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6 MBER 20116 EM CE ISSUE 490 ❘ 7 – 20 DEC

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Your friendly guide to tec

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Safety-first secrets to a hack-proof PC p58


Welcome EDITORIAL Group Editor Daniel Booth Features Editor Mike Plant Technical Editor Sherwin Coelho Production Editor Graham Brown Art Editor Katie Peat Sorry, no technical or buying advice. ADVERTISING Advertisement sales & media pack 020 7907 6799 Advertising Director Andrea Mason Group Ad Manager Charlotte Milligan Deputy Advertising Manager Alexa Dracos MARKETING AND CIRCULATION Subscriptions Rachel Evans Marketing Production Manager Gemma Hills For subscription enquiries ring 01795 592 926 PRODUCTION Group Production Manager Stephen Catherall Production Controller Maisie Harvey MANAGEMENT Managing Director John Garewal MD of Advertising Julian Lloyd-Evans Commercial and Retail Director David Barker CFO/COO Brett Reynolds Chief Executive James Tye Company Founder Felix Dennis BRAND USAGE AND REPRINTS Companies can obtain a licence to use approved quotations from articles, the Computeractive logo and Buy It! logo. Reprints of articles are also available.

From the Editor I’d like to thank the thousands of readers who completed our recent survey. One of its most interesting findings is that many of you regularly use more than one web browser. Chrome and Firefox are by far the most popular, but few readers stick with just one. A substantial number use old favourite Internet Explorer, while its replacement Edge is gaining fans. It’s clear that people use different browsers for different tasks. It echoes how I browse the web. I use Chrome for general browsing and for downloading software. But I find Firefox easier to use when I have lots of tabs open. Also, when Chrome appears to have woken in a bad mood, crashing every couple of

minutes, I switch to Firefox and get to grips with the new tools added since I last used it. And when they both slow down, I turn to the clutter-free Edge. We’ve got tips for all these browsers in our Cover Feature. Please let me know which you find useful. Daniel Booth editor@computeractive.co.uk

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Please contact Anj Dosaj-Halai for more information and rates: 020 7907 6132 Email: anj_halai@dennis.co.uk Requests to use quotations from articles will need to be approved by the editor. Please send requests to: editor@computeractive.co.uk OVERSEAS LICENSING Computeractive is available for international licensing. Contact Nicole Adams at nicole_ adams@dennis.co.uk or +44 (0)20 7907 6134 ONWARD RESALE This publication may not be resold or otherwise distributed, whether at, below or above face value. Nor can this publication be advertised for sale, transfer or distribution.

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PERMISSIONS Material may not be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher. Please address such requests to John Garewal, Dennis Publishing, 30 Cleveland Street, London W1T 4JD LIABILITY While every care was taken preparing this magazine, the publishers cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of the information or any consequence arising from it. All judgments are based on equipment available to Computeractive at the time of review. Computeractive takes no responsibility for the content of external websites whose addresses are published in the magazine. A DENNIS PUBLICATION Computeractive is published fortnightly by Dennis Publishing Ltd, 30 Cleveland Street, London W1T 4JD. Company registered in England. Material may not be reproduced in whole or part without the consent of the publishers. ISSN 1461-6211

THIS ISSUE IN NUMBERS 2.4m

Number of people who have played a dementiaresearch app - p9

Average sales, Jan-Dec 2015, 87,565 copies per issue. © Copyright Dennis Publishing Limited

£500 500 Computeractive Printed in the UK

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Price of the Palicomp AMD Avenger, our favourite PC of 2016 - p29

29 months

How long Google has left a Chrome security flaw unfixed - p16

HOW TO USE SNIPCA URLs We use snipcas to turn long URLs that are hard to type into ones that are short and simple. They aren’t websites themselves, which means they won’t be recognised if you type them into Google. Instead, you need to type them into your browser address bar, then press Enter. Doing this will take you to the correct website.

7 – 20 December 2016 3


Contents In this issue… Hack and improve Chrome, 50 Firefox & Edge Make your browser faster, safer

7 – 20 December 2016 • Issue 490

Hack & Improve

and better with our recommended settings tweaks and extensions

it worth the money? 57 IsWinZip 21 Pro Download without 58 being hacked Get files and programs from the internet without any risks

Advanced tips for 60 basic tasks Improve how you carry out everyday tasks on your PC

Chrome Firefox & Edge

Do everyday PC tasks better tter p60

In every issue…

9 Question of the Fortnight Is £400m enough to fix UK broadband?

32 Competition Win a D-Link mydlink HD Wi-Fi Camera 49 What’s All the Fuss About? Microsoft Flow

10 Letters

64 Problems Solved

12 Consumeractive

70 Fast Fixes Webcams

14 Protect Your Tech 16 Best Free Software OBS Studio 0.16.4 30 Buy It! 4 7 – 20 December 2016

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T most important changes you’ll ever The make to your web browser

Download in safety p58

6 News

NEW

WAYS YOUR BTO MAKE EASIERROWSER TO USE

73 Jargon Buster 74 The Final Straw Ken tells some home truths about home automation

Automated devices that get on our wick p74


Subscribe

NOW!

See page 62 for our special subs offer

Reviews

Eclipse pse Apollo p20

20 Eclipse Apollo Want a desktop PC that does the basics well? This is a simple choice 21 Lenovo Yoga Book Portability and great design make this Yoga hybrid fit for purpose 23 Asus VC239H This no-frills PC monitor passes our screen test with flying colours 26 Huawei Nova An impressive phone – but should it really cost this much? 28 HP Scanjet Pro 2500 f1 Standalone scanning at a price Jam Rhythm An affordable Wi-Fi speaker

Lenovo Yoga Book p21 p2

29 Products of the year As 2016 shuts down we round up the standout tech products of the last 12 months

HP Scanjet Pro 2500 f1 p28

Workshops & Tips

14 pages of brilliant workshops and expert tips 35 Record your journey though the Solar System

42 Stop Windows 10 changing your defaults

38 Save anything online to read later

43 Readers’ Tips Set up your browser more easily

40 Track what others do on your PC

44 Phone and Tablet Tips Use Photoshop on your device

THE ADVANCED GUIDE TO WINDOWS 10

ON SALE NOW!

46 Make Windows Better Manage folders more effectively 47 Make Office Better Check your emails make sense 48 Secret Tips For… Windows Movie Maker

BUY IT NOW FROM AMAZON at www.snipca.com/21617

7 – 20 December 2016 5


News

The top stories in the world of technology

Windows 7 ransomware warnings disputed S

ecurity experts have cast doubt on the relevance of Microsoft’s claim that Windows 7 users are at greater risk of ransomware than people running Windows 10. In a report published in November (www.snipca. com/22669), Microsoft said that people running Windows 10 are 58 per cent less likely to be targeted by ransomware than those on Windows 7. It urges Windows 7 users to upgrade to 10 to avoid the “increasing” threat. It says that Windows Defender, Microsoft’s antivirus tool, identified a 400 per cent rise in ransomware between December 2015 and July 2016. In July alone, Defender detected 58 million attempts to infect PCs with ransomware via email, while the SmartScreen Filter in Internet Explorer and Edge blocked 200,000 attacks a day over the past six months. However, security experts

COMMENT

doubt the validity of Microsoft’s research, claiming that it exaggerates the threat. Simon Edwards, who used to run Computeractive’s antivirus tests and is now director of security consultancy SE Labs, said: “The problem with Microsoft’s claim is that it’s based on the overall numbers of computers exposed to ransomware, not the proportion of machines running each operating system”. He added: “Windows 7 is used on millions more PCs than Windows 10, so it’s not surprising that ransomware has been detected on it more often”.

Edwards accepts that Windows 10 has better built-in security than 7, but “not to the extent suggested by Microsoft’s statistics”. Despite his criticism of the report, Edwards says that Microsoft is right “to highlight the growing threat of ransomware in general”.

Microsoft v Malware

In its report Microsoft refers to several improvements it has made to Windows 10 to combat malware. The company says it has made Edge better at preventing malware from exploiting security flaws in software in order to infect

OFFICE OFFICE2007 2007SUPPORT SUPPORTENDS ENDSNEXT NEXTYEAR YEAR Microsoft has confirmed that it will end all support for Office 2007 in October 2017, after which Word, Excel and other tools will stop receiving security updates. It had been thought that Microsoft might offer special deals to companies to prolong

support, as it did with XP. But the company confirmed in a statement that “the Office 2007 wave of products will be reaching end of support over the next 12 months”. It urged users to switch to Office 2016 or the subscription service Office 365. Microsoft ended Mainstream

You’ll like this… VLC media player now plays 360-degree videos (www.snipca.com/22668) 6 7 – 20 December 2016

support for Office 2007 in October 2012. The software then entered the Extended support phase, receiving security fixes but no new tools. Support is also ending next year for Windows Vista. After 10 April it will no longer receive security updates.

There are lots of good reasons to upgrade from Windows 7 to 10, but the threat of ransomware isn’t one of them. As long as you use a good antivirus, and run Microsoft’s security updates, there’s no cause for alarm. It’s true that Microsoft has improved Windows Defender in Windows 10, but it still doesn’t offer better protection than, say, running Kaspersky on Windows 7. Unless something drastic happens, we expect Windows 7 to remain safe until January 2020, when Microsoft will end support. computers. It also minimises the risk of using Adobe Flash Player by running the browser plug-in in its own “application container”. Other improvements cited demonstrate the importance of artificial intelligence (or ‘machine learning’) in fighting malware. Microsoft has used the technology to enhance how its email services block malware, and how its SmartScreen Filter identifies unsafe websites.

• To stay safe next year read

the Cover Feature of our next issue – Make Your PC Unhackable in 2017 – out on Weds 21 December.

… but not this Some Android phones are sending users’ personal info to China (www.snipca.com/22667)


Google handed NHS patient data A controversial scheme to give Google access to NHS medical data has sparked privacy concerns. For the next five years the company’s DeepMind artificial intelligence business will be able to analyse the records of up to 1.6m patients who have been treated at three hospitals in London’s Royal Free Hospital Trust – Barnet Hospital, Chase Farm Hospital and Royal Free in Hampstead. Google will use the data in an app called Streams, which will send alerts to doctors about patients showing early signs of kidney disease. It claims that the app could save 10,000 lives a year, and that all the data is encrypted. The Royal Free Trust’s chief executive David Sloman said the app would “substantially reduce” the amount of paperwork that doctors and nurses have to do, letting them spend more time

DIGITISE OLD PHOTOS USING NEW GOOGLE APP

treating patients. But privacy campaigners questioned why Google needs to access data from so many patients, including those with healthy kidneys. Phil Booth of medConfidential (https:// medconfidential.org) said: “It’s not about the one in six who will be helped by the app but the five in six who don’t have this condition but whose data gets copied anyway”. He also criticised the scheme for giving Google a monthly report of patient data, which he claimed would be too old to provide valuable information, making “the entire process unreliable”.

Dr Julia Powles from Cambridge University, who has scrutinised the legal details of the deal, told the Financial Times that Google now has “a free pass for swift and broad access into the NHS, on the back of persuasive but unproven promises of efficiency and innovation”. She’s concerned that the public has no power to find out “what Google and DeepMind are really doing with NHS patient data”. The UK’s information commissioner is investigating the agreement to ensure it’s legitimate and is being used for the benefit of citizens.

Govt to block porn sites that allow kids Porn websites could be blocked in the UK if they fail fa to ask users to prove they are 18 or over, the Government nt has said. In an amendment en to ent the Digital Economy Bill, the th British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) will be given powers to force internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to sites that break the rules. Culture Secretary Karen Bradley (pictured) said the proposals would d fulfill a Conservative ve 2015 manifesto pledge to keep children safe online. The move comes amid growing concern

IN BRIEF

about the number of children who watch sexually explicit videos online. Research by children’s charity NSPCC found th that 53 per cent of childr children aged 11 to 16 ha had seen porn on online. It said the abundance of internet porn was st stripping an entire ge generation of their chil childhoods.

Bu But critics said that not enou enough ou thought has gone into to the proposals. The Inte Internet tern Service Providers’ Asso Association so warned of “far-r “far-reaching -r implications for th the UK internet”, and d called for the Go Government to consider the “potential for unintended consequences”, such as safe and legal sites being blocked. The head of Open Rights Group, which campaigns for “digital freedoms”, also attacked the measures. Jim Killock said that the Government hasn’t proved there is “serious enough harm to justify such a massive restriction on UK adults’ access to legal material”.

Google’s new app PhotoScan lets you digitise printed photos using your phone or tablet. Available for iOS and Android, it works by photographing your old prints from different angles to reduce light glare (one of the most common problems when digitising prints). You can install it on your device from www. google.com/photos/scan. We’ll explain how to use it in our next issue – out Weds 21 December.

NEW FIREFOX BLOCKS WEB TRACKERS

Firefox has launched a private browser for iPhones and iPads. Called Firefox Focus, it blocks by default many trackers used by advertisers to monitor what you do online. At the end of each browsing session you can delete your history, including passwords and cookies, with a single tap. Read Mozilla’s blog for more details, and a link to the browser: www. snipca.com/22626.

Tomorrow’s

world

Albert Einstein wasn’t keen on quantum physics, but then he never had to install a massive Windows update, which quantum computers could perform in seconds. Microsoft has just announced a new team to work on this technology, which processes info in multiple states (‘qubits’) rather than in the ones and zeroes of existing computers. Read more on Microsoft’s blog: www.snipca.com/22629.

7 – 20 December 2017 7


News IN BRIEF PLUSNET LAUNCHES MOBILE PHONE DEALS

Plusnet has launched a 4G mobile-phone service, starting at £5 a month, which gets you 500MB of data, 250 minutes of calls and 500 texts. There are three other packages, all offering unlimited texts – priced £7.50, £10 and £15 a month. It means Plusnet becomes a so-called ‘quad-play’ business, adding mobile to its existing TV, broadband and landline services. For details visit www.plusnetmobile.com.

UK’S ‘BIG BROTHER’ ORGANISATIONS

A blogger has listed the 48 UK organisations that are now allowed to access your computer and phone under the Investigatory Powers Bill, which was passed by the House of Lords in late November. In his blog (www. snipca.com/22654), Chris Yui likened the law to something out of George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. The list includes NHS trusts, GCHQ and police forces.

Microsoft Solitaire comes to Apple and Android – at last! Microsoft’s much-loved game Solitaire is available for the first time on Android and Apple phones and tablets, but you’ll have to pay to remove adverts. The Microsoft Solitaire Collection contains five versions of the game, including the “timeless and classic” Klondike, and more strategic editions such as Spider and FreeCell. There’s a free version of the app, but it contains adverts. To remove these you’ll have to pay $1.99 a month (around £1.60) for the Premium edition, which also contains extra features. You can install the Premium version for free until 31 December 2016, and play it for 30 days, after which you’ll start seeing adverts. Both versions have daily challenges with four levels of difficulty. Completing these wins you badges and rewards. If you already play Solitaire on your PC, you can sync your account and scores across phones and tablets.

The game has received many positive reviews on both the Apple and Google Play stores, although some players are unhappy that you have to subscribe to the app, rather than pay a one-off fee. There are dozens of other Solitaire games, but Microsoft claims its version is the “world’s number one”, having been played by more than 119 million people on Windows 8 and 10 computers. It first appeared in Windows 3.0, which launched in 1990. Four years later Microsoft said that the game was meant to

“soothe people intimidated by the operating system” in an effort to make Windows feel friendly and accessible. Install the app for iOS from www.snipca.com/22662, and for Android from www. snipca.com/22663. For technical help playing Solitaire on PC, phone or tablet visit Microsoft’s Casual Games website: www.snipca. com/22664. We’ll test the Premium version of the app in a forthcoming issue. Will you pay to remove adverts in Solitaire? Let us know: letters@ computeractive.co.uk

New codebreakers school at Bletchley Park Bletchley Park will once again be home to codebreakers after it was announced as the location of the new National College of Cyber Security. The Buckinghamshire estate (pictured), where Alan Turing and others broke the Nazis’ Enigma code during World War Two, will receive a £5 million renovation to convert it into a state-ofthe-art security training facility. Run by Qufaro, a consortium of security experts and industry figures, the college will be open to around 500 16-to-19 year-olds, 90 per cent of whom will be boarders. 8 7 – 20 December 2016

Students will be selected not on specific academic qualifications, but through aptitude tests, or by demonstrating exceptional technology skills. There will be no fee for attending. The chair of Qufaro, Alastair MacWillson, said that the college will help to plug a growing skills gap in the UK: “Our cyber education and innovation landscape is

complex, disconnected and incomplete, putting us at risk of losing a whole generation of critical talent”. A spokesperson for the GCHQ intelligence agency welcomed the news, saying that the college could “provide a pathway for talented students from schools that are not able to provide the support they need”. Around 40 per cent of the college’s curriculum will be devoted to cybersecurity, with the rest of the time split between complementary subjects such as maths, physics, economics and computer science.

First we had selfie sticks. Now we have the selfie bottle, thanks to Coca-Cola’s marketing team. They’ve invented a device that takes a photo of you every time you take a sip, being triggered when it’s tilted by 70 degrees. Mercifully, it’s not available to the public yet, having been used only at a festival in Israel. But it’s surely just a matter of time. Gulp.


Game research could lead to early test for dementia A new game to help dementia research has indicated that people’s sense of direction begins to decline from the age of 20. Previously, it had been thought that the ability to navigate doesn’t deteriorate until middle age. Sea Hero Quest (pictured), available on phones and tablets, has become the world’s biggest ever experiment in dementia research. Since it launched in May, over 2.4 million people have played the game, in which you sail around desert islands and Arctic rivers saving an old sailor’s lost memories. As you play, the game analyses your navigational skills and spatial awareness. Scientists already knew that getting lost is an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, but found it hard to distinguish

this from how a person’s sense of direction declines as a natural part of ageing. The game’s research team at University College London (UCL) and University of East Anglia say that the data (gathered anonymously) could help them establish a new test to diagnose dementia earlier. It plans to run a trial next year to confirm this. UCL’s Dr Hugo Spiers said that the game’s popularity far exceeded expectations, which were that 100,000 players would download it. He added

that it would have taken researchers 9,400 years in a laboratory to replicate the depth of data collected. Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK said that this is “a great example of how millions of people can contribute to research from the comfort of their own sofas”. One of the most surprising findings is that people from Nordic countries appear to have the best sense of direction. Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark hold the top four spots. Dr Spiers said his team was looking for plausible explanations for this result. You can still download Sea Hero Quest from www. seaheroquest.com, and play it on an iOS or Android device. New data will be collected for the next stage of research.

Change misleading ‘up to’ speed claims in broadband ads Claims about speed in broadband adverts are misleading and tougher rules need to be introduced, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has said. It criticised the common practice of advertising speeds as “up to”, such as in the Virgin Media advert pictured. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are currently allowed to advertise a speed as long as 10 per cent of its customers can get it. The ASA has published research showing that most customers believe they are likely to receive the speed advertised (or close to it) when that’s unlikely to be the case. ASA chief executive Guy Parker said that “speed claims in ads contribute to consumers’ expectations of

IN BRIEF USE SKYPE WITHOUT AN ACCOUNT

You no longer need to create an account to make calls via the online version of Skype (www.skype.com). Instead you can have a voice or video conversation by joining as a guest. Skype gives you a link that you can share with anyone by email – they’ll join the chat by clicking it. Visit Microsoft’s Skype site for more information: www.snipca.com/22539.

TEENAGER ADMITS TALKTALK HACK

A 17-year-old boy has admitted to seven charges of hacking – two of which relate to the TalkTalk data breach in October 2015 in which the details of 157,000 customers were stolen. The teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, pleaded guilty in November to all seven offences under the Computer Misuse Act at Norwich Youth Court. He will be sentenced on 13 December.

WATCH 1,000 DAVID ATTENBOROUGH CLIPS

the broadband speeds they’ll receive, but their expectations are not being met”. The research suggested three alternatives to “up to” speed claims – the average speed, the range of possible speeds, and the minimum speed. But the Internet Services Providers’ Association Council said that none of these are an “effective alternative”. James Blessing, chair of the Council, said: “Any new guidance needs to reflect that whilst speed is an important factor, it is not

the only reason a customer decides on a deal”. The ASA accepts that there’s no “silver bullet” to ease the confusion, and that there are “pros and cons to all the alternatives”, but insists that changes must be made. Its research will be studied by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), which sets the codes advertisers must abide by. It will report back next spring. Download the ASA’s report from www.snipca.com/22603.

Highlights from David Attenborough’s 60-year TV career are available to watch in a new BBC app for iOS and Android. Called Attenborough’s Story of Life, it gathers 1,000 clips from the 40 shows the broadcasting legend has worked on, including The Life of Mammals and Planet Earth. You can search for clips by species, behaviour and habitat, and build your own video collections. It’s available for free from www.bbc.co.uk/earth/ storyoflife.

7 – 20 December 2016 9


News

Jane Hoskyn puts t th the boot into tech villains, jargon-spouting companies and software stuffed with junk

WARNING: JUNK AHEAD Junk offender: Freemake

Since I started writing Named & Shamed nearly two years ago, some junk offenders have cleaned up their act. Both Wise Care 365 and IObit stopped bundling junk in their installers. But file-conversion specialist Freemake, my first offender in February 2015, has gone from strength to junk-pushing strength. Freemake has been updating its tools for Windows 10 (www.snipca.com/22575), and released newcomers Freemake Music Box and ‘Freemake YouTube to MP3 Boom’. I considered them for our Cover Feature on great new software for Windows 10 (Issue 489). They didn’t make it into that feature. They made it here instead.

Two new PUPs

With Freemake’s latest tools, I didn’t even get as far as the setup wizard because the

files were blocked by Avast. This may be a false positive – goodness knows I see enough of those in Windows 10 – but I’m inclined to believe Avast this time. Then I tried the updated installers for Freemake’s more established programs. First, Freemake Video Converter. Two years ago, this program smuggled two nasty PUPs – Wajam and TuneUp Utilities – on to my PC and I spent a weekend removing them. This time, it offered ByteFence and a Yahoo Search browser hijacker. ByteFence is a well-known PUP that may be difficult to remove (try these steps: www.snipca.com/22576), and Yahoo Search is little short of notorious (www.snipca.com/22577). I then tried the installers for Freemake Audio Converter and Freemake Video Downloader, and reached the same screen each time. As you can see from my screenshot, there are no boxes to untick. You’re

All Freemake installers currently contain Yahoo’s notorious search adware

invited to ‘customize the installation’ by clicking a link, but with Freemake I find you can ‘customize’ all you like and still be infected. In any case, most users would glance at this screen and click Next to proceed with installation, then promptly find their browser unusable. I didn’t take the risk. I closed all the installers, then deleted them from my PC. My advice is avoid Freemake completely. There are better, safer tools for converting files. Free service Zamzar (www.zamzar. com) lets you convert between hundreds of formats, and works entirely online.

What are they talking about?

Jane’s villain of the fortnight

What they say

Microsoft thinks it has an offer you can’t refuse. ‘Your upgrade to Office 2016 is ready’, says its latest pop-up (pictured). Great – more spam to ignore. Except you can’t ignore it. The only options are Later and Upgrade. There’s no ‘No thanks’. Some Office 365 subscribers are offered this upgrade for free, but non-subscribers are reportedly being asked to pay, albeit less than the basic Office 2016 price of £119.99 (www. snipca.com/22580). One Microsoft Community member describes this as “Microsoft trying to help you spend more money by ‘upgrading’” (www. snipca.com/22579). Another explains he’s retired and feels bullied by the

Google’s Kent Walker (www.snipca.com/22574) “Critically, we give phone makers wide latitude to build devices that go above that baseline, which is why you see such a varied universe of Android devices.”

What they mean

We let other companies make Android phones too, waffles Google staffer Kent Walker on the company’s blog. Walker’s name sounds like a nice day out, but his job title – ‘Senior Vice President and General Counsel’ - is itself a masterpiece of jargon.

10 7 – 20 December 2016

Microsoft pop-up he can’t “kill”. A paid-for upgrade you can’t refuse is extortion, and I don’t think even Microsoft is that bad. But it is forcing people to install a program they don’t need or want. That’s dictatorial at best. Security expert Eugene Kaspersky says it’s dangerous, too. He’s filed a legal complaint about Microsoft for pre-installing security tools that conflict and make PCs unsafe, and writes about it here: www.snipca.com/22581. Want to nominate a villain of the fortnight? Email us at editor@computeractive.co.uk


?

Question of the

Fortnight

Is £400m enough to fix UK broadband?

A new Government fund hopes to deliver 1Gbps speeds across the country

W

hen it comes to getting fast broadband, one letter can make a huge difference. What counts is whether your service is FTTP (fibre to the premises) or FTTC (fibre to the cabinet). The former is faster because instead of stopping at a cabinet on the street (from where copper cables take over) fibre-broadband is delivered to your doorstep, giving you speeds of up to 1Gbps (that’s 1,000Mbps). But only two per cent of homes can get FTTP, a figure the Government hopes to increase by spending £400m on broadband infrastructure. Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the outlay in the Autumn Statement, setting up a Digital Infrastructure Investment Fund. He wants broadband companies to match the amount, boosting the total to £800m within four years. The aim is to provide FTTP to two million more homes and businesses. However, critics say that the Government should first focus on delivering FTTC (and speeds of at least 24Mbps) to more people before aiming higher with FTTP. Neil Fraser from satellitebroadband provider ViaSat said: “If we don’t engage the whole country, we are at risk of a two-tiered internet system, where those areas with fast services reap the benefits in terms of education, opportunity and investment, while those without broadband are left further behind”. Others question whether most people actually need

THE FACTS

There is currently no known or useful purpose for ultrafast broadband 1Gbps broadband, typically referred to as ‘ultra-fast’. To demonstrate the benefit of FTTP, the Government said that it’s fast enough to download in seconds an entire series of the TV show Game of Thrones. This claim was slammed as “fatuous nonsense”, by Dan Bowdle of broadband-comparison site Cable.co.uk, who pointed out that you can already stream TV shows in seconds with 8Mbps broadband. He added: “Let us not forget, there is currently no known or useful purpose for ultrafast broadband”. Bowdle also doubts that FTTP will be delivered to the areas that need it most - rural communities. He said that cities and towns will be top of the list because “there is an economic incentive for those

providing the service”. Some industry experts think that a disproportionate amount of the money will be spent on London and south-east England. However, the new fund should boost competition in the broadband market. The Government wants the money to go to smaller companies who specialise in fibre broadband. It will help these ‘alternative networks providers’ take on the giants of BT, Sky and Virgin. Unsurprisingly, smaller firms are delighted by the investment. Dana Tobak, CEO of Hyperoptic (www. hyperoptic.com), which offers 1Gbps for £31 a month, said the fund “is a no-brainer as it supports our increasingly digital-dependent economy”. Her enthusiasm is laudable,

• Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a £400m fund to boost fibre-broadband in the UK • The Government hopes another £400m will be invested by broadband companies • Only two per cent of UK premises currently have access to the fastest fibre broadband but millions of people will wonder why they should dream of 1Gbps when 24Mbps is still beyond them. As uSwitch’s Ewan TaylorGibson says: “Superfast fibre broadband is available to 90 per cent of the UK, yet 20 of the UK’s 42 biggest cities are registering actual average speeds of below 24Mbps”. A staggering 30 per cent of broadband users get speeds of less than 5Mbps . All industry experts agree that more money is urgently needed to “future-proof” the UK, and welcome the £740m the Government is spending on 5G mobile networks. But there’s real concern that the £400m FTTP fund will widen the UK’s digital divide. A privileged elite will enjoy life in the fast lane, leaving most of us stuck in first gear. 7 – 20 December 2016 11


Letters What a shame broadband wasn’t nationalised

It was interesting to read different views in Issue 489 on whether people on benefits should get subsidised broadband. In my opinion, part of the reason some people still can’t get fast broadband is because the internet has never been through a period of nationalisation. Most of our infrastructure has been at some time owned and run by the Government. Just think of the trains, electricity, gas, water and airports. I’m not saying they were perfect, but they were driven by a virtuous desire to include every inch of the country (until, in the case of trains, Dr Beeching swung his axe). By contrast, broadband has been a fragmented, stop-start mess. It seems a shame that the internet wasn’t invented 150 years ago by Victorians. With their can-do attitude, I’m sure it would have been expanded to include the whole country with minimal fuss. And imagine if Isambard Kingdom Brunel (pictured) had been involved – we may now have broadband cabinets on our streets that were listed buildings! Gareth Warrington

Nothing wrong with jobless getting cheap broadband

I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to cry or laugh when I read Samuel Hawkins’ letter in Issue 489 suggesting that people on benefits should only be given cheaper broadband provided it is strictly used for job applications or reading how to create the perfect CV! How about stopping their benefits immediately if they are caught tweeting? Come on Mr Hawkins, get real. Even the jobless are entitled to a bit of recreation. So what if they waste a couple of hours on Facebook? If they are unfortunate they might make a friend of Mr Hawkins! I have no objection to unemployed people paying less for their broadband. Mr Hawkins should note that there are many reasons for the “jobless” being in the situation they are in: idleness plays only a small part. People who worked for a company well into their 50s suddenly 12 7 – 20 December 2016

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find themselves out of favour with new bosses. People who gave up work to care for elderly relatives who have since died find themselves back on the employment trail with no job to go to. Young people cannot get a job because they have no experience. I wonder why Mr Hawkins is saying that different rules should apply to people on disability benefits – doesn’t he realise there are loads of shirkers claiming that? How utterly stupid to try and segregate the jobless (who are human beings as well by the way) from the smug, like Mr Hawkins, who can no doubt afford fibre-optic broadband. It’s like Apartheid for internet users. Silly man. J Bevan

We need a common format for batteries

Well done Ken Rigsby – it’s about time someone had a whinge about battery life (The Final Straw, Issue 488). Like Ken, we all started off with a

Nokia phone, but later were seduced by something ‘a little better’ with more bells and whistles. Then even later we’re told we need bells, whistles and gongs! The extras go up and the power load increases proportionately . However, what really annoys me is that this applies to all battery-powered equipment, such as portable saws, drills and polishers. After a period of time the battery wears out and refuses to charge. The appliance is still fine but can you buy a replacement battery to fit? No way! Why don’t manufacturers get together and agree on a common format for batteries? Surely there can be a profit in this, or is the principle of planned obsolescence too well established. I must go now, it’s time to put my Samsung back on charge! Bob Groves

‘Name and shame’ drivers using phones

There’s no way that a £200 fine is going to deter people from using phones when driving (News, Issue 489, page 9). Indeed, such is their addiction to phones that I doubt whether a jail sentence would even put them off. What’s needed is a ‘name and shame’ approach, where photographs of those caught are made public – probably

You missed the point of the Amazon Fire tablet I enjoyed reading your review of the new Amazon Fire tablet (Issue 488, page 21). However, you’re really missing the point of this amazing-value item. It comes with free access to the Amazon Underground app store, which contains hundreds of apps that aren’t just free, they also have no in-app purchases. My granddaughter enjoys this app, and has installed the games ch Goat Simulator and Beach

Buggy Blitz from it. If you really must have the Google Play store, it’s easy to inst install on the Fire. I have installed the VLC me media player on my Fire (from www.snipca.com/ 22601) and it will play everything I throw at it. It’s easy to plug the Fire into a PC and drag and drop your movies into the microSD card. It’s a very versatile machine and underrated because many people do not understand the huge benefits of the Amazon universe. Rick Edwards


online. Some newspapers have already done this, and I feel that’s helped to convince the Government to take action. If people are made to feel like social outcasts, then they’ll soon stop putting the lives of others at risk. James Franklin A £200 fine is pathetic. I think the police should confiscate the driver’s phone, search online to see how much it costs (it’s bound to be exorbitantly expensive), then add three zeroes to the fine. That’ll soon put people off. Joyce Church

I’ve just changed my car, and most of the controls (such as heating and radio) are now done via a touchscreen on the central console, sometimes through a series of menus. In my previous car, these functions were done with knobs (easy to touch and easy to remember). The touchscreen is quite exact in terms of touching the right place, so it often takes more than one attempt. You have to take your eyes off the road to concentrate on the screen. I see very little difference between looking at a phone’s small screen and pushing buttons on a screen built into the car (and presumably subject to some sort of driving safety specification). I predict more accidents caused by drivers taking their eyes off the road to look at phones and screens made by car manufacturers. Allan Gould

Yahoo, is my account closed or not?

Your article on switching from Yahoo in Issue 488 was timely for me. Back in early spring, I closed my Yahoo email account because I was unimpressed with developments in it, and Outlook.com seemed to offer something closer to my requirements.

STAR LETTER

£1.9bn isn’t enough to defend against Russian hackers While it was pleasing to read that Chancellor Philip Hammond is taking the threat of cyber-terrorism more seriously than his predecessors, I fear that spending an extra £1.9bn on the UK’s cyber defences is simply not enough (News, Issue 489, page 8). Compare that figure to our overall spending on defence – it will be £39bn by 2020/21. There’s no longer any political will to intervene militarily to depose tyrants, so that’s a lot of money spent on soldiers that will never see military action and equipment that will never be used. Philip Hammond and military chiefs seem to understand – correctly in my view – that our main enemy is, once again, Russia. But we’re never going to invade Russia, and it’s never going to invade us, so we’re wasting billions. Instead, we need to protect ourselves from digital invasions that will obliterate our precious infrastructure, which is the mark of a civilised and stable society. We can’t let rogue leaders like Putin threaten our way of life. Imagine the civil disorder if a Russian attack knocked down our National Grid, or stopped hospitals working properly. In the years to come, countries will

flex their muscles as much in cyberspace as on the battlefield. Remember all those parades through Red Square, where Russia would try to intimidate the world with its tanks and missiles? The modern equivalent of that propaganda is cyber-attacks that intend to show how their hackers can infiltrate the systems of the UK and our Nato allies. So I hope that money spent on cyber defences will increase faster than funds made available for physical equipment. And I hope the Chancellor means what he says when he urges the UK to retaliate. There’s no point pretending that all countries play fair in cyberspace. They don’t. If Russia plays dirty, then so must we. Gordon Sealy

The Star Letter writer wins a Computeractive mug! Yahoo explained that, although I had closed my account, it would remain on their server for 90 days, so I was not surprised when newsletters arrived from organisations I’d contacted in the past. These reduced in number as I unsubscribed. Out of the blue – well after the 90-day time limit – I received an email from Yahoo advising me to change my password and security settings. This was about the time that Yahoo announced their site had been hacked. I was rather shocked, and found my account was still open and the spam folder was chockful of unpleasant emails, suggesting hackers had got to my account. I closed the

account again and tried to contact Yahoo, but they make meaningful, person-to-person contact as difficult as possible. I found a postal address in Dublin that I assumed was the European headquarters and sent my letter there. It’s four weeks later now and I’ve had no reply. Since then, I found the Shaftesbury Avenue address in London and have written there. Yahoo’s conduct is despicable, discourteous and unprofessional. They have abused customer trust, been lax over customer security and failed to offer even a minimal standard of customer care. The sooner I know my account with them is completely closed, the better. Chris Nother 7 – 20 December 2016 13


Consumeractive Have I been misled by an eBay Bay seller? I bought Norton Security 2017 on disc from an eBay seller and paid forr twoday delivery. But soon after the seller emailed mailed me a link to download nload the software and the he licence key. Now th the seller ll says that because I’ve downloaded the software, I can’t have the CD. EBay has refused me a refund. What are my rights? Stuart Womack

Q

Stuart is certainly entitled to a refund on any postage he paid the seller to send him a disc, so we’ll contact eBay about this. But it’s harder to say whether he’s actually entitled to the disc as well. He could argue that he’s been mis-sold the product, believing that he was getting a physical item. He has to prove that the seller didn’t warn him that he wouldn’t receive the disc if he downloaded the software via the link. He could argue for damages because of the seller’s misrepresentation of the goods. Once Stuart has sent us more information, we’ll investigate the seller. We’ll also contact Symantec, which makes Norton software, should it become necessary.

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Can I fight FedEx’s import charges? An American customer of my company returned a package of candy without informing me. Although the total cost of this candy, including postage and packaging, was only around £10, the buyer valued it at $25 (£19). FedEx, which returned the parcel, is now trying to charge me £42 for VAT and import duty (on behalf of HMRC) and for its own ‘advancement fee’. Can I fight this charge? Lee Masters

Q

Yes, we think Lee can. He’ll certainly be able to claim back the VAT and import duty from HMRC. As the company owner he can use Returned Goods Relief, which means he doesn’t need to pay fees on items that have been sent back by a customer (read more about this on Gov.uk: www.snipca.com/22477). But it’s less clear whether he’ll get a refund from FedEx, although for two reasons we think he has a chance. First, the company didn’t tell him about the charges until after delivery, which is unusual because most couriers won’t do this until all taxes are paid. If FedEx had told Lee, he could

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have refused to take the delivery, citing that he wasn’t liable to pay taxes because the buyer is in the US, and therefore not covered by UK consumer law. Secondly, Lee doesn’t have a contract with FedEx – the buyer does. And that means the buyer must pay the ‘advancement fee’, which is what FedEx charges when it has to pay import duties in advance. It’s approximately two per cent of the total delivery charge. FedEx told us it wouldn’t discuss Lee’s case, and said that he should contact customer services. We said that he’d done that numerous times, and now feels like he’s being fobbed off. We’ll keep chasing the company, and hopefully report good news soon.

Should I give up on Vodafone’s refund? You took up my and my friends’ case in August 2014 (Issue 432) when Vodafone refused to refund money left in accounts after it discontinued a pay-as-you-go USB dongle scheme. At the time Ofcom said that Vodafone should refund us, but we are still waiting for our money. Should we give up? Brian Patterson

Q

14 7 – 20 December 2016

We’re shocked to hear that Brian and his friends have yet to be refunded, particularly after Vodafone was recently fined £4.6m by Ofcom for a similar problem with pay-asyou-go accounts, and appalling customer service (see News, Issue 488, and read Ofcom’s report at www.snipca. com/22456). Vodafone said that it had refunded 10,442 out of the 10,452 customers affected, so perhaps it has been too busy doing this to look into Brian’s case.

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Brian has already chased Vodafone for longer than should be expected, so we’ll take on his case again. We’ve given the company all the details, and those of his friends, so hopefully it will refund them the £87 they’re owed collectively. We also talked to Ofcom, which said it wanted to resolve all outstanding cases with Vodafone. Ofcom’s verdict on the company was scathing, so we’re confident it will investigate any future complaints.


Contact us so we can investigate your case

Email: consumeractive@computeractive.co.uk Write: Consumeractive, Computeractive, 30 Cleveland Street, London W1T 4JD Please include both your phone number and address. Unfortunately, we can’t reply to all your letters.

We sstand up for your legal rights

PC-repair PC i shop h llost my data – what can I do? I sent my brother’s laptop to a company called Platinum Computer Repairs to fix. Specific instructions were given to the shop not to lose emails or the family tree. Although I was assured this wouldn’t be a problem, the computer came back reformatted and missing vital data. Although Platinum has now sent a disc with some of the lost data, do I have a case for a refund? Duncan Reid

Q

It’s hard to say. Duncan does appear to have a verbal contract with Platinum, which would be binding if he can prove what was agreed to. However, it’s worth remembering that repair companies’ terms and conditions are likely to contain a clause that waives

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any substantial liability if data is lost or cannot be retrieved. He would have a stronger case for a refund if he’d paid Platinum to save the data. It would then have been under an obligation as part of the service contract to retrieve and save what it could before

LEGAL UPDATE Confusing broadband adverts banned Have you ever felt bamboozled by broadband adverts and offers? You’re not alone. Research carried out earlier this year by Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found that 81 per cent of customers couldn’t work out the true monthly cost of a broadband contract as advertised by internet service providers (ISPs). As a result, the ASA introduced new rules on 31 October forcing ISPs to be clearer about the total cost of a broadband package. For example, companies must now include line-rental charges in the monthly fee. Previously, they would bury this in the small print, allowing them to show a lower price as an eyecatching headline. ISPs must also give “greater prominence” to any upfront costs such as delivery and installation fees, and what the monthly charge will be once the initial discount period has ended. The charges are clear to see online. In our screenshot Sky states that the overall price includes line rental, and that there will be a “set-up fee” of £48.95. The ASA’s chief executive Guy Parker hopes the changes will have “a real positive difference in how consumers understand and engage with ads”. If you spot an advert that breaks the rules, report it to the ASA at www.snipca.com/22478. Currently the rules apply to major ISPs only, such as BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media, although smaller companies say they are also changing their adverts.

reformatting and repairing the computer. In this scenario Platinum would have to refund Duncan what he paid, but not necessarily pay any damages for losing the data. For this, Duncan would have to prove the worth of the emails and files, and ask a judge to rule whether he should be compensated for their loss. Our advice is to always back up data, including ba images and emails. Duncan im should also contact his sh internet service provider to check whether the missing emails are saved on its servers. If you want to avoid sending PCs to repair shops, read our ‘Don’t Pay For PC Repairs’ Cover Feature in Issue 483 (pictured).

THIS WILL COME IN USEFUL

Help for people with disabilities Android

www.snipca.com/22447

Apple iOS

www.snipca.com/22448

BBC iPlayer

www.snipca.com/22453

Chrome

www.snipca.com/22473

Chromebooks

www.snipca.com/22449

Facebook

www.snipca.com/22467

Firefox

www.snipca.com/22450

Google Docs

www.snipca.com/22474

Microsoft’s Disability Answer Desk Tel: 0800 026 0584 www.snipca.com/22446

Microsoft Office

www.snipca.com/22451

Skype

www.snipca.com/22455

Sky TV

www.snipca.com/22454

Windows 7

www.snipca.com/22469

Windows 8

www.snipca.com/22470

Windows 10

www.snipca.com/22471

Internet Explorer

www.snipca.com/22468

7 – 20 December 2016 15


Protect Your Tech Scams and threats to avoid, plus new security tools WATCH OUT FOR…

Chrome-crashing tech-support con What’s the threat?

A tech-support scam that makes the Chrome browser freeze – or ‘hang’ – then displays a phone number to call to fix the problem. Victims will see a blue screen with Microsoft’s logo at the top (see screenshot right). The message underneath states that the PC has been infected by a Trojan, and that bank details, credit-card numbers and

passwords may be stolen. Calling the number puts you through to scammers who try to sell you fake security products. The criminals behind the scam are exploiting a flaw in Chrome that lets them push thousands – maybe even millions – of URLs into the browser’s history. To cope, Chrome has to devour much of Windows’ memory and processor power, causing the affected PC to become ponderously slow. Google was told about this flaw in July 2014, but delayed fixing it because it had more pressing problems.

What should you do?

If you see this screen, you may be able to rescue your PC by ending the Chrome browsing session using Windows Task Manager. Press Ctrl+Shift+Esc to open

New tools Google may sometimes take too long to fix security flaws in Chrome (see above), but the company is probably the closest thing we’ve got to a policeman for the entire internet. And its way of patrolling the cyber-streets is to blacklist malicious websites as part of its Safe Browsing project. Launched in 2007, Safe Browsing works in the background in Chrome, Firefox and Opera, displaying warnings when you’re about to visit a site that contains malware, or that might launch a phishing attack. Google recently relaunched the website to bring all its malware-blocking activities under one roof. The most important part of the site is

16 7 – 20 December 2016

Google’s Safe Browsing

https://safebrowsing.google.com

Task Manager, then right-click a ‘Chrome.exe’ file, and click End Process, or End Task (see screenshot left). However Malwarebytes, which discovered the scam, said that some PCs may require a hard reboot. Researchers said they had reported the scam to Google, which will hopefully prompt the company to treat it more urgently than before.

ScamWatch

READERS WARN READERS

Scare tactics in PayPal scam

right at the bottom. Scroll down, then look under ‘Contact Us’ - you’ll see links for reporting malware and phishing. Click either and you’ll be taken to a form asking you for the URL of the suspicious site, and further comments (see screenshot). You’ll need to tick the ‘I’m not a robot’ box, which is a welcome alternative to the squiggly letters in many Captchas.

The scare tactics used by scammers never fail to outrage me. The latest one I’ve seen involves PayPal. I received an email with the PayPal logo (looked professional) that warned me “unusual activity” had been spotted in my account. There was a link in the email to “confirm” my account. If you look carefully at the text there’s a clue that this is a scam – no gap in “recentactivity”. That’s too big an error for a company as large as PayPal to make. Since receiving the email I’ve bookmarked PayPal’s page on scam emails: www.snipca.com/22479. Susan Morgan Warn your fellow readers about scams at letters@computeractive.co.uk


Best Free Software Jane Hoskyn recommends new programs that won’t cost you anything VIDEO

OBS Studio 0.16.4 https://obsproject.com What you need: Windows 7, 8/8.1 or 10 Record video clips of whatever is playing on your computer screen, using this free new program from the open-source Open Broadcaster Software project. Real-time screen recording has umpteen potential uses. Most obviously, it lets you capture live or on-demand video from any internet source, then save the recording. It’s an easy way to capture short clips from your camcorder videos. You could create a video to illustrate a computer problem you’re having, or your own how-to video about Windows 10 for less computer-savvy friends and family. Or even a video of the route to your house, using your mouse cursor and Google Maps. OBS Studio makes it easy to do all these things, but its many settings are initially bamboozling. After some exploring, we configured OBS to export small video files of good quality (see our steps below) and then found the recording process quick and straightforward. Fill the window with your video source,

click to start recording and then again to stop. The finished video appears immediately in your Videos folder. Advanced options include combining clips using transitions; recording two or more video sources in one window; adding narration using a powerful audio mixer; automatically capturing streams from YouTube and other online sources using the OBS browser extension; and streaming your own live broadcasts. There’s no user guide, and you may be disappointed by the lack of Adobe-style video-editing tools. But for a completely free program, OBS Studio really impresses us. It’s a great free alternative to Camtasia, which costs £185, and an even better junk-free alternative to all those “free” YouTube-downloading tools that fill your PC with adware. OBS Studio’s installer does include a safe browser extension for recording streams, but you can opt out by unticking Plugins. Find more extensions on the OBS Studio Plugins page (www.snipca.com/22457).

3

4 2 1

1 Click Settings, then Output,

and choose ‘mp4’ from the Recording Format dropdown menu. Click Video to choose output resolution. Click Apply, then OK.

18 7 – 20 December 2016

2 The default video source,

Display Capture, records your screen. Double-click it for options such as recording your mouse cursor. Click ‘+’ to choose a different source.

3 To crop the OBS program

window, drag the red border so only your video source fills the box. If you have two monitors, you can record fullscreen using one monitor.

4 Click Start Recording to

record. OBS Studio records your screen in real time. Click Stop Recording to stop. The video saves automatically to your Videos folder.


PHOTO EDITOR

FastStone Image Viewer 6.0 www.faststone.org What you need: Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8/8.1 or 10 View, edit and convert your photo collection using this powerful program, which remains completely free in a world where photo-editing tools tend to be rather expensive, or only available as apps or online. The name ‘FastStone Image Viewer’ is something of an undersell. It doesn’t just display your photos, it also lets you adjust exposure and colour, crop and resize, convert between dozens of formats, create slideshows and contact sheets, manage your photo library and even remove blemishes using ‘Clone and Heal’ - a feature more commonly found in paid-for tools. New version 6.0 adds a few features, including a Straighten/Rotate tool and the ability to change date/time metadata via the Save As option. To get it, click ‘download’ under ‘FastStone Image Viewer 6.0’. If you’re running Windows 7 or later, click the first ‘exe download’ button, then run the installer. If you’re on XP or Vista, click ‘download’ under ‘portable’. BACKUP TOOL

CryptSync 1.2.6 www.snipca.com/22459 What you need: Windows Vista, 7, 8/8.1 or 10 Keep folders automatically and securely backed up using this handy little open-source tool. Once you’ve chosen a pair (or pairs) of folders, CryptSync will encrypt the backup folder and leave the original folder unencrypted so you can work on its contents. Any changes you make in the original folder (for example, your Documents folder) are instantly synced and encrypted to the backup folder (say, in Dropbox or on an external hard drive). You can add a password for even better security. Version 1.2.5 brought CryptSync up to date with Windows 10 following the Anniversary Update. It now supports 64bit by default and ditches support for Windows XP (we don’t recommend running installers on XP anyway). Version 1.2.6, with a couple of fixes, arrived just before we went to press. To get it, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the ‘Download installer’ link, then ‘Download CryptSync641.2.6.msi (2.3 MB)’ on the SourceForge page that opens.

WHAT SHOULD I DOWNLOAD? We tell you what software to use

Which software will help me control my heating? I’m looking for thermostat software that lets me program a heating schedule months in advance, to suit shift work. The likes of Nest and Hive only let you set them seven days in advance. I’ve thought about using a service like IFTTT, but I’m not sure how to connect it to a thermostat. David Tinto

Q

Smart thermostats, like familiar programmable thermostats, let you set a schedule seven days in advance. But their clever built-in software frees you from the need to set a schedule at all, and makes them ideal for unpredictable work schedules. To use this software you’ll need to get a device, and that will cost you from around £200 (plus installation). You won’t need a new boiler, though - smart thermostats work with your existing heating system. Their own web and mobile apps let you check and change your home’s temperature from anywhere via Wi-Fi. You were right to think of IFTTT, the free online tool for creating automatic links between services. Several smart thermostats integrate with IFTTT. Nest (from £179, www.snipca.com/22533) and Honeywell’s Evohome Connected Thermostat (from £204, www.snipca.com/22483) both come with pre-set IFTTT ‘recipes’ such as ‘Every day at [enter time] turn the hot water on’ (https://ifttt.com/ honeywell_evohome) and ‘When you exit a specific area set your Nest Thermostat to [your choice] degrees’ (https://ifttt. com/nest_thermostat). To create a shift schedule, start with one of these recipes and edit it until it suits you. Nest also has its own free Windows 10 app for controlling your heating from your PC or laptop (www.snipca.com/22486).

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Do you need our advice on what software to use? Just email us at letters@computeractive.co.uk

ON SALE NOW! The A-Z Jargon Buster Book This A-Z guide contains over 950 definitions of computing and tech jargon, helping you take back control of your PC.

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7 – 20 December 2016 19


Reviews

New products tested by our experts

PC ❘ £609 from Eclipse Computers www.snipca.com/22504

Eclipse Apollo All work and no play What do we mean by an all-round PC? Generally, it’s about balancing the money spent on the various components so you get a system that’s ready for everything – within reason – rather than weighted towards a particular task. For example, if you have a mid-range budget and shell out on a high-performance graphics card, you may be able to run every 3D game at fast-frame rates but you’ll only have enough cash left for a CPU that struggles when you open more than a couple of web-browser windows.

A desktop PC that has the perfect balance of components for everyday tasks This desktop PC goes the opposite way. Unlike others we’ve tested around this price, it has no graphics card at all. Instead, Eclipse has spent its money on an i5-6400 processor, one of the best in Intel’s Skylake range. Strictly speaking, it’s no longer one of the very latest processors, because the slightly faster Kaby Lake chip is already beginning to appear in PCs, but it’s still an excellent choice. It has four cores running at up to 3.3GHz and an integrated Intel HD Graphics 530 processor that’s definitely better than nothing. In our benchmark tests, the Apollo was clearly ahead of i3-based systems, scoring high for multitasking and video editing. You’d still want a more powerful i7 machine for professional work, but sacrificing the GPU does guarantee a boost to raw processing power. And if you want to play games occasionally, it’s not out of the question. You’ll just have to settle for Full HD or lower resolution and reduced quality settings, and steer clear of the most demanding titles. 20 7 – 20 December 2016

The case – Cooler Master’s MasterBox 5 – provides loads of room with very little to occupy it. The hard drive is a fast Seagate Barracuda with a generous 2TB capacity. But if you want really fast you’ll need an SSD, and there’s an M.2 connector ready to add flash storage directly to the PCI-Express interface. There are also four SATA ports and one SATA Express for conventional drives and SSDs, with two 3.5in and five 2.5in bays to accommodate them, although none of these has the front opening required for a DVD or Blu-ray drive. For external peripherals, there are two fast USB 3.1 ports and one USB Type-C on the back, along with Gigabit Ethernet, PS/2 keyboard and mouse sockets and an audio jack, as well as a pair of USB 3.0 ports on the front. With no graphics card to provide extra monitor outputs, you just get one HDMI, one dual-link DVI-D (supporting higher-resolution screens) and one VGA connector for older monitors. If you need more clout, Eclipse’s numerous upgrade options would let you add, for example, a 275GB SSD, another SPECIFICATIONS

2.7GHz Intel i5-6400 quad-core processor • 8GB memory • 2TB hard drive • 2x USB 3.1 ports • 2x USB 3.0 ports • USB Type-C • Gigabit Ethernet • HDMI port • Dual-link DVI port • VGA port • Windows 10 Home • 475x210x491mm (HxWxD) • Three-year warranty www.snipca.com/22318

8GB of memory, and Asus’ ROG Strix edition of AMD’s Radeon RX 480 graphics card for around £1,000 in total. Although the RX 480 isn’t the most impressive of this year’s new GPUs, combining it with the Apollo’s i5-6400 would beat systems that combine a pricier graphics card, such as Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1070, with an underpowered CPU. The same logic dictates that, as long as serious gaming isn’t your main concern, the Apollo – even in its basic configuration – will stand the test of time better than a similarly priced machine that has a more advanced graphics card. Graphical tasks like photo and video editing will benefit from the faster main processor, and almost every program will be able to take advantage, rather than only those designed to support a GPU. VERDICT: Focusing on the CPU makes this a superior desktop PC for general tasks and a good base for upgrading

★★★★☆ ALTERNATIVE: PC Specialist RX1 GT £599 If you want more 3D gaming g performance, this combines es a fast AMD CPU and basic GPU to good effect


LAPTOP TABLET ❘ £450 from Lenovo www.snipca.com/22489 HOW WE TEST

Lenovo Yoga Book A pleasant surprise

With laptops getting touchscreens and tablets getting keyboards, computers and mobile devices are becoming almost indistinguishable. And now here’s one that truly is both: you can buy the Yoga Book for £450 running Android 6.0 Marshmallow, or for £550 running Windows 10. It’s basically the same machine, but with a choice of desktop or mobile operating system. And whichever you pick, it would be unlike any portable computer you’ve seen before. Instead of a keyboard, the Yoga Book’s sleek, stiffly hinged metal case pairs a touchscreen with an electromagnetic resonance (EMR) panel, which you can

A lightweight hybrid with optional operating systems and a unique keyboard use to type or draw on. In keyboard mode, the keys appear, as if by magic, as illuminated outlines. When you type, you can feel the keys click – or sort of buzz, anyway. It’s enough to make the sensation slightly more real than typing on a glass tablet screen – and it avoids getting fingerprints all over the display. With a bit of practice we found we could enter text quite comfortably, though not as fast as with physical keys. Tap the button at the top right and the keys disappear, leaving you to scribble with the included stylus. This feels

incredibly precise, and because your marks appear on the screen above, your hand doesn’t get in the way. You also have the option of clipping an A5 notebook on top of the pad and writing with real ink, much like the Wacom Bamboo Spark (see our review, Issue 467), making a digital carbon copy at the same time. In the Android version we tested, which is only just arriving in the UK, your scrawls appear in a special Lenovo app. On the Windows model – already widely available – they go into Microsoft OneNote. The Yoga Book’s screen is quite compact for a laptop, at less than 11 inches, and not as sharp as today’s leading tablets. Nevertheless, its Full HD-plus resolution looks crisp, even if its 81 per cent sRGB colour coverage won’t satisfy serious photo editors. Considering the Yoga Book’s price, though, this is all perfectly acceptable, as is the modest Intel Atom processor, which is faster than the version we’ve seen in many previous budget laptop-tablet hybrids. This isn’t the machine for video editing or playing 3D games, but for general office tasks and web browsing it’s fine, and it lasted a decent seven hours 22 minutes in our video-playback test. Combined with its extraordinarily low weight, that makes this a very practical go-anywhere device. SPECIFICATIONS

Intel Atom x5-Z8550 quad-core processor • 4GB memory • 64GB flash storage • 10.1in 1920x1200pixel screen • MicroSD card slot • MicroUSB port • Micro HDMI • 802.11ac Wi-Fi • Bluetooth 4.0 • Android 6.0 (or Windows 10 Home) • 171x257x9.6mm (HxWxD) • 690g • One-year warranty www.snipca.com/22493

Computeractive is owned by Dennis Publishing, which owns a hi-tech facility for testing the latest technology. You’ll often read references to our benchmark testing, which is a method of assessing products using the same criteria. For example, we test the speed of every PC and the battery life of every tablet in exactly the same way. This makes our reviews authoritative, rigorous and accurate. Dennis Publishing also owns the magazines PC Pro, Computer Shopper, Web User and Micro Mart and the websites Expert Reviews (www. expertreviews.co.uk) and Alphr (www. alphr.com). This means we can test thousands of products before choosing the most relevant for Computeractive.

FAIR AND IMPARTIAL

Our writers follow strict guidelines to ensure the reviews are fair and impartial. The manufacturer has no involvement in our tests.

OUR AWARDS

We award every product that gets five stars our BUY IT! Buy It! stamp of approval. ★★★★★ It means we were extremely impressed by the product, and we think you will be too. Every product that gets a four-star review is given the Great Pick award. We highly recommend these products, although they just fail to meet the high standard of our Buy It! winners.

PRICES

Our reviews contain a link to the best price we found online at the time of press.

VERDICT: Innovative, useful and very portable, the Yoga Book won’t suit everyone but it’s a welcome new concept in laptops

★★★★★ ALTERNATIVE: Acer Switch Alpha 12 £600 This pricier Windows 10 hybrid has a faster i3 processor and sharper 12in screen

7 – 20 December 2016 21


Reviews PC MONITOR ❘ £130 from Amazon www.snipca.com/22497

Asus VC239H A slightly smaller, slightly better monitor There’s no shortage of Full ull HD (1920x1080-pixel) monitors tors to choose from these days, but if you want to keep costs down you’ll need to choose carefully. refully. This 23in screen is at the he smaller end of the desktop op PC range, but that’s probably bably no bad thing. 27in models els look somewhat coarse by y today’s standards unless they have a higher resolution than this, and d while 24in might be considered nsidered ideal, you’ll pay a bit more for it. For a relatively cheap display, the VC239H’s black plastic case looks pretty good, with narrow bezels – less than a centimetre at the top and sides – and none of the ugly details that often betrays a low-end model. On the back, a pair of 1.5W stereo speakers are directed downwards so that they still work if you use the VESA mounting point to fix the screen to a wall rather than the supplied circular base. The base offers only a bare minimum of tilt adjustment, and the power supply comes as a separate mains adapter brick rather than being built in.

An attractive and practical design with a screen that’s great for TV shows and films The screen is a decent IPS panel. As you’d expect from this technology, it’s visible from a wide range of angles and gives accurate enough colour for photo editing in the VC239H’s sRGB mode, even if contrast is slightly lacking. Switch to Standard mode and it artificially boosts the colours. This is good for games, TV shows and films, and manages to increase SPECIFICATIONS

23in IPS LCD • 1920x1080-pixel resolution • HDMI port • DVI port • VGA port • 1.5W stereo speakers • 383x533x200mm (HxWxD) • Three-year warranty www.snipca.com/22498

Do I really need...

a VR headset? What does it do?

A VR (virtual-reality) helmet has a double screen to show an image to each of your eyes, giving you a view of a computer-generated world. It may come with controls to hold in your hands. The latest headsets have dozens of sensors to track your movements, so, as you turn your head or look up and down, the scene seems to stay in place around you. This makes it feel realistic and stops you feeling sick.

Why would I want one?

contrast substantially while showing clear detail in the darkest areas. Asus touts the screen’s ability to filter out blue light, reckoned to make it more comfortable to use for extended periods and less disruptive to your sleep if you’re still using it just before heading off to bed. Other software features include a centre crosshair for gamers and a ‘QuickFit’ option that shows actual-size templates for common document and photo formats so you can see how images will look when printed. Aside from those speakers, however, you don’t get any hardware extras; there’s no USB hub, for example, to put extra connections into your PC. If you want more advanced functionality in a monitor, you’ll have to look elsewhere, but if your priority is solid image quality, the VC239H is excellent value for money. VERDICT: It’s short on frills, but this medium-sized monitor has the essential qualities to make a worthy companion for any PC

★★★★☆ ALTERNATIVE: Iiyama ProLite XU2390HS-B1 £130 This older 23in IPS monitor has similar strengths and limitations, and won’t disappoint

Good question. We’re told VR is the next big medium for games, movies and other interactive experiences. In fact, we’ve been told that since the 1980s. But now it’s really true – apparently.

What’s the catch?

Full-blown VR systems cost a lot of money – the highly regarded HTC Vive costs £759 (from Scan www.snipca. com/22578). You’ll need a PC with a new VR-ready graphics card, too. They also require sensors screwed to the walls around a reasonably large room, which may rule the whole thing out if you rent your home.

What are the options?

There are already lots of VR systems, including Oculus Rift (pictured right), HTC Vive, Microsoft HoloLens and PlayStation VR (for Sony’s games console). Buy one that doesn’t oe ’t oesn’t catch on, and by next year ar you may be stuck with an expensive Halloween costume. Then there are headsets that use your Android phone as a screen, such as the Samsung Gear VR (below) and Google Daydream. We don’t know if these will catch on either, and when you change your phone you’ll probably need to buy a different one. Oh, and there are some s, amazing games and films, but only a few so far, and most of them last only a few minutes.

7 – 20 December 2016 23


CHERRY MC 4000 Mouse www.amazon.co.uk £25.00

Best new Christmas gadgets

With a fast 1000/2000-dpi switchable sensor, indicated by blue and red LEDs respectively, this semantical mouse is a perfect addition to any desktop for left- or right-handed users. High-speed motion detection at 60ips and a 360-degree sliding pad on the base keeps this USB optical mouse moving across the desktop. Six additional, programmable buttons allow quick access to your commonly used functions.

Stuck for Christmas present ideas, or don’t know what to ask for yourself? Then consider these hese eight gift ideas in this promotional feature… ure…

CHERRY MX Board 3.0 www.amazon.co.uk £64.00 The CHERRY MX Board 3.0 offers a perfect introduction to mechanical keyboards, utilising Red, Linear MX switches under each key. The keyboard design is low profile and simplistic, yet robust and hard wearing, with laser-etched, wear-resistant key caps and individual keys tested to 50 million operations. 14-key rollover, Win-Key Lock and anti-ghosting technology, coupled with a removable USB cable make this an ideal gaming keyboard, but it’s perfect for both home and office use.

CHERRY DW 5100 Board www.amazon.co.uk £30.00 Break free from wires! The CHERRY DW-5100 is a stylish and comfortable ortable keyboard ort and mouse set, using 24GHz technology for an interference-free, -free, 5m range. The mouse has a switchable 1000/1750-dpi resolution for fast desktop movement, 5 programmable buttons and a rubber side-grip for added comfort. This ergonomically designed mouse also has batteries that will last for up to 2 years between changes. The keyboard is a low-profile design with 10 programmable hot keys and an on/off switch to help conserve power. Supplied with a nanoUSB receiver, the set is simply plug and play with no additional software required.


Promotional feature

mydlink Home SMART

Home HD Starter Kit (DCH-100KT) www.dlink-direct.co.uk £147.98 including VAT*

CHERRY CHER RRY MX Board 6 6.0 0 www.amazon.co.uk £142.00 With a solid aluminium case, magnetic quick-snap wrist rest and bright red backlighting, the CHERRY MX Board 6.0 is certainly striking to say the least, but it also hides some incredible features. Backlighting can be adjusted to 100 levels on the Red CHERRY MX’s linear switches to find the right intensity, there is full ‘N’ key rollover off all 109 keys, as well as full anti-ghosting technology and Win-Key Lock. A braided USB cable provides simple plug-andplay connection. Its secret ingredient, though, is the exclusive RK technology, providing analogue processing and the fastest response time of just 1ms, just to give you the edge over the competition.

This clever little smart home kit lets you set, control, monitor and automate your home from anywhere. So whether you’re switching Christmas tree lights on or off remotely or keeping an eye on things while at social gatherings this festive season – you’re in control of your home and possessions, wherever you are, giving you peace of mind. The mydlink™ Home smartphone and tablet app is the command centre for the D-Link range of smart home technology devices. There’s no better time of year to discover mydlink Home – smart technology working together for a safer, more interactive home. *November price list

PORT Designs

Slim emergency battery 5000mAh www.northamber.com £29.99 The POCKET POWERBANK BATTERY 5000mAh by Port Designs “Designed in Paris” provides you with emergency charge for your smartphone for at least 2 full charges and comes with a 2-year warranty! It comes pre-charged and ready to use, making it easy to charge your phone – or any other USB yo device – on the go. It’s part of the Port Connect range of mobile accessories that are designed for users in both the workplace lace and during recreational time! Specifications: • Lithium-Ion Polymer battery ry • 4 levels LED charge indicator ator • Battery capacity 5000mAh • ON/OFF button • Input Voltage: 5V • Input Current: 2A • Output Voltage: 5V • Output Current: 2.1A

PORT Designs Solar Power Bank 8000mAH www.northamber.com £39.99 Charges up to 2 USB rechargeable devices simultaneously. Solar panel rechargeable battery or USB charger. Shock- and splash-proof body. Flashlight/SOS light included.

Urbanears

Plattan ADV Wireless www.currys.co.uk £80 Move around freely and listen to music without the hassle of cables. Plattan ADV Wireless has all the controls you need on its swipe interface. Pair up with Bluetooth and enjoy up to 14 hours of playtime on a single charge. Includes a washable headband and collapsible structure for easy portability.


Reviews PHONE ❘ £400 from Carphone Warehouse www.snipca.com/22530

Huawei Nova A mid-range phone at a high-end price When we tested this phone after Huawei announced it in September, we found a very nicely designed device at what looked like a very reasonable cost. So far, though, we haven’t seen hide nor hair of the larger Nova Plus model in the UK, while the Nova is only available from Carphone Warehouse (for about £60 more than we expected). Unless this price comes down, the Nova will look more like an attractive mid-range phone with something approaching a high-end price tag that’s not worth the extra money. That’s a shame, because it has a lot going for it. With its simple design, rounded-off glass and shiny chamfered edges, the case looks a bit like an iPhone SE crossed with an iPhone 6. The fingerprint sensor button is round the back, which reminded us of the Nexus 6P, made by Huawei for Google. These are all excellent phones, so no complaints there. Full HD (1920x1080 pixels) on the 5in

screen looks very sharp, arp, and with high contrast and nd almost perfectly accurate colour our reproduction the AMOLED OLED panel’s only shortcoming ming is brightness levels, which ch we didn’t find a serious problem. The eight-core Snapdragon ragon processor ran Huawei’s ’s version of Android 6.0.1 .0.1 smoothly, even coping g well with 3D games, and the battery lasted us 13-and-a-half hours of video playback. If there’s a weak spot, it’s the 12megapixel rear camera, which looks good on paper but gave us disappointing pictures outdoors. The Nova Plus has optical stabilisation, but Huawei has left it out of the standard version, making camera shake more of a problem. Indoors, surprisingly, it was better than some of its rivals. This is a decent phone, then, but at £400 it it’s directly up against the new OnePlus 3T (£399 from OnePlus www.snipca. co com/22547), which improves on an al already excellent Android phone with lo longer battery life, a faster processor and a better camera. It seems like the better bu buy unless the Nova drifts down in price.

WHAT SHOULD I BUY?

SPECIFICATIONS

5in 1920x1080-pixel screen • 12-megapixel rear camera • 8-megapixel front camera • 32GB flash storage • MicroSD card slot • 802.11n Wi-Fi • Bluetooth 4.1 • 3G/4G • 141x69x7.1mm (HxWxD) • 146g • One-year warranty www.snipca.com/22548

VERDICT: In today’s competitive phone market, the Nova needs to be cheaper, but it’s a fine device with no big drawbacks

★★★★☆ ALTERNATIVE: OnePlus ePlus 3T £399 This 5.5in phone one comes with 64GB of storage ge (though no microSD slot) and nd a more powerful processor

We solve your buying dilemmas

What’s the best replacement for my router? My broadband is from TalkTalk through a copper line. They supplied a DSL-3680 router. To replace this, I tried a Synology RT190ac router, as recommended in Computeractive Issue 474, but it didn’t seem to work, and info on the internet suggested it wasn’t a direct replacement for the DSL-3680, so I sent it back. Is there a good router that will directly replace my DSL-3680 and increase my download and upload speeds? Anthony Snowdon

Q

26 7 – 20 December 2016

The DSL-3680, made by D-Link, is quite old and only supports 802.11n. A newer 802.11ac router could improve Wi-Fi speed, although the speed of your broadband ultimately limits how fast you can upload and download. To connect over copper phone wires you need an ADSL modem, which is built into the DSL-3680; the telephone jack on the back connects to your phone socket. The Synology RT190ac is a cable router, which doesn’t have a modem and instead provides an Ethernet WAN port to

A

connect to a modem box. Suitable ADSL2+ routers with 802.11ac Wi-Fi include TP-Link’s Archer VR900 (pictured, £126 from Amazon www. snipca.com/22583), which is fast with 802.11ac devices; if you use older 802.11n products, the Archer D9 (£99.50 from Amazon www.snipca.com/22584, see Issue 454) is a safer choice. Do you need advice on what you should buy? Email us at letters@computeractive.co.uk


I want to be unhackable. My daughter should be having fun online without her seeing anything I don’t want her to see. Also, our family shops online a lot and our credit card details need to be safe. That’s why I want a security solution to keep us protected. Kaspersky Total Security. Get protected now at Kaspersky.co.uk

Nothing guarantees complete protection, so please exercise caution online. © 2016 Kaspersky Lab. All rights reserved. Registered trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.


Reviews SCANNER ❘ £262 from Ballicom www.snipca.com/22546

HP Scanjet Pro 2500 f1 Sheet-fed scanning

Now that all-in-one printer/scanner/ copiers are the norm, you don’t see many standalone scanners. Those with document feeders (ADF) are generally very expensive and limited to scanning multiple single sheets. The Scanjet Pro 2500 f1 is quite pricey, but it lets you swing up the ADF and place materials directly on the scanning glass, so you can digitise thicker content like book pages or small artworks. With no Wi-Fi or Ethernet features, you’ll need to connect the scanner directly to a PC or Mac via USB, which is fine, because it’s rarely convenient to scan remotely anyway. It looks much like the top section of an all-in-one printer, SPECIFICATIONS

1200dpi scanner • Maximum size 216x297mm • 50-sheet ADF • Requires Windows 7 or later • 122x451x351mm (HxWxD) • 4.3kg • One-year warranty www.snipca.com/22545

and works like one too. But at a claimed 20 pages per minute, and with the ability to scan both sides of the paper simultaneously without slowing down, it’s faster than most. We didn’t quite hit that speed, but we weren’t far off. A more complicated 16-side job took two minutes 47 seconds at a usable 200 dots per inch (dpi). When using the glass, we found it was possible to accidentally tuck a book under the bezel when trying to push it flush against the edge, but otherwise there were no problems. HP’s scanning software is annoyingly basic, and won’t detect which way round pages ought to be making it more hassle to deal with longer documents. But we got sharp scans up to 1200dpi, with

reasonably accurate colour, although this device wouldn’t be your first pick for photo scanning. VERDICT: For regular document scanning this is a decent machine, but you could get an all-in-one for less money, so it won’t appeal to many

★★★★☆ ALTERNATIVE: CanoScan LiDE 220 £60 If you don’t need ADF, this flatbed pi for model goes up to 4800dpi photos, but takess 15 seconds to a minute per scan

SPEAKER ❘ £70 from Amazon www.snipca.com/22542

Jam Rhythm An affordable Wi-Fi speaker Among decent wireless speakers under £200, most are based on Bluetooth and increasing numbers offer multi-room operation (whereby sound from a single source plays to several speakers) – all controlled from your phone or tablet. The Rhythm is at the lower end of the price range, but it also does multi-room, albeit with a smaller range of input options than many rivals. You can use Spotify Connect to stream music from the internet, for example, but you can’t use Google Cast to play from your Android device or PC. Surprisingly, though, it’s based on Wi-Fi rather than Bluetooth, which means it supports Apple AirPlay. If you have an iPhone, iPad or Mac, that gives 28 7 – 20 December 2016

you theoretically better sound quality. For PCs and other devices AirPlay is just a slightly more reliable form of wireless, but we found it a bit fiddly to set up, partly because it only works on the 2.4GHz waveband, so if your router is dual band, you need to pick the 2.4GHz option. With that sorted, the Rhythm is easy to use. There’s a standard audio jack input too, for non-digital sources, and from the app the speaker also works as a one-way intercom. The 3.5in woofer and twin 2in speaker drivers put out rich, well-balanced sound, but we found bass fell off rather clumsily, and turning up the volume produced some harshness and distortion. At the moment, when you buy the bigger Symphony speaker (£130 from Jam www. snipca.com/22543), you get a Rhythm for free. That’s a bargain.

SPECIFICATIONS

3.5in woofer • 2x 2in drivers • Requires computer, phone or tablet with Wi-Fi • Supports Apple AirPlay for macOS and iOS • 156x206x104mm (HxWxD) • 1kg • One-year warranty www.snipca.com/22544

VERDICT: Sound quality and connectivity are limited, but this is the cheapest way to start a Wi-Fi multi-room system

★★★★☆ zy ALTERNATIVE: Philips Izzy tt BM5 £86 This tidy five-watt speaker, in black or white, is another affordable multi-room option


Products of the year In 2016 PCs got faster, laptops turned into tablets, and phones started exploding (well, those belonging to one particular South Korean company). Adam Banks, head of our Reviews team, picks his products of the year BEST PC Palicomp AMD Avenger £500 from Palicomp www.snipca.com/20927 We’ve tested some great PCs priced around £500 this year, mostly based d on Intel’s i3 processor or squeezing an i5 into the price by compromising elsewhere. Palicomp used AMD’s Athlon X4 880K processor instead, overclocking it and adding both an ard Nvidia GeForce GTX 960 graphics card sion of (for an extra £40 in the current version the system) and an SSD to eke out every last bit of speed. BEST LAPTOP Asus ZenBook UX305CA (pictured) £634 from Amazon www.snipca.com/22567 It’s not an all-singing replacement for your desktop PC, but this metal-cased laptop, powered by Intel’s M3 processor, showed it is possible to get an ultra-thin, ultra-modern machine with a supersharp display for around £600. BEST LAPTOP TABLET HYBRID ASUS Transformer Book Flip TP200SA £201 from www.snipca.com/22230 This year we tested lots of laptops that, by folding or separating into two, turn into tablets. But the Book Flip was the only one that combined good performance with a decent price. It has a nine-hour battery life, built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and very smooth touchpad. BEST SMARTPHONE iOS iPhone SE £360 from Amazon www.snipca.com/21683 Apart from removing the headphone jack to universal annoyance, the iPhone 7 added little to last year’s 6s unless you shelled out even more money for the larger Plus model and its clever dual camera. So our Apple pick is the SE, basically an improved iPhone 5s for less money. We’d like to see more

manufacturers fact using in olde older tech tto make ke cheaper devices. BEST SMARTPHONE ANDROID Motorola Moto G4 £150 from Amazon www.snipca.com/21685 When it wasn’t dealing with explosions, Samsung released some great phones this year. But its S7 and S7 Edge are far too expensive for most people. In contrast, Motorola’s Moto G4 broke new ground: a budget smartphone with all the essential features of a top-end one, including reasonably smooth performance, a great screen and a decent camera. BEST TABLET iPad Pro 9.7in £549 from Apple www.snipca.com/22569 It’s been a quiet year for tablets. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S2 models continue to rival Apple’s iPads, but neither company updated its range. Huawei’s MediaPad M3 8.0 looked good, but offered much worse performance than the iPad Mini 4 for not much less money. So our tablet of the year has to be Apple’s iPad Pro 9.7in, with the best screen we’ve ever seen on a mobile device. BEST PRINTER Canon Pixma MG5750 £63 from www.snipca.com/21693 BEST EBOOK READER Amazon Kindle (2016 model) £57 from www.snipca.com/21901 BEST PC MONITOR AOC Q2778VQE £215 from www.snipca.com/21902

The Computeractive

Wishlist

Products we would like to see No.8: A ‘FEELABLE’ TRACKPAD Once upon a time, the computer mouse was synonymous with the PC. These days, laptops come with trackpads, and more manufacturers are adding them to desktop PCs too. Most let you scroll and input Windows 10 gestures. The latest MacBook Pro laptops even have a Touch Bar. If you still use a mouse, you might feel like you’re missing out. But the great thing about the mouse is that your hand can steady it while you move it precisely. On a trackpad, your fingers need fine control to skate exactly where you mean to go, which many people find difficult. However, with a mouse you’re pushing a physical object, giving you a sense of resistance. With the haptic feedback that Apple and other companies are beginning to use, this could change. We like the principle of a touch surface separate from the screen, so your fingers don’t get in the way. Add a realistic sense of feeling what you’re touching, and we may one day give up our mice. MacBook ook Pro’s Touch uch Bar

NEXT ISS ISSUE

Wired2Fire Diablo Nucleus GT Everything in a desktop PC for £600

ON SALE

Weds 21 Dec

Asus Transformer Mini Tiny Windows 10 hybrid

These These and d much ch more… Subscribe to Computeractive at www.getcomputeractive.co.uk

7 – 20 December 2016 29


Buy It

Find out what other products we liked. Buy our new 2015 Back Issue CD: £15 from www.snipca.com/21619

Our pick of products that have won the Buy It award

LAPTOP

DESKTOP PC

APPLE IPAD

Asus ZenBook UX305CA

Palicomp AMD Avenger

Apple iPad Air 2

This metal-cased ‘ultrabook’ looks much more expensive than it is. There’s no touchscreen or 36-degree hinge, just great quality all round and an ultra-sharp display. The M3 processor is adequate for most tasks, though not gaming.

AMD’s Athlon X4 880K processor gives this PC solid performance with money left for GTX 960 graphics and a very fast 128GB SSD as well as a 1TB hard drive. It’s not the quietest or most expandable PC, but excellent value.

Getting old, but still our favourite iPad. Buy with 64GB (£429) and you’ll never run out of space. The Pro models are great with Apple’s keyboard and Pencil, but work out much more expensive.

ALTERNATIVE Dell Inspiron 15 5000 If you need a full-size Windows 10 laptop with a DVD drive and a desktop PC-level i5 processor, this is a solid choice. £525 from www.snipca.com/21650

ALTERNATIVE: Dell Inspiron 24 5000 If you prefer your desktop PC in one neat box, this Intel i5 system has all the essentials at a reasonable price. £815 from www.snipca.com/21651

ALTERNATIVE: iPad Mini 2 Slower than the iPad Mini 4, with no fingerprint recognition and a less vivid screen, but an iPad at this price is great value. £239 from www.snipca.com/20436

£634 from www.snipca.com/22321 Tested: Issue 475

£500 from www.snipca.com/20927 Tested: Issue 479

£365 from www.snipca.com/21664 Tested: Issue 437

ANDROID TABLET

APPLE IPHONE

ANDROID PHONE

Samsung Galaxy S2 9.7

£420 from www.snipca.com/21678 Tested: Issue 462

Apple iPhone SE

£360 from www.snipca.com/21683 Tested: Issue 474

Motorola Moto G4

The Sony Xperia Z4 is too expensive and Google’s cheaper Nexus 9 has been discontinued, leaving the 32GB S2 9.7 as the best mid-sized choice. It’s a serious rival to the iPad Air 2, albeit slower.

It may be b Apple’ Apple’s ‘budget’ ‘bud ud t’ phone, ho but the smaller SE beats most others in the market with top-end processing power, a great screen and camera, fingerprint recognition and Apple Pay. You should consider paying £439 for the 64GB model, though.

With an attractive 5.5in screen, an excellent 13-megapixel camera and decent performance, the G4 is the best budget option. £150 from www.snipca. com/21685

ALTERNATIVE: Huawei MediaPad M3 8.0 Rivalling Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S2, this compact tablet has a slightly larger screen and a fingerprint reader. It’s highly capable except when playing advanced 3D games. £311 from www.snipca.com/21926

30 7 – 20 December 2016

ALTERNATIVE: iPhone 6s A bigger screen, better camera and 3D Touch justify the price, but as with the SE the 64GB model (£619) is the best choice. £499 from www.snipca.com/20441

£157 from www.snipca.com/21685 Tested: Issue 479

ALTERNATIVE: Samsung Galaxy S7 Restoring the microSD slot to allow extra storage makes this an even better top-end phone than the S6, with a fantastic screen and camera and incredible 18-hour battery life. £460 from www.snipca.com/21684


PROMOTIONAL FEATURE

Slow Wi-Fi? Boost it by becoming a Computeractive tester!

BUY IT!

★★★★★

Computeractive has teamed up with devolo to offer 10 readers the chance to test Wi-Fi-boosting Powerline technology

S

luggish browsing, lost connections, video buffering – do any of these problems sound familiar? Most of us have experienced the frustration of poor internet connections in our home, usually caused by thick stone walls and interference. One solution is to use Wi-Fi extenders, but they are limited in range. A much more comprehensive option is to use Powerline technology, which turns your home’s electrical circuit into a wired network.

How does Powerline technology work?

Powerline technology uses the home’s electrical circuit to transmit the strength of your original internet signal throughout your house to all floors and rooms. From the office to the basement, you can create new Wi-Fi hotspots and internet connections anywhere there’s a plug socket. You simply plug a Powerline adapter into a power socket near your router (pictured right) and connect the two via Ethernet. You then take a second Powerline adapter and plug that into a socket in another room to create a new Wi-Fi hotspot and a faster, more reliable internet connection.

Introducing devolo’s dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac Adapter

Winner of a Computeractive Buy It! t! award, the dLAN 1200+ Wi-Fi ac iss devolo’s fastest and strongest adapter pter to date. It’s capable of reaching speeds eds of up to 1200Mbps. It includes devolo’s range+ technology, which simultaneously takes advantage of all three wires in the electrical mains circuit to achieve greater range and stability. With the adapter’s ‘Wi-Fi Move Technology’ you can ensure that all of your wireless devices automatically ically switch from the router to the nearest est dLAN adapter so that you can always ays access the strongest possible Wi-Fii signal anywhere in the home. Also, you won’t lose the use of any plugs because the adapter has a passthrough socket, meaning you can still use the plug to power any device even when an adapter is in place. Two Gigabit LAN ports are also available on the unit for additional devices.

But don’t just take our word for it – test it for yourself!

You can see what difference devolo’s technology will make to your home by testing it for Computeractive. In this exclusive offer, devolo is giving us 10 kits to send to readers. To apply for one just email editor@computeractive. co.uk with ‘devolo’ in the subject

line. Tell us the current Wi-Fi set-up in your home, and what problems you’re having. If we pick you as a reviewer, we’ll send you the dLAN 1200+ Wi-Fi ac Starter Kit to use over the next couple of months. We’ll then get in touch with you for your verdict on what difference it has made to your Wi-Fi. You won’t need to send the Kit back to us – it’ll be yours to keep. The deadline for emailing us is midnight 20 December, 2016.

WHERE TO BUY IT The dLAN 1200+ Wi-Fi ac Starter Kit is sold in selected high-street stores, and online, including on Amazon (www. snipca.com/22590). It has an RRP of £159.99.


BUY IT!

★★★★★

Buy It

EBOOK READER

SECURITY SOFTWARE

COMPETITION PHOTO EDITING

Amazon Kindle (2016)

Kaspersky Internet Security 2017

Win 1 of 2 D-Link mydlink HD Wi-Fi Cameras

£57 from www.snipca.com/21901 Tested: Issue 483

£19.95 from www.snipca.com/21532 Tested: Issue 437

Here: All copy copied and pasted from issue 489

Amazon’s on’s basic ebook reader is now good enough to be our first choice. It’s plasticky, but slim and lightweight, with a decent 4GB storage and good battery life. Consider the £110 Paperwhite if you want backlighting or (for £60 extra) 3G. ALTERNATIVE Kobo Glo HD Competing with the Kindle Paperwhite, Kobo’s compact model has a clear screen with controllable lighting. £130 from www.snipca.com/21905 www.snipca.com/22568

Kaspersky Internet Security 2017 has won our past seven antivirus tests. Compatible with Windows 10, the 2017 edition is available at an exclusive reader discount on our Software Store. Go to the link above for a one-year, one-device licence or buy a two-year, three-device licence for just £34.99. ALTERNATIVE: Avast Free Antivirus Almost as good as Kaspersky, but sometimes blocks legitimate software. Free from www.snipca.com/16493

D-Link’s most affordable able le HD camera yet, the mydlink HD Wi-Fi Camera (DCS-936L), provides customers with round-the-clock views of their home or office on their smartphone, tablet or computer from anywhere in the world. Its innovative design with rotatable head means it can be placed conveniently on a shelf, or mounted on a wall or ceiling while still providing images in the correct orientation. To enter, email your address to cacomp@dennis.co.uk by midnight 20 December with ‘mydlink’ in the subject line. You can buy the mydlink DCS-936L camera for £88 from D-Link Direct: www.snipca.com/22591. For more info visit www.dlink.com/uk/en, and follow @DLink_UK on Twitter.

PC MONITOR

ROUTER

MULTIFUNCTION PRINTER

AOC Q2778VQE

Synology RT1900ac

Canon Pixma MG5750

£215 from £228 fromwww.snipca.com/21902 www.snipca.com/21902 Tested: Issue 468

£134 from www.snipca.com/21903 Tested: Issue 474

Here: All copy copied and pasted from issue 489 It comes with no extras, such as built-in speakers or a USB hub, but this 2560x1440 panel gives you a full 27in screen with excellent contrast and colour accuracy at a very reasonable price. It’s a little laggy for gamers, but there’s no ghosting on motion.

If you’re looking to upgrade an outdated Here: All copy copied router, there are lots of dual-band and pasted issue 802.11ac models to from choose from. This 489 This one suits one suits mostalmost broadband all broadband connections connections that don’t require and has an ADSL plentymodem of options, and such has plenty as sharing of options, a connected such asprinter sharing ora storage. connected printer or storage.

ALTERNATIVE: Dell UltraSharp U2414H This 1920x1080, 24in screen has a stand that can switch to portrait mode. Colour accuracy is excellent. £199 from www.snipca.com/21908

ALTERNATIVE TP-Link Archer C9 Not quite as fast, but this or the D9 (with ADSL modem built in) is a simple and capable router with a stylish design. £109 from www.snipca.com/21909 £100

32 7 – 20 December 2016

£63 from www.snipca.com/21693 Tested: Issue 470

You don’t get many frills, but this compact all-in-one printer/scanner includes all the essentials, like Wi-Fi and printing both sides of the paper (duplex), at a reasonable price. It’s fairly quick, running costs are better than average, and the five-ink system ensures photos and black text both come out looking great. ALTERNATIVE: Brother MFC-J5320DW For more business-type tasks, this all-in-one has automatic paper feed for the scanner and the ability to print occasional A3 pages. £90 from www.snipca.com/21694


* 1&1 Virtual Server Cloud S: ÂŁ4.99/month. Billing cycle 1 month. Minimum contract term 12 months. No setup fee. Following the offer period, subsequent periods will be charged at the renewal price. Prices exclude 20% VAT. Visit 1and1.co.uk for full product details, terms and conditions. 1&1 Internet Limited, Discovery House, 154 Southgate Street, Gloucester, GL1 2EX.


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Workshops & Tips

PU & LL OU Is K su E e E 49 P T 0

Edited by Sherwin Coelho

14 pages of easy-to-follow workshopss and expert tips 35 Record your journey though the Solar System 38 Save anything online to read later

40 Track what others do on your PC 42 Stop Windows 10 changing your defaults

PLUS 43 Readers’ Tips 44 Phone & Tablet Tips 46 Make Windows Better

47 Make Office Better 48 Secret Tips For... Windows Movie Maker

Record your journey through the Solar System What you need: Gaia Sky; Windows 7, 8 or 10 Time required: 45 minutes

G

aia Sky is a new, free astronomy program that lets you navigate the Solar System in glorious three dimensions from the comfort of your PC. It’s named after the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite, from which it gets its

data. One of its standout features is the option to record whatever you do within the program, then replay this to see your journey through the cosmos. We will show you how to set it up and use all of the program’s best features.

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1 STEP Before downloading the program you need to check

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your Windows version, so right-click Computer (either on the desktop or Start menu), then click Properties and look at your ‘System type’ 1 . You’ll see either 64bit (common) or 32bit Operating System written. Next, go to www.snipca.com/22410, then click the relevant Windows installer link 2 for your PC version. Now click the downloaded setup file, then click Run, Yes, then keep clicking Next until you need to click Finish.

STEP By default, Gaia Sky doesn’t launch, nor does it

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add a desktop shortcut. To add one, press the Windows key, then type gaia sky 1 . On Windows 7, drag and drop the program’s icon to your desktop. On Windows 8 and 10, right-click the search result 2 , then click ‘Pin to taskbar’ or ‘Pin to Start’ 3 (depending on what you want do), then open the program. You’ll first see a small screen on which you need to confirm your default settings.

7 – 20 December 2016 35


Workshops 1

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5 STEP Most of the default settings are fine, but select

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‘Fullscreen mode’ 1 , then click ‘Check now’ 2 to check for an updated version of the program. If you have a new PC, then change the ‘Graphics quality’ dropdown menu to High. Leave it at Normal 3 if you have an old PC because highresolution graphics can put a strain on it, which can make the program slow. Finally, tick ‘Do not show this dialog again’ 4 , then click ‘Launch application’ 5 . The program takes a few minutes to open (even on a new PC), so be patient.

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STEP When it launches, you’ll see a view of Earth as

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seen from the Gaia satellite 1 . Click and drag your mouse in any direction to rotate your view; click your mouse again to stop rotating. Zoom in and out using the scroll wheel on your mouse; click your mouse to stop. On the right, you’ll see info about Earth 2 , which changes as you rotate and move around. If the program crashes for any reason, skip to Step 10 to see how to get it working again.

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1 to reveal a control panel with many sections (green text) 2 . Each of the sections can be expanded by clicking the ‘+’ icon 3 or used as a pop-out menu by clicking the pop-out icon. For example, the default rotation and zoom mouse controls are very sensitive. To change these, click the Camera pop-out icon 4 , move the three sliders (‘Camera speed’, ‘Rotation speed’ and ‘Turn speed’) 5 towards the left, then click Close.

STEP Click Controls

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STEP The buttons in the ‘Type visibility’ section

1 let you turn certain elements on and off. For example, click ‘labels’ 2 and ‘constellations’ 3 to see those options on screen. To search for another celestial body, press Ctrl+F to bring up the search box 4 , type the name of a planet or moon, then press Enter. When the program stops moving, scroll your mouse wheel up to zoom in.

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36 7 – 20 December 2016

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Record your journey through the Solar System

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STEP Once you’re comfortable with these steps, you can

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record your journey through the Solar System, then play this video file whenever you want. Click the Record icon 1 to start recording, move wherever you want (by searching, clicking and dragging, or using your mouse wheel), then click the Record button again to stop. To see what you’ve recorded, click the Play button 2 . Your videos will be denoted by a long number (your most recently recorded video appears) 3 . Select the video you want to watch, then click Run 4 to watch your journey.

STEP Another brilliant feature of Gaia Sky is the option

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to see how a planet and its corresponding sky looked/will look at any given point in the past or future. To do that, click the pen-shaped icon in the Time section 1 . Now type any other date (in the past or future) 2 , change the time 3 and click OK 4 . You can now navigate across the cosmos using your mouse. Click ‘Set current time’ 5 to return to the present.

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STEP By default, everything on your screen

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remains static. If you want to see a planet (such as Earth) rotating on its axis, click the Play icon beside Time 1 , then click the ‘+’ icon 2 to make time move quickly. If you go really fast, you’ll notice the sun, moon and other planets moving in the background. Expand the Lighting menu 3 to see sliders 4 that let you control the brightness, size and ambient light of stars.

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STEP The program sometimes crashes but there’s an easy way to get it

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working again. First, open your Task Manager (by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Del), select Gaia Sky in the list of running processes, click End Process/Task at the bottom right, then click End Process/Task again to confirm. Try restarting the program. If this method doesn’t work, open your C Drive, go to the Users folder, then click the folder with your user name 1 . Now select the folder named ‘.gaiasky’ 2 , press the Del key, then click Yes to confirm. You’ll now be able to open the program. ●

7 – 20 December 2016 37


Workshops Save anything online to read later What you need: Instapaper; PC, Android, iOS or Kindle Time required: 30 minutes

I

nstapaper is one of the best free services for saving online content to read later (offline or online). It recently made all its Premium features free – previously these cost $30 (£24) a year. These include ad-free browsing and text searches

– both of which its nearest rival Pocket (www.getpocket. com) still charges for. We’ll show you how to use all these features, so you can save anything of interest you find online to read later on any device (PC, phone, tablet and Kindle).

STEP Go to www.instapaper.com on your PC. If you have an

1

Instapaper account, click Sign In 1 and log into your account. If you don’t, click the ‘Create an Account’ button 2 . The fastest way to save content to read later is to use the Instapaper browser extension. We’ll show you how to add this to Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer (IE).

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STEP To install the Chrome extension, go to www.snipca.

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com/22585, click ‘Add to Chrome’, then ‘Add extension’. In Firefox, go to www.snipca.com/22586, click ‘Add to Firefox’ 1 , then Install 2 . In IE, go to www.snipca.com/22587. At the bottom of the page, you’ll see the Instapaper Text bookmarklet. Click and drag this to your Bookmarks Bar. Now whenever you’re reading an article you want to save, click the extension and it will be saved to your Instapaper account (you’ll need to log into Instapaper the first time you do this).

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STEP Next, install the Instapaper app for Android (www.

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snipca.com/22588) or for iOS (www.snipca.com/22589) and log into your account. If you already have an account, swipe down to refresh your list of saved articles. To save content using Chrome on Android, tap the three dots at the top, Share, then ‘Add to Instapaper’. In Safari on iOS, tap the share icon 1 , swipe the top section to the right, tap More, scroll down, tap the Instapaper slider 2 , tap Done 3 , then tap the Instapaper icon (in future, simply tap this icon).

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2 38 7 – 20 December 2016


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STEP To send articles to your Kindle ebook

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reader, log into your Instapaper account on your PC, click your account dropdown menu at the top right, click Settings, then scroll down to the Kindle section 1 . Type your Kindle email address in the field provided 2 , then press Enter. You can set it to send all unread articles to your Kindle, and set a delivery frequency and time 3 . Click Save Kindle Preferences 4 . You can also install a browser extension 5 that sends articles directly to your Kindle. To share Instapaper articles from Android and iOS to your Kindle, open the article, tap the share icon, then tap the new ‘Send to Kindle/Kindle’ icon.

STEP Select an article saved to your PC, Android or iOS device. At the

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top, you’ll see a number of icons. The articles you save will take up storage space, so after reading it, delete it or click the Archive icon 1 . The Like icon 2 lets you bookmark favourite reads. You can access both the Archive and Like sections in the top left of the main reading list. Click the Aa icon 3 for options to change your article’s brightness, font type, font size 4 and reading view theme 5 .

STEP Previously, whenever you searched for something

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(using the search bar at the top), Instapaper would only look for that term in the article titles in your main list. It now also searches the text within your articles and archived list. The Notes feature is a good way to save favourite passages of text, and now you can save as many ‘notes’ as you want (previously this was restricted to five per month). To create a note, highlight text in the article you’re reading 1 , click the note icon, enter a suitable heading 2 , then click Save 3 . Notes appear in the top left section, with Archives and Likes.

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1 STEP Two more Premium features that are now free are

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‘Speed reading’ and ‘text-to-speech’ (mobile only). To speed read, select an article, tap the Share icon, then tap the Speed option 1 . You’ll now see the article one word at a time (try the demo at www.snipca.com/22592). Adjust the speed at which the text appears using the slider at the bottom. On a mobile device, you can have the article read to you (even with the screen switched off). Tap the Share icon, then tap Speak 2 . Tap 1x at the top right to change the narration speed (options are .5x, 1x, 1.5x and 2x). We found the speech robotic, but understandable. ● 7 – 20 December 2016 39


Workshops Track what others do on your PC What you need: SoftPerfect File Access Monitor; Any version of Windows (XP to 10) 0) Time required: 30 minutes

S

oftPerfect File Access Monitor is a brilliant free program that until recently cost $149 (£122). It lets you monitor all recent activity on your PC, including which files have been created, deleted, moved

and edited; which PC user made those changes; when the changes were made; and what programs were used. We’ll show you how to use it to find out exactly what other people are doing on your PC.

STEP To install File Access Monitor (FAM), go to www.snipca.

1

com/22572, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the green Download File Access Monitor button. Run the downloaded setup file to install the program. The program doesn’t create a desktop shortcut, so open the Start menu, search for management console, then drag and drop this to your desktop to create a shortcut. When it launches, the program will ask you to connect to a ‘local host’ 1 . Click OK 2 to skip this and connect to your PC. The program will immediately start monitoring any changes made to your PC.

STEP To find out whether a file has been accessed, deleted or

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modified, open FAM, click OK, then click Refresh 1 . Now click the C Drive dropdown menu 2 to expand it, navigate to the folder containing the file you want to check using the dropdown menus, then select the file. You’ll see which PC user 3 has created/deleted/modified 4 that file, at what time, and which programs they used 5 .

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STEP Alternatively, you can search for a particular

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file or folder, then check whether it’s been modified (this method doesn’t work for files that have been deleted). Click the ‘Find file’ button 1 , type a file/folder name in the search field 2 , then click Find 3 . The program lists relevant items 4 that have been created or modified since you installed FAM. Select the search result you want, then click Go To 5 . This opens the file in FAM and lets you see recent activity relating to that file (as in Step 2).

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40 7 – 20 December 2016


STEP A quicker way to see details of recent file

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changes is to click the Chronological button 1 . This lists everything that has been changed on your PC in reverse-chronological order 2 (the recent changes appear first). This information can be a little overwhelming because it lists every single change made to your system. However, there’s an easy way to sort this data so you can find what you’re looking for more easily.

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STEP To only see changes made in the

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previous 24 hours, click the Time dropdown menu and select Today 1 (other options include Yesterday, ‘This week’ and ‘This month’). To sort files based on the type of change made (created, deleted, edited or modified), click the Operation dropdown menu 2 and select one of the values. Similarly, the User 3 and Process dropdown menus 4 let you sort your files based on which user account and programs were involved.

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STEP You can save the list shown in Step 5 as a Notepad file

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for future reference. To do this, click the ‘Save as’ button 1 , select a save location on your PC 2 , rename the file 3 , click the ‘Save as type’ dropdown menu, select ‘Plain text’ 4 , then click Save 5 .

STEP To password-protect the program, click Settings 1 , the

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General tab 2 , then enter and confirm your chosen password. FAM’s log files can eat into your PC’s storage, so it’s a good idea to delete older logs. To do that, click the Storage tab 3 , click the ‘Keep access records for’ dropdown menu, choose a time limit (say, ‘1 month’) 4 , then click OK 5 . You can read the program’s online user manual at www.snipca. com/22582. ● 7 – 20 December 2016 41


Workshops Stop Windows 10 changing your defaults What you need: Stop Resetting My Apps; Windows 10 Time required: 10 mins

O

ne of the main gripes about Windows 10 is how it constantly tries to force you to use its built-in apps rather than the programs and tools you actually prefer. Try manually changing the operating system’s settings so that it defaults

to programs of your choice, and Windows will tend to change them back again (usually after one of Microsoft’s enforced updates). Thankfully, Stop Resetting My Apps is a great free tool you can use to stop this from happening.

STEP First, we’ll show you how to set your default

1

programs. Click Start, Settings, System, then ‘Default apps’ 1 . On the right you’ll see entries for Email, Maps, ‘Music player’, ‘Photo viewer’, ‘Video player’ and ‘Web browser’. Click the icon below the setting you want to change, then select your new default program from the list. For example, if you want to use VLC instead of ‘Films & TV’, click the icon under ‘Video player’ 2 , then select VLC in the list 3 . Be aware that Windows will nag you to use Edge if you try to switch to your preferred browser – simply click ‘Switch anyway’.

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STEP To download Stop Resetting My Apps go to

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STEP This doesn’t uninstall the apps. It simply stops

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Windows 10 from setting them as your PC’s default, thus preserving the choices you made in Step 1. You don’t even need to leave Stop Resetting My Apps running in the

www.snipca.com/22422, then click the ‘Download Stop resetting my apps’ button. Once it’s downloaded, double-click the StopResettingMyApps.exe file (there’s no junk to worry about). It doesn’t need to be installed – it just runs when you launch it. At the bottom of the program window, you’ll see six icons for Microsoft’s main defaults, including Edge 1 and Mail 2 . Click the ones you don’t want to use, and a red ‘stop’ icon will appear over them 3 .

background; simply close it by clicking the ‘X’ in the top-right corner. You can, however, undo your actions later if necessary. Run Stop Resetting My Apps again and click the icon for the relevant app to remove the red ‘stop’ icon and unblock it 1 .

ON SALE

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Stream any video from your PC to TV Auto-save attachments to OneDrive Digitise old photos using Google Save web articles as an ebook Subscribe to Computeractive at getcomputeractive.co.uk

42 7 – 20 December 2016


Readers’ Tips

Handy hints and tips from your fellow readers Email us your tips: letters@computeractive.co.uk

TIP OF THE FORTNIGHT T

Use Ultimate Settings Panel for Chrome and Firefox I agree with your inclusion of Ultimate Settings Panel (USP) in Issue 489’s Cover Feature on new Windows 10 software. You’re right to say that it’s a great way to access Windows settings from one place, but it also works as a gateway to browser options. I find this very useful,

because I’ve always struggled to remember what to click in Chrome and Firefox. Once you’ve installed the program (from www.snipca.com/22351), click the top-right arrows to scroll across (I overlooked this option for the first

Paul wins a copy of our A-Z Jargon Buster book PRINTERS

Force Epson printers to accept third-party cartridges

In Consumeractive in Issue 488 (page 15) you published a query from John Storry who had a problem with third-party ink cartridges that wouldn’t work with his Epson XP-435 printer. I wonder if this was just Epson making him ‘jump through hoops’ before accepting the cartridges. I have two Epson printers – an XP-760 and a WorkForce WF-7610 – and I use third-party ink cartridges in both of them. The printers often ‘object’ to the insertion of a compatible cartridge and you have to scroll down to the bottom of the menu to click

few weeks of using the program). You’ll see headings for Chrome, Firefox – which I use – and Internet Explorer. Click Chrome and you’ll see six buttons, including one for restoring your last browsing session, and one for switching on Incognito Mode (see screenshot). They work instantly. Similar buttons exist for Firefox, plus one for a setting I’d never before encountered called Safe Mode. Click this and Firefox will open in a special mode that turns off add-ons, and other features that may be causing it to crash or work slowly. I’ve used it to identify the source of various problems with the browser. Mozilla explains more about Firefox’s Safe Mode at www.snipca. com/22525. Paul Castle

Buy it on Amazon www.snipca.com/21616

‘continue’ before you can complete the replacement. With the XP-760 it raises the question again the first time you attempt to print anything, but accepting it makes it work fine. Also, I find it useful to print this ink colour chart (www.snipca. com/22522, see image below left), before starting a print session on expensive photo paper. It gives a better indication than a simple nozzle check of how my printer is performing. Eric Page BROWSERS

Use this keyboard shortcut to turn on Firefox’s Reader View

While I don’t want Readers’ Tips to become an exclusive club for Firefox users, I would like to follow up on David Walters’ ‘Tip of the Fortnight’ (Issue 489) with something else you can do in the browser. Like David, I love Reader View (www. snipca.com/22527). I’m sure David and other Firefox fans will be pleased to learn about a new keyboard shortcut that opens it in a flash. Just press Ctrl+Alt+R on your keyboard. Lionel Staines

SITE BUILDING

Build a website using Google Sites

Your reply to David Trivitt’s question about site-building software in Issue 488 (‘What Should I Download?’, page 19) recommended a number of programs. But I’m surprised they did not include the free Google Sites (https://sites.google.com), which I used – with no prior experience – to build a site over a few weeks. It cost me nothing and the procedures are pretty simple, even though the instructions disguise the fact fairly well. Anyone wanting to see what is possible can view my site about dry stone walls at www.snipca.com/ 22484 (see screenshot above). As far as I know, a clear, step-by-step guide on Google Sites doesn’t exist. John Presland 7 – 20 December 2016 43


Phone and Tablet Tips ANDROID & iOS

Listen to YouTube videos with your screen switched off

YouTube has a vast treasure trove of content. While the visuals are very important for most videos, there are many where you may only want to listen while doing something else. These may include interviews, music videos or educational lectures (like those on Ted Talks – www.snipca.com/22550). Unlike YouTube’s default app, the latest version of Firefox for phones and tablets lets you listen to video content with your screen turned off (this also saves battery life). To do this, install the Firefox app (Android www.snipca.com/22551; iOS www.snipca.com/22552) or update it to the latest version. Next, open Firefox, go

to www.youtube.com, tap the search icon (see screenshot below left), then search for the video you want. As it plays you can turn off your device’s screen at any time and continue listening to its audio. ANDROID & iOS

Edit photos with Adobe’s new Photoshop app

Last year, Adobe released its powerful, free Photoshop Fix app to help iOS users edit and enhance their photos. The app is now available for Android. You need a free Creative Cloud account to use the app. We’ll explain how to create an account and use the app on Android. Install and open the app (Android www.snipca.com/22553; iOS www. snipca.com/22554), tap ‘Sign up for free’ to create an Adobe account, or tap Sign In if you already have one. After creating your account, tap Allow to let the app access your photos. Next, tap the ‘+’ icon at the bottom right, tap the phone icon to open the photos on your device, then tap the photo you want to edit. You’ll see a selection of effects in the bottom panel (see screenshot above right). Tapping any of these reveals more tools that let you modify that effect. For example, the Crop tool has options to let you rotate and crop your photo. The Adjust tool has sliders that let you tweak exposure, contrast, saturation and highlights. The Light tool lets you make specific areas of your photo lighter or

Best New Apps WhatsApp Messenger

Free Android, iOS and Windows Phones: www.snipca.com/22557 With its latest update, the world’s most popular text-messaging app has now added video chatting to its toolbox. We mentioned this was coming in our recent feature on video-chat apps (see Issue 486, page 61). We’ll show you how to use it in our next issue – out Weds 21 December.

44 7 – 20 December 2016

Brilliant things to do on your device

darker by tapping the area. When you’re happy with your changes, tap the share icon at the top, then tap Gallery to save the edited image on your phone. Alternatively, tap ‘Share with’, then select any of your other (social media, email or messaging) apps. ANDROID

Secure apps using facial recognition

In Issue 489, we showed you how to use the latest version of IObit’s Advanced SystemCare to take photos of intruders using your PC (see

What you should install this fortnight Fingerprint Gestures

Free Android: www.snipca.com/22558 Most modern Android phones come with a fingerprint sensor below the screen or on the back to unlock your device. This app extends the fingerprint sensor’s capability. So, for example, you can set it to take you to the home screen when you tap the sensor or open your settings when you double-tap it.

FabFocus

£1.49 iOS: www.snipca.com/22559 The iPhone 7 Plus camera has a DSLR-like feature that captures your subject in sharp focus, while gently blurring the rest of the photo. FabFocus lets you add this effect to any photos on your device. You select the focal point of your image, then modify the strength of the background blur effect.


Workshop, page 35). IObit has updated its free Android app Applock (www. snipca.com/22556) so that it offers a similar feature. Previously, Applock app let you secure apps on your device with a pattern code – now you can use facial recognition instead. When you first open the app, you’ll be prompted to create a pattern code by swiping to join nine dots. You’ll now see a list of all the apps on your device and device options (such as Recent Tasks, WiFi, Bluetooth and Settings) with lock icons next to them. Tap the lock icon beside any app or device option to lock it. The first time you do this, you’ll be taken to your device’s Settings section, where you need to tap IObit Applock, then tap the slider beside ‘Permit usage access’. This gives Applock permission to lock other apps. Return to the app, then tap the lock icons beside apps you want to lock with your pattern code. In future, you’ll need to draw this pattern whenever you want to access these apps.

iOS

Create short, personalised videos to share

One of the new features of iOS 10 is the option to record a short video, scribble whatever you want across it with your finger as you record it, then send the video with your message (as an animated graphic) to someone. To do this, open the Messages app, then tap the notepad and pen icon (at the top) to open a new message. Type the recipient’s name in the To field, tap the icon with two fingers at the bottom of the chat window, then tap the arrow icon at the bottom of your screen. You’ll now see seven coloured circles on the left (see screenshot right). Tap the video-camera icon on the right to see three icons, which let you switch between your front and back camera, start/stop

your recording and take a photo. Select the colour you want to use, then scribble your message or doodle across your video as you record it (maximum 10 seconds). Tap the icon at the top left to delete it and start again. If you’re happy with your recording, tap the blue upload icon at the bottom to send it.

Games With Kids

What to play together on your phone and tablet AGES: 0 5

CBeebies Playtime Island

Free www.snipca.com/22560 (Android) Free www.snipca.com/22560 (iOS) This app lets your children play games adapted from all their favourite CBeebies programmes, including Peter Rabbit: Hop to it, The Furchester Food Game, and Topsy and Tim: At The Farm. AGES: 6 10

Roll the Ball – Slide Puzzle*

If instead you want to secure certain apps using facial recognition, return to IObit Applock. You’ll see a face icon beside the apps you have locked (see screenshot above). Tap the face icon beside one of your apps. The first time you do this, you’ll need to tap Allow to let the app access your device’s front camera. Point your device at your face from a short distance so the app records your facial features. From now on, whenever you try to open any apps you’ve secured in this way, your front camera will switch on and IObit will quickly scan your face before letting you access the app. If this doesn’t work, tap Use Pattern Code at the bottom and draw your pattern code to unlock that app.

Free www.snipca.com/22563 (Android) Free www.snipca.com/22564 (iOS) This puzzle starts off simple, but quickly becomes challenging. You need to move the ball from its start position into the goal by tapping to rotate the boxes in the grid. As you progress, the number of boxes increases. AGES: 11 16

Slither.io*

Free www.snipca.com/22565 (Android) Free www.snipca.com/22566 (iOS) Snake was one of the most popular games on Nokia phones of yesteryear. This game is very similar, except you are trying not to hit other snakes rather than random obstacles. The aim is to grow as long as possible by trapping other snakes and forcing them to hit you. *Contains in-app purchases

7 – 20 December 2016 45


Make Windows Better

Clever tips for every version

WINDOWS 7

Stipulate which program you want to use to open files

Whenever you right-click a file, say a photo or video, you’ll see a list of options in the Context menu. Move your cursor to ‘Open with’ to see a list of built-in programs that can open that file. For example, you’ll see Paint and Photo Viewer to open photos, and Windows Media Player to play music files.

If you want to use a non-Microsoft program that you’ve installed (such as GIMP, PicPick or VLC media player) to open a particular file, then move your cursor to ‘Open with’ and select ‘Choose default program’. Next, click Browse at the bottom right, click Desktop at the top left, then select the program you want to use. Finally, ensure the box at the bottom left is ticked (see screenshot above), then click OK. From now on, that photo or music file will always open in the program you selected. WINDOWS 10

Create a shortcut to run a quick scan in Windows Defender

Windows Defender is a useful, default security program that can be used in combination with your existing antivirus (AV) software as an extra layer of protection for your PC. Unlike AV programs, it doesn’t have a

46 7 – 20 December 2016

WINDOWS 7, 8, 10

Change how you manage folders

There’s an easy way to change how you manage the folders on your PC. Press the Windows key, type folder options, then press Enter. In the window that opens (see screenshot), you’ll see the option to open each folder in its own window; the option to click (instead of doubleclick) to open a folder; and the option to change how sub-folders appear within your Navigation Pane (the panel to the left of Windows/File Explorer). The View tab contains tick boxes that let you display folder icons and show or hide hidden files, folders and drives. By default, whenever you search for something on your PC, Windows runs a search for all files with that name. If you want to extend this search functionality to words that appear within your file (for example, within a Word document or PDF), then click the Search tab and select ‘Always search file names and contents’. Tick ‘Include

desktop shortcut, so it’s easy to overlook. If you use a Windows 10 PC, there’s an easy way to create a shortcut to run a quick Windows Defender scan. This quickly scans your PC for threats in less than five minutes. To create this shortcut, right-click a blank area of your desktop, move your cursor to New, then click Shortcut. Now, type the following into the Browse field: ‶%ProgramFiles%\Windows Defender\ MSASCui.exe″ -QuickScan (see screenshot below), then click Next. Finally, name your scan Windows Defender Quick Scan (or something similar) and click Finish. Now simply launch this shortcut whenever you want Defender to scan your PC.

compressed files’ to include zipped files in your search results. Click Apply then OK to confirm your changes. You can restore your default settings at any time by opening the Folder Options window, then clicking the Restore Defaults button.

WINDOWS 7, 8, 10

Copy and paste Command Prompt text

It’s useful to be able to copy text from your Command Prompt window and paste it into other programs such as Word or the body of an email, but the process is not straightforward. In this example, we’ll show you how to copy your PC’s IP address, then paste it into Word. To open the Command Prompt, press the Windows key, type cmd and press Enter. To find your IP address, type ipconfig into the Command Prompt window, then press Enter. In the long command that appears, look for the IPv4 Address field, which contains your PC’s IP address. To copy this in Windows 7, right-click anywhere within the Command Prompt window, click Mark, then select your text. In Windows 8 and 10, click anywhere inside the Command Prompt window, then select the text. In both versions, right-click your selected text to copy it. To paste this text into Word, open the program, then press Ctrl+V.


Make Office Better

Expert tips for every program

WORD, OUTLOOK

Find out how readable your emails and documents are Word and Outlook can assess how easy to read your documents and emails will be to others. It does this through three criteria that calculate the average number of syllables per word, words per sentence and sentences per paragraph in your documents and emails. To use this, you first need to change a number of default settings. In Word, click File at the top left, Options at the bottom, then Proofing on the left. Next, find the ‘When correcting spelling and grammar in Word’ section. Here, tick ‘Check grammar with spelling’ and ‘Show readability statistics’, then click OK. In Outlook, start writing a new email, click File, Options, then click ‘Spelling

OUTLOOK.COM

Set up automatic replies for when you’re away

Automatic email replies are a godsend if you are unable (or unwilling) to reply to emails over a period of time (Christmas, for example). You can set up a pre-written email that tells anyone who emails you that you are currently unavailable but will reply when it’s convenient. To set this up, go to www.outlook.com, log into your Outlook.com (or Hotmail) account, click the cog-shaped icon at the top right, then click ‘Automatic replies’. Next, select ‘Send automatic replies’, then

and Autocorrect’ button on the right. Tick the same boxes ticked in Word (see above), then click OK. Now open any document or email, click the Review tab at the top right,

tick ‘Send replies only during this time’ (see screenshot bottom left). Select the start and end dates and times for the automatic reply using the ‘Start time’ and ‘End time’ dropdown menus. Using the circular buttons below, you can choose to restrict these replies to people in your Contacts list or to include anyone that emails you. In the box at the bottom, type the message. Click OK at the top when you’ve finished. Anyone who emails you between the dates you specified will received the message you typed. EXCEL

Make Excel display zeros at the start of numbers

By default, Excel doesn’t let you type numbers starting with 0. So, for example, if you type 015 or 098 into a cell, Excel will only register this as 15 and 98 respectively. There’s an easy way to display zeros at the start of numbers if necessary. First, select the relevant cell, click the Function field at the top, then type a single quotation mark followed by your number (for example, ‘015 or ‘098). The number will appear in the cell without the quotation mark (see screenshot above right).

then ‘Spelling and Grammar’ at the top left. You’ll now be prompted to correct any spelling mistakes (if there are any), after which you’ll see a Readability Statistics window. In the Readability section (see screenshot) you’ll first see a score for the percentage of passive sentences (lower is better). Flesch Reading Ease measures your file’s readability on a 100-point scale – the higher the score, the easier it is to read. Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level rates your text based on how US school pupils would find it. A score of 7.0 means that an average seventh-grader (12-13 years old) will be able to read your text easily. You can find out more about how Microsoft determines these values at www.snipca.com/22535.

POWERPOINT

Create a photo slideshow in seconds

Wouldn’t it be great if you could create a PowerPoint photo slideshow with just a few clicks? Well, you can. Open PowerPoint, click the Insert tab, click the dropdown menu below Photo Album, then click New Photo Album. Next, click File/Disk at the top left, navigate to the folder containing the relevant photos, press Ctrl, select the photos you want, then click Insert. You’ll see all your photos as a list with options to rearrange them if needed. Click Create when you’ve finished. Use the options at the top right of the Transition tab to change how long each photo appears, then press F5 to play your photo slideshow. 7 – 20 December 2016 47


Secret Tips For…

Windows Movie Maker Extract audio from a video, customise your title sequence, create slowmotion effects and add a soundtrack

Create a title sequence

Movie Maker is Microsoft’s free video editor and was last released as part of the company’s Windows Essentials 2012 package (which also included Windows Live Mail and Live Writer). Microsoft has announced it will end support for the Essentials programs on 10 January 2017, meaning it won’t receive any new features. But Movie Maker will continue to be safe to use and will remain available via Microsoft’s site. Windows 7, 8 and 10 users should go to www.snipca.com/ 22487 and click ‘Get it now’ to download it. One of Movie Maker’s most impressive features makes it easy to add a title sequence to the start of your video. Open your video inn Movie Maker, click Home, then Title. Click ‘Edit text’ and enter the text that you want to show at the start of your video. Next, click the down arrow to the right of the title sequence thumbnails (see screenshot above right) to see all options. To see a preview of a particular sequence, move your cursor over it without clicking it.

Click this arrow to select from 25 titlesequence types

Download a copyright-free soundtrack from the Free Music Archive

Add a copyright-free soundtrack

menu. Navigate to the music file you downloaded to add it to your video. An audio graph of your soundtrack will be added below the video footage.

The right music can make all the difference to a home movie. If you don’t feel confident composing your own music, an excellent source of free music is the Free Music Archive (www.snipca. com/22492). Search for specific songs, albums, artists or genres using the search tools. Click the play button to listen to a track, then the arrow button (see screenshot above right) to download it. Once it’s downloaded, return to Movie Maker and click the ‘Add music’ button, then ‘Add music…’ in the dropdown

Change your video’s playback speed To change the playback speed of your footage, click the Edit tab below ‘Video tools’ (see screenshot). Click the Speed dropdown menu, then select a value (or enter a specific one). Any value less than one will produce a slow-motion

48 7 – 20 December 2016

effect, while anything higher will increase the playback speed. The speed adjustment will be applied to the entire video and will distort any dialogue or soundtrack. You may want to only slow down or speed up a particular section of your video. Click your video at the point you want the effect to start, then click Split. Next, click where you want it to end, then click Split again. This creates a separate section within your video that you can edit independently of the rest. Click this section to select it and change its speed using the steps described above. To select all sections of your video, press Ctrl+A.

Extract the audio from a video

As well as adding audio, Movie Maker can also extract music from a video so you can save it as an audio file – ideal if you want to listen to the music from a concert you filmed, for example. Open the video in Movie Maker, then click File, then ‘Save movie’. Scroll to the bottom of the save options and click ‘Audio only’. Choose a save location, name the file and choose MPEG-4 from the ‘Save as type’ dropdown menu, then click Save. You’ll then be able to burn the music to a CD or use an audio editor, such as Audacity (see Issue 484, page 48), to edit the sound file.

Edit the video to centralise the focal point

If the focal point of your video isn’t in the centre of the footage you can use the pan and zoom options to change the focus of the video. Open your video, then click the Animations tab – you’ll see the ‘Pan and zoom’ options on the right. Use the arrows to select the option that best serves your needs. You can preview a zoom effect by hovering your cursor over it. Changing the aspect ratio of a video can also improve its focus. To do this, click the Project tab and choose Widescreen or Standard.

Next issue Secret Tips For… AutoHotKey


What’s All the Fuss About...

Microsoft Flow New tool that makes repetitive tasks easy – in theory, at least What is it?

A new web service (and app) from Microsoft that lets you set up automated tasks between programs and tools, thereby taking the effort out of repetitive actions. For example, you can tell Outlook.com to always save email attachments in OneDrive, Microsoft’s online storage service. Or you can tell your Outlook calendar to share events with your Google Calendar.

So it works with non-Microsoft programs?

Yes. Indeed, you can tell Outlook.com to save attachments to Google Drive and Dropbox, as well as to OneDrive. The idea is to let all your different tools work seamlessly. Set up a task – which Microsoft calls ‘templates’ – then sit back and let them operate in the background.

Is it free?

Yes, although with restrictions. Microsoft is aiming Flow at business users, who can pay up to $15 (£12) a month for 15,000 ‘runs’, which is how often a template performs an action. This would let you save 15,000 Outlook attachments to OneDrive. But you don’t need to run a business to use it. The free version gives you 750 runs a month, which is more than enough for most people.

Isn’t there another service that does the same thing?

You’re probably thinking of IFTTT (https://ifttt.com), which stands for ‘If this, then that’. Launched in 2011, it lets you create ‘recipes’ that connect two services, such as: if I receive an email, notify me on Skype: www.snipca. com/22537.

Currently IFTTT works with 375 programs and tools, many more than Flow’s 58.

Is it worth trying Flow then?

Definitely. If you already use IFTTT, you’ll find it interesting to see how Flow compares. The problem is that Microsoft doesn’t make it easy to set up tasks. Let’s take the aforementioned Outlook-to-One Drive template as an example. First, you’ll need to sign in (at the top right) on the website: https://flow.microsoft.com. Next, click Templates at the top left, scroll down and look for the ‘Saving attachments from Outlook.com’ task,

So is Flow better?

No, but then it has only just come out of beta, so it’s early days. IFTTT’s great advantage is that it’s had a five-year head start over Flow, giving it time to build thousands of tasks, including hundreds for Microsoft’s services (such as OneDrive: https://ifttt.com/onedrive).

then click it (alternatively go to www. snipca.com/22538). On this page click the blue ‘Use this template button’ (see screenshot above), and sign into your Outlook and OneDrive accounts. You will then be asked to give these tools various permissions.

What kind of permissions?

To view and manage your emails, which sounds scarier than it is. It just means that Microsoft will be allowed to move your attachments into OneDrive, not actually see what’s written in the emails (IFTTT requires similar access). Up to this point, Flow appears to be straightforward. But you’re then shown a page that seems to have been especially designed to flummox you (see screenshot left). Microsoft uses jargon that no sane person would use (“using the default values for the parameters”), and bamboozles you with confusing options.

Ah. So what’s the solution?

Flow looks easy to use until you reach this page

A Workshop, which we’ll publish in our next issue. We’ll bust the jargon and provide clear instructions, giving you the confidence to go with the Flow. 7 – 20 December 2016 49


Hack & Improve

Chrome Firefox & Edge

There are thousands of secret settings and extensions that make your browser faster, safer and easier to use. Jonathan Parkyn reveals the best for Chrome, Firefox, Edge and Internet Explorer

O

n the surface, web browsers might seem like fairly simple programs. Unlike, say, a photoediting program, which may provide dozens of advanced tools for the clever manipulation of images,

WHAT YOU CAN DO • Change settings so that web pages load much faster • Improve your privacy, block tracking and turn off data gathering • Speed up your PC by stopping your browser hogging system resources • Use your browser’s hidden features and experimental tools

50 7 – 20 December 2016

browsers only really do one thing: display web pages. In actual fact, most web browsers are doing some pretty complicated things under the bonnet in order to load and display pages quickly and safely, without putting too much strain on your PC’s resources. Some browsers are better at this than others. But we’re not here to stoke the fires of yet another browser war – Microsoft, Google et al seem more than capable of that without our help, if recent boasts from Google (www.snipca. com/ 22465) and counter-boasts from Microsoft (www.snipca.com/22464) about their respective browsers are anything to go by. Instead, we’re going to show you how

to radically improve your web-browsing experience with a selection of tweaks and hacks designed to boost your browser’s speed, security and general usability – whichever one you use. Some of our hacks involve adding extensions that unlock brilliant new features, while others involve tweaking advanced settings that fix shortcomings or improve performance. Most browsers also include little-known ways to enable experimental new features and technologies. We’ll be showing you how to take advantage of all these and more. So, whether you use Chrome, Firefox, Edge or Internet Explorer read on to find out how to make your browser brisker, safer and better than ever.


Hack & improve Chrome, Firefox & Edge

INSIDE YOUR PC CHROME tabs and 1 Close windows faster

Chrome offers a number of hidden cutting-edge features, known as ‘flags’, which can improve performance, add new abilities and more. To access these, type chrome://flags into the address bar and press Enter. At the top of the page you’ll see a warning telling you – among other things – that there are no guarantees these experimental features will work as expected. We’d advise against changing settings here willy-nilly unless you’re confident you know what you’re doing. The flags we’re going to recommend all worked fine for us, but there’s a handy ‘Reset all to defaults’ button at the top, which you can click if you experience any problems. One way to make Chrome feel instantly faster is to enable ‘Fast tab/ window close’, which kills open tabs and windows faster when you close them by terminating them in the background. It can be hard to find settings you want in the flags list, so try pressing Ctrl+F and typing keywords into the search box – in this case fast tab – and press Enter. Click the Enable link under ‘Fast tab/window close’ (see screenshot top), then click Relaunch Now to restart your browser.

2 Boost page-loading speeds For an easy speed boost, search the ‘chrome://flags’ page for ‘Experimental canvas features’, which use opaque page elements that require less time to load. Click Enable, then Relaunch Now to restart Chrome.

Enable the hidden ‘Fast tab/window close’ option in Chrome’s flags for a performance boost

Use the Zoom extension to permanently change the text size on specific websites

You may also get a significant speed boost – at least on some websites – by enabling the ‘Experimental QUIC protocol’ flag. QUIC (Quick UDP Internet Connections) is a relatively new web protocol developed by Google that speeds up web traffic, meaning you’ll enjoy faster page-loading. Support for the protocol isn’t universal, but a growing number of websites benefit from QUIC, so it’s definitely worth trying it. Search the ‘chrome://flags’ list for it, select Enable from the dropdown menu and click Relaunch Now.

passwords 3 Generate automatically

Chrome has a hidden password generator, which does away with the need for a separate password tool. It automatically detects pages on which you need to create an account, and supplies a suitably secure, randomly generated password when you click in the New Password box (see screenshot below left). To switch this feature on, search ‘chrome://flags’ for ‘Password generation’, select Enable from the dropdown menu and click Relaunch Now. There are a couple of caveats. First, you need to be signed into Chrome with your Google account in order for the feature to work. Secondly, the feature works in tandem with Chrome’s saved passwords feature.

Make text larger on 4 specific sites

Get Chrome to generate new passwords automatically without the need for an extension

Chrome lets you permanently increase the text size on all websites – click the top-right menu button (three dots), Settings, ‘Show advanced settings’, then scroll down to the ‘Web content’ heading. Change the ‘Font size’ and ‘Page zoom’ settings to suit your taste. What Chrome doesn’t do is let you set specific text sizes for different websites. To do this, install the Zoom extension (www.snipca.com/22555), then rightclick the Z icon at the top-right and select 7 – 20 December 2016 51


Options. Scroll down to the All Zoom In/ Out heading, type a website’s URL underneath, then choose its zoom value in the box to the right. Click Add to confirm the change. You can also add Zoom to your right-click menu by ticking the box next to the Context Menu heading.

Click Unsuspend to reload tabs that have been closed by The Great Suspender

5 Load images faster

Here’s another way to boost speed in Chrome. Head back to the ‘chrome:// flags’ page and find ‘Number of raster threads’. In its dropdown menu, select 4 – this will increase the speed at which images are rendered. Click Relaunch Now and you should notice that images load noticeably faster than before.

tabs and 6 Suspend free up memory

We all do it, but leaving lots of browser tabs open can seriously eat into system memory – especially when using Chrome, which is a memory hog at the best of times. Rather than constantly closing tabs you’re not using, though, you could use The Great Suspender to help you manage them instead. It’s a free Chrome extension (www.snipca. com/22490) that automatically suspends tabs after a period of time specified by you. Once added, click its icon, then Settings to customise this and other options. Click a suspended tab to reload it or click the extension’s icon, then Unsuspend (see screenshot above right).

rid of malware and 7 Get clean up Chrome

If your browser has started behaving strangely, you may have inadvertently changed the wrong setting or – worse – your browser may have become the victim of a malware attack. Besides running a scan with your antivirus software, you should also download and run Google’s Chrome Cleanup Tool (free

from www.snipca.com/22491 – see screenshot below). This scans your browser, analyses settings, removes any malicious or unwanted software it finds and restores defaults. Run the tool and click through the prompts.

8 Disable telemetry

Every app, tool or operating system seems to want to collect telemetry data these days, and that includes Chrome. Not only does this compromise your privacy, but it also uses a background process called ChromeCrashHandler.exe that eats your PC’s resources. To switch telemetry off, type chrome://settings in the address bar and press Enter. Then click ‘Show advanced settings’, scroll down to the Privacy section and if ‘Automatically send usage statistics and crash reports to Google’ is ticked, untick it (see screenshot right). You must restart your browser for this change to take effect.

any printer into a 9Turn Google Cloud Print device

Many new printers come with built-in Google Cloud Print support, but if you’re a Chrome user, you don’t need to shell out for an expensive new device just to print wirelessly from other PCs, phones and tablets. This handy trick will instantly convert almost any old printer

Download Google’s free Cleanup Tool for Chrome to give your browser a full health check

52 7 – 20 December 2016

Stop Google collecting usage data by unticking this option and restarting Chrome

into a Google Cloud Print device. Switch on your printer and make sure it’s connected to your PC. Then open Chrome, type chrome://devices in the address bar and press Enter. Under ‘Classic printers’, click ‘Add printers’ (see screenshot below). You’ll see a list of devices to register. Untick all but the printer you want, then click ‘Add printer(s)’. The only catch is that your PC will need to be switched on when you want to print from another device.

Click ‘Add printers’ under ‘Classic printers’ to turn your device into a Google Cloud printer


Hack & improve Chrome, Firefox & Edge

INSIDE YOUR PC FIREFOX

Enable Firefox’s Tab Center then click this arrow icon to show or hide your tabs sidebar

Get a handy personalised tab of your favourite and recently visited sites using Firefox’s Activity Stream

tabs to the side of 1 Move your browser window

If you want to try new features, but you don’t want the disruption and inconsistencies that often come with a beta version of Firefox, then you could sign up for Mozilla’s Test Pilot scheme. It’s free and provides access to some brilliant tools that aren’t currently available to standard users. Go to www. snipca.com/22495 and click ‘Install the Test Pilot Add-on’ and a flying-saucer icon will be added to your toolbar. Tab Center is a Test Pilot tweak that lets you customise Firefox’s layout so that tabs run down the side of the window instead of along the top, which makes a lot of sense given that most PC screens are wider than they are tall. Click the Test Pilot icon, select Tab Center, then click Enable Tab Center. Your tabs will move to a sidebar on the left. You can resize the sidebar by clicking and dragging. Clicking the small arrow icon at the top (see screenshot above) will pin the sidebar open or hide it when it’s not in use. There’s also a search box that lets you instantly navigate to a specific tab.

Identify and shut down resource hogs with the Task Manager add-on for Firefox

top right). Activity Stream is another Test Pilot tool, so see Tip 1 to find out how to install it. Once installed, click the Test Pilot icon, select Activity Stream, and click Enable Activity Stream. Now click the ‘+’ icon to open a new tab and view the page.

Create a personalised tab of 2 your browsing activity tabs and manage 3 Kill resource consumption Most web browsers help us find our way back to favourite websites, by letting us bookmark them, review our browsing history and so on. But by enabling Activity Stream, you can get Firefox to deliver a personalised page showing your top sites, recent history and more every time you open a new tab (see screenshot

Web pages and add-ons that stop responding or sap PC resources are a pain. Task Manager for Firefox is a free add-on (www.snipca.com/22496) that works in a very similar way to Windows Task Manager. Launch it using its toolbar icon to see your current tabs and active

add-ons listed, along with the amount of memory and CPU resources they consume. If you spot a tab that’s hogging memory or not responding, for example, click it then click Kill Process (see screenshot above). You can’t kill add-ons from here, but you can use Task Manager to spot when one is using more than its fair share of resources, then simply uninstall it via the Control Panel.

4Boost browsing speeds

Like Chrome’s flags (see page 51), Firefox has a selection of secret settings that can alter and improve the way the browser works. To access these settings, type about:config in the address bar and 7 – 20 December 2016 53


Use about:config hacks to improve Firefox’s speed and performance

press Enter. You’ll see a warning message explaining that you should continue only if you know what you are doing. Click ‘I accept the risk!’ to continue. The about:config settings are then presented as one long list, so use the search bar at the top to locate specific ones using a keyword search. To speed up browsing, for example, type animate in the search bar. Rightclick the following entries and select Toggle to switch their Value to ‘false’: browser.download.animateNotifications browser.fullscreen.animate browser.preferences.animateFadeIn browser.tabs.animate In addition, search for network.http. pipelining and network.http.proxy. pipelining, right-click both and select Toggle to switch their value to ‘true’ (see screenshot above). Now search for security.dialog_enable_delay, right click it and select Modify, change the value to 0 then click OK. And if you’re on a seriously slow internet connection you could consider searching for network. prefetch-next and toggling this to False. Restart Firefox when you’ve finished.

improve security 6 byInstantly forcing HTTPS

Installing one simple, free Firefox extension can make browsing the web much more secure. HTTPS Everywhere works by automatically forcing websites to default to an encrypted HTTPS connection, rather than an unprotected standard HTTP version, making it all but impossible for hackers to intercept your connection. Not all sites support HTTPS, but tens of thousands do and if you browse the web over public Wi-Fi hotspots, HTTPS Everywhere is pretty much essential. Get it from www.snipca.com/22499, restart Firefox once it’s installed and click Yes to turn on the Observatory feature (see screenshot above right), which can detect attempts to hack your browser.

Firefox’s 7 Disable built-in add-ons

A quick way to speed up any browser is to disable extensions and plug-ins you don’t need. In Firefox, click the menu button (three lines), then ‘Add-ons’, then click Disable or, better still, Remove

Instantly improve the security of thousands of websites with the HTTPS Everywhere add-on

next to any extensions you don’t want. However, you can’t uninstall Firefox’s built-in add-ons, such as Pocket and Hello, this way. There’s an about:config hack that will get rid of them, though, so navigate to this (as described in Tip 4). To disable Hello, search for loop. enabled, right-click it and switch its value to ‘false’. To disable Pocket, search for browser.pocket.enabled, right-click it and switch its value to ‘false’. Restart Firefox.

off 8 Turn telemetry

By default, Firefox shares a fair bit of data about your browser usage with its developer Mozilla. It sends health reports that include details about your system, as well as telemetry – statistics about your usage of Firefox, which identifies you by your IP address. Mozilla claims this information is collected to improve Firefox’s performance and security, but if you’d rather not divulge these details, click the menu button (three lines), then Options, Advanced, Data Choices and untick the three options here (see screenshot below).

YouTube videos 5 Stop buffering

In the old days, if you had a slow internet connection (and most people did), you could watch movies on YouTube without any annoying buffering by allowing them to fully load before starting playback. Nowadays, however, YouTube (and other video-streaming websites) employ a system called DASH that loads videos in chunks, meaning you can no longer click pause, wait for the whole thing to load, then play it. But, by installing a free add-on called ‘YouTube without DASH Playback’, you can force Firefox to fully load videos before you play them. Get it from www.snipca.com/22500 and toggle it on or off using its toolbar icon.

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Untick Firefox’s Data Choices options to stop Mozilla tracking what you do online


Hack & improve Chrome, Firefox & Edge

INSIDE YOUREDGE MICROSOFT PC up browsing using 1 Speed Edge’s secret settings

Like Chrome and Firefox, Microsoft’s latest web browser harbours a page of hidden experimental settings and configuration tools. You can access these by typing about:flags in the address bar and pressing Enter. There aren’t as many options here as in other browsers, but there are some potentially useful hacks to exploit. Flags can be unpredictable, so if Edge starts behaving oddly after making a change here, return to the ‘about:flags’ page and click ‘Reset all flags to default’. One flag that’s definitely worth experimenting with is ‘Enable TCP Fast Open’ – tick it under Networking (see screenshot below), then restart Edge. TCP Fast Open (TFO) is a newer protocol for connecting to networks that can

improve page-loading speeds by up to 40 per cent, according to Google (www.snipca. com/22501).

Boost performance 2 with experimental tweaks

If you’re browsing on a PC with lots of RAM installed, you could take advantage of an Edge flag that improves performance by letting the browser use as much memory as it likes. Open the ‘about:flags’ page (as described in Tip 1), tick ‘Allow unrestricted memory consumption for web pages (this might impact the overall performance of your device)’, Disable Adobe Flash to improve performance as well as then restart Edge. If your PC security starts to slow as a result, return to this option untick it. Another flag Protect your privacy when worth trying for a performance voice or video chatting boost is ‘Enable experimental JavaScript When you use a browser to connect to features’. This may speed up page-loading web services that use WebRTC (a series on some sites by supporting the use of of protocols often used for many JavaScript features that are still in real-time communications, such as voice development. or video chat), there’s a real possibility that the connection may reveal private Disable Flash information about you, such as your Turning Flash off can not only language, operating system and – worst improve page-loading speeds on many of all – your local IP address. This makes animation-heavy sites, but can also make it possible for a hacker to intercept this Edge much more secure by preventing data. Edge has a feature that can make hackers from exploiting Flash’s voice- and video-chat sessions more seemingly endless flaws. In Edge, click secure, but it isn’t enabled by default. the menu button (three dots), click To switch this on, open the ‘about:flags’ Settings, ‘View advanced settings’ then page and scroll down and tick the click the slider under Use Adobe Flash ‘Hide my local IP address over WebRTC Player (see screenshot above right) to connections’ option, then restart disable it. your browser.

4

3

Speed up web pages by enabling the experimental TCP Fast Open feature in Edge

THE BEST HACKS FOR INTERNET EXPLORER Microsoft has more or less abandoned poor old Internet Explorer (IE) in favour of Edge, its latest web browser. And, according to recent figures from NetMarketShare (www.snipca.com/22466), IE usage is in steep decline. But Microsoft’s original browser remains popular – it’s built into Windows 7 and 8 (neither of which are compatible with Edge), and it’s still included in Windows 10, though you have to dig deep to find it. IE11 is less tweakable than other browsers, but here are our four favourite tricks:

Set IE as your default browser in Windows 10

Not a fan of Edge? Use the trick in our Workshop on page 42 to set IE as your default browser in Windows 10 and block Microsoft from changing it back to Edge.

Change the size of the address bar

Simply move your mouse to the line between the address bar and tabs, then click and drag left or right.

Instantly improve security

Click Settings (cog icon), Internet Options, then Advanced. Scroll down to Enable Enhanced Protected Mode – tick it, then click OK and restart your PC.

Automatically dump the junk

Click Settings (cog icon), Internet Options, then Advanced, scroll down and tick ‘Empty Temporary Internet Files folder when browser is closed’, then click OK.

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Hack & improve Chrome, Firefox & Edge

Click Backup Database in EdgeManage for a handy way to back up your bookmarks

a free tool to manage 5 Use your bookmarks

One thing that Edge isn’t great at is handling bookmarks – or favourites, as Microsoft calls them. You can open the Favourites bar by clicking the Hub icon (three lines), then the Favourites (star) icon, but actually doing much with your bookmarks – such as organising and managing them – is fiddly. Step forward EdgeManage (www. snipca.com/22505), a small, free tool that lets you easily arrange, import, edit, export your favourites – and more. It’s very simple to use – just make sure that Edge

is closed before you launch it. Any changes you make in EdgeManage will be reflected in Edge’s Favourites bar next time you open the browser. One useful bonus is the ability to back up your favourites – just click Utilities, then Backup Database (see screenshot above).

Edge easier to use 6 Make with Mouse Gestures

Edge is built with touchscreen users in mind and, while it’s possible to control it with a standard mouse or trackpad, desktop PC users miss out on the handy gesture controls that those using tablets

Put the Home button back where it belongs by switching it on in ‘Advanced settings’

and touchscreen devices get. Install the free extension Mouse Gestures (www. snipca.com/22506, see screenshot below left), however, and you can vastly improve navigation without the need for touch controls. While browsing, for example, hold down the right mouse button and ‘swipe’ to the left to simulate swiping back to the previous page. You can also use gestures to scroll, navigate through tabs, refresh a page, reopen closed tabs and more. Once installed, click the menu icon (three dots), Extensions, Mouse Gestures, then Options to see all the gestures available and to customise them.

the missing 7 Restore Home button

Navigate the web as you would using a touchscreen device with the Mouse Gestures tool

Microsoft has a habit of killing off buttons that people love. In Windows 8 it was the Start button, and in Edge it’s the Home button – the handy icon that returns you to your home page from wherever you are. Thankfully, you can restore the Home button – just click the menu icon (three dots), Settings, ‘View advanced settings’ then click the switch under ‘Show the home button’ (see screenshot above). In the dropdown menu that appears, you can choose where the Home button takes you – to the Start page, to a new tab or to a specific web page (you can specify any URL in this option). ON SALE

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Every major new threat revealed – and how you can stay safe

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Subscribe to Computeractive at www.getcomputeractive.co.uk 56 7 – 20 December 2016


Is it worth the money? WinZip is just about the oldest zip software around, but has it stood the test of time? Mike Plant unpacks the newest version ACTUAL PRICE

PROMISED PRICE

WinZip

Format: Windows Website: www.winzip.com Price: £31.14 Free trial period: 2 years

W

riting about WinZip took me back to my first exposure to PCs and the heady days of Windows 3.1 and Windows 95. Back then, WinZip was the only serious option if you wanted to create folders of compressed files so that you could cram that little bit more into the meagre storage space offered by your floppy discs. Fast-forward 20-odd years and the landscape of compressed files is much changed. Windows now has its own, built-in ZIP software, while free Zip programs like PeaZip and 7-Zip offer all the tools you’ll ever need. So what does WinZip offer today? Well, let’s open it up and find out.

Confusing pricing policy

The price you see at the top of this page is what you pay for the standard version of WinZip. This is despite the fact that when you first land on its website, the Buy Now

Zip and email documents within Word using WinZip’s embedded tools

Don’t trust the prices shown on WinZip’s homepage – we found the program cost more than first promised

price (see screenshot above) clearly states £25.95. And so I spent time clicking every link I could find on the site, but still couldn’t get it at that price. If an unexpected £5 price hike wasn’t bad enough, WinZip then tried to coax me into buying its optional Upgrade Assurance plan (£5.95 for 12 months). This lets you download the next version of WinZip (WinZip 22 at the time of writing) without paying again. Now, I’d expect to pay to upgrade complex, specialist programs like Photoshop and Microsoft Office, but paying that sort of money for an updated Zip program stuck in the craw. Don’t be tempted to pay £8.95 for a backup CD of WinZip either. There really is no need for such a tiny download. The free version is another oddity. To get it go to www.snipca.com/22508 and click the Try It Free button. Just be sure to click Decline when prompted to install the Chromium browser and Bing extension (see screenshot below left). Once installed, open WinZip and click the Use Evaluation Version button to use WinZip without paying for it for two years. Yes, the trial period really does last two years! After that you need to pay £31.14 every two years, although we’d be surprised if you lasted two weeks with it.

Open zipper

Avoid installing unwanted extras with WInZip by clicking Decline on this screen

So, what does WinZip actually do? Well, it zips and unzips files as you’d expect – and does it very well. Right-click a file or folder and you’ll see options to use WinZip to compress/uncompress it. I also liked that these options were also present

...Pros Works well with Microsoft Office, can zip and email files in a click, embeds nicely into Windows

Next issue... Is Star Walk 2 worth the money?

ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD KNOW? WinZip Pro, which costs £51.54, has even more features. It adds automated cloud backup and links to your phone and tablet, but (like its standard stablemate) isn’t worth it. in Microsoft Office, so I could zip and email a document directly from within Word or Excel – simply click File then ‘Zip and Share’ (see screenshot left). From here on WinZip gets more and more bloated. ZipShare is a good example of this. It’s completely unnecessary online-storage service (like Google Drive and Dropbox). If you have an existing online-storage account it’s best to use that. Click Settings, Cloud Services, ‘Set default cloud service’, ‘Use other Cloud Storage Services’, then choose your online storage service. Other needless features include a converter that turns Office documents into PDFs (Office does this anyway) and tools that reduce the size of (already compressed) MP3s and JPEG images.

SO, IS IT WORTH IT? No. The years haven’t been kind to WinZip. Confusing pricing is a bad start, and the program has the feel of something that’s been deliberately bloated so its developer has something ‘new’ to shout about with every release. I’ll stick to using PeaZip (www.snipca. com/22526) to zip my files for free.

...Cons Bizarre and disingenuous pricing, stuffed with gimmicky, confusing features

7 – 20 December 2016 57


Download Without Being HACKED

How can you be sure that the file or program you want to download is exactly what it seems? Mike Plant explains how to avoid nasty surprises

T

he internet is bursting with all kinds of downloadable content. PC programs, videos, music, photos, games and more are all just a click away. But with hackers using legitimate-looking downloads to smuggle viruses and malware on to your PC, will you get more than you bargained for when you hit the download button? Thankfully, there are ways you can make sure the file or program you’re about to download won’t damage your PC. In this feature we’ll introduce you to the tools you need and the habits you should adopt to thwart the hackers.

Check downloads with VirusTotal

Unless you’re sure that the file you’re about to download can be trusted – and even if you are – we recommend checking it with VirusTotal (www. virustotal.com). This will scan the file for viruses (using 68 online virus checkers) before you download it. First, you need to get the web address of the file you want to download. To do this, right-click the download link then click ‘Copy link address’. Next go to

Use VirusTotal to check a file for viruses before you download it

58 7 – 20 December 2016

Install VirusTotal’s browser extension to quickly scan a file for viruses

VirusTotal’s website, click the URL tab, paste the URL you just copied into the search bar and click the ‘Scan it!’ button (see screenshot below left). VirusTotal will display a report that tells you when the URL was last analysed and show you a ‘Detection ratio’. A genuine download will have a ratio of zero. If the file has a low ratio, for example, 1/68 (meaning only one of the 68 online checkers questioned its veracity), this is probably a false positive. This is more likely with a program that has only just been released and is therefore not known to the viruscheckers’ databases. If you see a low ratio, it might be a good idea to wait for a few days and rescan the file after VirusTotal’s checkers have been updated. VirusTotal has a browser extension for Firefox (www.snipca.com/22517), Chrome (www.snipca.com/22516) and

Internet Explorer (www.snipca. com/22518). To install it, open your browser, go to the relevant link and click the Install button. Now, whenever you want to check a download link, rightclick the link and click ‘Scan with VirusTotal’ (see screenshot above). A report on the file will open in a new tab within your browser.

Find out if a website is genuine

Before you download any file it’s also worth checking the background of the website you’re downloading from. The free tool urlQuery (www.urlquery.net) will analyse any website and tell you whether it contains malware or should be avoided for other reasons. To use it, go to the website you want to check and copy the URL. Next go to www.urlquery.net, paste the website’s address into the Profile URL bar, then


STOP HACKERS USING YOUR PC

Use to before you Us urlQuery lQ t vett websites bsit bef download from them

click Go. A new web page will be displayed with the word ‘Processing’ in red. It can take about a minute to return any results. Once the results have come in, look at the box next to urlQuery Alerts. If the site is safe you’ll see ‘No alerts detected’ (see screenshot above). If there’s anything to be concerned about, you’ll see a list of alerts. Scroll down the results page for more information. If you want a second opinion, you can try Google’s Safe Browsing Site Status tool (www.snipca.com/22523). Copy the URL of the site you want to check into the ‘Status of’ search bar. The URL will be checked against Google’s blacklist of unsafe sites and any security concerns will be shown in the ‘Current status’ section. If a website is safe, it will simply say ‘Not dangerous’.

Avoid annoying downloads

PUPs may not represent the same level of threat as malware and viruses, but they can be very irritating all the same. These are the ‘bonus’ programs and browser extensions that are smuggled on to your PC when you download a program. You can usually opt out of these by unticking boxes during the installation process, but they can be cunningly worded and often hidden. We expose these tricks in Named & Shamed every issue (page 10), but for

Despite all your best efforts, the time may come when you fall victim to a particularly well-disguised piece of malware. Many of the more dangerous examples of malware will try to connect to the internet so that the hacker responsible for it can monitor or operate your PC without your knowledge. To receive notifications whenever a program, malware or anything else on your PC tries to access the internet, install Sphinx Software’s Windows 10 Firewall Control (www. snipca.com/22524, click the Download button under Free, to the right of ‘Desktop/Setup 32/64-bit’). Windows 10 Firewall Control looks complicated, but it’s easy to get to grips with. Once it’s installed, open it and you’ll see a series of Edit Application notification screens (see screenshot). At the top left you’ll see the name of the software trying to access the internet (most of these will be browsers and familiar programs).

added protection, you should install Unchecky (www.unchecky.com, click the orange Download button and doubleclick the setup file to install it). From now on any tick boxes you come across on websites and installers will be unticked by default (see screenshot below). Despite the fact that Checky will have done most of the hard work for you when it comes to blocking PUPs, we suggest you still always opt for the ‘Custom’ version of the installation and read through the options carefully when you install a program.

Don’t trust email links

One of the golden rules of email is: never download an attachment unless you trust the source. Even then, be careful. Banks,

Install Unchecky to ensure tick boxes on websites and in installers are unticked by default

To let a program access the internet click the EnableAll button in the Quick Apply section. That program will now be able to access the internet without notifying you first. For any software you don’t recognise, enter its name into Google search, and look for sites like ‘Should I Remove It?’ and ‘Should I Block It?’ in the results to see what actions others have taken. While most of these programs will be Windows-related or program-specific processes, you may just identify a known virus and save yourself from a lot of pain.

Forward any email to scan@virustotal.com to check attachments for viruses

insurance companies and services will never email you with unsolicited requests for your account details and passwords – so never trust an email that does. Of course, friends and family will send you attachments that they believe are completely harmless. However, if your friend’s PC is not as well protected from threats as yours, you should be aware that viruses on their PC can easily attach themselves to the photos, videos and documents that they are sharing with you. To check an attachment before you download it, you can use another handy VirusTotal tool. Open the email and click Forward, then delete the body copy of the email completely, so that only the attachment remains, and change the subject line to SCAN. Then forward the email to scan@virustotal.com. In a few minutes you’ll receive a detailed email containing analysis from 54 online virus scanners. A safe file will have ‘found nothing’ next to each checker. 7 – 20 December 2016 59


Advanced Tips for basic tasks No matter how often you do something on your PC, there will always be ways you can do it faster and better. Daniel Booth explains how to improve the everyday tasks that we do almost without thinking Copy and paste

Just as the first words children learn are usually ‘mummy’ and ‘daddy’, so the first keyboard shortcuts PC users learn are typically Ctrl+X/C/V, letting you cut, copy and paste. It’s such a simple command that you may think there’s not much else it can do, but there are hidden settings that unlock useful tools. For example, you can set the Office Clipboard (the one you use in Word and Excel) to open automatically when you copy more than one item. The Clipboard appears on the left-hand side, listing the items you’ve copied. To enable this setting, in the Home tab click the tiny arrow to the bottom-right of Clipboard, then click Options at the bottom. Next, tick the Show Office Clipboard Automatically box (see screenshot below).

Printing

The Word equivalent of invisible ink is the Hidden Text option. This conceals text in a document, which is useful if you need to print two versions – one showing the hidden text, one without. Highlight then right-click the text you want to hide, then click Font. In the Effects box, tick Hidden, then OK at the bottom. If you find that the hidden text is still printed, you may need to untick a printing setting. In a Word document press Ctrl+P, then Options at the bottom left. Under the ‘Printing options’ heading make sure ‘Print hidden text’ is unticked.

Deleting files

As you may know, the Recycle Bin is where items sit, in limbo, before being permanently deleted from your PC. One of the most

This setting makes the Office Clipboard automatically appear when you copy more than one item

60 7 – 20 December 2016

You can tell CCleaner to wipe from the Recycle Bin only files that have been there longer than 24 hours

effective ways to remove everything is to run a CCleaner scan – it takes no prisoners. But it also has a setting that erases only items that have been in the Recycle Bin for over 24 hours, giving you some breathing space to recover them. Open CCleaner, click Options on the left, Advanced, then tick

Untick this box to make Word 2013 documents open by default in the Print Layout view


the ‘Only delete files in Recycle Bin older than 24 hours’ box (see screenshot opposite below).

Opening documents

Microsoft has a habit of changing its programs’ default settings, confounding users in the process. This happened with the launch of Word 2013, which by default opens documents in Read Mode, rather than the Print Layout view as in previous versions. To reverse this, open a Word document, click File, then Options. Click the General tab, then scroll down to the ‘Start up options’ heading and untick the box next to ‘Open e-mail attachments and other uneditable files in reading view’ (see screenshot opposite, bottom of page). If you rarely print documents, there’s little point seeing what they’ll look like printed. In this case, choose a different default mode, such as Draft view. In Word 2007 click the Microsoft Office button, then Word Options at the bottom, and the Advanced tab on the left. Scroll down to the General heading, then tick ‘Allow opening a document in Draft view and click OK. Finally, in a Word document click the View tab, then in the Documents View section (top left) click Draft. It’s slightly different in Word 2010 – to get to the Advanced tab you need to click the File tab, then Options. From here follow the same instructions.

Tick this box to automatically save Windows 10 screenshots to OneDrive

Choose ‘Date modified’ filters to narrow your search in File Explorer

Saving documents

To do this, first right-click the cloud icon at the bottom right of your taskbar, then click Settings. Click the Auto-save tab then, under the Screenshots heading, tick the box ‘Automatically save screenshots I capture to OneDrive’ and click OK (see screenshot above left). There are two ways you could trip up. First, if you can’t see the OneDrive icon in your taskbar, try clicking the ‘Show hidden icons’ up arrow. Second, if you can’t see the Auto-save tab, try taking a screenshot first, then right-click the OneDrive icon. To take screenshots in Windows 10, as in previous versions of the operating system, press PrtScn on your keyboard.

When you save a Word document or Excel spreadsheet, you can keep them confidential by adding a password. In Word click the top-left Office logo, then Save As. Next to the bottom-right Save button you’ll see a Tools dropdown menu – click it, then General Options. Here you can set a password that opens the document, and another that allows users to ‘modify’ (edit) it. Type your passwords, then re-enter them to confirm. The same process works for Excel.

Taking screenshots

One of Windows 10’s smartest tricks is automatically saving screenshots to its built-in online storage service OneDrive, bypassing software such as Paint and IrfanView.

ADVANCED TIPS FOR WEB BOOKMARKS There’s a lot you can do to improve a task as simple as opening a bookmarked website. Chrome users, for example, should install Google’s Bookmark Manager extension (www.snipca. com/22573) in order to better organise their bookmarks. To open it, click the top-right menu button (three vertical dots), hover your cursor over Bookmarks, then click ‘Bookmark manager’ (or click Ctrl+Shift+O). This will show your bookmarks in a list or grid view. Hover your mouse over one until a tick appears (see screenshot below), then click it. In the

box that appears you can choose to type a title for the bookmark, and add a note. To move bookmarks between folders click their ticks, then open the ‘Choose a folder’ dropdown menu at the top and select an option. You can also search by keyword through all your bookmarks. To perform the same tasks in Firefox click the top-right star icon when you’re on a website you’ve bookmarked. This opens the Edit This Bookmark window. You can change the name of a bookmark, choose which folder it is saved in, and add tags to make it easy to find when searching.

Searching your PC

At times your PC can feel like a haystack littered with a thousand needles, so we love any tweak that makes it easier to find a particular file. Search filters in Windows 10’s File Explorer do this. To use them, open a folder or library, then click the bottomright ‘list’ icon. This will display your items in a column. Next, hover your cursor over one of the headings (Name, Date, Type etc), click the small down arrow that appears, then choose your search filter. You can dramatically cut the number of files listed. The ‘Date modified’ filters are especially useful. Click the arrow and it shows the current month, with today’s date highlighted. To search specific months click the month heading (eg, ‘December 2016’), then hold down your mouse button and move your mouse over the months you want to select (for example, Sep, Oct, Nov). You may find it easier to search using rough estimates on when something was saved. You’ll see these options under the calendar, including ‘Earlier this week’, ‘Earlier this month’ and ‘A long time ago’ (see screenshot above right). 7 – 20 December 2016 61


Problems Solved PROBLEM OF THE FORTNIGHT

What’s causing my weird audio problems? I have a strange problem. I use external desktop speakers with my PC. I also have a pair of old headphones that plug into a pass-through jack on the speakers. This setup has worked well. But recently one headphone speaker stopped working, and so too did one desktop speaker — both at the same time! I thought it must be a fault with my PC, but if I plug the speakers into a different computer the problem is the same, and ditto with the headphones. But when I plugged a different set of speakers into my PC, they worked fine. I also plugged my smartphone’s earphones into the PC audio jack and again, they work fine, but not when I connect them to the speakers. So this is a mystery. What could have caused both the speakers and the headphones to go wrong at the same time? Is there any way to fix it? It’s the left speaker but the right headphone cup that’s affected, if that’s at all relevant. Alex Smethurst

Q

This did seem a mystery, and we puzzled over it for a long time. But your last line sparked an idea that we think explains this weirdness: the tip of your headphones’ 3.5mm jack connector has snapped off in the socket and is stuck there. e.

A

The broken tip of a 3.5mm jack could get stuck in a socket, causing speaker problems

64 7 – 20 December 2016

If the tip of a jack is caught in a speaker, you might need to open it to remove the piece

You can confirm this by looking at the connector on your headphones and comparing it with the 3.5mm jack on your smartphone’s earphones, or our picture (below left). Look closely and you’ll see that the connector is actually made up of several distinct segments, each separated by a tiny plastic insulating ring. These segments provide the electrical connections for both the left and right speaker channels. The key to our theory is that the very tip of the jack carries the signal for the left stereo channel. It’s also the part that gets ‘locked’ in place by a sprung clip in the socket, when the plug is inserted. If we’re right then the effects would be exactly as you describe. The left speaker won’t work because it’s sending its signal to the stuck tip. It’ll also stop the 3.5mm jack on your headphones from going all the way in, preventing its tip from reaching the base of the socket, so you’ll get the left channel’s audio through the right cup. The solution is to remove the tip from the socket, although that’s easier said than done. Carefully open the affected speaker to see if you can use a pinhead to push the stuck tip out. Or, if the socket enclosure is inaccessible, you might get lucky from the outside: apply a minuscule drop of superglue to a pinhead, and very carefully insert it into the socket and let it adhere to the stuck tip. Allow it to dry for 24 hours then pull slowly with firm pressure. Hopefully, the stuck tip will pop out.

Why does Excel configure every time? Every time I start Excel 2007 it launches a configuration process. After a few minutes I can open the spreadsheet I originally wanted. If I keep that file open, other Excel pages open with no problems. There is no problem with any other Office 2007 program, like Word. My laptop runs Windows 10, and is new. Keith Hollobone

Q

This is because Excel is failing to create an entry in the registry, to tell Windows that it has been registered. Launching the program as an administrator should fix the problem. Press Windows key+E to launch File Explorer then navigate to C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office12, which is the default installation folder for Office. If you installed it in a different folder, or drive, navigate to the relevant location. Now right-click the file called EXCEL.EXE and choose ‘Run as administrator’ (see screenshot). If this doesn’t fix the problem, you’ll need to edit the registry manually. First back up your PC, then press Windows key+R, type regedit and press Enter. in the left-hand pane navigate to HKEY_ CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\ Office\12.0\Excel\Options then rightclick in the right-hand pane and choose New followed by DWORD Value. Name this value NoReReg and press Enter, then right-click NoReReg, choose Modify, type 1 in the ‘Value data’ field and click OK.

A

To ensure that Excel has created an entry in the registry, launch it as an administrator


Our experts solve all your tech problems Email us your problem and we’ll try to help: noproblem@computeractive.co.uk

Where is Windows Easy Transfer in Windows 10? In Issue 486 Nigel Collins wrote to Problems Solved to ask why Windows Easy Transfer (WET) hadn’t transferred his software. You pointed out that WET isn’t designed to do that, preserving only personal files and folders. As I’ve been considering switching from my Windows 7 PC to a new Windows 10 laptop, I had a play with WET. It seemed simple enough on my Windows 7 PC, but when I attempted the same on a friend’s Windows 10 computer neither of us could find it. Is it hidden? Or is there another way to get my stuff over to Windows 10? Anthony Ford

Q

WET has been discontinued, making its last appearance in Windows 8.1 — so it’s simply not to be found in Windows 10. We don’t know why Microsoft did this because, while limited in scope, WET made simple work of transferring important stuff from one computer to another. Perhaps pre-empting a backlash

A

WET, a tool for transferring files from an old computer, can itself be copied to Windows 10

against the removal of WET, Microsoft struck a deal with a company called Laplink that allowed Windows 10 users to download a free copy of a migration tool called PCmover Express (www.snipca. com/21981). However, even though Microsoft’s support pages suggest this is still the case, the freebie arrangement has actually expired — and PCmover Express now costs £10.95. But there’s no need to pay in your case,

as it’s possible to copy WET’s program files from your Windows 7 PC to your new Windows 10 machine. On your Windows 7 PC, press Windows key+E to fire up Windows Explorer and then use this to navigate to the C:\Windows\ System32 folder. In this folder you’ll find a sub-folder called ‘migwiz’ (short for ‘migration wizard’): copy this whole folder to a USB stick or external drive. Now switch to your Windows 10 PC, then press Windows key+E to launch File Explorer (which is the new name for Windows Explorer). Copy the ‘migwiz’ folder into C:\Windows\System32. Now double-click to open the new ‘migwiz’ folder on your hard drive and then double-click ‘migwiz.exe’ to launch WET (see screenshot). A caveat is that the 32bit version of migwiz.exe will work only in the 32bit version of Windows 10, and much the same for the 64bit version. So, if you have a 64bit Windows 7, then migwiz.exe will work in the 64bit edition of Windows 10.

Can I rename loads of photos at once? I am relatively new to computer stuff so forgive me for asking what might be a silly question. I took a load of photos with a borrowed digital camera, and my owner friend transferred them to a folder on my Windows PC. They are all named things like ‘IMG1234.jpg’, ‘IMG1235.jpg’ and so on. I’d like to give them more meaningful names. I worked out that I can right-click and choose the Rename option from the menu, but that only lets me rename one photo at a time. I have about a hundred images, so is there an easy way to rename them all at once? Josh Brand

Q

You can simultaneously name a batch of photos by selecting and right-clicking them all

There is. First, select the images, either individually by holding down Control (Ctrl) and clicking each in turn; in batches by holding down Shift while clicking the first and last image in the batch; or you can select all files in the folder by pressing Ctrl+A. Now right-click and choose Rename (or

A

tap keyboard shortcut F2), and then type the new name. When you press Enter, all selected files will be named with whatever you typed as the prefix. Windows will add a number in brackets after each — for example, ‘My 2016 Holiday (1).jpg’, ‘My 2016 Holiday (2).jpg’ and so on (see screenshot).

7 – 20 December 2016 65


Problems Solved How do I disable my touchpad’s zoom feature? I have a new Windows 10 laptop that I’m happy with, except for one thing: when I’m using the touchpad I’m forever zooming the screen instead of moving the pointer. I’ve figured out that this in an intentional feature that requires two fingers, but I activate it accidentally because my lazy thumb rests on the touchpad (it’s quite big — the touchpad, not my thumb). I’ve had a look in Windows 10’s Settings pane but I can’t see how to disable this feature. Can you help? Perry Lucas

Q

You’ll probably need to change this setting in the touchpad’s own driver, which can be accessed via Windows 10’s Settings — but the method’s not immediately obvious. From Settings, click Devices followed by ‘Mouse & touchpad’; then scroll down to find and click ‘Additional mouse options’, under ‘Related settings’. On the Mouse Properties box (see screenshot) click the Device Settings tab, then click your touchpad in the Devices list and click the Settings button. Look for an option labelled ‘Pinch Zoom’ or similar: click this then remove the tick from the ‘Enable Pinch Zoom’ (or similar) box. Click OK twice to close both boxes and your pinch-to-zoom annoyance will be vanquished.

Why am I viewing an out-of-date website? I was looking online for a used vehicle. When I found something suitable, I telephoned the dealer only to find that the vehicle was sold. My partner was on the same dealer website at the same time on an iPad and she could not find the said vehicle. The salesperson on the phone said my browser was out of date. Can you throw any light on this? I am using Windows 10

Q

A

You can clear Google Chrome’s browsing data in ‘advanced settings’

with Google Chrome, but it seems I was viewing a page that was days old! Geoff Lee It sounds like there’s a hitch with the cache that Chrome uses to save time when loading and displaying websites. If a website has changed since you last visited it, Chrome should spot this and download (and display) the new information. It’s possible that your Chrome cache is corrupted. You can visit the affected page and try a ‘hard reload’ by pressing Control (Ctrl)+F5: this tells Chrome to ignore the cache and fetch everything on the page afresh. This should fix the problem, but if it persists — or you suspect it’s happening on other sites — then we’d advise erasing the cache’s contents, which will prompt Chrome to rebuild it from scratch. Click Chrome’s menu button (three dots, top right), then choose Settings followed by ‘Show advanced settings’, then click ‘Clear browsing data’. Ensure that at least ‘Cached images and files’ is ticked and then click ‘Clear browsing data’ (see screenshot).

A

Where has my metered-connection switch gone? Following what I think was the Anniversary Update, my Windows 10 no longer has a switch to select whether or not I’m using a metered connection. This means Microsoft has taken away my ability to avoid updates when I’m using my data allowance. Is the disappearance of this option my fault, or Microsoft’s? I can’t find any solution on Google. C Vincer

Q

It’s certainly not your fault: for reasons only Microsoft could provide, the company has chosen to bury the metered option even more deeply within Windows 10. In fact, it’s now almost impossible to find by accident, so we imagine there’ll be many people in the same situation as you. To reach this switch now, click Settings followed by ‘Network & Internet’. Then click WiFi followed by your router’s name

A

You can find and disable the zoom option in the Mouse Properties box

66 7 – 20 December 2016

Though hard to locate in Windows 10, the ‘Metered connection’ option is still available

(at the top). You might need to scroll down to see it, but otherwise it works the same way as before. Updates won’t download when it’s set to On (see screenshot).


Can I upgrade to Windows 10 after restoring Windows 8.1? I have an HP Pavilion desktop PC. This was supplied with Windows 8.1, but I upgraded that to Windows 10 using Microsoft’s free upgrade offer. Previously, I purchased HP’s official recovery discs, which contain Windows 8.1. What happens if I use these to restore the PC to its original state? Can I get back to Windows 10 now that July 29 has passed? David Ward

Q

If you use the recovery discs that you’ve got then your PC will be returned to its ‘factory’ state. This means that when you switch it on it’ll be like it was when you bought it, with Windows 8.1 as the operating system. If you do this, you won’t be able to upgrade to Windows 10 using Microsoft’s original free offer, because that’s expired. For a while after July 29 it was possible to still download the upgrade by clicking a button to agree that you were a user of Windows 10’s ‘assistive’ technologies. Now,

A

Microsoft’s ‘media-creation’ tool lets you install Windows 10 via a disc or USB

you must contact Microsoft’s Disability Answer Desk via www.snipca.com/22476. However, you’ve already upgraded, so your Windows 8.1 product key is now a Windows 10 key. You can use Microsoft’s free media-creation tool to create a bootable DVD disc or USB stick and

upgrade. Visit www.snipca.com/22336, click ‘Download tool now’ (see screenshot), then double-click the downloaded file to create your desired installation media (disc or USB). Now just boot from this to install Windows 10, entering your original Windows 8.1 product key if prompted.

How do I see comment numbers in Word? I’ve just started a new job where I use Word 2013. As part of my role I have to collaborate on documents with an outside agency, which uses Word 2007. I encountered a problem recently as I reviewed a document, when one of my

Q

external contacts flagged a particular comment by its number. I recall using earlier versions of Word where I would do the same, but while I can read and edit the agency staff’s comments without problem, I can’t see the comment numbers. I’ve trawled through Word’s

You can display Word’s comment numbers by adding a button to the Quick Access Toolbar

ribbon control but can find no option to enable them. Can you help? Janis Cook The ability to see comment numbers still exists but it is hard to locate. In fact, to access it you’ll need to add a button to the Quick Access Toolbar (QAT). First, click the down-point arrow to the right of the QAT, which is the little bar of icons at the top left of the Word window. Choose More Commands from the menu and then, under the ‘Choose commands from’ heading, pick All Commands. Now scroll down through the All Commands list to find and click Print Preview Edit Mode (see screenshot). Then click Add followed by OK. Now, when you need to see the comment numbers, just click the Print Preview Edit Mode button that’s now on the QAT — it looks like a page under a magnifying glass. Note that if you also need to edit with the comment numbers showing you’ll need to untick the Magnifier box in the Preview section on the ribbon.

A

7 – 20 December 2016 67


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Problems Solved

?

Whatever happened to… On Digital?

Poking about in my loft, I found an ‘On Digital’ box. My son gave me this years ago, because he thought I should get with the modern world. To be honest, I just put the box in the attic and forgot all about it – until now. Whatever happened to On Digital? Was it like the Freeview service that’s built into the TV I have now? And is this old box still useful in any way? I daren’t ask my son! Norman Turner

Q

A

On Digital was a forerunner of Freeview. Launched in 1998, On Digital offered a mix of

On Digital launched in 1998 with a mix of free-to-view and subscription TV channels

free-to-view channels and subscription services, delivered via set-top boxes that connected to standard domestic TV aerials. These boxes initially cost around £200, with paid-for (subscription) services priced to match similar packages offered by satellite TV company Sky. But take-up of On Digital was slow, prompting co-owners Carlton and Granada to rebrand the service as ITV Digital in 2001. At the same time, the firm’s bosses spent big money securing the rights to show Premier League football matches. The £315m deal hinged on ITV Digital attracting sufficient subscribers and advertising revenues to cover the cost of the deal. That never happened and, despite an attempt to negotiate a discount on the agreed £315m price, by early 2002 ITV Digital was out of money — and out of business. Keen to save the fledgling digital terrestrial TV (DTT) market, the government of the day quickly reawarded ITV Digital’s broadcasting licence to a new consortium headed by the BBC. That service was Freeview,

When On Digital struggled, it was relaunched as ITV Digital

which went live in late 2002. Existing On Digital/ITV Digital boxes did initially work with Freeview, but a variety of technical changes much later in the decade rendered almost all original DTT set-top boxes obsolete. So, while there’s a tiny chance your old box might decode Freeview signals and show them on a TV that lacks a Freeview tuner, it is in all likelihood now permanently useless — so take it to your local recycling centre. And don’t mention it to your son! Want to know what happened to your favourite program, website or technology? Email noproblem@computeractive.co.uk

What should I use when Paint.NET is discontinued? I was told by a guy in a computer shop that Microsoft is to stop support for its Paint.NET program very soon. As a Windows 7 user I’m concerned by this. Is there a free alternative, preferably without adverts? Philip George

Q

Image-editing software Microsoft Paint will be around for years to come

We think there are several crossed wires here, so let’s untangle them. First, the free image-editing tool from Microsoft is called Paint, or Microsoft Paint if you prefer. It’s been included with Windows since XP, and remains in Windows 10. There’s another painting program, called Paint.NET, which is a free download from www.getpaint.com. However, while Paint.NET’s developer Rick Brewster states that it was the result of his having been mentored by Microsoft during a college project, his program actually has nothing to do with the software giant. So, Paint.NET is an independent tool that’s maintained by an independent developer. It’s possible you’ve downloaded Brewster’s Paint.NET but actually we think you’re talking about (and have been using) Microsoft Paint. Microsoft’s program has been in the news recently, as the company intends to release a new version next year for Windows 10 only,

A

called Paint 3D (see News, Issue 488). That’s probably what your computershop guy was alluding to. But that does not mean support for the original Microsoft Paint will disappear soon. Paint’s support is only likely to stop with the end of Windows 7’s ‘extended support’ phase, which is scheduled for January 2020. But even then, Paint won’t actually stop working — it simply means that Microsoft won’t produce any more updates or fixes for Windows 7 or its tools. So, you’ve got nothing to worry about for several years, at least.

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Fast Fixes

Webcams Webcam not working after W10 Anniversary Update

You may see the error message ‘Launcher_Main.exe has stopped working’ when you try to use your webcam. This is most likely caused by the Windows 10 Anniversary Update (AU), which caused millions of webcams across the world to stop working because it removed support for video codecs that many webcams depend upon. At the time of writing, Microsoft has yet to release a fix for this, but there is a workaround if your webcam has been affected. Click the Start button, type regedit then press Enter to launch the registry editor. Navigate to HKEY_ LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\ Microsoft\Windows Media Foundation\ Platform. Right-click Platform, click New, then ‘DWORD (32-bit) Value’ (see screenshot below). Rename it EnableFrameServerMode, then double-click and set the value to 0.

Improve sound and image quality, fix Windows 10 Anniversary Update errors and replace an outdated driver

Windows 10 Camera app or Skype). When you reopen these programs your webcam should work with them as it did before the AU was installed.

Replace an outdated webcam driver

Webcam not working after the Anniversary Update? Make this tweak in your registry

Outdated drivers are the most common culprit if you see the error message ‘we can’t find your camera’ when you try to use it. Your webcam may simply be too old for Windows 10 (and therefore not compatible). To check this, click the Start button, type device manager then press Enter. You’ll find an entry for your webcam driver under ‘Imaging devices’ or ‘Sound, video and game controller’. Once you’ve found it, right-click your webcam’s entry, then select Properties. Click the Driver tab, then Driver Details and look for any file name that contains stream.sys. If you find one, your webcam is too old to work in modern versions of Windows. If you don’t see a filename containing stream.sys, your best course of action is to uninstall your webcam’s driver and install the latest version afresh. To do this, in Device Manager right-click your webcam, select Properties, click the Driver tab then Uninstall (see screenshot below). In the pop-up window, tick the ‘Delete the driver software for this device’ box and click OK. Now return to the Device Manager, click Action, then ‘Scan for hardware changes’. This scan should find your webcam and reinstall the most up-to-date drivers. Once it finishes, restart your PC.

At this point, those with 64bit systems (to check, click Start, type about, click Enter, and look for ‘System type’) have to return to the registry editor and navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\ SOFTWARE\WOW6432Node\Microsoft\ Windows Media Foundation\Platform. Again, right-click Platform, click New, then DWORD (32-bit) and rename it EnableFrameServerMode with a value of 0. Now users of both systems should close the registry editor and any open programs that use the webcam (such as the

You can force Windows to update your webcam’s driver by uninstalling the current version then scanning for hardware changes

70 7 – 20 December 2016

Webcam produces video without audio

You might find your webcam streams or records video without sound – or perhaps the recipients of your video calls can’t hear you. This is probably a problem with your microphone settings. Click Start, type control panel, then click ‘Hardware and Sound’ then Sound. Click the Recording tab, Microphone, then Properties. Next, click the Levels tab and move the Microphone Array slider (see screenshot below) to the right to turn up the recording volume, then click OK to save the changes. If the recording volume is still too quiet, try moving the Microphone Boost slider. Move this back to the left if the webcam’s audio becomes too loud or distorted.

If your webcam isn’t recording sound, try adjusting your microphone’s Levels settings

Poor video quality

If your webcam’s footage is too blurry, too dark or generally substandard, there are a few things you can try. First, try installing the latest driver for your webcam (see ‘Replace an outdated webcam driver’ tip left). Second, increase the amount of light in your room. The small aperture sizes of most webcams means they perform badly in low light (much like phone cameras). Switch on lights and open curtains – just make sure you don’t have a bright light directly behind you or you will be in silhouette. For best results, place a desk lamp behind the webcam, with the light directed up towards the ceiling to create a bright source of light. Another cause of poor video quality is grease on the lens. Use a soft, lint-free cloth (also known as a microfiber cloth) to clean the webcam’s lens.

Next issue Fast Fixes for… Plex


Lowering the cost of printing... We are a small, family owned and run company, specialising in photographic consumables – and proud winners of multiple Good Service Awards. We are located in Leamington Spa, in the heart of Warwickshire. If you’re passing, please pop into our shop and meet Cooper – our office dog!

01926 339977 www.premier-ink.co.uk

Ink Cartridges

We carry one of the largest ranges of printer ink cartridges in the UK, with cartridges in stock for practically every inkjet printer. We always stock Original cartridges, which are made by your printer manufacturer, and in many cases we also offer Compatible cartridges, which are usually made by a UK company called Jet Tec. Using Jet Tec Compatibles is a way of saving money, without compromising on the quality of your prints. Here are the results from two independent ink tests that agree...

“Jet Tec’s colours were superb, with single greys and blacks very close to Epson... so Jet Tec wins!” - Total Digital Photography Magazine “What we’re looking at here is not only the best choice of ink for the R300 printer, but also the best choice of ink in this group test, period. There’s just no getting away from the superb combination of performance and pricing.” - Computer Upgrade Magazine

Ink Test Winner

PGi29 Pixma Pro 1

Originals: Set of 12 Colours 36ml each

PGi72 Pixma Pro 10

Originals: Set of 10 Colours 14ml each

CLi42 Pixma Pro 100

No.16 Fountain Pen Inks

Originals: £249.99 No.16 Set of 4 £21.99 No.16 Black 5.4ml No.16 Colours 3.1ml each No.16XL Set of 4 No.16XL Black 12.9ml No.16XL Colours 6.5ml each £99.99 Compatibles: £10.99 No.16 Set of 4 No.16 Black 12ml No.16 Colours 12ml each

Originals: Set of 8 Colours 13ml each

CLi8 Pixma Pro 9000

Originals: Set of 8 Colours 14ml each Compatibles: Set of 8 Colours 14ml each

PGi9 Pixma Pro 9500

Originals: Set of 10 Colours 14ml each Compatibles: Set of 10 Colours 14ml each

£28.99 £8.99 £6.99 £53.99 £15.99 £12.99 £14.99 £3.99 £3.99

We carry a massive range of papers (sheets & rolls) at competitive prices. Below are some examples of the selection we stock.

Photo Glossy 160gsm: 6x4 50 sheets +50 FREE £3.99 Photo Satin 200gsm: 6x4 100 sheets +100 FREE £9.99 A4 20 sheets £6.99 Photo Glossy 200gsm: 6x4 100 sheets +100 FREE £9.99 A4 20 sheets £6.99 Premium Pearl 270gsm: 6x4 50 sheets +50 FREE £6.99 A4 50 sheets £16.99 Premium Gloss 270gsm: 6x4 50 sheets OFFER £6.99 A3 25 sheets OFFER £15.99 A3+ 25 sheets OFFER £19.99 Smooth Pearl 310gsm: 6x4 100 sheets £17.99 7x5 100 sheets £21.99 A4 25 sheets £16.99 A4 100 sheets £47.99 A4 250 sheets £99.99 A3 25 sheets £31.99 A3+ 25 sheets £43.99 Smooth Gloss 310gsm: 6x4 100 sheets £17.99 7x5 100 sheets £21.99 A4 25 sheets £16.99 A4 100 sheets £47.99 A3 25 sheets £31.99 A3+ 25 sheets £43.99 Premium Matt Duo 200 gsm: A4 50 sheets £14.99 Heavy Duo Matt 310gsm: A4 50 sheets £18.99

No.18

£83.99 Daisy Inks £10.99 Originals: No.18 Set of 4 No.18 Black 5.2ml No.18 Colours 3.3ml each No.18XL Set of 4 No.18XL Black 11.5ml £83.99 No.18XL Colours 6.6ml each £10.99 Compatibles: No.18 Set of 4 £27.99 No.18 Black 12ml £3.99 No.18 Colours 12ml each

No.24 Elephant Inks

£30.99 £8.99 £7.49 £54.99 £16.99 £12.99 £14.99 £3.99 £3.99

Originals: £107.99 No.24 Set of 6 £52.99 £10.99 No.24 Colours 4.6ml each £8.99 No.24XL Set of 6 £87.99 £44.99 No.24XL Colours 8.7ml each £14.99 £4.99 Compatibles: No.24 Set of 6 £22.99 More Canon Inks... No.24 Black 7ml £3.99 Originals: No.24 Colours 7ml each £3.99 PGi520/CLi521 Set of 5 £49.99 PGi520 Black 19ml £11.99 No.26 CLi521 Colours 9ml £10.29 Polar Bear Inks PGi525/CLi526 Set of 5 £49.99 PGi525 Black 19ml £11.99 Originals: £35.99 CLi526 Colours 9ml £10.29 No.26 Set of 4 £9.99 PGi550/CLi551 Set of 5 £43.99 No.26 Black 6.2ml No.26 Colours 4.5ml each £8.99 PGi550 Black 15ml £10.99 £63.99 CLi551 Colours 7ml £8.99 No.26XL Set of 4 No.26XL Black 12.1ml £16.99 PGi550/CLi551XL Set of 5 £59.99 No.26XL Colours 9.7ml each £15.99 PGi550XL Black 22ml £12.99 CLi551XL Colours 11ml £11.99 Compatibles: £14.99 PG540 Black 8ml £12.99 No.26 Set of 4 £3.99 PG540XL Black 21ml £19.99 No.26 Black 10ml No.26 Colours 7ml each £3.99 CL541 Colour 8ml £16.99 CL541XL Colour 15ml £19.99 PG545XL Black 15ml £15.49 T0481-T0486 CL546XL Colour 13ml £16.99 Seahorse Inks Compatibles: Originals: PGi5 Black 27ml £4.99 Set of 6 £89.99 CLi8 Colours 13ml £3.99 Colours 13ml each £18.99 PGi5/CLi8 Set of 5 £19.99 Compatibles: PGi520 Black 19ml £4.99 Set of 6 £19.99 CLi521 Colours 9ml £3.99 Colours 13ml each £3.99 PGi520/CLi521 Set of 5 £19.99 PGi525 Black 19ml £4.99 T0541-T0549 CLi526 Colours 9ml £3.99 PGi525/CLi526 Set of 5 £19.99 Frog Inks PGi550XL Black 25ml £4.99 Originals: £112.99 CLi551XL Colours 12ml £3.99 Set of 8 £14.99 PGi550/CLi551XL Set of 5 £19.99 Colours 13ml each BCi6 Colours 15ml £2.99 Compatibles: PG40 Black 28ml £12.99 Set of 8 £27.99 £3.99 CL41 Colour 24ml £16.99 Colours 13ml each PG50 Black 28ml £12.99 CL51 Colour 24ml £14.99 T0591-T0599 PG510 Black 11ml £13.99 Lily Inks CL511 Colour 11ml £15.99 PG512 Black 18ml £13.99 Originals: £102.99 CL513 Colour 15ml £15.99 Set of 8 £12.99 PG540XL Black 21ml £13.99 Colours 13ml each CL541XL Colour 15ml £14.99 Compatibles: £27.99 PG545XL Black 15ml £11.99 Set of 8 £3.99 PG546XL Black 21ml £12.99 Colours 13ml each Many more in stock!

Photo Papers

More Epson inks >>>

E&EO. Prices may be subject to change, but hopefully not!

PP-201 Plus Glossy II 275gsm: 6x4 50 sheets £9.99 7x5 20 sheets £11.99 A4 20 sheets £11.99 A3 20 sheets £27.99 A3+ 20 sheets £36.99 SG-201 Semi-Gloss 260gsm: 6x4 50 sheets £10.99 A4 20 sheets £11.99 A3 20 sheets £27.99 A3+ 20 sheets £44.99

Smooth Pearl 280gsm: 6x4 100 sheets £12.99 7x5 100 sheets £18.99 A4 50 sheets £18.99 A4 50 sheets £18.99 A3 50 sheets £35.99 A3+ 25 sheets £28.99 Oyster 271gsm: 6x4 100 sheets £12.99 7x5 100 sheets £18.99 A4 50 sheets £18.99 A3 25 sheets £22.99 A3+ 25 sheets £28.99 Gloss 271gsm: 6x4 100 sheets £12.99 7x5 100 sheets £18.99 A4 50 sheets £18.99 A3 25 sheets £22.99 A3+ 25 sheets £28.99 Double Sided Matt 250gsm: A4 100 sheets £24.99 A3 50 sheets £27.99

Premium Gloss 255gsm: 6x4 40 sheets +40 FREE £10.99 7x5 30 sheets £10.99 A4 15 sheets +15 FREE £10.99 A3 20 sheets £38.99 A3+ 20 sheets OFFER £25.99 Ultra Gloss 300gsm: 6x4 50 sheets £13.99 7x5 50 sheets £14.99 A4 15 sheets £15.99 Premium Semi-Gloss 251gsm: 6x4 50 sheets £8.99 A4 20 sheets £15.99 A3 20 sheets £39.99 A3+ 20 sheets OFFER £25.99 Archival Matte 192gsm: A4 50 sheets £16.99 A3 50 sheets £36.99 A3+ 50 sheets £52.99 Heavyweight Matte 167gsm: A4 50 sheets £12.99 A3 50 sheets £32.99 A3+ 50 sheets £46.99

More Ink Cartridges... T0711-T0714 Cheetah Inks

Originals: Set of 4 Black 7.4ml Colours 5.5ml each Compatibles: Set of 4 Black 7.4ml Colours 5.5ml each

£42.99 £10.99 £10.99 £14.99 £3.99 £3.99

T0791-T0796 Owl Inks

Originals: Set of 6 Colours 11.1ml each Compatibles: Set of 6 Colours 11.1ml each

£88.99 £14.99 £19.99 £3.99

T0801-T0806 Hummingbird Inks

Originals: Set of 6 Colours 7.4ml each Compatibles: Set of 6 Colours 7.4ml each

£67.99 £11.49 £19.99 £3.99

T0871-T0879 Flamingo Inks

Originals: Set of 8 Colours 11.4ml each Compatibles: Set of 8 Colours 11.4ml each

£76.99 £9.99 £27.99 £3.99

T0961-T0969 Husky Inks

Originals: Set of 8 Colours 11.4ml each Compatibles: Set of 8 Colours 11.4ml each

Many more in stock!

£78.99 £9.99 £27.99 £3.99

Originals: No.300 Black 4ml £12.99 No.300 Colour 4ml £14.99 No.301 Black 3ml £10.99 No.301 Colour 3ml £13.49 No.302 Black 3.5ml £10.99 No.302 Colour 4ml £12.99 No.350 Black 4.5ml £14.99 No.351 Colour 3.5ml £17.99 No.363 Black 6ml £17.99 No.363 C/M/Y/PC/PM each £11.49 No.363 SET OF 6 £49.99 No.364 Black 6ml £8.99 No.364 PB/C/M/Y 3ml each £7.99 No.364 SET OF 4 £26.99 No.364XL Black 14ml £15.99 No.364XL PB/C/M/Y 6ml each £15.99 No.364XL SET OF 4 £59.99 No.920XL SET OF 4 £51.99 No.932XL SET OF 4 £50.99 No.950XL SET OF 4 £79.99 Compatibles: No.15 Black 46ml £3.99 No.21 Black 10ml £6.99 No.22 Colour 21ml £11.99 No.45 Black 45ml £6.99 No.56 Black 24ml £6.99 No.57 Colour 24ml £11.99 No.62XL Black 12ml £14.99 No.62XL Colour 12ml £15.99 No.78 Colour 36ml £8.99 No.110 Colour 12ml £9.99 No.300XL Black 18ml £12.99 No.300XL Colour 18ml £13.99 No.301XL Black 15ml £12.99 No.301XL Colour 18ml £13.99 No.337 Black 21ml £9.99 No.338 Black 21ml £10.99 No.339 Black 34ml £11.99 No.343 Colour 21ml £11.99 No.344 Colour 21ml £12.99 No.350XL Black 30ml £13.99 No.351XL Colour 20ml £15.99 No.363 SET OF 6 £19.99 No.364 Black 10ml £3.79 No.364 Colours 5ml each £3.29 No.364 SET OF 4 £12.99 No.364XL Black 18ml £4.99 No.364XL Colours 11ml each £4.29 No.364XL SET OF 4 £16.99

Albums & Frames

We now stock a comprehensive range of frames, mounts, albums and accessories. The full range can be viewed on our website, with detailed close-up images of each product to help you choose the perfect way to display your printed photographs. Below is just a tiny sample of what we offer: Grace Albums

Available in Burgundy or Blue.

Travel Albums

Emilia Frames Distressed wood shabby chic effect. Blue or White.

Rio Frames

Handcrafted solid wood with 30mm wide profile, in four colours.

Over a dozen designs in stock.

Grafton Albums

Available in Burgundy or Blue. Frisco Frames Simple, basic design available in a huge range of sizes & colours.

Baby Albums Multiple different designs available.

Memo Style Albums: Grace 6x4 100 photos £5.99 Grace 6x4 200 photos £9.99 Grace 6x4 300 photos £14.99 Grace 7x5 100 photos £7.99 Grace 7x5 200 photos £13.99 Grace A4 100 photos £15.99 Grafton 6x4 200 photos £9.99 Grafton 7x5 200 photos £13.99 Baby 6x4 200 photos £9.99 Travel 6x4 200 photos £8.99 Traditional Style Albums: Grace 29x32cm 100 pages £14.99 Grafton 29x32cm 100 pgs £14.99 Baby 29x32cm 100 pages £12.99 Accessories: Photo Corners Pack of 250 £2.99 Photo Stickers Pack of 500 £1.99

Plastic Bevel, Glass Front: Frisco 6x4 seven colours £1.99 Frisco 7x5 seven colours £2.29 Frisco 8x6 seven colours £2.79 Frisco 9x6 seven colours £3.49 Frisco 10x8 seven colours £3.79 Frisco 12x8 seven colours £4.59 Frisco A4 seven colours £3.99 Frisco A3 seven colours £8.99 Wood Bevel, Glass Front: Emilia 6x4 two colours £4.99 Emilia 7x5 two colours £5.99 Emilia 8x6 two colours £6.99 Emilia 10x8 two colours £7.99 Emilia 12x8 two colours £8.99 Rio 6x4 four colours £5.99 Rio 7x5 four colours £6.99 Rio 8x6 four colours £7.99 Rio 10x8 four colours £8.99 Rio 12x8 four colours £9.99

USB Pen Drives

8GB: £3.29 16GB: £4.49 32GB: £7.99

Memory SDHC & SDXC

Sandisk Blue 33X (5MB/s) 8GB £3.49 16GB £4.99 32GB £9.99 Sandisk Ultra 266X (40MB/s) 8GB £5.99 16GB £6.99 32GB £11.99 64GB £21.99 Sandisk Extreme 600X (90MB/s) 16GB £9.99 32GB £14.99 64GB £27.99

Compact Flash Sandisk Ultra 333X (50MB/s) 8GB £11.99 16GB £15.99 32GB £24.99

Sandisk Extreme 800X (120MB/s) 16GB £26.99 32GB £32.99 64GB £47.99 128GB £94.99

MicroSDHC & SDXC Sandisk Ultra 320X (48MB/s) 16GB £6.99 32GB £12.99 64GB £24.99

Readers & Cases

Delkin USB2 Card Reader £9.99 Delkin USB3 Card Reader £19.99 Delkin SD Card (x8) Case £6.99 Delkin CF Card (x4) Case £6.99 Many more in stock!

Batteries BP-511 for Canon LP-E6 for Canon LP-E8 for Canon LP-E12 for Canon EN-EL3E for Nikon NB-2L/LH for Canon NB-6L for Canon NB-10L for Canon NP95 for Fuji NPW126 for Fuji EN-EL3e for Nikon EN-EL14 for Nikon EN-EL15 for Nikon BLN-1 for Olympus BLC12 for Panasonic FW50 for Sony BX-1 for Sony AA 1300mAh (4) AAA 1100mAh (4)

£12.99 £16.99 £12.99 £12.99 £14.99 £9.99 £9.99 £12.99 £9.99 £12.99 £14.99 £19.99 £24.99 £24.99 £23.99 £24.99 £14.99 £3.99 £3.99

Filters Screw-type Filters 46mm UV / Haze 49mm UV / Haze 52mm UV / Haze 55mm UV / Haze 58mm UV / Haze 62mm UV / Haze 67mm UV / Haze 72mm UV / Haze 77mm UV / Haze

£4.99 £4.99 £4.99 £5.99 £6.99 £7.99 £8.99 £8.99 £11.99 Skylight Filters from: £6.99 Circular Polarising Filters from: £14.99 ND4 and ND8 Filters from: £11.99

P-Type Square Filters 49-82mm Adapter Rings Filter Holder ND2 Filter ND2 Grad Filter ND4 Filter ND4 Grad Filter

£4.99 £5.99 £12.99 £13.99 £12.99 £13.99

www.premier-ink.co.uk Telephone: 01926 339977 or 0800 1077 211 Premier Ink & Photographic 12 Longfield Road, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire CV31 1XB


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Jargon Buster 2.4GHz Wireless networks working at this frequency have longer range.

Cache A temporary space for storing information.

32bit A measure of how much information a computer can process at once. Most older computers are 32bit.

Captcha Distorted text you have to type to prove you’re a human.

4G A set of technologies that delivers faster mobile broadband.

Codec A file that tells a computer how to record or play a media file.

4K Video with a resolution of at least 3840x2160 pixels.

Cookie A small text file stored on your computer by a website. Used to store browsing preferences, website log-in details and so on.

5G The next (fifth) generation of mobile networks, to supersede 4G.

DDR Double Data Rate. A type of computer memory.

64bit A technology that processes information in larger chunks. Most modern computers are 64bit.

DisplayPort A new socket for connecting monitors.

Hard reboot Manually restarting a PC other than by using Windows’ controls.

Plug-in A small program that adds extra features to software or your web browser.

HDMI A type of connection that transmits high-definition video and audio signals.

PUP Potentially Unwanted Program. A program that may not be desired, despite the user consenting to it being downloaded.

Hotspot A public area covered by a Wi-Fi network that allows you to access the internet. HTTPS Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure. The secure version of HTTP. IP address Internet Protocol Address. A unique set of numbers used to identify computers and websites on the internet.

802.11ac A standard for wireless networks that allows for much higher transfer speeds than 802.11n.

DSLR Digital single-lens reflex. A digital camera that uses a moving mirror so its viewfinder looks out through the lens.

802.11n A standard for wireless networks that allows for high transfer speeds.

Dual-band router A Wi-Fi router that operates on two bands: 2.4 and 5GHz.

JPEG Joint Photograph Experts Group. A common type of image file created by most digital cameras.

Add-on See extension.

Ethernet A standard used for wired computer networks.

Licence key A unique serial number that must be typed by the user before a program will launch for the first time.

ADSL Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. A technology that converts a standard phone line into a broadband internet connection. AMOLED An alternative technology to LCD for creating flatpanel screen. Aperture An opening that controls the amount of light entering a camera lens. Aspect ratio A measurement of the shape of a display. Beta A version of software that’s being tested. Blue light Light given off by PC and phone screens. Can disrupt sleep patterns. Bookmarklet A small, simple program stored as a bookmark in your web browser. Browser hijackers Programs that change your default browser and search engine without prior warning when you install them. Buffer Memory fitted to a device that acts as a temporary storage area before passing data to another location or application.

Extension A program that adds extra features to your browser. False positive When an antivirus program wrongly detects a malware infection. Flash storage A data-storage device that includes flash memory with an integrated USB interface. Gesture Finger movements on a laptop’s touchpad that perform actions on screen. GHz Gigahertz. A measure of how many instructions a chip can process per second. 1GHz is equal to 1,000MHz. Gigabit Ethernet A very fast networking standard that can transfer data at up to 1,000Mbps. GPU Graphics Processor Unit. A chip designed to create 3D graphics. Graphics card A component in a computer that produces the image shown on the monitor. Haptic feedback A touchscreen or other controller that triggers vibrations in response to an action.

IPS A screen technology that gives wider viewing angles and better, more accurate-looking colours.

M.2 A standard specification for internal PC expansion cards and connectors. Metadata A set of data that gives information about a file. MicroSD A small type of memory card. Can be converted to SD size using an adapter. Open source Software that can be modified by anyone. Optical image stabilisation A mechanism built into digital cameras that compensates for any shaking or vibrations that occur during shooting. Overclocking Making a processor work faster to improve PC performance. Pattern code Pattern made by your finger to unlock a phone.

RAM Random-access memory. The computer’s working area. Ransomware Malware run by hackers who lock files on your PC and demand payment to release them. Render How a website converts digital code into an image. SATA Serial ATA. An interface for connecting modern hard drives and optical discs to a computer. SD card Secure Digital card. A popular type of memory card. Speaker driver Cone-shaped part of the speaker that converts audio signals into sound waves. sRGB A standard RGB colour space for use on monitors, printers and the internet. SSD Solid-state drive. Storage that, unlike a hard drive, uses no moving parts. Trojan Malware that’s disguised as a harmless program. USB 3.0 Faster successor to USB. USB Type-C A new connector that’s reversible, letting you plug it in upside down. VESA A standard mount for attaching monitors on to stands and walls. VGA Video Graphics Array. A standard socket for connecting a monitor to a computer. Web protocol A type of technology that is either the accepted standard, or hopes to be.

PCI Express A faster version of PCI, used by modern graphics cards.

Woofer A speaker designed to produce low-frequency bass sounds.

Phishing A form of internet fraud that tries to trick you into revealing personal details.

ZIP file A file that can contain a number of compressed documents or files.

7 – 20 December 2016 73


The Final Straw This issue Ken Rigsby doesn’t want to be bored by…

KEN RIGSBY is Computeractive’s Mr Angry

Home automation I

’m partial to a bit of home automation. For instance, I’m happy that I’m able to flip TV channels with a remote control, because getting up off the sofa is so 1970s. And there’s not much that gives me greater pleasure than hearing the central heating kicking in on cold winter mornings. Actually, I suppose Mrs Rigsby delivering afternoon tea and biscuits to my desk gives me greater pleasure than that. But if I suggested that my wife is little more than a homeautomation device then I’d be labelled a hideous old dinosaur. And I wouldn’t want that, oh no!

These devices are like the pub bore, just waiting for a moment to jump in and put you right

*Dili

But there’s an incoming wave of home-assistant gizmos that just makes me want to smack them. Which is doubly annoying, because that’s exactly what some of them are designed for. But before we get to those blighters I want to talk about Google Home and Amazon Echo. If you’ve not heard of these digital assistants then imagine the know-it-all down at your local pub. You know, the eavesdropper who props up the bar, just waiting for a moment to jump in to put you right about something. Now imagine shrinking this boozy braggart down to the size of a candle, transporting

74 7 – 20 December 2016

him home and then plonking him on your mantelpiece. Because that’s more or less what these automated assistants are: ever-present wiseacres who are only too keen to poke their nose into your business. Now, to be fair, these devices do have the decency to keep their oar out of your conversation until you invite them to join in. Only when you shout their name will they pipe up — holler ‘Alexa’ to summon Echo or ‘OK Google’ to get Home’s attention — perhaps to resolve a family dispute over the capital of East Timor*, or to confirm your urgent Amazon order for more barbecue-flavour Pringles. And unlike the pub bore, these home assistants do have built-in mute buttons. However, to be useful these gadgets need to be listening all the while, meaning most of them will be doing just that, most of the time. Moreover, the moment they’re summoned they begin to record, instantly uploading a digitised version of your chat to some far-flung data centre for processing. So, you get answers to geography questions and the ability to order new supplies of snacks, and Amazon and Google get to fill their digital boots with even

more information about you and your life. But these always-listening assistants are only the beginning. The world’s mega-corporations all harbour ambitions to weave their wares (and wiles) into every aspect of our lives. Indeed, it’s possible already to literally surround yourself with home-automation gadgets: seemingly innocuous devices whose real raison d’être is to inject brand names into your subconscious all day long. Must. Buy. Branded. Product. Now. What am I talking about? Well, when I mentioned punchable automatons earlier I was alluding to Amazon’s Dash buttons. These are thumb-sized Wi-Fi switches with a single purpose: press the button to order the product advertised on the front. The idea is that you stick Dash devices here, there and everywhere around your home. There’s a Dash button for Andrex, one for Fairy (pictured), one for Whiskas, and even one for Durex. It’s meant to speed up online shopping, which is progress of a sort, I suppose. But if I want my home to look like a supermarket, I’d move into the cake aisle of my local Waitrose. Do you agree with Ken? Let us know at letters@computeractive.co.uk

Next issue Ken suffers signal failures with Wi-Fi


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Computeractive 2016 12 07