ISSUE 1 | OCTOBER 2010
Blackberry ban cancelled in UAE
STORE, SYNC AND SHARE YOUR FILES
Where are the iPad competitors?
A GUIDE TO FREE SERVICES IN THE CLOUD
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contents This month’s selection of industry tips, advice and guides
26 Nokia N8 28 Buffalo NAS 30 Canon MF8350cdn 31 WD6000 Raptor 36 Zotac 480 37 Download this
38 Free online sync file storage Sync, store and backup online
Subscribe Stay ahead of the rest Turn to page 6
44 Readers’ Q&A We tackle your toughest problems
45 USB Flash benchmark drive Good tip if you’re buying a PC
46 The back page Multiple monitors boosts productivity
What’s all the fuss really about?
What the next WIndows should be.
22 3D Laptops
Who will be taking on Apple’s iPad?
Lack of content is serious problem.
The ban in UAE didn’t happen.
Current trends and how to fight it.
10 3D TV
20 Windows 8
EmiratesMac Apple Users Group Discounts - Support - Debate - News How to join: Contact: Paul Castle, Community Evangelist, firstname.lastname@example.org, @daddybird, +971-55-580 1829
4 | www.pcworldme.net | October 2010
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Microsoft marches on It’s easy to dismiss Microsoft as a company and ridicule its products but ignoring it you cannot. Decisions made on their Redmond, Washington campus probably affect us in our everyday lives more than we know or care to admit. Windows 7 made its global debut at Gitex in Dubai last year and by all accounts it has been a big success for Microsoft. Perhaps we’ll get some updated sales figures at this month’s tech fair but in March this year the company announced that it had sold 90 million copies of Windows 7, making it the fastest-selling operating system in history. I don’t think there’s any doubt that Windows Vista was a major disappointment for Microsoft as well as users. When Vista came out, users of the already then aging Windows XP decided in large numbers to not upgrade fearing compatibility problems with hardware and software. Windows 7 should be ecstatic that Windows XP users are finally starting to upgrade their operating systems directly to Windows 7 totally bypassing Vista. Peter Klein, Microsoft’s chief financial officer, has said that the company is now in dialogue with the “majority” of their enterprise customers to deploy Windows 7. What the situation is for home users is unclear but in my own estimate Windows 7 is quickly taking over the personal segment as well. Still more users will be moving to Windows 7 when Service Pack 1 comes out. It’s scheduled for “early next year,” according to sources, and a beta version is already available for download. Although Windows may seem like the key to Microsoft’s future well being, arguably Internet Explorer also plays an important part. It’s made available a public beta of Internet Explorer 9 at www.beautyoftheweb.com. Microsoft has said the beta was downloaded more than two million times in the first 48 hours it was available. Microsoft clearly has high hopes for the new version of the still very popular Web browser. Since other browsers, most notably Firefox, have steadily eroded the market share of IE over recent years it should come as no surprise that Microsoft is putting a lot of effort into revamping their browser. The general direction seems to be that they’re moving focus away from the actual browser to focus attention on web sites and how they work and display. It should also not come as any surprise that Microsoft is capitalising on features of Windows 7 in designing Internet Explorer 9. After all, the two pieces of software are intrinsically linked, historically as well as technically, even though Microsoft may not be too keen to publicly admit that. Internet Explorer 9 will not be available for Windows XP, Microsoft has said, which may be a way for them to spur on the adoption of the new operating system.
Magnus Nystedt email@example.com
October 2010 | www.pcworldme.net | 7
10 STEPS TO A
KILLER MOBILE APP IN MENA By David Ashford
8 | www.pcworldme.net | October 2010
he growth in smartphones within MENA and the population size and structure presents a very interesting opportunity. There is a huge demand for smartphone apps that is not being met. So what does it take to become an app entrepreneur and how do you succeed? Here is my simple 10-step plan. 1. What value will you provide? The most important thing of all is to consider the basic concept of supply and demand. A common mistake is to build what you want without considering what the users actually want. If you are going to generate revenue from your app then you have to provide value to the user, it’s that simple. It could be a utility app, a reference app, a game app or even a gimmicky app that is just a bit of fun. 2. Keep it simple Building apps is very different from building enterprise software. It is far better to have a clearly defined scope for the first phase which proves your concept while minimizing the risks and costs and put all your other great ideas on a product roadmap for future consideration based on consumer reaction to your app. Besides, the best apps actually do something simple very well. The secret is to keep the scope simple and clearly defined. In other words do not overengineer anything. 3. Who are you targeting What kind of user will want your app and get most value from it? This is very important because only then can you consider which is the right platform, the size of the market, the right content and the right way to tell them about your app. For example, users of iOS devices tend to be university educated and aspire to western values so they often prefer content in English language while Nokia has by far the largest market and therefore offers the greatest commercial opportunities.
4. Select your platform Once you’ve considered who will want your app, what phones they have, etc. you also need to consider the suitability of the platform. Is there an effective distribution channel (app store) so that you can actually deliver your app to your target market and collect revenue? From a purely commercial point of view, both BlackBerry and Android don’t make much sense because the BlackBerry App World and the Android Market are not available throughout MENA. Apple does offer local app stores but consumers cannot make payments in local currency. Nokia not only offers local app stores in every MENA country but it also offers flexible pricing in local currencies as well as plenty of local support when it comes to promoting your app and is also the most likely to offer integration with the carrier (i.e. the possibility to collect revenues without the consumer needing to make payments with a credit or debit card).
5. Consider all revenue streams, pricing, forecast As well as selling your app for a one-off download fee, you could also consider in-app subscriptions, in-app purchases, in-app advertising and sponsorship. The trick is to find the right balance where consumers are happy and which suitable revenues are achieved. You need to do your research to work out the best price; don’t be greedy or you won’t get many downloads. It is possible to add new revenue streams over time - one of the most successful apps of all time is Angry Birds which costs $1 to download and it has recently introduced in-app purchases as an additional revenue stream for its most loyal consumers who want additional functionality. Once you know how you will generate revenue from your app you need to prepare a weekby-week revenue forecast. Challenge yourself in terms of how realistic this is by doing some research and considering what other apps have achieved.
ONE OFTHE MOST SUCCESSFUL APPS OF ALL TIME IS ANGRY BIRDS WHICH COSTS $1 TO DOWNLOAD AND IT HAS RECENTLYINTRODUCEDIN-APP PURCHASESASANADDITIONAL REVENUE STREAM October 2010 | www.pcworldme.net | 9
6. Understand the costs and risks While it is a lot of fun and it is possible to achieve commercial success, it’s not easy to make money from apps. You need to properly understand the costs (time, design, development, testing, maintenance, updates, etc.) and the risks (what happens if your target market doesn’t actually want to pay for your app?) AppsArabia will invest in the best commercial app ideas by covering the upfront cost of development (with payback coming from revenue generated by the app), thereby taking on all the risk. If your revenue forecast is realistic and sufficient to cover the development costs within three to six months then your app idea is likely to be commercially viable so you should join up at www.appsarabia.com and submit an application for investment. 7. Choose the right development partner You should choose your developer with care - ensure they have suitable design and engineering skills, and that they can manage the project diligently. You have to like them, respect them and trust them. The developer should produce a simple project plan which allows you to monitor progress and test/approve components along the way. AppsArabia selects only
David Ashford is the General Manager for Apps Arabia, a part of TwoFour54 in Abu Dhabi. Becoming an app entrepreneur is exciting, fun and can be very rewarding. AppsArabia offers an unprecedented support network and incubator facility. Its aim is to create a high quality app development industry throughout MENA and this will only be sustainable if it helps app entrepreneurs to be commercially successful. Join up for free at www.appsarabia.com and follow @AppsArabia on Twitter. If you’re coming to GITEX, make sure to meet AppsArabia at the Nokia stand at GITEX App World.
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the best developers to work with and pays them a fair bit for high quality work; we do not engage with developers on a profit share basis (profit share is only offered to the originator of the idea). You’ll need to brief them well and be comfortable that they understand the brief quickly and clearly. Good quality developers should bring new ideas and make strong recommendations about the technical architecture of the app 8. Quality, quality, quality A successful app must be intuitive from a user experience (UX) point of view, stunningly beautiful from a design point of view (UI) and rock solid from an engineering point of view. There’s nothing worse than a poorly executed app - users hate it and these apps never make money. AppsArabia is the publisher of all apps that it invests in so we demand exceptional quality. 9. Plan the promotion It’s important to plan how you’ll promote the app well in advance of it being ready to launch. A basic supporting web site, a simple video “trailer,” media coverage and social media must all be considered. It’s not easy to “go viral” but it helps if your app integrates with social media so that your users can easily tell their Facebook friends or Twitter followers when they’ve downloaded your app or been using it. 10. Launch, learn and evolve Once you’ve officially launched your app, you should monitor the demand for it and how it is used. A good developer will help you to integrate code so that you can monitor these metrics. You should be obsessively learning about what you’ve done right and what you can do better and then evolve your app, perhaps by prioritizing and rolling out some of the ideas on your product roadmap.
WHERE ARE THE
IPAD COMPETITORS By Magnus Nystedt
When Apple revealed their iPad in January competitors were expected to follow shortly thereafter with their tablets but so far only one or two, at least among the serious contenders, have made it to a shipping product. We know of course that iPad has become very successful, selling 80mn units in the first three months and even though there are no more recent figures than that, we have no reason to believe the sales have slowed down. Not yet available officially in the Middle East, iPads are apparently selling like hot cakes from various gray market importers as well as straight from markets where itâ€™s been officially introduced. So with the success of iPad and all the tablet concepts we saw at CES in January, where are the iPad competitors? Hereâ€™s a selection- not an exhaustive list- of real and rumoured tablets.
October 2010 | www.pcworld.me | 11 11
Samsung Galaxy Tab:
Out of all companies that have announced tablets, Samsung was the first major player to actually launch one. Introduced at IFA in Berlin, the Galaxy Tab is a 7-inch tablet, with a resolution of 1024 by 600 pixels, running Android 2.2, which means it has Adobe Flash 10.1. At the heart of the Tab runs a 1GHz Cortex A8 processor with 16GB of integrated storage, expandable with an additional 32GB using a MicroSD card. Samsung said the typical uses of the Tab would be similar to that of iPad, including watching movies, reading e-books, navigation, etc. They included a 1.3MP camera for video calls on the front and a 3MP camera on the back. Weighing in at 380 grams, the Tab is lighter as well as smaller than Apple’s iPad. The Tab supports more media formats compared to iPad, with support for DivX, Xvid, WMV and MPEG-4. It’s been announced that Samsung will start selling the Tab in the UAE in October with Etisalat. Prices are Dhs 2,500 for the 16GB model and Dhs 3,100 for the 32GB model. You can find more information at galaxytab.samsungmobile.com. Although initial reactions to the Tab are largely positive some concerns have been raised over Android not yet being fully adapted to the tablet form factor.
Toshiba Folio 100:
Following right on the heels of Samsung Tab, Toshiba took the opportunity to roll out their Folio 100 at IFA. Much like the Samsung Tab, it features a multi touch display, covering much of one whole side of the device. It’s physically larger than the Tab’s display though at 10.1-inches (1,024 x 600 pixels). Inside there’s a Tegra 2 processor, 16GB of storage, MicroSD card expansion slot, HDMI out port, 802.11n WiFi and 1.3MP webcam. Since it runs Android 2.1 it also has Flash 10.1. Toshiba says the Folio will be Wi-Fi only to start with but a 3G model will come later. It will be coming to Europe, Middle East and Africa in the 4th quarter of this year for an expected price of around $510.
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Lenovo Ideapad U1 Hybrid:
At CES Lenovo showed off the Ideapad U1 Hybrid. Basically it looks like a regular notebook but the display is detachable. Once detached the display, which has it’s own processor and memory, can run as a tablet. Lenovo has since then announced that the U1 Hybrid has been put on hold indefinitely but it may not be entirely dead. They’ve also said that they’re looking into Android as an alternative OS for this and other devices. It does still appear on Lenovo’s web site under “New product showcase” (bit.ly/6JI1ZD).
At DCC in Fujairah in May, MSI showed me concepts of two upcoming tablets. As it turned out, one of them was in June unveiled as being the Wind Pad. Still just classified as “upcoming,” the Wind Pad was supposed run Microsoft Windows 7 on a Intel Atom 1.66Ghz processor but lately it seems like they’re waiting for Intel Oak Trail to give them better battery life and performance. A 10-inch, 1,024 x 600 pixel display, 2GB RAM, 32GB SSD (solidstate), Wi-Fi, GPS, USB and HDMI ports, and web cam rounds out the hardware specs.
Sorry, that should be WeTab (www.wetab.mobi) apparently as the German company has renamed their tablet. The WeTab sports a line of impressive hardware specifications including USB ports, SD card slot, 11.6-inch 1,366 x 768 pixel display and 1.66GHz Intel Atom processor. The Linuxbased operating system supports multitasking, and Adobe Flash as well as AIR. Right now you can only “get informed about preordering” but not actually pre-order. Even though a soft launch was expected in July, no new date is available on the site.
Asus Eee Pad:
Asustek showed off two tablets called Eee Pads at Computex in June. The 12inch touchscreen Eee Pads should arrive in December or January at a cost of around $1,000. Running Microsoft’s Windows 7 Home Premium and with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor inside it will also come with a docking that transforms it into a laptop computer. In January they plan to launch a second Eee Pad, a 10-inch tablet without a docking station.
This one is pure speculation rumors about a GooglePad, for lack of a better word, running Google’s Chrome OS, seem to intensify. When attending the Abu Dhabi Media Summit in March, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that Chrome OS was “on schedule” and that it would make headlines in the second half of 2010. That fits well if the latest rumors about a Google tablet running Chrome OS are true. Web site DownloadSquad.com claims that a Google tablet is being built by HTC for launch in the US November 26 on Verizon.
October 2010 | www.pcworldme.net | 13
Toshiba Libretto W100:
In June Toshiba announced the Libretto W100 netbook with a unique concept: it basically has two 7-inch displays, one sitting where you’d normally find the keyboard. On the second display a virtual keyboard is displayed when you need to type but it can also be used as a second display or your Windows 7 desktop can stretch across both displays. Now selling for $1,099 in the US, the W100 hasn’t yet been announced in the Middle East but it seems like an interesting alternative to iPad and, in contrast to many others mentioned here, it is shipping.
Steve Ballmer showed off an HP tablet at CES but that never materialized. When HP announced in April that they would buy Palm speculation began that an HP tablet with WebOS would appear soon. In August the head of HP’s PC division, Toddy Bradley, said that the company would release a tablet PC based on WebS in “early 2011” as well as a “Microsoft product... in the near future.” Online documents uncovered by IDG News Service suggest HP’s Windows 7 tablet will be called the HP Slate 500. The company has also sought a trademark for the name PalmPad.
This one has actually started shipping in other parts of the world but we don’t yet know if and when it’ll reach the Middle East. When I tried it briefly in May I was impressed with the high-quality feel of the hardware, the display and the speed of the interface. The Streak has a 5-inch display, which makes it the smallest tablet mentioned here but let’s include it anyway although it’s by some seen as a smartphone rather than a tablet. See, it does work as a phone in contrast to the other tablets. Inside you find a 1GHz processor, Android 1.6 (Froyo upgrade coming later this year), microSD card, 800 x 480 pixel display, dual cameras (5-megapixel on back), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G and more.
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When I tried the Archos 9 running Windows 9 in October last year I was pretty impressed with the size and how it worked. It started shipping at the end of 2009 but was met by reviewers that were largely unimpressed. Among the chief complaints were poor performance due to the 1.1GHz Atom processor and crippled software due to Windows 7 Starter Edition. Archos 9 is currently available in the UAE for Dhs 2,499.
RIM, the Canadian company that makes Blackberry smartphones, has introduced their PlayBook tablet. It’ll arrive early next year sometime and features some interesting specifications. It has a 7-inch display (1024x600), 1GB RAM, 1GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor, dual HD cameras, and HDMI output. The operating system is based on QNX Neutrino, which RIM acquired earlier this year. It’s a UNIX-like OS found in mobile and embedded devices. There’ll be no 3G connection in the first models at least, expect to connect to Internet with WiFi and Bluetooth tethering. PlayBook will have support for HTML-5, Adobe Flash Player 10.1, Adobe Mobile AIR, OpenGL, and Java.
No, we have no name on Acer’s tablet nor any date or pricing. Actually, there’s very little we know other than what Acer CEO Gianfranco Lanci said at an event in China in May. Lanci showed off a 7-inch tablet with a physical keyboard much like Amazon’s Kindle. He said it was running Android, had colour screen and would arrive in Q4. Although he wouldn’t confirm it, Lanci mentioned telcos as an “obvious” option for going to market with the tablet, hinting about 3G at least as an option. More recently it’s been rumored that Acer is waiting for Android 3.0 before they launch a tablet.
BAN CANCELLED IN UAE (1) Messages
Telecommunications regulator said Blackberry services operate outside of national law
t dropped like a bomb in the UAE and the shock waves spread across the world. On August 1st, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) in the UAE issued a statement saying that Blackberry services would be banned in the country on October 11 giving users and operators just over two months to come to some alternative arrangements. Even though the UAE authorities cancelled the ban before the deadline much is left unexplained. Let’s take a look at the sequence of events. TRA said Blackberry operates “beyond” UAE law By all accounts this was something that had been brewing for some time. In a statement issued July 25 the TRA said that “currently, Blackberry operates beyond the jurisdiction of national legislation, since it is the only device operating in the UAE that immediately exports its data off-shore and is managed by a foreign, commercial organization.
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As a result of how Blackberry data is managed and stored, in their current form, certain Blackberry applications allow people to misuse the service, causing serious social, judicial and national security repercussions.” TRA added that Blackberry devices and services existed in the UAE before the “Safety, Emergency and National Security framework” was introduced by the government in 2007. This framework regulates Blackberry services in the UAE but even now in 2010 they don’t comply with the regulation. According to the TRA the UAE government had worked with Research In Motion (RIM), the Canadian company that makes Blackberry, for “a long time to resolve these critical issues” but have failed to find a solution. Wall Street Journal reported that RIM refused to set up a proxy server in the UAE, something required by a supposed “2007 contract” with Etisalat, possibly referring to the framework mentioned above. According to the same
By Magnus Nystedt
WSJ article RIM, had in July offered to allow the UAE government to access “the communications of 3,000” of the Blackberry users in the country but the UAE had declined the offer. What’s special about Blackberry? You might ask why single out Blackberry? Why is the TRA not suspending iPhone, Nokia, Samsung, Motorola and smartphones made by other manufacturers? The reason is pretty simple: because it’s only Blackberry that uses it’s own infrastructure to send and receive data, all the other uses the same public Internet infrastructure without being tied to servers of their own. TRA confirmed this: “Blackberry data services are currently the only data services operating in the UAE where this is the case.” Since all telecommunication in the UAE is controlled by the government and only licensed providers can provide telecommunications services,
it’s unacceptable that data to from a Blackberry device in the UAE goes straight to RIM’s servers, which are located outside the country, and do it in an ecrypted format out of reach of UAE authorities. A user can achieve much the same functionality themselves by connecting their smartphone to a VPN provider outside the country. That way, data on an iPhone, for example, travels in encrypted format to the VPN server and after that goes out on the public Internet. The hatched falls About a week later, on August 1st, the TRA confirmed that BlackBerry Messenger, BlackBerry E-mail and BlackBerry Web-browsing services would, be suspended as of October 11, 2010. The two telecommunications providers in the UAE- du and Etisalatwere informed the previous day about the upcoming statement and were instructed to provide alternative services with the least amount of possible disruption to customers. In a statment, the TRA said that their decision was “based on the fact that, in their current form, certain BlackBerry services allow users to purportedly act without any legal accountability.” Mohammed Al Ghanem, Director General of the TRA, kept the door open for discussions but he added that the
decision to suspend Blackberry on October 11 “is final,” according to WAM, the official news agency in the UAE Al Ghanem noted that “BlackBerry appears to be compliant in similar regulatory environments of other countries, which makes non-compliance in the UAE both disappointing and of great concern.” Immediately statements were made by du and Etisalat, talking about how serious this issues was and that they would follow the directives from TRA. For example, du stated: “as a licensed telecom service provider we shall fully comply by this instruction.” They added: “Since a number of du customers are BlackBerry subscribers, du will ensure that it provides all its affected customers with an alternative solution that meets their needs with minimal disruption to their services.” One day later the TRA added that the Blackberry suspension will also apply to anyone traveling to or through the country on a roaming agreement. This meant that people with Blackberry simply traveling through the UAE would not be able to use their devices as long as they’re in the country, including at the airports. Locally, RIM was also affected in other ways as well by the TRA announcement. A press event that was arranged by RIM’s PR agency in the UAE to launch the new Blackberry Pearl 9105 smartphone was
cancelled. An email from the PR agency to invited members of the press said the event had been “postponed indefinitely.” RIM and US fight back Unsurprisingly, RIM fought back against these developments. It may be that 500,000 Blackberry subscribers in the UAE and another 700,000 in Saudi Arabia don’t amount to very much in comparison to the 46 million or so estimated Blackberry users globally. However, it has been reported that Blackberry operations in the UAE alone account for about three percent of RIM’s global business, in large part due to the approximately 100,000 people traveling through the country every year. Dubai especially has developed into a busy hub for travelers between Europe and Asia and further away as well. RIM issued a statement, which said: “While RIM does not disclose confidential regulatory discussions that take place with any government, RIM assures its customers that it is committed to delivering highly secure and innovative products that satisfy the needs of both customers and governments.” The statement added: “RIM assures customers that it will not compromise the integrity and security of the BlackBerry Enterprise Solution.” Research In Motion Ltd. co-CEO Michael Lazaridis then got involved. “This is about
October 2010 | www.pcworldme.net | 17
the Internet,” he was quoted as saying in the Wall Street Journal. “Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can’t deal with the Internet, they should shut it off.” He added: “We have dealt with this before... This will get resolved.” United States also got involved with a spokesman for the State Department saying: “We are committed to promoting the free flow of information. We think it’s integral to an innovative economy.” The U.S. said that the UAE was “setting a dangerous precedent in limiting freedom of information.” Telcos hurry to present alternatives Within days, both operators, du and Etisalat, presented their alternative solutions, as required by the TRA. First out was Etisalat on August 3, introducing their replacement packages. Existing Etisalat Blackberry subscribers as of August 1 can under the new plans get bundles of SMS, SMS, data and voice minutes as well as a new smartphone. Monthly rental for the plans range between 49-260, 800-1000 local SMS and MMS local, 0-200 international SMS and MMS, and 100MB - unlimited data package (Fair use, 10MB international data). The smartphones available for customers to choose from include iPhone (it was not specified which model but it’s rumored it’s the 3G), Sony Ericsson Satio, Samsung Galaxy S, Nokia N900 and other modes. The next day du presented their “reassurance plan,” which was in many ways similar to Etisalat’s offer. On the standard assurance plan, which has no contract requirement, customers pay Dhs 130 or 260 and get 1000 SMS free each month in addition to unlimited national data, plus 20MB international data for the more expensive plan. Customers can choose Data assurance plan and get
18 | www.pcworldme.net | October 2010
unlimited national data for Dhs 55 per month with a 12-month contract. For international data assurance plan the cost is Dhs 130 per month. The discount on new smartphone is either Dhs 1,500 or 2,000, respectively. Du confirmed that customers could opt for iPhone 4 when it launches in UAE in September. Limits on data creates disappointment The alternative plans presented by du and Etisalat were met with largely positive views from customers. Some said that they saw this as a chance to upgrade to a new smartphone while others had concerns about how they would now keep in touch with friends and family they chat with using Blackberry Messenger. What disappointed many customers was the low limits for international data (10MB per month on Etisalat, 20MB on du). For many, the main allure of getting a Blackberry in the UAE was the unlimited data plans, which were only Dhs 260 per month on du and Dhs 295 on Etisalat. One Etisalat Blackberry customers I talked to said: “The only reason I got a Blackberry was the unlimited international data. Now that’s gone I don’t want it anymore and I’ll just use my iPhone instead. The UAE has taken a giant step backwards and I’m very disappointed.” Saudi Arabia follow suit Following right in the footsteps of TRAmere hours, in fact- the Communication and Information Technology Commission (CITC) of Saud Arabia announced that starting August 6, Blackberry Messenger would be banned until the three mobile phone operators in the country fulfilled some regulatory requirements. They didn’t specify what those requirements were. IDG News Service reported on August 10 that an official of Saudi Arabia’s Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) had said
that an agreement had been reached between the government and RIM. Under the agreement, Blackberry services could continue in the Kingdom after RIM agreed to let the government there to monitor data services by agreeing to “place some of its communication servers in the country.” The CITC said about this in a statement that they decided to allow BBM because at least part of the regulatory requirements had been met. RIM has not commented on this supposed agreement. Users in Saudi Arabia said that Saudi Teclecom Co. (STC) stopped Blackberry services for all their users for four hours on August 6 but that service was resumed. Apparently users on the other two operators were not affected. Ban is cancelled As many suspected would happen, some kind of deal was struck between TRA and RIM. Although we don’t know anything about the deatils behind the developments leading up to it, on October 8 the UAE’s official news agency WAM reported that the TRA had said that Blackberry services will continue to operate after the previously set October 11 deadline. According to the WAM release, the TRA “has confirmed that Blackberry services are now compliant with the UAE’s telecommunications regulatory framework.” It continued by saying that TRA states:”all Blackberry services in the UAE will continue to operate as normal and no suspension of service will occur on October 11, 2010.” Whether this is the end of this saga we don’t know. Neither TRA nor RIM has laid out the details behind the cancellation of the ban, like who made what concessions, if any. The announcement should however come as a relief to all Blackberry users in the UAE who have faced an uncertain future for about a month.
Wish List of Features and Functions By Shane O’Neill
icrosoft is keeping a tight lid on any information about “Windows 8.” But back in June, leaked slides on the Web indicate that, with its next client OS, Microsoft will push for near-instant start-up times, integrated facial recognition technologies, support for USB 3.0 and Bluetooth 3.0, compatibility across different devices through the cloud, and simpler streaming of movies and TV shows to any screen. It’s clear that Microsoft intends to cover the increasingly diverse hardware landscape with Windows 8. Directions on Microsoft, an independent research firm, has some ideas of its own for the next version of Windows. In an as-yet-unpublished report, Directions on Microsoft Research Vice President Michael Cherry compiles a Windows 8 wish list consisting of faster start-up times, a timely release, coherent error messages and more.
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Here are six features Cherry would like to see in Windows 8. Remove All Annoyances One Windows 7 feature that gets under Cherry’s skin is the “Green Bar of Death” that appears when copying a large number of small files from one place to another. To fix file copying, Cherry suggests the Windows team just make it faster. In addition, if Windows cannot target how long the copy will take, don’t bother giving an estimate, pleads Cherry. “I really hate seeing that a copy will take 13 minutes, no four hours, no 25 minutes, etc., etc.” Another annoyance? Features such as “map a network drive”, “uninstall or change a program” or “burn to DVD” are buried or keep getting moved around from one Windows version to the next. “There are too many ways to get to these features,” says Cherry. “In Windows 8, Microsoft should highlight the one with the fewest steps and make it more obvious.”
8 Release It On Time “An important feature I would like to see is simply a timely release of the next version,” writes Cherry. This could be a challenge, he notes, because too much discussion of Windows 8 could negatively affect Windows 7 adoption. “Windows 7 is a pretty good piece of work and is actually being purchased and deployed by consumers and organizations,” writes Cherry. “But there are still these nagging doubts about the Windows team’s ability to deliver successive high-quality new versions of the client OS on a regular, predictable schedule.” Expect Microsoft to be light on details about Windows 8 development to give Windows 7 adoption some breathing room, writes Cherry. “I would not take a bet against [Windows chief] Steven Sinofsky’s ability to release a product on time, but in order to not hurt Windows 7 adoption, the normally secretive Sinofsky will hold his cards even closer to his chest on Windows 8.” Windows 8 would be generally available in October of 2012 if Microsoft stays on a three-year schedule.
WINDOWS 7 IS ONLY 12 MONTHS OLD, BUT IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY TO GLANCE ON DOWN THE ROAD AT WINDOWS 8
Use Roles in Windows 8 When installing Windows Server, the base operating system is installed first and then an administrator can select the “role” the server will play. For example, an admin can choose the Web role, which installs features such as the Internet Information Services (IIS) Web server, or the Hyper-V role, which installs Microsoft’s hypervisor. Multiple roles can be installed on a server. The client OS should have roles too, writes Cherry, because they make “installation fast and easy and reduce the OS surface area, which can reduce security threats and maintenance such as patching.” Implementing roles into the client OS should be easy given its high-degree of componentization, writes Cherry, adding that possible client OS roles could be e-mail and Web browsing, student, business desktop, business mobile and gamer. “An interesting side effect of adding roles might be faster startup times,” writes Cherry. “If a person had a small netbook, and only installed the e-mail and Web browsing role, the OS might be able to start faster, because it only has to load the components for that role, and it doesn’t have to install other components for features that are not needed.”
Integrate Windows Phone 7 UI The user interface for Windows Phone 7, internally called “Metro,” incorporates capacitive touch screens and a new feature called “Tiles” that work as visual shortcuts for an application or its content. Users can pin any Tile they want to the phone’s Start page. Incorporating the “Metro” Shell into Windows 8 would be extra work for IT (organizations don’t want to retrain users for UI changes), but would help tie future versions of Windows Phone 7 and Windows together, writes Cherry. Users could then choose between the Windows Phone 7 “Metro” interface and the classic Windows 8 desktop interface. The Metro shell would also “begin the process of making the Windows client more viable as a tablet with a UI that can better handle touch rather than relying on a mouse or a stylus for navigation,” writes Cherry. Meaningful Error Messages Windows error messages are often cryptic, showing hexadecimal error code such as 0xe0000100. In Windows 8, Cherry calls for error messages that make sense to the common user. “You end up having to put code in a search engine to find out what the problem is,” says Cherry. “If you can’t explain in an error message what went wrong and clearly indicate what to do about it, then you shouldn’t have an error message.”
More Powerful Power Management Faster start-up times for Windows are on nearly everyone’s wish list, and Windows 8 is no exception. It also “needs to sleep, hibernate and wake up quickly and reliably, writes Cherry. Cherry defines “start-up time” as the time between turning on the power to a machine that was stopped until you actually start performing useful work. “On my Dell Precision T3400 with Windows 7 64-bit & after pushing the power button it is eight seconds until the BIOS has started and Windows 7 begins to load,” writes Cherry. “At approximately the 15-second mark the ‘Starting Windows’ message and animation starts. At the 54-second mark, the Windows logon appears, and after logging on there is a 41-second period where all I can really do is watch the ‘donut’ cursor. After one minute and 50 seconds Outlook can be started, and mail can be sent and received with an Exchange server at the two minute 23 second mark. It takes 2.5 minutes to start Windows 7.” Cherry calls for more speed and accuses Microsoft of trying to convince users that continually “hibernating” their system is the answer to faster start-up. This is an illusion, he writes, and warns that “hibernate” has its own set of problems such as occasionally preventing network cards from resuming correctly.
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WILL 3D LAPTOPS TAKE OFF? By Agam Shah
High prices and lack of content might limit the market to gaming enthusiasts
s PC makers expand their lines to include 3D laptops, analysts say these offerings are likely to interest mostly gamers, with broad adoption stymied by a dearth of content, hardware limitations and hefty prices. Last month, companies including Asustek Computer, Toshiba and Lenovo announced new 3D laptops with screens ranging from 15.6 inches to 17.3 inches. The laptops are priced at $1,200 and higher, and come with glasses for viewers to watch 3D content. The laptops are targeted at consumers looking for richer multimedia experiences on PCs. However, high prices could limit their appeal to early adopters looking for the latest hardware, analysts said. There’s also limited 3D movie and broadcast content available.
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Laptop makers are trying to position 3D technology as a new way for users to interact with PCs, said Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates. But gamers are likely — as is often the case with new PC technologies — to be the early adopters because they are willing to pay for cutting-edge hardware that gives them a more immersive experience. “Some people will wait until there’s enough content that makes it interesting for them,” Kay said. But in some cases, smaller laptop screen sizes may not appeal to gamers either, said John Jacobs, director of notebook market research at DisplaySearch. “If the whole purpose is to get immersed in the game display, you’re
Acer Aspire 3D
going to want the biggest screen possible,” Jacobs said. That won’t matter to some enthusiasts who want the latest and greatest, though, said Kelt Reeves, CEO of PC maker Falcon Northwest, which sells laptops and desktops to that audience. The additional cost of a 3D screen is small relative to what the company’s enthusiast audience is willing to pay for a laptop, Reeves said. The company’s cheapest laptop sells for $1,500, and the most powerful desktop replacement models start at $4,000, Reeves said. “Even if you don’t use it that often, I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to have the 3D capability, whether it’s for gaming or just watching 3D movies,” Reeves said. “These are serious laptop users who want the kitchen sink.”
“As a fan of role-playing and immersive gameplay, I would be all right with donning 3D shades for a good experience” One avid gamer, Amanda Farough, said a $1,000 price tag for a 3D laptop is fairly reasonable. She usually plays massively multiplayer online (MMO) games and shooters, and says that 3D adds more interactivity to the gaming experience. “I think that 3D gaming will allow for a depth that was previously untapped, especially for genres like first-person shooters and action-adventures,” said Farough, who is a Web designer and also a game editor for the Gaming Angels Web site. But for now, the overall adoption of 3D screens — including laptops and desktops — is limited, DisplaySearch’s Jacobs said. DisplaySearch is projecting 3D laptop screen shipments to tally 179,000 units this year, out of a total of 217.8 million laptop screens. Shipments will grow to 611,000 in 2011 and 1.7 million by 2012, but will still take up a small share of the market. PC makers will retain 3D laptops as flagship products on their portfolios, analysts said. But for those PCs to become viable products, publishers need to be pushed to produce more content, analysts said. There has to be a good lineup of 3D games to attract gamers to laptops, said Gina Reams, a gamer and game designer. She’s a fan of role-playing and immersive gameplay, but doesn’t know of any good 3D PC games yet available. Reams said she would buy a 3D laptop “only if there’s going to be proven support for it, like a lot of game developers with planned lineups or media companies backing it.” Hollywood studios and content providers like ESPN see revenue streams with 3D, but the content is mainly targeted at TVs and theaters. And recent announcements from the E3 Expo gaming conference point toward 3D development focused at gaming consoles. Nintendo debuted 3DS, a 3D
hand-held game console, at the show, while Sony showed off 3D games for the PlayStation. But some game makers announced 3D games for PCs. Game developer Crytek said that Crysis 2 would be available for PCs in 3D. The game will be published by Electronic Arts. PC makers are adding capabilities for laptops to play back 3D movies. Nvidia is providing technology for Asus’ G73Jw and G53 and Toshiba Dynabook TX/98MBL laptops to decode and play back Blu-ray 3D movies. Lenovo’s new IdeaPad Y560d is based on a different technology that does not yet allow for playback of Blu-ray 3D movies, but it can convert other 2D content, such as movies, to 3D. Samsung has also said that 3D streaming films could be available by the fourth quarter this year, and sites like YouTube have started experimenting with 3D content. Nvidia has also demonstrated 3D video streaming live over the Internet using a video player based on Microsoft’s Silverlight multimedia platform. But 3D TVs provide a more communal experience for gamers and moviewatchers alike, said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at the
NPD Group. Multiple people can watch movies or play games at the same time, while 3D laptops are good only for individuals, Baker said. “We don’t expect a lot of moviewatching on laptops in 3D,” Baker said. 3D content also requires considerably more bandwidth than regular video feeds, analysts said. That could be a hurdle in delivering streaming 3D movies and online 3D games to homes. There are other issues associated with 3D such as the need to wear special glasses. Companies such as RealD, Xpand and Nvidia offer different types of active-shutter and passivepolarized glasses that work with different screens. But gamers don’t seem to mind the idea of wearing 3D glasses for a better visual experience. “As a fan of role-playing and immersive gameplay, I would be all right with donning 3D shades for a good experience,” Reams said. Nevertheless, the system makers have to start somewhere, and the new laptops will spread awareness about 3D PCs. “We’re at the front edge of a 3D era,” Endpoint Technologies’ Kay said.
Toshiba’s 3D Dynabook Asus G51J 3D
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FIGHTING TODAY’S MALWARE
How bad is it? Worse than you think. Here’s what the new breed of malware looks like — and what you can do to stop it by Roger A. Grimes If malware were biological, the world would be in the grip of the worst pandemic in history. In 2009, more than 25 million different unique malware programs were identified, more than all the malware programs ever created in all previous years. That’s a pretty incredible statistic. Malicious programs now outnumber legitimate ones by many orders of magnitude. The world’s largest cloud computing user? Not Microsoft, not Google, not Amazon.com. The ringleaders of the Conficker botnet, with more than 4.6 million infected computers under their control, win by a mile. Some antimalware vendors report that 48 percent of the computers they scan are infected with some sort of malware. Trojan horse programs make up 66 percent of all threats. No one need wonder what malware is trying to do: It’s trying to steal money, whether it’s through data theft, bank transfers, stolen passwords, or swiped identities. Each day, tens of millions of dollars are stolen from innocent Internet victims. And yet many computer defenders can’t tell you what the biggest threat is to their environment. If you don’t know the biggest threats, how can you defend against them properly? Today’s malware differs dramatically from the threats we faced just 10 years ago, when most malicious programs were written by young men looking to earn cyber bragging rights. Most malware
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made the user aware of its existence through a displayed message, music (as in the Yankee Doodle Dandy virus family), or some other sort of harmless mischief. Those were the days.
Thoroughly modern malware
Trojans lead the pack
Trojans typically camouflage themselves as downloadable antivirus scanners, “needed” patches, malformed PDF files, or add-on video codecs
required to display an exciting video. Most of the fake programs have the clean look and feel of a real app. Even career antimalware defenders find it hard to tell the difference between what is real and what is fake. Fake programs are even more successful at duping victims when they appear to come from popular, well-known websites that a user has trusted and visited, without incident, for years. Or they launch from one of the popular social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, which are all the rage among the least savvy computer users. Some malware programs scan the user’s computer for vulnerable software that lacks security patches, but typically, users cause infections themselves by installing apps they should not. This is not to rule out the obvious impact of spam, phishing, adware, or other attack methods. It’s just that computer worms, viruses, and the other methods for exploiting computers, added up all together, don’t equal the threat of the socially engineered Trojan — even though some multivector worm programs, like Conficker, have victim figures that number in the millions. In a common scenario, the first malicious program installed is called a downloader. A downloader’s goal is to be installed on the victim’s PC and then to “phone home” to the “mothership” Web server for more instructions. The downloader often has instructions to
contact a dynamic DNS server to get the mothership Web server’s current location. The dynamic DNS server is just another Trojan-infected computer installed on an innocent user’s desktop. The DNS address record received by the downloader has an address that is good for only a short time — sometimes as little as 3 minutes. These “fast flux” techniques complicate efforts to investigate or eradicate malware. The downloader will eventually be redirected to another server (which is, of course, just another compromised host) and download a new program or receive instructions. This sequence of finding and downloading new programs and instructions can go on for dozens of cycles. Eventually, the final program and instructions will be installed on the victim’s computer, with a handful of command-and-control servers under the direction of the botnet owners. Botnets
can be used by the owners themselves to steal money, to conduct distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, or to break into other computers. Often the botnet owner will rent the botnet to other criminals who then use them to do their bidding. A good example of a common bot and botnet is Mariposa. At one point, it controlled more than 13 million PCs in 190-plus countries. The masterminds of Mariposa were not ultraskilled malware writing geniuses — they were three guys who bought a botnet “kit” on the Internet for $300.
DIY kits: Tools of the trade
Do-it-yourself malware kits have been around for two decades, but now they are soup-to-nuts efficient. The typical kit can spit out (currently) undetectable malware to do the customized bidding of its owner. Using these kits is as easy as clicking a few check boxes. The resulting malware will break into websites to start infecting
innocent visitors, generate enticing spam and phishing e-mails, and do everything it takes to create the botnet — including bots, dynamic DNS servers, roving mothership Web servers, and the command-and control servers. Many of the kits are directed toward bypassing particular types of authentication and focus on particular financial institutions. The better bot kits include a sophisticated administrative back end so that the hackers can read statistics on total infections, OS versions exploited, and tricks used. For another $30, the kit creators will include 24/7 tech support. These kits aren’t hidden. With just a little bit of searching, you can find them on the open market, often marked as “experimental” or “test-only” products. And there are plenty of “service providers” willing to help malware hackers turn their ill-gotten gains into hard cash.
BLACK HATS WINNING: SYMANTEC
Mid-year review finds digital security attacks becoming more complex by Ross O. Storey Traditional security technologies are losing the battle against the black hats and malicious code writers, according to digital security specialists Symantec. In a mid-year review of their IT security risks and predictions made early in 2010, Symantec has warned that there are simply too many new cyber threats out there for traditional automated systems to catch. The review said Symantec created 2,895,802 new malicious code signatures last year alone, a 71 per cent increase over 2008 and representing more than half of all malicious code signatures ever created by the security firm. Symantec said they identified more than 240 million distinct new malicious programs, a 100 per cent increase over 2008. “In just the first half of the year, we have created 1.8 million new malicious code signatures and identified more than 124 million distinct new malicious programs.” the report said. “This means it is becoming less likely that traditional security technologies will catch every new threat
out there; there are simply too many of them, even with automated systems in place. Not just capture and analysis “Technology that does not rely on capturing and analysing a threat in order to protect against it, like Symantec’s Reputation-Based Security, is indeed becoming imperative. Other methods that are also playing a key role in combating today’s most pervasive threats are heuristic, behavioural and intrusion prevention technologies.” Symantec’s country manager, Singapore, Tan Yuh Woei, said other predicted digital security threat strategies on the rise included: Phishing attacks: Through the first half of this year, about one in every 476 e-mails included a phishing attack. “What makes these attacks even more dangerous is that they are completely operating system agnostic,” said Tan. “In a world that is becoming less centralised around the PC, phishing allows cyber
criminals to take advantage of computer users regardless of what platform they are operating on.” Shortened URLs: At its peak in July 2009, 9.3 per cent of spam included some form of shortened hyperlink provided by one of the many free online shortening services; this is equivalent to more than 10 billion spam e-mails each day, worldwide. Historical peak in spam “In April of 2010, however, this peak figure nearly doubled to 18.0 per cent of spam, the current historical peak,” Tan said. Social networking apps: This is difficult to track directly, but anecdotal feedback and analysis of URLs from Symantec Hosted Services’ Web Security Service both suggest that social networking sites are triggering more blocks in 2010 for malicious content than they did in 2009. “On average in 2009, one in 451 Web Security Service blocks related to a social networking site. However, in 2010, this number rose to one in just 301,” Tan said.
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Price: Dhs 2,000 Info: bit.ly/96ZTye Pros: Hardware design; build quality; 12-megapixel camera (photos and video); HD video; HDMI connection; Ovi Maps; Ovi Music
Cons: Interface design feels out-dated; uncertain future of Symbian 3; selection and quality of available apps; built-in social networking support; weak Adobe Flash support As soon as I took the N8 out of the box and held it, it struck me as impressive in design and build quality. The anodized aluminium has a nice finish to it and the graphite grey colour of my review sample simply looks great. The 3.5-inch 640 x 360 display shows 16.7 million colours and dominates the front with only one button, the menu one, and a front-facing video call camera to keep it company. It’s an AMOLED screen, which adds to the sense of quality and photos as well as movies look very good. The back of the N8 is clean apart from the raised platform for the 12-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss lens. Simply put, the camera produces very high quality still photos and video. Face detection, common in smartphones now, is there as is basic shooting modes like macro, landscape, etc. Similarly, the 720p video (25fps) the N8 can produce is very good, in line with digital still cameras, in fact.
“Even Nokia is coy on the subject and there seems to be a consensus that the N8 will be among the last, if not the last, smartphone from Nokia running the Symbian OS.” 26 | www.pcworldme.net | October 2010
Keeping things running is an ARM11 processor clocking in at 680MHz, which may seem modest in today’s smartphone climate dominated by 1GHz processors but it appears more than adequate for the N8. One testament to that is that the N8 has no problems playing back HD movies. In terms of memory the N8 has 16GB built-in and as already mentioned there’s a MicroSD card slot in which you can fit up to a 32GB card. In connectivity, the N8 has the usual things like 3G, Wi-Fi (802.11n), USB and Bluetooth 3.0. One interesting feature is what Nokia calls USB On The Go. It basically means you can connect a USB flash or hard drive with the included cable to the N8’s Micro USB port. The drive then appears in the N8’s file manager like the internal memory or MicroSD card. Battery life is slightly better than most other high-end smartphones. You can go almost two days without recharging if you’re careful with data services. The Web browser on the N8 is nothing much special. Mobile Safari in iOS and Android’s Web browser are both still miles ahead of what Symbian 3 offers. It’s good enough for a quick check of a few pages but only short browsing sessions are recommended if you want to save yourself grief. There is Facebook and Twitter integration but it could be much smoother . On the Nokia you have to go to the contact and press a button. Symbian then does a “friend search” through your social network accounts. If it finds something you have to manually select and accept the link to the contact on your phone. The music player app in Symbian 3 is pretty good. You can transfer music to the phone by simple drag and drop or using Nokia’s software for Windows and Mac. You’ll find some basic equaliser controls on the N8 and you can go through albums by flicking your finger like with Apple’s CoverFlow. Summing up, in hardware design the N8 is very nice and Nokia deserves full marks for that. The camera is very good, the aluminium case feels great to hold and looks good as well, and the display is a pleasure to look at and use. Symbian’s future is uncertain, which doesn’t exactly help the N8. Even Nokia is coy on the subject and there seems to be a consensus that the N8 will be among the last, if not the last, smartphone from Nokia running the Symbian OS. Overall I find that N8 is a very good smartphone. I can certainly see myself having the N8 as my main phone and that’s not something that I’ve been able to say about a Nokia phone for a long time.
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TERASTATION DUO TS-WX1.0TL/R1
Price: 1TB Dhs 2,299 ($609.99), 2TB Dhs 2,899 ($759.99), 4TB Dhs 4,599 ($1,199.99) Info: bit.ly/bFFzEv
Pros: Easy to configure and administer; many built-in servers and networking protocols; lockable hard drive compartment; hotswappable drives; three year warranty
Cons: Pricey per gigabyte compared to regular hard drives; no USB 3.0 support Buffalo’s TeraStation Duo is a NAS (Network Attached Storage), which would be suitable for a small or home office. Setup is easy: plug in the power and the Ethernet cables (there are two RJ-45 Ethernet ports), install the NASNavigator software (Mac or PC) and you’re ready. Connect to it with the NASNavigator app or when the TeraStation has connected to your network it will also show its IP address on the display so you can just browse to that IP with your web browser and start configuring the unit that way. The display also shows the condition of the TeraStation and the drives in it. On the back you’ll also find two USB 2.0 ports, which can be used to expand the storage space, backup or print serving. You can also connect the TeraStation to UPS using a serial port on the back. I tested the R1 model, which housed two Western Digital Caviar Green 1TB WD10EADS 3.5-inch SATA hard drives configured as RAID 1 producing a single 1TB drive. There are three RAID modes to select from: 0, 1 and Normal.
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You do all the administration from your web browser. Buffalo has updated the interface since last I tried it and it’s more user friendly now. One small detail I found funny was a “Locate” button; press it and the TeraStation beeps so you know where it is. To share files from the TeraStation there’s a lot to choose from: CIFS/SMB, AFP, HTTP/HTTPS, FTP/SFTP/ FTPS, NFS, and BitTorrent. There’s LDAP for Directory integration, and you can share media using iTunes, UPnP AV and DLNA servers. Performance will depend largely on other components in the network to which the TeraStation is connected, like speed of the network, what other devices are connected, what kind of computers are used, etc. Overall I found the performance more than satisfactory on a small wired LAN connected to the Internet using an 4Mbps DSL line. Connecting to the TeraStation using the BuffaloNas.com gateway worked fine although the speed understandably fell drastically. The TeraStation is not as small as some external hard drives you may be used to as it measures 17 x 17 x 23 centimeters. Fan and drive noise are pleasantly low and with the TeraStation on the floor in a small home office room I couldn’t hear any noise from it. Overall I’m impressed with the TeraStation both in functionality and performance and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a NAS for their home or small office.
Price: Dhs 3,900 Info: bit.ly/aXSEXa
Pros: Relatively low price; produced good-looking business documents; good scan quality
Cons: Very noisy; poor photo quality; confusing interface When we were lining up reviews for this issue we tried to get companies to send us photo printers, but that didn’t really work out. This printer was the only one that made it in time for us to squeeze it in here, and it’s as far from a great photo printer as you can get. Well, that’s not really true, but I think it’s true that no one will buy this printer because they want to print photos. This Canon MF8350Cdn is a colour laser multifunction printer, which is aimed at office environments. One sign of its officepedigree is the paper handling. Automatic duplexing (printing on both sides) is standard, as you would expect. The main tray takes 250 sheets and the document feeder as well as the multipurpose tray take 50 sheets each. Canon says the print speed is up to 20 pages per minute (at 600 dpi maximum resolution). Printing a full-colour PDF file of 50 pages took us about five minutes, which would put printing speed at about half of what Canon states. We should add that we
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started timing once the computer we printed from had finished spooling the file. Making copies of the same 50 pages was a bit faster at just over four minutes. Printing quality of text in black and white is excellent and business-documents, like Powerpoint presentation slides, and looks great in colour as well. Where quality suffers is in photographs, which generally look grainy with dull colours. Besides poor photo printing quality, the main drawback of this printer is that it is very noisy. It’s not quite like putting your ear next to a jet fighter taking off, but let’s just say that you will not want to have this thing on your desk or sit right next to it. It would be best to put this in a separate room or at least far away from any people. The printer’s interface is confusing, and it takes some getting used to which buttons to press for what. Canon could have done much better in this regard. Scanning is fast, and you’ll end up with high-quality 600dpi image files, both in colour and black and white. To sum up, the MF8350Cdn is printer suitable for office environments that want one machine that does it all: print, copy, fax and scan. Print quality is generally good, as is scan quality. But be aware that it’s noisy, and photo-printing is not among its strong characteristics.
Price: Dhs 1,299 ($329) Info: bit.ly/ah92H3
Pros: Very fast
Cons: Other drives offer better value for money
At 10,000 rpm, the Western Digital VelociRaptor WD6000HLHX drive spins faster than the competition. But does that mean faster performance? VelociRaptor drives have been out for two years; in PCWorld Labs tests, however, these drives may not have as much advantage as they once did. Compared with standard drives that spin at up to 7200 rpm, the VelociRaptor line has a distinct edge. But that edge shrank when we put the latest model--a $329, 600GB drive that’s one of the few units with a 600-gbps SATA connection--up against another SATA-600 drive, from Seagate. The new VelociRaptor (also available in a 450GB version, for $299) is a 2.5-inch hard drive mounted into WD’s 3.5-inch “IcePack” drive sled that doubles as a heat sink. It installs seamlessly into a standard 3.5-inch drive bay, and its 600GB capacity, though paltry compared with a standard drive’s 2TB, is double
the previous size. The drive certainly had a dramatic performance edge over SATA-300 models: It was 8 to 17 seconds faster than the 2TB WD Caviar Green WD20EADS in our tests. Against the SATA-600 Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB, however, the VelociRaptor finished in a statistical dead heat on our file-and-folder read and write tests. The VelociRaptor is intended for high-end servers (it’s rated for 1.4 million hours mean time between failures) and high-end PCs, including gaming-centric models. For its slight boost and greater endurance rating, the VelociRaptor may yet hold appeal. But the $250 Seagate may represent a better overall value: You get more gigs for your dollar, and comparable performance, too.
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PROTECT YOUR HARDWARE AND DATA WITH UPS Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) systems save users from sudden computer shutdowns and loss of unsaved data
ninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) systems save home users and professionals from the frustration and anxiety that follow sudden computer shutdowns and loss of unsaved data. The relevance of UPS assumes even more significance when factors such as demand for power, supply fluctuations, maximum load factor during summer months and the immense need to access data roundthe-clock are taken into consideration. For APC by Schneider Electric, an integrated power and cooling services vendor, UPS remains core to its business in the region with its versatile devices developed for some of the harshest weather conditions in the world. UPS acts as a buffer between the electrical source and the device to be powered (for example, a PC). In the event the mains trip during a power failure, UPS instantly takes over, providing power to the PC and ensuring continuous function for a period determined by the capacity of the internal battery. Historically, the primary function of UPS is to avoid sudden shutdown of power, allowing users to save data at times of unexpected power shutdown. In other words, if you’re working on your latest literary masterpiece and haven’t saved in a while when the power goes out in your building your computer will keep
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working for long enough for you to click on the save icon. In addition to protecting data from power failure, UPS saves the user from numerous minor disruptions from the mains, which may be less spectacular but have the potential to cause far more serious damage, including random crashes and other data corruption. Broadly speaking, the functioning of an UPS is not very complicated. It converts continuous 12V current from a battery into 230V alternating current, just like a small vehicle converter. But its behaviour in practice and the level of protection it provides are linked to numerous additional options. In order to make the right choice, it is necessary to have some basic understanding of how a UPS functions, because some manufacturers skate around the edges of false claims. Monitoring All UPS systems have a series communications port and/or USB (or even Ethernet for higher-end models), which connect them to the PC. This link allows for the monitoring of the status of the UPS by means of an application, and shuts down the PC properly if the user is not in front of his machine at the time of a power failure. The transformer A UPS usually includes another important element – a 212V/230V transformer.
This is used in two ways, during normal operation. It transforms the mains voltage to 12V continuous current to charge the battery, and in the event of a breakdown, it transforms the voltage from the battery to 230V to power the connected peripherals. The sizing of the transformer determines the maximum connectable charge to the UPS. The inverter The inverter is in fact a DC/AC converter which transforms the batteryâ€™s continuous current into alternating current. The +12V continuous current then becomes voltage, which varies from -32V to +32V (that is 12V RMS) at a rhythm of 50 times per second (50 Hertz). This voltage then goes into the transformer to be raised and becomes 230V alternating current. Front face indicators The front interface of a UPS generally has several indicators as well as a test button (which simulates a power cut) and an unbearable beeper intended to batter your ears in the event of a mains failure. An indicator as to the level and general status of the battery is a significant plus to tell the user to know when to replace it. The battery By far the most important element, the battery provides continuous current (DC) of 12V, transformed to 230V alternating current (AC) by the output stage in the event of a power failure. The capacity of the internal battery is therefore directly proportionate to the period for which the UPS will work without external power. Additionally, like all storage cells, the battery has a limited number of load/discharge cycles and is therefore considered a consumable. It should therefore be changed every three to five years. The key factor for a home user or a professional is saving data. Unfortunately, no one gets a second chance to protect precious data. That is why any investment in UPS needs to be made wisely.
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Price: Dhs 2,999
with 18-55mm lens Info: bit.ly/samsung_nx10
Pros: Convenient EVF, though not exceptional quality; excellent menu system with friendly user interface; good quality 3-inch LCD; clean, colourful JPEGs using auto controls; solid construction and comfortable grip; built-in flash and hot shoe
Cons: Cumbersome RAW processing; bundled software for Windows users only; poor video quality; high price tag; image stabilization is average at best The Samsung NX10, another entry in the growing compact interchangeable-lens camera category, takes up less room in your camera bag than most DSLRs, while still featuring a 14.6-megapixel, APS-C CMOS image sensor; a 3-inch LCD; and the Samsung NX mount for interchangeable lenses. The NX10 is simple enough for point-and-shoot users to figure out. When it’s time to take a picture, first choose the exposure mode on the top dial (you have ten to select from, including Smart auto-everything, Programmed, Scenes, Movie, and more). Then hold the camera up to your eyes and compose your image through the electronic viewfinder that shows 100 per cent of the field of view, or use the 3-inch LCD that’s fixed on the back of the body. Autofocusing is fast and sure, and the shutter button is responsive, delivering a satisfying click that feels very SLR-like. When it’s time to review your images, the 3-inch LCD shows them off with good colour and clarity.
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Samsung did an excellent job designing the NX10’s easy-tonavigate menu system. Press the Menu button on the back, then rotate the top selector dial to choose among seven easy-to-read text screens. Many of the most popular settings can be controlled using buttons on the top and back of the camera, including: exposure compensation, drive mode, auto exposure lock, display readout, AF mode, white balance, ISO, and metering pattern. JPEG picture quality is quite decent, but not spectacular; you get much better image quality than you would with a point-andshoot camera, but the NX10’s image quality isn’t on a par with that of a DSLR camera. The software included in the box is Windows-compatible only. It includes Samsung Master, RAW Converter, QuickTime Player, and the user manual. For Mac users, there is a RAW converter available, but you have to register on Samsung’s site to get it. Working with RAW from the NX10 is however something I don’t recommend as it’s cumbersome, the support is very limited and in the end the result with JPEG is just as good if not better. The HD video produced by the NX10 was a disappointment. Even though the resolution was good (1,280 by 720), quality was subpar compared with the other cameras in our test group. In conclusion, the NX10 seems best suited for casual photographers looking for lens interchangeability in a slightly smaller package than that of a typical DSLR. I do not recommend this camera for Mac users, unless they plan to stick to JPEGs only, or unless Apple or Adobe adds support for the NX10 to their RAW-processing engines. And I think everyone will be disappointed with the camera’s lacklustre video performance.
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GEFORCE GTX 480
Price: Dhs 1,899 Info: bit.ly/9hnyf7
Pros: Great performance; runs quietly; DirectX 11 Support; 320-bit Memory Interface
Cons: Temperatures can go high; high power requirement; no Display Port The ZOTAC Geforce GTX 480 is not only the fastest consumer card from Nvidia but it’s also touted as the fastest single GPU graphics card beating out the ATI Radeon HD 5870 in terms of performance. Design, Usability & Features The ZOTAC Geforce GTX 480 is the same size as the previously reviewed GTX 470 card. The ZOTAC has two DVI outputs and an HDMI output. The card needs an eight pin and a six pin power connector from the PSU to be able to run. The GTX 480 will require at least a 550W PSU. The ZOTAC Geforce GTX 480 has a core clocked at 701MHz as compared to the HD 5870’s 850MHz core. However, it also has a 384-bit memory interface that leaves the HD 5870’s 256-bit
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interface way behind. The GTX 480 also has 1536MB of video memory while the HD 5870 had to make do with 1,024MB. The card also has 480 steam processors and 1,848MHz memory speed and supports DirectX 11. The Geforce GTX 480 proves that the new series of Fermi cards definitely run hotter than their ATI counterparts. I got a peak temperature of 86 °C and an idle temperature of 47 °C. Performance The ZOTAC Geforce GTX 480 looked at ease when it came to our performance tests. We tested the ZOTAC on a test bed comprising of Intel Core i7 965 processor, 3GB Kingston HyperX DDR3 RAM, Intel X58 motherboard and Intel X25-M SSD 80GB. In 3D Mark ‘06, the GTX 480 scored 20,882 marks while in 3D Mark Vantage’s Extreme preset it scored 9,298 marks. In comparison, the HD 5970 and the HD 5870 scored 11,068 and 8,145 marks respectively. The Unigine 2.0 test that tests the DirectX 11 capabilities of modern cards. At 1,920 x 1,080, 8xAA and all other settings at default, the GTX 480 managed 34fps while the HD 5970 managed 40fps. Moving on to the gaming tests, in Crysis at 1,920 x 1,080, 8xAA and Very High settings, the GTX 480 gave 32fps while the HD 5970 and the HD 5870 gave 44fps and 30fps respectively. Far Cry 2, at the same resolution, AA and Ultra High settings, ran at a fair 88fps. Overall, the ZOTAC GTX 480 falls in between the ATI Radeon HD 5970 and the ATI HD 5870. The HD 5970 consistently gives at least 10% more performance than the ZOTAC while the GTX 480 is ahead of the HD 5870’s performance by at least 15%. This single GPU card has some heat issues and draws a lot of power but I have no hesitation in calling it a very good product.
We pick four apps you should check out
LogMeIn Free Price: Free
Operating Systems: Macintosh, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7 Requirements: Internet Explorer 7, Firefox 3.0, or Google Chrome 2.0; free LogMeIn account; Target PC must be turned on, with a high-speed Internet connection File Size: 15543 KB Download from: www.logmein.com LogMeIn Free neatly solves the problem of remotely controlling another Mac or PC over the Internet just using a supported web browser. Setup is surprisingly easy. Create an account on the LogMeIn.com Web site, then install the LogMeIn software on the computer you wish to control. Tell the software you want that PC to be able to be controlled over the Internet. Then when you want to take control of it, log into your LogMeIn.com account.
Adebis Photo Sorter Price: Free
OS: Windows NT, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows Me, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 Requirements: 256MB RAM, Pentium II 300MHz processor, 3MB free disk space File Size: 638 KB Download from: adebis.com If you’re like most digital camera users, you probably bought your first camera several years ago. Now your My Pictures folder is jam-packed with pictures of everyone you’ve met and every place you’ve been since you first bought the camera. If you have a truly unsorted slush pile of photos, Adebis Photo Sorter is a quick and dirty way to sort it into some kind of order. It’s a handy little app to have on hand.
Microsoft Security Essentials Price: Free
OS: Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2003, Windows 7 Requirements: CPU with clock speed of 500MHz for XP (1GHz for Vista); 256MB RAM for XP (1GB for Vista); 140MB available hard disk space; IE 6.0 or Firefox 2.0 Download from: www.microsoft.com/ security_essentials Standalone antivirus product Microsoft Security Essentials has caused a stir, as might be expected when the words “Microsoft” and “free” are involved. Overall, Security Essentials holds its own as a free standalone antivirus app. MSE looks like a good budget choice for baseline antivirus protection.
Adblock Plus Price: Free
OS: Macintosh, Linux, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 Requirements: Mozilla Firefox 3.0 and up Download from: bit.ly/a8GAjE If you’re bugged by Web ads, then Adblock Plus is for you. The well-designed Firefox add-on quickly and easily blocks the vast majority of online ads. Adblock Plus does its job very well. It works smoothly right away with no work required, and also offers advanced customization options for those who want to dig in. If you want to stop seeing ads in Firefox, this is all you need.
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FREE ONLINE SERVICES THAT
STORE, SYNC AND SHARE YOUR FILES By Howard Wen
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yncing to the cloud” may sound like marketing-speak, but it’s actually a convenient thing to do: Upload your important files to an online server and access them from any of your other computers and mobile devices. Cloud-based syncing services usually use a virtual drive that exists on your desktop in some manner, and it is linked directly to your online storage space. The contents of this virtual hard drive remain in sync across all of the desktops, notebooks and mobile devices on which you have installed the client software. You designate which files or folders that you want to be part of the virtual drive; everything on that drive is then automatically uploaded to an online server. From there it is accessible (by logging on with a username and a password) from your other devices, either from another installed version of the application, or via a Web interface. And you can grant other people access.
For this roundup, I chose five services that store, sync and share your files in the cloud: DriveHQ, Dropbox, OpenDrive, SpiderOak and ZumoDrive. I reviewed them using their desktop front-end clients, and I used only the free account versions of these services (because everybody likes free stuff). Most of these also offer paid upgrades; in those cases, I list the other options that are available. Incidentally, until recently Microsoft offered its own data synchronization service, called Live Mesh, but it’s now defunct. Another Microsoft service, Windows Live Sync, doesn’t have direct syncing access to an online storage space. However, features of Live Mesh have been incorporated into the upcoming version of Windows Live Sync as part of Windows Live Essentials. The new Windows Live Sync will give you 2GB of online storage for syncing files. Unfortunately, the next version of Windows Live Essentials won’t run on Windows XP, so XP users may want to check out the services in this roundup.
DriveHQ FileManager www.drivehq.com
folder stored on your DriveHQ online drive and choosing the “Synchronize with local” option. DriveHQ File Manager will automatically upload and download files between your online and local folders so that the contents of each match one another. To share a folder on your DriveHQ online drive, you rightclick on it, select “Share” and enter the e-mail address or DriveHQ username of the person you want to receive it. Your friend or colleague will then be e-mailed a link with which he can access the folder.
The company behind DriveHQ, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Drive Headquarters Inc., sells online storage, backup and other online services that appear to be designed mainly for business users. Its cloud-syncing desktop software, DriveHQ FileManager, was released in early 2007.
OV M How we tested I tried out the Windows version of the desktop application for each service. I installed the client on two notebooks — one running Windows XP, the other Windows 7. The Windows XP notebook was left in my home office, turned on and connected to the Internet. The Windows 7 notebook was taken to various locations with Wi-Fi Internet access. I experimented with files ranging from 1MB up to 20MB in size. A note about security: While all of these services employ some basic means of password protection for your files, and most offer assurances that your files travel over “secure connections,” the fact of the matter is that you are still uploading your personal and business files to a remote server. So beware.
How it works: DriveHQ FileManager works very similarly to an FTP file transfer application. It has two panes in its user interface: The right side displays the contents of your local computer’s hard drive, while the left pane shows the folders and files on your DriveHQ online storage space. Transferring files or folders between these two directories is done by clicking on the item in question and dragging and dropping it into the other pane. You can also click to select the file or folder you want to upload from your local hard drive and click the “Upload” button to transfer it to your online storage space. It also works the other way around: You can copy a file to your local drive by selecting something on your storage space on the DriveHQ server and clicking the “Download” button. Synchronizing a folder between your local and online directories is done by right-clicking on the
What’s good: Uploading files to, and downloading them from, your online storage space is as speedy as you’d expect from an FTP setup. What needs to be fixed: This service feels like it’s just a basic online storage service — there’s nothing really unique or “cloudlike” about how it works. The DriveHQ FileManager application might as well be a typical FTP front-end application. Bottom line: DriveHQ FileManager will feel familiar to anyone accustomed to using an FTP file transfer program. But that means it isn’t as simple as an automaticsyncing cloud file storage system.
DRIVEHQ FILEMANAGER DRIVE HEADQUARTERS INC.
Maximum file size:
Daily data-transfer limit:
Seven plans ranging from $2.99 to $69.99 per month (or $29.99 to $699.99 per year), with maximum data transfer caps ranging from 4GB to 400GB per month
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When trying to describe to neophytes what “syncing to the cloud” means, people often cite Dropbox as a prime example. Launched in early 2008, Dropbox has garnered a large following — the San Francisco-based company announced it had 4 million users as of January 2010. How it works: The Dropbox software installs itself in the form of a desktop folder. To sync files, you drag and drop files into the Dropbox folder or into one of its subfolders, and the files will immediately be uploaded to Dropbox’s servers. The Dropbox folder can be treated like any other folder on your local drive. For example, if you create or save a document directly to the Dropbox folder, the document file is automatically uploaded to your account on the Dropbox servers. This file will then be instantly downloaded to any of your other computers on which the Dropbox client program is installed. To share your subfolders with others, you right-click on one of your Dropbox subfolders and select “Share This Folder.” This brings up a Web form in your browser where you enter the e-mail addresses of the people you want to share the folder with. They are sent a link that will allow them to access your shared folder
through the Dropbox site. (Nonusers of Dropbox will be required to register for a free account.) If the people you’ve selected have the Dropbox software installed on their computers or mobile devices, then your shared subfolder will appear under their Dropbox folder and its contents will be downloaded to their local hard drives. What’s good: File syncing was fast and instantaneous, and it happened as soon as I logged my remote notebook into a Wi-Fi service. Dropbox provides client programs for a variety of operating systems, making it an attractive choice if you own a number of devices that run on different platforms. What needs to be fixed: The client software has a bare-bones set of features. You have to log into your account through the Dropbox Web site for extras, such as the ability to read a log that lists the files that have been updated, uploaded or deleted from your Dropbox folders. Bottom line: Despite its minimalist desktop software, Dropbox is a very direct and easy-to-use service, abiding by the “it just works” mantra. It’s obvious to see why it has become the most popular choice among cloudbased, store-and-sync services.
DRIVEHQ FILEMANAGER DRIVE HEADQUARTERS INC.
Windows XP/Vista/7, OS X 10.4 or later, Ubuntu Linux 7.10+ and Fedora Core Linux 9+
Android, iPad, iPhone
Maximum file size:
Unlimited using client software; under 300MB when using Web site
Daily data-transfer limit:
$9.99/month (or $99/year) for 50GB; $19.99/month (or $199/year) for 100GB
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OpenDrive gives you twice as much online storage as Dropbox. Its desktop software is only for Windows, but it includes a feature that enables you to sell your downloads. How it works: OpenDrive Desktop places a virtual hard drive within your computer’s “My Computer/Computer” menu, the icon for which is located on your desktop by default. Like Dropbox, you drag and drop your files and folders into it, and they are immediately uploaded to your account’s storage space on the OpenDrive server. Dragging files and folders out from it will download copies of them to your local computer’s hard drive. Basically, it works like an external hard drive connected to your computer, except that it exists online. Syncing a file or folder is done by right-clicking on any file or folder in your local hard drive and choosing “Synchronize with OpenDrive.” A copy of the file or folder will be placed in your OpenDrive virtual drive and uploaded to your OpenDrive account online space. An intriguing feature of OpenDrive, setting it apart from the other services reviewed here, is that it lets you sell downloads of your files
to the public. To do this, you right-click on a file stored in your OpenDrive virtual drive and, in the menu prompt, enter a selling price (in U.S. dollars). OpenDrive will create a link that you can post. The person who clicks the link will be required to pay via PayPal to download your file, and the money will be credited to your OpenDrive account.
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What’s good: OpenDrive gives you a generous 5GB of online storage with a free account. What needs to be fixed: OpenDrive Desktop requires that you have Java on your computer, and that could be a deal-breaker if you prefer to avoid having this runtime platform installed on your system. Moreover, there isn’t a direct way to exit from the OpenDrive Desktop program. The software has to be fully uninstalled; otherwise, the OpenDrive virtual drive resides as a device permanently connected to your computer. Also, the program froze up a few times when I tried to drag and drop files that were a couple of megabytes in size from my notebook’s hard drive to my account’s OpenDrive virtual drive.
OPENDRIVE GEENIAN INC.
Maximum file size:
Daily data-transfer limit:
$4.99/month (or $49.99/year) for 100GB, 1GB maximum file size, 5GB/day limit; $14.99/month (or $149.99/year) for 500GB, 1GB maximum file size, 25GB/day limit; $24.99/month (or $249.99/year) for 1TB, 1GB maximum file size, 50GB/ day limit.
Bottom line: You get lots of online storage for free — but the desktop program in its present form appears to have some stability issues.
CPI Consumer Technology
Podcast www.macworldme.com www.pcworldme.com www.gameworldme.com
Coming Audio soon! & Video! We interview We discuss We debate We review We entertain
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SpiderOak has the professional look of a cloud-sync system designed for enterprise users who need to back up gigabytes of files across a broadband connection. The company behind it, Northbrook, Ill.-based SpiderOak Inc., first launched its product in December 2007. How it works: SpiderOak’s client works like a hard drive backup application. Every computer that you link to your SpiderOak account appears under a menu within the SpiderOak desktop client. Clicking on a computer’s name will open up a branching list of the folders and files that you have uploaded to your SpiderOak account. You can download, erase and perform other maintenance on your files by interacting with this virtual computer network in the same way you would with a typical file manager program. You can set backups and syncing of files and folders to happen automatically on a regular schedule. You can grant other people access to your files or folders by setting up a “ShareRoom,” which is a password-protected link that the SpiderOak desktop application will generate for a file or folder you designate for public sharing.
What’s good: The application has a feature that groups the files on your local computer’s hard drive into categories (“Documents,” “Movies,” “Music,” “Pictures” etc.). You can then back up the files in any of these categories to the SpiderOak servers, provided you have enough space on your account. But you can also use SpiderOak to select specific files and folders that you want to sync across multiple computers. What needs to be fixed: The SpiderOak desktop software may be a bit of overkill, with more features than you need if all you want to do is sync a few folders and files between your online storage space and local hard drive. But, regardless, its overall user interface and functions are easy to use. Bottom line: SpiderOak seems to have been designed to be mainly an online hard drive backup system rather than a simple service for syncing files and folders to the cloud. Thus, you would probably get the most out of it if you paid for additional online storage space and had all of your computers that are linked to your SpiderOak account connected to the Internet with enterprise-level broadband.
Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7, OS X 10.4 or later, various Linux distros
Maximum file size:
Daily data-transfer limit:
$10/month (or $100/year) for each additional 100GB
How it works: The Windows version of the ZumoDrive desktop application that I tested works similarly to the OpenDrive system: It creates a virtual drive on your desktop that’s linked to your online storage space on ZumoDrive’s servers. To sync files and folders, you drag and drop them into this virtual drive, and they will be automatically uploaded to your account. You can share a folder or file with others by right-clicking on the folder or file and, within the pop-up menus, entering the e-mail address of the person to whom you’re granting access. You can also make ZumoDrive generate a hyperlink to one of your folders or files for posting on the Web.
What needs to be fixed: Since the free versions of Dropbox and ZumoDrive have similar features, ZumoDrive’s biggest “fault” may be that it isn’t as popular as Dropbox, so chances are that the people you want to collaborate with may be using Dropbox instead of ZumoDrive. Bottom line: ZumoDrive is the best alternative and strongest challenger to Dropbox in this roundup. It matches Dropbox in terms of basic features, but it allows you to do more directly from its desktop client.
Windows XP/Vista/7, OS X 10.5 and later, Ubuntu Linux 8 and higher, Fedora Linux 9 and higher, various other Linux distros
Android, iPhone, WebOS
1GB storage; up to an additional 1GB upon doing specific sign-up tasks (syncing your files to your ZumoDrive user account, installing the desktop client software, etc.)
Maximum file size:
Daily data-transfer limit:
Plans range from $2.99/month for 10GB to $79.99/month for 500GB
Launched in January 2009, ZumoDrive appears to be aiming right at Dropbox, since it sports a similar user interface and functions. It differentiates itself by presenting convenient ways to access the media files stored on your cloud-based drive.
What’s good: Compared to Dropbox’s and OpenDrive’s desktop clients, ZumoDrive has more functionality — though mainly for tweaking mundane technical details like how it interacts with your network. But it includes convenient features for sharing media files among your computers and mobile devices. For example, it has a function that helps you easily provide remote access to your iTunes music and playlist. Like Dropbox, the ZumoDrive client software is available for several operating systems and mobile platforms.
Conclusions Dropbox, OpenDrive and ZumoDrive represent best the concept of cloudbased file storage, syncing and sharing: Their desktop programs embed a virtual drive within the file structure of your operating system. Their premise is to work as invisibly as possible by functioning like a normal drive. OpenDrive gives you the most online space for free — but I occasionally encountered problems when trying to sync/upload files that were a couple of megabytes in size through its Java-based desktop client. Between Dropbox and ZumoDrive, it’s pretty much a draw. If you have colleagues or friends who already use Dropbox, that could give it the edge. Still, you may want to check out ZumoDrive and open a free account, since its desktop client includes built-in features that make it convenient and easy to share your media among your various devices.
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by Rick Broida and PCWorld ME Staff
Fix PC Clock, Troubleshoot XP Shutdown, Test Wi-Fi Troubleshoot a Windows XP System That Won’t Shut Down
Computer clock that’s slightly off Reader Dan loves his Asus netbook—but not its clock. Every time he turns the machine off, it seems to lose a couple hours. But the minutes, he notes, remain accurate. There are a number of reasons a computer can fail to keep good time. It could be the result of Windows failing to connect to its time-sync server, or it could be a dead CMOS battery. In this case, however, it’s something much simpler: Dan’s netbook is set to the wrong time zone. Readjusting the clock fixes the problem for his current session, but every time he reboots, the clock automatically readjusts itself based on the time zone setting. Fortunately, this is a super-easy problem to fix: Right-click the clock in the System Tray (bottom-right corner) and click Adjust date/time. In the Date and Time box that appears, click Change time zone. Choose the proper time zone for your location. Click OK, then click OK again. That should do the trick, Dan!
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Reader Todd says that every time he shuts down his Windows XPpowered desktop, it “hangs” on the shutdown screen, forcing him to hold down the power button until the machine actually turns off. My Windows 7 system has the same problem, though it happens only sporadically, not every time. I’ve searched high and low for a solution, and there doesn’t seem to be one—for me, at least. For you, I recommend perusing the Windows XP Shutdown & Restart Troubleshooting page, which is chock full of common shutdownrelated issues and potential solutions. So many, in fact, that you’ll understand why I don’t have an easy answer: There are just too many variables, too many possibilities. It could be a hardware issue, a rogue app, a glitchy driver, and on and on. But this page is pretty comprehensive, so at the very least it should give you some remedies to try. Good luck!
If you’ve got a hassle that needs solving, send it our way. We can’t promise a response, but we’ll definitely read every e-mail we get — and do our best to address at least some of them in future issues: firstname.lastname@example.org
Slow Wi-Fi? Try Bypassing It With an Ethernet Cable Reader Brenda has noticed that the Wi-Fi at her local library has slowed considerably in recent months, and she’s wondering what’s causing it: “Is it our computers, bogged down with too much junk, or is it something to do with the library’s system?” Given that you cite multiple computers as exhibiting the same slow connectivity, chances are good it has something to do with the Wi-Fi. For example, perhaps the router got moved to a location that’s blocking some of the signal. (I’ve been in houses where something in the walls prevented signals from reaching outside a single room.) It could also be that the router is failing, or that more library patrons are sharing a fixed amount of bandwidth (like more cars on a highway leading to slow-moving traffic). Without having more information, it can be tricky to troubleshoot a problem like this. However, there’s one step worth trying for anyone vexed by sluggish Wi-Fi: try a direct connection to the router. (Actually, that should be your second step; the first is to reset the modem and router.) This might not be possible at the public library, of course, but at least you could ask. In other words, disable your PC’s WiFi, then connect it directly to the router using an Ethernet cable. Windows should automatically detect the new connection and get you online accordingly, though you may have to reboot. Problem solved? If so, you know there’s some kind of Wi-Fi issue to blame. If not, the culprit is probably a bad router, bad router settings, or the Internet connection itself (check with your service provider). Space doesn’t permit me to address all these possibilities here, but at least you’ll have narrowed down the problem.
BENCHMARK BEFORE YOU BUY by Lincoln Spector
The people running computer stores generally frown on potential customers plugging flash drives into their floor models. And they have good reason to frown. How do they know you’re not uploading malware— intentionally or otherwise? That’s why, if you want to check out a PC’s performance in the store, you should look at its Windows Experience Index. The software is already there in Windows 7 (which I assume this new computer is running), so you don’t have to plug anything in. Click Start, right-click Computer, then Properties. You’ll find the rating at the top of the System section, the number displayed as a graphic. To make sure the rating is up-to-date, and to see details, click Windows Experience Index. You can click Re-run the assessment to get a fresh score. The detailed view rates five performance categories: Processor, Memory (RAM), Graphics, Gaming graphics, and Primary hard disk. The overall score isn’t an average of the five, but the lowest.
Do you want a portable, off-aflash-drive program for checking out a PC’s specs before you buy? A computer, the theory goes, is only as fast as its slowest component. But in reality, the slowest component might not matter. For instance, a low Gaming graphics score means little if you don’t play games. The highest rating in Windows 7’s Index is 7.9. As a general rule, a computer with a 3.0 score will work fine for most purposes, but will struggle with HD video feeds. If you’re a serious gamer or video editor, you’ll probably want a score of at least 6.0. You can click on What do these numbers mean? for more information.
If you want more information than the Index can give you, and you think you can get away with plugging in that flash drive, run System Spec off of it. This free, portable application provides all sorts of useful information about the computer you’re running it on, including details on the RAM, display, drives, and CPU. You can export its report to HTML. Whether you use the Windows Experience Index or System Spec, remember that you’re not actually buying the floor model. If you like the specs you see on the floor, make sure you’re getting the same specs, or better, in the box.
CREATING A LIVE USB DRIVE FROM A LIVE CD IMAGE by Logan Kugler
Although live CDs have a lot of advantages, they don’t fit in your pocket easily, which means you may not always have one around when you need it. Fortunately, most live CD images can be installed onto a USB flash drive, giving you most of the benefits of a live CD. Since most modern computers can boot from a USB drive, live USBs can be used in almost all of the situations a live CD can. The fact that a USB drive can be written to is both
a benefit and a drawback -- on one hand, it isn’t as resistant to intrusion as a read-only CD, but on the other hand, you can save configuration details, store documents and other files, and download and install new software to a USB drive, which you can’t do with a live CD. If trading a bit of security for the portability of a flash drive seems worthwhile to you, there are several tools that will easily install a live CD image to a USB drive. Two of the easiest to use are the Universal USB Installer
and the Linux Live USB Creator, both of which walk you step by step through the process of converting a CD image to a USB drive. They have each been tested with various versions of Linux -- though the two lists of versions that each one has been tested with differ slightly -- and you can try any untested system with either and it might still work. However, there are just too many versions of Linux out there for either to guarantee 100% compatibility.
One nice feature both offer is the ability to configure a USB-based Linux to run in a Windows-based virtual machine, so you can effectively launch Linux within Windows -- that’s useful if you’re using a public machine that you’re not able or allowed to reboot.
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THE BACK PAGE
KHALID ALHURAIZ WWW.LOCHALARCHADE.COM
Khalid Alhuraiz rambles every month about all things PC. This month he takes on the issue of having multiple monitors and why it’s a good thing.
t’s common knowledge that the higher number of pixels on a monitor the more expensive it is. Full HD resolution is pretty much expected today and any monitor with resolution lower than 1,920x1,080 is not that interesting for many users. However, let’s say you have a 1,366x768 monitor. Then after a while you decide to replace it with a 30-inch 2,560x1,600 monitor because your work needs more space. Sadly, it turns out that all monitors like that are a little out of your budget. Then what do you do? I’d say get a second monitor. Couple your old one with a 1,920x1,200 monitor, and your total amount of pixels is just 20 percent less than one 2,560x1,600 display. On top of that, you’re saving a nice amount of money for yourself. So you got yourself a new monitor. Now what? Besides the obvious “connect and configure it,” start spreading your windows around, move some icons around, and see what applications should stay on the secondary monitor and what stays on the main one. If you have something open all the time you might want to move it to the secondary monitor. For myself, I have my instant messaging client, Windows Task Manager,
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Twitter, and computer temperature monitors running the whole time on my second display. By just glancing to that monitor, I have access to all sorts of information, without minimizing or opening anything at all. Perhaps you’re not sure that more screen real estate equates to higher productivity there’s plenty of research showing the link between the two. According to Microsoft, as much as 50% in boost of productivity can be gained by just adding a second monitor. NEC has shown that more complex tasks are done much quicker on two screens than a single monitor but that inexperienced users preferred having a single large display than two screens. There is also an ergonomic disadvantage of having a dual monitor computer if you have it set up incorrectly. It’s best to have your main monitor stand in the center and not slightly to the left or right. Then place the secondary one to the left or right of the main one. Keeping your head turned slightly to one side over a long period of time can cause neck problems. As long as you keep your head facing straight when working normally, there shouldn’t be any problem.
Does it end with just two screens? Definitely not! You can go all out and get yourself a third monitor or more. You’ll probably need a second graphics card to have more ports but that’s a topic for another column. You will also have to make sure your motherboard has support for extra slots and that your computer’s power supply unit can handle the extra load. You probably noticed that going this route, in most cases, will cost you a bit more than the price difference between a single monitor computer and a dual monitor computer. It is definitely more expensive. But if you need the space, it is definitely worth it. Having more than one screen might make you look silly in front of the more technophobic people, especially when you try to explain to them the advantages. The fact is, it’s extremely convenient to have more than a single screen, and it’s satisfying to get the more complex work done fast. Khalid Alhuraiz is a long-time PC user with an almost fanatical interest in hardware, software and everything in between. You can find him hanging out at www.lochalarchade.com and catch up with him on Twitter as @khaloodh.