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LOGIN TECHDESK

MAKE IT BETTER TOOL TIME

Tech Authority is all about. Now, we don’t inkering. Sometimes you have to, sometimes you just want to. I think do specials very often, and this is the first in many years. But, I think, well overdue. I it’s fair to say that pretty much all want you to hang on to this issue. Keep it PC & Tech Authority readers enjoy delving into the almost limitless capabilities because one day you will need the expertise within on a particular topic. I also want of their PCs. It’s just who we are. you to go hard proactively and thoroughly In part, we do it to personalise a go through what is contained within with machine to suit our needs, whether it’s a a view to auditing your PC settings. Don’t simple theme change, or a registry edit to make it hard work, just a quick scan of automates tasks that we each may do more the pages is hopefully of than other people. Or, we may need to fi x “We tweak because enough for a few things jump out at you and something that just isn’t it’s fun and satisfying. to maybe help you decide working the way it should. It’s our hobby!” that now is the time to While this is thankfully tackle the maintenance or rare these days within the enhancements you might have been putting highly evolved PC ecosystem, things can off. always be improved, and it’s the versatility I want you to benefit from, and leverage, and flexibility of the PC that makes this the expertise you have at your disposal here. possible. The PC & TA editorial team is the best in Some tweaks we put off, but shouldn’t. the business and I’m not just talking about Are your backups as secure as they could the depths of their knowledge, but also their be? Are you even backing up in the fi rst talent in communicating often complex place? Many don’t, I know. Probably in part topics clearly and in a way that encourages due the fuss and complexity involved – but you to get in amongst it. We’ve reached it needn’t be this way. Do you put all your out and brought in some specialists, too, faith in Windows Defender for security? to help compile this guide. It’s a powerful Or even one of the better paid security tool oozing with potential – just like the PC products? In general that’s fi ne, but there’s itself. always more that can be done – and that includes how you behave online. There is always a better way, and staying on top of all that can be challenging and immensely time consuming, which is why we’re here with this how-to special. For many of us, myself included, we tweak because it’s fun and satisfying. It’s our hobby! The appeal of the PC is that it’s a base-level platform that offers almost limitless opportunities for tuning to a particular task. We can have a PC that does many things well, and for those of us who have very specific needs, we can create a machine that excels at a narrower range of duties. No job is too small or large for the PC, and Ben Mansill equally, there’s nothing a PC does that can’t EDITOR be improved. bmansill @nextmedia.com.au Which is what this special issue of PC &

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REAL TECH ADVICE YOU CAN TRUST! • Our tests are performed by experienced reviewers in our Labs in accordance with strict benchtesting procedures • Our brand new benchmarks have been tailor-made to reflect realworld computing needs • We put tech through its paces – seriously. From processing power to battery life, from usability to screen brightness, our tests are exhaustive • We will always offer an honest and unbiased opinion for every review

THE PC&TA TEAM DIGITAL EDITOR TECH AND GAMING David Hollingworth dhollingworth@nextmedia. com.au T: @atomicmpc

NATIONAL ADVERTISING MANAGER PC&TA Sean Fletcher sfletcher@nextmedia.com.au

GROUP ADVERTISING MANAGER TECH AND GAMING Cameron Ferris cferris@nextmedia.com.a

ART DIRECTOR Tim Frawley tfrawley@nextmedia.com.au

CONTACT US p: (02) 9901 6100 e: inbox@pcandtechauthority.com.au f: www.facebook.com/pcandtechauthority t: @pctechauthority

PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 3


CONTENTS FEBRUARY 2018 TECHDESK

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NEWS Optus to compensate thousands of NBN cutomers over false advertising of speeds

STOP WINDOWS 10 BEING ANNOYING Windows 10 is a great OS, but some of the new features and Microsoft’s way of doing things drive us to distraction. David Ludlow shows you how to improve everything

12 GAME NEWS Star Citizen is attracting unwanted legal attention

14 CHIP NEWS Ryzen 2 is coming, and soon! Nvidia unleashes a new Titan

18 SYSTEM NEWS What makes a NAS great?

96 USE SECRET WINDOWS APPS AND TOOLS Hackers are trying to steal your data and make money from you. Don’t let them

INVESTIGATOR When simply returning a faulty product goes pear-shaped

24

DREAM GEAR

ASK GRAEME When an IP camera helps save the day at home

HOW TO

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76 REPAIR SHOP Most modern electronics aren’t designed to be repaired, but the PC is a different beast. David Ludlow shows you how to repair your own computer

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58

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A-LIST & KITLOG This is the dream list of the best of the best

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64

WINDOWS 10 HACKS Want to bend Windows to your will? Nik Rawlinson provides deep-dive advice that goes well beyond the normal tips and tricks

72 YOUR BACKUPS AREN’T SAFE You may think your files are protected – but could you be in for a nasty surprise when disaster strikes?

76 BEAT THE HACKERS Hackers are trying to steal your data and make money from you. Don’t let them 4 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

46 53 26

YOUR FREE APPS HOW TO DOWNLOAD AND INSTALL THIS MONTH’S FREE FULL APPS!

THIS MONTH: •O&O DiskImage 11 Professional •Startup Star 2018

•Startup Star 2018 •Ashampoo Music Studio 2018


CONTENTS

64

REVIEWS

WINDOWS 10 HACKS

PCS & LAPTOPS Fujitsu Lifebook U937

45

COMPONENTS

88

STOP WINDOWS 10 BEING ANNOYING

AMD Vega 64 Asus ROG Strix Geforce 1070 Ti A8G Gaming Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1070 Ti Gaming 8G MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Ti Gaming 8G Zotac GTX 1070 Ti Mini 8GB

36 39 39 40 40

SOFTWARE

100

REPAIR SHOP

52 53

Adobe Lightroom Adobe Premiere

PERIPHERALS LG 43UD79 monitor Asus PG27VQ monitor Asus XG27VQ monitor AOC 322QCX monitor Synology 218play WD My Cloud Epson ET 2700

41 42 43 44 46 47 51

HANDHELDS 48

iPhone X

72

76

BEAT THE HACKERS

SAFE BACKUPS

PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 5


TECHDESK INBOX

INBOX TABLET TIME

In the December issue our Labs was all about tablets. In the intro I wondered if the honeymoon was indeed over for tablets, and asked you what use they have in the real world. Amusingly, I did not foresee the irony at play here, that these letters would sit on a page at the bottom which we are spruiking our tablet editions... Here are some of your replies, thanks to all for writing in! BEN

PHONES, PHABLETS AND TABLETS Personally, I am fruitlessly searching for an Android tablet that has a screen size of about 13in so I can properly surf the net and read magazines on it. I also want to be able to write on the screen to take notes, preferably with the option of converting my handwriting to text. I initially didn’t think it would be that hard, but unless I spend a grand and go Apple there is nothing out there (that I can find anyway) that is over 10in in screen size. The fact people are paying a fortune for a 6in (or close to) phone and then more money for a 8-9in tablet makes no sense at all! So, if you know of an Android tablet that is decent quality and 13in in size please let me know! The closest I’ve found is a no-name branded tablet from Kogan with low specs, and even at just $350 I’m not keen on taking a risk with it. I think phones selling for over $1,000 is absolutely mad. Why wouldn’t you buy a tablet instead for the same money? I really enjoyed your article! CRAIG

IT’S ABOUT THE VERSATILITY A tablet, be it ever so ‘umble, can be very useful. I received my Samsung SM-T330 as a freebie with a newspaper subscription, and it is perfect for the task. Regularly updated content, formatted into three readable columns; it is light, fits my hand and only needs charging once a week.

The tablet sits in the remotes rack next to my favourite TV-watching chair. If I need the reading light on or off, a tap on the Wemo app does the job. Watching TV, I can background programs with Google searches, Maps or Earth. When an advertisement comes on, I can resume my game of Freecell. I found Netflix keeps all your past and half-watched programs open, and it is easy to kill them through my Netflix account with the Tablet. Netflix on the TV cleans up soon after. If my watch buzzes to advise of a new email and I want to read it, I open Gmail on the tablet. As I’m writing this, I’m listening to the tablet streaming Spotify via Bluetooth through my Google Home Assistant which has a better speaker. Now it has just beeped to remind me it is exercise time! I appreciated the comment in the article that they can be a laptop replacement. Definitely a hat in the ring when my aged Acer dies. CHRIS

NEWS & ENTERTAINMENT I’m 67, my wife 75. We have two iPad airs and an iPad 3. The 3 sits by my lounge in front of the TV, my wife’s Air on the microwave and my air by my bed. I read newspapers on them every day, use them every day for email, YouTube, Zinio, Kindle and eBay. I take the

The PC&TA app If you prefer to enjoy PC & Tech Authority via your iPad or Android tablet, you can! Each issue is just $6.49 for iPad and $4.99 for Android, and has all the content that you’ll find in the magazine.

Get the app: PC & Tech Authority for iPad http://tinyurl.com/iPADPCTA Get the app: PC & Tech Authority for Android http://tinyurl.com/ANDROIDPCTA 6 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

air that has a SIM card on holidays and download movies and TV series for the same reason as you (fear of a broken entertainment system) as well as experience of a poor vid selection on some flights. I’m an Android convert but love the IOS sealed eco system, the range of apps and the ease with which I can read newspapers and magazines. PETER

A FAD THAT’S PASSED Interesting title to your article for “ïn the Labs”. I have a tablet and my wife has a Sony Xperia. Neither are used. Yes they went through a phase of use at the beginning but just didn’t work for us long term. I have a Dell XPS13 which has the power I need plus the same apps as my desktop and she uses a Dell XPS15 now as her desktop and portable machine. In my case, I touch type and find a tablet irritating as I cannot touch type on it with my big hands. My wife’s issue is more about using a different operating system and apps than those she is familiar with. Bottom line. For us it was a great fad but just not practical. My phone will do if I need to access the net urgently somewhere. A tablet sits somewhere in the middle and has just been squeezed out. I won’t be getting another tablet. JEFF

WANT TO GET IN TOUCH? m: Inbox, Level 6, Building A, 207 Pacific Highway, St Leonards NSW 2065 e: inbox@pcand techauthority.com.au Please limit letters to 200 words, where possible. Letters may be edited for style and to a more suitable length. Go to www.pcandtechauthority.com.au and join in the conversation. Also check out the Atomic forums: http://forums.atomicmpc.com.au


TECHDESK NEWS

TECHDESK NEWS

THE LATEST TRENDS AND PRODUCTS IN THE WORLD OF TECHNOLOGY

OPTUS TO COMPENSATE Five stories not to miss 8700 CUSTOMERS FOR SLOWER-THANADVERTISED NBN SPEEDS ptus will compensate more than 8700 of its customers who were misled about maximum speeds on certain NBN plans. The telco advertised a range of speed plans on its NBN services between 1 September 2015 and 30 June 2017, including a “Boost Max” offering which advertised maximum download speeds of up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) and maximum upload speeds of up to 40 Mbps (100/40 Mbps). However, due to technical limitations of the NBN’s fibre to the node (FTTN) or fibre to the building (FTTB) connections meant that the speeds advertised were not achievable. “Optus is the second major internet provider we have taken action against for selling broadband speeds they could not deliver to their customers,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said. “Worryingly, many affected Optus FTTN customers could not even receive the maximum speed of a lower-tier plan. This is a concerning trend we have seen throughout the industry and we are working to fi x this.” The issue affected three of Optus’ tiered speed plans, which includes customers on the 50/20 Mbps and 25/5 Mbps plans. The ACCC said 5430 Optus FTTN consumers on a 100/40 Mbps plan could not receive 100/40 Mbps, and 2337 of those consumers could not receive 50/20 Mbps. Meanwhile, 1519 consumers on a 50/20 Mbps plan could not receive 50/20 Mbps,

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while 1381 consumers on a 25/5 Mbps plan could not receive 25/5 Mbps. “Affected customers should carefully consider the remedies Optus is offering them to assess which best suits their needs,” Sims said. “In some cases, consumers may consider it preferable to simply exit their contract with a refund rather than accept a service that does not meet their needs.” The ACCC said Optus admitted that by promoting and offering speed plans that could not be delivered, it likely contravened the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) by engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct and making false or misleading representations. The regulator added that Optus provided a court-enforceable undertaking to the ACCC detailing the remedies it will provide to affected customers, including refunds, moving speed plans, discounted speed plans, and exit from contracts without a fee. Optus will contact affected consumers on or before 2 March 2018 by email or letter. The court-enforceable undertaking also requires Optus to check within four weeks of connecting a customer to a new NBN speed plan that they are getting the advertised speeds they are paying for. If it is below the advertised speed, Optus will notify the customer and offer remedies. In November, Telstra agreed to compensate 42,000 NBN customers also for advertising misleading maximum speeds. NICO ARBOLEDA/CRN

1 GOOGLE DOCS GLITCH LOCKS USERS OUT OF PROJECTS Google was forced to apologise for a glitch that highlighted the dangers of relying on its Docs service, when it temporarily locked out users from their critical files. Users received a warning saying their documents were blocked due to “abusive content” after Google’s document scanning technology went rogue and declared the most benign projects as breaching the company’s terms. 2 MICROSOFT PULLS PLUG ON OUTLOOK.COM PREMIUM SERVICES Microsoft is once again shaking up its consumer email services, with the closure of its Outlook.com Premium service. New customers are instead being directed to the company’s Office 365 subscriptions. The free Outlook.com service – with ads – is set to continue, and current subscribers that have paid up will still be able to access the service, while subscribers to 365 will automatically receive the benefits of the old paid-for Outlook.com. 3 QUALCOMM PLAYING HARD TO GET IN BROADCOM ROM-COM Chipmakers Broadcom and Qualcomm were looked in a battle of wills over Broadcom’s $130 billion takeover bid over for its rival, which could end up being the biggest tech industry deal in history. Broadcom is confident that its bid will eventually be accepted, although it might need to increase its offer and supplant several Qualcomm board members with its own people to push through the deal. 4 APPLE ISSUES FIX FOR AUTOCORRECT BUG Apple was forced to issue an embarrassing fix after users reported that multiple devices in its range had started autocorrecting the letter “i” to either “A” or other random symbols, leaving users of their expensive handsets looking illiterate. Apple blamed the glitch on a problem within the auto-correct feature in the 11.1 version of iOS, which appeared to affect random users. 5 FIREFOX AIMS TO RECAPTURE RELEVANCE The Firefox browser is hoping to recapture its lost followers with the release of Firefox Quantum, a complete overhaul that involved editing 5 million lines of code. According to Mozilla, the 57th version of the browser is its fastest yet and has less of an impact on memory than its main rivals when multiple tabs are open. It also represents a less corporate alternative to Google and Apple.


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THE

WANT YOU! T

he crew responsible for PC PowerPlay, PC & Tech Authority and Hyper believe we have the savviest, most tech literate readers around, so that’s why we’ve decided that the Australian PC Awards should revolve around your decisions. On March 22nd, 2018, PCPP, PCTA and Hyper will be hosting the first annual Australian PC Awards, an event to shine a spotlight on the best the tech and gaming world has to offer, but before we can announce the winners, you have to choose them for us. Starting February 7, 2018 you, the most passionate and influential tech readers in Australia will be able to head to the URL below to vote on the best products in the marketplace and potentially win yourself some great prizes. Here’s how it works: the editorial team from the Tech and Gaming department of nextmedia will curate a list of nominees for each category culled from the products that we reviewed in 2017 as well as some products we may have missed. Once we’ve populated all the categories with nominations we’ll open it up to you to choose the winners. Voting will close February 28, 2018, and after we’ve collated the votes, winners will be announced at a gala evening on March 22nd in Sydney. Make sure to vote, not just to have your say, but also for your chance to win a spot at the Australian PC Awards for a night of fun and hobnobbing with us and the industry! Head to www.pcauthority.com.au/awards to vote for your favourite tech of 2017!

THE CATEGORIES ARE:

COMPONENTS & PERIPHERALS • • • • • • • •

Best memory company Best cooling product Best monitor Best keyboard Best mouse Best gaming headphones Best case Best router

GAME

• Best PC game


CPU

• Best CPU company (Intel vs AMD!) • Best value CPU • Best performance CPU

STORAGE

• Best HDD • Best SATA SSD • Best NVME SSD

MOTHERBOARDS

NAS

VIDEO CARDS

• Best home NAS • Best SOHO NAS

SYSTEMS

• Best laptop/convertible • Best gaming laptop • Best desktop PC builder

• Best motherboard company • Best premium motherboard

• Best GPU company (AMD vs Nvidia!) • Best OEM budget card • Best OEM performance card

RESELLER

• Best reseller (online) • Best reseller (retail) • GOLD AWARD BEST COMPANY VOT E F O R YO U R C H A N C E TO W I N AW E S O M E P R I Z E S !


TECHDESK NEWS

GAME NEWS

DAVID HOLLINGWORTH IS A FORWARD THINKER AND OPTIMIST

FAR CRY 5 PUSHED BACK TO MARCH 2018 RELEASE

CRYTEK SUES THE MAKERS OF STAR CITIZEN

“and be an absolute revelation of PC gaming supremacy”

I’m not looking forward to The Crew 2 quite as much as I am Far Cry 2, but Ubisoft’s just announced a release delay for both games. Far Cry 5 has been pushed back to a March 27 release, while The Crew 2 has a more vague outlook of the first half of 2018. Here’s what Ubi had to say about the decision: “For Far Cry 5, the extra time will allow the team at Ubisoft Montreal to make some additional improvements that will bring the best, most ambitious Far Cry experience in line with the team’s original vision. We’re excited for fans to join the Resistance in Hope County, Montana against the Project at Eden’s Gate cult. Tune in to the Ubiblog to get the newest look at Far Cry 5. Meanwhile, The Crew 2 development team at Ivory Tower will use the next several months to perform additional playtests, gather player feedback, and continue working towards delivering an ambitious open-world racing experience that meets the team’s and our players’ expectations.”

the suit is long, but the tl;dr version is that CIG and RSI are using the engine with proper attribution, and that the engine is being used across two distinct games. The counterargument, from is that neither game has used the CryEngine for a while. The game - or games - now utilise Amazon’s Lumberyard platform. Crytek is seeking damages both direct and indirect, as well as an

injunction preventing Star Citizen from continuing to use CryEngine. Where will it end? Who the hell knows - we’re game writers not lawyers. RSI is certainly taking it seriously, having removed all associated discussion threads from the Star Citizen forums throughout the day. But wherever it does end up, it is sure to be another gripping instalment in the metagame of watching Star Citizen’s sprawling development.

THERE’S MORE DRAMA IN THE STARS!

ou know, I think I will always be thankful for putting my money behind Star Citizen. There are three equally entertaining outcomes to the investment: the singleplayer Squadron 42 and its much more ambitious counterpart will either one day release, and be an absolute revelation of PC gaming supremacy; it will be at best the most mediocre, and therefore, terrible, game ever made; or it will never, ever see the light of day as a complete product. Either way, I will be able to tell my forebears that I was there. That fans would tell me to quit my job or even send death threats just for having the temerity to mention the game in anything less than hushed and reverent tones. What an exciting time to be alive indeed. The excitement’s also ramped up recently, with news breaking this morning that Crytek - makers of the CryEngine 3D platform, is filing a lawsuit against both Cloud Imperium

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AND THE CREW 2 ALSO PUSHES BACK INTO THE FIRST HALF OF 2018

Games and Roberts Space Industries. The lawsuit claims that both companies are continuing to us the CryEngine in a manner which breaches the original contract in a number of ways. The full text of


TECHDESK NEWS

CHIP NEWS

IS THERE SUCH A THING AS TOO MANY TITANS? INTEL CONSPIRACY? SILENT PRODUCT CRIPPLING? MARK WILLIAMS COVERS A PUZZLING MONTH OF CHIP NEWS

CPU RYZEN TO KEEP RISING IN 2018 Ryzen 2, the sequel, is coming! Due around March, AMD’s roadmap is confirming a node shrink to 12nm for its next generation processor line-up. This should help immensely with power consumption and of course the all-important clock speeds and overclockability that AMD is slightly hampered by with Ryzen. It’s important to note that this won’t be the Zen 2 architecture update, just a refresh called Zen+. This should better unleash Zen’s true potential now that AMD has had time to tweak their new architecture and manufacturing processes.

8TH-GEN CONSPIRACY When Intel released its 8th generation Core processors that utilized the same 1151 socket

as the 7th generation, they clearly said 8th gen Coffee Lake based CPUs would require a new (Z370 based) chipset to work and weren’t backwards compatible with Z270 motherboards due to differing pinouts, primarily to do with power delivery. Despite having largely, the same architecture and using the same socket, we all groaned and eventually moved on. However, someone decided otherwise and began tinkering. A Chinese enthusiast using MSI’s Z170A Xpower Titanium motherboard (that’s right, from two generations ago!) after hacking away at the BIOS and microcode managed

GPU

200MHz slower than the Titan Xp, the Titan V is giving us a glimpse into the future of Nvidia’s next generation. Take the Tensor cores out, remove FP64 support, throw in a few more shaders and switch HBM2 for GDDR6 and you’ve got the potential recipe for what will could be called the GTX 1180 Ti.

YET ANOTHER TITAN Nvidia has gone Titan crazy of late. After the original Titan for the Pascal architecture launched, known simply as Titan X, after the GTX 1080 Ti (which matches the Titan X performance) Nvidia launched an improved version with all the GP102 shader cores unlocked and dubbed it Titan Xp. Recently Nvidia released a limited run of two Star Wars Rebellion and Empire themed Titan Xp cards, with glowing light sabre like lighting to match the cards theme. Now Nvidia is launching it’s fifth Titan in seventeen months, called Titan V. Except this one is different. The V stands for Volta, Nvidia’s new GPU architecture. This card is basically a cheaper version of the enterprise grade Tesla V100 accelerator. The only difference appears to be that the Titan V drops its HBM2 capacity by 4GB for 12GB total on a 3072-bit bus. This still leaves it with a consumer market leading memory bandwidth rating of over 650GB/s. Then there’s the GPU itself. With the 14 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

to boot an i3-8350K into Windows. Admittedly there are some major issues, like the IGP not functioning and the PCI Express lanes form the CPU not being available, but otherwise, it’s proof of concept. Asus representatives later confirmed that Z170 motherboards can theoretically support Coffee Lake processors, but that they were directed by Intel to not pursue it for BIOS updates. With reports that 6th and 7th generation CPU’s have been made to work in Z370 motherboards, one must conclude that Intel has been twisting the truth on the matter all along just to wring more sales out of consumers.

RX 560 WARNING same fully unlocked V100 chip as the Tesla it has 5120 CUDA cores (compared to 3840 on the previous Titan Xp) giving it 33% more off the bat. Then there’s the fact it has dedicated FP64 cores and “Tensor” cores for AI deep learning, this chip is a compute beast. At US$3,000 a pop, this is not meant for gamers. Although early benchmarks have shown between 10% and 30% speedups in benchmarks, for a GPU that’s not driver optimised for gaming yet, and with a core running 100MHz to

Thinking of buying an AMD RX 560? Beware that AMD has silently started selling RX 560 units with less stream processors than at launch. The regular RX 560 has 16 CUs (compute units) providing 1024 stream processors, the cut down version only offers 14 CUs for 896 processors, effectively making it an RX 460, or RX 560D if you live in China. After consumer uproar, AMD has acknowledged the issue and has said it is working with partners to make sure product advertising and descriptions clearly state the CU count of each product.


MOST WANTED ANTHONY FORDHAM WON’T SETTLE FOR LESS

EMERGENCE AS8 SPEAKERS Active stereo speaker systems usually adhere to fairly traditional design parameter. Two satellite speakers and a sub-woofer. Here’s something a bit different. The point of those weird satellites? A more “realistic” sound through something called, we kid you not, Acoustic 3D.

MOST WANTED: The... thing on top of each speaker is a specially designed reflector that supposedly channels all acoustic energy directly at the listener instead of just dispersing it everywhere. The result is noticeable: clearer sound, more detail. NOT WANTED: You may get tired of people asking you what the hell these things are and why you have them in your home. Also, at their $999 price-point, this design is more “as good as” similar active system, rather than superior. And the Bluetooth dongle is an external box which is... odd

RADIUS MOZZIE REPELLER There is a reasonable amount of evidence to suggest that mosquitoes are responsible for half of all human deaths since the Stone Age. Half. You might blame Malaria, but we know the real criminals. So we must bend the latest in Lithium-Ion portability to the task of destroying all mozzies. Or at least repelling them.

MOST WANTED: This compact unit uses a chrysanthemum-derived “super pyrethroid” which it heats gently and sprays out in a discreet jet every few minutes. It’s not as, um, fragrant as a traditional coil and supposedly lasts longer than a citronella candle. NOT WANTED: The Radius might be effective at a radius (oh, now we get it) of 1.5 metres, but it doesn’t actually murder the little buzzers. We’d love to see this combined with a bug zapper or maybe Taser. 16 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU


MOST WANTED TECHDESK

HANSY HYBRID SYNTHESISER Apparently, not everyone in the entire universe loves analogue synthesisers. Who knew? We certainly cannot imagine not wanting to endlessly twiddle knobs to create the weirdest, most sci-fi sounds possible. But we also get that analogue is just one type of sound. Digital has value in... certain contexts. Hansy combines the best of both worlds.

MOST WANTED: Well, this synth had us at the orange casing, but it combines all the trad analogue stages - three LFOs, phase distortion, envelope generators etc - with a digital sequencer, aftertouch and its own DAW for PC.

NOT WANTED: Look, we know you can just plug in a MIDI keyboard and you probably have a really awesome MIDI keyboard and wanting a keyboard on a synth like this is dumb but... we want a keyboard, okay?

ECOQUBE AQUARIUM Rocking a desktop fishtank at work is so hot right now, and everyone loves a nuggety little betta, right? The problem: aquariums require maintenance and you are far too busy an IT executive for that kind of rubbish. This is where EcoQube comes in.

MOST WANTED: Fish tanks get gunky because fish just won’t stop pooping. The EcoQube solution is a rear section in which the fishfancier can grow microherbs, regular herbs, and other hipster-friendly pot plants (strictly no pot though, got that?). NOT WANTED: Though the EcoQube now comes in three sizes, even the biggest one doesn’t really produce a useful amount of herbage. Also, it’s all about nitrogen equilibria, innit? All it takes is one super-hot long weekend and you’ve get a desktop full of dead fish and dead plants.

HMAS VAMPIRE (I) A game like World of Warships - where players duke it out in multi-thousand-tonne destroyers and cruisers and battleships in real time - shouldn’t really work. But it does. Like all games these days, it’s possible to buy individual ships to customise your fleet, and Australia’s venerable Vampire from 1917 is one of the newest additions.

MOST WANTED: Look, Australia rarely gets a mention in massively multipler wargames, and the RAN even less so, so this is a source of Aussie pride if nothing else. Developer Wargaming says Vampire is a “Tier 3 destroyer” in the game, which means less firepower but more “nimble” handling. NOT WANTED: Of course, this isn’t the Vampire that most Aussies know from Darling Harbour in Sydney. That’s Vampire (II), an altogether more modern ship. As an older vessel, Vampire (I) is unlikely to ever become the key to victory in the game. But who knows... you gotta be in it to win it. PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 17


SYSTEM NEWS AFTER REALISING HOW FAR THEY’VE COME, MARK WILLIAMS THINKS NAS DEVICES SHOULD BE AT THE DIGITAL HEART OF EVERY HOME

or many years I’ve been running a little file server at home that I built myself. A low powered CPU system so it can remain on constantly without being a burden on the power bills combined with a bunch of hard drives connected to the LAN. Nothing fancy but it does the job well. Over the years it’s grown in its duties, from simply storing the family photo albums, software and game installer file repositories (all necessary back before cloud storage was a thing and ISP monthly quotas were still of major concern), to now also being a media, web and backups server. Having seen some of the latest Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices in action it’s amazing to see how far these devices have come, and I came to the realisation that I’d built my own NAS device years before they hit the market! Initially NAS devices were simple boxes you shoved hard drives in and they presented them to the network as a file share, and that was it. They still are if you look at it simplistically, but NAS device vendors have over the years layered so much more functionality and flexibility into them they can legitimately do the job of several business level servers all in one. They support most RAID levels with some even sporting fancy ZFS filesystems, meaning redundancy and safety of your stored data in

F

The Synology 918+ NAS is popular with Mwave customers

the case of a hard drive failure is not a problem. Then there’s the app stores. Yes, like your smart phone. Want DVR functionality to record your IP camera footage? There’s an app for that. Want a BitTorrent client? There’s an app for that. Want to host a website with a database? Yep, there’s a one click install to do that too. Anything is possible. From mail servers and Plex media servers

“they can legitimately do the job of several business servers” through to OwnCloud installs. The possibilities are endless and easily achieved at the click of a button. They’re cheap too, from just $120 (excluding hard drives). Sure, having network attached storage at home might seem a little redundant in the era of NBN and 4G/5G internet connectivity speeds and cloud storage, why bother right? Just keep in mind that anything you store in the cloud can disappear without warning. Either through some error or fault at the Cloud storage providers end or your account gets hacked and everything gets deleted. Cloud storage providers aren’t that obliged to provide data security or backups in the event of data loss in the cloud. Chances are it’s not even stored in the same country as you! NAS devices offer an easy way to control, share and store your data the way you see fit. There’s an old saying in the IT business,

A NAS like this Synology DS218+ is an affordable yet powerful solution

“it’s not a backup unless there’s three copies of it”. If you’ve valuable documents, photos and files, a NAS can give you an easy backup option and so much more.

SHOP TALK WHAT IS YOUR MOST COMMONLY SOLD NAS BRAND? WHAT FEATURES DO YOU RECOMMEND YOUR CUSTOMERS SHOULD LOOK FOR IN A NAS? JAIMIE, LEADER COMPUTERS: “We sell a lot of Thecus NAS at Leader, and the ones that get rave reports from our SMB customers are the Windows based models with Storage server built in. Very versatile models with the flexibility and familiarity of a Microsoft environment instead of Linux. They even have a separate 60GB SSD that hosts the Windows environment!” JOHN, TI COMPUTERS: “We think the Synology DiskStation DS218+ is the best home NAS for most people. It’s the fastest model we’ve tested. It has a modern dual-core 2.0 GHz Intel Celeron processor and 2GB of RAM, which you can expand to 6GB. With unencrypted write speeds between 102 MB/s and 109 MB, the DS218+ supports media playback through its own apps or Plex Media Server, supports RAID 1 drive mirroring, alerts you to drive failure. You can use the DS218+ as a home backup device, a media streamer, a mail server, a website-hosting device, a BitTorrent box, or a video-surveillance recorder—nearly anything you can do with a Linux computer.” TERENCE, MWAVE: “Synology DS918+ (good CPU power, RAID function, supports 4k video transcoding, powerful DVR function -- albeit a camera license is required per camera when using more than two cameras). Customers should always look for RAID 1 or higher for data redundancy as NAS holds a lot of data, and you don’t want to lose the data in the event of a catastrophic HDD failure”


SYSTEM NEWS TECHDESK

MARKET WATCH SAMPLING SELECT SYSTEMS IN THE MARKET TODAY

PC CASE GEAR INFINITY GAMING SYSTEM

MWAVE4K GAMING PC POWERED BY THERMALTAKE

$4,399 • https://tinyurl.com/yaxjb8f8

$3,199 • https://tinyurl.com/y8j2mboh

This is the perfect gaming system. Once you get past the mesmerizing front facia, the innards of this beast are perfectly appointed. Despite being just a hexa-core compared to AMD’s octa-cores, Intel’s latest top of the line processor enjoys higher IPC and MHz which is lapped up by current games, especially with its 4.7GHz turbo clock. Sitting under a water cooler, enthusiasts can expect to push it to 5GHz and beyond. Married to this is the top performing graphics card of the moment. Capable of 4K gaming, expect smooth gameplay at lower resolutions with all details at maximum. 32GB of memory is very generous. It’ll go mostly unused with current titles but leaves room for future game title requirements creep or more intensive productivity work.

Wanting a top tier gaming PC without going overboard? This could be for you. Sporting the same top end graphics card as this month’s PCCG system, this system shaves upwards of $1,200 off the price by using the outgoing quad-core champ, the i7 7700K CPU. It also has a lower 16GB (and slower) memory capacity which is still the perfect size for current triple-A game titles, and a smaller 1TB HDD. The rest of the system is fairly similar with a 500GB SSD, a capable power supply, and water cooling to elicit overclocking should the desire strike. The tempered glass endowed chassis keeps things classy (glassy?) and with RGB fans, power supply, cooler and LED strips inside it’ll glow, flash and pulse (or not).

KEY SPECS CPU: Intel Core i7 8700K Cooler: Be Quiet! Silent Loop 240mm Motherboard: Asus Z370 ROG Maximus X Hero Graphics: Asus ROG Strix GeForce GTX 1080 Ti 11GB Memory: G.Skill Trident Z RGB 32GB DDR4 3000MHz Storage: Samsung 960 PRO 512GB SSD, Seagate Barracuda 2TB HDD Power Supply: Be Quiet! Straight Power 10 600W CM Case: InWin 805 Infinity

KEY SPECS CPU: Intel Core i7 7700K Cooler: Thermaltake Water 3.0 Riing RGB 360 Motherboard: MSI Z270 Gaming Pro Carbon Graphics: MSI GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Gaming X 11GB Memory: Kingston HyperX Fury 16GB DDR4 2400MHz Storage: Samsung 850 Evo 500GB SSD, Seagate 1TB FireCuda HDD Power Supply: Thermaltake Toughpower Grand 650W RGB Case: Thermaltake View 31 TG

UMART I7 NUC OFFICE/HOME MINI PC

TI COMPUTERS TI POWER 8350K

$1,147 • https://tinyurl.com/ybl4rdwr

$1,360 • https://tinyurl.com/y7p5vfh3

Who says you need a large box for a PC? NUC’s in many instances can fulfil the needs for most tasks general purpose tasks. Case in point is this unit. The CPU is a peppy dual core hyperthreaded unit that can turbo up to 4.0GHz. 8GB of RAM is the sweet spot for a non-gaming PC, so ticks the box there. Then there’s the 250GB SSD which will keep the system responsive while giving a reasonable amount of storage. It’s only a SATA type M.2 SSD but that’s good enough for this machine. Of course, the neat thing about this system is its size. It takes up less desk space than most smart phones. And if disk space is a premium or you just want to hide it completely, use a VESA mount to attach it onto the back of your monitor!

Here is a little gem. Coming in at a very affordable price, it’s well poised to be a great first PC for a budding enthusiast. As the system name suggests the CPU is the star of this system. Being a quadcore, it’s well positioned to handle most games and tasks you can throw at it. Strangely, it doesn’t support Intel’s Turbo Boost technology, so it’ll “only” hit 4.0GHz, which isn’t a bad thing in the current market. Although as the K in the moniker suggests it is overclockable, and TI Computers will build this system pre-overclocked for you at 4.8GHz, which in this price bracket against stock clocked systems will let this punch far above its weight. An oversized power supply will easily allow for future higherpowered part upgrades.

KEY SPECS CPU: Intel Core i7 7567U Cooler: OEM Motherboard: OEM Graphics: OEM Memory: 8GB DDR4 Storage: Samsung 850 EVO M.2 250GB Power Supply: OEM Case: OEM

KEY SPECS CPU: Intel i3 8350K @ 4.8GHz Cooler: Cooler Master 212 Plus Motherboard: Asus Z370-P Graphics: GeForce GTX1050 Ti Memory: 8GB DDR4 Crucial 2133MHz Storage: 240GB Kingston SSD, 1TB Seagate 7200rpm HDD Power Supply: Cooler Master 750W Case: Cooler Master K282 PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2017 19


TECHDESK INVESTIGATOR

THE RETAILER, MANUFACTURER AND CUSTOMER SHUFFLE WHEN YOU JUST WANT A REPLACEMENT FOR A FAULTY PART

t’s an old story. Someone goes to a local store and buys an item. They get it home, set it up and it all looks perfect. But a few weeks or months later – we’ll within the item’s expected lifetime – it fails and the customer heads back to the retailer for a refund or replacement. That’s what happened with reader Bram Taylor. He purchased a Samsung Evo 500GB SSD for his computer in August, only for the drive to die a couple of months later. He had his computer checked by a local tech who confirmed the failure of the drive. As the drive failed to boot, and his backup strategy let him down, he was not in a great place. Fortunately, he was able to use a data recovery tool to recover much of his lost data from another drive which had been accidentally overwritten. Bram purchased the drive from a reputable bricks-and-mortar dealer and not some fly-by-night online mob. But, rather than going back to them initially, he contacted Samsung who said they would send a satchel for him to send back the defective drive before dispatching a replacement. I put in a call to Samsung, putting them in direct contact with Bram. At the time of writing the matter wasn’t resolved but I’ll keep you posted in next month’s column.

I

SOME LESSONS Under Australian consumer law, Bram could have, perhaps should have, gone directly back to the retailer he purchased the SSD from 20 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

ANTHONY CARUANA has worked for almost every major masthead in the Australian IT press. As an experienced IT professional – having worked as the lead IT executive in several businesses, he brings a unique insight to his reporting of IT for both businesses and consumers.

rather than Samsung. Local rules obligate the retailer to carry out the remediation action, whether that’s a refund, repair or issuing a replacement. All of those are legitimate remedies. For significant problems – and I’d expect the failure of an SSD to qualify as significant – the replacement must identical type to the product originally supplied or a refund should be the same amount paid in the same form as the original payment. The ACCC describes what a major problem is so it’s easy to communicate issues with resellers. Your first port of call for any warranty problems should be the point of purchase. It’s one of the benefits of dealing with a physical store; you can walk in and discuss the matter. Make sure you have read the information regarding consumer law and warranties on the ACCC web site so you are fully aware of your rights as a consumer. It’s also worth searching the ACCC’s website for any notices regarding any retailer you plan to make a major purchase through to ensure they have been fulfilling their obligations under consumer law. The ACCC has recently taken

action against tech retailers who don’t live up to their warranty obligations, fining MSY Technology significantly and forcing them to put a notice on their website detailing their offences. In my experience, a new piece of hardware is likely to fail either very early in its life or after years of faithful service. For example, I have some hard drives running in a NAS that are into their eighth year. But some new drives in a more recent storage device reported bad sectors after a week. When replacing a hard drive, it is critical to make sure your backup strategy is robust (I like the 3-2-1 system; three copies on two different media with at least one stored remotely) and tested. Bram’s issues were exacerbated by a breakdown in his backup strategy. It’s been said that there are two types of hard drives; those that have failed and those that will fail. And that applies to new and old storage devices alike. Having a solid backup strategy and not letting your guard down when you get a new drive are critical to protecting your data.

NEED HELP? EVER HAD AN ISSUE AS A CONSUMER? INVESTIGATOR CAN HELP. If you’ve had an issue or had something happen and you think investigator could help, email your problem to investigator@pcandtechauthority. com.au


TECHDESK ACS

HOW DEEP THE RABBIT HOLE

To kill or not to kill… that is the question.

AS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE BEGINS TO MAKE DECISIONS THAT IMPACT OUR LIVES, WILL THEY BE UNBIASED AND ETHICAL ONES AND HOW ARE THESE DEFINED?

he desire to create artificial intelligence, and artificial life, is as old as our imagination. But it’s only recently that we’ve seen AI technologies explode -- largely as a function of computing power, data, and of course algorithms. And while we’ve seen it applied to everything from smartphone assistants and autonomous cars to medicine, finance, and law, as a race we don’t tend to have the best track record of looking before we leap. Earlier in the year a story made the rounds on the value of human life with respect to autonomous vehicles: faced with killing a pedestrian, or swerving to save the pedestrian but hit a wall and killing the occupant, what should the car choose? It’s not just an excellent question, it’s an ethical one. It points to an inevitable reality: as we build machines that can make decisions that impact human lives, we need more than just the engineers and computer scientists. We need a subset of wider stakeholders, including those with an ethical oversight. Because the above question isn’t as simple as it seems. What if it was two pedestrians? Or three? What about if the pedestrian was a pregnant woman? Or a single child?

HOW DO YOU VALUE HUMAN LIFE? AND FINALLY, IMPORTANTLY, WHO GETS TO DECIDE?

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Or two old men at the end of the lives? If the original decision was to save the driver, then at what point does this value judgement change, and why?

ASHTON MILLS has been writing about technology for 20 years and still gets excited for the latest techy gear. He’s also the Outreach Manager for the Australian Computer Society (www.acs.org.au), you can email him on ashton.mills@ acs.org.au.

To complicate matters, another part of the problem is the data: machine learning systems are built and trained with large volumes of it. By this very nature then, their output will be a reflection of the data. We know this will lead to biases where data is weighted one way or another, and this can be accounted for. The problem is the biases that are so ingrained we can’t see them – a good example here was Google’s image recognition in its Photos app when it tagged black people as ‘gorillas’. There was no intended malice here, the problem was the data that trained the system. It doesn’t help that there aren’t many freely available anonymised open data sets that can be used to train these systems. In some cases, programmers have resorted to skimming sites like Facebook to harvest vast volumes of data for tasks like text or image recognition -- all without permission. It’s for science, after all! And then there’s regulation, or lack thereof. Laws and regulation have always trailed technological advances, but with machine learning and AI we’re going at an ever faster pace across vast swathes of industries.

A video released last month via autonomousweapons.org titled [i] Slaughterbots[/i], and purportedly backed by Elon Musk, is a slick flick demonstrating a possible future taking current advances to their logical conclusion. And it’s not a pretty one. While I think it leans too much on the fear factor, the extrapolation of combined drones with machine learning and weapons is not only easy to see, it’s all but assured. The potential is too great not to do so for a variety of organisations, especially police and military. Law making and regulation isn’t likely to prevent this kind of future (when has this ever stopped humankind?) but it doesn’t mean this wouldn’t have an effect on the development of AI technologies that are less obviously dangerous and more widely implemented – be it autonomous cars, digital assistants, virtual doctors and more. Anywhere that AI decisions will impact people. We are peering into a deep rabbit hole with AI that we’re only just learning has many tunnels and many miles to explore. That we now have Google’s DeepMind training itself without human interaction, and machine learning systems so complex not even their authors understand how they work, is perhaps a sign that we might want to integrate responsible frameworks in AI development now to ensure unbiased ethical products make it to market. Or learn the hard way when we don’t.


TECHDESK ASK GRAEME

CAUGHT IN THE ACT WHEN A HOME SURVEILLANCE SYSTEM DOES WHAT IT’S SUPPOSED TO, BUT WE ALL HOPE NEVER HAS TO

aniel Arnold in Ipswich sent a Facebook message through over the weekend, thanking our business for manufacturing one of our IP Surveillance cameras. It caught my attention because, despite selling lots of great solutions and products to the public via our retail and reseller network every month, it isn’t that often that we get a thank you message from a user, because obviously they are designed to work, on and on for years. It’s sort of expected. On reading this message though, I can see why Daniel was feeling so happy with his purchase and why he wanted to drop us a line. You see, Daniel and his 11-year old daughter, Cadence, were robbed whilst they were away from their home in early December, and all of their presents were stolen from under their Christmas tree, along with Cadence’s pocket money from her room, and other bits and pieces. The thief broke into the house via Cadence’s bedroom window, and proceeded to go through the house, including into the garage armed with a flashlight, looking

D

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GRAEME REARDON is the Managing Director of D-Link Australia and New Zealand and has had over 20 years’ experience working with major networking brands including Cisco. Graeme has a borderline obsessive passion for all things IT-related.

for whatever he could pilfer from the family. The thief was wearing a white baseball cap, and a grey Nautica sweater, with a hoodie over his head and cap. Daniel looks after Cadence as a single parent, and she has Asperger Syndrome, which affects one’s ability to effectively socialise and communicate, so it was heartbreaking to see him and Cadence the following evening on 7News in Brisbane sharing their story, and seeing the distress that she felt about their presents being taken, and her concern for going to sleep in the house again after the break-in. Why did Daniel send us a post though? Well, he was so happy that one of our IP Surveillance cameras had taken some great quality images of the offender whilst he was walking, in pitch blackness, through his house with just a flashlight. Daniel has passed these onto Police, and been given permission to share them on Facebook. As of writing, which is less than 22 hours since the post, there are over 36,000 views and more than 100 comments across both his original post as well as on the 7News post on the story, many of which are kind-hearted people offering to send gifts to them to replace the ones that had been stolen, as well as our own offer for some free spending in our online store.

On one hand I find it upsetting that we need cameras to protect ourselves, our homes or properties, and for governments to record footage of crowds and streets where people frequent when they wish to go out to a restaurant or into the city for a night out, but unfortunately, that’s the way the world is right now. I remember fondly when the back door was always open, just in case the neighbours needed anything, or friends popped in, and you felt perfectly safe and trusting. Those days are long gone in many, if not most parts of Australia now. At my home I have 5 cameras set up, two outside, and 3 inside, recording continuously to a NAS on some, and on motion detection on others to save some storage space. I can easily go back via a simple navigation screen on an App to certain times or events to see what happened around the property at any time, wherever I happen to be. I have to admit, one of the inside cameras points right towards a lounge where my kids often play on the Xbox One, and where most of the fights in our house occur. It’s great to have ‘evidence’ when one child comes down crying or upset and the others are attempting to slightly embellish or distort the real truth of what occurred! In Daniel and Cadence’s case, whilst the Police haven’t caught the offender as of the time of writing, I’m sure they will, and more importantly, through the communities’ generosity, they will undoubtedly have a wonderful Christmas due to the caring people that have seen their plight, and are doing something about it. As we rapidly approach the festive season, I’d like to wish each one of our readers a very Merry Christmas, and look forward to hearing more of your letters and comments in 2018!

YOU CAN ASK GRAEME Ask Graeme about networking, the internet, getting the most from your gear and this wonderful digital world we live in. Each month we’ll choose one for Graeme to answer here. askgraeme@pcauthority.com.au


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THE ACCE SS KEY

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imply visit www.apps.pcauthority. com.au and enter the unique Access Key for this issue of PC & Tech Authority, along with your email address. The access key for this issue is: qYfmnHbbpy. You can then view the current apps and download, install and register (if required) them. That’s it, simple. We hope you get good use from the apps!

REGISTRATION FOR THESE APPS CLOSES ON

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TROUBLESHOOTING AND CONTACT INFO We have general help information on the PCTA Apps site (www. apps.pcauthority.com.au). If you are having trouble using the Access key or are having issues registering the Apps please contact us via feedback@pcauthority.com. au. Please note that we can’t help you with any issues you might have using the apps themselves, but each app has specific contact information for the company providing the app, and that can be found at the end of each app description on the PCTA Apps site.

O&O DISKIMAGE 11 Anyone who’s ever experienced the shock of data loss, or had to spend hours recovering their system, will know the importance of backing up. Having a fall-back copy of both Windows – including all your favourite apps and painstakingly crafted settings – and your irreplaceable documents, media and other files is a no-brainer, but what is the best way to go out doing it? O&O DiskImage Professional provides you with all the tools you need for backing up both individual data such as selected files and folders, plus take drive images of entire partitions and drives. While’s it’s still not a tool for complete beginners, it does provide some hints and tips to guide you towards protecting your data, and the latest version attempts to make things even easier with a revamped sort-of Windows

10-style interface. After installing, you’ll choose the function you need by clicking on the appropriate tile: “Start drive imaging”, “Start file backup”, “Create one-click image” or maybe “Create bootable disk”. Pick the imaging option and you’re able to create images of all your drives with a click. Alternatively, select a source drive or volume, click “Start drive imaging” and you can run a backup using the default settings. You can also opt to back up individual files and folders with O&O DiskImage – this is a simple case of browsing a file explorer window for items to back up, ticking folders and files as you go. There are similar options to run complete, incremental or differential backups, compress or encrypt your archives, and more.

REQUIREMENTS: Windows 7, 8, 10 32/64-bit • 200MB hard drive space LIMITATIONS: Registration required. www.oo-software.com/en/

DISCLAIMER: As the delivery platform only, PC & Tech Authority and nextmedia Pty Ltd cannot and will not provide support for any of the software or data contained on these discs. Although all app files are virus scanned, nextmedia Pty Ltd cannot accept any responsibility for any loss, damage or disruption to your data or computer system that may occur while using the apps, the programs, or the data on them. There are no explicit or implied warranties for any of the software products on the discs. Use of these apps is strictly at your own risk.

26 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU


APPS

STEGANOS PRIVACY SUITE 18 Steganos Privacy Suite is a comprehensive collection of tools for keeping your personal information safe from snoopers. Steganos Safe stores confidential fi les in a secure password-protected vault. It’s able to encrypt data on your hard drive, USB keys, even cloud files (Dropbox, OneDrive and Google Drive are supported). If that’s too obvious, you can hide a Safe inside a multimedia file so that no-one even knows it’s there. Privacy Suite includes a password manager where you can save your logins, bank account details, credit card information, even “Private Favourites”, URLs you’d like to keep handy, but not make entirely public. An Email Encryption module can encrypt

your message text and fi le attachments, making sure your private communications stay that way. There are general online privacy tweaks to block ads, social tracking buttons and anonymise your browser type. The “TraceDestructor” securely deletes your browsing and Windows traces to prevent others checking your activities. Steganos Suite is rounded off with the Shredder, which wipes confidential files or free space to ensure they can’t be recovered later.

REQUIREMENTS: Windows 7, 8, 10 32/64-bit • 100MB hard drive space LIMITATIONS: Registration required. www.steganos.com/

ASHAMPOO MUSIC STUDIO 2018 Ashampoo Music Studio 2018 is a capable collection of tools which makes it easy to build, manage and share your music collection. You might start by ripping some tracks from CDs, for instance, and saving them as WMA, OGG or WAV audio files. But the program can also record fi les directly from a microphone, or the line-in of your sound card. And it can even strip the soundtrack from a video, saving it as a more convenient audio fi le. If you already have plenty of music fi les, you might prefer Ashampoo Music Studio 2018’s ability to edit them (cut, trim, copy, paste, fade and more). The Normalize tool helps you keep a consistent volume

level across a set of audio fi les, while the Conversion option will convert particular fi les into a more usable format. And there’s plenty more. An Organize function will rename and relocate your fi les into a logical folder structure, so they’re easier to fi nd. There’s a built-in tool for burning audio and MP3 CDs, and you even get a tool to help you design disc covers. There are plenty of features to explore, then, but a well-designed interface ensures the program is very easy to use. The various functions are divided into logical categories (“Record”, “Burn”, “Edit Cover”); hovering your mouse cursor over an icon displays a tooltip with more details, and a series of helpful wizards help out as you go.

REQUIREMENTS: Windows 7, 8, 10 32/64-bit • 200MB hard drive space LIMITATIONS: Registration required. www.ashampoo.com/en/aud

STARTUPSTAR 2018 Booting your PC may look simple - turn it on, and Windows starts - but there’s an extra step which isn’t so obvious. As Windows launches it also automatically runs a host of startup programs, many of which are unnecessary, and that can significantly extend your PC’s boot time. Fortunately you don’t have to live with this situation. Install StartupStar and you’ll have all the tools you need to manage your PC’s startup process, get it back under your control, and then make sure it stays that way. The process starts by reviewing your current setup. Clicking “Startup Entries” displays everything which is set up to launch when Windows starts. Scroll the list to take a look, and if you’re sure

there are some entries you don’t need, then StartupStar can help you to get rid of them. If you spot an unnecessary startup program, for instance, then just check the box to its left, and click “Delete selected entries” to remove it. Or if you’re not sure whether it’s necessary or not, try the “Deactivate...” option. The program won’t launch when you next reboot, but it’ll still appear in the startup list and can be restored later. StartupStar also includes a “Startup Firewall”, which runs in the background and warns you when a program is being configured to run at boot time.

REQUIREMENTS: Windows 7, 8, 10 32/64-bit • 50MB hard drive space LIMITATIONS: Registration required. www.abelssoft.de/en/windows PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 27


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IS HYPERLOOP OVERHYPED AND UNDERLOOPED? CAN HYPERLOOP BE BUILT OR IS THE IDEA JUST SILICON VALLEY HYPE? NICOLE KOBIE REVEALS WHY THE SUPERFAST TRAINS MAY BE POSSIBLE – AND WHY THEY MAY BE WORTH THE EFFORT EVEN IF THEY FAIL

elbourne to Adelaide in 50 minutes. Global mass transport that’s as fast as planes without chewing up fossil fuels and spewing out emissions. And all backed by the billionaire enthusiast who pushed electric cars to the forefront and wants to take humans to Mars. But is Hyperloop actually possible? Even the experts aren’t sure – some say it’s a matter of time and money (lots of money), but others say it’s nothing more than a highspeed folly. The latest to jump on the superfast bandwagon of the future is Virgin, which chucked enough money at leading developer Hyperloop One that it’s been rebranded – to the catchy Virgin Hyperloop One. But others disagree, citing concerns about the ability to maintain a low-pressure environment over long periods or the infrastructure required: think long tunnels or in-the-air tubes. Then there’s the small matter of jump-starting and halting the pods without too much discomfort or, you know, death. And the costs required to pull it all together. Will such challenges derail Hyperloop?

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HISTORY OF HYPERLOOPS The idea of a levitating train whooshing through a near-vacuum tunnel isn’t actually new. British inventor George Medhurst has a patent on one version of the idea – although it’s a bit out of date, having been approved in 1799. Another version was actually developed in London to shuttle letters and parcels in the 1860s with the Pneumatic Despatch Railway, and in New York in 1870 with the Beach Pneumatic Transit line. And 30 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

“maglev” – magnetic levitation – trains are already zooming around Japan and South Korea. All these offerings differ from Elon Musk’s version, dubbed Hyperloop Alpha, which he offered up as an “open-source transportation concept” via a 57page PDF back in 2013. Musk’s initial plans involved a low-air-pressure tube with a motor on the levitating pod boosting it every 70 miles or so to overcome the much-reduced but still problematic friction. Power is supplied by solar panels along the top of the tube. That tube would be built above ground on pillars or pylons, following motorways where possible to avoid having to buy more land, with small pods carrying 28 people each leaving every 30 seconds and travelling at 1,220km/h. Musk predicted it would cost US$6 billion to build such a design between San

Francisco and LA. Several companies are developing their own versions of the idea. The two leading contenders are Hyperloop One and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies; the former has actually run tests, while the latter has shown off little more than a stack of agreements with countries, including the UAE. Smaller rivals include Canadian TransPod and This sketch from Elon Musk’s Hyperloop proposal reveals how he imagined the pods could look


TROLLING TECH FUTURES

University of Edinburgh spin-off HypED is developing a pod for a Hyperloop competition

Dutch university spin-out Hardt Global Mobility, both of which are still working on approval and funds for test tracks. The other company to watch is Musk’s own tunnelling startup, The Boring Company, after the Silicon Valley pioneer tweeted that he has “verbal” government approval to build a Hyperloop in a tunnel connecting New York and Washington, DC. While Musk’s own efforts are always worth keeping an eye on, Hyperloop One is currently the one to watch. Hyperloop One ran its second major test over the summer, at a 500m track in the Nevada desert. The pod reached a top speed of 309km/h – a far cry from the 1,220km/h promised by Musk, but a clear step forward from early tests. “When you hear the sound of the Hyperloop One, you hear the sound of the future,” said Hyperloop One co-founder Shervin Pishevar.

CRITICISM ABOUNDS However, Hyperloop sounds like something other than the future to many industry and academic experts. The criticism usually centres on these key points: creating a vacuum or low-pressure environment of such scale is difficult, as the tubes Elon Musk’s tunnelling firm, The Boring Company, has already unveiled its drill, dubbed Godot

will expand from heat and consequently crack, shift and leak; the infrastructure – whether aboveground tubes or tunnels – is difficult to build and maintain to the level needed to handle such forces; the trip would be uncomfortable and any accidents would be violently fatal; and the costs are much higher than Musk claims. Whether a Hyperloop-style train is possible also depends on exactly what you mean. Musk’s first plans involved a tube set resting in the air on pylons, while his The Boring Company is naturally looking to tunnels; plus, the eventual Hyperloop could be slower than those promised speeds, reducing some of the concerns around heat and comfort. The plans are likely to change further throughout development, so even if the general idea eventually comes to fruition, it may not look very much like Musk’s original sketch opposite.

TECHNICAL CHALLENGES There’s no question that designing and building Hyperloop will be difficult from a technical standpoint, but Dr Hugh Hunt, senior lecturer in mechanics at the department of engineering at the University of Cambridge, argues there are no “showstoppers” preventing it from eventually working. The other three experts we spoke to – who are a mix of critics and proponents of the idea – all agreed that, technically speaking, Hyperloop is possible,

though challenging. “We have yet to find anything that makes it not valid,” said Emil Hansen, technical director at HypED, a University of Edinburgh spin-off developing a pod for a SpaceX Hyperloop competition. “It is quite a big leap in technology to make it happen, but all the separate technologies already exist. It’s just a question of improving quality, reducing the cost, and reducing the risk involved.” Professor Herbert Einstein, of MIT’s Civil and Environmental Engineering de`partment, said one of the most pressing issues is maintaining a vacuum over a long distance. “We’re talking about building the largest vacuum chamber in the world by quite a large margin,” added Hansen. “But it’s still

“Musk tweeted that he has ‘verbal’ approval to build a Hyperloop in a tunnel connecting New York and Washington, DC” the same technology that’s worked for a very long time.” Einstein is a tunnelling expert and he doesn’t “see much of a problem” from that point of view, as boring costs have continued to fall. That’s convenient, as the track needs to be straight or very close to it, Hunt notes, and that’s harder above ground. “It’s like when you’re driving fast on a motorway, you don’t want sharp bends,” he explained, noting that’s not easy as the earth moves – even in places not prone to earthquakes. “To keep the track straight, it needs to be readjusted. We do that with railways already, so I suspect to keep Hyperloop tracks straight, we have to do it better and more often.” For that reason, quake-prone California may not be the best place to trial the in-theair pylon version of Hyperloop. “The ideal place to start is wide open and flat with not too many things in the way,” Hunt said, suggesting the Abu Dhabi project could well be ideal for the first Hyperloop. Einstein adds that such technical problems are all solvable, and frankly, that’s what Musk is good at. “That’s one of the things Musk does,” he said. “He is very skilled and intelligent about using existing technologies and making them practically useful. Electric vehicles existed for a long time, but he brought it up to practical use.”

CUSTOMER COMFORT One of the most high-profile criticisms regards security for these high-profile trains, PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 31


with critics pointing out that a single hole in a Hyperloop tube could cause a catastrophic failure, killing everyone in the pod. That means a terrorist could very easily do real damage without having to hop onboard first, as it’s difficult to secure the entire length of the tube. However, again, underground tunnels could help here. But intentional violence and high-speed accidents aside, Hyperloop also requires accelerating to high speeds for several minutes. We’re used to that for a shorter period on planes, but passengers will feel such forces for much longer on Hyperloop. “It won’t be comfortable, we would have to get used to it,” explained Hunt. Moreover, Hansen notes, air travel has plenty of other discomforts: intense security screening, long loading times and airport locations far out of cities. In theory, Hyperloop’s train-style infrastructure will slash some of that faff.

CUTTING COSTS Assuming the technical hurdles can be cleanly leapt, costs alone could derail the idea. “Hyperloop, meaning a high-speed transport device enclosed in a tube and propelled by electric power, is technically possible,” said Genevieve Giuliano, chair in effective local government and director of METRANS transportation centre at the University of Southern California. “[But] I don’t see Hyperloop as a feasible passenger transport mode, simply because it would be very difficult to compete with air transport, and the high speeds will not translate into markedly shorter trips.” She notes that as Hyperloop is an independent system, goods and people need to be transferred to other transport at each end, cutting into speeds and adding cost, just as air travel does, with as much time spent getting to the airport and boarding the plane as the actual flight for shorter journeys. “Because it must be built from scratch, it will be costly to build, and it has to have right-of-way,” she added. “In order to cover the costs of construction and operation, it would need a lot of traffic. The question is where is a sufficiently strong market for such a service.” Of course, until a Hyperloop is actually built, it’s difficult to tot up the costs: a NASA paper claims Hyperloop is faster and cheaper than short-haul flights, but academics at the University of Queensland suggest Musk’s estimates are a tenth of what they should be. It will be expensive, but hey – that’s why we …and in tests last summer, the XP-1 pod hit respectable speeds of 309km/h 32 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

have billionaires like Musk and Branson, after all. However, why chuck billions at pods that so far only go 300km/h when we already have trains topping speeds of 360km/h and planes to take us further distances? Is it worth spending billions to go faster or to compete with air travel? “Hyperloop is selling speed, so it is competing with air transport,” noted Professor Giuliano. “The air system is a dense network that takes you or your packages anywhere you want to go. Typically proponents of new technology don’t think about the potential for competition from old technology. We should not expect that the air cargo industry will not innovate and figure out ways to compete.”

WHY IT’S A GOOD IDEA Assuming the technical hurdles can be traversed successfully, there are plenty of good reasons to build Hyperloop trains – including their environmental credentials. Rather than asking if Hyperloop

Hyperloop One’s test track in the Nevada desert mimics Musk’s original idea…

is technically possible, we should be asking a different question, said Hunt. “Is carrying on burning fossil fuels technically possible – well, it obviously is, but it’s a really stupid idea,” he said. “So if we’re not going to be burning fossil fuels to fly, then what are we going to do instead of long distance flying? What I like about Hyperloop is it’s one of the few serious attempts at addressing that problem.” Analysis by the US Department of Transportation suggests Hyperloop is six times more energy efficient than air travel, while academics at Helmut Schmidt University in Hamburg calculated a Hyperloop could cut 140,000 tonnes of carbon emissions by keeping freight off motorways. Alongside that, Musk’s latest project – whether it’s built by The Boring Company or rivals – is rather inspiring. “I think it’s really exciting,” said Hunt. “The more we get young people interested in wacky engineering ideas, the better, really.” He added: “If we only ever try to do things where we can already see how it would work, then I suspect we won’t really be ever coming up with particularly exciting new ideas. Let’s push ourselves outside our comfortable boundaries, and who knows what we’ll come up with.”


IN THE LABS

WE TRY BEFORE YOU BUY

NAS JAZZ BEN MANSILL LIKES TO NETWORK

D

you run a NAS? In my non-scientific anecdotal experience talking around the place with readers (usually at our Upgrade Australia events, which is when I enjoy hours of satisfying personal time with those of you who are there), there are two camps. There’s those who enthusiastically run a NAS and use it a lot, and those who don’t see a need. There’s little middle ground, by which I mean pseudo-NAS products like the WD My Cloud, the latest version of which is reviewed in this issue, on page 47, or use instead a simple portable external hard drive. In the last PCTA reader survey (which we ran almost two years ago), 42% of you said you intended to purchase a NAS in the next year. Alas, we didn’t ask how many of you already have a NAS, but it’s fair to assume that it’s a bit more than 42% because many of you will have a NAS you’re perfectly happy with and don’t intend to upgrade. But, still, not everyone does. Some just don’t need to. It may be that the PC has limited tasks, like for just gaming as an example. Some people may use the cloud for storage and backups. Some of you may not yet have set up a media library to stream around the house, and world. Or ever intend to. PCs used for work, though, should. There’s no substitute for having a physical copy right there in the home or office.

I’d never suggest that a NAS alone is all you need, with cloud being so cheap (or free) and quick that’s another essential layer to have. Media streamers may use a simpler solution like a Chromecast, or even just a smart TV networked to an always-on PC. It’s these myriad of uses and solutions that make a NAS so hard to pigeonhole. The only thing I know to be absolutely true is that when someone gets their first NAS there’s no going back. You might have just a single reason to get one, but not long after you start to play with the expanded versatility new worlds open. Let’s not overlook the huge variety of NAS apps that do cool stuff. If you’re in the Synology or Qnap ecosystems you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s app-overload for most of us, but those companies keep on innovating and, really, what they offer is not far off being an operating system itself. Perhaps even to the point where all those features work against the appeal of a NAS in the first place, in that the valid perception that a NAS can be complicated is compounded by the hundreds of things they can do, which continues to grow. I’d love to know how you use your NAS, or, why you don’t need one. That will help me shape how we cover them here. Hit me up at bmansill@nextmedia.com.au

EDITORlAL & PRODUCT SUBMISSION: PC & Tech Authority welcomes all information on new and upgraded products and services for possible coverage within the news or reviews pages. However, we respectfully point out that the magazine is not obliged to either review or return unsolicited products. Products not picked up within six months of submission will be used or donated to charity. The Editor is always pleased to receive ideas for articles, preferably sent in outline form, with details of author’s background, and – where available – samples of previously published work. We cannot, however, accept responsibility for unsolicited copy and would like to stress that it may take time for a reply to be sent out.

34 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU


INTRO REVIEWS

REVIEWS

HOW WE TEST

PCS & LAPTOPS Fujitsu Lifebook U937

Our benchmarking tests are the best in the business. Read on to find how they work…

45

COMPONENTS

2D TESTS Desktop PCs and laptops are tested using our own custom bench testing suite, which has been carefully designed to test all aspects of a system and rate them in a way that’s useful to you. Our benchtesting cover three main tests: a typical video editing test, a demanding 4K video editing test and a multitasking test that stresses all aspects of the system. We look at the time it takes for each test to run, which is then compared to our reference PC to produce a normalised result. This score is shown on a graph, and to help you understand just where the PC we’re reviewing sits in the grand scheme of things, we will often include other system’s scores. On occasion we will run publically available bench testing software, predominantly PCMark 10 from Futuremark. This is run in the Home setting, in Accelerated mode. You can get PCMark 10 as well as 3DMark (below) from www.futuremark.com

AMD Vega 64 Asus ROG Strix Geforce 1070 Ti A8G Gaming Gigabyte GeForce GTX 1070 Ti Gaming 8G MSI GeForce GTX 1070 Ti Gaming 8G Zotac GTX 1070 Ti Mini 8GB

For video cards, as well as Integrated Graphics Processing Units, we use: • 3DMARK FIRESTRIKE • RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER • TOTAL WAR: WARHAMMER 2 • GHOST RECON WILDLANDS

3DMark is designed specifically to test video cards, and you can download and run the same tool as us to help you gauge where your own GPU ranks compared to what we are reviewing. The games were selected because they are relatively well balanced in performance between AMD and Nvidia, favouring neither. Rise of the Tomb Raider supports DX12. Ghost Recon Wildlands is a cutting edge 3D engine and can be optimised to stress either the CPU or GPU, while Total War: Warhammer is particularly good at stressing CPUs, and has beta DX12 support. Tests are run using three resolution ranges, depending on where the GPU sits in the market:

39 39 40 40

SOFTWARE Adobe Lightroom Adobe Premiere

52 53

PERIPHERALS LG 43UD79 monitor Asus PG27VQ monitor Asus XG27VQ monitor AOC 322QCX monitor Synology 218play WD My Cloud Epson ET 2700

3D TESTS

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HANDHELDS iPhone X

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ENTRY LEVEL: 1920 X 1080 MID-RANGE: 1920 X 1080 – 2560 X 1440 HIGH-END: 4K

BATTERY TESTS Screen brightness is set to 120cd/m2, playing a 720p video on loop until the device runs out of power.

Battery life Video playback 5hrs 0min

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BREAKDOWN IMAGE EDITING SCORES 97

WHAT OUR RATINGS MEAN

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WHAT OUR RATINGS MEAN

PC & Tech Authority’s comprehensive Real World testing sorts out the best products from the pack. Any product recommended by PC & Tech Authority is well above average for features, value for money and performance. PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 35


REVIEWS COMPONENTS

Asus has done its best with their RX Vega 64. The card is sort-of-cool, quiet and about as fast as you’ll get from an air cooled Vega

ASUS ROG

STRIX RX VEGA 64 VEGA BURNING BRIGHTLY

A

MD themselves hyped up its Vega GPU to the point where it was anticipated as being a GTX 1080 Ti killer. Sadly this was not the case, and the reference card underwhelmed. Still, when looking at the underlying architecture, Vega has much to offer, particularly now that we are seeing the first custom models arriving that address the biggest weakness: the cooling. We are keen to see what Vega is really capable of with the Asus ROG Strix RX Vega 64.

VEGA DONE RIGHT At first glance, you get the impression that this is a serious graphics card. It’s effectively a triple slot design so consideration is needed when choosing accompanying components. Asus have improved on the reference card in every way. Gone is the overburdened reference blower cooler. The Asus Strix is cooler and quieter thanks to its triple dust resistant fan implementation, much larger fin surface area and lapped base for maximum contact. The fans don’t spin until GPU hits 55c, leaving the card completely silent when not under heavy load. Cooling is only a part of it though. The PCB is massively improved over 36 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

the reference card, with a 12 phase power delivery system fed by dual 8 pin power connectors. Frankly it is needed in order to cope with any meaningful overclocking. Of course it wouldn’t be a gamer oriented product without RGB onboard, and Asus have included RGB lighting on the back plate and on the shroud of the card. There’s also a supplemental RGB header that supports Asus Aura Sync for matching the colours to the rest

of the system. The card has a total of five video outputs consisting of two DP v1.4, two HDMI 2.0b and one DVI-D port. This means all bases are covered with the latest video capabilities. One of the little things we really like is the inclusion of a pair of fan headers that can synchronize with the card for optimal cooling. For example, an adjacent case fan can ramp up to push additional air towards the card while under heavy load. The Asus GPU Tweak software has been updated with easy to set OC profiles in addition to full manual control for the more advanced tweaker. Performance is pretty good and it trades blows with the GTX 1080, which is good to see, but that’s


COMPONENTS REVIEWS

GHOST RECON WILDLANDS (VERY HIGH PRESET DX11)

TOTAL WAR: WARHAMMER II (HIGH PRESET DX11)

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NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 1080

NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 1080

AMD RADEON VEGA 56

AMD RADEON VEGA 56

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NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 1070 TI FOUNDERS EDITION

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NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 1080

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NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 1070 TI FOUNDERS EDITION

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NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 1080

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NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 1070 TI FOUNDERS EDITION

“If you have a Freesync monitor or just love team red the Vega 64 will serve you well” In our testing the card got up to 83c, which is high but not horrible. Thankfully noise levels are well under control. The huge Strix cooler does a great job. Unfortunately you can pretty much forget about overclocking. Increasing the power levels and setting a higher core clock leads to throttling quite quickly which defeats the purpose.

THAT POWER USAGE THOUGH…

ASUS ROG STRIX RADEON VEGA 64 0

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ASUS ROG STRIX RADEON VEGA 64

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the minimum we’d expect given the GTX 1080 has been around for 18 months and uses much less power. Perhaps AMD can find some performance gains over the life of the card, in DirectX 12 or Vulkan games that can make full use of the Vega feature set.

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At the end of the day there’s a lot to like about the Vega architecture and its advanced features. Asus has done the best they could with what it is. If you have a Freesync monitor or just love team red, then the Asus Strix Vega 64 will serve you well. It competes well against the GTX 1080 but a 300 watt+ power consumption is tough to overlook. One of the enduring problems for AMD is availability due to the mining craze. When you combine this with the scarcity of the HBM2 memory, we are looking at potential stock shortages and vastly inflated prices. This makes the card much more difficult to recommend. Asus have indicated the launch RRP will be $1,139. At this price the GTX 1080 is clearly the superior choice. We are hopeful that street prices will be lower to make the Asus ROG Strix Vega 64 a more compelling option. CHRIS SZEWCZYK KEY SPECS AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 GPU • 4096 Stream Processors • 1298 MHz Core Clock • 1590 MHz Boost Clock • 945 MHz Memory Clock • 8GB HBM2 Memory • 2x DP 1.4; 2x HDMI 2.0b; 1x DVI-D

NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 1070 NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 1080 AMD RADEON VEGA 56

$1,139 • www.asus.com.au

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PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 37


REVIEWS COMPONENTS

THE PRICE/ PERFORMANCE

SWEET SPOT

NVIDIA HIT ANOTHER HOME RUN WITH THE 1070 TI GPU, NOW CHRIS SZEWCZYK HITS THE LABS TO SEE WHAT CUSTOM OFFERINGS CAN DO

I

n early November Nvidia introduced what is likely to be the final GTX 10 series graphics card. The GTX 1070 Ti filled a gap in the Nvidia lineup that became acutely apparent with AMD’s release of the RX Vega 56. While the 1070 Ti doesn’t bring anything revolutionary to the table, it is still a fine GPU that sits between the well-known GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 stalwarts. The 1070 Ti offers low power consumption, excellent performance and in the case of the Founders Edition, adequate cooling. This last point is addressed with the subsequent release of custom models from all the major manufacturers. In our labs we have models from Asus, Gigabyte, MSI and Zotac, each of which are unique in their own ways as we’ll see. Nvidia is obviously worried that

the 1070 Ti is a little close in performance to the 1080, so it has locked the BIOS level clock speeds across all models, at least for now. This doesn’t mean they can’t overclock, and several vendors have easy to use software tools that can set the card to a higher clock that is guaranteed to work out of the box. All our testing was done with the cards set to their OC modes where applicable. All GTX 1070 Ti’s are good cards, so which one you prefer comes down to personal criteria. Price? Dimensions? Cooling? Performance? All the tested models have their strengths and weaknesses. Whatever model you choose, you’re going to be getting plenty of gaming goodness with lashings of eye candy.

TOTAL WAR: WARHAMMER II (HIGH PRESET DX11) 1920 x 1080

AVG

ASUS ROG STRIX GTX 1070 TI GIGABYTE GTX 1070 TI GAMING 8G MST GTX 1070 TI GAMING 8G ZOTAC GTX 1070 TI MINI 0

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MST GTX 1070 TI GAMING 8G

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COMPONENTS REVIEWS

ASUS ROG STRIX GEFORCE GTX 1070 TI A8G GAMING

T

he Asus 1070 Ti Strix Gaming is the most feature packed variant in our test. It’s no surprise that it comes with the highest price, too. It has the joint highest overclock of the bunch, along with the MSI card, with a 1683MHz base clock and 1759MHz boost clock. The Strix cooler is very effective with a huge surface area. When you pick it up you know it’s a serious piece of kit with its excellent build quality and rigidity. It’s a 2.5 slot card, which you may need to take into consideration if space is limited. It delivered the coolest temperatures of the roundup and was second only to the MSI in fan noise, though the

difference is minimal in reality. The Asus comes with unique features including a pair of fan headers suitable for controlling adjacent system fans. The card is fed by a single 8-pin power connector and is the only card in the test to feature a pair of HDMI 2.0b ports in addition to a pair of DP 1.4 ports and a DVI-D port. The Asus is a real looker too with the side logos, back plate and shroud decked out with RGB lighting controlled by the Asus Aura Sync app. If you like your PC to have a healthy dose of bling, this is the card you’ll want. The Asus Strix delivered the fastest results in our testing, and was easily able to hold its boost clocks above 1900 MHz when set to OC mode with the GPU Tweak App. Temperatures never went above 70c in our open test bench. Impressive!

Though it’s the most expensive card in our test, it delivered the best performance and has the best feature set. It’s a great choice if you need an impromptu murder weapon as well as a GPU. It’s a true beast of a card! PROS: • Excellent performance • Unique feature list • Looks boss

CONS: • 2.5 slot • Expensive

$799 • www.asus.com.au

GIGABYTE GEFORCE

GTX 1070 TI GAMING 8G

G

igabyte’s GTX 1070 Ti Gaming 8G strikes a good balance of performance and affordability. It is positioned in the budget segment of the 1070 Ti market. Its overclock mode sets the card at 1632MHz base clock with a 1721MHz boost clock. It uses the well regarded Windforce 3X cooler which does an acceptable job, but it does feel a touch lightweight compared to the cooler found on the high end Gigabyte & Aorus Xtreme cards. The cooler is certainly capable enough, but does give up some surface area when compared to the Asus and MSI cards, which means a maximum boost clocks are a touch lower and noise levels are higher, though not as high as the Zotac Mini. The Gigabyte Gaming 8G comes with a

good feature set, including clock profiles that can be activated via the simple to use Aorus Graphics Engine. This app also controls the RBG functionality of the Gigabyte logo and fan stop indicator on the side of the card. The card has a nice looking subtle back plate, too. Video outputs consist of a single DVI-D port, three DP 1.4 ports and a single HDMI 2.0b port. The card is fed via a single 8-pin power connector. Surprisingly, the Gigabyte was often matched by the Zotac card despite its overclock advantage. This indicates that Gigabyte focused on minimizing noise at the expense

of maximum boost clock, which is the right way to go. Admittedly, the differences between all models are small though. The Gigabyte Gaming 8G is a good all-rounder with a good blend of affordable price, attractive features and cooling ability. Though it lacks the overall polish of the more premium MSI and Asus cards, it’s still a very good card at its core. Like all the cards in the roundup, it will do its job and save you a few bucks. PROS: • Great value

CONS: • The cooler is good but not great

$729 • www.gigabyte.com.au

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REVIEWS COMPONENTS

MSI GEFORCE GTX

1070 TI GAMING 8G

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he MSI GTX 1070 Ti Gaming 8G is another 1070 Ti that impresses with its cooler and build quality, along with its competitive pricing. Its overclock mode is set at an impressive 1683MHz base clock and 1759 MHz boost clock. The MSI 1070 Ti uses the stalwart Twin Frozr V cooler that is used across almost all of MSI’s high end graphics cards, so it’s no surprise to see it used here. The card is built like a battleship with a solid back plate and additional metal heatsinks for cooling the components. There’s also RGB functionality for the MSI logo on the side, though its usefulness is limited with a clashing set of red

LEDs present on the cooler shroud. The MSI features the standard set of video ports which consist of three DP 1.4 ports, a HDMI 2.0b port and a DVI-D port. Interestingly, this is the only card in the roundup to feature dual power inputs, with a 6-pin input present in addition to the 8-pin as seen on the other models in the test. This should provide an additional bit of headroom for serious overclockers. The MSI comes with several utilities including the popular Afterburner program along with the

Gaming app that allows one click clock profiles. The MSI card is the quietest card of the roundup at the expense of slightly higher temperatures and hence a drop in boost clock here and there compared to the Asus. Still, the card was able to hold clocks well over 1900MHz, just a few MHz shy of the Asus, so it’s still very fast. MSI rarely misstep with its high end GPUs and the Gaming 8G is a compelling choice with its competitive price and excellent cooler. If noise levels are your number one priority, this is the card for you. PROS: • Excellent cooler • Build quality • Good value

CONS: • RGB logo clashes with red LEDs

$749 • www.msi.com

ZOTAC GTX

1070 TI MINI 8GB

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otac doesn’t have a huge market presence in Australia compared to other parts of the world, but that’s changing. The Zotac GTX 1070 Ti we have on hand is the sole mini card of the 1070 Ti launch, and also the only one not to offer an overclock profile -though of course you can manually overclock it if you wish. The little Zotac is obviously ideally suited to a small form factor build. It’s also the cheapest card in the test by quite a margin. The Zotac Mini comes in at just 211mm in length, meaning it should fit in the vast majority of cases. It comes with the standard Nvidia-specified 1607 MHz base and

1683 MHz boost clocks. There’s a standard set of three DP 1.4 ports, one HDMI 2.0b port and a DVI-D port. There’s a single 8-pin power connector. Clock and fan adjustments can be made through the capable Zotac Firestorm App. The overall build quality is quite good with a solid shroud and back plate giving the card a rigid and solid feel. One of the surprises of the test

was just how competitive the Zotac was in the benchmarks despite its lack of an autooverclock. This was apparent when monitoring the boost clock during a stress test. The fan ramp is quite aggressive, allowing the little Zotac to hold boost clocks in the mid-1800MHz range, though this comes at the expense of fan noise which is the highest in the test, not unexpectedly given the relatively diminutive cooler. The Zotac Mini is clearly best for those who want a small size as their number one priority. The compact design in addition to the attractive price and competitive performance make this a compelling card if you can live with the fact that you’ll be able to hear it when pushed. PROS: • Excellent value • Tiny size • Impressive performance with no OC

CONS: • The cooler can get noisy

$699 • www.zotac.com

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PERIPHERALS REVIEWS

LG UHD 4K 43-INCH

MONITOR 43UD79

USING A MONITOR THE SIZE OF A TV ISN’T AS AWESOME AS IT SOUNDS

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he LG 43UD79 is a huge ultra HD monitor. At 43-inches diagonally, it is larger than many people’s living room televisions. Everyone who saw this monitor whilst it was being reviewed thought it was a television. When it was explained to them it’s a monitor, their minds were blown and inevitably, the topic of “who needs a monitor that big?!”, was raised. It’s a great question - who does need a monitor this large? Well, if you’re the sort of person that wants multiple windows open at once on your computer, but doesn’t want to, or can’t connect multiple monitors, then the LG 43UD79 is right up your alley. The effective desktop resolution and screen size is the same as having four 21.5-inch 1080p monitors glued together with no bezels distorting the image. The UHD resolution is perfect for placing a browser window, a double-page spread PDF, a programming IDE and a command-line terminal on screen, all at once. No more flicking through trying to find the app you wanted, they’re all open and viewable simultaneously – boosting your productivity. Specs wise, the LG 43UD79 has an antiglare IPS panel with a 3840x2160 resolution

and a 178-degree viewing angle. Colour accuracy is average, with a basic 72% coverage of the NTSC gamut. Brightness and contrast are adequate at 350cm/m2 and 1000:1 (native) respectively. Response time is on the high end at 8ms GTG and refresh rates are maxed out at 60Hz due to the limitations of DisplayPort’s bandwidth. Despite AMD FreeSync support, the LG 43UD79 isn’t a gaming monitor. On the rear, there’s a DisplayPort v1.2 socket and four HDMI ports - two of them support HDMI v1.4 and the other two HDMI v2.0. Two USB 3.1 Gen1 ports are awkwardly placed at the bottom-rear of the monitor. There’s also a headphone socket and an RS-232 port if you want to connect the LG 43UD79 up to an automation setup. Rounding out connectivity is a USB-C connector that supports DisplayPort, however, it only provides 5V/1A of power delivery. Whilst that’s useful for smartphone users, LG missed a great

opportunity to please laptop users by offering full power delivery capabilities, as well as displaying an image. Included with the LG 43UD79 is a remote control that works just like a TV remote with volume, power and input selection, but without all the other useless buttons. On it are options to flick between picture-in and picture-beside picture modes, as well as enabling game mode for reduced input lag. LG also provide basic window management software that makes life with this behemoth easier. In use, the LG 43UD79 is awkward because it’s so damn big. Placing the screen at an ergonomically recommended arm’s length away means you’re constantly moving your head around to focus on something. If the window you want to focus on isn’t at eye level, your neck is stuck on a funny angle that will lead to soreness long term. If you sit further back to prevent moving your neck around, the text at the LG 43UD79’s native resolution becomes too small to read. Increase the DPI in Windows to compensate and you start sacrificing all that beautiful desktop real estate. The LG 43UD79 sits in a bit of a catch-22 area. It’s great because it’s big, but because it’s so big, you can’t enjoy the full UHD resolution and all the benefits that provides. Is the LG 43UD79 the most colour accurate monitor on the market? Nope, but it still looks great. Has it got amazing response times and refresh rates that gamers will love? Not really, but anyone but the most hard-core gamer won’t even notice. But if you want a huge monitor with loads of pixels to have loads of windows open simultaneously, then you should get the LG 43UD79, as that’s exactly what it’s designed for. ANTHONY AGIUS KEY SPECS 43-inch IPS anti-glare panel • 16:9 aspect ratio • 3840x2160 resolution • 350 cd/m2 brightness • 1000:1 native contrast • 8ms (GTG) response • 178-degree viewing angle • 1.06b colour depth • 4x HDMI • 1x USB-C • 1x DisplayPort v1.2 • 2x USB 3.1 $1,499 • www.lg.com/au

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REVIEWS PERIPHERALS

ASUS ROG SWIFT

PG27VQ CURVED GAMING MONITOR 165HZ REFRESH RATE PLUS 1MS LATENCY EQUALS THE SMOOTHEST GAMING MONITOR AROUND

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440p monitors are now a viable addition to your gaming rig thanks to high powered GPUs that support high frame rates at 2560 x 1440. The Asus ROG Swift PG27VQ is on paper, the perfect match for a fast GPU that spits out hundreds of frames per second at 1440p in your favourite games. But what’s it like in practice? Inside the PG27VQ is a TN panel that supports a crazy low 1ms response time for virtually lag free gaming. TN panels aren’t as nice to look at as an IPS panel, but if you want low response times, TN is the only way to go. To Asus’s credit, they’ve made a nice-looking TN panel, but the colour gamut is average, with only 72% of the NTSC colour space. Another sacrifice for that high refresh rate and response time. If you plan go multi-display, three of these units make a nice panoramic scene thanks to the gentle 1800R curvature and slim 8mm bezel. When placed together, they’re ideal for racing simulators or cockpit-views in flight simulators. To make aligning your multi-monitor setup easy, there’s a built-in alignment feature which adds guidelines to the edges of the display. Just match the lines up and you’re perfectly aligned. Asus have devised overlays that are activated by pressing a dedicated GamePlus button on the rear of the PG27VQ. Crosshair mode adds a persistent crosshair in the middle of the screen for pinpoint accuracy in first-person shooters. An on-screen timer lets you know how long until the next respawn, or simply how long you’ve been playing. The PG27VQ supports Nvidia’s G-Sync system. If you’re unaware, G-Sync removes annoying blur, stuttering and screen tearing you experience in games when the frame rate of the video doesn’t match the monitor’s refresh rate. G-Sync adapts the monitor’s refresh rate automatically to match your game’s frame rate and the result is buttery smooth gaming that looks amazing. The PG27VQ not only supports G-Sync, but supports it at up to a whopping 165Hz.

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For games without G-Sync built-in, the PG27VQ also supports ULMB (Ultra Low Motion Blur), which some people prefer to G-Sync. Either way, whichever mode your eyes enjoy, the PG27VQ supports them both. Another feather in the PG27VQ’s cap is Nvidia 3D Vision support. With optional stereoscopic glasses, movies and photos can be seen in 3D, at up to 120Hz. If you’re an AMD graphics card owner, none of this fancy stuff works, so you should investigate another monitor for your setup. For those already invested in the Asus Aura Sync lighting system, the PG27VQ is the first monitor to be included in the Aura Sync family, with four lighting zones, including ambient lighting behind the monitor. The PG27VQ’s stand is fully adjustable, allowing

modification of the angle, swivel and height of the display. There’s a common 100mm x 100mm VESA amount on the rear for use on any standard monitor arm or wall mount. Connectivity wise, there’s all the ports you need, with HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2, a 3.5mm audio socket for headphones and two USB 3.0 ports - handy for connecting gaming controllers if your rig’s tower is far from the monitor. The PG27VQ uses an external power supply, which is great as the power supply in monitors is often the first thing to crap out. With an external PSU, all you need to do is swap the unit out, instead of the expensive hassle of taking the entire monitor back to where you bought it from to be repaired. All up, if you’ve got rig with an Nvidia card capable of the high frame rates this 165Hz G-Sync monitor supports, you won’t be disappointed. 1ms response times will be appreciated by all the fasttwitch FPS gamers and support for Nvidia’s 3D vision is just the icing on the cake. For those already invested in the Asus ROG and Aura Sync system, the ROG Swift PG27VQ is a must buy. ANTHONY AGIUS KEY SPECS 27” WQHD (2560x1440), TN panel, 1ms GtG response time, 165Hz refresh rate, G-Sync support, HDMI v1.4, DisplayPort v1.2, 2x USB 3.0 ports, 3.5mm headphone socket, fully adjustable stand. $1199 • www.asus.com/au


PERIPHERALS REVIEWS

ASUS ROG STRIX

XG27VQ CURVED GAMING MONITOR 1080P AMD GAMERS THAT NEED HIGH FRAME RATE SUPPORT WILL LOVE THIS MONITOR

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080p gaming may be overshadowed by 4K, but it’s still the sweet spot for gamers that prefer smooth motion over high resolutions. The Asus ROG Strix XG27VQ aims to be one of the smoothest 1080p monitors around with support for 144Hz refresh rates and AMD’s FreeSync. At the centre of the XG27VQ is a 1080p VA type panel with a 3000:1 contrast ratio. VA panels aren’t as responsive or fast as a TN panel, but have deeper blacks and superior viewing angles. Proof of this is the 4ms response time and 144Hz refresh rate, which are excellent, but not the fastest available. A subtle 1800R curve in the display aids in providing an immersive gaming experience. For day to day tasks some people aren’t a fan of the curve, but for gaming, it’s a nice touch, particularly with these large displays. The curve really helps bring those far-flung corners into your central field of view. The XG27VQ supports AMD’s FreeSync, which prevents annoying blur, stuttering and screen tearing in games when the frame rate of the video doesn’t match the monitor’s refresh rate. FreeSync adapts the monitor’s refresh rate on the fly to match your game’s frame rate. The result is buttery smooth gaming that looks amazing. The XG27VQ FreeSync at refresh rates as low at 48Hz and up to 144Hz, over DisplayPort or HDMI. TÜV Rheinland has endorsed the XG27VQ

as a flicker-free, low blue light display. What’s this mean? The human eye isn’t too keen on blue light, which LCDs spew out constantly, resulting in headaches and sore eyes. On some monitors with this feature, the removal of the blue light also introduced flickering in the image, which looked awful. The XG27VQ manages to filter most of the blue light out to protect your eyes, but also doesn’t flicker. Winwin! Asus have also devised overlays that are activated by pressing a dedicated GamePlus button on the rear of the XG27VQ. Crosshair mode adds a persistent crosshair in the middle of the screen for pinpoint accuracy in first-person shooters. An on-screen timer lets you know how long until the next respawn, or simply how long you’ve been playing. The FPS counter can appear when Adaptive-Sync is enabled and shows a live frame per second count. A raft of display modes Asus called “GameVisuals” are included that when applied change the image to suit the task or game style. FPS mode enhances visibility in dark scenes so you can see enemies,

mode applies a gamma of 2.2 and a white point of 6500K and the unusual MOBA mode that “enhances the colour of your health bars as well as your opponents to help being them into focus”. If you plan go multi-display, three of these units create a panoramic scene thanks to the gentle curve and slim bezel. When placed together, they’re ideal for racing simulators or cockpit-views in flight simulators. To make aligning your multi-monitor setup easy, there’s a built-in alignment feature which adds guidelines to the edges of the display. Just match the lines up and you’re perfectly aligned. For those invested in the Asus Aura Sync lighting system, the XG27VQ is one of the first monitors to be included in the Aura Sync family, with four lighting zones, including ambient lighting behind the monitor. The XG27VQ’s metal stand is fully adjustable, allowing modification of the angle, swivel and height of the display. There’s a common 100mm x 100mm VESA amount on the rear for use on any standard monitor arm or wall mount. There’s a few FreeSync enabled 144Hz 1080p monitors on the market and many of them are cheaper than the XG27VQ too and some even have better response times. The AOC G2460PF instantly springs to mind. Unless you’re keen on a VA panel instead of a TN and are invested in the Asus ROG look or the Aura Sync RGB lighting system, there’s better value elsewhere. ANTHONY AGIUS KEY SPECS 27” 1080p (1920x1080), 4ms GtG response time, VA type 1800R curved panel, flicker free, low blue light, AMD FreeSync, HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2, Dual Link DVI. $599 • www.asus.com/au

PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 43


REVIEWS PERIPHERALS

AOC AG322QCX AGON

GAMING MONITOR BIG SCREEN, BIG VALUE

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n one package, AOC has piled on with just about every important recent advance in display technology. It’s large, at 31.5-inches and with a useful resolution of 2560 x 1440, it’s quick, with FreeSync and a 144Hz refresh rate, and it’s curved. The AOC AG322QCX is priced at $599, which is extremely competitive for a gaming screen this size. The AOC AG322QCX Agon monitor is made for gaming, it supports FreeSync, which almost everything does today if it hasn’t joined the shrinking G-Sync camp. We’re this a Team Green monitor you would see its price closer to $800. A 4ms response and the aforementioned 144Hz refresh almost guarantees smooth frames, as long as your GPU isn’t overtaxed, and it won’t likely be at this resolution. Having such a physically large display running at a relatively conservative resolution is a great strategy for a gaming screen. It will be sharp enough for in-game text to look good, and scaled well, while a relatively low-tier GPU will power it along nicely as long as it isn’t budget. The flipside to this big plus is one very big potential negative. Being, that text outside of a game looks poor. Covering a very large screen with not-very-many pixels means 44 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

they’re not a densely packed as a higher res monitor – particularly 4k – so can look undefined in some areas, notably curves, which can look as jaggy as a game edge with antialiasing turned off. It’s particularly troubling typing in a word processor, and despite some improvements seen when tweaking Windows’ Cleartype settings the end result is that this is not a monitor for full time workers. The VN panel provides good contrast (2000:1) while the viewing angle stayed true before brightness and colours started deteriorating past at least 45 degrees off center. That means for a relatively bargain price three of these in a triple setup would offer good peripheral viewability along with outstanding screen real estate. The curve is a gentle 1800R which is good for gaming, offering an immersive experience (though mostly due to its size) without being ridiculous. It comes with a good set of

standard features, plus a couple of happy surprises. Around the back is a flip-down headphone holder, good job AOC. There’s also a detachable cabled control unit for adjusting all monitor OSD controls. It’s hard to see what this brings because the toggle and buttons for the OSD on the monitor itself are perfectly workable. Similarly, you can install a Windows app to make those same tweaks via the desktop. I liked the built-in break reminder, which shuts the monitor screen off for a set period for those who should be taking better care of their eyes. Among the colour pre-sets, too, is a low blue-light mode, once again great for eye care, especially at night. And, there’s RGB. A fairly tasteful illuminated bar runs across the bottom of the lower bezel, and another four light strips are on the back. They can be turned off. It’s extras like these that would make us wince if this monitor were not so cheap. As it is, it has us wondering how AOC managed to make this a very much non-vanilla product, yet at such an attractive price. The stand is metal, and pivots the screen angle, which is rare and fantastic, as well as height and rotation. Connectivity is reasonable, with VGA, HDMI 1.4 HDMI 2.0 and a pair of DP 1.2 ports. A pair of 5w speakers are built-in, and even though the cost they add is probably minimal this is a gaming screen and no gamer in their right mind would use these speakers. With 27-inch monitors only now rising to the fore as the preferred size for gamers, the 31.5 curved 144Hz inches on offer here for $600 is compelling indeed. It’s remarkably good value and a thoroughly decent gaming screen, but don’t buy one if all you will use it for is work, the pixel density is too much of an issue for that. BEN MANSILL KEY SPECS 31.5in/800.095mm • response time 4ms • viewing angle 178º (H) / 178º (V) • 2560 x 1440 (Quad HD) @ 144Hz • VGA x 1, HDMI 1.4 x 1, HDMI 2.0 x 1, DisplayPort 1.2 x 2 $599 • www.aocmonitorap.com/au


LAPTOPS & PCS REVIEWS

FUJITSU

LIFEBOOK U937 THIS FULL-FEATURED ULTRABOOK IS THE LIGHTEST ON THE MARKET AND A RETURN TO FORM FOR FUJITSU

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ujitsu is back in the game with the new Lifebook U937 13.3-inch ultrabook, after years stuck in the wilderness with bland, uninspiring business laptops. The Lifebook U937 packs unique features in an extremely light body that makes Fujitsu’s Lifebook range worthy of being on the shortlist for your next laptop. At first glance, the Lifebook U937 looks like every other 13.3-inch ultrabook on the market. There’s a choice of Intel i7-7600U, i5-7300U or i5-7200U CPUs, up to 20GB of DDR4 RAM (4GB on-board and a free SO-DIMM slot that’ll handle up to 16GB), various capacity M.2 SATA or PCIe SSDs, an optional LTE modem, a 1080p 13.3” IPS panel that’s available with or without multi-touch and a 720p webcam. What makes the Lifebook U937 unique is that all that stuff is crammed in a 15.5mm thin chassis that weighs only 920 grams. That’s right, a 15W TDP CPU and 13.3-inch screen in a 920g body. Fujitsu even jammed in a fullsized Ethernet port! Other 13in ultrabooks weigh between 1.1kg to 1.3kg, making the Lifebook U937 over 10% lighter than the competition. Fujitsu pulled this off by using a magnesium lid and aluminium palm rest, both of which cut down on weight, but still maintain structural integrity. The Lifebook U937 passes the “hold it by the corner and swing it around” test with flying colours and

no body flex at all. The lid does exhibit slight flexing when opened from the corner, but it isn’t severe enough to make the Lifebook U937 feel cheap. Such thin and light laptops usually make sacrifices to achieve the weight loss, but amazingly, Fujitsu hasn’t cut any corners with the Lifebook U937. The spill-resistant chicklet keyboard is a pleasure to use despite no backlighting. The trackpad, whilst not up to Apple’s lofty standards, is perfectly adequate. The display is a high quality Sharp IGZO IPS panel, not the traditional TN-type panels used to save weight. Not even battery life is compromised, with the Lifebook U937 holding a charge longer than many heavier ultrabooks in our battery benchmark. You’re probably also wondering how Fujitsu managed to get an Ethernet port in a chassis on 15.5mm thick. Thanks to a nifty piece of engineering, the Ethernet port slides Benchmarks PCMARK 8 HOME ACCELERATED BATTERY LIFE: 5h 16min PCMARK 10 PROFESSIONAL EDITION: 2966 3DMARK FIRE STRIKE (1080P): 514

out, almost like an SD card, then is pushed open to reveal a fullsized RJ45 socket you can insert an Ethernet cable into. As ingenious as it is, it does feel like it’ll break as soon as someone trips or pulls on any connected cable. It’s a little disappointing to see the Lifebook U937 with a 7thgeneration CPU when most other manufacturers have laptops with 8th-generation CPUs on the market now. Giving the Lifebook U937 four cores and even better battery life would have put it at the top of the ultrabook heap and possibly, made it the best ultrabook ever. The other disappointment is PalmSecure, an optional sensor near the trackpad that scans veins in the palm of your hand to log in to Windows or boot the laptop. In theory, it’s a cool feature. Wave your hand over the sensor and you’re logged in. But in practice, it’s a disaster. Registering a palm took over 15 minutes of getting a palm hovering in just the right spot for the sensor to detect the veins. Detecting is faster, but still fraught with errors and incredibly frustrating compared to the increasingly common Windows Hello sensors on other ultrabooks. Fujitsu has done an excellent job with the Lifebook U937. It’s the lightest ultrabook on the market by a decent margin and doesn’t skimp on anything to get there. If Fujitsu replace PalmSecure with a depth sensor for Windows Hello and upgrade the Lifebook U937 with Intel’s latest 8th-generation CPUs, it would be the best ultrabook on the market without a doubt. Despite those minor issues, the Lifebook U937 is a brilliant unit if you want the lightest full featured laptop around. ANTHONY AGIUS KEY SPECS Intel Core i5-7200U CPU • 8GB DDR4 RAM • 13.3in 1080p multi touch display • 256GB SATA SSD • 802.11ac Wi-Fi • gigabit Ethernet • Bluetooth 4.2 • 2x Type-A & 1x Type-C USB 3.1 ports $1,799 • www.fujitsu.com/au

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REVIEWS PERIPHERALS

SYNOLOGY DISKSTATION DS218PLAY NAS

A SOLID NAS, BUT POOR VALUE COMPARED TO OTHER SYNOLOGY UNITS

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ynology NAS units are one of our favourite tech accessories. They’re well priced, have loads of features and are easy to use. There are few people out there that wouldn’t benefit from owning one. The new DiskStation DS218play continues that fine tradition of quality, with even more CPU grunt paired with the latest version of the excellent DiskStation Manager software we all know and love. The DS218play is a dual-bay NAS unit, supporting up to two 12TB 3.5in SATA HDDs configured in either RAID-0 (stripe, for speed), RAID-1 (mirror, for data security) or JBOD (for capacity). The main difference between the DS218play and the DS216play it replaces, is a major CPU upgrade. The DS218play is now packing a 64-bit, 1.4 GHz quad-core Realtek RTD1296 CPU, a massive upgrade from the 32bit dual STM STiH412 in the DS216play. This CPU upgrade not only results in improved performance for running apps and copying files, but it also means this relatively cheap NAS gets hardware transcoding support for 30fps, 10-bit H.265 (HEVC) videos at 4K resolution when using the Synology DS video app on iOS and Android. It’s still a shame Synology hasn’t managed to get Plex to support their hardware transcoding platform, but nobody’s perfect, not even Synology. The new CPU also allows faster file transfers to encrypted volumes thanks to a built-in hardware encryption engine. With encryption turned on, performance was identical over gigabit Ethernet as it is without. In either case with WD Red NAS HDDs installed, the gigabit Ethernet link was fully saturated. It’s great to see that there’s no penalty for extra security, even on consumer focussed NAS units like the DS218play. To keep the price low on the DS218play, Synology hasn’t added drive doors to install disks. The entire enclosure needs to be 46 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

removed and the drives placed inside. For most people this isn’t a big deal, as drives are unlikely to be swapped around often enough to justify the cost. A large 92mm fan at the rear keeps the drives cool with a gentle whisper. Setting up the DS218play is a piece of cake. Plug the NAS in to your network, power it up, visit http://find.synology.com and the DiskStation Manager wizard appears to guide you through the setup process. As you’d expect, the DS218play runs the latest version of DiskStation Manager (DSM), which brings with it all the basic features such as Video, Photo and Audio Station apps and Cloud Station Backup so all your computers are kept backed up to the NAS. More advanced features like Synology’s security camera, chat, notes, mail and VPN servers are supported on the DS218play too, as is remote access to your data over the Internet via Synology QuickConnect. Due to the DS218play being an ARM based unit, not Intel based, the number of apps it can run is limited. For example, there’s no Docker support on ARM, which is how most 3rd party apps for Synology devices are

distributed now. There’s also no support for BTRFS, a new, modern filesystem with advanced snapshot features that DSM supports on Intelbased models only. For most people who simply want a safe place to store files and run a few basic apps, an Intel or ARM CPU doesn’t matter. But if you have a app in mind to run on your NAS (e.g: Plex), double check if the DS218play supports it, you could come up short. At $379, the DS218play competes closely with the QNAP TS-231P2 and the Asustor AS3102T. All three are solid units, but Synology’s excellent and constantly updated DSM software, combined with the large 3rd party app library push it over the line. However, while the DS218play is great, it’s difficult to justify when the superior, Intel based Synology DS218+ is only $100 more but has a faster CPU, has a larger selection 3rd party apps and an extra 1GB of memory. Unless you really need the HEVC 4K transcoding on the DS218play, get the DS218+ instead. ANTHONY AGIUS KEY SPECS 64-bit quad core 1.4 GHz Realtek RTD1296 ARM CPU • 10-bit HEVC 4K 30fps hardware transcoding engine • hardware encryption engine • 2x 3.5in SATA HDD bays (up to 24TB max capacity) • 1x gigabit Ethernet, 2x USB 3.0 $399 • www.synology.com


PERIPHERALS REVIEWS

WESTERN DIGITAL MY CLOUD HOME COLLECTING DATA FROM YOUR COMPUTERS, SMARTPHONES AND TABLETS IN THE ONE PLACE HAS NEVER BEEN EASIER

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he audience for network attached storage used to just be power users, but now, basically anyone with a smartphone would find it useful to store their precious movies and photos on. That user is who Western Digital has in mind with their latest My Cloud Home NAS. Unlike most NAS units, the My Cloud Home is designed to be purely managed via the cloud instead of logging in to an administration interface locally via a web browser. More advanced users and tinkerers might find this limiting, but everyone else will find it refreshingly easy to use. To set the My Cloud Home up, hook it up to an Ethernet port and some electricity. Wait for it to power up, head on over to mycloud. com/hello on whatever device you like, WD’s servers will find your new device and you’ll be asked to make a WD My Cloud account. Wait another minute or two and you’re done. The device is ready for you to start copying data across. Setup couldn’t get any easier. The My Cloud Home can be setup, configured and used from a tablet, smartphone or a desktop computer. If you don’t own a

desktop computer (increasingly common lately) but wants to store data on a NAS, that’s perfectly fine with the My Cloud Home. Not many NAS units on the market can be fully configured from a smartphone or tablet app only and WD should be congratulated for doing so. Inside the My Cloud Home is either one or two WD hard drives, the latter of which can be set to operate in RAID-1 mode to protect against drive failure. Over gigabit Ethernet, copying a 15GB video file chugged along at 55MB/sec and 88MB/sec reading the file back. Not that impressive, but performance isn’t why you buy this unit. It’s all about ease of use. On a desktop, the WD Discovery app does all the work of making the drive appear as just another folder on your computer. Anything stored in the “My Cloud Home” folder is kept on the My Cloud Home. You can’t create multiple shares or change

the name. There’s just one folder, chuck your data there, end of story. In the My Cloud mobile app you can view all the files to any app on your mobile device and vice-versa, creating a nifty bridge between your desktop and mobile devices. The app can automatically transfer photos or videos on your smartphone or tablet to your My Cloud Home, creating a backup of that precious data with no user intervention. The My Cloud app has Chromecast and AirPlay support, making it easy to view videos from the NAS on a TV. There’s even a one click install for Plex and hardware remux (audio transcoding only) support, making it one of the easiest to install Plex Server devices around. A fascinating feature on the My Cloud Home is support for If This Then That (IFTTT), connecting your My Cloud Home to a plethora of different Internet services. For example, you can create an applet on IFTTT so whenever you post a picture to Instagram, it’s also uploaded to your My Cloud Home. Tagged in a photo on Facebook? IFTTT can send it to your My Cloud Home. Sending an email with Gmail that has an attachment? That attachment can be sent to your My Cloud Home too. Basically, anything on the Internet that involves a file, IFTTT can intercept it and send it to your My Cloud Home. Synology or QNAP have more advanced devices with loads more features, there’s no doubt. But the approach Western Digital have taken with making the smartphone and tablet an equal with the desktop reflects the mainstream of computing in 2017. The My Cloud Home is easy to use, easy to configure and is an excellent companion for those who use their tablet or smartphone more than their desktop. ANTHONY AGIUS KEY SPECS 2TB – 8TB single 3.5in HDD or 4TB – 16TB dual 3.5in HDD • gigabit Ethernet • USB 3.0 port • iOS and Android smartphone and tablet apps Starts at $279 (2TB) up to $1,199 (16TB) • www.wdc.com

PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 47


REVIEWS HANDHELDS

question is, who’s going to spend this much money when they could buy an iPhone 8 for $500 less?

SPECIAL SCREEN

APPLE

IPHONE X A STUNNING PHONE THAT’S STUFFED FULL OF FIRSTS, BUT FOR THIS PRICE WE EXPECT PERFECTION

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he iPhone X is one of the most talked about phones in years and, for once, it isn’t because it’s simply the latest Apple handset. It’s because it heralds numerous firsts: the first time Apple has used OLED technology for its phone screens; the first time it has removed the home button, after a decade; the first time the firm has used facial recognition as a means of authentication. Perhaps most controversially, though, the iPhone X represents the first time Apple – or any mainstream phone maker – has hit the $1,500 mark for a base-model phone. The 48 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

The answer, as we’ve already seen, is hordes of people. And surely the biggest reason is that display: stretching from side to side, top to bottom, it really does look spectacular. In part that’s due to the OLED technology, which makes colours pop, and with a resolution of 2,046 x 1,125 it delivers a pixel density of 458ppi. It’s the best iPhone display ever made. Unlike the Google Pixel 2 XL, there are no problems with viewing angles and odd-looking colours. Contrast, as you’d expect from an OLED display, is essentially perfect, and colour accuracy is spot on. As with all current generation iPhones, the screen has adaptive colour profiling. That means that when in the browser, where most graphics and professionally produced photographic material is targeted at the sRGB colour space, it tweaks onscreen colours to match. During video playback, the phone will automatically switch to the wider DCI-P3 colour space. I measured the average colour difference (Delta E) in the browser at 1.04 across all our tests. That’s astonishing accuracy in a phone, especially one with an OLED display. It supports both HDR10 and Dolby Vision as well as Apple’s ambient light-matching tech, True Tone, and Apple adds the shiny cherry on top with a stunning peak brightness of 501cd/m2.

BLACK AND WHITE The iPhone X is available in two colours: white, with a chrome silver trim; and black, with a shiny dark grey trim. Neither, to my eyes, look as good as a $1,500 smartphone ought to. Next to the “mocha brown” Mate 10 Pro I’ve been using for the past couple of weeks, it’s positively dour. The trim on my white review model starts picking up greasy fingerprints the moment I pick it up, quickly losing its boxfresh lustre, as does the rather plain white rear. There’s no surprise about the

positioning of the phone’s various physical elements. Aside from the lack of a home button and the power button, which has moved around to the right edge, they’re all in the places you’d expect. Other things from previous generations remain in place, with dust and waterproofing to the IP68 standard and no 3.5mm headphone jack. The removal of which, I still believe, was a mis-step. Likewise, I’m not convinced by the camera module on the rear. It’s large, unsightly and juts out around a millimetre. This unbalances the phone when it’s placed on a flat surface, so it rattles whenever you swipe or tap. The infamous “notch” on the front, which so many have scoffed at, doesn’t bother me at all. If anything, it lends the phone character – an identifiable X factor if you like – that makes it look different to other current flagships. Lord knows it needs something to help it stand out. The positives are the same as they are with every other 18:9 aspect ratio, low-bezel phone I’ve used: it has an incredibly high screen-tobody ratio, which essentially means more screen real-estate for a smaller size of phone. So, while the 5.8in screen is larger than any previous iPhone’s, it’s considerably smaller and lighter than the 5.5in design Apple has been using for the past three years. And those trademark rounded corners and edges mean the iPhone X is just as comfortable to hold and slide into a tight pocket.

FACE THE FUTURE The consequence of filling almost the entire front of the iPhone X with screen is that there’s no longer any room for a home button on the front nor, controversially, a fingerprint reader. Instead, Apple is moving to a new biometric approach, with Face ID the primary means of unlocking the phone and using Apple Pay. Face ID works by using the phone’s “True Depth” camera to project infrared dots onto your face – 30,000 of them – and producing a 3D model of your face that it stores internally, alongside a twodimensional infrared image. It then uses the same sensor to scan


HANDHELDS REVIEWS

your face, match it against the stored model and unlock your phone – all in a fraction of a second. Apple claims the likelihood of someone who isn’t you unlocking your phone is one in a million, making it more secure than Touch ID. Aside from being fooled by identical twins, and one isolated case where a ten-yearold boy unlocked his mother’s phone, those boasts have so far proved to be true. So what’s it like to use? Despite my initial scepticism, I must admit to being impressed. Setting it up is as simple as enrolling a fingerprint on an iPhone 8 Plus: simply line up your face in the provided circular loupe and move it around so the sensor can build up a full model of the planes and contours of your mug. Do this a couple of times and you’re ready to go. Unlocking with Face ID works pretty much perfectly, both for those with glasses and without. I’ve yet to have a failure, and you don’t have to look straight at the phone either. Even with the phone placed to the left of my keyboard I only have to press the side button or doubletap the screen and it sees my face and unlocks. I do have a couple of small complaints. First, unlocking for use at contactless payment terminals isn’t as convenient as before. You’re now forced to double-tap the side button and then raise the phone so it can get a good look at you before tapping on the reader. Before, all you needed to do was double-tap the home button and leave your thumb there so the phone could recognise your fingerprint. Second, I’m still coming to terms with the fact that, even after Face ID has used my face to unlock the iPhone X, I have to swipe up to get to the home screen. Three steps where you used to simply press and hold. Apple Some find the notch at the top of the screen irritating, but you soon get used to it

The large camera module juts out by around a millimetre

must learn from OnePlus with the 5T. Still, at least Face ID works more reliably than Samsung’s iris recognition, which doesn’t function at all if you’re wearing glasses. And it’s good to know that Apple provides protection against accidental unlocking – while you’re sleeping for instance – through a system it calls Attention-Aware, which checks that you’re awake and

“Apple claims the likelihood of someone who isn’t you unlocking your phone is one in a million, making it more secure than Touch ID” alert before unlocking the phone. Delve into the settings, and you’ll also find that the same system can be used to prevent the phone dimming the display or lowering the volume of alerts if it detects your face is in the vicinity and your eyes are open. You can also use the Face ID camera to track your facial movements and map them onto an “Animoji”, and this is great fun. What isn’t quite so fun is the repositioning of the Control Centre. For, in addition to removing the home button, the action for calling up the place where you can quickly update settings such as screen brightness, Flight mode and volume has moved: you now

have to drag your thumb down from the top right corner. I don’t like it.

QUICK, QUICK, SLOW Performance, as is always the case with the latest iPhones, is superlative. The new Apple A11 Bionic chip is inside, coupled with 3GB of RAM, and it produced very similar benchmark results to the iPhone 8 Plus. It’s basically faster than any other phone on the market in terms of its CPU and graphics processing grunt. In really demanding games I’d expect the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone 8 to marginally outperform it, but in most cases the limiting factor will be the screen’s 60Hz refresh rate rather than the graphics chip inside. Finally, to battery life. First signs weren’t great: it lasted a mere 9hrs 22mins in our video-rundown test, falling well short of the 13hrs 54mins mark set by the iPhone 8 Plus (and short of Apple’s 13-hour claims too). In general use, however, you can expect the same kind of life as the rest of Apple’s phones. By the end of the day, you’ll be reaching for a charger. Note that it can reach a 50% charge within 30 minutes when powered by the supplied USB-C power adapter, and naturally supports Qi wireless chargers too.

SNAPPY PICTURES The camera is great, and for all the same reasons as the iPhone 8 Plus: two cameras on the rear, both with 12 megapixels and using Sony sensors. One is a wide-angle camera, the other a telephoto. The key difference between the iPhone X and the 8 Plus is that the telephoto camera has a slightly wider aperture at f/2.4. It’s optically stabilised, too, just like the main f/1.8 camera. In theory, this means telephoto shots in low light should look cleaner and less noisy in poor light than with the iPhone 8 Plus. A quick glance at the EXIF data, though, shows that, as soon as the light drops, the iPhone X’s camera software simply uses a crop of a shot from the main camera. It’s effectively digital zoom and it hits quality. Badly. The other camera is essentially PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 49


REVIEWS HANDHELDS

Geekbench 4, multi-core Apple iPhone 8 Plus

10,517

Apple iPhone X

10,390

OnePlus 5T

6,742

Huawei Mate 10 Pro Samsung Galaxy S8

6,643 6,629

Razer Phone

6,580

Geekbench 4, single-core Apple iPhone X

4,258

Apple iPhone 8 Plus

4,254

Samsung Galaxy S8

1,994 1,959 1,928 1,898

OnePlus 5T Razer Phone Huawei Mate 10 Pro

GFXBench Manhattan, offscreen (1080p) Apple iPhone X

88

Apple iPhone 8 Plus

85

Samsung Galaxy S8

64 63 60

Razer Phone OnePlus 5T Huawei Mate 10 Pro

50

You’ll need to recharge your iPhone X every night, so a wireless mat might be a wise buy

Battery life (video playback) OnePlus 5T Samsung Galaxy S8 Huawei Mate 10 Pro Apple iPhone 8 Plus Razer Phone Apple iPhone X

20hrs 52mins 16hrs 45mins 14hrs 52mins 13hrs 54mins 10hrs 37mins 9hrs 22mins

the same unit as found in the iPhone 8 Plus, and the results from it in good light and bad are the same. It isn’t as strong as the Pixel 2’s camera, but it’s a match for all other rivals. Exposures are bang on, autofocus is reliable and it handles noise more elegantly than, say, the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, which has a wider aperture, but tends to soften images with overprocessing. Portrait mode works just as nicely as ever, and if you enable HDR you’ll find that it’s effective, yet subtle, lifting out details in highlights and shadows without making your shots look artificial. Anyone wanting to shoot This is what makes the iPhone X special: a curved screen that fills almost the entire front of the device

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4K videos will be pleased with the sharp, stabilised results too. Meanwhile, at the front, is a 7-megapixel camera. This produces decent selfies and makes use of the Face ID technology to produce portrait images with blurred backgrounds. It isn’t as good as the rear camera at producing flattering photos, though, and the edge detection leaves ragged patches where the depth hasn’t quite been detected accurately enough.

LET’S TALK PRICE The iPhone X is a striking phone. Not just in terms of looks, but also through its innovative and effective means of accurately recognising faces and unlocking the phone. It’s also supremely quick, has a brilliantly colour-accurate display and the camera is sublime. Unfortunately, it’s the price that takes all the headlines. With prices famously starting at $1,579 for the 64GB version, and jumping to a frankly lunatic $1,829 for the top-spec 256GB offering, Apple’s top-end smartphone is simply too expensive. I realise other manufacturers have been moving their prices steadily north in recent times. None, however, have taken things this far.

The question is, does the reality of the iPhone X justify the premium charged over the Samsung Galaxy Note 8? Or, more realistically, the Galaxy S8? The answer to that question is no. The iPhone X is many things: it’s Apple’s best ever phone, it has an unbelievably good display, but there’s no way I could recommend it when there’s a phone that’s just as good, if not better in some ways, and will cost you barely half as much. Perhaps the iPhone X’s strongest competition, however, is that which comes from within. The iPhone 8 Plus, although bulky for a 5.5in phone, is still brilliant and starts at $1,229. The only practical thing it lacks compared with the iPhone X is Face ID – and I can live without that. JONATHAN BRAY

KEY SPECS Hexa-core Apple A11 Bionic processor • 3GB RAM • three-core Apple graphics • 5.8in OLED screen, 2,436 x 1,125 resolution • 64GB/256GB storage • dual 12MP rear camera • 7MP front camera • 802.11ac Wi-Fi • Bluetooth 5 • NFC • Lightning connector • 2,716mAh battery • iOS 11 • 70.9 x 7.7 x 143.6mm (WDH) • 174g • 1yr warranty 64GB, $1,579 • www.store.apple.com/au


PERIPHERALS REVIEWS

EPSON EXPRESSION

ET-3700 ECOTANK MULTIFUNCTION PRINTER MOVE OVER LASER PRINTERS, INK-JETS ARE NOW CHEAPER TO RUN

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ost printers are bundled with tiny cartridges containing a smudge of ink, forcing you to buy a full expensive cartridge that’s worth more than the printer you just purchased. Epson has heard our collective frustration with that business model and come up with the EcoTank concept for their latest range of ink-jet printers that includes 2-years’ worth of ink in the box. With the “Expression ET-3700 EcoTank All-in-One Supertank Printer”, Epson ditched cartridges and simply includes a few bottles of ink. Included with the ET-3700 is enough ink to print 11,200 colour pages. To compare, Epson’s high capacity ink cartridges yield approximately 1,100 colour pages. The EcoTank printers can do ten times as many pages before needing a refill. The ink reservoirs and bottles are keyed do you can’t accidentally pour the wrong ink in the wrong tank and the bottles have a oneway valve so you don’t spill any precious ink. High volume users will save heaps of money as the ink bottles are much cheaper than traditional cartridges. A set of Epson 254XL & 252XL ink cartridges that yield approximately 1,100 pages sell for $184. A set of T502 bottles is only $75 and yields approximately 6,000 pages. The savings are obvious compared to other inkjets, but surprisingly, Epson’s EcoTank system is even cheaper to operate per page than a monochrome laser printer in the same price

range. An Epson T502 black refill bottle is $30 and claims a 7,500-page yield (0.4c/page). A Brother TN3470 super high yield toner is $250 and does 12,000 pages (2c/page). The EcoTank is five times cheaper and that doesn’t count the cost of a replacement drum for the laser printer at some point. Ink-jets have come a long way since those cheap and awful $29 units at Woolworths. Besides low running costs, the ET-3700 prints at an incredibly high 4800 x 1200 DPI, can spit 15 black pages or 8 colour pages out per minute and includes an automatic duplexer, so you can print back to front without needing to re-insert pages into the printer. A 150-page A4 tray is included and there’s no option for an additional larger tray unfortunately. To connect, use either Wi-Fi, Ethernet or USB. On the top of the ET-3700 is an A4 flatbed colour scanner that scans at 1200 x 2400 DPI and can be controlled via the 2.in touch screen on the front, the included Epson software on a desktop, or direct to a tablet or smartphone with the Epson iPrint app where you can then save the image on your device. As more people move away from

Refilling with Epson’s EcoTank bottles is even cheaper than non-genuine toner

desktop computers, being able to do all this from a smartphone or tablet app is super handy. The ET-3700 also supports Apple AirPrint and Google’s Cloud Print, so you can print from any app on your device without any extra software. The Epson ET-3700 is $549, has an automatic duplexer, Wi-Fi and Ethernet, a flatbed scanner and comes with enough ink to print 11,200 colour pages. A similar colour laser printer like the Brother DCP9015CDW is $349 but only comes with a 1,000-page yield set of toner cartridges. To get an extra 10,000 pages worth of toner from the DCP9015CDW, you would need to spend over $2,200 on five sets of high capacity toner. Even when compared to the cheapest non-genuine toner off eBay, the Epson EcoTank bottles still work out cheaper. Simply on that fact alone, the ET-3700 is great buy, but when you add in no drum replacement, superior colour prints and arguably better black prints, a faster first print time, borderless printing and lower electricity consumption and 24-month warranty, it’s difficult not to recommend an EcoTank printer over a laser unit, particularly if you’re a high-volume user. ANTHONY AGIUS KEY SPECS 4800 x 1200 DPI printing • 15ppm black, 8ppm colour • 150-page A4 tray • automatic duplexer • flatbed 1200 x 2400 DPI A4 colour scanner • Wi-Fi & Ethernet • Google Cloud & Apple AirPrint support • 2.4-inch colour front LCD $549 • www.epson.com.au

PC&TECH AUTHORITY JANUARY 2018 51


REVIEWS SOFTWARE

The search capability is great –hunt for “cars” and you’ll see something like this Lightroom CC’s editing tools are a pale imitation of those found in Classic

ADOBE LIGHTROOM CC

A THINLY VEILED ATTEMPT TO TURN PHOTOGRAPHERS INTO MONTHLY SUBSCRIBERS, BUT IT’S TOO LIGHTWEIGHT

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ightroom CC might prove to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Having shoved its reluctant Creative Suite customers onto a monthly subscription plan, Adobe is now trying to do the same to photographers – by taking their photo collections hostage. Lightroom is practically a staple amongst photography enthusiasts and professionals, despite Adobe allowing the application to stagnate over the past few years. Meaningful updates have been rare and performance has grown stodgy. Now we know why: Adobe has been working on a new app. Lightroom CC is effectively a cloud version of Lightroom – with the desktop original now ominously rebranded Lightroom Classic CC. It’s more akin to the mobile/tablet apps that have been on iOS and Android for some time than the full-blown desktop app, and that’s reflected it in its trimmed-back feature set. The key difference is Lightroom CC wants nothing to do with your local photo collection. You can import an old-school Lightroom catalogue into Lightroom CC, but those photos will be sucked up to Adobe’s cloud. Depending on the plan you choose, Adobe is offering photographers up to 1TB of cloud storage, an indication that it wants you to smash all your photos onto its servers – although even 1TB will likely prove insufficient for most photographers. If you’ve carefully curated a library of presets over the years, you’ll have to manually copy those over to Lightroom CC too. Nothing is imported automatically – all you get is the 52 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

pared-back selection of presets that comes with Lightroom CC. Lightroom CC’s editing tools aren’t a patch on those in Classic, either. Advanced controls such as split toning have gone AWOL. The handy histogram revealing where highlights and shadows have been clipped is gone. Adjustment brush presets such us dodge, burn, soften skin and teeth whitening are no more – you’re merely left to adjust the various exposure, highlights, whites and blacks sliders manually. And once you’ve finished editing a photo and want to “export” it, well… your options are save it to JPG in one of three preset sizes. Nothing like the vast array of export options you get with Classic. To be fair to Adobe, this isn’t an either/or scenario. You can use Lightroom Classic in conjunction with the new CC app and get the best of both worlds. You can sync a Classic Collection with “Lightroom Mobile” and have those photos available to edit in CC, be that on the desktop, mobile or tablets. You could twiddle with photos on your smartphone in between shoots, for example, and have them synced and waiting for you when you get home to your PC. That said, I did encounter one or two delayed syncs when I tweaked a photo in CC and

then opened Classic, which doesn’t bode well. There is one very good feature that is unique to Lightroom CC: search. Enter a term such as “dog”, “car”, “red” or “boy” and Lightroom CC does a pretty impressive job of sorting through your collection, without any need to tag the photos with those particular attributes first. If you were hunting through your collection to find a specific photo for a client, that could prove to be a belter of a feature. So what’s the game plan? Much as Adobe protests it has no plans to do away with Lightroom Classic, I don’t believe it. The “Classic” designation is not the kind of label you put on a product with a long-term future. In the meantime, photographers have four options. There are now two versions of the Photography pack. The Lightroom CC plan includes only that app with 1TB of cloud storage. The revamped Photography plan includes CC, Classic and Photoshop, but only 20GB of cloud storage. Or $14.29 per month buys all the apps and 1TB of storage. Full $72.59 Creative Cloud subscribers also get all the apps, but only receive 100GB of storage – a needless kick in the teeth. Can I see myself moving to Lightroom CC only? Not a chance. Uploading batches of hundreds of RAW files to the cloud is painful, the editing tools are too basic, and I want my photo collection where I can physically touch it. Will Adobe deprive me of that choice eventually? I’d bet on it. BARRY COLLINS KEY SPECS $14.29 per month • www.adobe.com


SOFTWARE REVIEWS

LEFT: You can now open multiple projects at once and copy assets between them RIGHT: Responsive Design tools enable graphics to respond to changes in linked layers or ripple editing

ADOBE PREMIERE

PRO CC 2018

A MAJOR UPDATE: NOT ONLY USABILITY IMPROVEMENTS BUT A USEFUL SELECTION OF VR EFFECTS AND TRANSITIONS TOO

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side from the monthly sucking of funds from your account, there’s one problem with subscription-only software such as Adobe Premiere Pro CC: it’s easy to miss when a significant new version arrives. Don’t make that mistake with this latest incarnation, because it’s a belter: along with usability and collaboration improvements, there’s also much better support for 360-degree video. Let’s start with the usability and collaboration improvements. At long last you can now open more than one project simultaneously. Before, if you wanted to reuse assets created in one project within a new one, you would need to import the old project. This could get messy. Now just open both projects, then copy and paste between them. You can grab elements from the timeline of one sequence, and when you paste them into a sequence in another project, their related file references come with them. Vaguely related is the new Shared Projects facility. Premiere Pro CC has had a team project capability via Creative Cloud storage for a while, but Shared Projects are designed for collaboration using communal storage on a local network. A user can now lock a project that has been loaded from a central storage repository, say a NAS or SAN, so that other workstations can only open it in read-only mode. Once Project Locking has been enabled in the Premiere Pro Preferences, you give your workstation a username in the same dialog. Then you create Shared Projects, and can use a little padlock icon in the bottom left-hand corner to toggle read-write mode or release a project for others to work on. The other significant area of improvement is for creating 360-degree VR content, which Adobe is labelling Immersive Video. There’s now a selection of 360-aware effects and

transitions that derive from Adobe’s acquisition of the Mettle SkyBox Suite. Although you could apply 2D effects already, these introduce unwanted artefacts along stitching lines. The new effects are seamless, and include blur, chromatic aberrations, color gradients, denoise, digital glitch, fractal noise, glow, plane to sphere, projection, rotate sphere and sharpen. The plane to sphere effect is particularly useful; without this,

“The other significant area of improvement is for creating 360-degree VR content, which Adobe is labelling Immersive Video” when you import a 2D image it will automatically look curved. Apply the VR plane to sphere, and the image will instead appear like a 2D placard within 360-degree space, with tools to adjust how far away it looks and orientation. Even better, all these effects are GPU-accelerated, so they gain a performance advantage from your graphics hardware. The VR rotate sphere effect lets you correct orientation issues with your 3D sphere, and you can add keyframes to animate the default view direction within the 360-degree space. The VR Projection tool is also handy, because it makes it easy to use footage shot on different 360 cameras on the same timeline.

The remaining effects are essentially 360-aware versions of their 2D counterparts. Immersive transitions include chroma leaks, gradient wipe, iris wipe, light leaks, light rays, Mobius zoom, random blocks and spherical blur. All eight use the 360-degree space in an interesting way to move between clips, and are a welcome addition because most 2D transitions introduce unwanted visual artefacts. Premiere Pro itself also now works in VR, so you can edit while wearing a VR viewing device such as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. There are a couple of other significant new features. The Essential Graphics Panel, introduced with Premiere Pro CC 2017 to replace the legacy titler, has been improved by the addition of Responsive Design. The Time element lets you pin a range of intro and outro keyframes at the beginning and end of a motion graphics clip, which are preserved when you make ripple edits. This also includes a rolling credits feature. The Position element lets you pin a graphics layer to another layer or the video frame itself. The graphics layer will then respond to changes to the pinned layer or video frame, so when these are added to a sequence with a different aspect ratio they will maintain relative position. There are sundry smaller improvements, including the ability to preview fonts and edit motion graphics templates created in After Effects. There are also eight new label colours to aid clip organisation. But the ability to load multiple projects, shared project controls and extended VR support are the killer new features. Premiere Pro CC 2018 is both easier to use and now a serious contender for creating 360 content. JAMES MORRIS KEY SPECS $28.59 per month • www.adobe.com

PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 53


it’s being settled in the early stages. We need that unpredictability to penetrate deeper into the game session. “Anything we can do to introduce factors that cause empires to crumble, wars to break out, major coalitions to form – generally just increasing the level of mayhem in the world – those will all help retain players’ interest.”

THE POWER OF FAITH

CIVILIZATION VI - ONE YEAR LATER DAVID WILDGOOSE CHATS TO A CIV LEAD DESIGNER ED BEACH ABOUT WHERE THE GAME – AND THE FRANCHISE – IS GOING

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ivilization VI has already been out for over twelve months, but developer Firaxis is planning for its future three, four, five years from today. This shouldn’t be a surprise. Its predecessor, Civ V, released in 2010 but didn’t really come into its own until its second expansion, Brave New World, three years later. Out of the gate, Civ V was mostly praised for the way it broke with tradition, introducing a hex-based map and a one-unitper-tile mechanic. But it took several years and two major add-ons to deliver religion, espionage and a satisfying cultural game, all crucial pillars of the series. By contrast, “vanilla” Civ VI feels more feature complete than Civ V did; it already has solid religious, espionage and cultural options for those players who find war distasteful or have no desire to establish a colony on Mars. With this head start in mind I asked Civ VI lead designer Ed Beach if Firaxis are thinking about Civ VI and its post-release support in terms of a similar time scale to Civ V? “Yes, 54 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

we are,” he says. “The Civ V support model was obviously a big success for us.” And given Civ VI is more feature complete, where does that leave you in terms of thinking about future content for Civ VI? “This is probably the one thing I’m most excited about. We have the opportunity to strike out in entirely new directions for the series now.”

THE GAME THAT NEVER ENDS Beach won’t go into specifics regarding these new directions, so I suggest one area they could address is the tendency for player interest to trail off in the late-game. Players, Beach agrees, start a lot of games, yet finish few of them. “Improving on this trend would make our games even stronger,” he says. “The world is so dynamic when

It still feels like early days for Civ VI. According to Steam stats, it tends to hover around the lower reaches of the top 20 most played games while Civ V, with its seven-yearold userbase, is regularly in the top 10. While we wait for the “new directions” of Civ VI’s first major expansion, Firaxis has maintained interest through the addition of DLC packs containing new civs, leaders and scenarios, and a series of free seasonal updates that have fixed bugs and tinkered with features in often major ways. The recent “Fall” update, for example, overhauled religious play to a significant extent, fundamentally altering the way religious units move and interact, tweaking how religion spreads across the world, adding a handful of powerful beliefs, and redesigning the “lens” that lets you see at a glance the current religious state of play. Beach describes the religion game as now more of a positional battle for control of key cities that block other religion and help your own faith to spread. “Although the initial religious lens presented a lot of the necessary data, it wasn’t as useful as we had originally hoped,” he says. “So we reworked that to make all the key factors clearly discernible. In addition we moved the religion units onto their own map layer so these battles [or, as they’re euphemistically tagged in-game, “theological debates”] didn’t interfere with the armies and builders crisscrossing the map.

RACE WARS It’s a huge change. That missionaries and apostles exert zone of control and gain flanking bonuses opens up so many more tactical options for spreading and containing faith, and


GAMES INTERVIEW

the new guru unit means you can keep your preachers healed on the frontlines. Alongside the religious overhaul, Firaxis has also recently released two religious focused civs as DLC - Indonesia under Gitarja and the Khmer under Jayavarman VII. Beach tells me that diversity plays a huge role in determining which civs and leaders make it into the base game and in DLC. “We have a whole list of criteria we are trying to satisfy, mostly to come up with the most diverse set possible,” he says. “Those diversity factors include geography, historical era, gender, and cultural grouping. And then we also want to make sure we get a set that covers all of the gameplay systems.” Religion was undervalued previously, at least in the sense that it wasn’t especially useful to invest in faith if you weren’t specfically aiming for a religious victory. But both the newest DLC civs, in hand with the gameplay changes to religion, give new reasons to accumulate faith. “We have a whole list of criteria we are trying to satisfy, mostly to come up with the most diverse set possible...” The Khmer, for instance, gain food and housing from holy sites constructed on rivers, and their martyr ability means they’re encouraged to send their missionaries off into foreign lands and get into fights with enemy apostles. If a Khmer missionary dies in theological debate, they earn a valuable relic that draws culture and tourism to their temples. Conversely, Indonesia demonstrates how faith can work for you even if you don’t actually found your own religion. They gain faith from coastal cities and can then spend that faith on the Jong, a powerful naval unit that, in my experience, absolutely wrecks enemy cities all through the Renaissance Era.

LEADERS RULE In a further nod to using DLC to cover all gameplay systems, the Khmer get a much-needed buff to the aqueduct, perhaps the most undernourished of districts in the base game, while Indonesia’s Kampung improvement buffs sea

tiles and actually makes it desirable to settle small islands. While Trajan (Rome) and Frederik (Germany) are the most popular leaders in Civ VI, Beach is a fan of leaders who tend to be overlooked by the community. He often plays as Harald (Norway) or Philip (Spain) because he likes exploring and navigating on the high seas, but his favourites are a couple of leaders who are the most misunderstood. “I think my favourite is Catherine de Medici because I’ve personally invested a lot of time in our espionage system,” he says. “But the one with the cool strategy that gets overlooked is Saladin. “He’s probably the strongest science leader in the game right now, though many people write him off as just a religious leader. If he can spread a religion across the map it just further boosts his science output. And the Mamluk unique

unit that heals every turn is great for making sure Arabia gets a larger empire established by the mid-game.” I have one more question to ask Beach, and it’s one that’s been bugging me for the past twelve months. Why, oh why, I ask, does the AI build Huey Teocalli on a single-tile lake or Petra on a city’s only desert tile? I mean, I’m glad they wasted all those resources in doing so, but it’s infuriating when I have my eye on those wonders for myself. Beach summons all of Catherine’s diplomatic expertise to answer. “That’s not always a crazy move with Huey Teocalli since it does help all of your other lakes in your empire. But yes that can be annoying with Petra, although denying it to other players is potentially smart, too. “That said, I think we should tune the AI to be less likely to go for either of these builds. This is exactly the type of feedback we like to hear as we continue to look at the AI and further refine its play.” Thanks, Ed, that’s exactly what I wanted to hear. Here’s to the next three, four, five or more years of Civ VI. PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 55


SKYRIM: SWITCH EDITION “I COULD BE BOUNDED IN A NUTSHELL, AND COUNT MYSELF A KING OF INFINITE SPACE...” - HAMLET ACT 2: SCENE 2

O

bviously, Nintendo did have the smoothest development process for the Switch. Zelda: Breath of the Wild was originally a Wii U game and suddenly had to be ported to Switch to the killer-app launch title. And as an open-world game it’s great, but could it bring in that hipster audience Nintendo seemed so desperate to attract? Skyrim seems a better bet. The game was first released in 2011, sure, but the market has shown a tolerance for endless special editions because Skyrim, more than any other fantasy RPG, is played by people who traditionally would not have considered spending 247 hours 52 minutes (the average playthrough time) slumped in front of a PC, to be something they might like to do. The advantage Skyrim gives is that it’s an incredibly deep and content rich RPG, packed with hundreds of hours of gameplay, and Nintendo doesn’t have to wait five years for Bethesda to make it.

56 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

Sure, hundreds of thousands of people have already played it to death. But plenty of those will grab it again without hesitation, because it’s Skyrim. For the rest of us, especially us PC gamers who never quite found the time to sit down for 247 hours, an RPG with this kind of depth and scope, running on a handheld device, is a revelation. In fact, for the right kind of gamer - the kind of person who maybe bought a Switch for their kid or partner and doesn’t really groove on the cutesy Mario stuff Skyrim might just be the platform’s killer app. Not in TV-mode, of course. There it competes against the special edition on PS4 and Xbox One, and doesn’t look as good. But when you undock, that’s

when you realise what this socalled “underpowered” console can give you: a PC-scale RPG you really can play anywhere. And it’s more than just the physical portability. The Switch’s suspend-and-resume functionality is rock-solid. Pick up the console, tap a button, the game is running. On Switch the game is ready for my whims, always. You can split that ridiculous 247-hour playtime into 15 minute chunks. Or three hour chunks. Four hour chunks? Yeah... not so much. It’s pretty brutal on the Switch’s battery because it is a technically demanding game. Get a long USB-C cable... Oh the game itself? Don’t - don’t you know? I mean, it’s seven years old! Oh well. Set in the Skyrim region of Elder Scrolls World (TM), the game follows... well,


GAMES REVIEWS

patiently tolerates the easily-distracted wanderings of... the player, a cipher whose only imposition on your real personality is their status as “dragonborn”. That’s right, dragons are back, and through sheer luck you have the ability to absorb their souls when you kill them and get mad dragonshouty skills. Also mad dagger skills, sword skills, hammer skills, cooking skills, sewing skills and many, many other skills. This is a game that has entire websites dedicated to the fastest way to powerlevel your ability to get top dollar for clothing you loot from your murder victims. Also sites about the best characters to marry. Plot synopses make the whole thing sound kind of threadbare and Generic Fantasy 101, but actually playing the game reveals a world full of people who (thanks to clever scripting and a bit of smoke-and-mirrors) seem to have their own lives outside your adventure. The scope is vast, the overland journeys epic, the dungeons full of twisty passages all

alike, and the reanimated skeletons belligerent and numerous. Thief, warrior or mage - these are just labels and what you do is up to you and your ability to plough through hundreds of thousands of words online about how to mix

“this “underpowered” console can give you a PC-scale RPG you really can play anywhere” and match Skyrim’s elaborate stats and skill tree. Or you could just wing it, hahaha, no seriously: get bookmarking. Because after you fi nish, you’ll want do it all again except this time as a piratical cat-person. How big is the overlap on the Venn diagram that combines “People who own a Switch”, “People who like games like

Skyrim” and “People who haven’t played Skyrim, which came about in 2011”? Possibly not especially big. But if you fall into that singular demographic, this game is simply a must-buy. Fundamentally, Skyrim on Switch is a tech demonstrator. It shows what this plucky little tablet can really do. Is it perfect? Hell no. Is is the best version of Skyrim? Certainly not. Yet in a world where the line between CPU, GPU and even RAM continues to blur, Skyrim shows that handheld gaming is absolutely the future. ANTHONY FORDHAM

KEY SPECS Genre: Ridiculously epic RPG • Developer: Bethesda • Platform: Nintendo Switch skyrim.nintendo.com

PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 57


THE A-LIST

THE BEST PRODUCTS ON THE MARKET, AS PICKED BY OUR EDITORS

All the products recommended here have been tested as part of a PC & Tech Authority review, which includes comprehensive labs benchmarking. Many products here, too, are used by our editors on a daily basis and we prefer them over all others.

PREMIUM LAPTOPS DELL XPS 13

Ultraportable from $1,599 Dell only needed to refine its brilliant XPS 13 design to keep top spot, and that’s what it does: it’s slightly quicker and adds more options, but it’s the edge -to-edge 13.3in display and compact chassis that lift it above the opposition. Oh, and it’s now available in Rose Gold.

ALTERNATIVES APPLE MACBOOK PRO 13 (2017)

HP ELITEBOOK X360 1030 G2

HP SPECTRE X360 15

The high price stops it from taking Dell’s top spot, but a nine-hour battery life, sleek design and – for a premium – the Touch Bar make this a stunning machine. $2,699

Want a convertible 13.3in laptop that only weighs 1.3kg, lasts for 10hrs and packs in plenty of power? Then the x360 is a dream come true. $2,299.

The best 15in convertible around, with power, stylish design and a great screen and keyboard. The only downside is the price. $2,448.

EVERYDAY LAPTOPS ASUS ZENBOOK UX310UA

ALTERNATIVES

Great quality on a budget, $1,299

ACER CHROMEBOOK R13

HP CHROMEBOOK 13 G1

ASUS ZENBOOK UX330UA

It’s a basic Core i3-powered system with 4GB of RAM. We love the 13.3in 1,920 x 1,080 screen as much as ever, and the ZenBook is super-stylish, too. Its only real negative is the 128GB SSD.

This may seem expensive, but you’re getting a top-notch spec: 13.3in 1,920 x 1,080 screen, 64GB of storage and 4GB of RAM in a slim chassis. $399.

A stylish and highquality laptop, but with Chrome OS, not Windows. It’s fast, has all-day battery life and won’t look out of place in a boardroom. $1,399.

If you need a higher spec than the UX310UA, the UX330UA doubles the RAM and SSD size, and boosts the pixels to 3,200 x 1,800. $1,399.

MICROSOFT SURFACE PRO (2017)

SAMSUNG GALAXY TAB S3

TABLETS APPLE IPAD PRO 10.5 Pro tablet from $979

Apple takes the already excellent iPad Pro and simply makes it better than ever. A 120Hz screen provides the slickest scrolling experience yet; it’s got 20% more screen space than its predecessor; and it’s much more powerful. Finally, the prospect of iOS 11, and improved multitasking, makes it more alluring still.

58 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

ALTERNATIVES APPLE IPAD (2017) Unusually for an Apple device, what makes this a favourite is its low price. If you’re looking for a solid tablet, it’s a great choice. 32GB, $469.

If you’re after notetaking skills when you want them, and a laptop when you don’t, then this is a great choice. From $1,199.

Stunningly expensive, but the brilliant S Pen, super-slim design and all-round quality make this our top Android choice. 32GB, $949.


A-LIST

SMARTPHONES SAMSUNG GALAXY S8

Android, sexy piece of kit 32GB, $1,199 The Samsung ads that claim the S8 reinvents the phone may be a little over the top, but it has created something beautiful. With the screen spreading across almost every surface, including the left and right edges, it’s stunning to behold. The price is equally stunning, but in return you get an excellent camera, great battery life and charttopping speed.

ALTERNATIVES GOOGLE PIXEL 2

ONEPLUS 5

The Pixel 2 XL proved a disappointment, but not so the Pixel 2: this built on all the best aspects of the Pixel – with a better camera. 64GB, $1,079

OnePlus crams in topend performance and battery life, plus a great dual-lens camera, at a price that undercuts rivals. 128GB, $769.

APPLE IPHONE 7 Not a world-beater, but water-resistance, superb design and numerous tweaks add up to a great phone. 32GB, $849.

EVERYDAY MONITORS EIZO FLEXSCAN EV2 1080p display, $682

A great-value 24in IPS display that offers more colour-accurate images than you’ve any right to expect at this price – and a reassuring five-year warranty too.

ALTERNATIVES SAMSUNG C34F791

PHILIPS 276E7

It may seem expensive, but this is a top-quality 34in 3,440 x 1,440 curved monitor. At 1500R, it’s very nearly the same curvature as the human eye, which justifies the term “immersive” whether you’re playing games or working. $1,459.

The obvious sacrifice you make for a 27in IPS panel at this price is resolution – it’s 1,920 x 1,080 – but it offers good all-round image quality and looks attractive on the desk thanks to a slimline design, but it’s the price that makes this one a real champ. $249.

PROFESSIONAL MONITORS EIZO COLOREDGE CG277

Professional monitor, $3,020 Spectacular image quality; stunning colour accuracy; amazing flexibility. Just three reasons the ColorEdge CG777 won our Labs dedicated to monitors for professionals.

ALTERNATIVES DELL ULTRASHARP UP2716D

NEC MULTISYNC EX341R

This 27in screen can’t match the Eizo CG277 for outright quality, but compared to most screens it offers superb colour accuracy – especially for the price. It supports hardware calibration, has ultra-thin bezels and is packed with connectivity. And you can buy almost three to each CG277.$699.

This 34in display is the strongest argument yet for curved technology, making it easy to replace dual- or even triple-monitor setups with a 3,440 x 1,440 resolution. It’s expensive but produces a great-quality image that you – or your employees – will love. $999.

WIRELESS NETWORKING GOOGLE WIFI

Mesh networking, $199 The poster child for the new generation of mesh networking, the Google Wifi won our Labs thanks to its incredible ease of use – plus, unlike other mesh systems, it can be expanded.

ALTERNATIVES SYNOLOGY RT2600AC

TP-LINK ARCHER VR2800

Rock solid performance and just so easy to set up. The Synology RT2600ac also benefits from the famously intuitive and nice to use interface the company uses for its NAS products. Perfect for medium-sized homes. $369.

A terrific value router, able to beam a powerful signal throughout a mediumsized home. Add strong parental controls and two handy USB 3 ports, and it’s our top choice for people who don’t want to go the mesh route. $399.

PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 59


A-LIST

HOME OFFICE PRINTERS BROTHER MFC-J5330DW

ALTERNATIVES

All-in-one inkjet, $199

EPSON WORKFORCE PRO WF-5690DWF

A high-quality and versatile printer – it can even print in A3 – with a tempting price, and it won’t cost the earth to run. Provided you have space for it, it’s a great choice for home and small office use.

A thoroughbred office printer, with beige boxy looks to match, the WF-5690DWF hit speeds of 11.8ppm for black-and-white prints and 8.5ppm for colour, but it’s running costs and print quality where it excels. $499.

KYOCERA ECOSYS P5026CDN This isn’t the fastest colour laser you can buy – it returned speeds of 16ppm for mono and 10ppm for colour – and there’s no scanner, but it’s great for heavy workloads, produces highquality prints and is quiet in operation. $450.

NAS ASUSTOR AS6404T 4-bay NAS, $1,189

The winner of our annual round-up in issue 239, this powerhouse can serve any need, from media through to comprehensive backups and it has the power to even run a full Linux or Windows OS.

ALTERNATIVES QNAP TS-251A

SYNOLOGY 216J

Cramming a lot of features into its 2-bay frame, the TS-251A has a myriad of inputs and format support including HDMI and audio ports, making it a potent media powerhouse that can also serve more mundane NAS functions. $419.

If all you need is a basic NAS this gem is a great choice. Ideal for homes and small offices focussed on file sharing basics, its appealing price means it isn’t quite a do-it-all NAS, but it’s not intended to be. Synology’s wonderful DiskStation software is a big plus. $219.

SECURITY SOFTWARE BITDEFENDER INTERNET SECURITY 2018 $61.74 3 devices/1yr

A stellar selection of extras, including ransomware protection, along with rock-solid antivirus protection, makes this our top choice for 2018.

ALTERNATIVES AVAST FREE ANTIVIRUS We recommend dumping Windows Defender, but if you don’t want to spend a penny then Avast’s superb protection makes it the best choice. Just ignore the inevitable, relentless upsell. Free

KASPERSKY INTERNET SECURITY 2018 The best choice for power users, with little different from last year’s but with so many features already, that’s fine. 3 devices, 1yr, $89.95

PRODUCTIVITY SOFTWARE MICROSOFT OFFICE 2016 Home & Student, $179

We’ll be honest: there’s very little here for anyone upgrading from Office 2013. However, this is still the best office suite for professionals.

ALTERNATIVES LIBREOFFICE 5

SCRIVENER

The interface looks a little dated, and the lack of collaboration features is a shame. But interoperability with Word and Excel is better than ever, making this a fine upgrade. Free.

A brilliant package for serious writers: not only a word processor, but a tool that helps you organise your ideas and manage the process of composition from start to finish. $45.

CREATIVITY SOFTWARE ADOBE CREATIVE CLOUD 2017

The best! Complete plan, $44/month Adobe entrenches its position as an indispensable resource for creative professionals, with useful upgrades to the core print-orientated apps such as Photoshop, and exciting new additions for digital designers too.

60 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

ALTERNATIVES SERIF AFFINITY PHOTO

STEINBERG CUBASE PRO 9

Don’t be fooled by the low price: this is a serious rival to Adobe Photoshop in terms of features, even if it does require a hefty system to make it fly. $80.

A big bump in performance and a handful of UI improvements keep Cubase at the top of the audioproduction tree. A worthwhile upgrade (note we reviewed v8). $149.


KITLOG MINI

For lounge room gaming and streaming CPU + COOLING

BEAUTIFUL BUILDS BALANCING PERFORMANCE WITH VALUE

BUDGET

The perfect entry-level gaming PC CPU + COOLING

Intel Core i5 7500 w/ stock cooler

Intel Core i5 7500 w/ stock cooler

$259

$259

intel.com

intel.com

MOBO

MOBO

ASRock Z270M-ITX/AC Motherboard

ASRock B250 Gaming K4 Motherboard

$179

$145

asrock.com.au

asrock.com.au

GPU

GPU

Asus DUALRX480-4G

MSI GTX 1060 Aero ITX 6G OC

$338

$429

asus.com.au

msi.com

MEMORY

MEMORY

16GB DDR4 Corsair Vengeance LPX Low Profile

G.Skill Ripjaws 4 DDR4 2400MHz 16GB Kit 2x 8GB

$185

$135

corsair.com/en-au

gskill.com

STORAGE

STORAGE

Samsung SSD M.2 2280 NVMe 250G 960 EVO +2TB HDD (any)

2TB HDD (any)

$178 + $50

$50

samsung.com/au

www.staticice.com.au

CASE

CASE

Fractal Design Define S Nano

Corsair Carbide SPEC-02 Mid Tower Gaming Case

$125

$85

fractal-design.com

corsair.com/en-au

PSU

SilverStone SFX Gold 500W SX500-LG $129 Silverstone.com

SOUND

PSU

SilverStone Strider Essential 500W ST50F-ESB $55 Silverstone.com

SOUND

Your sound system

Cougar Immersa

What you paid for it

$59

DISPLAY

cougargaming.com

DISPLAY

Your TV

AOC e2450Swh

What you paid for it

$158 aocmonitorap.com/anz

KEYBOARD

KEYBOARD

Roccat Sova

Tesoro Tizona G2N

$299

$55

www.roccat.org

tesorotec.com

MOUSE

MOUSE

Roccat Kone EMP

Cooler Master MM530

$99

coolermaster.com

$59

www.roccat.org

TOTAL: $1,841 62 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

TOTAL: $1,489


KITLOG

Now that we’ve had a bit of a play with some interesting custom GTX 1070 Ti cards (see page 38), it’s clear any of them would serve well in any game PC. But with the superstar pricing of the Galax 1080 Exoc 8GB less than most of them, that must stay in the Performance build.

PERFORMANCE

Most bells and whistles, without breaking the bank CPU + COOLING

THE BEAST

When overkill is barely enough... CPU + COOLING

Intel Core i7 8700K with Noctua NH-D15 CPU Cooler

i9-7900X + Corsair H105

$569 + $119

$1,299 + $145

intel.com

coolermaster.com

MOBO

MOBO

MSI Z370 Gaming Pro Carbon AC Motherboard

MSI X299 Carbon Pro Gaming AC

$319

$549

msi.com

msi.com

GPU

Galax GTX 1080 EXOC 8GB $689

VIDEO

Aorus GeForce GTX 1080 Ti Xtreme Edition 11G

galax.com

$1,229

MEMORY

MEMORY

gigabyte.com.au

G.Skill RIPJAWS 4 32GB KIT 4X8GB

2 x 16GB Corsair Vengeance LPX DDR4 3000

$289

$318

gskill.com

corsair.com/en-au

STORAGE

STORAGE

2TB HDD (any) + SAMSUNG 500GB M.2 NVMe SSD 960 EVO

Samsung 960 Pro 2TB + Seagate Barracuda Pro 10TB

$415

$1,559 + $649

samsung.com/au

samsung.com/au

CASE

Thermaltake View 71 Tempered Glass Edition $259 thermaltake.com.au

CASE

CoolerMaster Cosmos II 25th Anniversary Edition $469 coolermaster.com

PSU

PSU

Be Quiet! Dark Power Pro 11 850W Power Supply

Corsair RM1000i Special Edition

$279

$279

bequiet.com

SOUND

corsair.com/en-au SOUND

Sennheiser PC 373D

Astro A50

$299

$459

en-au.sennheiser.com

DISPLAY

www.astrogaming.com DISPLAY

Acer Predator XB271HU

Samsung 34in Curved Monitor Series 7

$999

$1,199

acerstore.com.au

samsung.com

KEYBOARD

KEYBOARD

Logitech G413 Silver

Corsair K95 Platinum RGB

$115

$329

www.logitech.com/en-au

MOUSE

corsair.com/en-au/ MOUSE

Corsair Glaive

Razer Deathadder Elite

$109

$89

www.corsair.com

razerzone.com/au-en/

TOTAL: $4,460

TOTAL: $8,682 PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 63


WANT TO BEND WINDOWS TO YOUR WILL? NIK RAWLINSON PROVIDES DEEP-DIVE ADVICE THAT GOES WELL BEYOND THE NORMAL TIPS AND TRICKS


WINDOWS 10 HACKS FEATURE

W

indows 10 has come of age. With the Fall Creators Update it lost its final layer of puppy fat, with ransomware protection, better battery life, a super-charged Photos app and OneDrive on Demand to free up precious storage space. These are just the headlines, though. Scratch the surface and you’ll uncover a wide range of hidden features and utilities. The secret is knowing where to scratch – which is what we reveal here. These aren’t tips and tricks: they’re practical, power user techniques that will help you do more, keep you safe and save you time.

UPGRADE TO FALL CREATORS UPDATE Make sure you’re running the latest version of Windows 10: head to tinyurl. com/ydd4osh4 to download the upgrade assistant PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 65


HACK WINDOWS 10’S SECRET STOP MICROSOFT SPYING ON YOU The whole time you’re using Windows, you’re generating feedback. This is sent back to Microsoft for several reasons, including benign ones such as making sure its apps and operating system work smoothly. Some, however, are more questionable: targeting you with ads and services based on your previous activity. In its defence, Microsoft has recently started being a lot more open about the data it collects and what it uses it for. In October 2017, for example, it posted a document giving extensive details, perhaps in an effort to both allay users’ suspicions and discourage them from switching off or blocking essential services (see tinyurl.com/ kwferf4). If you’d rather not be used as a marketing tool, there are several steps you can take to restrict what’s being sent to HQ. Click Settings, then Privacy. You’ll see four On/Off options, with the top one controlling personalisation of ads. Opting for Off blocks Windows from gathering data based on your activities and deletes what’s already stored on your PC. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t trust Microsoft to comply with your wishes, but if you’re of a suspicious nature, you might want to consider blocking Windows’ connection to the collection servers. Traditionally, blocking a server is a simple case of editing the “HOSTS” file to redirect its IP address to an alternative location, but this method doesn’t work where the analytics engine is concerned. Instead, check out O&O Software’s free ShutUp10 (oo-software.com/ en/shutup10), which lets you adapt your security settings, blocks user data and diagnostics and gives 66 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

“Manage known networks”. Select your network, click Properties and toggle the switch to “Set as metered connection”. Neither of these options affect Windows Defender or any thirdparty anti-malware tools, which will still download their own updates.

DISABLE P2P DOWNLOADS

you control over location services and Windows Update. The full range of tools that it disables is an eye-opener, including Microsoft’s ability to remotely change settings on your device to “test” certain configurations. Finally, open Settings and navigate through Privacy to “Feedback & diagnostics”. Switch off the tailored experiences option, and, if you wish, set feedback request to Never. Pause automatic updates We wouldn’t generally recommend pausing updates. They’re automatic for a very good reason: if they were manual, we’d forget. Nonetheless, Microsoft lets you defer non-essential updates for up to five days. You can only do this once before downloading a full update, at which point you can delay again. To activate a temporary hold, open Settings, click through “Update & Security” to “Restart options”and choose a day and time. If you need to pause updates for more than five days, there is a work-around for Windows 10 Home users. Tell it you’re on a metered connection and Windows will hold off until you connect to a different network. Open Settings, click through “Network & Internet”, pick Wi-Fi from the sidebar and click

ShutUp10 knows where to find Windows 10’s hidden privacy features, giving you an easy way to control what the OS – and Microsoft – knows about you

Bypass the five-day limit on downloading updates by telling Windows 10 Home that your network connection is metered

Windows uses peer-to-peer networking to download updates from other users’ machines where possible, reducing the load on Microsoft’s own servers. In theory, this should mean your updates download more quickly, but the payoff is that your own machine will serve up data for other users around the world. If you’re on an unmetered connection, this shouldn’t be a problem, but you can turn it off if it’s likely to take you close to a data cap. Open Settings and pick “Update & Security” then “Advanced options”. Click Delivery Optimization. If you’re running several machines on the same site, check “PCs on my local network”, but make sure the second option, to roll in PCs on the internet, is cleared. Clicking on “Advanced options” will also allow you to set bandwidth and upload limits.

THE HIDDEN START MENU Assuming you haven’t installed Classic Shell, right-click the


WINDOWS 10 HACKS FEATURE

SETTINGS

Windows icon to reveal a second Start menu, which majors on direct links to utilities and diagnostics tools, including Device Manager, PowerShell and Task Manager. PreCreators Update, there was a direct link to the full Control Panel, but after upgrading this was replaced by an alias for the dumbed-down Settings centre.

CREATE A GOD FOLDER It looks like Microsoft wanted to keep this one quiet – but create a new folder with the extension “folder name.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E825C-99712043E01C}”. Whatever you use before the dot will be adopted as the folder’s actual name, with the part in curly braces disappearing. It will take the Control Panel icon, and with good reason: open it and you’ll find direct links to over 200 settings, including playing media automatically, managing BitLocker and changing advanced colour management settings. It’s officially known as the Windows Master Control Panel and, as you can search it from the Explorer toolbar, it’s handy to keep close by as it lets you jump straight to the option you want to tweak, rather than having to find it through Settings or Control Panel. You can also right-click any action’s name to create a direct shortcut, which can be saved to the desktop or another folder.

Right-click the Windows button to reveal a hidden utilities-focused Start menu

The pros and cons of being a Windows Insider Windows Insider is Microsoft’s programme for more ambitious users. Sign up and you can download pre-release builds of Windows 10 and Windows Server to use before anyone else. While up-to-date Windows 10 users are currently working with build 1709 – Fall Creators Update, code-named Redstone 3 – Windows Insiders have had access to 1803, Redstone 4, since 31 August 2017. The rest of us will have to wait until early 2018 to join them. There are many reasons why you might want to run pre-release builds, from simple curiosity to a need to test them in a quarantined environment. For developers who need to ensure their applications are compatible with forthcoming revisions to the OS, signing up is a no-brainer. Entry into the programme isn’t generally restricted, though, so home users who simply want to see what’s coming down the line can join them. You’ll need to be running at least Windows 10 version 1703. To find out if you are, open Settings and click About in the System pane. Naturally, there are caveats. You’ll be installing software that, by its very definition, is unfinished. It’s usually stable, and we’ve not encountered any problems, but if you lose data you have only yourself to blame, so adequate backups are a must. Microsoft warns “[The Windows Insider programme] isn’t

for the faint of heart, and can often lead to bugs and other problems. By signing up for this programme, you’re agreeing to let Microsoft install pre-release software on your PC and collect usage information.” Previously, managing your membership required that you installed a dedicated Windows Insider app, but its features have now been rolled into the Windows 10 Settings application. You’ll find them in the “Update & security” section, and can choose what kind of updates you receive, as well as the speed at which they arrive. Brave members will sign up for Fast, which gives them access to the earliest public releases. These will have been through three levels of internal testing at Microsoft, but not been seen in the wild before. More conservative users should opt for the Slow ring, which rolls out the same updates only if they’ve not been found to cause problems for the Fast ring members. If you’re signing up on your only PC, we’d recommend opting for the Release preview ring and receiving the updates only if they’ve behaved well for both the Fast and Slow ring members. You can find out more about the programme at insider.windows. com. Membership of Windows Insider gives you access to pre-release builds of Windows. A similar programme offers early rollouts to Office users


MAKE WINDOWS FASTER DITCH CORTANA Cortana is woven into the fabric of Windows 10, but can be disabled. In Windows Home, open the Registry Editor (use the Search box to find “regedit” and click the top result), and then navigate to “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\ Windows”. Right-click on “Windows” and select New | Key, then rename it “Windows Search”. Right-click the empty space in the main pane and pick “DWORD (32-bit) Value” from the New menu. Specify “AllowCortana” as the header and zero as the value. Exit Registry Editor and reboot your machine and your searches will only encompass your local machine. The taskbar’s search box will be replaced by a magnifier that offers just to Search Windows when clicked. If you’re running Windows 10 Pro, launch the Group Policy editor (“gpedit.msc”), again from the Search box, and click through Administrative Templates | Windows Components | Search | Allow Cortana. Click Disable. If you only want to hide Cortana, right-click the Taskbar and pick Hidden from the Cortana submenu.

REMOVE APPS Deleting apps you’ve installed is easy. Doing the same with the preinstalled defaults is trickier as they don’t appear in Control Panel. Instead, type “Powershell” into the Cortana box, right-click the top result and pick “Run as administrator”. PowerShell is textbased, but the formula for removing a program is the same: Get-AppxPackage *app-name* | Remove-AppxPackage

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Replace app-name as appropriate. So, to delete Zune Music, use:

(classicshell.net), which can emulate Windows XP, 7, 8 and 10 menus with single and double columns. It also lets you revert Windows Explorer to behave the way it did in XP or Vista, and add loading progress, security zone details and the title of each page to Internet Explorer. Shift-clicking the Start button opens the regular Windows 10 tiled screen, and there’s an option to do the same from the top of the old-style Start menu. Uninstalling Classic Shell will roll back your changes entirely.

Get-AppxPackage *zunemusic* | Remove-AppxPackage For a list of all apps installed on your system, use Get-AppxPackage on its own, read off the application title from the Name line of each entry, and use the last part of it between the asterisks in the commands above. Microsoft. ZuneVideo, for example, would be truncated to *zunevideo*. Apps that you’ve installed from the Windows Store don’t appear in Control Panel’s “Add and Remove Programs” pane, but can be removed by right-clicking their icon on the Start menu and picking Uninstall.

GET THE CLASSIC START MENU Windows 8 and 10 have moved further and further away from the standard set back in 1995, with the simple set of apps and options hidden behind the Start button. To get that minimal interface back, install the free Classic Shell

REMOVE DISCRETIONARY APPS

Delete discretionary apps without reverting to PowerShell through the Setting app’s Applications panel

Windows 10 also ships with a lot of non-core discretionary apps such as Weather and Sport, which are just wasting space if you don’t use them. Delete them by opening Settings and clicking through Apps to “Apps & features”. Click what you don’t need to reveal its Uninstall button.

SPEED UP YOUR PC Tweaking several settings in sequence can help your PC run more smoothly, and extend its usable life. Find “Adjust the appearance


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(AND PRETTIER!)

Relive the glorious 1990s by switching to the old-style Start menu, with help from Classic Shell

and performance of Windows” through the Cortana box and click the radio box beside “Adjust for best performance”. Now type “Choose a power plan” in the Cortana box and select “Create a power plan” in the left menu. From here, you can pick the hidden “High performance” option (this will burn through your battery more quickly on a laptop). Next, free up disk space by opening a new Explorer window, selecting “This PC” and searching for “size:huge” to find all files between 16MB and 128MB, then again with “size:gigantic” to find files larger than 128MB. Move as many unused or old files as you can from each set of results to an external drive archive.

LOCK YOUR PC If you work in an open-plan office – and especially if you handle sensitive data – you should lock your PC every time you leave it. Or set it up to lock itself. Pair your PC with your phone using Bluetooth (open Settings, click Devices, then “Add Bluetooth or other device”. Select your phone from the list of devices and, if the code on the PC and phone match, authorise the connection). Switch to Settings’ Accounts pane,

click “Sign-in options” in the sidebar and scroll down to “Dynamic lock”. Check the box to “Allow Windows to detect when you’re away and automatically lock the device”. Check that it’s working by moving your phone out of Bluetooth range of your PC and, a minute later, the PC should automatically lock.

INSTALL THE LINUX SUBSYSTEM If you work cross-platform, or need to use Linux to administer a server, you can run the same environment on your Windows machine. The Linux subsystem isn’t designed for running graphical apps (although you can do so if you install an Xwindowing system). Open Settings | Update & Security | “For developers”. Select “Developer mode”, then switch to Control Panel and click “Turn Windows features on or off” in the Programs section. Tick the checkbox beside “Windows Subsystem for Linux” and click OK. Windows will reboot and download Linux from the Microsoft Store. You can now access the Linux prompt by searching for bash via the Cortana search box and agreeing with the Ts&Cs. This installs the subsystem itself, then asks you to pick a Linux-specific username and password, after which you’re ready to roll.

The five best Windows themes Windows 10 Creators Update made themes easier to find and install, allowing you to change the look of your PC on the fly. A theme can include wallpapers, colours, sounds and cursors, although many are just background collections. To install a new theme, open Settings and click through Personalization to Themes, or simply download our selection using the links below. Cats are better than dogs. Fact. (Not actual fact. Ed.) So the Cats Anytime theme should naturally be your starting point. With ten pictures of mogs, in sinks, baskets and gardens, it’s pretty much the perfect theme for any desktop. To download the feline theme, type pcpro.link/280cats into your browser’s address bar. Check out Dogs in Winter for some of the perkiest pooches ever to grace a desktop. With terriers, Labradors, retrievers and whippets to choose from, there’s something for dog lovers of every kind. Get the canine customisation from pcpro.link/280dogs. If you want to be inspired, check out Paint 3D Creatures, a witty collection of 11 unlikely monsters, including mummies, vampires and crab-like birds, all created using Paint 3D. Get it from pcpro.link/280creatures. Waterscapes makes us smile, not because we enjoy the 20 images of the sea and coast (although we do) but because it includes a range of humorous sounds. Who wouldn’t look forward to a critical stop when it invoked a blast from a ship’s horn, or run down their battery just to hear the seagull cawing to warn them that power is low? Download the theme from pcpro.link/280water. If you’re running a dual screen setup, check out the Store’s dedicated Panoramic section, which includes 10 themes with background images that spread across both displays. Our pick of the bunch is Panoramas of Europe, which includes 21 shots that also look great on a single screen. Download them at pcpro. link/280panoramas.

Can’t decide on a theme? Windows 10 lets you install several simultaneously and switch between them at will


KILL NAGGING NOTIFICATIONS FINE-TUNE NOTIFICATIONS Sometimes it can feel like Windows is fighting against you. Every ping, beep and pop-up will be enough to break your attention. You might not think this is anything to worry about, but the University of California, Irvine, argues it takes an average of 23mins 15secs to return to your task every time you are interrupted. You need to take control of nagging notifications. This isn’t to say kill them all. Action Centre, Windows 10’s main method of getting in touch, can be used to your advantage because many notifications – including Facebook updates and emails – can offer a way to instantly reply. Others allow you to authorise actions (such as “Mark as read”) directly without digging into the application. Twist Action Centre to your needs and it can be useful. First, control which notifications are allowed to pop up. Open Settings, click through to “Notifications & actions” in the System section, and toggle the switches beside each app. At the very least, switch off calendar and mail notifications if these are also set to appear on your phone. With calendars often setting reminders by default, it’s not unusual for an alert to appear simultaneously on your desktop, laptop, tablet and phone. That’s an instant recipe for insanity. Scroll down to find the settings for individual applications. Although it’s not immediately obvious, clicking their headings rather than the switches beside them lets you dig deeper for finer-grained control. Click Calendar, for example, and aside from toggling permission to display notifications, which you can do from the overview, it lets you set if they can appear on the lockscreen, if they should make a sound when they arrive, how many should 70 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

display in Action Centre if several are due at the same time and more. You can even choose on an app-by -app basis if its notifications are top, high or normal priority, with those further up the scale being positioned towards the top of the screen, so they’re visible without scrolling. If you want to take things further, you can disable notifications entirely from the top-level Notifications & actions pane by toggling the switch below “Get notifications from apps and other senders”. This is probably overkill, but you should certainly disable two options below it: “Get tips, tricks and suggestions as you use Windows” and “Show me the Windows welcome experience after updates and occasionally when I sign in to highlight what’s new and suggested”. The first of those will also turn off the inducements to try Edge instead of your current browser.

TURN A BLIND EYE Notification badges are among the most distracting elements in any OS. Right-clicking the Action Centre bubble gives you the option to turn these off, as well as hiding your app icons and switching on Quiet Hours. The Quiet Hours setting mutes all notifications until the “hours” expire. The default, which can’t be changed, runs from midnight until 6am, but if you want to extend them, simply switch them on and off manually. You should be able to rely on Microsoft to know how best to patch your PC, so while retaining a degree of control over which patches and fixes are applied might be comforting, it’s rarely necessary. Open Windows Defender Security Center, click on Settings and turn off notifications for recent activity and scan results. You can do the same for

Consider turning off alerts for calendars and emails if they’re also set to pop up on your phone or tablet

firewall settings, as long as you bear in mind that if a newly-installed app refuses to work it could be because it’s unable to connect to an authentication server. Changing your active hours will reduce the number of System Update notifications you receive. By default, active hours are set to expire at 5pm, so if you routinely work beyond this, or you use your PC in the evening, you’ll be interrupted by Windows asking if it can go ahead and update. The active hours option is in the Windows Update section of Settings. Set the end of your active hours to 11pm or later to have Windows update overnight. Note that your active hours can’t be more than 18 hours a day.

LOG IN AUTOMATICALLY If you’re the only person who uses your PC, you can disable the one interruption we all encounter daily: the login screen. Find and launch “netplwiz” through the search bar, then uncheck the box beside “Users must enter a username and password to use this computer”. Click Apply and netplwiz will ask you to specify which user should be automatically logged in, and for the appropriate password. While this will save you time when rebooting, it’s a risky step – especially if the automatically logged-in user has administrator access. We recommend setting up a separate, limited account for automatic logging in so that, before anyone who gains access to your machine can do too much damage,


WINDOWS 10 HACKS FEATURE

they still need to switch users and provide appropriate login credentials.

ZERO OUT YOUR TO-DOS App badges, such as the one on the email app icon that shows how many messages remain unread, are another distraction you can turn off. They’re the app’s way of demanding your immediate attention, rather than waiting until you’re ready for them. Open Settings and navigate through Personalization to Taskbar, where you can toggle off the setting for “Show badges on taskbar buttons”. While you’re here, click through to “Select which icons appear on the taskbar” and “Turn system icons on or off”, both of which are also found in the Taskbar pane. The former lets you hide icons for apps such as Dropbox, while the latter lets you remove status icons such as battery power, sound and so on. While we’d retain both battery and sound, we’re inclined to hide Action Centre as it can easily be called up manually using Win+A.

TAME APPS A lot of applications have their own notification settings, which can only be changed through the apps themselves. Dropbox’s preferences, for example, has checkboxes for mentions, comments, tasks, shares, syncs and edits, all of which can be manually turned off. Just bear in mind that, if you’re using Dropbox as part of a team, this could impair your ability to keep up with your colleagues. Monitor which apps ask the most questions and target them over time. Web browsers are common culprits, so look at trimming the number of times they need your intervention. In Chrome settings, for example, disable the “Ask where to save each file before downloading” option, which you’ll find in the Advanced settings section. In Edge, open Settings | Advanced settings, and toggle off “Ask me what to do with each download” so they’re automatically sent to the Downloads folder. Scroll down to Notifications and click Manage, then toggle off any web apps that are allowed to notify you. Why? Because these notifications don’t just appear within the browser: they also pop up in Windows itself, and can post to the Action Centre. In Internet Explorer, open Internet Options| Advanced and clear the checkboxes beside “Notify when downloads complete” and “Tell me if Internet Explorer is not the default web browser”. Make sure the pop-up blocker is enabled on the Privacy tab, then click Settings and uncheck the box to “Show Notification bar when a pop-up is blocked”.

Use brute force: hack the Windows Registry As long as you’re happy editing the Windows Registry, you can take more drastic steps but, as is always the case when working with the Registry, make sure to create a System Restore point before beginning and, preferably, a full, verified backup of your system before you do. We’ll start by disabling system pop-ups. Launch Registry editor (type “regedit” into the search box and pick the first result), and navigate through the Registry tree to “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\ Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced”. Once you’re there, pick “DWORD (32-bit) Value” from the Edit menu’s New sub-menu (or right-click any blank area in the main pane) and name it “DWORD EnableBalloonTips”. Make sure that you match the capitalisation. That should be all you need to do, as by default the DWORD’s Value should be set to zero, but right-click it and pick Modify just to make sure. Now we need to do the same for “Make sure to create a application pop-ups that System Restore point are delivered from local APIs or the cloud before beginning and a Notification via Windows Service – or anything that’s full backup” not Windows itself. These notifications are appropriately known as “toasts”, perhaps due to the fact that they pop up, like bread from a toaster. Go back through the Registry tree to “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\ Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\PushNotifications”, where you should find an existing DWORD for ToastEnabled. Double-click to edit it and set the Value data to zero (“0”). If the key doesn’t already exist, create it and then set the value. Close the Registry editor and restart your PC for the settings to take effect. You can make sure that they worked correctly by performing any action that would usually spawn a pop-up, such as updating files in Dropbox using the web browser while the Dropbox client is active on your machine. Exit the Registry and restart your PC. When it comes to disabling system pop-ups, Windows Registry is your trusted, powerful friend


YOUR BACKUPS AREN’T SAFE YOU MAY THINK YOUR FILES ARE PROTECTED – BUT COULD YOU BE IN FOR A NASTY SURPRISE WHEN DISASTER STRIKES? NIK RAWLINSON EXPLORES THE RISKS

D

oes backup get your back up? It shouldn’t. A robust backup routine ought to be fuss-free and transparent – if it isn’t, you’re far less likely to keep your archives updated. That means that when things go wrong and you need to recover a lost file, the crucial documents you’ve been working on may not have been backed up. Even if you’re trying to do everything right, your chosen backup method may not be as comprehensive or bulletproof as you thought. And that should be a big concern: small businesses can’t afford to have things go wrong when it comes to backup, and home users stand to lose precious documents, photos and videos if their backup system lets them down. Over the next four pages, we’ll show how to protect your local, cloud and web-based files in a truly reliable

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way – and find out why your current backup regime may not cut it.

SYNC VERSUS BACKUP Let’s clear one thing up right away: synchronisation isn’t backup. Cloud-syncing services are an easy, effective way to keep vital files updated across several machines. However, if you’re relying on a service like this to save your skin in the case of an IT emergency, you’re running a serious risk. Take Dropbox as an example. Not only does Dropbox duplicate your files onto every computer you own, it also keeps its own set of backups – so you can roll back to an earlier version of a file, or bring deleted items back from oblivion. This feature can be a life-saver: to recover a deleted file, you can just log in through the browser,


BACKUPS FEATURE

ABOVE LEFT Dropbox keeps copies of deleted files for 30 days as standard and 120 days in the Professional version ABOVE At least one of your backup destinations should be off-site LEFT Windows’ built-in backup tools can archive your data on either an external drive or a NAS location

click Files, then click “Deleted files” in the sidebar. Find the file you want to resurrect and click Restore. The catch is that changes and deleted files are only stored for 30 days, after which they’re purged. So while Dropbox can rescue you from short-term problems, it’s no use when you need to restore a document that was changed or deleted a few months ago. You can extend the window to 120 days by upgrading

Syncing services should be used for just that – syncing – and backup left to tools designed with that task in mind.

THE 3-2-1 STRATEGY When it comes to backup, the standard advice is that you should keep three copies of anything that matters, in two different

“SYNCING SERVICES SHOULD BE USED FOR JUST THAT – SYNCING – AND BACKUP LEFT TO TOOLS DESIGNED WITH THAT TASK IN MIND” to a Dropbox Professional account, but it’s expensive: it costs US$20 per month. It also still doesn’t count as a proper backup solution. A dedicated backup service should allow you to recover files that were deleted years ago, or step back through a complete history of changes to a document. Not only is this essential for data security, it also provides a helpful audit trail so you can track the development of your projects. Some backup services even offer an authentication service that can be used to prove that a file was created or edited on a certain date. Although we’ve picked on Dropbox here, it’s by no means an outlier. Similar issues apply to Google Drive, iCloud, OneDrive and so on.

formats, with at least one of them off-site – an approach known as the 3-2-1 strategy. The last point is very important: no matter how diligently you back up your system, if you store your media right next to your PC then it will be equally susceptible to fire, flood and theft – another reason why your backups might not be as safe as you would hope. The good news is that off-site backup is easy. There are plenty of cloud-based backup providers who will, for a modest subscription, handle everything. However, this

is normally on a “best-effort” basis; they won’t be held liable for any lost data. For safety, speed and convenience it’s a good idea to keep local backups as well. Ideally, you want your local backups to be updated in real-time, so that every time you update a file the backup gets updated, too. You can get close to this using Windows’ File History feature (or Time Machine on macOS), with a NAS or a USB drive as your destination. If you’re serious about backups then ideally you should also keep a second regularly updated set, to provide an extra layer of robustness against glitches and disasters. This should be on a different medium to your primary backups: using a pair of hard drives is much safer than two folders on one drive. This is another place where it’s tempting to rely on cloud services, but here’s a cautionary tale. Apify founder Jan Curn lost 8,000 photos after he uploaded them to Dropbox, then tried to remove them from his local hard disk, to free up space. In theory, he should have been fine. He used Dropbox Professional’s Smart Sync feature, which is supposed to store your files in the cloud, and download them on demand. However, Curn recalled that the Dropbox client crashed during the initial sync operation, so he unsynced his photo folders by hand. “Everything worked well, the directories disappeared from the local hard drive, but they were still available on Dropbox’s website. All good,” he wrote on Medium. But, two months later, Curn discovered that the photo folders were empty on the server, too. “[It] seems that the Dropbox client PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 73


BACKUP AND DISK IMAGINGY Disk imaging software lets you store a complete copy of your hard drive, so you can quickly get up and running even if you need to completely replace the hardware. Most imaging tools also let you back up and extract files from an image, for all-round protection. Here, we’ll use O&O DiskImage Professional to back selected files to a NAS on our local network. Start by opening the Tools menu and clicking Map Network Drive, which opens Windows’ standard drive mapping tool. We’ll leave the assigned letter at Z, then click Browse… and navigate to a folder on the drive. Clicking Finish maps it, and our selected folder will behave like a locally connected drive. We can create an image of our whole hard drive – but we’re running this local backup in addition to a cloud backup service, which is storing our files off-site. So we just want to back up our Documents and Pictures, so we can recover them quickly without having to wait for a download from the server. Switch to the File operation tab and check the boxes beside the folders. We could back them up now by clicking “Start file backup” to create a one-time archive. But, as these files are frequently accessed, we want to make sure they’re backed up regularly. Click “Add as job” instead and give the job a logical name. Switching to the “Start time” tab, we’re scheduling it to run at the end of each working day. On the Notification tab, we’ve asked it to send us an email each time it completes. Finally, we need to tell it where to store the backup, so switch to the File backup tab, click the “…” beside Storage path and navigate to the Z: drive (our NAS). We’ve created a folder inside it called backup, which we’ll use to store the archive. Clicking Apply creates the job and pulls up a summary of what DiskImage Professional will do. By default it makes an unencrypted backup using BZIP2 compression. You can also image your drive at regular intervals. Click “One-click imaging” on the Drive operation tab, followed by the “…” beside Target, and set the destination folder. Clicking Start performs the operation.

first deletes files locally before it informs the server about the new selective sync settings,” he noted. “Consequently, if the client crashes or is killed before the server is contacted, the files remain deleted without any trace. After the client restarts again, it only sees there are some files missing and syncs this new state with the server.” Dropbox’s engineering team managed to recover 1,463 of Curn’s files, but the rest were lost. It’s a reminder of another key principle: a backup is a copy. If you only have one copy of something, it’s not a backup.

SCHEDULING A BACKUP If your backup routine relies on you remembering to update your archives then it’s liable to fail; dedicated backup tools either run continuously, or update your backups at regular intervals. Most backup tools take an incremental approach, so only new and updated files are stored, which saves time and keeps storage demands down. It can also save you money, by postponing the day when you need to invest in a larger repository for your backups. Set the smallest practical interval for each incremental backup. Hourly is by no means too often: ask yourself whether you could afford to lose a morning’s work if a lunchtime power cut corrupted your drive and wiped out several hours of productivity. However, if you’re working with a capped broadband connection, it makes sense to limit your cloud backups to run during RIGHT You can manually specify what folders Windows backs up, how often it backs them up and how long it keeps them RIGHT BOTTOM With the right tool, such as VaultPress, you can even back up a WordPress installation BELOW Many web-hosting dashboards let you duplicate your files to a remote FTP server

unmetered hours (typically overnight), as long as you also have local backups running throughout the day. Don’t rely entirely on incremental backups, though. Taking periodic full backups allows you to quickly and easily restore your complete system to a recent state; mixing incremental and full backups is just as important as storing them in several locations.

USING WINDOWS’ BUILT-IN BACKUP TOOLS Windows’ integrated tools make it very easy to maintain local backups. Start by enabling the File History tool, which uses a connected drive or NAS as a repository for key files, including your Libraries, the Desktop, contacts and favourites. To find it, open Settings’ Update & Security pane, and click Backup in the sidebar (or just search Cortana for Backup). Click “+” beside “Add a drive” and select a connected storage device. This only searches for USB drives; if you want to use a NAS, wait for it to fail, then click “Show all network connections” and select the volume you want to use. It may look like nothing has happened, but click out and back into Backup and you’ll see that the “Add drive” button has been replaced by a switch toggled to On to activate the backup. Click “More options” below this to specify what’s included in the backup set, how frequently you want it to back up (between every ten minutes and daily) and how long the backup set should be kept. You can also invoke an immediate backup. With this done, Windows will start quietly and continuously backing up your modified


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“ONCE YOU’VE SET UP YOUR SYSTEM, MAKE SURE YOU THOROUGHLY TEST YOUR ABILITY TO RESTORE FILES” files. If you need to recover a file or folder, navigate to it in Explorer and click the History button in the ribbon to view and restore old versions and deleted files.

BACK UP YOUR CLOUD FILES As we’ve mentioned above, entrusting your files to a cloudsyncing service doesn’t guarantee their safety – so you should make sure your local folders are included in your backup sets, so that files stored on sync services such as Dropbox, OneDrive and iCloud should be backed up automatically. Simply keep their client apps running the whole time your PC is active to keep the copies updated. With Google Apps, things are a bit more complicated. Google prefers that you work through the browser when editing documents, and the “files” it stores on your local machine are only web links that launch each file in the relevant Google web app. This means that the files on the server are your only copy – which is, of course, a dangerous situation to be in. The solution is a tool called InSync (insynchq.com), which downloads the files themselves – including files others have shared with you – and converts them to Microsoft Office or OpenDocument formats so you can open them locally. Synchronisation and translation works both ways, too, so any edits you make on your PC will be sent back to the server, effectively giving Google Drive the same offline features Office 365 enjoys through its association with the offline Office apps. You can buy a lifetime licence for a very reasonable $30.

BACK UP YOUR WEBSITE If you keep a blog, or use a CMS to manage your website, it’s important to think about backing that up. Even if you’re using managed hosting or a shared server, it’s asking for trouble to keep all your data in one place: hosts can – and do – go bankrupt, disappear or suffer DDOS and malware attacks. Automattic’s VaultPress (vaultpress.com) is a comprehensive backup tool for WordPress blogs, which backs up not only your database, but your themes, settings, system files and uploads, too. It starts at $39 per year for daily backups with a 30-day archive, uptime monitoring, and protection against brute force attacks, comment and pingback spam. If you don’t need something quite so heavyweight, check out the free BackWPup WordPress extension, which can back up your site to Dropbox, S3 or an FTP server. To install it, hover over Plugins in your WordPress Dashboard, click Add New, and type “BackWPup” into the search box at the top of the following screen. Similar backup tools are available for other CMS platforms, and many hosting control panels feature backup tools for flat-form or nonmanaged sites. Parallels Plesk lets you schedule both incremental and full backups of your data and configuration; by default the destination is a folder on the same server, which isn’t ideal, but you can send it to a separate FTP server and password-protect the resulting archive. Backup isn’t exactly an exciting topic, but we’ve seen how easy it can be using Windows’ built-in tools, and user-friendly software such as O&O DiskImage Professional and Paragon Backup & Recovery. Throw in a dedicated off-site backup service such as Backblaze or Carbonite and you’ve easily satisfied the requirements of a dependable 3-2-1 backup strategy. There’s just one more thing to say: once you’ve set up your system, make sure you thoroughly test your ability to restore files, before you need to rely on it for real.

BACKING UP YOUR FILES WITH PARAGON BACKUP & RECOVERY

Rather than manually TOP You can copying files, we’re create a single one-off backup using Paragon Backup & from the opening Recovery to automate screen of Backup the process, and back up & Recovery our Microsoft Office files ABOVE There are to an external hard drive, four schedules connected via USB. Backup but the Daily Recovery’s opening screen Backup routine lets you create a single should suit most one-off backup, but we people want to schedule the task so it repeats regularly, so we’ll click “Create backup job” to get started. This opens a wizard that walks us through the various steps involved in creating a backup. Our first task is to name the backup job, and optionally provide a description – the software suggests using the date, time and name of the source drive. Once that’s done, we need to create a backup set. This could be the whole computer, a partition, specific folders or, of interest to us, particular document types. Next, we switch to the “File types” tab in the Source pane and tick the Documents option. Rather than backing up everything, we only want to target Microsoft files, so we’ve used the filters box to specify the various Word, Excel and PowerPoint formats. Clicking through to the Target tab, we then select the destination drive. Backup & Recovery calls schedules “strategies”, and has four default options. You can create your own, but the Daily Backup routine, which keeps at least the last seven backups, and creates a full backup after every six incrementals, suits us fine. Finally, the Advanced Settings tab lets you tweak the level of compression and specify a maximum size for the archive. We’re going to leave these both as they are, but will enable password protection to encrypt our files. By default, it uses Paragon’s own encryption engine, but you can opt instead for AES–128, AES–192 or AES–256 if you prefer. Clicking Next completes the process and activates our backup task.

PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 75


CREATE AND MANAGE SECURE PASSWORDS AND SECURITY QUESTIONS p78

USE TWO-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION p80

STOP PHISHING SCAMS p82

STOP THEFT p83


BEATH THE HACKERS FEATURE

yber crime is on the increase, with the latest figures showing that there were an estimated 3.6 million cases of fraud and two million computer misuse offences in the year up to September 2016. This kind of crime includes phishing attacks, where people were tricked into giving away money, and unauthorised access to personal data from hacking. That’s an 8% increase, which saw the cost of fraud rise to more than $1bn. With a growing number of attacks coming from abroad, and with some orchestrated by foreign governments, protecting yourself online has never been so important. In this guide, we’ll take you through the best ways to protect yourself. Of course, the main starting point is to have dedicated internet security software. However, this won’t prevent all attacks, such as your online accounts getting hacked due to weak passwords, so it’s important to take steps to counter all types of hacks. In this feature, we’ll take you through the steps you need to deal with security in all situations, so you can protect your data and online accounts.

AVOID INSECURE NETWORKS AND DEVICES p102

PROTECT YOUR SMART DEVICES p85

PROTECT AGAINST RANSOMWARE p86

RECOVER FROM A HACK ATTACK p87

PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 77


CREATE AND MANAGE SECURE PASSWORDS AND SECURITY QUESTIONS THE HUMBLE PASSWORD REMAINS THE KEY TO MANY ONLINE ACCOUNTS, SO CREATING SECURE ONES WILL HELP KEEP YOUR ACCOUNTS SAFE

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asswords are still used to protect the vast majority of online accounts, so choosing secure ones is absolutely critical. If you use just a simple word, then it’s easy for the hackers to guess your login details or run a brute-force attack, cycling through a dictionary until they gain entry. Likewise, you should ensure that your password reset security questions are tough to guess, or a hacker may be able to gain entry to your accounts.

CREATE SECURE PASSWORDS Your first job is to create a secure password that’s easy for you to remember. If you end up creating a secure password, but have to write it down on a Post-it note that you’ve stuck to your PC, something is clearly not working. Original password security guides suggested that passwords should be eight characters or longer and contain a combination of upper- and lower-case characters, as well as numbers and symbols. These are hard to remember and relatively easy for computers to crack by guessing. The answer is to create long passwords using a combination of seemingly random words. You can use capitalisation for each new word if that makes it easier for you to note down, such as ‘CatCupboardFoodBowl’. This is a 19-character password, but it’s pretty easy to remember. In this case, our cat sits by a cupboard waiting for food to be put in their bowl. This password is straightforward for us to recall, but would take a computer a long time to guess by running through every possible combination of letters and symbols. If you want to make any password a bit longer and even harder, you could use a common prefix and suffix. For example, add a number and symbol to the front, say ‘3*’, and the same to the end, say ‘!9’, and we end up with ‘3*CatCupboardFoodBowl!9’. Use a different phrase for each website or service. That way, if one site gets hacked, the criminals can’t use the same password to get access to your accounts. A second clever thing about this technique is that you can note down reminders for a 78 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

password, rather than the password itself. For example, we could just write ‘cat’ as a prompt for the above phrase.

CHECK YOUR PASSWORD STRENGTH When you come up with a new phrase, it’s worth checking how secure the final password is before you start using it. The website www.passwordmeter.com is a great resource.

HOW TO MANAGE SECURE PASSWORDS If you have an arsenal of secure passwords but are struggling to remember them, a password manager is a great way to keep them all organised. The best password managers store your passwords in the cloud, so you can access them from anywhere with a single master password. There are flaws to the system, of course: having your passwords stored in the cloud means they’re no longer in your Password Meter is a great resource for checking how strong your passwords are

control, so if the provider is hacked, your passwords might be at risk. Your browser also stores your passwords to make it easier for you to log into your favourite sites. Unfortunately, these are rather easy to compromise; there are some very simple and free tools that can extract passwords from your browser’s Registry entries. So while they may work perfectly well, there are certainly better options available.

USING DASHLANE TO STORE PASSWORDS We recommend Dashlane (www.dashlane.com) as a password manager. At its most basic it can store your passwords and autofill them for you, as long as you have it installed on your PC or smartphone. What’s more, it can generate different ultra-secure passwords for all the sites you use. The only password you have to remember is your master password, which is used to log into Dashlane itself. If you forget the master password, there is no way to retrieve it, so you should keep that in mind and write it down somewhere secure. Because you don’t have to remember individual passwords any more, Dashlane can make them extremely long and complicated. And having Dashlane installed and autofilling your passwords for you also means you’re going to be less susceptible to password-stealing keyloggers. Of course, using those highly secure (and so utterly unmemorable passwords) does mean you always need to have Dashlane installed on your devices. That shouldn’t bother most people, though, who rarely jump from device to device on a daily basis.


BEAT THE HACKERS FEATURE

If you’re still using some old passwords, Dashlane will take you to task if they aren’t secure enough. Click on the Security Dashboard to get a detailed analysis of all of your passwords. This will tell you how many passwords you’ve reused, how many are weak, and even if a site on which your password is stored has

been compromised. So if you don’t follow tech security news closely, if Dashlane picks up that a site has been hacked, you’ll be informed and told to change your password. Another handy tool is the ability to share your passwords with emergency contacts. Simply type in the email address of the person you want to share passwords with, and they’ll be allowed to send you a request for access to your passwords. You can either allow them to see all your passwords, or

Avoid using real answers to security questions where possible Dashlane can tell you how secure your old passwords actually are

Dashlane will suggest and manage secure passwords for every site you visit

just a select few you think they might need. This is very handy if you’re travelling and need a friend or family to sort out something for you online. All the above features are free, but if you shell out $40 for a year of Premium, you also get the ability to synchronise your password data across devices, including to mobile apps.

SET SECURE RECOVERY QUESTIONS If you forget your password, you need a way to recover the information. High-quality sites, such as Google, will email, text or post you a recovery code at the time; poor-quality sites still rely on security questions, which you set up at the time you created your account. Typically, questions will be something like: ‘What was the name of your first pet?’ This type of information can be gathered by the determined hacker, so never put down the real answer. Instead, use the secure password method above to enter hard-to-crack data. If you can’t remember the information, write it down on a bit of paper and secure it somewhere safely at home, such as in a safe.

PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 79


USE TWO-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION ADDING AN EXTRA LAYER OF PROTECTION WITH TWO-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION CAN PREVENT YOUR ACCOUNT GETTING HACKED, EVEN IF YOUR PASSWORD IS STOLEN

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o matter how careful you are or how secure your passwords are, there’s still a chance that your login details will be stolen by a hacker. Having separate passwords for every account limits the damage, but using two-factor authentication can protect an account even when the password has been stolen. With two-factor authentication, you enter your password as normal, but then enter a one-time code, which usually refreshes every minute. Without this code, you get no entry. There are three main ways of generating a code: by SMS, via an app on your phone, or using a dedicated USB security key, such as the YubiKey 4. The latter is our favourite, as you just plug the key into your computer and tap the button on it when prompted. This makes two-factor security no hassle at all.

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GET STARTED WITH YOUR GOOGLE ACCOUNT

Get started by opening your browser and logging into your Google account as usual, then visiting the 2-Step Verification sign-up page (www.google.com/ landing/2step). 2-Step Verification is Google’s name for two-factor authentication. You can read more on this page about the benefits of 2-Step Verification or just click Get Started to begin.

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ENTER YOUR PHONE NUMBER

On the next page click Start Setup, enter a phone number (if you entered one at sign-up, Google will autofill the information) to use for codes and choose between voice calls and SMS. In most cases, it’s best to use a mobile so you can log 80 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

in on computers when away from home; a regular non-smartphone will work fine. When you’ve provided a number, click Send code. On the next screen, you’ll need to verify your phone by entering the code you received and clicking Verify. If nothing’s happened after a few minutes, click Didn’t get the code? to go back a step and resend the code or change your setup.

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TURN ON THE AUTHENTICATOR APP

Once your phone has been verified, 2-Step Verification has been enabled for your account. When you next log in, you’ll be sent a code to your phone, although you can choose to trust a device for 30 days; this means you’ll only be prompted for a code once a month. If you want to use the Google Authenticator app (available for free in the Apple App Store or Google Play store) to generate codes, click Setup underneath the Authenticator option. Open the Authenticator app on your phone and click the plus icon, then point the camera at the QR code on your computer’s screen. Click Next, enter the code that your Authenticator app has generated and click Next again. Now, when you need to enter a code to access your Google account, you just open the app and enter the code it displays.

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ADD A KEY

If you want to add a security key, first make sure that your key is not connected to your computer. Then select Add Security Key underneath the Security Key option. Click Next on the dialog box that appears, plug in your security key and tap its button. When prompted, enter a name for the security key. Security keys become the default login option, and you just tap the button to generate a code. If you don’t have a key with you, Google lets you choose an alternative two-factor option.

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GENERATE BACKUP CODES In case you lose your phone, you’ll need to have a way to log back into your

The YubiKey is an easy way to add two-factor security to a lot of accounts

account. Google provides backup codes for this. Click Setup underneath Backup codes and you’ll see 10 codes. Print these out and keep them somewhere safe: if you lose your phone, you can use one of these codes to log into your account. When you get a new phone, you’ll need to transfer the Authenticator app to it. Click Sign-in & security, and click 2-Step Verification. Enter your account password, then click the Pencil icon next to Authenticator app and click Change. On your new phone, scan the QR code with the Authenticator app and follow the onscreen instructions.

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USE AUTHENTICATOR FOR OTHER SERVICES

Google Authenticator and security keys are also supported by a lot of other services, as we mentioned earlier. Each different service has to be configured individually, so check its website for full instructions. However, the rough steps are the same for all. For example, with Facebook, go to the Security settings and click Login approvals. Click the Require a security code to access my account from an unknown computer. Click Get Started to follow the wizard through, entering your phone number to get an authentication code. To use Google Authenticator, click Code Generator. There’s an option to use Facebook’s app for this, but it’s not very good and it’s easier to have everything in one place. Instead, click Set up another way to use codes and Facebook will bring up a QR code. In Google Authenticator, tap the plus icon. Tap Scan Barcode and point your phone’s camera at the onscreen QR code. When prompted, enter the code your app generates into Facebook. Similarly, select the Add key button to add a security key, following the wizard through. Finally, if you change phones, you’ll need to go through these steps again to configure Authenticator on your new handset.


BEAT THE HACKERS FEATURE

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Google has a dedicated two-factor authentication page

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Using the Google Authenticator app is a great option, as it means you don’t need phone reception to generate a code

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You need backup codes just in case you lose your phone. Each code can be used only once

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You need to provide a phone number for 2-Step Verification to work

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Using a security key is a quick and easy way to use two-factor authentication

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Authenticator can be used for other websites such as Facebook, too, to boost your online security PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 81


STOP PHISHING SCAMS

DON’T BE TRICKED INTO GIVING OUT PERSONAL INFORMATION WITH OUR GUIDE TO SPOTTING PHISHING EMAILS AND DEALING WITH LEGITIMATE COMPANIES

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ather than hacking you, it’s easier for criminals to simply trick you into revealing personal data. It’s far less effort for them, but the results can be just as deadly. Spam filters and security software should catch most of the bad stuff, but here’s our guide to staying safe from the messages that make it through.

DETECT A PHISHING EMAIL Phishing scams are still incredibly popular, designed to trick us into voluntarily giving away login details or answers to security questions. Typically, a phishing email is designed to look as though it has come from a company, such as your bank. Usually, the message will carry a dire warning, telling you that your account has been locked out, or that you need to provide extra security information to continue using your service. Sadly, these messages work, triggering a moment of panic in many people. The key with any suspicious email message is not to act too quickly, and stop and think. By looking for some tell-tale signs, you can usually work out if a message is for real or not. Here’s how to spot the scammers.

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CHECK THE SENDING EMAIL ADDRESS

Email addresses are composed of two different elements. First, there’s the display name, which is just a text field and can easily be changed to anything. For example, if you go into your email client and change your name to ‘ANZ Bank, you’ll look a little like the bank if you send a message to anyone. The second part is the actual email address. This can be faked, making it look as though the email is coming from a different address; however, as this usually makes it easier for anti-spam clients to detect dodgy messages, phishing emails usually come from a legitimate 82 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

Phishing messages usually have tell-tale signs that they’re not legitimate

address. Crucially, these addresses are clearly not associated with the company the message is supposedly from: legitimate emails usually come from an email address that uses the company’s domain name, such as info@anz. com.au. When you receive any email that sets your senses tingling, make sure you look at both parts of the email address.

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doesn’t take you to a company’s website, do not trust it.

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MANUALLY VISIT A SITE

A final bit of advice is to avoid clicking links that take you to the online login screen. Instead, manually type a company’s address into your browser before logging in, so you can verify where you’re going.

LOOK FOR BAD GRAMMAR

Phishing messages are often poorly written and have obvious grammatical errors in them. If you get a communication from a company and it’s full of broken English, be very careful.

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CHECK LINKS

Phishing emails usually link to an external website. This will be configured to look like the company’s site, but any details you enter will be stolen and used by the criminals to access your real account. Before you click a link in an email, hover your mouse over the link text and see where it will take you. If a link

DON’T GIVE OUT DETAILS OVER THE PHONE If you call a company, they will ask you some verification questions before discussing your account or personal details. This makes a lot of sense, but what about when a company calls you? We’ve lost count of the number of times that we’ve been called and then asked to provide personal details as verification. Do not do this, as it’s dangerous and scammers could be phoning you to get answers to your security questions. Instead, offer to phone back using the official telephone number found on a company’s website.

Who’s really calling you? Don’t provide personal information over the phone if you have no idea who’s calling you


BEAT THE HACKERS FEATURE

STOP THEFT

PHYSICAL THEFT OF OBJECTS OR SOMEONE STEALING YOUR PASSWORDS CAN BE DISASTROUS. HERE’S HOW TO PROTECT AGAINST THESE THREATS

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hieves not only want to steal your kit, they also want the data and passwords stored on them. Preventing all kinds of theft, particularly when you take your kit out and about with you, is incredibly important. Following these simple tips can make a huge difference.

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PASSWORD-PROTECT EVERYTHING

Don’t use a smartphone that doesn’t have a lock code at the very least. Certainly, don’t run a laptop that doesn’t have a user password. This makes it too easy for people to get your personal files and, via your device’s web browser, view any online accounts that you’re logged into.

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REMOTE TRACK AND WIPE

Enabling, where possible, remote tracking and wiping is a good idea for all your devices. The former lets you fi nd a stolen device, and is more accurate with smartphones,

as they have a data connection and GPS built in; Windows 10 laptops can only tell their location based on the Wi-Fi network that they’re connected to. The wiping function lets you securely wipe a lost device, preventing thieves from recovering any data. To enable remote tracking in Windows 10 (there’s no remote wipe option), go to Settings, Update & security, Find my device. Turn on Find my device to enable the feature, which requires you to have (or create for free) a Microsoft account. Devices can be tracked online at account.microsoft. com/devices. For older versions of Windows, you

Use a Kensington lock to secure your computer and prevent someone running off with it

need a different product, such as Prey (see preyproject.com). The free version just tracks your device, but pay monthly (from $5 a month) and you can also remote-wipe or recover your data. With Android, you can download Find My Device to register and track your devices. If your phone is stolen, you can use Find My Device on another phone or go to www. google.com/android/fi nd, and then locate or remote-wipe your handset. Apple users have the similar Find My iPhone service.

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HIDE YOUR PASSWORDS

You’re in just as much danger of getting hacked out and about in the real world. It pays to be vigilant, as there have been cases of people on trains having their passwords stolen by an observant passenger watching what you’re typing. Likewise, the same can happen at Wi-Fi hotspots or in airports, with people looking over your shoulder. Every time you have to enter a password make sure that there’s nobody looking at you, and shield your screen and keyboard from view.

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USE A KENSINGTON LOCK

Thousands of laptops are stolen every year from airports and trains, so you don’t want to become just another statistic. Kensington locks can be an excellent method of protection when you have your laptop out. Like a bike chain for your computer, they connect to the special Kensington lock slot on your laptop. You can then wrap the provided cord around something more secure, such as a table leg. That way, if someone tries to run off with your laptop, they won’t get very far. Make sure you hide your passwords when you’re out and about PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 83


AVOID INSECURE NETWORKS AND DEVICES SHARED HOTSPOTS AND HOTEL NETWORKS CAN BE DANGEROUS TO USE. HERE’S HOW TO STAY SECURE IN PUBLIC SPACES

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sing a shared network or computer can be disastrous, giving hackers an easy way to steal your private information. If you want to stay connected when you’re out and about, following some simple advice can help you protect your data.

DON’T USE SHARED COMPUTERS Public computers can be exceptionally dangerous, and you can’t guarantee that the computer sitting in a library or in a hotel lobby is free of malware. Using that computer can make it easier for hackers to steal your data, using hidden keyloggers and the like. For that reason, we don’t recommend using shared computers anywhere. If you really have to use another computer, such as a friend’s computer, make sure that you use a private browsing session, so that your login details aren’t saved. Protect your accounts with two-factor authentication and log out at the end of your session.

BE WARY OF FREE WI-FI Wireless networks aren’t particularly safe, and hackers have been known to set up dodgy hotspots so they can monitor and steal your internet traffic. Worse, hackers have been known to set up hotspots that use the same name as legitimate networks, such as ‘free_airport_wifi’. As a result, your phone or laptop will connect to these networks automatically without you knowing. There are preventative measures that you can take. First, only join a Wi-Fi network if you really have to, but at least verify the name of the network to which you should be connecting. For example, airports will usually display information signs that show you the name of the network. When you’ve finished using the network, forget the name and details, so that your device won’t connect automatically in the future. For Windows 10 devices go to Settings, Network & Internet, WiFi. Click Show available networks, select a network and click Forget. With Android, go to Settings, Wi-Fi, select a network from the list and then click Forget.

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TOP: Make sure that you’re connecting to the right public Wi-Fi network LEFT: Forget public networks when you’re done with them to avoid future problems RIGHT: A VPN is a must-have for travellers, protecting your internet use from spying eyes

USE A VPN A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts your data and transmits it across the internet to a secure endpoint. This prevents anyone from being able to spy on what you’re looking at, including Wi-Fi hotspot owners. There’s a secondary advantage that a VPN can also make it look as though

you’re located in a different country, which means you can do things such as watch Foxtel Go when you’re on holiday. We recommend ExpressVPN, as it’s fast, great value and gives you loads of choices for the country that you want to appear in.


BEAT THE HACKERS FEATURE

PROTECT YOUR SMART DEVICES SECURITY CAMERAS, SMART TVS AND OTHER INTERNET-CONNECTED DEVICES CAN BE VULNERABLE TO ATTACK IF THEY’RE NOT PROTECTED. HERE’S HOW TO KEEP THEM SAFE

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he Mirai botnet infected thousands of smart devices around the world last year, taking over everything from baby monitors to security cameras. When put into action, Mirai was responsible for a large-scale internet attack. Mirai showed that all of your internet-connected devices are potentially at risk and that you need to take steps to protect them. Here are the best options.

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CHANGE DEFAULT PASSWORDS

Mirai used a database of default usernames and passwords to infect a lot of devices, so it’s vital that you change these. Follow your device’s instructions to change any administrator passwords, using strong replacements.

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Keep your devices up to date with the latest firmware to protect against hackers Disabling UPnP can help to make your network more secure

TURN OFF UPNP

Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) is a technology that most routers have turned on by default. It allows devices that are connected to your home network to configure your router’s firewall automatically, which makes setting up new devices easy as you don’t need to do any manual configuration. However, UPnP is insecure, so an infected device can open up your network to further attacks, potentially exposing other devices, such as your computer, to hackers. Disabling UPnP makes your network more secure, but in some cases you may need to configure port forwarding Protect your router from hackers by changing the network name and using a secure password

manually. This increases the complexity of managing your internet-connected devices, but means that you’ll have a more secure network.

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UPDATE FIRMWARE

Software updates are a great defence against attacks. With each revision, manufacturers often patch flaws and improve the security of their products. You should regularly check if there’s a

firmware update for your internetconnected devices. Most will let you check for an update directly from the webbased management page, although some products require you to download the update manually from the manufacturer’s support site. As the instructions differ from product to product, check your manuals to fi nd out the best way to perform an update.

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CHANGE DEFAULT WI-FI PASSWORDS

While most attacks are made over the internet, don’t give hackers the chance to get on to your network directly by connecting to an insecure Wi-Fi network. Instead, make sure that you’ve changed your default Wi-Fi password to a more secure one. The exception to this is if your router creates a unique secure password during setup, or if it ships with a unique password by default. While you’re changing your Wi-Fi password, make sure that your wireless network’s name doesn’t give away any personal information, such as your name or address. PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 85


PROTECT AGAINST RANSOMWARE RANSOMWARE IS THE MOST INSIDIOUS FORM OF ATTACK, ENCRYPTING YOUR DATA AND REQUESTING MONEY TO RECOVER IT. HERE’S HOW TO ENSURE YOU DON’T FALL VICTIM TO IT

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ost cyber attacks are about making money, and ransomware is the pinnacle of this goal: it encrypts your files and then requests you pay up to get everything back. As shocking and distressing as an attack is, you needn’t pay up to get your data back. Here’s what to do.

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MAKE EXTERNAL BACKUPS

If you haven’t been infected yet, then make sure that you have multiple backups of your data. As ransomware can infect any data that it can see, it’s worth making regular backups to external media that you can remove from your computer, such as an external hard disk. That way, if your computer gets infected, you know that you have a clean and untouched copy of your data. Remember, never connect an external hard disk to a computer that you think may be infected.

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DON’T PAY THE FEE

If you get infected by ransomware, never pay the fee. Paying out means giving criminals money, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the unlock code and your files back. In fact, many ransomware authors get so overwhelmed by requests that unlock codes are rarely

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sent out. Instead, you need to focus on recovering your data. The easiest way is to perform a clean install on your computer (or restore from an image stored externally hard disk), and then restore your files from a recent backup. If the ransomware has encrypted files that you don’t have backups of, your focus should be on restoring the data.

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CLEAN THE INFECTION

Turn off your infected computer and unplug it from your network. This reduces the risk of the infection spreading. Now, you’re ready to clean the ransomware from it. This will wipe out the option to pay the ransom, but as discussed above, you shouldn’t pay up anyway. A rescue disk, such as the one available from Kaspersky, should be able to clear an infection. You can make a rescue USB disk using another computer.If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to update your internet security software (a good idea, in any case, to prevent future infections). We recommend Kaspersky Internet Security 2017, Bitdefender and Norton. To do A rescue disk can help you clear a ransomware infection before you recover your files

We don’t recommend paying a ransom, as there’s no guarantee you’ll get your files back

this, you’ll need to connect your infected computer to the internet. Before you do this, unplug everything else from the network, including computers and NAS devices. Now install the security software, update it and run a full scan.

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LOOK FOR FREE UNLOCK OPTIONS

If you don’t have backups, Kaspersky runs a website dedicated to providing free ransomware decryptors (noransom.kaspersky. com). Using the tools on this site, you may be able to find a tool that will do the job for you for free. You’ll need to know which variant of ransomware has infected your computer. Installing or updating security software should do this. If you’re having problems identifying the variation, you can also type in information from the ransomware’s popup warning message into Google. Check Kaspersky’s site to see if there’s a matching tool that you can use. Unfortunately, if these steps don’t work, then the chances are that your files are gone for good. Kaspersky’s detected site helps you find free unlock options for many common ransomware infections


BEAT THE HACKERS FEATURE

RECOVER FROM A HACK ATTACK EVEN WITH ALL THE PRECAUTIONS WE’VE SHOWN YOU, AN INTERNET ACCOUNT CAN STILL BE BREACHED. IF THE WORST SHOULD HAPPEN, HERE’S WHAT TO DO

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lthough you can take reasonable steps to protect your data, a company that you’ve signed up with may still get hacked, with your personal details being leaked. Unfortunately, there’s little you can do to prevent this from happening. Instead, it’s important that you react quickly to any breach to prevent the problem from escalating.

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FIND OUT IF YOU’VE BEEN HACKED

Most of the time, it’s easy to know if you’ve been hacked, as you won’t be able to log into an account. However, not every theft of login details results in this. Look out for emails from any company you’re signed up with, warning you of a hack. You can also sign up for haveibeenpwned.com. You enter your email address or usernames and the site will tell you if your login details have been featured in any leaked data.

2

RECLAIM ANY HACKED ACCOUNTS

If you’re locked out of an account, you’ll need to reclaim ownership. In most cases, you’ll have to contact the company directly to find out how to recover information, as the process differs from service to service. Most If you’ve been hacked, you’ll need to reclaim your internet accounts

companies have an online recovery system. For example, Google’s is available at google.com/accounts/ recovery, and Facebook’s is available at facebook.com/hacked.

3

CHANGE ALL YOUR PASSWORDS

Do you use the same password for any other site? If you do, you’ll need to change your passwords

Have I Been Pwned? is a brilliant site that can tell you if your private details have been stolen

immediately. Update your password for the service that has been hacked, too, and enable twofactor authentication if you can.

4

TELL YOUR FRIENDS ABOUT THE PROBLEM

Often, the first time you find out you’ve been hacked is when you’re told by a friend or family member that they’ve received a suspicious email, message or social media posting purportedly from you. Hackers will sometimes intentionally hack your account either to target your contacts or steal as many of your contacts’ details as possible before they are found out. It’s important to let people know you’ve been hacked or they may also be caught up in the cyber criminal’s schemes.

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STOP WINDOWS 10 BEING ANNOYING Windows 10 is a great OS, but some of the new features and Microsoft’s way of doing things drive us to distraction. David Ludlow shows you how to improve everything indows 10 is such a massive improvement over Windows 8, but more than a year on, the honeymoon period is over. Now it’s clear that Windows 10 is actually rather annoying in lots of ways, particularly after the Anniversary Update came along last August and changed a lot of things. Fortunately, taming the operating system and making it work the way you want is not as difficult as you may think. In this feature we’ll take you through the top 11 issues, and show you how to fi x them for good.

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THE PROBLEM WINDOWS WON’T STAY ASLEEP Sleep problems have plagued PCs for years, with computers waking when they shouldn’t and failing to go into standby when they should. With Windows 10, the problems have got worse, as out-of-date drivers and automatic updates can play havoc with your computer.

THE FIX We’ve split the solution into two parts. First, we’ll look at how you can get your computer to stay asleep; second, we’ll look at how you can force your computer to go to sleep.

COMPUTER WAKES FROM SLEEP If you’ve got problems with your computer waking itself from sleep mode, then it can happen almost immediately, or after a few hours. If it’s the former, then it’s typically a piece of hardware waking up your computer; the latter points to a service or scheduled task, such as Windows Update. To find out what is responsible, you need to put your computer to sleep using the Start Menu option. When it wakes up, press Windows-X and select Command Prompt (Admin). At the command line type powercfg /lastwake and you’ll see what was responsible for waking your computer. If you just see something listed under Friendly Name, such as Intel (R) USB 3.0 eXtensible Host Controller – 1.0 (Microsoft), then the odds are it’s a USB device that has woken your computer. But you could see a different piece of hardware, such as a network adaptor, or a scheduled task or service (pic right, top). You can further track down hardware problems by using the command powercfg /devicequery wake_armed. This will show you a list of hardware that is allowed to wake

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your computer. Make a note of the list of devices for future use. In most cases, a device will wake your computer because it’s using outof-date driver software or generic Microsoft drivers (see ‘Windows installs its own drivers’ for more details). To test this, you can temporarily stop any device listed from being able to wake your computer. Press Windows-X and select Device Manager. Most devices listed by the wake-armed command will have descriptive names, such as HID Keyboard Device, which makes them easy to find in Device Manager by expanding the matching section. Double-click the device you want to change to bring up a new dialog box. Click the Power Management tab (if there isn’t one, then the device you’ve selected can’t wake your computer), untick Allow this device to wake the computer and then click OK. For network cards, select Only allow a magic packet to wake the computer (pic right, below). Once you’ve done one device, go back to the command prompt and type powercfg /devicequery wake_armed. The list should now

be shorter. Set your computer to go into Sleep Mode. If it doesn’t wake up, then you’ve found the problem device; if it does wake up, follow the instructions above until you’ve found the problem device. Once you know which device is causing the problem, search online for a Windows 10 driver for it and install it. If there’s no Windows 10 driver available, leave the device as unable to wake the computer. Now re-enable the other devices that you prevented from waking your computer. You’ll need to retest that your PC stays asleep. If it doesn’t, you have a second problem device, so repeat these instructions to find it and update its driver (if available). If your computer is waking up for another reason, such as in the middle of the night, then it’s most likely a scheduled task. There are a few things to disable that can help here. First, you can disable wake timers. Press Windows-X and select Power Options. Click Change plan settings next to the power plan that you’re using, and then click Change advanced power settings. Expand Sleep, and Allow wake timers and


WINDOWS 10 ANNOYANCES FEATURE

then set all available options to Disable. Click OK to apply. Now repeat these instructions for all the listed power plans, remembering to expand the full list by clicking Show additional plans on the Power Options screen. Windows can also wake itself automatically to perform maintenance, such as to defragment your hard disk. This is just plain annoying. To change this, open up the Control Panel and go to System and Security, Security and Maintenance. Expand the Maintenance section and click the Change maintenance settings link. Here, you’ll see the time that your computer is set to perform maintenance tasks (our PC was set for 2am). You can change the time to something more palatable, or you can untick the Allow scheduled maintenance to wake up my computer at the scheduled time box to permanently disable it. Finally, Windows can wake itself up with a scheduled task. To find out what can do this, open the Start Menu and type Powershell, then select Windows PowerShell. At the command prompt, type GetScheduledTask | where {$_.settings. waketorun}. This will show you all scheduled tasks that can wake your computer. To find a task, open the Start Menu and type Task and select Task Scheduler. From the PowerShell list, you only need worry about the ones that have the State set to Ready (pic above). Use the PowerShell TaskPath column to expand the right folder, by first expanding the Task Scheduler Library option in the

left-hand window. When you’ve found the task name, double-click it to open the settings dialog box, then click Conditions and untick Wake the computer to run this task. Click OK to apply the settings (pic below). The Windows 10 Reboot task is used by Windows Update and can be reset by Windows, overriding your changes. The task can be permanently disabled if it’s really causing grief (see ‘Windows forces updates on you’).

WINDOWS WON’T SLEEP If your computer doesn’t automatically go to sleep, something is keeping your PC awake. To find out what it is, press Windows-X and select Command Prompt (Admin). Type powercfg /requests and hit Enter. This will show you a list of devices and software that are currently preventing your computer from sleeping. The list needs to be empty for your computer to go to sleep. If you see something in the list, wait around five minutes and run the same command again: it’s common for your computer to be doing something where Sleep mode would cause an issue, but these tasks shouldn’t stick around forever. If you’re still getting anything listed in the requests list, then it’s time to take a tougher stance. First, if it’s an application causing the problems, then look for an update, but close it down in the meantime. If you can see anything about audio playing, look for open browser tabs or other applications that are playing audio or video. Pause the content or shut the application or browser tab.

There are a couple of well-known problems that should be fixed. Google Chrome is a massive pain and will often keep a computer awake, and you’ll often see it in the requests list. Often, it’s a specific website or extension causing the issue. Try closing down any tabs playing audio (look for the speaker icon). Next, shut down one tab at a time and keep running the powercfg /requests command until you find the problem one. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always fix the issue, and a regular website will just stop your computer from going to sleep. The easiest way around the problem is to add an override that makes Windows 10 ignore what Chrome is up to. To do this, go back to the command prompt and type powercfg /requestsoverride PROCESS chrome.exe AWAYMODE DISPLAY SYSTEM. To remove the override, type powercfg / requestsoverride PROCESS chrome.exe. Finally, you may see that the [DRIVER] Legacy Kernel Caller is keeping your computer awake. This is most likely down to a bit of hardware running outdated software: a sound card, particularly a USB model, is most likely to blame. Look for the latest manufacturer- provided drivers for your hardware (if available) and install them to fix the issue.

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THE PROBLEM WINDOWS FORCES UPDATES ON YOU

Updates are incredibly important as they keep your computer safe, but with Windows 10, Microsoft took the decision that it knew best and forces you to get updates, rebooting your computer automatically. Even worse, Microsoft decided that it would also update key bits of hardware with its own drivers automatically (see opposite).

THE FIX There’s no way to completely turn off updates using a simple Control Panel option, and only check for them manually; so you can’t go back to the way you used to work with Windows 7 or Windows 8. With Windows 10, Microsoft has decided that updates have to be downloaded and installed, which makes sense from a security point of view, if not from a usability one. While you can disable the service that automatically updates your Windows 10 computer, it’s not a good idea to do so. Updates are important and can protect you from hackers and system instability. For this reason, it’s best to let Windows install updates, but manage how it does so and control when it can reboot your computer. First, there are the tools that Windows has built in. To change these, click on Settings in the Start Menu and then select Update & Security. You can stop Windows from using your computer and internet bandwidth to seed updates; by default, Windows 10 uses a peer-to-peer technology that’s similar to BitTorrent to share updates. Click the Advanced link and then click Choose how updates are installed. If you want to

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download updates from Microsoft only and not other computers on the internet, turn Updates from more than one place to Off. If you don’t mind downloading updates from other computers, but don’t want to share updates from your computer, leave the option set to On. Now, you can choose only to share updates that you’ve downloaded with other computers on your home network by selecting PCs on my local network instead. Windows 10 will automatically install updates and will reboot your computer where necessary. The only tool Windows gives you at the moment is Active Hours, where you pick a start and end time for when you’ll most likely be using your computer (pic below). During these hours, Windows won’t automatically reboot your computer. To change the times, go to Settings, Update & Security, and select Change active hours. Here you can set the start and end times.

Currently, Windows only lets you set active hours for a maximum of 12 hours. With the Creators update, due for release later in the year, Windows will let you set an 18hour window instead. If you really want to stop Windows from rebooting your computer, then you have to prevent the Reboot task from running. To do this, run Task Scheduler from the Start Menu and, in the panel on the left, go to Task Scheduler Library, Microsoft, Windows, UpdateOrchestrator. Right-click Reboot and select Disable. Windows 10 can re-enable this Task, but you can prevent this from happening. In an Explorer window go to C:\Windows\System32\ Tasks\Microsoft\Windows\ UpdateOrchestrator. Rename the Reboot file to Reboot.bak (you’ll need to provide Administrator permission). Now create a new folder called Reboot. This prevents Windows from re-creating the task, and your computer will never reboot automatically. To reverse these steps, delete the Reboot folder, rename the Reboot.bak file and reenable the task (pic above).


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THE PROBLEM WINDOWS INSTALLS ITS OWN DRIVERS FOR YOUR HARDWARE Windows 10’s automatic update process can be a real pain, as it also automatically downloads driver updates at the same time. While this can be a good thing, lots of people have reported hardware issues caused by automatic updates overriding manufacturer-provided drivers.

THE FIX If you want to decide which drivers you want to download and install,

you can force Windows 10 to do this. The setting is a little hidden and, annoyingly, is not included with the general update settings. To fi nd the options, press Windows+X and select System, then click Advanced system

THE PROBLEM CAN’T SIGN IN WITH A LOCAL ACCOUNT If your computer was connected to the internet when you first set it up, Windows 10 defaults to using a Microsoft Account to sign into your computer. If you don’t want to log in this way anymore, you can override the setting instead.

THE FIX Open the Start Menu and click Settings, then Accounts. Click the Sign in with a local account instead link. You’ll be prompted to enter your existing password, so do this and click Next. Enter your new local username, a new password and a password hint, and then click Next. Finally, click Sign out and fi nish to complete the change, and the next time that you log in you will have a local account only. You can switch back to a Microsoft account at any point in the future by going back to Settings, Accounts and clicking the Sign in with a Microsoft account instead link.

settings. In the dialog box that pops up, select Hardware and then choose Device Installation Settings. You’ll see a message that reads Do you want to automatically download manufacturer’s apps and custom icons available for your devices?. Choose the No option and Windows will no longer download driver updates for hardware automatically for any device, so you’ll need to remember to update drivers manually.

THE PROBLEM EDGE KEEPS ACTING AS THE DEFAULT BROWSER Microsoft is super keen to promote Edge as your browser of choice. Even choosing a different browser as your default doesn’t entirely stop Edge from popping up from time to time.

THE FIX The main problem is that choosing a default program in the new Settings app doesn’t actually do a very thorough job. With browsers, for example, it leaves Edge with some default actions, which is why it pops up more than you’d expect. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to fi x. Open the old Control Panel by searching for it in the Start Menu. Then go to Programs, Default Programs and select Set your default programs. This will display all installed applications on your computer, so scroll down and select your browser,. In the main panel, you’ll see how many default actions the selected application has. Click Set this program as default, and Windows will assign it to all of the available actions.

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THE PROBLEM WINDOWS 10 HAS PRE-INSTALLED JUNK AND ADS If you look through your Windows 10 Start Menu, you’ll probably see quite a few applications that you didn’t install. These programs have either been automatically downloaded for you by Microsoft, such as Candy Crush Soda Saga, or they’re ‘suggested’ apps (or adverts, as we like to call them).

THE FIX There are two issues to fix. First, you have to remove all the junk you don’t want; second, you have to stop Windows from suggesting or automatically pushing more junk to your computer. We’ll tackle the latter first. To stop Windows from installing apps on your computer automatically, you need to disable automatic updates. This means that you will have to update apps manually, which isn’t as secure. This is a good reason why Microsoft shouldn’t install junk on a computer without the user’s permission, so that we can all use automatic updates with confidence. To change the update settings, launch the Windows Store from the Start Menu, click your user icon (top right, near the search bar) and select Settings. Change the Update apps automatically setting to Off. Windows can now never push apps on to your computer automatically, or force an update. To update any existing apps, select Downloads and updates from your user icon menu. Click Check for updates to manually download updates. To turn off suggest apps in your Start Menu, go to Settings, Personalisation, Start. Change the Occasionally show suggestions

in Start option to Off (pic above). You can now remove all the junk that Microsoft installed on your computer. Go to Settings, System, Apps & Features, and you’ll see a list of everything that’s installed on your computer. Just click an application and then click Uninstall to remove it. Windows Store apps can also be removed using the Start Menu: right-click an entry and select Uninstall. Windows 10 will still show adverts on the lock screen, but you can disable these. Go to Settings, Personalisation, Lock screen. Change the Background option from Windows spotlight to Picture

or Slideshow, and turn the Get fun facts, tips and more from Windows and Cortana on your lock screen to Off. You can also disable the popup ‘tips’ that Windows 10 gives you, such as trying to convince you to use Edge. To do this, go to Settings, System, Notifications & actions. Change Get tips, tricks and suggestions as you use Windows to Off (pic above). Live Tiles are a useful way to see updates from an app, but Microsoft often uses this feature to advertise, such as promoting a new game through Xbox Live. To prevent this, you have two options. First, you can right-click a Live Tile and select Unpin from Start to remove it. Second, you can right-click a Live Tile and select More, Turn live tile off to turn it into a static icon (pic below).

THE PROBLEM WINDOWS DOESN’T REMEMBER DEFAULT PROGRAMS With Windows 10, Microsoft has made handling default programs a little more difficult and has made some strange decisions. For example, Microsoft made Edge the default PDF reader, which is a shame, as it’s rubbish. Edge is slow at reading PDFs and doesn’t work with links. There are other examples of poor default program choice, too.

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THE FIX Fixing default programs is straightforward. We’ll show you what to do to set a new default PDF reader, but the same instructions apply to other applications, too. Go to the Control Panel and ignore the Settings app. Go to Programs, Default Programs and choose Set your default programs. Scroll through the

list of installed applications and select your PDF reader. Click ‘Set this program as default’, and you’re done. If your default changes again, you’ll need to repeat this step.


WINDOWS 10 ANNOYANCES FEATURE

THE PROBLEM MICROSOFT TRIES TO FORCE YOU TO USE ONEDRIVE OneDrive is Microsoft’s cloud storage service, and it’s baked into Windows 10. If you sign in with a Microsoft account, OneDrive will automatically log in, too, and anything you save in the OneDrive folder will be automatically uploaded to the cloud.

THE FIX OneDrive can be stopped easily and prevented from running automatically. Right-click the

OneDrive icon in the Notification Area and select Settings. Untick the Start OneDrive automatically when I sign into Windows box, and click OK. This won’t remove the OneDrive folder from Windows Explorer. To do this, you have to make a tweak to the Registry instead. Make sure you have a backup of your computer before you make any changes to the Registry. To run the editor, press Windows+R, type regedit and hit the OK button. Find the key, HKey_Classes_Root\

THE PROBLEM WINDOW MANAGEMENT IS FIDDLY Windows has some of the best window management controls, but Windows 10 introduced Snap Assist. When you use Windows+Right Arrow or Windows+Left Arrow to snap a window to take up half of your desktop space, Windows 10 now tries to make you choose an app to fill the remaining space.

THE FIX

CLSID\{018D5C66-4533-43079B53-224DE2ED1FE6}\. Change the System.IsPinnedToNameSpaceTree DWORD value to 0. If you have 64-bit Windows, you may need to change the same DWORD under the following key, too: HKey_Classes_Root\ Wow6432Node\CLSID\{018D5C664533-4307-9B53-224DE2ED1FE6\.

THE PROBLEM NAVIGATING THE START MENU IS HARD Although Microsoft added a list view of all your installed applications with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, trying to find an app can still be a pain.

THE FIX Fortunately, Microsoft also added a secret feature that lets you navigate the Start Menu by selecting a header letter (A, B, C and so on). This changes the Start Menu into an alphabet: select the letter you want, and you’ll jump to that section of the Start Menu.

If you don’t like the way that Windows 10 handles window management, you can turn off the new features and go back to the Windows 7 style of working. Go to Settings, System, Multi-tasking. Turn off the When I snap a window, show what I can snap next to it option.

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Use secret Windows apps and tools WINDOWS 10 IS PACKED WITH USEFUL TOOLS AND APPS, BUT MANY ARE HIDDEN OR NOT ENABLED. CLIVE WEBSTER GUIDES YOU THROUGH THE BACKWAYS OF WINDOWS TO FIND THE BEST SECRETS Beyond Windows 10’s flashy Live Tiles and glossy default apps lie many more hidden apps, tools and abilities. From making your screen look better to protecting your precious data and advanced features for coding, playing and managing your PC, there’s plenty on offer. The trick is finding all these features, which is where we step in.

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efore we rush into some of the brilliant, odd and useful apps and tools, we’re going to bore you about backing up data. It’s essential, and there’s a handy tool built into Windows that isn’t enabled by default: File History.

FILE HISTORY File History is useful because it saves multiple versions of a file, allowing you to quickly revert to an earlier copy, whether that’s because you prefer an earlier draft or the most recent version has become corrupted. Typically, File History requires a spare storage device to back up to. By spare, we mean a drive that doesn’t already contain original copies of any file to be backed up by File 96 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

History. For example, a computer with an SSD for Windows and applications, and a mechanical hard disk for documents, files and data, might not be able to use File History as both drives will be providing source files (and therefore neither can be a destination). There are two workarounds, the first being to link File History to a separate drive. This can be a NAS, a USB device, or another device attached internally. In this case, setup is easy. Open the Start menu (hitting the Windows key on your keyboard is quickest) type backup settings, then select the Backup Settings option. The Backup settings page should appear, and you just need to click the big plus icon labelled Add a drive. Windows will start searching for suitable drives for a File History backup; if you want to back up to your NAS, click the Show all network locations link, then select the NAS folder you want to back up to. Provide your NAS

login details, and you’ll see the big plus sign button turn into an on/off toggle. Whether your machine has multiple ‘source’ drives or just the one storage device, you can still use File History by tricking Windows into thinking you have a networkshared folder. Create a new folder on the drive where you want to store your backups. Then share this folder with yourself by right-clicking it, selecting Share with and then Specific people. Select yourself from the list of people to share with and click Share, and then Done. This folder won’t be picked up by the Add a drive process above, so instead click More options and then See advanced settings. An old-style Control Panel window will appear. Click Select drive from the list of options on the left and then select Add network location from the options below the main box. Then find your shared folder via the Select Folder search that appears.


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Once you’ve selected the folder (it should appear in the main box), you can click OK. You’ll be returned to that first Control-Panel style window, although now your shared folder is set as the destination. However you enable File History, you can refine the folders protected by clicking More options on the main Backup screen and adding or removing folders. Just click on any of the folders listed and then click Remove, or else scroll down to add other folders – we recommend removing music, video and picture folders, as backing up these large files hourly will kill the performance of your PC or network. To use File History, right-click on the file you want to restore, click Properties and then open the Previous Versions tab to select the version of the file you want to revert to.

STORAGE SENSE While we’re talking about storage devices, there’s a little-known tool called Storage Sense, which can automatically remove files to free up disk space. Go to Settings, Storage and make sure that Storage Sense is enabled (click the toggle if it’s not). To check that Windows isn’t going to do anything annoying automatically, click Change how we free up space. We hope the options are expanded in future updates, but the default options to delete temporary files and empty the recycle bin bought us 4GB of extra storage space.

CALIBRATE DISPLAY COLOUR The Calibrate Display Colour tool can help you get the best out of your screen. However, if you’re serious about digital art – whether image, photo, animation or video – you should use a dedicated calibration tool to ensure that the colours you see on your screen will be reflected in your prints, broadcasts or showings. If you use your screen with any other device, you should use the screen’s calibration tools to ensure the best picture whatever the input. The Calibrate Display Colour tool is a subjective, software-based tweaking tool. Search for ‘calibrate’ in the Start menu and launch the tool, and then ensure it’s maximised. Follow the steps to tweak various levels, finding the best balance and colour tone. If you want to go back a step, use the Back arrow at the top-left; you can also ditch all changes at the end of the process. Once the colour calibration is done, you’ll be invited to calibrate ClearType too. This is worth doing as it will make text easier to read on your screen (search for ‘cleartype’ to use this tool).

NIGHT LIGHT Being exposed to blue light after sunset has become a concern lately, so Windows 10 offers a night-light mode in the Creators Update that combats this. Search for ‘night light’ and use the toggle to enable the feature. You can change the colour temperature at night, making the

Use File History to back up critical files regularly, up to every 10 minutes

TOP: Use the built-in screen calibration tool to get the best picture possible ABOVE: Use ClearType to make text more readable on your screen

light more or less warm (adjusting how yellow it looks) and schedule the change to coincide with sunset and sunrise in your location. The change in colour tone takes a few seconds to occur, so it’s not too jarring.

BACKGROUND SCROLLING Having to select a window manually before scrolling through its contents can be distracting. For example, if you’re working on a Word document, pulling information

Use a shared folder to fool Windows into allowing you to use File History

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It’s bizarre to see a Linux terminal running natively on Windows

Nearly every electronic device has a night light mode now, including your Windows 10 PC

from a website, why should you repeatedly have to click the browser? A feature called background scrolling fixes this. When it’s enabled, you just hover your cursor over a window and use your mouse’s scroll wheel to navigate the content. Search the Start menu for ‘mouse’ and then enable Scroll inactive windows when I hover over them.

GET LINUX ON WINDOWS For those more creative with code than colours, there’s the exciting news that September’s major Windows update will enable Bash on Windows. But why wait when you can have a fully operational Linux shell running on Windows 10 now? This secret tool isn’t some virtual machine Use God Mode to gather a huge range of options and settings into one easy-to-access place

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trickery, either: it really is a Linux terminal running in Windows 10. You can even access your Windows files from the terminal and your Linux files from Windows. The first step is to enable Developer Mode. Search the Start menu for ‘use developer features’ and select Developer mode (instead of the default, Sideload apps). Agree to the warning, and then search for ‘turn windows features on or off’. When the old-style Control Panel window loads, scroll down to tick the box next to Windows Subsystem for Linux (beta), usually referred to as WSL. Once ticked, click OK and wait for WSL to install. Once that’s done, you’ll need to reboot your PC. Open a command prompt by typing cmd into the Start menu and selecting Command Prompt. On the text-only window that appears, type bash and hit Enter. Wait for the software to download and install. You’ll be invited to change the locale (unless your system uses US English as its default language) and to set up a username and password for your Linux account. An easier way to launch your Linux subsystem is with the Bash on Ubuntu on Windows icon now in your Start menu. You can download software and tools into your WSL using apt just as you would on any Linux-only computer (sudo apt-get install {package}), and navigate, code, work and so on in the same way too. Your Linux files are stored

in C:\Users\[Win_User_Name]\ AppData\Local\lxss\home\[Linux_ User_Name]. You can only access this folder by typing that address (substituting the appropriate usernames) into a File Explorer address bar. Windows files can be accessed from WSL via the /mnt/ folder, so cd /mnt/c moves you to the C:\ drive, and cd /mnt/c/Documents will move you to your Windowsbased Documents folder. Note that the Linux terminal is case-sensitive, so ‘cd /mnt/c/documents’ will produce an error.

GOD MODE It’s your computer, so you should be the boss or even greater via God Mode. To enable this mode, open a Windows Explorer window and head to C:\, then create a new folder called GodMode.{ED7BA470-8E54465E-825C-99712043E01C}. Once you hit Enter the folder icon will change to a system tool icon, the name will disappear and you have enabled God Mode. Double-click this new icon and you’ll see a huge list of options, settings and so on that you can


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TRICKS FOR LAPTOPS

WHILE THE TIPS IN THE MAIN ARTICLE APPLY TO LAPTOPS AND DESKTOPS, WINDOWS HAS A FEW TOOLS THAT ARE JUST FOR MOBILE DEVICES. HERE ARE SOME OF THE BEST BATTERY REPORT If your laptop has seen a couple of years’ worth of hard use you might be getting suspicious about its battery: is it holding its charge like it used to, or are you just working it harder? Many laptops have a built-in battery checker in the BIOS, and might even have a software tool to check its soundness. However, Windows 10 has a built-in tool that will work with any laptop. Press Windows-X to open the alternative Start menu, then launch PowerShell (Admin). Command Prompt (Admin) will work too if you haven’t upgraded. Then type powercfg /batteryreport and hit Enter. After a while PowerShell will tell you that an HTML file called battery-report. html has been created in C:\Users\[Name]. Open this file and you can read about how old your battery is, its maximum charge, how many charge cycles it has suffered and so on. MOUNT VIRTUAL CD AND DVD DRIVES As laptops tend not to have optical drives these days, Windows 10’s ability to mount disc images (such as ISO or IMG) as virtual discs might be useful. Create an image of the disc that you want to read on your main computer (or that external optical drive you can now leave at home) with a thirdparty tool such as ImgBurn (www.majorgeeks.com/files/imgburn.html). Once you’ve copied your disc image to your laptop (or whichever Windows 10 PC you fancy), just right-click on the image file and click Mount. It will

Use ImgBurn and Windows 10 to turn software DVDs and CDs into virtual discs appear as a virtual disc in a virtual drive in This PC. This trick is just as useful for retro-gamers with games spanning multiple discs or running partially from their noisy and slow DVD drive.

the main toggle at the top of the page), but this means that useful things such as Calendar, News and Weather won’t update until you specifically launch them.

MANAGE VPNS

Prevent apps from running in the background – this preserves privacy, reduces memory load and increases battery life

access, alter and tweak. There’s not much that can’t be found elsewhere, or just with a Start search, but at least everything you need is gathered in one place.

POWERSHELL To increase the basic abilities of Windows, switch the standard Command Prompt for the more advance PowerShell. Search the Start menu for ‘taskbar settings’ and make sure that the Replace Command Prompt with Windows PowerShell is turned on (this is the

Use Windows to handle your VPN connection for maximum neatness

default in the Creators Update). PowerShell has all the abilities of Command Prompt but adds mouse support, and more commands and functions.

STOP BACKGROUND APPS Windows runs a lot of apps in the background by default, some of which you may never use or want. Time to cull them: search for ‘choose which apps can run in the background’ and disable all the ones that you don’t need, want or even recognise. You might even choose to turn off all background apps (with

Loading a separate application to manage your VPN connection is a little old-school when Windows 10 can manage your thirdparty VPN connection. Search the Start menu for ‘VPN’ and select Change virtual private networks (VPN) and click the big plus sign. Select Windows (built-in) as the VPN provider, name the connection after your actual provider and then enter the server details for your VPN server (your VPN provider should provide this) and the corresponding VPN type. You can enter your VPN login details, but that’s hardly super-secure; or you could just enter your username so that every time you connect to the VPN you need only supply your password. Click Save, and now when you open your Network Connections, you’ll see your VPN service listed too – much neater than a separate app. The only downside is that the Windows built-in VPN tool doesn’t support the OpenVPN standard, which many regard to be the most secure; those same experts are sniffy about the PPTP standard.

PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 99


REPAIR

SHOP

Most modern electronics aren’t designed to be repaired, but the PC is a different beast. David Ludlow shows you how to repair your own computer

T

he trouble with most bits of electronics is that when they break, it’s generally cheaper to replace rather than repair them. Fortunately, the PC is swimming against this tide and is the one bit of kit that you can easily repair yourself. This is largely thanks to the desktop PC’s modular build, which lets manufacturers (or you) put together components from different companies. The same flexibility makes it relatively easy to switch out components for new ones. Laptop owners aren’t as lucky, but many models have exchangeable components, such as hard disks and memory, so some repairs are possible. The real trick is knowing which component to swap out, or 100 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

which bit of software to update. In this guide, we’ll take you through the most common components and issues with a PC (and laptop where appropriate). Given how technical PC & Tech Authority readers are, we’ve assumed that you’ve tried all of the usual tricks, such as running Windows Update and updating drivers and software. Instead, we’ll show you how to correctly diagnose a fault and the steps you need to make the correct fix. Before you get started, it’s worth reiterating the danger that static electricity poses to sensitive components. After you open the inside of your PC, you should, at a minimum, tap the unpainted part of a radiator to discharge yourself. Anti-static wrist straps do


REPAIR SHOP FEATURE

PSU

Insert a metal paperclip into pins 16 and 17 to see if your PSU still works

THE DIAGNOSIS

Power supply units (PSUs) often go with a loud pop and an acrid smell pouring out of them. They can also break with a whimper, and a PSU can just stop working without any real signs of damage. Common to both scenarios is that your PC will no longer turn on. With a laptop, you can usually tell if the power supply has gone, because you won’t see a light on the external box. Try changing the cable that plugs into the wall first; if you get no luck, you can just buy a new adaptor from the manufacturer. For desktop PCs, before you rip out the PSU, try changing the power cable, just in case the fuse in that has blown. Diagnosis beyond this is a little tricky. A PC that fails to turn on can have an issue with the motherboard or the processor. In our experience, the PSU is at fault in the majority of cases when a

THE FIX If your PSU has gone, then replacing it is a job that’s more fiddly then it is hard. It’s easiest to replace like-for-like. Take the side off of your PC’s case and look at the label on the power supply, as this will tell you its rated output. If your PSU is rated at 550W or below, the EVGA Supernova GS 550W is a good choice. If your PSU is rated at above 550W, buy the Corsair RM750i. Don’t buy cheap, unbranded power supplies. Also take photos of the inside of your PC for reference. To remove your old power supply, you first need to disconnect its cables. You’ll have two for the motherboard (one 24-pin connector, plus an auxiliary 4-pin or 8-pin connector); SATA connectors for each hard disk, SSD and optical drive; and one or two for the graphics card. Look for any places where power cables have been cable-tied to the case, as you’ll need to cut these with a pair of scissors. You may need to take the other side of the case off, as PC manufacturers often run cables on this side of the case to keep cables tidy. Once all the cables have been disconnected,

PC will not turn on. If you’re confident rooting around inside a PC, there is a simple test, where you insert a paperclip into the motherboard’s 24-pin connector to turn it on. If the PSU spins up, then the fault is probably with the motherboard. If you’re going to risk doing this test, we recommend unplugging all PSU leads from inside your case first (see the section on fixing the issue below). Turn off your PC at the wall. Take the big 24-pin connector and match it up to the diagram above. Insert a paperclip (remove any plastic covering from it) into pins 16 and 17. This connects the pins together, causing the PSU to turn on, in a similar way to pressing the power switch. With the paperclip in place, you can put the ATX connector down, but ensure the paperclip is not touching anything metal. Now turn on your PC at the socket to see if the PSU works.

unscrew the power supply from the back of the case, then slide it forwards and lift it out. Note which way the PSU’s fan was pointing, then orientate your new power supply’s fan to face the same way. Slide the new supply into the case and screw it in place. Now you need to plug the cables back in. The new power supplies

Power supplies slide out once you’ve removed the screws from the back of your PC

we recommended are modular, which means you only need to connect the cables that you require: the instructions that came with it will show you how. Follow your visual photo guide to plug in all the power connectors, following the same routes and cable tidying. Power connectors can only plug in one way, so you can’t make a mistake. Plug the power back in and start your computer.

REFERENCE GUIDE TO POWER CONNECTORS

MOLEX POWER This type of connector is for old types of storage (uncommon)

SATA POWER This is a SATA power connector for hard disks and optical drives

MOTHERBOARD POWER Cables are often routed around the back of the motherboard to keep them tidy

This plugs into your motherboard and can be converted from 24 pins to 20 pins

PCI-E POWER Plugs into a graphics card and can be converted from 8 pins to 6

MOTHERBOARD

POWER

Also plugs into a motherboard; can be converted from 8 pins to 4

PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 101


RAM

Windows has a built-in memory diagnostic tool that can tell you if you’ve got any dodgy sticks of RAM

THE DIAGNOSIS

RAM problems can be really annoying, and the effects can vary depending on the issue. When RAM has a major problem, your computer may not turn on at all, or the fans may spin, but your monitor will stay dark. This kind of error is comparatively rare and, usually, dodgy RAM will cause intermittent and seemingly inexplicable crashes. Fortunately, both kinds of problems are fairly straightforward to fix. If your computer doesn’t turn on at all, then you need to jump straight to the fix section below. If you’re experiencing random crashes, you need to run a memory diagnostic.

THE FIX All desktop PCs and some laptops can have their memory fixed if there’s a problem with it. First, note down how much RAM you have. In Windows go to Control Panel, System and Security, System and you’ll see your RAM listed under ‘Installed memory (RAM)’. Now, you’re ready to expose your computer’s memory. For PCs, you’ll need to remove the side of the case. For a laptop, it depends on whether the memory is accessible. Typically, ultra-portable and convertible laptops have the memory soldered to the motherboard and aren’t user-serviceable. For other laptops, RAM is either located under the keyboard or on the bottom of the laptop. First, check the underside of your laptop and look for a small panel. Remove any securing screws and then remove the panel to expose the RAM. If there’s no panel, then your RAM may be located under the keyboard. You’ll know

Fortunately, Windows has a built-in tool that can help. Click Start and type ‘memory’, then select Windows Memory Diagnostic. In the dialog box that appears, click ‘Restart now and check for problems’ and your computer will reboot and run an automatic memory check. When the test has completed your PC will restart. If any errors were found, you’ll get a pop-up message telling you; if you don’t, then your RAM is fine and your PC problems are caused by another issue.

If your RAM is located under the keyboard, you’ll need to remove it carefully without stretching the connecting cable

whether the keyboard is removable if there’s a gap around the board with notches big enough for a small flat-head screwdriver. Turn off your laptop, and gently insert a small flat-head screwdriver into the notches around the keyboard. For each one, use the screwdriver as a lever to unfasten the clips securing the keyboard. Remove the keyboard carefully without stressing the ribbon connecting it to the motherboard, and place it gently next to the laptop. With the RAM exposed, take a quick picture, so you can see how many sticks you have installed and the slots in which they’re inserted. With desktop PCs, if you’ve got two or more sticks of RAM, they’ll most likely be installed in matching pairs.

IF YOUR PC WON’T TURN ON If your problem is that your computer won’t turn on, then you should see if the RAM is to blame. First, push the edges of the memory sticks to make sure that it is inserted properly, then try turning on your PC. If you’re not having any luck, try removing all the RAM and then testing it one stick at a time. This will only work if you have multiple sticks of memory; if your computer has just the one stick, then we recommend looking at the other potential problems first before taking a punt

HOW TO REMOVE RAM

Most user serviceable laptops have RAM located on

the underside of the chassis 102 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

Removing RAM depends on whether it’s laptop or desktop memory. On a desktop, look for the retaining clips and push down on the side to eject the memory (some motherboards’ memory slots have just the one clip, so simply push this down). Lift the memory stick out vertically. Repeat for all sticks of RAM. On laptops, push the two retaining clips sideways, and the stick of RAM will pop out. Pull it away from the slot, and repeat this action for all the sticks of RAM.

LAPTOP RAM Gently push the retaining clips out of the way to remove laptop RAM


REPAIR SHOP FEATURE

WITH THE RAM EXPOSED, USE YOUR PHONE TO TAKE A QUICK PICTURE, SO YOU CAN SEE HOW MANY STICKS YOU HAVE INSTALLED AND THE SLOTS IN WHICH THEY’RE INSERTED on replacing the RAM. First, remove the RAM as described in the box opposite, below. Now, look for the lowest numbered RAM slot on your motherboard. This should be written on the motherboard, but check its manual to be sure; your laptop’s manual should carry the same information. Insert one stick of RAM into the slot you identified, following the installation guide in the box on the right. Now turn your computer back on. If it powers on, then the fault is likely to be with another stick. Repeat this procedure until you’ve been through all the sticks of RAM and have found the faulty one. To replace the memory, see below. If your computer still doesn’t power on, then the problem could be the motherboard or PSU.

FIXING RAM WHEN A FAULT IS DETECTED If the memory diagnostic tool detected an error, what you need to do depends on how many sticks of RAM you have. If you have one, then you need to replace it; if you have two, then replace both; if you have more than two, you need to work out which stick is causing problems. To do this, remove all the RAM from your computer following the instructions in the box opposite. Find the lowest-numbered slot on your motherboard or laptop (the supplied manuals should state this). Now insert

HOW TO INSTALL RAM

With desktop RAM you need to line up the notch in the memory stick with the divider in the memory slot. Press firmly down on both sides until the retaining clips lock into place. With laptop RAM, you need to insert the RAM at an angle of approximately 30 degrees. Line up the notch in the RAM with the divider in the RAM slot and push the memory stick in securely. Finally, push down on the top of the RAM until the retaining clips lock into place.

DESKTOP RAM Line up the RAM with the slot before securely attaching it in place

one stick of RAM following the instructions in the box above, turn on your computer and re-run the memory diagnostic. Repeat for all RAM and note down which stick or sticks are the bad ones. For systems with four or more sticks of RAM, when you find one dodgy stick, look for its matching pair: both should be replaced. You’re now ready to replace your computer’s memory.

REPLACING RAM Once you’ve found out which stick of RAM to change, you need to replace it. Look at the RAM you need to replace and it should tell you how big each stick is and the type, but Google the model number if you’re not sure. You can then ensure that you’re replacing your RAM with the right amount. Use the total amount of RAM that Windows told you was installed as a guide. The easiest way to find compatible memory is to use Crucial’s Advisor tool (crucial.com/usa/en/advisor). Using the drop-down menus, you can select your PC, laptop or motherboard manufacturer and model number, and then get a list of compatible RAM. For this article, as we’re covering repairs and not upgrades, the easiest thing to do is to choose replacement RAM that matches your broken memory exactly. So choose a set that Crucial’s online memory advisor can help you find compatible RAM for any computermotherboard to keep them tidy

LAPTOP RAM Laptop RAM needs to be inserted at roughly a 30-degree angle

Make sure your BIOS is configured to use your new RAM properly

has the same total memory size and number of sticks of RAM. Don’t worry about buying the most expensive on offer, as premium RAM makes very little difference to system performance; the lower-cost RAM is just as good in our experience. When you have the memory in your possession, insert it, following the instructions in the box above. Use your original picture as a reference, to ensure that you put the memory back in the slots that were already used. When you power on your computer you’ll need to go into its BIOS (or UEFI for newer computers) to make a few changes. This is because PCs default to running RAM at slower speeds for compatibility reasons; to get your memory running optimally you need to enable the correct profile. To get into the BIOS you normally hit Del, F10 or F12, but look out for an onscreen message or check your computer’s manual for more details. Look for the memory setting and for an XMP (eXtreme Memory Profile) setting. Select the option and choose the first profile. Save your settings and exit the BIOS, and your memory will run at its optimum speed.

PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 103


HARD DISK/SSD THE DIAGNOSIS

Fatal hard disk errors are usually easy to diagnose, as your computer will fail to detect the disk or Windows will not boot. A ‘kerchunk, kerchunk’ noise from a mechanical disk is another tell-tale sign. In this situation, there’s nothing you can do, and the old myth about putting your disk in the freezer won’t change anything. You’ll need to buy a new hard disk, restore a backup of your data, and reinstall Windows. If you don’t have a backup and you’ve lost some important files, you’ll need to send your disk to a recovery specialist; be warned, this can be expensive. If your hard disk is working, it doesn’t mean it won’t break soon, and there are some audible tell-tale signs of impending disaster that you can listen out for. A high-pitched whine, grinding noise or beeping are all clear signs that there’s

SMART monitoring tools can let you know about problems before they become a major issue

something wrong. This doesn’t always happen, and SSDs are silent, so you should run regular diagnostic tests on any drives. Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology, or the far easier to say SMART, is a technology built into all hard disks and SSDs. In effect, every disk monitors itself for problems as an early-warning system. With the right software, you can read the SMART information and get an early warning about a hard disk failure. Download and install the free PassMark DiskCheckup application (www.passmark.com/products/diskcheckup. htm). Run the program, and you’ll see all your hard disks listed under ‘SMART-enabled Devices’. Select one and click the SMART Info tab. All values should be listed as ‘OK’; if you see any warnings, then it’s a sign that your hard disk is on the way out. You should back it up and replace it.

THE FIX All desktop hard disks can be replaced, and a lot of laptop disks can, too. The big exceptions are ultra-portable and 2-in-1 devices, where the SSD is usually physically soldered to the motherboard and will need special repair in a shop or by the manufacturer. If your diagnostic SMART test didn’t throw up any errors, then any mysterious noises you may have heard are likely to be caused by vibration from mechanical disks. This largely affects desktop computers. To try to fix the problem, you can move your PC a little in case it’s sitting up against a table leg. If that doesn’t do anything, then remove the side of your PC’s case and tighten up any hard disk fixings inside. These may be standard screws, thumb screws or push-in screwless brackets. If you did get an error in the SMART test, then it’s time to replace it, cloning your old hard disk to the new one. If your hard disk has stopped working entirely, you’ll need to replace it and perform a clean installation of Windows. How you do this depends on whether you have a laptop or desktop PC.

REPLACE A DESKTOP HARD DISK Replacing a desktop computer’s drive is easier, as you’ve got spare SATA and power points. If you’ve got a desktop computer, you need to buy a replacement hard disk or SSD. 104 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

Loosely fit the new hard disk or SSD in your case. You can attach it more firmly once you’ve cloned your old disk Remove the old hard disk from your computer as you won’t need it any more

If you’re replacing a hard drive that is working but has failed its SMART test, the easiest thing to do is to buy one that’s the same size or larger than the total amount of storage you’re currently using. You can check this in Windows by going to Computer, rightclicking your hard disk and selecting Properties. In the dialog box that appears, you can see the ‘Used space’. If you buy a hard disk that’s smaller than this, you’ll need to delete or back up some files to use the Clone tool. If your old disk has failed, you can buy any sized hard disk. As

a guide, a 3.5in 1TB WD Blue is around $60 and a 2TB WD Blue is around $100. A 256GB 2.5in Samsung 850 Pro SATA SSD costs around $150. Once you have your new hard disk or SSD, you need to plug it into the motherboard via a SATA cable and then connect a SATA power lead. If your old hard disk failed, just take it


REPAIR SHOP FEATURE

IF YOUR LAPTOP’S HARD DISK IS WORKING, YOU SHOULD BUY A NEW HARD DISK THAT’S THE SAME SIZE OR LARGER THAN THE TOTAL AMOUNT OF STORAGE SPACE YOU’RE USING out and use its cables for the new drive, then reinstall Windows. If you need to clone your old hard disk, then you need both drives connected at the same time. If you don’t have spare cables, then it’s OK to borrow them from the optical drive, if you have one. Don’t worry about screwing the disk in yet; instead, fit it loosely in your case. Power on your computer and then follow the instructions in the box to clone your hard disk. When the job has completed, remove your old disk and install the new one in its place. Don’t forget to reconnect your optical drive if you disconnected it.

REPLACE A LAPTOP HARD DISK Replacing a laptop’s hard disk is a little trickier. First, you’ll need to find the disk. If the laptop has a replaceable hard disk, it will be located behind a flap on the bottom of your laptop. The flap will usually be secured with one or more screws. Remove any screws holding it in place and pull out the disk. This may require you to slide it away from the SATA connectors first. If the disk is in a caddy, unscrew and remove it. Now measure the thickness of the drive: this is the maximum thickness of drive that you can install. Typically, most SSDs will fit in most laptops, but some thicker mechanical

CLONE YOUR HARD DISK

Download and install EaseUS Todo Backup Free from easeus.com/ download.htm. It will try to install some additional software, so make sure you select any ‘Click here to customize installation’ links and untick all the choices to install optional software. Start Todo Backup Free and select the Clone option. Select your source disk by Make sure you select the right disk to clone putting a tick in the square tickbox. You can identify disks by looking at the drive letters they use. The boot drive has the C: drive letter, for example. Click Next and select your new disk as the destination. Acknowledge the warnings about your data being erased and wait for the clone to complete. This could take several hours. If your new hard disk is larger than your old one, go back to Drive Management, and you’ll see some empty space. Right-click the drive, select Extend Volume and follow the wizard through with the default options.

hard disks may not. As a guide, most laptops take 7mm- or 9.5mm-thick drives. You can buy a disk that’s thinner than your current one. If your laptop has a caddy, you won’t have any problems, as you can just screw in the thinner drive. If there’s no caddy, a thinner disk may not fit properly and you’ll need to buy a hard disk spacer instead. This fills out the space to make the new drive fit. If your laptop’s hard disk is working, your new drive should be the same size or larger than the total amount of storage space you’re using. You can check this in Windows by going to Computer, right-clicking your hard disk and selecting Properties. In the dialog box that appears, you can see the

You need to remove your old hard disk from your laptop so you can measure it

To clone a laptop’s hard disk, you’ll need an external docking station for the new drive.

‘Used space’. If you buy a hard disk that’s smaller than this amount, you’ll need to delete or back up some files in order to use the clone tool. If your laptop’s hard disk has failed, you can replace it with any size of drive, as you’ll need to reinstall Windows manually. If you intend to clone your hard disk, you’ll need a USB-to-SATA adaptor, too. The StarTech External Hard Drive Docking Station for 2.5in drives is a good choice. When your new hard disk arrives, reconnect your original hard disk to the laptop and secure it. Power on your laptop and then connect your new drive to the laptop via the USB-to-SATA adaptor. Then follow the cloning instructions in the box above. When complete, you need to remove your existing hard disk and replace it with the new one. If your old disk had failed, just replace it with your new drive and reinstall Windows.

Fit the new drive in your laptop, using the same caddy (if available) and screws PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 105


MOTHERBOARD THE DIAGNOSIS

A motherboard fault is one of the hardest to detect, as the symptoms are often the same as for other problems. Typically, if there’s something wrong with your motherboard, your PC will either not turn on, or you’ll just get a black screen. Given that replacing the motherboard is a fairly significant task, it’s best to rule out other problems first. Following our advice in this feature, you should check your RAM, power supply unit, graphics card, processor and monitor. If none of these fixes your issue, then you may well have a motherboard problem.

THE FIX First, try opening the side of your case and removing all the expansion cards (bar the graphics card, if you have one). You’ll need to unscrew the retaining clip and then pull the card towards you. Next, unplug any external devices (keyboard, mouse, printer and so on), bar your monitor. Try turning on your computer again. If it boots up, then it’s an expansion card or external device problem. Power down your PC, then reconnect the external devices one by one to see which, if any, is causing the problem. Next, re-insert your expansion cards one at a time. Insert them back into their slots and then re-insert the retaining screw. Turn the computer on after each one to see if the problem persists. If you still don’t have any luck, then you can try resetting your CMOS. This wipes all BIOS settings, so you’ll need to configure them again. To do this, you’ll need your motherboard’s manual. Look for the reset jumper or button. If it’s the former, you need

Resetting your CMOS can fix a computer that won’t turn on

Power your computer back on. If it works, you’ll need to set up your BIOS again. If it doesn’t, then the motherboard needs replacing. To do this, you first need to know the make and model of your existing board. This should be written on it in fairly big letters, but it will also be written in the motherboard’s manual. The easiest thing to do is to make a like-for-like replacement. If you can’t find your board still for sale, then you should still Google the model number and visit the manufacturer’s website. You need to note down the socket type, such as LGA1151 for Intel; the chipset used; and the size of board (ATX or microATX). You can then use this Make sure you remove all the motherboard’s mounting screws before you remove an old board

Try removing every expansion card if your PC won’t boot to see if any of them are faulty

to take the jumper off of its existing pins and connect the two pins highlighted in the manual. For a button, press and hold it. Now press your PC’s power button. The fans may briefly spin, but your computer will not turn on. Now put the jumper back in its original position, or release the reset button. 106 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

BEFORE YOU BUY ANY MOTHER BOARD, VISIT THE MANUFACTURER’S WEBSITE TO ENSURE THAT THE MODEL YOU HAVE CHOSEN IS COMPATIBLE WITH THE MODEL OF CPU YOU HAVE information to find a similar motherboard for sale from another manufacturer. Before you buy any motherboard, visit the manufacturer’s website to ensure that the model you have chosen is compatible with the model of CPU that you have. To remove your motherboard, you’ll need to unplug all the cables plugged into it (see ‘Loose cables’, page 100, for a guide on how to do this). Once done, you’ll need to remove the screws that hold the motherboard in place. Search carefully, as it’s easy to miss one. Once you’ve done this, the motherboard will be loose. Slide the board towards the front of the case and then lift it out. Follow the RAM guide and the CPU guide to remove the memory and processor. Finally, from the outside of the case, tap the backplate (the area where all your ports are) to knock this out. Open your new motherboard and remove its backplate. Hold this up to the motherboard, so you know which way round it goes, then push it from inside the case until it clicks into place. Lower the new motherboard into your case, then push it towards the back until its ports push through the backplate’s holes. Screw it into position. Then follow the RAM and CPU guides elsewhere in this feature to install these components. Reconnect all the cables, power on your PC and configure your BIOS. Slip the blanking plate into place, pushing it in until it clicks


REPAIR SHOP FEATURE

CPU

THE DIAGNOSIS

It’s rare for a processor, or CPU, to break completely. When one does, your motherboard will usually make a beeping noise: check the manufacturer’s website or the motherboard manual to see what the beep code means. If your PC won’t turn on at all and doesn’t make a noise, then it could be the motherboard, so check the diagnosis opposite first. If you’re not having any luck, follow the guide below to remove your CPU and then turn on your PC; if it beeps, then it’s probably your CPU; if it doesn’t, the motherboard has most likely failed.

FOR BOTH INTEL AND AMD COOLERS, MAKE SURE THAT THE FAN’S POWER CABLE IS PLUGGED INTO THE CPU POWER HEADER ON THE MOTHERBOARD

THE FIX Replacing a CPU is straightforward, provided that you buy the same make and model as you had before. If you buy a different model, then you have to ensure it’s compatible; check the motherboard manufacturer’s website. To remove the CPU, you first need to remove the CPU fan. This is done slightly differently depending on whether you have an Intel or an AMD processor.

INTEL CPUS For an Intel processor, use a screwdriver to turn the retaining clips in the direction that the arrows show. Pull the legs up and lift off the heatsink and fan. Use the lever to open the processor cage and lift the processor up. Now, line your new processor up with the socket (an arrow on the corner of the CPU lines up with the corner of the socket missing a pin). Lower the processor cage down and

Intel coolers are held in place with push pins

push down the lever. Your processor would have shipped with a new cooler, pre-coated with thermal paste. To use this, make sure that the cooler’s legs are turned in the opposite direction to the arrows printed on them. Put the heatsink on the processor, lining the legs up with the holes in the motherboard. Push two diagonally opposite legs down first, then the remaining two. They will click into place.

AMD CPUS With an AMD processor, to remove the heatsink, lift the handle up. AMD processors need to be dropped into place with the handle lifted up

Lift up the processor cage carefully, so you can cleanly remove your old Intel processor

Make sure your AMD coolers’ clips are securely attached to the processor socket’s tabs

You can now remove the clip attached to the handle from the processor socket’s tab. Lift the cooler slightly and then slide the opposite side to the handle off of the socket’s tabs. Lift the processor socket’s handle and then lift the CPU straight out. Line the new CPU up with the processor socket and then drop its pins into the socket’s holes. It should drop into place. Push the handle down to lock it into place. Your processor should come with a new cooler, complete with thermal paste on it. To attach this, lift its handle, so that one clip moves freely. First, push the clips on the opposite side to the cooler’s handle onto the tabs on the processor socket. Next, drop the cooler down on to the processor. Now, push down on the clip that’s attached to the handle until it attaches to its clip on the processor socket. Push the handle down to lock it into place. For both Intel and AMD coolers, make sure that the fan’s power cable is plugged into the CPU power header on the motherboard. Now, turn on your computer and, if prompted, configure your BIOS settings. PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 107


FEATURE REPAIR SHOP

LOOSE CABLES THE DIAGNOSIS

Cables inside your computer are generally well held in by friction, but vibration and general use can work them loose over time. If you’re getting intermittent faults or find that a device isn’t always detected, a loose cable could be the reason.

THE FIX Power down your computer and take the side off the case. Trace all of the cables coming from the power supply and push them into their sockets. Use only gentle force so you don’t cause any damage. These cables will include two power leads

for the motherboard, power cables for hard disks and optical drives and, potentially, a power cable for the graphics card. Next, move to the SATA data cables. These connect at one end to the motherboard and, at the other, to a hard disk or optical drive. Ensure that these cables are pushed in

Loose cables can cause all kinds of problems, so make sure that yours are properly in place

securely. Front USB and audio ports connect to ports on the motherboard, so make sure that these are connected firmly. Finally, fans connect to headers on the motherboard or adaptors plugged into your power supply, so follow their power cables back and ensure that they’re properly connected.

MONITOR/GRAPHICS CARD THE DIAGNOSIS

If your monitor won’t turn on but you can hear your PC power up, you’ve got one of the most irritating problems. Without the display, you can’t see any error messages or get any help. The fault can be with your monitor or your PC. Check that your monitor has a power light first. If it doesn’t, try switching power leads. When the monitor turns on, try plugging it into a different PC, such as a friend’s computer. If it doesn’t work there, try a different monitor cable. If you’ve still had no luck, you’ll need a new monitor. If the monitor and cable are fine, the problem is with your PC.

THE FIX A loose connection inside your PC’s case could cause a problem. While the case is open, press down gently on the graphics card (if you have one), and any other expansion cards. Make sure you have a pair of speakers or headphones plugged into your PC, then turn the power back on. If the monitor doesn’t come back on, listen for the Windows startup sound. If you hear it, then it’s a graphics problem. This issue can be with a dedicated graphics card or an issue with the graphics outputs on your motherboard. The first thing to do is to try an alternative output from your computer, such as switching to HDMI or VGA. If your monitor has only a DVI input, then an HDMI-to-DVI adaptor costs just a few pounds from Maplin. Alternatively, you can try plugging your

108 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

computer into an LCD TV via HDMI. If you get joy here, you’ve got a workaround. If you’re not having any luck, then the options depend on your PC. If you have a graphics card but your motherboard has video outputs, you can try removing the graphics card. Take the side of the case off. Remove the retaining screw or screws holding the graphics card in place. Detach any power cables plugged into the graphics card (they have a clip that you release with thumb pressure). Move the clip holding the graphics card in its slot and then pull it firmly upwards and out. Now, connect your monitor to one of your motherboard’s outputs and turn on your PC. If you get a picture, the fault was with your graphics card. If you don’t have a graphics card, you could try to fit one. A basic card is quite cheap. When it arrives, open up the side of your case and plug the new graphics card into the big PCI-E x16 graphics card slot (see image, below). You’ll need to unscrew and remove the blanking plate at the back of the case first. Push the card in firmly until it clicks into place (the XFX card we suggested doesn’t need power, so there’s nothing else to do). Plug your monitor into the graphics card and turn on your PC. If it still doesn’t work, then you’ll need a specialist to look at it, as the problem could be your motherboard, power supply, processor or RAM. Try removing a graphics card to see if it’s at fault

This PCI-E slot is where you plug in your graphics card


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BROKEN BIOS SETTINGS THE DIAGNOSIS

If your computer can’t find the right boot hard disk, it’s overly noisy or you get a ‘checksum error’ when you turn it on, your BIOS may not be set up correctly. This is particularly true after you’ve had a motherboard battery failure (see below).

THE FIX Restart your computer and enter the BIOS. Your motherboard’s manual will tell you which key to press, but Delete, F2 and F10 are all common choices. Every BIOS has a slightly different layout and modern ones have a graphical interface that you can control with a mouse. However, most have similar names for settings, so you can follow our advice, but you may have to refer to your motherboard’s manual for the exact instructions. First, check your boot device priority, which is usually listed in the Boot menu. This defines which device your BIOS tries to boot from first, second, third and so on. It’s usual to have Removable Devices (USB drives, in other words) first, then the optical drive and then your primary hard disk. You can change an option by using the cursor keys to select an entry, hitting Enter to bring up a menu of choices and using your cursor keys to select an item. Make sure that your main hard disk is listed as the first hard disk in the list and, most likely, third overall. Hard disks are identified by manufacturer and model in the BIOS: inside your case, you’ll see the same information printed on a label on each hard disk.

Some BIOSes won’t list all hard disks in this menu and have a secondary Hard Disk Drives priority menu. In this menu, you need to select your main hard disk as the first option. You’ll then see it listed You need to make sure that your main hard correctly in the Boot disk is the one that your computer is set to Device Priority menu. boot from If you find that Windows crashes part way through booting, it could be because your SATA ports are configured incorrectly, particularly if you had a flat battery. Go to the main menu and find the Storage Configuration menu. If you see an option to configure the SATA ports as IDE, change the option to AHCI. You may need to reset your RAM settings, too. Look for the XMP (eXtreme Memory Profile) setting. Select the option and choose the first profile. This will set your RAM to run at the correct speed. Finally, if your computer is very loud, it could be the fan power management. Go to the Power menu and look for the Hardware Monitor option. You should see some Fan Control options; when you enable them, you’ll be able to pick a profile. Go for the quietest-sounding option, such as Silent. Your PC will now automatically control the fan speed based on the temperature of internal components, keeping everything cool and quiet, and ramping up the fans only when your computer is performing a particularly strenuous task. Now go to the Exit option and select Exit, Save Changes.

MOTHERBOARD BATTERY THE DIAGNOSIS

For some reason, PC manufacturers have never seen fit to make a BIOS with persistent storage. Instead, there’s a battery that keeps your BIOS settings stable. When this runs out of power, you’ll most likely get a ‘checksum error’ message when you turn on your computer. You’ll also see a message asking you to configure your BIOS settings manually..

THE FIX This problem is very easy to fix, as all you need to do is change the battery, and it’s a simple and inexpensive job. Practically every motherboard we’ve seen uses a CR2032 battery, which cost $5 for a ten-pack at almost any computer or electronics store. Open the side of your PC’s case and look for the motherboard 110 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

battery. There are two types of holder. Most common is one with a sprung tab. Pull the tab with a thumbnail and the battery pops out. Clip the new battery in with the ‘+’ facing up. The other type of holder has a clip over the top. Use a small flathead screwdriver to push the battery forwards and slide it out underneath the clip. Slide in the new battery with the ‘+’ facing up. Now power on your PC and follow the guide to setting up your BIOS above. To prolong the life of your new battery, leave your PC plugged in and the power socket turned on, so that the BIOS is powered from the mains. This uses very little The most common battery power but saves you from having holder has a clip (pictured). to perform this slightly fiddly job Pull this back and the battery regularly. will pop out


REPAIR SHOP FEATURE

FRONT USB PORTS THE DIAGNOSIS

THE FIX

Front-mounted USB ports on a PC case are convenient but can cause problems, for example if they no longer detect inserted USB devices. Front ports can have problems with high-power devices, such as hard disks. To check, plug a low-power device such as a mouse into one of your front ports. If it doesn’t work, but your rear USB ports are fine, then the most likely cause is an internal connection issue.

Shut down your PC and then turn it off at the mains socket. Press the PC’s power button to discharge any residual power and then touch the unpainted part of a radiator to discharge any static build up. Remove the side of your PC’s case and look for the USB cable, which will plug into a port on your motherboard (called a USB header and labelled ‘USB’). Make sure the connector is secure by pushing it firmly in. When done, power on your PC and check the USB port again. If it’s not working, then it could be a driver issue (see ‘All USB ports’, below).

ALL USB PORTS

WINDOWS UPDATE

USB ports (front and rear) that won’t recognise any device most probably have a problem with corrupted drivers.

If Windows Update won’t run, then your computer may become unstable and crash regularly. If you go to Control Panel, Windows Update and see that it’s stuck downloading updates, even after leaving your computer for hours, then this is your problem.

THE DIAGNOSIS

THE FIX The solution is to get Windows to redetect your hardware. First, save any open files and shut down all open applications. Type ‘device’ into the Start menu and run the Device Manager. Expand the Universal Serial Bus section and look for anything with ‘Host Controller’ in its name, as these are the devices that control your PC’s USB ports. Right-click a USB controller and select Uninstall, then click OK in the dialog box to confirm. Make a note of which one you’ve removed. Repeat for all USB controllers. When you remove the USB controller that your keyboard and mouse are connected to, they will no longer work, and you will lose control of your PC. Wait until you get a message asking you to restart your computer and then press the reset button on your PC: it will restart and redetect your USB ports. When you’re back in Windows, continue the process above to remove any USB controllers you didn’t remove the first time and then restart your PC. Removing your USB controllers, so that Windows can redetect them, can fix a lot of USB problems

THE DIAGNOSIS

THE FIX First, we advise giving updates time to install, as big updates can sit part completed for quite a while. However, if your updates have been stuck for more than an hour or so, there’s something wrong. One of the first things to try is to repair corrupt system files. If Windows still won’t download updates, the issue is likely to be with file corruption elsewhere. The easiest way to try to fix such problems is with the Windows Update Troubleshooter (bit. ly/WindowsUpdateTroubleshooter). Download and run the tool, and it will automatically scan your computer. When you first run the troubleshooter, it may display a message telling you that fixes are more likely to be found running as an Administrator. Click Yes to restart the application in Administrator mode and start again. When problems are found, you’ll be asked if you want to apply the fix. We recommend applying any fix suggested, so click Yes. An issue with Windows Update can cause future problems, so fix errors with Microsoft’s free tool PC&TECH AUTHORITY FEBRUARY 2018 111


FEATURE REPAIR SHOP

CORRUPTED SYSTEM FILES THE DIAGNOSIS

Corrupt startup files are usually easy to spot as your computer will crash on startup and may enter a loop, starting, crashing and then restarting. But corruption with these files can also cause your PC to become unreliable, crashing at random. If you’ve already ruled out other components, then it’s worth trying to fix your system files.

THE FIX Windows will automatically load the Startup Repair tool after two failed attempts to boot. If this doesn’t work or your computer boots but is unstable, you can manually repair your system by making a recovery drive. If your computer isn’t working, you can create the recovery drive using another computer running the same version of Windows. For Windows 10, you need a blank USB drive. The size you need depends on what you want it to do. If you want to install a clean version of Windows from it, you need an 8GB drive or larger; if you just want to access repair options, you need a 512MB or larger drive. Insert your drive into the PC and note its drive letter in Windows Explorer, such as F:. Click Start, type ‘recovery drive’ and select Create a Recovery Drive. You can choose to back up system files, if you want to clean install Windows; remove the tick for this option if you just want to repair a PC. Click Next, and select your USB drive from the menu. Click Next to go to a screen warning you that all data on the chosen drive will be deleted, then click Create.

Windows 7 has a similar option, although you need a blank CD inserted into a disc writer. Click the start menu, type ‘create’ and select Create a System Repair Disc. Follow the wizard through to create the disc. Put the recovery USB drive or CD into your PC and turn it on. Your BIOS is most likely set up to boot automatically from the new drive. If not, restart your computer and go into the BIOS. Look for the Boot options and you should see a Boot priority (or similar) menu. If you’re booting from CD, make sure the first boot device is the optical drive. If you’re booting from USB, this device needs to be first in the list. Use the cursor keys to select an entry and hit Enter to choose a boot device. Some BIOSes have a secondary hard disk priority menu where your USB drive will be listed; make sure your USB drive is listed first, followed by your primary hard disk. Save the settings and your PC will reboot. From the menu, choose Startup Repair. This tool will automatically scan your computer for problems, and can overwrite corrupted startup files. When it’s done, your PC will restart. Remove the recovery drive or you’ll be caught in a loop, continuously loading the recovery drive menu. If your computer boots, corrupted system files can still cause a variety of problems, from random crashing to preventing Windows Update from working. A secondary method can fix more stubborn problems. You can run these commands using Safe Mode if your computer won’t boot normally. To run the commands to fix your problems you need to get a command prompt up. Click the Start menu and type ‘command’, right-click Command Prompt and select Run as administrator. At the command prompt, type ‘sfc /scannow’ (without the quotes) and then hit Enter. The system scan will check your computer for errors and automatically fix any that it can. It will tell you at the end if it found any corrupt files and if it managed to fix them.

STARTUP CRASHES THE DIAGNOSIS

If your computer is slow to shut down, slower to boot up and, in some cases, freezes or crashes on startup, then the problem could be a Windows feature called fast startup. This is usually confirmed with a simple test: if you’re getting problems when you first hit the power button, but a reboot works, fast startup is likely the issue.

THE FIX Introduced with Windows 8, but continuing in Windows 10, is a feature called fast startup. Enabled by default, it saves loaded device drivers and part of the main Windows system to 112 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

your hard disk when you shut down. Fast startup is similar to the hibernation feature, but it closes your applications. The theory is that this feature makes your computer faster to turn on again. If your PC is slow to boot, turn off fast startup To disable it, go to Control Panel, Hardware and Sound, Power Options. Click ‘Choose what the power buttons do’, and then click the ‘Change settings that are currently unavailable’ link, then untick the ‘Turn on fast startup’ box. Click Save changes, then reboot your computer.


EPILOG

NEVER MIND FAKE NEWS, SAYS JON HONEYBALL, IT’S THE FAKE INVOICES AND SPURIOUS EMAILS THAT NEED TO STOP s the old saying goes, you are nobody without a name. It isn’t enough for Melbourne Storm to have a stadium, it has to be the Etihad Stadium. Apparently the marketing people believe that we will look more kindly on their brand if we believe they are supporting football. So, when bringing a new brand to market a few years ago, we had to give consideration to the URL that people would use to get to our site. This matters fi nancially because there is an e-shop on there where you can buy the products. And every sale counts towards the bottom line. Unfortunately, at the time, the domain name “manfood.com” wasn’t available. I won’t say what it pointed to, but let’s just say it wasn’t something one would want to associate with a range of delicious, award-winning pickles, condiments and sauces. Since we needed a URL, we settled on welovemanfood.com which, although awkward, has done us well for the past four years. Recently, I googled “manfood. com” and found that it now pointed to a domain name holding page and appeared to be up for sale. My first reaction was to wonder just how wide the calculator would have be to get all the zeros onto the price tag, but there was no harm in asking. I emailed the address given and made my enquiry. The prompt reply told me that the domain was indeed up for sale, and that it could be mine for $1,800. Not the sort of small change you might fi nd down the back of

A

Level 6, Building A, 207 Pacific Highway, St Leonards NSW 2065 Locked Bag 5555 St Leonards NSW 1590 Chief Executive Officer David Gardiner Commercial Director Bruce Duncan This magazine is published by nextmedia Pty Ltd ACN: 128 805 970, Level 6, Building A, 207 Pacific Highway, St Leonards NSW 2065 © 2014. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be reproduced, in whole or in part, without the prior permission of the publisher. Printed by Bluestar WEB Sydney, distributed in Australia and NZ by Gordon and Gotch. The publisher will not accept responsibility or any liability for the correctness of information or opinions expressed in the publication. All material submitted is at the owner’s risk and, while every care will be taken nextmedia does not accept liability for loss or damage. Privacy Policy We value the integrity of your personal information. If you provide personal information through your participation in any

114 WWW.PCAUTHORITY.COM.AU

the sofa, but not a price that demanded the arms and legs of my nephews either. The vendor then told me he wanted to use escrow.com to do the transfer. This was all new to me, having never bought a domain name from a third party before. But I looked into the site, and it seemed legitimate. It appeared to have a fully automatic process by which the money could be deposited, transfer made, and then when both sides were happy, the ownership title would be released along with the funds. I dropped the money in, registered and waited for the reply. As part of the paperwork, I put in my joker.com domain name hosting registration details where I host all my other domains. Was this going to be some huge online scam? Unlikely, given that “escrow.com” itself would be a somewhat expensive domain name. Or at least that’s what I persuaded myself. A few days later, a miracle occurred: the domain name was under my control and the vendor had been paid. It couldn’t have been smoother. A few tweaks later, and the domain name manfood.com pointed to our existing server. If only things were as simple when it comes to registering a new domain. Yesterday, I registered a couple of domain names for a new project: “mydigitalhealthavatar.com” and “mydigitalperson.com” seemed like useful domain names to have, despite their long names. So I registered them with Joker in the usual way, using its facilities for the registration information

competitions, surveys or offers featured in this issue of Inside Sport, this will be used to provide the products or services that you have requested and to improve the content of our magazines. Your details may be provided to third parties who assist us in this purpose. In the event of organisations providing prizes or offers to our readers, we may pass your details on to them. From time to time, we may use the information you provide us to inform you of other products, services and events our company has to offer. We may also give your information to other organisations which may use it to inform you about their products, services and events, unless you tell us not to do so. You are welcome to access the information that we hold about you by getting in touch with our privacy officer, who can be contacted at nextmedia, Locked Bag 5555, St Leonards, NSW 1590 PERMISSIONS & REPRINTS: Material in PC & Tech Authority may not be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the Commercial Director of nextmedia. Quotations for reprints are available from the Production Manager. PC & Tech Authority logos are trademarks of nextmedia Pty Ltd. This magazine contains content that is published under license from and with the permission of Dennis Publishing Limited. All rights in this material belong to Dennis Publishing Limited absolutely and may not be reproduced, whether in whole or in part, without its prior written consent.

to be held at joker.com itself. Today, I have received a barrage of emails from website development fi rms offering their services. It must be over 100 and it’s only 1pm. I’ve also had the pleasure of two international phone calls from Indian call centres and a bunch of companies trying to send me invoices for SEO services that I neither requested nor wanted. One company even pretended to be GoDaddy, sending an invoice for $24.99 for a business logo and website to be delivered in 24 hours. And I have lost count of the number of web design “experts” who have Gmail email addresses. You’d think that a professional web designer would at least have their own domain. Does anyone fall for this nonsense? Or is it the case that it only requires a micro-percentage to click “yes” to make it worthwhile? This ties in with the worrying rise of sending an invoice for fictitious services in the hope it will be paid. Last month, a company sent me an invoice for support for 2018 for a product we had bought a year ago. In the original sale, there was no mention of ongoing support. It just sent it in the hope that it would slide through accounts and get paid. Naturally, there is no way I would do business with this company ever again. At least the website pimps are easy to spot. If they were just a little cleverer, they’d send an invoice pertaining to be from Microsoft explaining that I’d gone over my hundred “free” clicks of the Junk button in Outlook and I now owe them $24.99.

EDITORIAL Editor, Tech and Gaming Group Editor: Ben Mansill: bmansill@nextmedia.com.au Art Director: Tim Frawley Digital Editor, Tech and Gaming: David Hollingworth: dhollingworth@nextmedia.com.au REGULAR CONTRIBUTORS Jon Honeyball, Paul Ockenden, Davey Winder, Steve Cassidy, Sasha Muller, Darien Graham-Smith, Nicole Kobie, Tim Danton, Jonathan Bray, Anthony Caruana, Daniel Wilks, Mark Williams, Anthony Fordham, Anthony Agius, Chris Szewczyk PUBLISHING Advertising Director B2B & B2C Technology Group: Lee De La Rue Browne ldelaruebrowne@nextmedia.com.au Printed on paper sustainably sourced from PEFC certified forests

PRODUCTION Advertising Coordinator: Charles Balyck Circulation Director Carole Jones Printed by: Bluestar WEB Sydney Distributed by: Distributed in Australia and NZ by Gordon & Gotch. ADVERTISING Phone: (+61 2) 9901 6348 Group Advertising Manager Tech & Gaming: Cameron Ferris: cferris@nextmedia.com.au Account Manager Tech & Gaming: Sean Fletcher: sfletcher@nextmedia.com.au SUBSCRIPTIONS 1300 361146 or subscribe@mymagazines.com.au

Please recycle this magazine


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