu-ray movie discs, but this is a very tiny “con” as Blu-ray drives are not yet common in average household PCs.

RAM With 2048MB of system RAM, the M265 will be able to give Windows Vista what it most wants – room to load up all manner of applications, without slowing down overall system response.

PROS More RAM equals more performance when running multiple applications. CONS 3.3GB is the most amount of memory a 32-bit operating system can read. Any more than that and you’re wasting your money.

OPERATING OPERAT OPE O RATING RAT ING SYSTEM SYSTE SYSTE STEM M While this computer comes with Windows Vista Business, we recommend W tthat you upgrade to Windows 7 Professional. It’s free, and well worth the eeffort as your computer will run faster using Windows 7 than it would rrunning Windows Vista, even though the hardware is exactly the same. EEnquire in-store as to how to go about it. PROS

CONS

Windows 7 is a far better operating system You’ll need to go through the upgrade than Windows Vista. It features excellent process yourself, or pay someone to do optimisation which means it runs faster it for you. than Vista does on the same hardware, it has tons of new, user-friendly features, and it just works.

HARD DRIVE 320GB of hard drive space is plenty for family computing. It is enough to store photographs and install the programs that an average family will need, in order to get everyday tasks done, surf the Internet and stay in contact with friends and family. PROS 320GB is a good compromise between too much storage space and too little. Anything less, while still usable, might make you feel restricted. CONS Big downloads such as game demos, application trials and video files can quickly fill even the biggest of hard drives. More space is handy to have, but it’s also pricier.

CE CENTRAL E NTRA R AL PROCESSING PROC R ESSING ESS ING UN UNIT IT (CP ((CPU) U)) The In Intel ntel el Co CCore ree 2 Duo Duo E5300 E5300 att 2.6GHz 2 6GHz isis the 2.6GH thhe component compponentt that comp tha h t determines dete t rmi rmines ines es how h ow quickly your your o programs progr programs ams lo lload, oad, d ho hhow ow ffast astt ta ttasks asks k ar aree fini nished ishe shed h d aand ndd how how qui qu quickly ickly ick kly you your PPCC boots up into W Windows. i dowss. LLots indo ots of RA RAM M in in conj cconjunction onjunctio nc tionn with ith a fas fastt proc pprocessor roces essor means a very responsive computing experience. experience PROS

CONS

Less waiting in all tasks. General navigation, video encoding, highdefinition movie decoding and calculationintensive tasks get the biggest boost from a quick CPU.

The faster a processor is, the more expensive it is. Once you’ve experienced what a really quick processor does for your computer, though, you’ll never want anything but the fastest CPU your budget will allow.

NE NETWORKING ET W WOR WO OR KIN KING G T Gigabit LAN port on the M265 is an ultra-fast network port The that speeds tha at will will tr ttransfer ansfer information across yyour our network at spe p eds of over 1000Mbits/s (as in one thousand megabits per second, hence the “Giga”). The catch is, you have to have a Gigabit router running your network, otherwise you’ll be restricted to far slower speeds of only around 100Mbits per second. PROS

CONS

It makes for incredibly fast data You will need a Gigabit router transfers, if you have the network on your network. Another con is hardware to do it justice. that for wireless networking, an additional USB wireless dongle is required.

WWW.CONNECT.CO.ZA | 21


back to school //BY DEON DU PLESSIS

Printers A value-for-money printer needs to print quickly, make good use of the available ink, and not bankrupt you with frequent cartridge costs. Print quality also needs to be good, particularly as school projects will likely be the main u se of the device. PRINTER HP OFFICEJET 6500 R1 799.95 (excl monitor) We’ve chosen HP’s OfficeJet 6500 Wireless for these reasons. It does absolutely everything a printer could be called on to do, plus it’s fast and prints beautifully.

XL CARTRIDGES HP also offers ink cartridges that contain just over double the amount of ink of regular cartridges. These are generally offered for a price that is less than the price of two regular cartridges, which means they offer fantastic value for money. Best of all, these XL cartridges yield more than twice the amount of pages a regular cartridge does, making their purchase a no-brainer. PROS More than double the yield of regular cartridges, for less than double the price. You also help the environment by creating less plastic waste, as you will discard cartridges less frequently. CONS This is a figure derived from fairly specific printing conditions.

WIRED/WIRELESS W IRE NETWORKING Iff you you have ha a wireless router in your home to connect to the Internet, a w ireeleess printer is a great idea. This is primarily because it reduces overall wireless ““cable cablee clutter”, cl and because it makes sharing the printer between multiple PPCs Cs incredibly inncre easy. PROS P ROS

CONS

Only cable to trip over; easy Only a power p sharing sharing across multiple computers

You will need a wireless home network to make use of the printer’s wireless networking facilities.

INDIVIDUAL INK CARTRIDGES By splitting up the ink cartridges between Black, Cyan, Magenta and Yellow, it is possible to only replace the colours that are most frequently used. Previously, colour inks were combined in a single cartridge, meaning that if Yellow ran out (for example), the entire cartridge needed to be replaced. Not anymore! PROS

CONS

No more worrying that over-use of a single colour means throwing out your colour cartridge with plenty of (other) colours left in it.

Printing with ink at home is still somewhat expensive.

SCAN/FAX/COPY While home printers don’t strictly need to perform these functions, they are handy to have nonetheless. Luckily, the 6500 performs these with ease and speed: copying notes and scanning in documents or images is incredibly easy thanks to a clever interface. PROS Extra functionality for the occasional times you’ll need them CONS Most home users don’t need these features.

PA PAGES AG E S PER PE R MINUTE MINUT MI NUT NUTE E This isis a rating ratin ratin ti g of of how how fast fast a printer can can churn churnn out chur o documents. It varies along with the quality and composition of your documents; text-heavy documents generally print much faster, with photos or image-rich documents printing at a much slower rate. PROS Higher print speeds mean more productivity and less waiting at the printer. CONS Slow prints may frustrate those in a hurry.

22 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010


Software SECURITY SOFTWARE To protect your children and restrict what they do and don’t have access to online, consider a product like McAfee’s Family Protection. It allows you to set up an account for each child, restrict access to content by type, set times the PC can be used and more.

EDUCATIONAL SOFTWARE There is plenty of software available that helps schoolgoers with the local school syllabus, and there is software for every Grade. Big Boet, Schooligans, My Digital School, Future Island and Urban Quest are all locally-produced educational software packages, and some even cover a few life skills as well. If your child loves the computer, these packages are a great way to cultivate a healthy enthusiasm for learning. PRODUCTIVITY SOFTWARE Writing essays and creating projects require software. Consider picking up the Student Edition of Microsoft’s Office 2007 Suite for far less than the cost of the full, commercial version.

LEARN MUSIC Computers can even help people learn music and develop their skills. Sibelius Software has great titles like Groovy Music for teaching music to 5-to-11 year olds and Sibelius Student which helps music students do their composing, arranging and homework assignments. Musical study has never been easier!

http://www.hotmail.com http://www.gmail.com http://www.webmail.co.za http://www.yahoo.com

FREE E-MAIL SERVICES Having an e-mail account is almost as important as a bank account these days. There are several excellent online-only services that let you access e-mail through your browser from any Internet-enabled computer. All they require is a quick sign-up, and off you go.

Internet Uses Once you’re connected to the Internet, you are essentially connected to the collective works and knowledge of humanity. Options to participate in community forums open themselves up to you, as does the opportunity to explore online encyclopaedias, read academic papers, and research any topic that springs to mind. The following online resources are highly recommended sources of information: http://www.wikipedia.org

This community-based encyclopaedia is completely free to use and contains millions of articles in multiple languages.

http://www.britannica.com

The online version of Britannica’s ultra-successful encyclopaedia series.

http://encarta.msn.com

Dictionary, thesaurus and translator.

http://maps.google.com

Searchable maps, complete with directions, aerial views of the Earth and multiple zoom levels.

http://www.brabysmaps.com

A local map site that searches SA maps for street names. It also includes aerial views and multiple zoom levels.

http://earth.google.com

This application is one of the most fascinating programs ever released online, for free. It is a virtual representation of Planet Earth, and you can zoom into almost any area of the planet to see what is there, courtesy of stitched-together satellite imagery.

Internet Connectivity In this modern age, a reliable home Internet connection is essential. For this reason, Connect wholeheartedly endorses ADSL as the best method of accessing the Web, as it performs consistently. However, not all South Africans are in a position to own a Telkom land line (a must-have for ADSL access), making Internet access via local cellular networks or other wireless providers a necessity. ADSL WIRELESS ROUTER This is the most essential piece of equipment for ADSL access. It brings the ADSL signal into your home over your Telkom phone line, and then allows all computers in the home to connect with each other and the Internet via wireless and wired networking. Routers with “IEEE802.11n” on them offer the widest wireless coverage area, meaning computers positioned far from the ADSL router will still receive wireless signal.

PROS Connect all home computers wirelessly to each other and the Internet, ADSL is one of the most stable methods of connecting to the Internet in SA and the price per gigabyte of ADSL data is dropping. CONS Setting it up takes a fair amount of technical expertise, and we recommend you enlist the help of friends or relatives who know what they’re doing if you’re unfamiliar with the technology. ADSL is not mobile.

WIRELESS INTERNET ACCESS Companies like Neotel and iBurst offer Internet connectivity via the wireless radio spectrum. This requires the purchase of a wireless modem (iBurst) or wireless telephone handset (Neotel). PROS

CONS

A very quick setup time compared to getting a phone line installed, no requirement for a Telkom phone line; portability.

Wireless modems are expensive, wireless coverage is not perfect or country-wide yet, and your connectivity depends quite heavily on your geographic location as well as the weather.

3G CARD/USB MODEM Local cellular companies MTN, Vodacom and Cell C offer various packages for connecting to the Internet. To make use of them involves a 3G card that slots into a notebook, or a USB modem that requires a SIM card, which then just plugs directly into your PC via an available USB port. PROS

CONS

3G USB modems and cards can travel with you, and will work wherever there is cellular coverage. Download speeds are potentially very fast.

Data costs on 3G are more expensive than data costs on ADSL, and actual download speeds are often nowhere near the theoretical maximum.

WWW.CONNECT.CO.ZA | 23


MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICES for cost effective print environment with HP

W

ith the cost of doing business on the rise and the tough economic climate meaning there’s less revenue to go around, it’s not surprising that small businesses are doing everything they can to cut down on their technology spend. But with printing playing such an important role in the image your company projects, it’s one of the last places you’d want to see budgets shrinking. The good news is that HP’s been working at the problem for a good many years now and can today ensure that from purchasing your laser or ink-based printer, through its entire lifecycle, you’re likely to see the many cost saving feature built into these machines delivering time and again. Let’s take a closer look. ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS HP has built each of the printers in its Inkjet and Laserjet lineups to deliver the best possible efficiency for a given print volume and print quality. Knowing what your business is going to need to print and what volume it’s likely to print each month are of the most important aspects of managing your print costs. So ask yourself some questions: • How many pages does my business print per month? • How often do we print in colour? • What type of colour printing do we do? (Does my company create its own marketing materials and demand photoquality colour, or do we use colour to enhance everyday documents?) • How many people in my business will be using the printer?

NO COMPROMISE QUALITY – INVESTING IN THE OFFICEJET PRO If your business prints lab-quality photos or generates printshop quality colour, choose an HP Officejet Pro. Inkjets are an excellent choice for colour printing on glossy and other special papers. And with many years of building and perfecting inkjets under the belt, you can rest assured that inkjet printing from HP is a cost-effective choice for your business. Choose an Officejet Pro, HPs latest innovation in Inkjet technology if you want to: • Print professional colour documents for up to 50% less cost per page than lasers with HP Officejet inks; • Print water-resistant documents on plain paper using pigment inks designed for business; • Save money by replacing only the individual pigment ink cartridge that runs out; and • Get more pages and fewer cartridge replacements with available high-capacity cartridges.

LEGENDARY RELIABILITY – LASERJET If your business has more than 10 users likely to be using a printer regularly, LaserJets are an excellent choice. That said however, there are also models suited for individuals and small workgroups. To make the most appropriate choice, check the duty cycle specification, which recommends the maximum number of copies per month and be honest about how many of your users are likely to need a colour printer at their disposal. By answering these two questions and providing your printing is pretty standard in nature i.e. you’re not in a creative environment such as desktop publishing – you’ll be able to gauge whether a laser printer is the right choice for you and furthermore, which of the models suits you best. The strengths of HP LaserJets (which work with toner rather than ink) include: • Their legendary reliability; • Their high print speed; • Their ability to support larger print volumes; • Their ability to deliver consistent quality, regardless of the paper used and the print coverage required.


TOP COST SAVING REASONS to choose an HP printer

ENERGY EFFICIENT Keep an eye out for Energy Star qualified printers (most HP printers meet this specification), since this means the printer conforms to the rigorous energy efficiency guidelines set by the EPA and the U.S. Department of Energy. These printers consume less power in an on state, sleep more deeply and in the long term take far less energy to run. Also consider an HP All-in-One rather than buying three or four separate, stand-alone office machines to perform the functions combined in the HP All-in-One that prints, scans, copies, and faxes better than most standalone units – and saves on energy. PAPER EFFICIENT One of the best ways to save cost is to save on paper usage. This is achieved through printing (and copying) on both sides of the page, and today, many HP printers and All-in-Ones offer the ability to print and copy on both sides (or duplex) automatically. Those that don’t, usually come with printer driver support that enables you to manually use this useful feature. Another smart tip is to make use of HP Smart Web Printing (built into many of HP’s printer drivers). It allows you to print only the parts of web pages that interest you; leaving the ads, headers and footers out of the final product and best of all, out of your print bill. TONER/INK EFFICIENT You can also save a bundle by matching the right consumables to the job. Many HP inkjet printers can accommodate highcapacity XL ink cartridges to give you a lower per-page cost and the convenience of less frequent intervention. The same goes for lasers and their accompanying highyield cartridges. On the ink front, you need to consider the many HP printer models that offer individual-colour inks, which allow you to replace only what you need. Lastly, take advantage of savings of approximately 10% when you order Original HP ink in multi-packs, twin packs, or combo packs.

TIME EFFICIENT Many HP printers and All-in-Ones offer in-printer functions that can save you time by reducing the back-and-forth between your printer and PC. These benefits include: • Quick Forms is a very useful feature, available on several HP Photosmart All-in-Ones and allows you to print graph paper, Sudoku puzzles, mazes, notebook paper, and more, directly from your printer; • Edit photos. With most HP Photosmart printers, you can insert a memory card or flash drive directly into the printer and edit your photos using a built-in colour display. Remove red-eye, crop, or apply effects to photos in just a few touches; • Scan directly to e-mail or a network folder. While most HP scanners and HP All-in-Ones allow you to scan to your computer or to send scans to e-mail when you return to your desk, being able to do so without having to interact with your PC at all can be a great time-saver. Send documents to e-mail or network folder at the touch of a button.


daily news //BY TAMARYN WATKINS

RSS FEEDS

The content you want, where you want it.

Here’s something to think about – how do you filter out and access only the information that interests you without having to return to each and every site you’ve visited every time you want more content? The answer is Real Simple Syndication, also known as RSS. This month, Connect solves the mystery of the RSS feed, where to put it, how to use it and how to make it work for you.

26 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010


Other RSS feeding habits

It’s easy to find RSS feeds, once you know what you’re looking for. If you decide that you like the website you’re currently browsing, have a quick look around. Look for an RSS logo, or text that says ‘get our RSS feed’. That will point you to where the feed is – it’s easy to find the feed, because website publishers want you to subscribe to their updates. Decide what sites you like the most, what news you need and what blogs you can’t live without reading, and you’re practically done. Next step? Picking out an RSS reader that suits you and your needs. RSS READERS

RSS WHAT?

You’re browsing the local news sites, checking up on foreign exchange rates, looking at this weekend’s movie guides and glancing through restaurant reviews. Suddenly you see a button that says “Get This RSS Feed”. You pause and wonder what this is. Wonder no more – this is your direct link to that website and its content. Instead of having to constantly check for updates, you’ll be updated when they update - simply by directing that link to a destination of your choice. An RSS feed allows you to subscribe to a site’s content and allows it to find you, wherever you choose it to find you. Delivered to your e-mail inbox, gathered in your RSS reader, sent straight to your desktop or beamed out to your mobile phone wherever you are, your feeds can find you. WHY DO I WANT RSS FEEDS?

RSS is the fix for the time-draining hours spent trawling the Internet for the news and content you need. It allows you to be instantly informed and frequently updated by retrieving the latest content from sites you have subscribed to. It ensures you don’t miss anything, and it stores it unread for you to read at your leisure. RSS feeds are displayed in a standardised, simple format so it’s much easier on your bandwidth load. Using RSS feeds is just another smart way of protecting your privacy, as it allows you circumvent the need to sign up to a site’s newsletter, which usually results in an onslaught of constant unwelcome communications.

When it comes to RSS readers, your appetite will dictate your needs. There are a lot of choices when it comes to RSS readers, but don’t be put off by the almost limitless options. Below are two web-based feed readers that work for us. They are both compatible with all browsers.

If you’re not keen on using e-mail or a reader for RSS feeds, you can also access RSS feeds from your desktop or mobile phone. Desktop widgets • Requires an installation of a program like NewsGator, myYahoo, etc. • Add your feeds and keep updated, from your system tray through small pop-up boxes. • You can select how often you want to be updated, and what stories should be shown via pop ups.

Google Reader: This is one of the easiest RSS readers to use. It works with your Google Mail account login and is very efficient. Simply paste the address of your chosen website into the “add a subscription” box, and you’re ready to rock and read. Google Reader is searchable, which means that if you find something you like, you can search for more of it. This reader also allows you to create folders and organise all your feeds into categories, making your reading load that much more manageable.

Mobile phone • Most mobile browsers have the option, on the browser menu, to ‘add web feed’. Simply follow the instructions. • http://www.litefeeds.com synchronises with your online subscriptions. If you’ve read it on your phone, it will show as ‘read’ on your webbased reader. • Most web-based readers are accessible from your mobile phone, such as Bloglines.

Bloglines Bloglines is a simple two-panel interface that allows you to subscribe from your browser toolbar. It allows you to fully customise your reading experience, allows you to set up e-mail alerts, and is accessible from anywhere that you have an Internet connection. Don’t want to use an RSS reader? You can also subscribe to a site through e-mail - all you need to do is find the box that says “enter e-mail address to subscribe” .

Google mail alerts • Email updates of the latest Google results around a specific term/topic of your choice. • Enter the term you’d like to monitor, select how often you want results and how you want them.

WHAT SHOULD I FEED MY RSS READER?

One person could drown in the sheer volume of content available on the Internet. How do you decide what’s best for you? Simple. How do you decide what underwear to wear? You pick the most comfortable, most convenient and most interesting ones. Just like picking your feeds. Whatever your information appetite; you’re sure to find the RSS to feed it – it’s all out there, if you want it. WWW.CONNECT.CO.ZA | 27


powerpoint 101 //BY TIANA CLINE

BECOME A POWERPOINT

PRO POWER TIPS FOR PRESENTATIONS

When was the last time you did a presentation using a large piece of paper and a pen? More than likely, you tried to use MS PowerPoint to come up with something a bit more professional-looking, but it can be somewhat daunting, with its many features and options. Get ready to power up your PowerPoint now - Connect explains some of its more ‌ powerful points.

28 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010


POWER SHORTCUTS TO GREAT PRESENTATIONS CTRL+N > Create a new presentation CTRL+M > Insert a new slide HOW TO > CREATING PAGES WITH SLIDES AND DESCRIPTIVE TEXT

If you want to create printable pages that have notes or descriptive text with each slide, PowerPoint has a feature designed to do just this, called Notes Pages or Speaker’s Notes (depending on which version you’re using). To view the Notes page for any slide, go to the View menu and select Notes Pages. You will see an image of your slide there, and a placeholder for adding your script, notes, or any other text you wish. You can cut-and-paste text from Word into the slide, if you like. To print these pages, bring up the Print dialogue, and at the bottom of the dialogue where it says “Print What:”, select Notes Pages. These pages were originally designed to be used as audience hand outs (with space for the audience to take notes) but are also used by many as speaker’s notes: the text block would have the script of the presentation, to be used by the speaker. HOW TO > MAKING PRESENTATION FILES SMALLER

Before PowerPoint 97, there was no internal file compression code inside of PowerPoint, and files could get pretty big quickly. The most common cause of large files is the addition of large bitmaps (images). PowerPoint 97 compresses these bitmaps, but previous versions do not. To keep your presentations as small as possible, try reducing the resolution of your bitmaps, which will bring their size down tremendously. For viewing on screen, the best resolution is around 96 dpi. However, if you want to print the slides, you may want to make the bitmaps at least 150dpi or higher, to make sure that they are clear. Also, the bitmap format can make a big difference to your file sizes. JPEG and PNG both have good internal compression code. GIF has some, but not as good as JPEG. BMP files are the largest and TIFF files will also be very large.

HANDY HINT: Sometimes, as you’re working on a presentation, you’ll notice that the file seems to get bigger for no reason. To get rid of this “bloating”, save the file using “File/Save As” and give the file a new name. This can reduce the file size by up to 50%.

CTRL+D > Make a copy of the selected slide CTRL+O > Open a presentation CTRL+W > Close a presentation CTRL+P > Print a presentation CTRL+S > Save a presentation F5 > Run a presentation

ALT+F4 > Quit PowerPoint CTRL+F > Find text, formatting, and special items CTRL+H > Replace text, specific formatting, and special items CTRL+K > Insert a hyperlink F7 > Check spelling

ESC > Cancel an action CTRL+Z > Undo an action CTRL+Y > Redo or repeat an action F6 > Switch to the next pane (clockwise)

SHIFT+F6 > Switch to the previous pane (counterclockwise)

WWW.CONNECT.CO.ZA | 29


powerpoint 101

HOW TO > USING DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS WITHIN ONE PRESENTATION

Users of PowerPoint 2000 and older will only have two background designs that are automatically supplied with the Masters (counting both the Slide Master and the Title Master). However, you can have any design you want on any slide. From the Format menu, select Background. Check the box that says “omit background items” and this will make the slide ignore the Slide Master’s design. You are now free to add whatever design you want to this slide. If you want to do this to many slides at once, go to the Slide Sorter, select the slides, and then use the Format menu command.

SIX SIMPLE TRICKS: 1.1 Displaying keyboard shortcuts in Tool Tips

QUICK TIP: If you choose to put a photographic background on many of your slides instead of doing it once on the Master, your file size may increase dramatically

If you’d like to see the available keyboard shortcuts for menus, commands, and toolbar buttons, go to Tools/Customise, click on the Options tab, and click on “show shortcut keys in screen tips”. 2. 2 Preview fonts in the toolbar

HOW TO > EDIT DRAWINGS AND CREATE SOFT SHADOWS

Anything you draw with the pencil tool, you can edit. To get the object into “points mode”, either doubleclick on the object, or select it then hit the Enter key. You will then see points at every vertex, which you can move. You can add points by holding down the shift key and clicking, you can subtract points by holding down the ALT key while clicking, and you can of course just drag points around. You can create “soft” shadows for square or round objects that sit on a solid color background. Make a copy of the object, then change its fill to be shaded from black to the background color, with the shading set with black going from the center out to the background color at the edges. Make this object about 150% bigger than the original object, and put it behind the object. This will give you the effect of “soft” shadows. HOW TO > GET SCROLLING CREDITS

Scrolling text can be an effective means of ending or beginning a presentation. Click the desired text. When the Custom Animation text box opens, click the Effects tab. Click the arrow at the right side of the Entry Animation list box to expand the list. Locate Crawl From Bottom and select it. Check the list box labelled Introduce Text. If it isn’t set to All at Once, click the arrow at the right side of the list box and select All at Once. Click the Timing tab and select the radio buttons labelled Animate and Automatically. Click OK to close the dialog box and save your changes. 30 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

If you would like to see previews of the fonts in the font selection of the formatting toolbar, go to Tools/Customize, click on the Options tab, and click “List font names in their font”, and click Close. 3 Using CTRL-drag to copy 3.

You can make a copy of any object by holding down the CTRL key while you drag on the object. You will then “drag off” a new copy. 4 Setting the default text style 4.

If you want to change the style of the text that appears when you type things that aren’t part of the title or the slide body, do the following: Make sure no objects are selected, then from the Format menu, select Font. Make all the changes that you want there, and then click OK. From that point on, new text will be created in that style. KNOW NOW: To Set the formatting for the title or slide body objects, go to the Slide Master and format these objects on the master. 5 Changing cases 5.

If you have text that is in the wrong case, select the text, and then click Shift+F3 until it changes to the case style that you like. Clicking Shift+F3 toggles the text case between ALL CAPS, lower case, and Initial Capital styles. You’ll be surprised how often you use this once you get the hang of it! 6 Nudging objects 6.

You can use the arrow keys to move objects gradually, for perfect positioning. This is a big win for mouse-free laptop users. Select the object, then use your arrow keys. Each press of the key will move the object 0.2mm but if you hold down the ALT key while nudging, or if you have the grid turned off, you can move the objects one pixel at a time.


PRODUCT REVIEWS // BY DEON DU PLESSIS

ALL THE BEST FOR 2010

W

elcome to 2010! I trust Santa’s gift choices weren’t too influenced by the global recession and that you all had a restful, relaxing holiday period and are ready to tackle the new year! We have quite a bit of an educational focus in the reviews section this month, with a whole lot of educational software reviews, a very nice Sony Vaio notebook, a keyboard and mouse set as well as a Lexmark printer that is well-suited to home use on review. There’s a lot of help with school work to be found out there, as a lot of local companies are putting in some good effort to creating great-quality, locallyrelevant educational titles. On the New Year front, here’s hoping 2010 is as amazing a year as it has the potential to be, and that the World Cup in June is the incredible, revenue-generating spectacle we’re all hoping it will be. I’ve no doubt South Africa can, and will, pull off a brilliant event and show the world just what we’re capable of. That’s it from my side; good luck with your New Year resolutions, and here’s to a 2010 filled with awesome tech innovations and ever-dropping Internet connectivity prices. Cheers Deon

While we make every effort to ensure pricing is accurate before we go to print, sometimes through circumstances we have no control over, the prices in Connect may differ from those you’ll see on store shelves. In all cases, shelf pricing takes precedence.

32 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

REVIEW WS 34 35 36 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 46 47 48 50 51 52 53 54 55 58 59 60

Sony Vaio VGN-FW57GH Notebook ok Logite i chh XX32 3200 Speakkers Microsoft Wireless Desktop 3000 Philips Voice Recorder Livescribe Pulse Smartpen Logitech C300 Webcam Microsoft Wireless Mouse 6000 Verb Ve rbat atim im SSma mart rtdi disk sk 11TB TB Ext Exter erna nall L xmar Lexm Le ark rk Pr P estitige Pres tige PPro ro80 8055 Pr Prin P inte i ter tr Samsung Star Belkin N150 Enhanced Wireless Router Belkin N150 Enhanced USB Adapter Bellll SStu Be tudi dioo 42 4200 00 DDUO UO PPho hone ness McAfee Total Protection 2010 Pape Pa perP rPor ortt 12 PDFF Converter Profes PD f sion i all 6 Professor Teaches Windows 7 Urbban Questt Typing Instructor Platinum Get Ahead Grade 7 Future Island Books


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ACER TIMELINE 5810T NOTEBOOK

This ultra-slim notebook can keep going for an entire day on a single charge.

Sony Vaio VGN-FW57GH NEED TO KNOW • Top-of-the-line 16.4” notebook • High-end hardware components • Includes a Blu-ray drive and HDMI output • Stunning ‘Full -HD’ screen R19 999.95 HP DV6-1150EI ENTERTAINMENT NOTEBOOK

With three gigabytes of RAM, a 320GB hard drive and a 2.13GHz CPU at its core, this dv6 Entertainment notebook offers good performance for your money.

PERFECT COMPANIONS

Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 3000 This small, wireless mouse is perfect for travelling. It also has a USB receiver that snaps into its body for easy transport.

SONY’S latest Vaio notebook is a work of genius and beauty. Not only does it look amazing, but it’s got all the right components under the hood to give it serious processing firepower. In addition, it also comes with a Bluray optical drive and a large 16.4” screen that supports full HD, as well as an HDMI port for watching Blu-ray movies on a supported HD TV set. And the goodness doesn’t stop there. Sony has given it a very generous 6GB of system memory, a 500GB hard drive and a powerful 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor. To make full use of the 6GB of RAM, the notebook runs Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit, the biggest and best edition of Microsoft’s newest operating system. Powering the system’s graphics is an ATI Mobility Radeon HD4650 mobile graphics card, which is even good enough to play games on. When you put this all together, in nerd terms it’s computing heaven. If you thought the gift-giving season is over, you’d be wrong: Sony has stuffed this notebook to the gills with useful software. The likes of a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office 2007, Adobe’s excellent Photoshop Elements software, McAfee’s Security Centre and Spy Sweeper are all among the programs you’ll find on the Vaio’s hard drive once you start Windows for the first time. There is even a small webcam application that lets you capture video from the integrated webcam. It has a fun little feature that lets you use your face (as captured by the webcam) as the face of people in various photographs; it’s good for a laugh if nothing else. Other features include wireless-n networking capabilities, an integrated card reader, three USB ports, VGA out (for connecting to a projector or external monitor), and the nicest overall design of any notebook outside of the Mac stable. Sony has pulled out all the stops to create a notebook that looks very 21st-Century. The outside of the notebook is metallic grey with a silver interior, the power connector and On button are built into the screen’s hinge, the keyboard’s keys are large, spaced far apart and are easy to press, with an overall look very similar to that of an Apple Macbook

34 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

keyboard. Simply put, it’s a beautiful notebook. The integrated speakers are hidden behind a silver grille at the front of the notebook. They’re not very loud, though, and they distort a bit at high volumes. Sound output is supported by Dolby Surround technology that can be activated to provide a ‘simulated surround sound experience’. It’s not as impressive as it sounds until you connect to a TV or amplifier that can make use of it; then, it’s simply amazing. We did notice the touchpad to be a wee bit sticky, though, and not as smooth beneath our fingers as we would have liked. We definitely recommend a good mouse with this notebook as a result. Despite the trackpad gripe, this is still an outstanding, amazing notebook. It has all the hardware necessary to make any task you undertake fast and responsive, it has great entertainment options and can double as a Blu-ray player in your living room if you want it to. While it’s rather expensive, everything it has to offer makes it well worth the expenditure. NOTEWORTHY SPECS • • • • • • • • •

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit Intel Core 2 Duo T9600 Processor @ 2.8GHz 16.4” Full HD Widescreen LCD (1920x1200) Blu-ray drive for HD movies, DVDs and CDs HDMI Output for HD TVs 500GB Hard Drive 6GB System RAM Intel Wi-Fi Link 5100 (Wireless IEEE802.11n) ATI Mobility Radeon HD4650 Graphics (1GB)

PROS

CONS

• Excellent hardware • Blu-ray player, HDMI output, Dolby Surround sound • Slick, 21st-Century design • Comfortable keyboard

• Trackpad could be smoother • Integrated speakers distort at high volumes • It’s rather expensive

OVERALL RATING


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5

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LOGITECH X210 SPEAKERS

Logitech Z320 Desktop Speakers NEED TO KNOW • Stereo desktop speakers • Glossy plastic finish • Smooth volume control action • 3.5mm audio jack R699.95

LOGITECH’S latest generation of hardware looks incredible. Apparently the company has returned to their well-worn drawing board to refine their already-excellent design philosophy, and the results are a fresh, new mix of function, aesthetics and quality. These new speakers are a great example of this. The Z320 speakers are enclosed in heavy plastic; they have a glossy black finish and a curved design that makes them look like the letter A, if the left side of the A was a concave curve and not a straight line. The volume knob is present on the rightmost speaker, and it’s recessed somewhat in an eye-pleasing silver circle of plastic. As the knob is rotated, it gives a very solid, high-quality feel. Volume knobs on devices not created with such care are often loose to the touch, which is a sign of a poor design job. Not here, thankfully, and never in a Logitech product. After all that you might be wondering what the sound quality is like. We have to say, it’s really good if you’re the only one sitting near the computer and you don’t need to be blasted off your seat by your games or music. Due to a lack of a subwoofer (that big square box seen with other sets that produces really deep sounds, known as bass), these speakers don’t quite manage to produce the kind of rumble required to blow explosions, gunshots and other sounds typically found in the average action game these days out your bedroom window and into the neighbour’s ears. They do disperse the sound quite well around a room, though. In short, they are loud, but not ear-shatteringly so, with excellent dispersion throughout a single room. While writing this review, we were listening to music that was playing through these speakers, and it turned out to be a very good experience. The Z320s, when dedicated to providing sound for a single person - at a

desk, without any requirements for very high volumes - proved to be very capable. Volume was more than good enough to rock along to, and there was no fear we were upsetting people (much) in the office across the hall. These are single-room speakers, as opposed to speakers for a house. We did notice an electronic hiss that became audible as we cranked the volume up when connected to a PC. When the Z320s were plugged into an iPod, however, this hiss was not noticeable, and thus was likely caused by the computer’s sound card as opposed to any deficiency in the speakers themselves. If you notice the same issue, we recommend you investigate your computer’s sound capabilities before concluding that it’s the speakers. As a set of desktop speakers, we have been rather impressed by this rather Spartan offering from Logitech. While they do not come with a subwoofer, they beat most other basic stereo speaker offerings from other manufacturers easily in terms of overall audio and build quality. We are sure that anyone looking for a good quality desktop speaker set will be very happy with these. If, however, you’re looking for a big, punchy set to upset your neighbours with, these will only annoy over time, as opposed to all at once.

There’s nothing quite like a subwoofer to give a stereo speaker set extra kick. Logitech’s X210 set is an economical place to start looking.

LABTEC SPIN 85

Labtec is owned by Logitech, and fills the value segment of the accessories market. For basic sound on your PC, this set will get the job done.

NOTEWORTHY SPECS • 360-degree sound dispersion • Rated at 10 Watts RMS • 3.5mm audio jack

PROS

CONS

• Very stylish design • Volume knob is sturdy • Pleasing, but not ear-shattering volume • Solid sound reproduction across the spectrum

• Not party speakers • No subwoofer means deep sounds lack a bit

OVERALL RATING

LOGITECH X530 5.1 SPEAKERS

If you want to make some serious noise AND have surround sound capabilities, the X530 5.1 set will deliver.

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Microsoft Wireless Desktop 3000 LOGITECH CORDLESS DESKTOP MX3200 LASER

Some may prefer Logitech’s stylings and keyboard layout; this MX3200 laser desktop set will certainly scratch that itch.

MICROSOFT WIRELESS LASER DESKTOP 7000

For more of an edge, check out Microsoft’s Wireless Laser Desktop 7000. Those lines are quite intimidating, but they’re also very, very cool.

LOGITECH PERFORMANCE MOUSE MX

It might cost a lot, but Logitech’s Performance Mouse MX has got it all – speed, looks, performance and comfort.

NEED TO KNOW • Mid-range keyboard and mouse set • Mouse uses BlueTrack technology • Both keyboard and mouse are wireless R799.95

MICROSOFT hardware has a very good, solid reputation. The company produces well-priced, durable hardware in addition to the mountain of software with the Microsoft logo on it, and any purchase of Microsoft hardware is a good one. At least, that’s how we see it. The latest innovation in the world of desktop peripherals has been new ways for mice to track on various surfaces, resulting in a superior mousing experience. Microsoft’s contribution to that wave of innovation is called Blue Track technology, which uses a new technique to make sure a mouse “sees” more detail on whatever surface it is resting on so that it can track better. It was exciting news, then, that this set comes with a mouse equipped with Blue Track technology. In addition to this awesomeness, the keyboard included in the package is a real looker. It’s low-slung with a very thin profile, and the keys are laid out in Microsoft’s typical style, with a slender Enter button and a nice big chunky Backspace key, as well as two full-sized Shift buttons. This is a good thing for anyone who has become accustomed to Microsoft’s keyboard layout, as it encourages a new purchase. When pressed, the keys give very pleasing (and very quiet) feedback to let you know they’ve been pressed; this makes typing on them a pleasure, while ensuring fewer mistakes. The function keys are the only real irritation with this set, as they are much smaller than on other MS keyboards. Worse, the usually ‘alternate’ key functions like print, save, spell check etc. are enabled by default, which some people (us included) do not like. Each time the computer restarts and an F key is required, the Function Lock key needs to be pressed; this takes time to get used to, but it’s still annoying. That aside, the overall quality of the keyboard is really good, and is up to Microsoft’s usual high standards. Comfortable keys, good tactile feedback and probably the best overall key layout go a long way towards helping us recommend this set based on the keyboard alone.

36 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

That said, the fact that the mouse features Blue Track technology simply makes the deal all the sweeter. To begin with, it’s a very comfortable, ambidextrous mouse; it has a 4-direction scroll wheel and two buttons that can have various functions assigned to them, most commonly Forward and Back for quick Windows and Internet exploring. Using it is as easy as breathing, and best of all, it tracks beautifully anywhere you care to use it, thanks to Blue Track. Our only complaint about the mouse is the fact that the two additional buttons occupy different sides of the mouse; it’s rather nice having forward and back buttons next to one finger only, but we can understand why MS would go the ‘balanced’ route – so that right- and left-handed people can enjoy the extra buttons. If you’re a fan of Microsoft hardware and looking for a new keyboard and mouse set, there‘s no reason not to pick up this particular package; the mouse is excellent, the keyboard looks good and types really nicely, and the wirelessness of it all makes for reduced on-desk cable clutter. That’s an all-round win! NOTEWORTHY SPECS • • • • • •

Works on Mac and PC Uses the 2.4GHz wireless spectrum Battery status indicators Spill-resistant, quiet-touch keys Enhanced function keys 4-way scrolling

PROS

CONS

• Mouse is ambidextrous • Keyboard is comfortable, keys are quiet • Blue Track delivers excellent tracking results

• Function keys not enabled by default • Some may not like the positioning of the 2 extra mouse buttons • USB dongle is rather large

OVERALL RATING


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Philips Voice Recorder LFH0667 NEED TO KNOW • Sensitive voice recorder • Converts recorded audio to text • Dragon Naturally Speaking Recorder Edition bundled Web exclusive @ www.incredible.co.za

DRAGON NATURALLY SPEAKING 10 PREFERRED

This edition of Dragon does far more than just transcoding audio files. You can command your PC using your voice and dictate documents, just don’t neglect the training.

SIGNIFICANT

OTHER

You speak, they listen, they never, ever forget. You won’t need a device to record voices, ever again. There is no training required, either, this is a built-in function!

38 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

DRAGON Naturally Speaking is a piece of software we’ve given a lot of attention to in the past few months. This month, we had the opportunity to review a voice recorder from Philips that interfaces with Dragon Recorder Edition to transcode your recorded words into a document. The experience was rather fun, and of course served to emphasise what we already know about Dragon – without a lot of training, useable accuracy is not possible. The Philips Voice Recorder itself is a small, handheld recording device that can store up to 24 hours of audio. The built-in microphone is very sensitive, and it can clearly pick up voices when lying on a table, in your lap, or virtually anywhere within 3 metres of the voice source. Getting the hang of operating the device requires reading over the instructions booklet that comes with it. Without doing so, the voice recorder’s buttons won’t make much sense to you; admittedly, careful study of each button’s function will eventually reveal what is expected of you, but honestly, reading the instruction booklet is just so much easier. In short, the buttons allow you to set the time and date, navigate the various folders that the device creates to store data in and initiate and delete recorded files. Once you’ve wrapped your head around how to start recording, it’s time to explore Dragon’s audio transcoding options. The software analyses audio files and extracts words from there, which it then dumps into a Wordpadlike document window for editing. The idea here is that you can talk into the device, and then instead of listening to the audio and typing the contents up yourself, Dragon does all that for you. This is excellent for journalists, creative people who like logging their bright ideas into a recording device, and anyone who fancies keeping a verbal diary of events. Right out the box, however, the accuracy of the transcription of audio to words is probably around the 80% mark. This is because Dragon needs –

and we can’t emphasise this enough, NEEDS – to be trained to accurately recognise what your spoken words sound like. Since all people have their own way of talking, it’s nigh-on impossible for a program to recognise all spoken words with 100% accuracy without any training at all. Training is fairly simple; once you’ve got your document transcribed into text in front of you, highlight any word that the program mis-transcoded, and hit Correction or “Correct That” from the right-click menu. Select the correct word from the list, or type it in yourself, and that will be saved for future reference. There is also an Accuracy Centre that lets you add individual words to the program’s vocabulary; over time, as you make corrections, the software will become even more accurate. To have your text properly punctuated will require you to select the “add commas and full stops” check mark in the Options menu, and be sure to say “Next paragraph” whenever you start a new paragraph. This is a wee bit cumbersome, but you’ll get used to it in no time. This is a very useful device, especially if you do a lot of interviews. The software takes some getting used to, but once you’ve put in the effort, accuracy improves dramatically. NOTEWORTHY SPECS • • • • •

2GB storage space 24 hour audio recording capacity Sensitive microphone Requires 2 AAA batteries (included) USB cable for connection to PC PROS

CONS

• Useful for interviewers • 24-hour voice capacity • Makes converting voice to text very easy

• High accuracy takes a lot of training • This version of Dragon is for voice transcoding only

OVERALL RATING


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5

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The Smartpen comes with headphones that double as microphones, for rich surround recording capabilities.

Livescribe Pulse Smartpen NEED TO KNOW • Rechargeable digital pen • Take notes or draw by hand, upload to a PC • Records audio while you write notes • Plays back audio from note-taking sessions R1 999.95

BACK in our first issue we reviewed the IntelliPen, a note-capturing device that relied on a wireless receiver clipped to the top of a page to capture your handwriting. This month, we review a new digital pen – the Livescribe Pulse Smartpen – that takes note-taking to the next level by including the ability to record audio, as well as a few clever tricks to make you go: Wow! The Smartpen records your handwriting by means of a sensor mounted near its tip; this sensor takes up to 70 images per second of the paper you’re writing on as you move the pen to determine how it’s being moved. The paper that comes with the pen has thousands of tiny microdots on its surface, and it’s these that the sensor ‘reads’ to determine where exactly on the page it is being held. Astute readers might be wondering if the pen works on regular paper, and unfortunately the answer is no. Paper refills are available from retailers, but of course this is extra. This proprietary paper also has various icons on it, which the pen can identify and use to activate functions. Start recording, stop recording, start playback and more using these icons. Livescribe describes it as “paperbased computing”, and they’re not wrong. The pen has 1GB of flash memory that is used to store the documents you generate; these take up minimal room, however, so you’re probably wondering why it needs so much. The answer is to store audio: the Smartpen’s second biggest trick is its ability to record audio from your surrounding environment as you’re taking notes. Its main trick, and the one that may convince many to purchase the Smartpen, is its ability to play back audio from any point on the document the pen is touched to. Say you’re taking notes and recording audio in a history class, and the lecturer says “The Great Fire of London in 1666…” and at that moment you wrote “London burns” on your note paper. By pressing onto that sentence with the pen you will begin playback of what the lecturer was saying at

INTELLIPEN WITH WIRELESS RECEIVER

that point, allowing you to refresh your memory of what was going on at the time you made your note. The microphone is built into the pen, and it’s very sensitive, so clearly picking up a lecturer’s voice across a lecture hall is possible. It also has an OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screen at the back of the pen, used for displaying messages, such as the results of calculations. Yes, the Smartpen is not smart in name only; it also does calculations, translations (well, basic translations of specific words), can play a 9-note piano of your own creation, and more. These are fun distractions, though, rather than everyday-useful functions. A rather glaring omission from the Smartpen’s bag of tricks is the ability to convert handwriting to text. If that feature is desired, you need to pay for optical character recognition software called MyScribe, a third-party application that does the conversion. Livescribe’s Pulse Smartpen is a very cool 21st-Century gadget that will transform how you take and make use of handwritten notes. It’s not without its flaws, proprietary microdotted paper being the worst offender followed by a lack of OCR conversion software in the box, but its concept is solid and its execution laudable.

INTELLIPEN WIRED DIGITAL PEN AND MOUSE

NOTEWORTHY SPECS • • • • • •

Sensor: Infra-red camera Processor: ARM Screen: 96x18 OLED Display Storage: 1GB (stores 100+ hours of audio) Battery: 300mAH Rechargeable lithium PC Connectivity: USB charging cradle

PROS

CONS

• Audio playback at point of note is ingenious • 1GB of memory can store more than 100 hours of audio • Handy for saving notes to a PC

• Doesn’t work with regular paper • No OCR software included • Headphones are 2.5mm, not 3.5mm

OVERALL RATING

This ingenious handwriting note-taker lets you save your notes to your PC AND convert them to computer text without an additional purchase.

This pen is slightly less Intelli than its cousin, but it’s still useful for pen-based mousing and recording a signature for digital use.

PERFECT COMPANIONS Check online for a program called Myscript for Livescribe. It is a handwritten-text to computer-text conversion tool; it’s free for 30 days, but then requires purchasing.

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Logitech 1.3MP Webcam C300 NEED TO KNOW

OZAKI CM699 2.1 SPEAKERS

A powerful multimedia computer/personal theatre consisting of 2.1 channel magnetically shielded speakers designed for PC.

LOGITECH VISION PRO FOR MAC

Carl Zeiss optics provide image-perfect detailed clarity, with premium autofocus. 2MP sensor delivers quality images and RightLight technology adapts to lighting conditions. Excellent, hands-free audio with the built-in microphone.

• True 1.3MP sensor (1280 x 1024 pixels) • 30 frames per second • Snapshot button, 5MP photos (software enhanced) • Built-in microphone with Logitech RightSound™ technology • Universal clip fits notebooks, LCD or CRT monitors R599.95

KEEP in visual contact with loved ones abroad, have face-to-face conversations with colleagues in a different part of the office block, have meetings with global suppliers on the other side of the world – the possibilities are endless when it comes to the Logitech C300 Webcam. The webcam is easily controlled from the device itself, with a focusing ring, activity light, snapshot button and built-in microphone all in one package. It’s easy to install, and comes with a QuickStart guide to help you find your bearings. Once you’ve installed your webcam software, it will prompt you to connect the webcam to the computer’s USB port, then a series of notifications leads to detection of the device and the webcam is quickly ready to use. A nifty feature that comes along with this webcam is Logitech Vid™ technology that provides free, fast and simple video calling to any contacts with the software installed. It’s built-in, so you’re ready to show face straight away. The webcam menu provides easy access to launch Logitech Vid, record video or take photos and enable video effects and fun filters. The webcam comes standard with a privacy shade, and other configurable privacy settings. There’s also a webcam help dashboard if you find yourself floundering, and an audio and video mute if you need some peace and quiet for a second. If you’re tired of showing your serious face, then a little entertainment value can be added to your video calls using Logitech Video Effects™. Feel like being someone or something else today? You simply pick out a character and watch it become you. And we’re not talking about a simple static avatar here. We’re talking face tracking technology that tracks your face and makes your avatar move accordingly. When you want to be you, just with pizzazz, put on one of the many Facial Accessories. While megapixels are important when it comes to choosing a webcam, there are a few other intricate details worth considering. Image quality also

40 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

depends on lens quality, sensor and software, which is taken care of through the use of a Carl Zeiss lens (a true pioneer in the field of optics) and is made of glass, not plastic. It also has five elements to deliver more detail, clarity and reduce distortion. An autofocus function means there’s no fuzziness if you get up close, and that movement is smooth and captured effortlessly at 30 frames per second. Without a doubt, this webcam combines megapixels, lens quality, autofocus and easy-to-use software in such a way that make it a pleasurable experience. But what would all these pleasing features be, without a channel on which to show yourself to friends, colleagues and relatives? Never fear, the Logitech C300 Webcam has prevalent IM compatibility and works well with Skype, Windows Live Messenger Yahoo! Messenger, AIM as well as other instant messaging interfaces. SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS • Windows XP (SP2 or higher) • 1GHz (1.6GHz recommended) • 256MB RAM (512MB RAM recommended) Windows Vista/7 (32/64bit) • 1GHz (1.6GHz recommended) • 512MB RAM or more • 200MB hard drive space • CD-ROM drive • OS-compatible sound card and speakers • USB port (2.0 recommended)

PROS

CONS

• 6ft cable means you have a bit of room to play • Built-in microphone, no need to purchase as separate item • Compatible with most IM applications

• Doesn’t come with protective cover/bag, we were concerned about damaging webcam in transit • Not for Mac

OVERALL RATING


RELATED

PRODUCTS

Microsoft Natural Wireless Laser Mouse 6000 NEED TO KNOW • Revolutionary ergonomic design and soft-touch materials • Instant-viewer • Four-way scrolling • Customisable buttons R699.95

THIS mouse will make you forget all about your unpleasant experiences with small, uncomfortable, awkward and unresponsive wireless laser mice. In fact, it will completely change your attitude toward using a mouse. No longer just a necessary component of your workstation that you barely notice unless it is to complain, you’ll appreciate the convenience and become quite dependent on this device’s comfort, sheer ease of use and responsiveness. Its unique ergonomic design coupled with soft-touch materials means that your hand will adjust to its curves and supports naturally. The Instant View feature is the ideal solution to the incessant problem of having too many task windows open. Click the scroll wheel button to display your open windows, and click to select. Multi-tasking has never been easier. With more than six months of battery life and an LED battery power level display, you won’t be left with a dead mouse and deadlines looming. Tilt Wheel technology allows you to scroll in four different directions giving you more viewing efficiency. High-definition laser technology means your mouse is more responsive, giving you smoother tracking. The buttons are all customisable, giving you quick access to all the files, programs and applications you use most frequently. All this efficiency and convenience even comes with health benefits. The ergonomic design means your hand and wrist are cushioned and protected from repetitive strain injuries related with conventional mice. The design eliminates pressure on your median nerve in your wrist, usually the site of carpal tunnel pain. While we haven’t used this product long enough to notice any

long-term benefits, using it definitely feels less stressful on hand and joints. It was also fairly easy to adjust to the unconventional hand position. In terms of looks, the only thing grey about this curvaceous little mouse is its colour. It has obvious thumb and finger grooves that lend to the sculpted appearance while the primary buttons are cleverly moulded to appear as one piece. A grey opaque scroll wheel divides the centre and two thumb buttons rise from the upper thumb ridge. You’d expect a battery-powered mouse to come with rechargeable batteries, right? Well don’t expect it from this mouse. It comes with standard alkaline AA batteries. The size of the RF USB receiver also tends toward the unnecessarily large and laughably awkward-looking. Despite a few minor flaws, we had only one major complaint: this mouse is for right-handed people only, so all the lefties out there will have to keep shopping.

LOGITECH V450 NANO MOUSE

The left-handed people out there won’t be disappointed with this mouse. It’s ergonomic, laser-driven, has a tiny USB receiver and a 12-month battery life.

NOTEWORTHY SPECS: • Windows® 7/Windows XP Pro/Home/Media Center Edition/Tablet PC Edition/Windows 2000 • 5 customisable buttons • Instant-View, 4-way scrolling • 6 months battery life, LED indicator

PROS

CONS

• Relief from and prevention of repetitive strain injuries • Makes multi-tasking manageable • Better control over your viewing experience on-screen

• Batteries not rechargeable • RF USB receiver larger than necessary, bordering on bulky • For right-handed users only

OVERALL RATING

INTELLIPEN WIRED & DIGITAL MOUSE

This tool turns your laptop or PC into a tablet PC; the wired IntelliPen doubles as a digital pen as well as a mouse that works on regular paper.

WWW.CONNECT.CO.ZA | 41


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Verbatim SmartDisk 1 Terabyte External Hard Drive with FireWire/HiSpeed USB NEED TO KNOW

SANDISK 2GB MICRO CRUZER U3

For when you need something a little smaller and easier to carry around than a 1TB external hard drive. It features metal casing with changeable coloured skins and caps.

IOMEGA 2.5” CAMO 250GB

A uniquely patterned design gives this external hard drive a rugged look. It’s compact and portable and fits easily into a briefcase or backpack.

• Spindle Speed of 7200 RPM • Store thousands of photos, documents, videos and MP3s • FireWire connection transfers files quickly R1499.95

NEED to add more storage to your computer, but don’t want to take it apart? Need to back up large quantities of files and still have them easily transportable and accessible? This SmartDisk 1TB external hard drive is just the ticket. This drive offers all the convenience of a flash disk, with more storage capacity than you could ever have imaged. Verbatim has long been a trusted name in data storage, and it’s a brand we’ve become familiar with and dependent on since the days of floppy disks and hard disks. The company has come a long way since then, and this massive external hard drive just goes to prove that its products are in tune with current technological developments and data storage innovations. The drive is enclosed in a nice aluminium box with a polished black plastic front panel and has a small fan that is inaudible in operation. It’s pretty compact, at only 11cm x 20cm x 4cm, which makes it hard to believe that such a small device has so much space. There is only the one green LED pilot lamp and no disk activity indicator, which is the case’s only real flaw. Powered by a 7200 RPM hard drive, the desktop hard drive blasts through the most demanding audio/video applications, allowing you to work more and wait less. The device itself is mostly silent, except for the occasional slight ticking rattle when particularly large files are being transferred. This hard drive connects to your computer using either the HiSpeed USB or a FireWire connection. FireWire is the preferred method of transport as it is much faster than USB, but USB is a far more prevalent standard. FireWire transfers data at speeds that are, on average, higher than that of USB 2.0. While the specifications are rather similar, real-world experience confirms that FireWire 400 is quicker than USB 2.0. A nice touch here is the second FireWire port, useful for connecting more than one FireWire-capable device at a time to your PC.

42 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

The drive comes pre-formatted for the Apple file system, but it can be easily formatted for use with a PC as well. If you plan on using this device on both PC and Mac, it is recommended that you split the drive into two partitions, one for PC-related files, documents and applications, and one for the Mac-related storage. Leopard’s Disk Tools lets you resize partitions without having to reformat; this is a big deal if you’ve ever partitioned a drive and later wished you’d made the partitions different sizes. The external hard drive includes easy-to-use backup software that allows you to automatically back up your personal content through scheduling, backup sets, and automatic launch options. The only flaws that merit comment are the somewhat short cables that come with the drive since they limit where you can keep the drive relative to your PC, and the fact that its need for external power (i.e. power not drawn from a USB port) cramps the ability to take the drive anywhere. Other than that, it looks good, has tremendous storage capacity, and it just works. If space and not easy portability is your requirement, this is a fantastic buy. NOTEWORTHY SPECS • • • • •

Works on both Windows and Macs 2 x FireWire 400 ports USB 2.0 port 7200 RPM Hard Drive 1TB storage space

PROS

CONS

• Appealing, high-tech design • Plug and play, simple to use • 1000 gigabytes is a lot of space!

• Power obtained from a wall socket • Included cables are somewhat short • Limited portability

OVERALL RATING


DID YOU KNOW? You can recycle Lexmark cartridges at no cost to yourself; simply order a postage-paid return envelope from the Lexmark website, place your empty cartridge in the envelope and post it from any post office or place your old cartridges in EnviroConnect bins in-store to receive a discount off your next purchase.

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Lexmark Prestige Pro805 3-in-1 Printer NEED TO KNOW • Print, scan, copy • Touchscreen control panel • Wireless networking • Integrated Web features R3 499.95

THE Prestige Pro805 is a web-aware home printer that integrates printing, scanning and copying with functions off the Internet. It churns out photo prints, text documents, presentations – basically anything you can throw at it – with ease. Installation of the printer is as straightforward as it gets; open the package, follow the included instructions to remove all the tape holding the printer’s various parts closed, power it up and install the software. Each step is nicely illustrated, both by the installation program as well as graphics on the printer’s touch-sensitive control panel, so it’s nigh-on impossible to go wrong. The Pro805 is a wireless-enabled network printer that can take advantage of your wireless or wired home network. Setting it up on the network via the touchscreen is another painless process; in fact the entire installation process is so slick and easy that you can be ready to print in easily under 20 minutes from the moment you open the printer’s box. If you don’t have a home network, a USB cable is included in the package too. The Pro805 can print on both sides of the paper (duplexing) in a nod towards eco-friendliness, although of course this adds to the time the print takes to finish. Print sources include flash drives, memory cards and directly from PictBridge-enabled cameras. It is also possible to scan documents directly to flash drives. Print quality on the Pro805 is more than good enough for home use. Photo and image prints were particularly impressive, and seemed to be dependent on the image source – a poor quality image yielded a poor quality print. It’s not a very fast printer, however, but given its overall quality we weren’t too upset. Scanning and copying documents was also not the kind of fast that gets people talking. A 15-page text document took 183 seconds to scan to a flash drive, and copying the same document stack took a rather long 270 seconds. Duplex prints of that same text document from a PC took 243 seconds with the quality set to “Automatic”. This is certainly not fast enough for a large office environment, but should be fine for home or very small business use.

We experienced some minor annoyances with the printer’s touchscreen; it wasn’t as sensitive to touch as we would have liked, and it often took a few stabs at the right key to get it to respond. Slow, deliberate presses worked better, of course, but even these didn’t always register immediately. A bit of trial and error is required to find out how the screen needs to be pressed. Lexmark has integrated various Internet-based functions into the Pro805, called SmartSolutions, which are accessible directly from the touchscreen. It essentially lets you add shortcuts to things like Google Calendar, RSS feeds, news headlines and even special functions like “scan to e-mail” and “business card scan” to the printer’s set of existing utilities. It’s a nice touch, and new utilities are being written for it all the time. Lexmark’s Prestige Pro805 printer is a solid home or small office printer. It’s not very fast, and scanning and copying documents regularly will require patience, but its print quality is excellent. Better yet, it ships with XL cartridges, so you’ll get many prints out of your first set of cartridges. The web-based SmartSolutions utilities also provide some nice customisability, making the Pro805 a good buy. NOTEWORTHY SPECS: • • • • • • •

LEXMARK X6675 ALL-IN-ONE PRINTER

While this printer bears similarities to the Pro805, it is available at a much lower price, and it faxes.

HP OFFICEJET 6500 PRO

This workhorse printer from HP is ideal for both homes and small offices.

PERFECT COMPANIONS

Thermal Inkjet Colour Technology 4 Colour Inkjet - Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black Print Resolution, Black up to 2400 x 1200 dpi Print Resolution, Colour up to 4800 x 1200 dpi Maximum Print Speed (Draft, Black): Up to 33 ppm Maximum Print Speed (Draft, Colour): Up to 30 ppm Memory, Standard 64 MB PROS

CONS

• XL ink cartridges in the box • Simple and fast setup • Very good print quality

• Noticeably slow printing, copying and scanning • Touch screen sensitivity is not wonderful

OVERALL RATING

Lexmark 105XL 4-pack Maximise your print yield with this economical 4-pack of XL black ink cartridges

WWW.CONNECT.CO.ZA | 43


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PRODUCTS HUAWEI 3G USB MODEM

Looking for the power of 3G that Samsung Star lacks? Get it where you need it – on your notebook.

VODACOM 4U STARTER PACK

Get the power of prepaid from Vodacom. Receive a WIG enabled 32k Vodacom SIM card, your Vodacom number, a Vodacom certificate, user guide, 24-month conditional access and R25 is credited to your prepaid account when you activate the card.

Samsung Star S5233A NEED TO KNOW • Resistive touchscreen • 3MP camera with Smile Shot technology • GPRS/EDGE connectivity with WAP browser R2 199.95

THOSE Samsung fans who had complaints about the Samsung Omnia being too bulky, and too difficult to use with its finicky touchscreen and awkward stylus will be well impressed with this little candybar phone. Samsung has improved the touchscreen and made it so much easier to control using only your fingers. It’s slim, small and snazzy, all of our favourite words when it comes to mobile phones. Weighing a mere 92g, it has a 3-inch screen supporting WQVGA resolution and 262144 colours. The display is the prettiest part of the phone; the body is housed in a black metallic plastic that doesn’t quite match the screen in terms of aesthetics. Directly under the display are the Call/End buttons, with the middle button functioning as a Back button. The rest of the phone’s face is taken up with the 3-inch display touchscreen, which is large enough that even those with big fingers will not battle to use it. All widgets are easily accessible and entering text is simple using the on-screen QWERTY keyboard. An interesting feature of the UI is that it allows you to keep up to three separate home screens, each supporting different wallpapers and widgets. With a 3.2MP camera, digital zoom, lots of different shooting modes, white balance and a dedicated easy-access camera button, this phone is all about the happy snaps. Disappointments include no ISO settings, no autofocus and no flash, which leaves the perfect picture to chance. The saving grace is that the camera won’t take a picture unless your subjects are smiling, thanks to Samsung’s Smile Shot technology. While the Star is all about happy snaps, this feature can be turned off, just in case your mates seldom smile. You can also do some basic photo editing, right on your mobile phone. This phone has a lot of other pleasing features as well. The accelerometer sensor ensures that your phone responds to your movements intuitively and reorients the screen according to how it is held, and allows you to zoom and move left to right on something you’re viewing. It also has a new feature, Gesture Control. This allows you to unlock the screen or run an application by merely

using a gesture command. You can assign alphabet letters from A-Z to these applications and commands, and by drawing those letters on the idle home screens, you can open various applications and perform various tasks. In terms of functioning as a music player, this phone has multi-format playback and is powered by Samsung’s DNSe sound engine. If you don’t recognise a song on your friend’s playlist, you can record a snippet and send it to Shazam’s “Find Music” service to have it identified. This is the perfect phone for those who spend loads of time online and require access to Google applications like Google search, maps, Gmail, photo blogging and other online widgets. With all these functions, we were confused as to why Samsung limited connectivity options to GPRS/EDGE instead of adding functionality to form and giving users a no-holds-barred 3G connection. Games and downloadable applications mean that your mobile experience is completely customisable. There is also the option of adding external memory, giving you up to 8GB of space. This phone has all the right ingredients, functionality, gimmicks and novel features to make it the near-perfect mid-range, affordable touchscreen phone. NOTEWORTHY SPECS • 3-inch WQVGA TFT resistive full-touch screen display, 262 144 colours • 3MP camera with smile recognition • 50MB internal memory with microSD memory card slot, supports up to 8GB • Talk time up to 13 hours, with 600 standby hours • EDGE, Bluetooth, USB connectivity • Comes with Samsung PC Studio

PROS

CONS

• Touchscreen is super-easy to use and very responsive • Applications are simple to download and use • Calls are loud and crystal clear, volume is excellent

• No 3G/WiFi connectivity • Below average sunlight legibility, even with the brightest setting • Responsiveness and transitions when music player is running in background

OVERALL RATING

44 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

3


WHY NETWORKING?

Here’s what it does: Connecting the Belkin Wireless Router to your cable or DSL modem lets you share your braodband Internet account with all your computers. Now you can quickly exchange documents, share resources, and distribute large video and music Àles throughout your network. Our advanced security protects both your wireless and wired computers from hackers and intruders. You can add up to 64 computers to your wireless network with additional notebook and desktop adapters. For better wireless performance, use the Belkin N150 Enhanced Wireless Router with USB Network Adapters when connecting your computers.

Belkin's N150 Enhanced Wireless Router is perfect for setting up a wireless network that has the range to easily cover a home or ofÀce. 7he N150 offers speeds ideal for handling applications that take up more bandwidth than simple emailing and WebsurÀng.Connecting the N150 Enhanced Wireless Router to your cable or ADSL modem lets you share your broadband Internet account with all your networked computers. Now you can quickly and efÀciently exchange documents, share resources, and stream digital music throughout your network. For the most reliable network performance, and to achieve coverage ideal for a home or ofÀce, pair this Router with the Belkin Enhanced 8SB Adapter sold separately . 7he combination provides a wireless experience perfect for sharing your Internet connection, surÀng the Web, and demanding network applications. 7he Enhanced N150 range is 0.11b and g certiÀed and based on the 0.11n technology. 7his range will give you 0.11n performance up to 1500bps at an even more affordable price.

For more information and our products visit www.belkin.com

3&  :K\ 1HWZRUNLQJ LQGG 

www.phatcat.co.za

What is N150 Wireless?

 


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Belkin N150 Enhanced Wireless Router Modem NEED TO KNOW

BELKIN N150 ENHANCED USB ADAPTER

With a Belkin Enhanced Wireless Router as the central connection point of your network, use these adapters on your computers to extend its range and maximise speed.

BELKIN SURGE PROTECTOR

Protect your network and router cables from power surges which could damage your devices beyond repair with this nifty surge protector.

• Windows 7 compatible • 4-port integrated networking switch • Maximum range open space 300m, Wi-Fi Protected Setup R1499.95

THERE’S no convenience quite like the convenience of the completely wireless home. Imagine Internet access, in every room of your house. No more fighting over who gets to use the one computer that’s linked to the ADSL line, as connecting the N150 Enhanced Wireless Router to your cable or ADSL modem lets you share your broadband Internet connection with all your networked computers. Now you can speedily exchange documents, share resources, and stream digital music across all the computers you have connected to your network. As well as allowing you to surf the Internet, check emails, and chat with friends, Wireless G+ (an enhanced version of the wireless b/g protocols) provides enough bandwidth to transfer large photo and music files, and stream videos across your network smoothly. You can also share and access networked peripherals such as a Wi-Fi printer, hard drives, and DVDs. This router is easy to set up; there’s no need to call in the nerds. All you do is insert the CD and follow the screen instructions, plug in the router when you’re instructed to and voila, instant wireless network. The router is simplicity exemplified, and its no-frills appearance blends in well with the rest of your computer peripherals and takes up little desk space. Six LED backlit icons for Power, Wired, Wireless, Modem, Security, and Internet lets you know the status of your network at a glance. The only disappointment was that the icons do not blink to indicate activity. It has an advertised data transfer rate of 150Mbs, but in reality, that of course depends on whether or not you’re using Belkin’s Enhanced N150 Wireless USB adapters on your computers. Our favourite feature is the fact that it has a theoretical coverage radius of about 300m, meaning you can turn your whole property into one big Wi-Fi hotspot (just don’t expect consistent performance from everywhere). Also,

46 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

the fact that it comes with Wi-Fi Protected Setup, means a little bit of fiddling and you can ensure that only people you want to give access to, can use your network. Say goodbye to bandwidth theft by your sneaky neighbours! This router works with both Mac and Windows operating systems, which is handy for those who have both brands under their roof. It features both wired and wireless connectivity, meaning that it plugs into one stationary computer and can connect wirelessly to other computers or laptops, after they’ve been detected and set up. There are also four 10/100 Ethernet ports at the back of the router, which gives you the option to plug in for a fast, steady and secure connection running at a guaranteed 100Mbps. It’s easy to check on the status of your network and see if there’s a problem using the Network Status Display, and the troubleshooting guide is simple and easy to use, so you can sort yourself out any time of day or night. If you’re looking for something that’s reliable and easy to install yourself, then you need look no further than Belkin’s N150 Enhanced Wireless Router. Just don’t forget to get the N150 Enhanced Wireless USB dongles too, to maximise its range and speed. NOTEWORTHY SPECS • • • • •

300m theoretical range Link rate up to 150Mbps (average closer to 100) One-button Wi-Fi Protected Setup ADSL2/2+ Support 4x 10/100 Wired Ethernet ports PROS

CONS

• Easy to set up, unobtrusive device • Security functions easy to activate • Good coverage, even without Belkin’s Enhanced USB adapters

• Needs specific Belkin USB adapters for max speed and range • Lights do not blink to indicate activity

OVERALL RATING


Belkin N150 Enhanced Wireless USB Adapter NEED TO KNOW • USB 2.0 connection for desktop/notebook • Enhanced wireless range and bandwidth • Complements the Belkin N150 Wireless Router R699.95

THIS Enhanced Wireless USB Adapter connects your desktop or notebook computer to your wireless network. With a Belkin Enhanced Wireless Router (purchased separately) as the central connection point of your network, this device is capable of speeds far faster than that of the average IEE802.11b/g wireless USB adapter. Without the Belkin router, this device performs at the level of a regular IEEE802.11b/g wireless adapter. Setting it up is as simple as plugging it into the USB port on your desktop or notebook computer; it is then recognised by the operating system, and the installation wizard that pops up guides you through the setup quickly and effortlessly. The device looks much like a USB memory stick, and offers the same compact size and portability. Small enough to fit into your back pocket and take with you anywhere, it’s also small enough to be plugged into your notebook computer without interfering with any other items that might be plugged in at the same time. It’s sturdy and doesn’t feel like it’s in constant danger of falling out of its port, which is the impression given by so many other USB adapter devices. The enhanced N150’s range is IEEE802.11b & g-certified and based on the IEEE802.11 draft-n standard. If this means nothing to you, then it should be sufficient to say that this translates into speed and reliability of connection, which are both equally important. The N150 Enhanced adapter offers hiccupfree media streaming, allowing you to watch videos on Youtube, listen to podcasts, watch videos and play online games without any buffering delays. It can also quite easily handle transferring large file sizes and sharing files and applications with other computers on your wireless network. Worried about security? The USB wireless adapter means your computer gets all the security features contained in the N150 Enhanced Wireless Router. Network security couldn’t be any simpler, thanks to Wi-Fi Protected Setup, it all

RELATED

PRODUCTS requires of you is to push a button on your router and you’ll be protected from freeloaders trying to piggyback on your network. The router also supports 256-bit WPA/WPA2-Personal and 64-/128-bit WEP encryption. Additionally, the router has firewall capabilities including NAT (Network Address Translation) and SPI (Stateful Packet Inspection), making your wireless network as safe as houses. We only had two issues with this product. The first is the need to download the correct drivers for Mac OS X from the Internet, although once this was done it was plain sailing (Windows drivers are included). The other is that it only performs at its peak when used with Belkin’s N150 Enhanced Wireless Router. Without it, it’s just a plain old 802.11b/g adapter. This isn’t a bad thing, per se, but it defeats the object of buying the product for its advantages. Please note that for each desktop computer that you plan to have connected to the wireless network, you’ll need a separate individual USB adapter, so this might require a purchase of several of the devices at one time. NOTEWORTHY SPECS: • • • • •

Based on IEEE802.11 draft-n technology IEEE802.11b/g certified USB 2.0-compliant Supports WEP/WPA-PSK, WPA2-PSK security 150Mbps link rate

PROS

CONS

• Compact size of device • Ease of installation and use • Can be used on Mac if correct drivers are downloaded

• Need to buy one adapter for each notebook/desktop • Because of its small size it is easy to misplace • Without the N150 router, it’s just a b/g adapter

OVERALL RATING

BELKIN N150 ENHANCED WIRELESS ROUTER

Creating a home-based Wi-Fi hotspot is as easy as connecting the N150 Enhanced Wireless Router to your cable or ADSL modem.

BELKIN BLUETOOTH USB ADAPTER

This adapter allows your computer to make cable-free connections to other Bluetooth devices quickly, without having to establish any networking infrastructure.

WWW.CONNECT.CO.ZA | 47


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Bell Studio 4200 DUO Phone NEED TO KNOW • 2 x cordless landline telephones • 50 contact memory, 10 redial memory • Rechargeable batteries included R599.95

DUALPHONE 3088 SKYPE PHONE

It’s a landline phone and a Skype phone, all in one! Use it as a regular telephone AND a handy Skype device for Internet conversations.

APPLE IPHONE 3GS

Get yourself this killer cellphone and free yourself from the tyranny of fixedline operators and inferior cellphone design forever!

BELL telephones are new to SA; they represent a fairly simple approach to phone design, and the end result is a range of landline phones that aren’t particularly flashy, but that have a nice set of features and, best of all, they just work. The Bell Studio 4200 DUO pack comes with two silver and greyblack cordless landline telephones that weigh very little and are supplied with rechargeable batteries. Two base stations are also provided, of which one is a charger only and the second is a charger and base station that connects to the telephone jack on the wall. In addition to the expected features of number storage (up to 50), ringtone melodies (five to choose from) and auto-answer, up to five Bell Studio 4000 handsets can be paired with a single base. With several handsets all registered to one base station, functions like call transfers, three-way conversations and calls between handsets become possible. It’s really easy to do, and the instructions are very clear. When it comes to the body of the phones, the build quality is nothing special, and the handsets feel like every other piece of plastic to come out of China. This isn’t a bad thing, per se, it just isn’t wonderful. Since you’re getting two handsets and two bases for the price, though, unremarkable Chinese plastic is a small sacrifice. Where these phones deliver the most value is in their customisation options. Five ringtones for the base and five for the phone itself provide plenty of combinations; these are mostly variations on traditional telephone ringing sounds and cheesy electronic beeps that resemble music. The phones also remember the last 10 numbers dialled, they display caller information, will let you know when there is a call waiting, and there is a “secrecy” function that mutes your speaker so that your caller can’t hear you while you talk to someone else in the room. Our favourite feature, and one we imagine will get a lot of use, is the ability to locate misplaced handsets simply by pressing a button on the base station.

48 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

Anyone who has ever misplaced a telephone handset and spent valuable time searching for it will immediately recognise the value this offers. The design of the keypad is also a bit on the plain side, but then this is a phone intended for everyday use and this is therefore forgivable. The buttons themselves are soft plastic, and press easily, although there did seem to be a slight delay between presses and numbers appearing on-screen. Strangely, there is no dedicated “Hang up” button, and using the “Call” button to do that felt a bit odd. Lastly, there is an odd warning on the box that the phone might interfere with hearing aids and pacemakers, so you may want to consult with a doctor before purchasing. This isn’t the iPhone of landline telephone handsets, but the fact that you get two for a reasonable price and they’re packed full of handy features means the Bell Studio 4200 DUO package can deliver good value. It’s also not a phone from our incumbent landline operator, so you won’t be supporting them by going this route. That’s a win in our book. NOTEWORTHY SPECS • • • • • •

50 name and number phone book Call display and call waiting (if subscribed) Talktime up to 10.5 hours Standby time up to 160 hours 300m range outdoors, 50m indoors Tone & pulse dialling

PROS

CONS

• Two cordless phones for a good price • 3-way conversations, call between handsets and more • Locate misplaced handsets easily • Great range

• Plastic quality isn’t anything special • Slight delay between pressing buttons and the phone responding • May interfere with hearing aids and pacemakers

OVERALL RATING


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PRODUCT REVIEWS RELATED

PRODUCTS

NORTON INTERNET SECURITY 2010

Still one of our favourite security applications, NIS2010 does a great job of protecting your PC without slowing it down. It’s not cheap, though.

McAfee Total Protection 2010 NEED TO KNOW • McAfee’s top-of-the-line consumer protection product • More than just an anti-virus product • Unobtrusive operation • Can be installed on up to 3 PCs R499.95

BITDEFENDER TOTAL SECURITY 2010

Another popular program with South African buyers, BitDefender also offers comprehensive “install and forget” protection.

KASPERSKY INTERNET SECURITY 2010

The Russians at Kaspersky are always upping their game; KIS2010 is an excellent, unobtrusive yet highly effective security product. It’s well-priced, too.

THIS package is McAfee’s best-of-the-best security suite. It incorporates every consumer feature the company has developed into a single application, so you’re getting protection for all conceivable points of attack. Better yet, it can be installed on up to 3 PCs as it includes a 3-user license, making this a great buy for families with more than one computer at home. Feature-wise, McAfee Total Protection 2010 (MTP) can’t be faulted as it covers all the areas a consumer is likely to need protection. More importantly, it does it very quietly. Once installed, MTP operates quietly in the background, and thanks to some clever programming, it never bothers you with any kind of request or notification when it detects your PC running in “full screen mode”. You can now play games and watch movies on your PC without fear of being rudely interrupted by any kind of security notification. Your identity is also safe in McAfee’s hands. MTP 2010 actively monitors all running processes for suspicious activity, and prevents any process from sending information that looks like your name, address, credit card number etc. to the Internet. This kind of behaviour-based protection also serves to keep your PC protected from attacks that have no fix developed for them yet. McAfee calls their version of this relatively new approach to security “Active Protection”. There are three features not present in any of McAfee’s other products that make the program well worth the extra few bucks. The first is network intrusion, a function that monitors your wireless network and alerts you of any attempts by outsiders to access it. The second checks Internet links (also known as hypertext links) present in e-mail and instant messaging programs for harmful content. This way, when anyone sends you a link, it is checked for potential threats before you’ve even clicked on it. If anything fishy is found, MTP won’t let you access the site. The last is a file protection tool called Anti-Theft. By downloading an extra application off the Internet (for free since you’re an MTP user), you are able to password-protect and encrypt any files on your hard drive for safekeeping. It’s a little extreme, to be honest, but anyone with sensitive data will appreciate the feature. Just don’t forget your password… We quite liked the way MTP ran quietly in the background, with a minimal (but noticeable) impact on system performance. We didn’t, however, enjoy the

50 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

install process – on running Setup, the program immediately connected to the Internet and downloaded an install file. Once that completed, it installed and then downloaded additional updates, making it seem as if all there was on the CD was a downloader program. Expect to consume around 100MB of data during the install. Sies, McAfee. The interface of this new version is very similar to previous editions, so expect a lot of tweakable options if you go digging. If you don’t want to do that, however, we’re pleased to say that MTP works just fine as an “install and forget” solution. McAfee has been in the security game for many years, and their experience is evident in this program. While it’s not perfect, it’s more than effective enough to recommend for anyone looking for comprehensive, multi-PC protection that works silently in the background. NOTEWORTHY FEATURES • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Fast Anti-Virus and Anti-spyware Protection QuickScan Network Manager Web Site Safety Ratings Anti-phishing File Shredder Computer maintenance Identity Protection Improved Anti-spam Parental Controls Data Backup Network Monitoring Email and IM Link Checker File Protection McAfee Anti-Theft encryption software PROS

CONS

• Comprehensive all-round protection • Runs quietly in the background • Active Protection is effective

• Install process uses lots of Internet bandwidth • System performance impact is small, but noticeable

OVERALL RATING


PERFECT COMPANIONS

Nuance PaperPort Professional 12 NEED TO KNOW • Document management for business • Handles all document types • Streamlines office document efficiency • Fax, scan, print, e-mail from one application window R1 399.95

PAPERPORT PRO 12 from Nuance Software is a documentmanagement program that puts all your documents in a single workspace for easier access. While that doesn’t sound particularly thrilling, it’s useful for businesses or individuals that handle a lot of documents on a regular basis, and makes it easier to find whatever you’re looking for, as well as archiving old documents, sending them directly to be faxed, and more. What PaperPort Pro12 does is arrange all your documents and pictures in an accessible, easy-to-manage way. It uses an interface that will look mighty familiar to anyone who has used Microsoft’s Office 2007 suite, complete with a “ribbon bar” at the top that groups functions by type. Essentially, it’s a highly advanced Explorer window that pulls together all your documents, installed document-related applications and devices, and gives you a central point from which to manage them. If, for example, you have Microsoft Office installed, you’ll see Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Outlook icons at the bottom of your PaperPort screen along with defaults like FTP transfer, Printer and others. If your installed printer has faxing capabilities, PaperPort interfaces with it directly and allows you to send faxes through that printer, via PaperPort’s interface. Likewise, documents can be e-mailed by dragging them from the main window down to the Outlook (or whatever mail application you have installed) icon. All this really does is open the e-mail application and tell it that you want to attach document X to a new message. Still, it’s handy. PaperPort also has its own functions built into the interface, like uploading files to an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) server. This functionality is a little basic, however, and using it to send files to FTP servers requires that all directory structures are already in place, i.e. you cannot create a new directory when uploading using PaperPort Pro12. The program interfaces nicely with other Nuance products like PDF Converter Professional 6. If you don’t have it installed, you can still convert

documents between various formats using PaperPort’s own conversion utilities. The OCR (Optical Character Recognition) engine used in PaperPort Pro 12 is very accurate. What this means is that when physical documents are scanned in and converted to PDFs, .docs or whatever format you want, the formatting of the original document is maintained. Everything remains in its place, properly aligned, and in little need of additional editing to make it perfect. Our feelings on PaperPort Pro12 are somewhat mixed. While it’s a fantastic way to centralise document management on a PC and do everything from a single window, it’s really just offering a whole lot of shortcuts to the things you’re likely already doing with your documents. How hard is it, really, to open your e-mail application, click New Message, Attach File, select, click OK, write message and send? If the program’s document conversion features sound appealing, you can always purchase PDF Converter 6 Professional on its own. If, on the other hand, you are a very organised person and you like all your documents and document-related functionality in one place for easy access, PaperPort Pro 12 might just be for you. SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS • • • • • • •

Intel Pentium/AMD Athlon or higher processor Windows XP/Vista/7 Internet Explorer 6 or above 256MB RAM (512MB recommended) 650MB Hard Drive Space SVGA Monitor with 256 colours and 800 x 600 resolution CDROM Drive

PROS

CONS

• Central document management • Interfaces directly with documentrelated applications • Document conversion is very accurate

• Essentially creates shortcuts to already-existing functionality • Uses pre-existing functionality already set up on the system • FTP function is very rudimentary

OVERALL RATING

HP OfficeJet 8500 You’ll need a printer that can scan, fax, copy and print to make the most of PaperPort 12’s functionality. HP’s OfficeJet 8500 is a good choice here.

Belkin router Networked printers are best, as they can be shared easily among several people and yet remain in a central location for easy access. Network routers and network-ready printers enable this freedom. Check out Belkin’s range of wireless routers.

Lots of paper You’ll definitely need reams and reams of paper to feed the printing hunger of any modern office, be it small, medium or large-sized.

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PRODUCT REVIEWS

RELATED

PRODUCTS

Nuance PDF Converter Professional 6 NEED TO KNOW • PDF document converter • Supports many document formats • Far cheaper than Adobe’s Acrobat Professional • Business software package R2 799.95

ADOBE ACROBAT READER

This application is freely available on the Internet, but all it allows you to do is view documents saved in the PDF format. Get it from www.adobe.com.

LOGITECH M505 WIRELESS MOUSE

Wires are so 1990. Get yourself a wireless mouse and navigate your PC without hassle.

ADOBE’S Portable Document Format (PDF) is a very popular document format that has been around since 1993. It’s found on websites all over the Internet, and is used as a common document format that doesn’t need a specific operating environment (Windows/Mac/Linux) to be read. In the past, it was necessary to use Adobe’s free Acrobat Reader to view PDF documents, and editing them required Adobe’s expensive high-end PDF editing software. In 2008, PDF became what is known as an “open standard” document format, which allowed anyone to develop software that reads and manipulates PDF documents without a need to pay Adobe royalties. As such, a bevy of software development companies have begun doing just that, resulting in cost-effective, feature-rich PDF editing and creation software. Nuance’s PDF Converter Professional 6 is one such application. It offers a large number of conversion and editing options that allow you to create PDFs from scratch, convert existing documents in a wide variety of popular formats (Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, Excel, PowerPoint and more) into PDF and more. A number of similar applications have been around for years, however those programs have not offered a high degree of accuracy. They left converted documents with poor formatting, text wasn’t always translated accurately, and a great deal of manual editing was required to get the converted document into a shape comparable to that of the original document. With PDF Converter Professional 6, the accuracy of converted documents is excellent. While not 100% perfect, it’s very close, resulting in converted documents that look almost exactly like the original. Nuance’s experience with “Optical Character Recognition” technology through its OmniPage line of software seems to have paid off here. The program’s interface is where PDF Converter Professional 6 falls down a bit, as it looks rather unrefined and

52 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

cluttered, making initial navigation a little awkward. Time spent with the program addresses this, but right off the bat it’s not the prettiest or easiest interface to navigate. Extras like the ability to have a document’s text read out by a text-to-speech synthesizer and batch conversions (i.e. queuing up multiple documents for conversion) are also here. Unfortunately, some of the program’s options and functions are somewhat buried in a menu system that could use some optimisation, and it took us a while to discover these. Due to its overall usefulness, functionality and cost advantages, Nuance’s program is an excellent alternative. Business people who work extensively with documents in PDF format will appreciate the accuracy of conversions and the wide variety of supported document types as well as the price. SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS • • • • • • •

Windows 7/Vista/XP 256MB RAM 650MB Hard Drive Space SVGA Monitor with 256 Colours (minimum) Sound Card for Text-to-Speech Mouse CDROM Drive

PROS

CONS

• Supports many popular document formats • Conversion to and from PDF is accurate • Cheaper than Adobe’s Acrobat Standard • Scans directly to PDF too

• Interface is a bit cumbersome • Menu structure hides many useful functions

OVERALL RATING


RELATED

PRODUCTS

PROFESSOR TEACHES WINDOWS 7 ADVANCED

Once you’ve mastered the basics, Professor also teaches the more advanced features of Windows 7 in the same accessible style and format.

Professor Teaches Windows 7 NEED TO KNOW • CD ROM packed with interactive lessons • Software simulates the Windows 7 environment • Spoken instructions and visual demonstrations • Introduces the basics of Windows 7 R199.95

THE Professor Teaches range is a very popular series of educational software titles that offer interactive training on a wide variety of computer programs. Its key strength is that it doesn’t just talk to you and show you videos of what you need to learn, it actively involves you by creating a simulated environment that mimics that of the actual program you’re trying to learn. In this way, you’re actively doing the things you’d do in the actual program, which helps you remember what you were taught. In educational terms, it’s the difference between telling a child all about how to catch a ball, and actually throwing one at them. Professor Teaches Windows 7 is the latest in a long line of successful learning programs from Individual Software. It covers a wide range of topics that slowly introduce people to Windows 7, from an Introduction to the Desktop all the way up to Working with Applications and the Internet. There are six of these sections, each containing several lessons that take the form of interactive sessions, with a handy advisor on the length of each section helping you plan your learning better. The nitty-gritty of the software is the lessons that simulate the Windows 7 environment; expect to see the new Windows 7 desktop, the revamped Start menu, and all the sub menus that go along with them accurately represented here. Once a category has been chosen, a professional voice actor reads out useful information and instructions on what to do next. The information is clearly presented, and the interactive lessons, which usually entail clicking on what you’ve been instructed to click on, are interesting and relevant. If we’re being picky, the lessons do feel like they hold the user’s hand a little too much, but then since that’s the point (and some people appreciate the extra care this provides), it’s by no means a reason not to buy the software. On the other hand the CD ROM is packed full of lessons and

insights. It’s very easy to install, and the information is as clearly presented as it can be without becoming a kids’ show with adults dressed in animal costumes talking reeeeaaaalllly slooooowwwwlllllly. For anyone new to Windows 7, or who worries that a new Windows operating system is going to prove challenging and intimidating, this kind of interactive training is invaluable. You will see and experience what Windows 7 has to offer in a safe, simulated environment, and by the time you get to use the actual operating system in a real-world setting, you’ll feel quite comfortable with its new look and feel. Windows 7 is undoubtedly the best operating system since Windows XP, and as good a job as Microsoft has done on it, so has Individual Software done with Professor Teaches Windows 7. We’re pretty sure that once you’ve spent some time with this Professor Teaches title, you’ll be amazed at just how adept you are at using Windows 7 and all its features and functions. SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS • • • • • •

WINDOWS 7 STEP BY STEP

If book-based learning is more your style, you can’t go wrong with a step-by-step guide. This Windows 7 book is clearly laid out and easy to follow.

PERFECT COMPANIONS

Windows Vista/XP/2000 Intel Pentium or AMD Athlon CPU or above SVGA monitor @ 800 x 600 250MB hard drive space 256MB RAM Soundcard

PROS

CONS

• Interactive lessons are useful and fun • Interaction ensures lessons are remembered • Coverage of Windows 7’s basic features is comprehensive • Time advisor for each section is a nice touch

• Seems, at times, to hold the user’s hand too tightly

OVERALL RATING

Windows 7 You’ve done the training, now try the real thing! Windows 7 is to operating systems today what Windows XP was in 2001: simply awesome!

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PRODUCT REVIEWS

RELATED

PRODUCTS

FUTURE ISLAND

Grades 8-12. This education package focuses on the vital skills of learning, living and becoming an entrepreneur. The vital life skills that the user will need to be equipped with, upon leaving school and entering the working world. The perfect finishing touches to a good high school education.

BIG BOET GRADE 2-3

26 learning programs are shared between two language offerings: English and Afrikaans. Each language section focuses on the development of basic learning skills. In all areas the programs make use of the ‘adaptive learning system’, which means that the learner is promoted to a higher level in the program once a passing score of 80% has been achieved.

Urban Quest educational software package NEED TO KNOW • Grades 4-7 • Teaches invaluable life, learning and entrepreneurial skills • English & Afrikaans • Primary school level, South African curriculum-specific R279.00

YOUNG minds need to be constantly stimulated in order to grow and flourish. With this structured educational software package, much of the guesswork in life lessons has been taken out. Health and educational experts have put together this program designed to teach your child many life skills that might otherwise slip through the cracks in the classroom. This interactive computer-animated learning program is designed to satisfy a young learner’s thirst for knowledge in an ‘urban quest’ that leads them to weird and remarkable places and allows them to discover that learning is a fun and rewarding experience that lays down important building blocks for successful future development. What will your child learn? Important reading skills – learning to read faster, means learning can occur faster. Other visual skills are taught, like mindmapping (Leaf Maps), effective studying techniques, writing exams, giving oral presentations, research methods and strategy. There’s preparation for high school and an array of important life skills, like dealing with sensitive issues like drugs, smoking, HIV/AIDS, friendships, being open to others. Valuable practical lessons include entrepreneurial skills, planning and organisation and an assortment of money-savvy lessons, all perfect to prepare your child for the next stages in their educational journey. The package consists of practical materials that allow the user to test themselves and the materials are applicable to all subjects and are of crucial assistance in helping the young mind master the curriculum. There’s also a portion of the materials that are audio-visual and that provide the opportunity for the user to make their own notes, a skill that will never lie dormant once acquired. This package acts as a personal tutor, providing professional advice and motivation. Inclusive is three months of free access to WebLessons, which

54 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

offers a multitude of lessons, study questions, online quizzes, activities and full-featured guides in the following subject areas: • Physical Science • Chemistry • Life Science and Biology • Earth Science and Geography • South African History and World History These lessons are designed by professional educators and there’s nothing additional to install or maintain. All you require is an Internet connection. To use the actual CD contents, no Internet connection is required, although each CD purchase is limited to one user, and the software needs to be activated via SMS. Furthermore, WebLessons also provides online lesson assignments and grading, offers full feedback on work submitted, and provides your child with the one-on-one attention that might not always be available in the classroom. SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS • • • • •

Windows 95/98/2000/XP/Vista/7 Minimum Pentium III 500MHz processor 250MB RAM CD-ROM drive Soundcard PROS

CONS

• Personal tutor in a box • Interactive learning and full feedback • Learning while having fun

• SMS activation can only be done during office hours and is a bit of a hassle • Only one user/child per CD purchase • No other South African languages other than English or Afrikaans offered

OVERALL RATING


Typing Instructor Platinum NEED TO KNOW • Windows/Mac • More than 100 lessons and tests to improve speed and accuracy • Suited for novice/experienced user R299.95

IF you’re tired of two-fingered typing antics, having to go back and edit e-mails because of typing and spelling mistakes, then the Typing Instructor Platinum will be right up your alley. This program provides an educational, entertaining, and motivating experience for beginners and intermediate, as well as advanced typists, with creative learning themes, fast-paced, arcade-style games and educational learning plans with continuous progression. Packed with motivating features, it keeps users engaged in earning rewards, collecting points, and winning games. You can choose from 20 educational typing plans, designed for both keyboard and numeric keys and symbols, with or without games, while also creating your own personal lesson plans. This program avoids the bores of the traditional classroom teaching conventions and takes you on a thematic adventure, a photo safari and a time-travelling trip, all while improving your typing skills and accuracy. Collect visas, time stamps and photos as you travel to 36 different worldwide destinations at various points in time. The games are not only stimulating and fun, but are designed to teach specific typing skills, such as speed, accuracy, rhythm, dexterity, and retention, and is said to have the world’s first narrative adventure typing game, Treasures of the Sunken City. Aside from a light-hearted, action-packed game aspect, there’s also a more serious side to this software. Repetitive Strain Injury is an increasingly common ailment in our computer-oriented working world. This program includes lessons that cover everything from the proper posture your hands should be in for optimal typing comfort and minimal risk of strain, to individual key-finger association and how it works. One of the most handy features included is the ability to watch your progress, our favourite being a diagram of two hands, and numbers indicating how many words per minute (WPM) each finger is achieving. Very precise statistics and charts will show you how you’re doing as you venture through the program. These results will allow you to see where your strengths and weaknesses lie, and charts can give you localised results, showing you your

performance in relation to each letter, finger and hand. It may be that your left hand is accomplishing far more than your right, and such information will allow you to go back and work on those areas again. In terms of basic usability, the typing tutor contains a welcoming interface and explicit step-by-step guidance through the tasks and games. One hour after firing this program up, our speed and accuracy were up by an impressive 15 WPM. Even more impressive is the fact that our two-finger typing days are now long behind us, and we’re all the better for doing our jobs by using our brains when we use our fingers. If you have no other reason to buy this software, let it be because this program gets what your high school computer science teacher didn’t: learning isn’t learning unless it’s fun. SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS Windows: • Pentium® P4, Windows 7, Vista, XP or 2000 • 580MB hard drive space, CD-ROM drive • 16-bit sound card, speakers/headphones • Internet connection required Mac: • PowerPC G4, G5 or Intel Core Duo processor, min. 800MHz processor • Mac OS X 10.4.6 - 10.5 • CD-ROM drive and 580MB hard drive space • Video card with 32MB of video RAM • Internet Connection Required • Speakers

PROS

CONS

• Build muscle memory and learn how to avoid repetitive strain injury • Track your progress and target weaknesses • A unique take on learning a generally tedious task

• You might actually get some work done, leaving you with less time to procrastinate • You might develop a typing addiction • You might have fun

OVERALL RATING

RELATED

PRODUCTS

MICROSOFT ERGONOMIC DESKTOP 7000

A wireless keyboard with sophisticated ergonomic design; split keyboard & removable palm lift encourages comfortable wrist posture.

LOGITECH V220 MOUSE

This mouse has a mini-receiver, up to six months battery life, a high-definition 1000dpi optical sensor and is capable of side-to-side scrolling, as well as zoom functionality.

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CF

promotion

My Music

Music is an indelible part of your life, bringing you joy, comfort and calm. Now the My Music series is here to pass this gift on to your children.

R

esearch has proven that children who play an instrument do better in school, make friends more easily, are more creative, learn self-discipline and gain self-confidence. eMedia’s new and innovative My Music series of CD-ROMs teaches children to play musical instruments in a way that is educational and fun. Each of the titles in the series features an animated host that guides children through their first musical journey and teaches them to play their instrument along with some music theory. eMedia’s My Music series proves that edutainment is a great way to make learning fun and easy for kids! The exciting and educational titles in the My Music series are My Piano, My Guitar, My Electric Guitar and My Violin.

My Piano My Piano is focused on teaching kids six years and older how to play piano. It features large-screen video demonstrations that help guide kids through the material, featuring an animated character named Pam the Piano. The instructions were written by a former instructor at the Julliard School of Music, Irma Justicia, MA. The lessons teach kids the basics like proper hand position and the names of notes, then moves on to playing songs and reading music. Interactive games help reinforce lessons. More than 100 lessons featuring dozens of popular songs are included. The software can work with a MIDI keyboard connected directly to the Mac; when used, it will show kids when they’ve played incorrect notes and what they should have played instead. My Piano lets kids loop to repeat sections of songs they’re having trouble with. A metronome helps keep the beat and a digital recorder is also included, so kids can record their own performances. R295.00

My Guitar My Guitar is a fun and unique program that offers an exciting new way for kids ages six and up to learn how to play acoustic guitar. The program features multimedia lessons that guide children with video demonstrations, while creatively using interactive games to help with learning chords.

Back To School Prices

In eMedia’s My Guitar, an animated character named Gary the Guitar leads kids through 60 lessons by Kevin Garry, PhD. My Guitar covers the basics, such as tuning the guitar and learning chords, and moves on to reading music, playing songs and much more. An animated fretboard shows the child where to put their fingers as the live recorded audio plays. With MIDI tracks, the speed of the music can be adjusted so kids can learn at their own pace. Special features such as an automatic tuner, metronome, chord dictionary and digital recorder are all included. R295.00

My Electric Guitar In eMedia’s My Electric Guitar, an animated character named Rocky the Guitar leads kids through lessons by Charles McCrone, graduate of the cutting-edge GIT and professional guitar instructor. Rocky is voiced by Steve Rock, host of KISW’s radio show Metal Shop. My Electric Guitar covers the basics, such as tuning your guitar and learning about your gear, and moves on to reading music, playing songs, and much more. An animated fretboard shows the child where to put their fingers as the live recorded audio plays. With MIDI tracks, the speed of the music can be adjusted so kids can learn at their own pace. Special features such as an automatic tuner, metronome, chord dictionary and digital recorder are all included. R295.00

My Violin In eMedia’s My Violin, an animated character named Val the Violin leads kids through lessons by Sabina Skalar. My Violin covers the basics, such as tuning the violin and playing notes, and moves on to reading music, playing songs and much more. An animated fingerboard shows kids where to put their fingers as the live recorded audio plays. Our revolutionary Finger Tracker listens to the playing and shows whether the child's fingers are on the right spot. With MIDI tracks, the speed of the music can be adjusted so you can learn at your own pace. Special features such as an automatic tuner, metronome and digital recorder are included. R495.00

My Guitar

My piano

My electric guitar

For my vioin

Back to school price

Back to school price

Back to school price

Back to school price

R295.00

R295.00

R295.00

R395.00

Reduced from R350.00

Reduced from R350.00

Reduced from R350.00

Reduced from R595.00


PRODUCT REVIEWS

Get Ahead Grade 7

RELATED

PRODUCTS

NEED TO KNOW • South African-produced educational software • Bilingual interactive lessons teach relevant skills • Covers the local syllabus R369.95

JUMP START SERIES

This incredible American series is more focused on providing entertainment with learning than just plain old learning, but it’s great fun and very informative.

BIG BOET SERIES

Everyone needs a big brother; this locally-produced educational software series also aims to teach the local syllabus, in a slightly different manner.

GET Ahead software is new in the Connect office, but as always we tackled this new educational brand’s offerings with relish. It’s nice to see locally-produced software offering the kinds of learning and skills development that local kids can make use of. This particular program avoids the kind of TV-show like frills seen in American educational products, while still presenting an appealing and easy to use interface. This is important, particularly in software intended for children, as without it you might as well be giving them just another text book. Get Ahead Grade 7 presents all the subject matter covered in Grade 7 as a series of questions and answers. The interface is simple enough, and instructions are always present to guide learners through the various sections. Kids start by entering their names, and from there they can choose to learn more about any of their school subjects. Once Learn, Test or Play is selected, the choice of short, medium and long playing time determines the number of questions asked. The Learn mode aims to expand the child’s understanding of both the question and answer by allowing them to “Mark my question”, which gives a tick or a cross, and sometimes even expands on the answer in a small pop-up window. At the end of each session, the child is given an overall score, which can be used to track their progress. The Test and Play options do things slightly differently. Test creates an exam-like environment where questions cannot be marked on the spot; rather the child needs to complete all questions to get a score. Play is the most fun part, as it offers two kids the chance to play a quiz game against one another, using all the questions featured in the selected section.

58 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

The questions and answers are not perfect, or dynamic, however. Playing as an adult, we often saw alternative answers that were still correct, yet were marked as wrong by the software because it was not the specific answer being sought. While this certainly has a place in the field of education, it would have been nicer to see a somewhat more dynamic program that allowed more than just one answer to questions with more than one interpretation. For parents, the package offers the ability to track a child’s progress, and even set score goals for them to reach that can be worked toward over time, as the average scores of each section improve with effort. It’s easy to do, and very effective at motivating kids and keeping parents informed. This is a very educational and fun package for SA kids, and we definitely feel it will benefit those learners who give it enough time. It’s just a pity that the only languages it encompasses are English and Afrikaans, and that its questions and answers system is not a little more dynamic. SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS Processor: Pentium 100 or equivalent Operating System: Windows 95 or above Memory: 64MB RAM Hard drive space: 75MB Video: SVGA 800 x 600, 16-bit colour

PROS

CONS

• Covers Grade 7 subjects • Well-presented interface • Good educational content • Fun head-to-head Play mode

• Questions and answers are a little too static • Other Mzansi languages neglected • Encourages rote learning

OVERALL RATING


By calling the LeafLine, you will be able to get support and further clarification on subjects covered on the CD. The LeafLine also offers access to a nationwide database of health and educational professionals, ensuring that whatever the challenge, the user has access to those who are there to assist.

A free three-month subscription to Web Lessons means your child receives access to online quizzes, activities, and instructor guides in the following subject areas: Maths Concepts, Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, Geometry, Earth Science, Life Science, Physical Science, South African History, South African Economics, Geography, World History, Economic and Management Science

RELATED

PRODUCTS

Future Island NEED TO KNOW • Grades 8-12 • Teaches Life, Learning & Entrepreneurial Skills • 32 hours of individual, professional training and assistance • Includes 3 months free access to Web Lessons R279.95

EDUCATIONAL software is usually dedicated to specific subjects for specific grade levels, and the important task of educating, rather than teaching, is often overlooked. This education package focuses on the vital skills of learning, living and becoming an entrepreneur, which are vital life skills that learners will need to be equipped with. Instead of aiming to function as a reinforcing mechanism of lessons taught in the classroom, this software aims to explore and educate in all important life lessons usually neglected by conventional teaching methods. If you’re looking to give your teenager the complete life start package, you won’t go wrong with this software. Specialised content aimed specifically at South African schools is combined with the latest 2-D and 3-D technologies and cutting-edge learning principles. Once students start learning with one of the products, there’s incentive to progress through the modules on offer. The innovative virtual learning spaces draw the user into worlds of educational possibility, with content mediated through active learning guidelines. There is tangible encouragement to apply lessons learnt to everyday life, all through the different stages of development of the student’s high school career. This is done through ‘Edumotion” or educational motivation. This enables users to submit their work and show where they have used different study methods or applied different techniques to school work they’re currently engaged in. Reward comes in the form of the opportunity to win laptops, Playstations and bursaries. The only catch is that it must be work that the user is currently involved in at school, as they are meant to apply skills learnt, on a daily basis. This package offers 25 vital life, learning and entrepreneurial skills that are vital to mastering the school curriculum. It’s been designed by health and educational specialists using the latest standards in computer-assisted learning, and although much of the content is theory-based, it is nevertheless practically useful. The 25 critical learning areas that are identified and targeted

include left and right brain integration, which helps prepare the student make better decisions and improving judgment skills. This package teaches effective listening, effective reading and writing and helps the student reach a point where they can make useful class notes and thus be better prepared for exams, and ultimately the workplace. The vital skills of summary, memorisation and recollection are taught, which proves invaluable for exam time. More important exam time skills like time management, stress relief, concentration and planning will go a long way to ensuring that your child has the best possible preparation for any challenges. Goal setting, preparation for tertiary studies, career planning and entrepreneurial skills are designed to take the guess work out of planning for the school leaver’s future. Important life lessons cover coping with change, dealing with relationships, drugs, HIV/AIDS and conflict resolution. This is a pleasantly different educational software package that teaches kids far more than just thinking skills, and it is highly recommended to parents of teenagers looking to add some non-traditional education to their kids’ learning experience. SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: • • • • •

URBAN QUEST

An interactive computeranimated learning program for Grades 4 to 7 that lets kids choose their own character and undertake a quest that leads them home, through the city. Fun, while important life lessons are learnt.

Windows 95/98/2000/XP/Vista Minimum Pentium III 500MHz processor 250MB RAM CD-ROM player Soundcard

PROS

CONS

• Personal tutor without having to leave home • Interactive learning and full feedback • Progress at a pace suited to the user

• SMS activation can only be done during office hours and it takes a while to respond • Only one user per CD purchase • No other South African languages other than English or Afrikaans offered

OVERALL RATING

BERLITZ SPANISH PREMIER

Three powerful ways for you to learn a new language – on your Mac, PC or in the car. A perfect companion for foreign language school curriculums.

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book reviews

BASIC MATH AND PRE-ALGEBRA FOR DUMMIES

NEED TO KNOW • By Mark Zegarelli • 368 Pages

JOURNALISTS generally battle with numbers, which is why this book was so fascinating. Author Mark Zegarelli takes many of mathematics’ basic concepts and explains them in a friendly, down-to-earth fashion, a boon to anyone who has had a maths teacher who automatically assumed that everyone can define Pi to the thousandth place in their head. He starts with the basics, like illustrating what a composite number is, what a prime number is, how to multiply etc., essentially just touching on those important mathematical concepts that you are supposed to be familiar with by the time you hit high school. His approach is a lot friendlier and illustrative than that of the average maths teacher, however, and this goes a long way towards fostering an interest in the subject. The book gets a lot more complicated, though, as Zegarelli eventually works up to the beginnings of algebra by around the 300th page. Here, the mysteries of x are presented, also in easy-going English with lots of illustrations. It’s just a basic introduction

COMPTIA 2009 A+ COMPLETE STUDY GUIDE

NEED TO KNOW • By Quentin Docter, Emmet Dulaney & Toby Skandler • 1152 Pages

60 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

OFFICE 2007 STEP BY STEP

NEED TO KNOW • By Joyce Cox, Joan Preppernau, Curtis Frye, Steve Lambert with Katherine Murray • 641 Pages

to algebra, but the foundation laid in the chapters leading up to it is well done enough that by the time you reach this portion, you’ll be well-equipped to understand it better. If you or your child needs a friendly, down-to-earth maths refresher, this book comes highly recommended.

THE 2009 edition of CompTIA’s A+ Complete Study Guide is a large tome filled with all the information necessary to prepare for two A+ exams, namely 220-701 (Essentials) and 220-702 (Practical Application). It also includes a CD with the entire book on it as a searchable PDF file as well as practice exams, and the Sybex test engine that presents students with challenging, exam-type questions that serve to reinforce all learned concepts. A+ certification is all about learning the ins and outs of the average PC, and it aims to impart the knowledge required to take apart, reassemble and configure computers. This study guide will definitely help anyone hoping to take and pass the CompTIA A+ certification exams, with its depth of knowledge that is presented in digestible chunks by three experts Docter, Dulaney and Skandler. This is certainly not a book for people interested in learning more about computer components, though, and is specifically targeted at students intending to take the CompTIA A+ exams. If that is you, then this book will prove invaluable in equipping you with the kind of knowledge necessary to pass the tests, and thrive in a real-world working environment.

OFFICE 2007 Step by Step is all about what is new in Office 2007. It discusses the new ribbon toolbar and how to get the most out of it, and gets into the basics of each of Office’s applications, Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, Excel and Access. If you’re an old-time user of Office products, you’ll probably get the most value out of discussions around the new ribbon toolbar design, since that is the most radical change in Office 2007 over previous versions. In-depth guides and tutorials on the more complex aspects of these applications, however, are not present here and you would be better off looking for those in another book. Beginners will get a good grounding in the features and layout of all the major Office applications, and receive instruction on how to use them. The companion CD that ships with the book contains all manner of practice files and resources that will help you make the most of the book’s contents. In all, this is a decent book for Office beginners, but more advanced users looking for insights into the more complex workings of Microsoft’s popular applications will most likely not be satisfied with this purchase.


WEEKEND MBA FOR DUMMIES

NEED TO KNOW • By Richard Pettinger, Peter Economy and Dr. Kathleen Allen Ph.D • 768 pages

GETTING an MBA is definitely a career-enhancing move and salary booster, but it’s also very expensive and takes around two years to complete. For all the people who’d like to learn the skills imparted in an MBA course, but don’t have the pricey entrance fee or two years to dedicate to it, a book is a great alternative. Weekend MBA for Dummies is a good way to build skills, gain insight, and improve professional dealings and business practices. For MBA-holders, it’s also a good refresher. Best of all, it’s presented in the affable ‘For Dummies’ style that’s easy to grasp and fun to read. The book details the topics covered in any good MBA course, imparting that knowledge without the large price tag. Obviously it’s not going to reach the level of detail a course will, but it is still good enough to cover a lot, and give business people insights into what to change in their business approach, why, and how. Ever been curious as to how to build a solid team? About who really pays attention to advertising and marketing? Keeping employees motivated and performing at their peak? These are but three of the many topics covered in Weekend MBA. While it’s no replacement for an actual MBA course, Weekend MBA for Dummies will provide a solid foundation for building better business practices.

WWW.CONNECT.CO.ZA | 61


game reviews //BY TIANA CLINE AND PETER DAWOUD

Games for Everyone! Not every video game is about guns, blood and 18+ age restrictions. If you already own a Nintendo DS, there’s a good chance you’ve tried Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training. But did you know there are a lot of other amazing, family-friendly and fun titles to try?

STYLE BOUTIQUE (DS)

R449.95 Style Boutique combines creativity and fashion with a collection of trendy clothes, chic accessories and stylish shoes. As the owner of a clothing boutique, you must purchase inventory, monitor the store’s funds and try to please a constant stream of customers who look to you for the best fashions. Every day customers who walk through the door of your shop tell you their shopping budget and the kind of clothing they want. If you make them look good, they’ll be back – or they might even stick around and spend more. And once you build up some cash, then it’s time for you to go shopping to stock your store. You can expand your inventory or start getting ready for seasonal changes, which are timed to the calendar of the Nintendo DS system. You can also make a local wireless connection with up to three of your friends to host a fashion runway contest to see who has the best eye for fashion. You can customise the look of your character with different head shapes, eyes and lips. All the clothes you’ve bought for your store will also appear in your wardrobe and you can even modify your look by changing your hair colour, getting a new style or adding makeup. Style Boutique is more than a game for fashionistas – it’s an in-depth management simulation that will keep you shopping for stock and selling styles for a very long time.

NEED TO KNOW • 16 different in-game designer labels • More than 10,000 items • Customise your store and character 62 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010


COOKING GUIDE: CAN’T DECIDE WHAT TO EAT? (DS)

R399.95

NEED TO KNOW • 250 recipes • A handy kitchen timer and shopping list creator • Instructional technique videos

Can’t decide what to eat? Cooking Guide will help you choose, prepare and cook international dishes. Want to make yourself a quick dinner after a long day at work? Want to plan a week of meals for your family? Or do you want to make a Sunday roast for 10? Cooking Guide can help you solve all these and many other meal dilemmas. Choose from 250 recipes from all over the world. Cooking Guide takes you through every step from compiling a shopping list, preparation of ingredients and utensils through to a step-by-step guide on how to make your chosen meal. Every recipe is enhanced with videos that go beyond the capabilities of printed cookbooks. What’s more is that you can make notes, exclude a recipe if you’re a vegetarian or allergic to shellfish, for example, and really get some in-depth ingredient knowledge. With varying difficulties of recipes, Cooking Guide is suitable for all. The voice recognition software makes it simple to go through each stage of the recipe – all you need to do is pick a recipe, place the DS somewhere close and listen to the instructions, giving simple voice commands like “next” or “repeat”. From Peru to Portugal, Switzerland to South Korea, you’ll find fun international recipes, convenient cooking for beginners and inspiring ingredients to help the preparation process. If you love cooking or simply need some new recipes, Cooking Guide: Can’t Decide What to Eat? is a wonderful option for foodies.

>>LOOK OUT FOR<< LITTLEST PETSHOP Based on one of the fastest growing toy brands, EA’s Littlest PetShop series brings all your favourite pets to life on the DS. There are 20 popular pets to play with as well as exclusive fun extras. Each title has lots of puzzles, minigames and accessories for cute customisation.

>>CONSIDER THIS<<

100 CLASSIC BOOK COLLECTION (DS)

R399.95 Transform your Nintendo DS into a fully portable library. Holding your Nintendo DS horizontally, just like a book, you can discover 100 classic novels from some of the world’s best known and best-loved authors on a small, convenient portable handheld device. Nintendo has worked with publisher HarperCollins to select and include titles from the world’s of Adventure, Drama, Mystery, Fantasy, Romance, Tragedy, Comedy, and Women’s and Children’s literature so you can now join Gulliver on his travels, go Around the World in Eighty Days, sleuth with Sherlock Holmes or disappear 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. With 100 books in one small portable system you might never again be stuck for anything to read. Not sure what a particular book is about? The story synopsis mode details

the story and themes of each title without giving away any of the twists and turns of the plot. If you’re stuck for somewhere to start, simply tell the software your mood and it will present a range of options to choose from. The software also offers an electronic bookmark so you can pick up right where you left off and also offers adjustable text sizes to further enhance the reading experience. If you love reading and want to catch up on the world’s best classics, this DS title is every book you can think of in your bag.

NEED TO KNOW • 100 novels • Austin, Bronte, Dickens, Hardy, Shakespeare and Wilde • Turn your DS horizontally for easy reading

CHARM GIRLS CLUB Girls are immersed into the exciting world of the Charm Girls where they complete challenges that are fresh, fun and relevant to their world, collecting sparkly virtual charms along the way. From figuring out fashion design to getting prom perfect, each DS game is different – collect them all!

WWW.CONNECT.CO.ZA | 63


game reviews

MASS EFFECT 2

NEED TO KNOW

COMING >>SOON<<

THE sequel to one of the best games of 2007, Mass Effect 2 continues the story of Commander Shepard. Picking up in the year 2185, the player is tasked with investigating the reasons behind the disappearance of entire human colonies across the galaxy. Much like its predecessor, Mass Effect 2 offers players a story-driven experience that both captivates and thrills from start to finish. (Players of the first Mass Effect can import saved games to continue the story of their own Commander Shepard). Although the second game uses the same, heart-pounding mix of action and role-playing, new refinements to the cover system and the inclusion of Crackdown 2 Featuring over-the-top action and freeform gameplay, you explore and play however you choose in Pacific City. Enjoy new abilities, combat capabilities, weaponry and vehicles.

heavy weapons beef up most of the action sequences. The presentation is faultless. With stunning visuals that sell the story and setting of the game, the sharp voice-acting and sound effects will immerse you into this world. Robust character customisation, visiting familiar locations and planet-trekking side-missions all add to the main story, which is over 20-hours. From choosing a player class to customising your appearance and tailoring your own abilities and strengths, Mass Effect 2 provides the best of both genres in a polished, action-packed space game.If you’re looking to stop the most terrifying threat mankind has ever faced, put on your spacesuit – Mass Effect 2 is an emotionally charged sci-fi adventure worth playing. R699.95

LOOK OUT >>FOR<<

• The second instalment in the Mass Effect Trilogy • Command a unique team of characters • A dangerous space mission • A new location-based damage system • 19 weapon classes, including heavy weapons

Lost Planet 2 Lost Planet 2 is a true 3-D experience. Beyond the deep single player mode, the sequel is loaded with one the most extensive multiplayer campaign seen in a shooter to date.

FROM SingStar to Guitar Hero, Dance Dance Revolution to Lips, there really are so many music games available. If you own a video game console, there’s a good chance you also have a mic, drums or a guitar-shaped controller. If you’re more interested in the workings of music, Activision’s DJ Hero will be the game to teach you how to scratch, blend, cross-fade and sample using the DJ HERO innovative turntable controller. And while it may be smaller then it’s real-life counterpart, this certainly doesn’t remove the difficulty element – the turntables are probably the hardest gaming instrument to master, yet it will still be a fun experience for even the most uncoordinated person. DJ Hero NEED TO KNOW gamers will have a lot of fun mixing • An all-new turntable controller music from a selection of 94 unique • Over 100 individual songs included mixes from DJ greats such as Daft Punk, on-disc Paul Van Dyk and Eric Prydz. The music • 80 original exclusive mixes and artists on offer is vast and almost • World-renowned artists like David Bowie, everyone will find something worth Blondie, Marvin Gaye, Beastie Boys, mixing. Some of the songs also include Gorillaz, N.E.R.D, Nirvana and 50 Cent guitar support, so if you have one to

plug in, it will only add to the action. Compared to other music/rhythm games out there, DJ Hero is tough… but stick with it and you’ll have countless hours of rocking gameplay.  R999.95

>>CONSIDER THIS<< Band Hero Focused on today’s hottest hits and classic anthems, Band Hero is headlined by some of the biggest names in music as in-game artists and playable characters.

WWE SMACKDOWN VS. RAW 2010

NEED TO KNOW • THQ’s best-selling fighting franchise • Exciting new creation tools • A robust superstar roster • New storylines

THQ’S annual fighting series enters the ring for a new showdown, once again allowing fans to take control of their favourite WWE superstar wrestling greats. The first thing fans of the series are bound to notice is the inclusion of a more in-depth user creation toolset. Not only can you create your own wrestlers, but you can design every detail from tattoos to logos. Doesn’t sound so exciting? How about creating a full-on story mode? Here, you can direct shows, determining everything from talent and location selections, dialogue writing, camera angles, superstar emotions and much more. Construct each night’s show card with matches, unique match stipulations, interference events and other story twists and turns. (Fans of wrestling will find endless hours of fun with this mode as you could easily design intricate and endless story arcs.) Looking at the gameplay, the developers have paid careful attention to making the on-screen action look and feel just like the real deal. If you’re mad about John Cena, Randy Orton, Edge or Rey Mysterio, know that they’re all here and look better than ever, especially in the next-gen versions of the title. The control system is good and will feel familiar if you’ve played previous games. Over and above the inclusion of a training facility, WWE Smackdown vs. RAW 2010 offers subtle refinements on last year’s game offering an even better fighting phenomenon.  R699.95

>>GET THIS<< >>CONSIDER THIS<< Lips: Number One Hits Belt out tunes from Coldplay, Rihanna, Tokio Hotel, Timbaland feat. OneRepublic, Extreme, Culture Club, MC Hammer, Roy Orbison and Marvin Gaye.

Tekken 6 The largest character roster ever in Tekken gaming history, Tekken 6 has 40 unique fighters including 34 beloved beaters like Jin, Heihachi and Kazuya, as well as 6 new characters with unique fighting styles and combo systems.

64 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

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game reviews

DARK VOID

NEED TO KNOW

PLAYERS take the role of William Grey, a cargo ship pilot that crashes in the Bermuda triangle. Grey is mysteriously teleported to the alien planet of Void and suddenly finds that humanity has been enslaved by a dominant race known as the Watchers. Teaming up with Nikola Tesla, Will is tasked with saving the human race from the Watchers’ iron rule and returning to his domain. Although the story is absorbing and keeps you in the action, it is really Dark Void’s gameplay that will keep you glued to your scenes. Many players are comparing the on-ground combat to Sony’s PS3 exclusive, Uncharted – it’s fast, fluid and rather brutal at times. Even though the

>>COMING SOON<< Darksiders: Wrath of War

Featuring the unique art style of legendary comic book artist Joe Madureira, Darksiders puts you in the role of War, one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.

melee combat is excellent, it is being airborne with your jetpack that makes Dark Void truly exciting. From hovering and covering to hurtling through the Void at blistering speeds while shooting down anything that gets in your path, Dark Void offers amazing action. Other cool gameplay bits include a unique grip system that allows you to scale walls by jumping from surface to surface and hijack UFO’s while in mid-air. Be warned though – Dark Void isn’t easy, so if you’re ready for extra effort, you’ll enjoy a unique fight and flight experience. R699.95

>>CONSIDER THIS<< Borderlands

Borderlands combines the best in first-person action with player customisation and vehicular combat – choose from hundreds of thousands of weapons, each with their unique manufacturers, specifications and advantages.

Sims World Adventures The first expansion pack for The Sims 3, World Adventures adds three exciting new locations for your Sims to visit: Egypt, France and China. Other absorbing extras include puzzles and exploration missions. If you’re a Sim fanatic, this one isn’t to be missed.

R249.95

ARMY OF TWO: THE 40TH DAY

NEED TO KNOW • Four unique multiplayer modes • Weapon customisation • Fight you way through ravaged city districts • A more organic and immersive co-op experience THE original Army of Two got mixed reviews. Some people really loved the co-operative gameplay, others found the controls too loose and the fact that if you played using AI, your teammate was essentially against you. EA’s Army of Two: The 40th Day is a more robust and redesigned multiplayer experience with four unique multiplayer modes including Extraction: This pits a team of four players against a series of unique enemy waves as they move from point to point in the ruined city. Players must strategise as a unified team to combat the different forces of the 40th Day Initiative while trying to get out alive. The most notable change is the game’s

CONSIDER >>THIS<<

• A third-person Sci-Fi action-adventure • Speed and scale unmatched by any other action title • A Gravity-defying vertical combat system • Huge bosses that require fast reflexes

Ratchet and Clank: A Crack In Time The sequel to Quest for Booty and Tools of Destruction, this is another excellent adventure for the furry Lombax and his robot companion as they attempt to reunite and save the universe. Expect polished cutscenes, cute extras and gameplay you know and love – A Crack in Time is a game everyone will thoroughly enjoy.

R799.95

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Modern Warfare 2 picks up following the historic events of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, the blockbuster title that remains the top selling first person action game in history.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games An all-new winter sports competition, team Mario and Sonic are back, this time in the Host Cities of the 2010 Winter Games. On Wii, you can use your Balance Board, but DS gamers will also enjoy official Olympic events as well as over-the-top Dream Events. All the events are unlocked straightaway to play using your favourite character, be it Yoshi, Donkey Kong or Metal Sonic ...

R499.95

66 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

redesigned cover system – gone are the days of pressing one button to snap to cover. Instead, by merely crouching next to cover, your character pushes up against the wall or what have you. The controls allow for much more precision than before and considering the amount of bullets in the air at any given time, this level of control will be appreciated. Weapon customisation is back, allowing players-cum-mercenaries to spend their hard-earned money upgrading their kit. All in all, Army of Two: The 40th Day is a shooting spectacle that’s even better played with a friend. R699.95


tech tannie

Tech Tannie: Sorting out the world of technology ONE BYTE at a time.. IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, GRIPES OR JUST SEEK SOME SOLACE, E-MAIL TAMSIN, OUR FRIENDLY TECH TANNIE AT TECHTANNIE@ CONNECT.CO.ZA

68 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

issue of the month: Q: 

I’m not very technical and I would like to improve on my knowledge so I try to learn new technology words. But recently a conversation between two people at work left me stumped. What is a front side bus? Studious in Swellendam

A:  

I’m impressed by your dedication to learning all things deeply technical in the all powerful world of computing but do I really want to unlock Pandora’s Box and let you in on all my secrets? I had to sit back with a nice Klippies and cola to sort that one out. Once I had achieved a Zen-like state (and an empty bottle) I realised that I had to open this door for you and let you discover this magical thing known as a front side bus (FSB). No, there is no timetable attached nor will you have to worry about it dropping you off in the middle of nowhere for no apparent reason. Essentially the FSB is what carries information between your central

processing unit (CPU) and the northbridge. It sounds more complicated than it is. The CPU acts on instructions sent by your computer’s programs and the northbridge is a part of your computer’s motherboard and is all about handling your memory and graphics. The speed of your FSB, or its clock frequency, will determine how quickly it carries this information. The FSB is one of the components that computer geeks know as overclockers, and will adjust and fiddle with in order to push it harder and faster. I don’t recommend you do that until you are so immersed in the technology behind your PC that you can build one with a blindfold.


Q:

My e-mail is a complete and utter disaster. My inbox is overflowing and I’m at a loss as to how I can sort this all out quickly and easily. Please help! I’m using Windows Live Mail on Windows 7. E-mailed in Eshowe

A:

Ah, now this is a delightful question. While having litres of e-mails makes me feel wonderfully popular (even when they’re trying to sell me watches and lotions) it can be extremely tedious having to trawl through piles of spam or letters from Auntie Mabel to find the e-mails you need in a hurry. To start with, create folders for your different contacts or subjects. For example, have a folder for Auntie Mabel, a folder for Taxes and a folder for Research. Now you can simply move your e-mails into these folders by selecting the e-mail and going to Edit>>Move to Folder and then selecting the folder you want. Another tip is to sort your messages according to date, sender, size and subject. This way you can locate a message from someone faster than a speeding taxi. Windows Live Mail also comes with Junk Filters. Use these to try to cut down on your spam. I recommend going through your spam filter at least once a day, however, as sometimes genuine e-mails can get caught up in it because the system is not yet infallible. If you want to go for something a little more advanced, you should consider looking at filters. You can choose different colours for different types of e-mails so you can instantly assess the state of your inbox when you open it, and you can siphon specific e-mails into folders without them even touching your inbox. These can be adjusted quite easily by following the step-by-step instructions in Tools>>Message Rules. Finally, you can Flag messages by going to Actions>>Flag message. This will remind you to follow up with someone or chase something, or let you know that this is a fun e-mail that you can read later, at your leisure. Now go forth and sort your e-mail with joy.

Q: 

I’ve got hundreds of digital photographs from many years of holidays and family events and they’re just sitting in my computer gathering virtual dust. I’m too scared to tackle this enormous project but I know I must, do you have any ideas? Digital in Durbs

A: 

There’s nothing as addictive as snapping away at a party with your digital camera but, man, you can end up with tons of pics – good, bad and ugly.. How can you tackle this growing pile of memory hogging imagery? To start with use an online image organiser like Picasa, Xnview or Irfanview. These all have different terms and conditions attached so read those carefully before you start. Next, gather all of your photos into a single folder on your hard drive, introduce several sub folders and sort your photos by the date they were taken. It will take a bit of time initially but it’s well worth it in the long run. Another option is to store your photos on DVDs or CDS. It’s a good idea to back-up your stuff anyway and if you store them according to date, it makes finding photos so much easier. You should also consider tagging your photos. Tags are simply descriptions for your photos that make it easier to find them when you need to. These can be anything from Birthday to Easter Eggs to Hats. Most photo storage options, like the ones I mentioned above, will let you add tags by default. If you still have to edit all of your photos, you can create a separate folder, with relevant date-based sub folders for edited images so you can gradually build them up over time. I also recommend using the latest types of data backup, such as DVDs or external hard drives, when storing your images so that you will always be able to access them, even when technologies change. Now go on, tackle your photies one image at a time and you’ll have albums worth boasting about before you know it.

WWW.CONNECT.CO.ZA | 69


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disconnect //BY ADAM OXFORD

LOGGING IN TO THE

NOTWORK WIRELESS IS WONDERFUL, BUT ONLY WHEN IT WORKS, SAYS ADAM OXFORD

E

xcuse me, but have you seen my network? It was here just a couple of seconds ago, I swear I saw it. I was just loading up the Google.co.za homepage, though, and it vanished, along with all the shared folders around my house. I’d log into my router to fix it, except that I need network access to do that. Which I don’t have, obviously. I guess I’m going to have to go downstairs and threaten it with a hammer again. Oh wait, just the suggestion seemed to do the trick. I can go back to my search now. “How to train pedigree bees.” And there goes the network again. Wireless networks are clearly a mystical force for good. The freedom to access the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com) from anywhere in the house has settled thousands ‘Who is that?’ arguments while sat in front of the TV, and no doubt saved a few marriages as a result. The problem is that when they go wrong, as they often do, it’s very hard to troubleshoot what the problem might be. Have you just wandered out of range? Is there interference from next door, or a passing thunderstorm? Has the router simply reset itself for no apparent reason? Even if you can identify the source of the problem, fixing it can be even harder. Do you try and do something technical, like change the broadcast channel, or wait a few minutes for everything to start working again, as it often does anyway. Even when everything is working fine with the basic Internet connection, trying to share files across a home network can be needlessly frustrating and governed by random chance. If you can’t see any other machines in the network explorer, but you know they’re definitely attached to your router by wires or WiFi, give it a couple of days and they’ll probably just pop-up out of nowhere, shamelessly ignoring the fact that they should have been there the whole time. You can see the other machine, physically. It may be so close by on the same desk that you can type on both keyboards simultaneously. Trying to access one from the other via the network, though, is a fruitless endeavour. There’s no point calling technical support. More often than not human intervention just makes things worse, hiding the missing computer under a veil of botched fixes. Better to just be patient and wait for it to sort itself out. 72 | CONNECT | JANUARY 2010

It’s ironic, but I’ve actually resorted to using off-site file sharing services, like Dropbox, just to transfer pictures from one desk to another in my office. Microsoft, to its credit, has vastly simplified the process of setting up a wireless network with its new Homegroup entry in the Windows 7 File Manager, and improving the detection and sharing of files between PCs. Or at least, it has if they’re all running Windows 7. If you’ve got a mix of operating systems on your network, hunting down the Windows 7 machine requires the technical equivalent of a seasoned bush tracker. The spoors of the great Windows 7 beast may be in evidence before you, but it’s unusual to actually see one in the wild. All of which is why I’m patenting a new form of wireless Internet connection altogether. It’s based on the humble USB stick. If I need to move a file from one PC to another within my home or office, doing it via the network is no longer my weapon of choice. If I need to search for something, I’ll simply post the stick off to the Googleplex in California and patiently await their reply. I just hope someone there knows about bees.


Introducing

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