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Contents 08 This week...
The End Of DRM
08 The End Of DRM
Retina Displays 4
Although digital rights management is still very much in use, there’s no denying it’s seen a significant decline in recent times. Even Apple, which pushed it heavily in its iTunes store, has moved away from it somewhat. Why is that and what does the future hold for DRM technologies? Mark Pickavance ponders this and and more
30 iPhone 5
There have been more rumours circling around this than you can shake an overpriced smartphone at. Now, though, it’s finally here, but was it actually worth the wait or not? David Crookes examines what’s new and what’s not in this first look at the iPhone 5
36 Retina Displays
Apple coined the term ‘Retina Display’ to describe its screens, which it reckons make pixels pretty much invisible. However, isn’t that true of any screen if you stand back far enough? That’s what Mark Pickavance has been exploring this week
40 Case Group Test
The days of boring beige PC cases is long gone, but there’s a lot more to a chassis than just looks. You also need to think about cooling, power and a lot more. That’s why we’ve put together this group test, so you can choose the right case for your needs
40 41 42 44 46
Case Group Test
Evolution Of The Virus
58 How To Choose A Blu-ray Drive
The prices of Blu-ray drives for PCs, like DVD drives before them, were prohibitively expensive to begin with. However, just as before, their prices have come down dramatically since. What else do you need to consider, though, if you’re thinking of making a purchase. James Hunt is here to tell you
62 Monetising The
Also In This Issue...
65 The Careers Service
This week, Sarah Dobbs finds out what it takes to work in web development
75 Company Profile Under the spotlight this week is Cherry Corporation
As more and more of us turn to mobile devices to get online, companies that rely on advertising are having to rethink their strategies. What have they got planned and what does it mean for the consumer? David Briddock reports
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95 App Of The Week David Hayward extolls the virtues of Freemake Video Downloader
66 iGoogle Alternatives
Although it’s still going at the moment, Google’s home page service, iGoogle, is set to close its doors. That’s bad news if you’re still using it and you want to keep it. Thankfully, there are alternative services that offer a decent home page experience, as David Hayward explains
72 Evolution Of The Virus
As much as we hate computer viruses, it’s hard not to be interested in how they’re created and why. Sarah Dobbs looks at how computer viruses were invented and how they’ve progressed into the incredibly annoying things they are now
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Issue 1227 1193
Digital Rights Management: Tide Turning Mark Pickavance looks at some movement away from the control freakery of some services and wonders if the penny on DRM has finally dropped
ooking back through some old copies of Micro Mart I found an article that I wrote in 2008, which presented that year as being the very pinnacle of digital right management (DRM). However, even then the cracks were beginning to show. A major online music retailer reported that DRM-free music
outsold controlled products by a factor of four to one, and even Apple, the poster-boy for DRM, eventually offered uncontrolled digital downloads (at a premium). So having been given a hard time by a swathe of organisations backing personal freedoms and consumer rights, is DRM as good as dead now? If only it was that simple.
The concept of digital rights management goes back to the the mainframe era, when applications were controlled with a complicated licence model that referred either to a dongle or later used a modem to sanction the software to run. These control mechanisms were designed to stop illicit copies, and thatâ€™s the entire
distribution, and so didn’t affect those who downloaded and played these titles. Those who were keen on DRM - like Apple with iTunes and Microsoft with PlaysForSure - argued that DRM was good for the customer, while coming up with reasons that seemed to have very little to do with benefiting them. It became a generally accepted view that you should never buy music on iTunes but instead order the physical CD and rip it for use on your iPod. Technically, that wasn’t legal here, but in the States it was and it circumvented DRM successfully. People lost music on their Apple/ Microsoft equipment, had audio tracks removed remotely that they’d paid for, or had DRM managed services go bankrupt, leaving them with inaccessible media. In the world of gaming, software bugs wouldn’t allow people to play titles they’d paid for, or they refused to install or run for arbitrary reasons. For a wide range of reasons, those who had highlighted the downside of DRM and the customer unfriendly nature of these mechanisms were proven to be right, and some companies realised that DRM stood between them and commercial success. In a perfect world, DRM would have worked, but we live in one where software is never perfect and customers don’t like being treated like criminals when they’ve paid good money. Some companies have got that message, but others seem much less keen to accept it.
Those That Entirely Get It Now
purpose of DRM, to control duplicates which are relatively easy to make with software and other digital content. What really exploded this concept was the internet, and the idea that all participating systems could be assumed to be connected to it. With that facility in place, all manner of previously unhindered sales platforms converted to DRM ones,
where the running of either software or media could be centrally managed. The problem with this, other than the obvious one that it didn’t actually stop piracy, was that the only people who were affected when it went wrong were the paying customers. Pirate versions of games and applications had the DRM coding stripped out before
Ubisoft: If you own a game by Ubisoft, you might have noticed a small change in the way your title works, as Ubisoft admitted recently that it’s scrapped its ‘alway-on’ DRM system that so many customers found overly draconian. It’s been pulling the plug on this mechanism quietly for a while, but an interview its director of games, Stephanie Perotti, gave to Rock, Paper, Shotgun (RPS) detailed the dramatic about turn the software maker had initiated. “We have listened to feedback, and since June last year our policy for all of PC games is that we only require a one-time online activation when you first install the game,
1. E-books are $3.99 2. No DRM. 3. The library only needs to buy one e-book of a title, and then they can make as many copies as they need for all of their patrons and all of their branches. 4. The library owns the rights to use that e-book forever. 5. The library can use it an any format they need (mobi, epub, pdf, lit, etc.), and when new formats arise, they’re free to convert it to the new format. While some e-book publishers would be jumping from the windows of their offices at such a proposal, Joe is much more pragmatic. “There are a lot of libraries in the US, and a lot more globally. If I sell every library one of my e-books for $3.99, that’s a nice amount of money.” It’s his view that with such a good deal libraries are more likely to buy his next book than pass on it, and the more people who get exposed to his work the greater chance of other sales. and from then you are free to play the game offline.” Wow. That’s odd, because a year ago Ubisoft had made much of this DRM system and how it had resulted in a “clear reduction in piracy from our titles”, and now it has been scrapped. RPS did some sterling work in asking Ubisoft to publish the piracy rates it had experienced, so we could all get a greater understanding of why the DRM model wasn’t the commercial success it originally claimed, but to no avail. Perotti claimed ‘confidentiality’ issues, but couldn’t actually come up with anyone who might be affected and then said it was ‘competitive’ information instead. What she failed to accept was that DRM for Ubisoft had been damaging, although the fact it’s dumped it speaks volumes. It still runs a system where the validity of the installation is checked when you play a title online on a PC, but single-player games are not checked and it’s ditched the installation tests where you were given three installations and changing your video card could eat one. Well done, Ubisoft, but we’d still like to see those figures that show how you fought piracy and won, and those others that convinced you to leave that ‘success’ behind. Independent publishers: Publishers don’t like libraries, because they get books and encourage a form of statefunded piracy, called ‘lending’. The big six companies that distribute e-books decided to negate the huge value of distributed
knowledge by limiting some e-publications, so they can’t be used in the library system. They do this by either limiting the number of checkouts an e-book might have, which rather defeats the purpose, or they make them double the price of an actual book that can be lent freely. This is somewhat short-sighted, because casually browsing books in a library is often the start of a literary journey that leads to a book purchase. Unhappy with this and other limitations imposed by the various file formats of the different e-readers, one writer decided that he’d address the problem directly and contact libraries offering them e-book sales on a basis they’d most likely agree to. Joe Konrath contacted his local library and offered them his entire published works on the following basis:
Those That Are Starting To Get It
E-book vendors: Amazon has built a very healthy business model out of e-books and the Kindle readers, with them selling more titles on that system than actual physical books. In May, a group of the largest e-book vendors including Harper Collins, Random House and Barnes & Noble got together to discuss what they described as “lightweight DRM”. Not completely throwing their products to the mercy of users, the new approach aped an earlier move by billionaire JK Rowling who released her Harry Potter series without the full DRM implementation, but instead a watermarking system where each digital purchase was marked with the buyer’s name and date of purchase. This effectively moved the goalposts, allowing users to control the e-book more easily, along with having the responsibility for copyright infringement should they find their way into the public domain’s sharing systems. What this does do is open people to share books with friends or keep them on multiple devices, which is something that conventional publications have always offered and continue to do so. What’s the motivation here? Comments made by the International Digital Publishing Forum, the meeting organiser, pointed out that DRM, “is subject to a single overarching limitation: the entities that want DRM (i.e., publishers and copyright owners) do not typically pay for it.”
iHard Or Yippee-Ki-Yay Multimedia
The mainstream media love a good story, even if factually it just doesn’t stand up to any sort of scrutiny. As such, it was widely reported that Hollywood action star Bruce Willis was on the cusp of bringing legal action against Apple to enable him to pass on his extensive digital music collection to his children. This wouldn’t be possible, because under the iTunes agreement there is no ‘ownership’; you’re merely licensed to have access to the music on a limited number of playback devices. However, digging deeper into this story, one that has no sources or quotes from Bruce, it doesn’t appear to make much sense really. Bruce is older than I am, so he might have a large collection of music on both vinyl and CD, which he’s free to hand on. And Bruce is known to be quite a technology geek, so surely he’d know from the outset the foolhardiness of investing heavily in Apple-controlled content on the assumption that one day it go soft on its carefully crafted legal agreement. It took a while for a complete debunk, but eventually his wife put an end to this story when someone tweeted her suggesting Bruce just give his iTunes login to his children, at which point she declared “it’s not a true story”. Oops - and it made such an interesting headline too. That’s a shame, because Apple needs to come up against Bruce, or preferably one of his film alter-egos, to understand how much people dislike the idea of its rights management schemes and the associated licence agreements. While the story might not be factual, it does ask some intriguing questions about the billions that has been spent, for which the customers might one day have absolutely nothing to show. Anyone thinking of investing heavily in digital downloads needs to consider the future and what might happen to their purchases once they’re gone. That means the cost of DRM is borne by content distributors and retailers, who then pass it on to the consumer. DRM doesn’t benefit any of these people, and their reluctance to foot the bill is understandable. But the other dimension to this is the proliferation of different e-book standards, where each hardware device has a different twist on DRM. What publishers want is a unified methodology that will work on Amazon Kindle, Nook and other platforms. They realise that the success of any publication is accessibility, and that might make e-books much easier to get and use. It may be that they’ve worked out that the current methodologies have damaged business, introduced additional costs and aren’t sustainable in the long term. Some publishers are ahead of this curve. Tom Doherty Associates, publisher of Tor Books, the world’s largest sciencefiction source, announced in April that it would make all of its e-books DRM-free by July 2012. Angry Robot & Osprey Publishing: I’ve always wondered why there isn’t more cross-marketing between books and their digital versions, but an experiment run here in the UK proves that doing this might well have commercial legs. This publisher trialled a system where when you bought a book in independent bookshop Mostly Books you got a free e-book (DRM free!) of an Angry Robot
novel with it. In just the first two weeks it was identified that sales at the test store had tripled. It will be interesting to see if this type of experiment can get a more mainstream test, but this has yet to materialise.
And, Those That Refuse To Get It
Hachette UK: While some of the publishing world is going one way, Hachette has decided to drive headlong into the oncoming traffic. It’s been sending letters to some authors telling them it’s
acquired exclusive publication rights in specific territories, but a no-DRM policy in other territories (where it has no rights) would “make it difficult for the rights granted to us to be properly protected.” Science-fiction author, Boing Boing editor and all-around DRM hater Cory Doctrow is naturally appalled at this move. He put into words what many were thinking by saying: “It’s hard to say what’s more shocking to me: the temerity of Hachette to attempt to dictate terms to its rivals on the use of anti-customer technology, or the evidence-free insistence
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that DRM has some nexus with improving the commercial fortunes of writers and their publishers.” The Japanese government: The recent arrest of a Japanese publishing executive sent a shockwave around many in that region, as he and three of his employees were detained by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office. Their crime was to publish a book that explained how to make a copy of DVD, and by definition circumvent the copy protection system. Hopefully nobody will tell the authorities that most Linux distributions include the same circumvention code to enable them to play DVDs, or large numbers of otherwise upstanding citizens will be following them into court. Crytek: Software development house Crytek is famous for the Crysis series of PC games and it recently made a breakthrough announcement. Writing on the company’s forum, staff member ‘Cry-Tom’ said, “I’m pleased to announce that with the recent revealing of Crysis 3, and lots of people deciding to dust off their old Crysis 1 discs, we have increased the activation limit on Crysis 1 and Warhead from five to 50!” Lovely, but surely if you can bump it up to 50, to avoid those irritating customers complaining their bought software doesn’t work because they changed their video card, why can’t you remove the check entirely? Crysis is five years old, but Crytek’s thinking on DRM is even older. HBO: In terms of the TV shows it creates, HBO is at the very top layer in terms of
originality and sophistication, but it doesn’t really understand DRM. So concerned about piracy is it that recently it decided to mess with the encryption on its shows distributed through DirectTV, breaking HDCP in the process. As a result, many of its paying customers in the USA discovered that they couldn’t watch their shows, receiving instead a message telling them that the content was protected. Somebody technical needs to tell HBO that HDCP was cracked some time ago, and those who wish to pirate their shows can do so, regardless of how it chooses to muck up its paying customers. Rupert Murdoch: As the kingpin behind the News Corp organisation, Rupert Murdoch has managed to upset plenty
of people over many years, but there are still so many left to annoy. He’s a firm believer in the power of service denial and, as such, has started putting his online publications behind paywalls. In his view, “We’d rather have fewer people coming to our websites but paying.” Since the New York Times converted to this model, it’s seen the income of paying web subscribers overtake the income from advertisers. However, that’s only because advertisers are leaving in droves, leaving the operation with a operating loss of nearly $150m for the second quarter of this year. Ah well, when it all goes completely belly-up, it can always claim it was just one ‘rogue’ CEO.
I’d love to say that while individual battles have yet to be won the war is over, but it’s never that easy, is it? Where in some quarters there is an understanding that DRM controlled products aren’t the way forward, in others they’re adamantly glued to the idea that unless the rights of products are managed they’ll slip away like sand through their fingers. What many are wrestling with is the notion of ownership, because in the predigital era having the actual possession of something was, as they say, nine tenths of the law. If I own a CD, then I reasonably assume that the music on it is available to me and can be passed on to others at my discretion. With digitally downloaded content, the situation is more complex, because essentially you never own it, but merely license it. So what is it that you actually bought? One answer is that you buy the experience, much like what you’re paying to do when you go to see the artist live. But
DRM Fights Back!
then you’re quite within your rights to tell other people about the concert and your experience, without the artist demanding money from those you’ve informed. Where things get really knotted up, however, is when you start considering the radio and even the use of a piece of music as a phone ringtone as a ‘performance’, where anyone that heard it should be covered by a binding contract. This is the sort of silliness that we’ve seen in recent years, where people get a bill for playing the radio to their horses, or someone ends up in court for creating a lyric that contains a single word or phrase used in another song. This is mostly the work of organisations like the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), who collect money while supposedly defending the rights of artists but never actually pass it on to any of them. As such, they’re in a group of businesses, the basis of which is to both maintain the status quo and expand rights to the point where humming a tune requires a licence and singing a show tune from a long dead composer is a criminal offense with a guaranteed custodial sentence. It’s about time that the music industry did away with the RIAA and BPI, and the film industry with the likes of the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). They don’t actually help those businesses or those individuals involved in making media. It’s worth noting that while music copyright protection is now extended to 70 years from creation, usually well beyond the life of the creator, a licence for a bought song magically vaporises upon the user’s death. That’s not a balanced legislative approach, being heavily biased towards the creators or their estates’ representatives. I’m glad that some are understanding the bad business practice that introducing DRM is, but we’ve some way to go before such negative and protectionist models are truly part of computing history. mm
Annoyed at the suggestion that its day is done, DRM has taken up the challenge and has been making its presence felt across the globe. DRM kills Avatar: German movie theatres suffered a major presentation outage when they tried to screen the movie Avatar in 3D to preview audiences. The complex encryption method that was used to protect the movie from piracy decided that those attending wouldn’t appreciate this retelling of Pocahontas and refused to play. A few of the locations discovered that the 2D version worked fine, so they screened that instead. DRM owns all documents: In 2009, Microsoft was caught in its own DRM bear trap when a feature called the Rights Management Service (RMS) decided that users who had protected their office documents weren’t allowed to access them. Users were told to contact their system administrator (if they had one), but most chose instead to ring Microsoft customer support and kick them instead. DRM is the devil: Diablo III was probably the most anticipated PC game release of the year, but it wasn’t long after release that Twitter was alive with people cursing the developer, Blizzard. Attempts to play the game were met with “Unable to connect to the service or the connection was interrupted (Error 3003)”. This error relates to the DRM system Blizzard went with that assumes a constant connection, even in singleplayer gaming. As a result, disgruntled gamers stuck it to the title in Amazon feedback, giving it a 3.6 out of ten rating.
DRM rules the world: As mentioned elsewhere in this article, Ubisoft has walked away from DRM, and not a moment too soon. In an attempt to make people forget the infamous Sony rootkit fiasco, Ubisoft deployed the Uplay DRM system on customers’ computers, bringing with it an unsecure browser plug-in. The upshot was that the plug-in allowed any website to take control of your computer - not really what it had intended. After issuing a patch and apologising unreservedly, it said “Ubisoft takes security issues very seriously, and we will continue to monitor all reports of vulnerabilities within our software and take swift action to resolve such issues.” Great.
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I have been flying Microsoft FSX (Flight Simulator) for a number of years now on a computer built by a colleague. Overall it has run very satisfactorily, and should I have a hiccup I can have it sorted easily. As you are aware there are specialist producers solely for FSX.9. Mine is used solely for this purpose, so no website problems. My point is that having taken your very informative magazine over the past few weeks regarding getting the best components in all the games stated there is nothing about FSX. This is a power hungry interest that requires good and strong components, so it would have been nice had you included some reference to this. Most of FSX comprises of add-ons as you probably know. The Hercules also includes a 400page manual of how to fly it, so there is going to be a lot of storage space etc. to operate the switches and dials. In conclusion, it would be nice if in a future edition you could produce an article relating to this interesting and instructive past time as there is quite a few of us out there. Many thanks and kind regards. Ian Barnes (over 70 years young)
Everywhere I look, I read about the interface previously known as Metro (hereinafter referred to as Metro and damn the lawyers). But what the computer press routinely fails to do is tell readers that Win8 isn’t Metro. Comments about what Metro can and can’t do don’t apply to Win8. Metro is a touch-screen interface for portables. No one with a desktop PC would ever need to use it once loggedin. I’ve used Win8 since March like that. Even Micro Mart seems to confuse Metro with Win8, referring recently to the fact that the Metro version of Internet Explorer doesn’t accept plugins for instance. Except you didn’t say that; you worded it to read like Win8 browsers don’t, which is incorrect. The Win8 Internet Explorer is standard like Win7 and is quite separately coded from the Metro one which a desktop user wouldn’t be using. In short, when talking about Win8, Micro Mart should always make it clear when they are talking about Metro or Win8 and thus stop propagating misconceptions in the minds of its readers.
Can I just say that I though the Windows 8 review by your goodselves and David Hayward was extremely brave. Despite the animosity that Microsofts new operating system has created, you gave a detailed and well-balanced account of what’s good and bad about the new system. I for one will be purchasing Windows 8, and although I already had my mind set on it, your review helped me concrete my decision. My thanks to you and the team on producing a review that talked to us normal folk and gave us something to consider. Eric Wing
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Kindle Fire Finally Lands In UK Amazon taking pre-orders for HD and basic models
an the Kindle Fire take off in the UK? That’s what Amazon’s hoping for as it finally launches the tablet in Blighty. Consumers over here notably missed out on Amazon’s much-touted tablet last year, of course, although we might not have worried too much as, truth be told, it didn’t compare too well with others on the market. That might all be about to change,
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because while the Kindle Fire HD might not be able to compete with the iPad’s grunt, it could certainly give the newest kid on the block, the Nexus 7, a run for its money. Indeed, while the Nexus 7 is as pure an Android experience as you can get right now, Amazon’s own ecosystem and attractive price should see this ship plenty in the run-up to Christmas. For £159, you can get your hands on the 16GB Kindle Fire HD (£199 will buy you a 32GB model), which comes with a 1280 x 800 HD display boasting anti-glare technology, dual antennas, dual band wi-fi for what promises to be a faster surfing experience than others on the market, Android Ice Cream Sandwich, a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, dual-driver Dolby speakers and, perhaps most importantly, access to Amazon’s 22 million movies, TV shows, music and apps. We’re also pleased to hear that Amazon has decided to drop compulsory adverts on the devices in the States, with consumers now able to pay $15 to turn off the built-in ads. There are better specced Android models on the market, but Amazon’s name on a product
typically means it will shift by the truckload. With a new, cheaper Kindle e-reader for £69 and a basic Kindle Fire tablet for £129, Amazon has made its play for the Christmas market. Your turn, Apple.
World’s Smallest Bluetooth Headphones Just Got Smaller Come with a lifetime warranty against sweat. Nice!
ayBird is the proud manufacturer of the world’s smallest Bluetooth earbuds and it’s now able to make the proud boast that its headphones have just got even smaller. The latest addition to the line of its wireless headphones, the Freedom Sprint, has reduced the size of the preceding Freedom headphones by 40% and also boasts a battery life of 4.5 hours playback time and 100 hours standby time. The cord on the headphones has been refined for better comfort, plus better transfer of voice quality too. The Freedom Sprint ‘phones also come with the rather nasty-sounding lifetime warranty
against sweat, which is probably a good thing but sounds anything but. You can pick up a pair of these for £129 from www.dadaudio.co.uk.
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So the iPhone 5 is ﬁnally here and probably the only surprising thing about it is that there are hardly any surprises at all. It seems the leaked images showing what looked like a slightly stretched iPhone 4 were 100% correct. Clearly, Apple has a leakage problem, which is no doubt helping to kill off some of the excitement. Even without that, though, it’s hard not to think the new iPhone would still seem a little disappointing. It’s probably the most advanced smartphone in the world right now, but to me it doesn’t seem like a huge leap from current high-end Android phones. Much is also being made of the lack of NFC, but that’s one thing I’m less bothered about. It’s still very much a niche technology and one that’s going to need support from companies like Apple. I’ve no doubt the iPhone 5 will sell in bucketloads, but Apple will need to think harder about its successor. Until next week,
A n t ho n y Anthony Enticknap Issue 1227 21 Editor
On The Internet...
fter last week’s wringing of hands over Anonymous’ acquisition of a million or so Apple Unique Device Identifiers (UDIDs), which they alleged were garnered from an FBI agent’s laptop, another possible culprit quickly emerged to back up the strenuous denials coming from Cupertino and the Bureau. According to Florida-based company Blue Toad, its servers were the source of the information leak, not the Feds - helping to allay fears that the information was being used in some sort of highlevel surveillance operation against US citizens. Of course, those of you who are sceptical that all of this seems to have been sewed up quite nicely will still have their doubts, but we always tend to err on the side of ‘incompetence’ rather than ‘conspiracy’ when it comes to such things. Take yer pick. Here’s the story, anyway: tinyurl. com/96zjsds. Anyway, enough scary information theft, look-over-your-shoulderyness; here’s some really grating, Scooby- Doo Dubstep (I’m old, okay?): youtu.be/vm1Ky_hEfIw. But zoinks, how do you dance you dance to it, Scoob? Of course, the really big news of the week comes from Google, and the revelation that Bacon Numbers now feature in its search parameters. For anyone who’s been on a trip to the Gamma quadrant and back and missed this whole internet thing that’s been going on, Bacon Numbers refer to the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, a competitive activity wherein movie buffs compete to find the shortest line of separation between actor x and the ubiquitous Mr B. For example, how many degrees are between that guy that played Wesley Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Kevin? Well, simply type ‘Bacon number Wil Wheaton’ (for it is he) in Google, and the ever-ready search engine will tell you that he was in Stand By Me with Frances Lee Maclean who was in Footloose with the Kevster. Thus Mr Wheaton’s Bacon Number is 2. See? Genius, right? If you can find anyone with Bacon Number of eight (or gasp - more), you really should be speaking to The Oracle Of Bacon (oracleofbacon.org) whose thunder this new feature somewhat steals. Eights are most precious... Talking of people generally loved by the internet brings us nicely around to urban artist Banksy, and specifically these brilliant remixes of his work by artist Dobrosav Bob Živkovi, on his AVBH Tumblr. Our favourite is this one: tinyurl.com/9mey5sa. It shows a young girl swinging from ‘Parking’ sign. They’re all genius, though. And we’re pretty sure the artist himself would approve.
Meme Watch: Gangnam Style Call Me Maybe is DEAD, I tells thee
Watched a whopping 163,308,599 (as I write) times on YouTube, endlessly tweeted, retweeted, Reddited and Facebooked, Psy’s Gangnam Style video (youtu.be/9bZkp7q19f0) has broken out of the Asian pop scene and well and truly gone global. Essentially a comedy dance routine, involving the ‘Horse Dance’ (you’ll know it when you see it) musically Gangnam Style, which takes its name from an affluent area of Seoul, Korea, heavily borrows from LMFAO’s ouvre and like that, Soulja Boy and Friday before it, Gangnam Style is spawning parodies left, right and all across that squidgy bit in the middle. My favourite so far, is Gandalf Style: youtu.be/ M660rjNCH0A. By the time you read this, there’ll be many more, mark our words. And by Christmas, Dr. Who’ll probably be doing it too. Be afraid...
Why not kill a while LOLing at Glove And Boots, a Sesame Streetmeets-South Park staring Fa-Fa and Mario. Our personal favourite is the Evolution of the Hipster episode, which is almost laser-guided in its accuracy. Check ‘em out here: www.youtube.com/user.
.AVWHY? Videos for your eyes...
Have you got narcissistic tendencies that have led you to take a picture of yourself every day since you first got yourself a digital camera more than a decade ago? Wondering what to do with the 4,500 or so photos of your slowly changing mush that are clogging up your hard drive? Why not edit them together into a creepy sevenminute video, which serves as an ominous reminder of the relentess tide of time and post it on YouTube. Oh, hang on, Noah Kalina has already done it. Here, look: youtu.be/ iPPzXlMdi7o. Oh, and some insanely photogenic girl has done the same thing for the last five and a half years too: youtu.be/ xgxxxKwlra8.
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Kingston’s HyperX Red Back For Good
Limited edition success leads to full-time role
“Ah ah! So that’s where those lost sectors went”
Two weeks ago, we asked you to come up with captions for the photo above. Here’s a selection of our favourites: • Ted North: “Finally, I’m going to get your passwords, served up on a platter!” • Lee Grimes: “PC World’s best technician carefully sifting through your hard drive. After the screwdriver comes the sledgehammer.” • Darren Matthews: “Not the kind of defragmenting tools you were probably expecting.” • Neil Moran: “Ah, I see what the problem is: I’ve just stuck a screwdriver in your hard drive and broken it.” • Thomas Turnbull: “Why should I pay for a deleted file recovery program when I can get the file back myself.” • Thomas Turnbull: “There must be an easier way to remove a virus!” • Frank Everett: “I’ll find that damn bug even if I have to take the whole drive apart.” • Dwynnehugh: “Must be an easier way to format a hard drive than this way.” • Dwynnehugh: “Data recovery sector by sector proves somewhat difficult.” • malc_wright: “Micro cuisine drives most eaters nuts.” • D-Dan: ”I’ll find those missing bits yet - data recovery is my speciality.” A big thank you to everyone who entered, and congratulations to our winner, Frank Everett, who suggested “Ah ah! So that’s where those lost sectors went.” As always, to get involved, email us at caption@micromart. co.uk or head to the forum at forum.micromart.co.uk and look in the ‘Other Stuff’ section.
ingston has announced that it’s added its HyperX Red memory as a permanent addition to the entry-level HyperX Blu line. The red-coloured heat spreaders allow greater heat dissipation to help keep system performance at its finest. It’s designed for entry-level gamers, system builders, PC modders and mainstream consumers wanting high-
performance memory upgrades at decent prices. The sticks are Intel XMPready and come in 8GB and 4GB memory kits (up to 16GB) and single modules at 1600MHz and 1333MHz, in both 1.65V and 1.5V. The website to search for all things HyperX is www.kingston. com/hyperx.
Western Digital Ships New Slim Drives My Passport Edge introduced for PC and Mac
estern Digital has announced a new slim and sleek family of portable USB 3.0 hard drives, the My Passport Edge. Available from www.wd.com, The Edge drive, plus the My Passport Edge for Mac, which is compatible with Apple Time Machine, both feature 500GB of storage and USB 3.0 connectivity and the ultra-slim, re-engineered aluminium exterior design protects the drive from bumps and scrapes.
The PC version comes with WD SmartWare continuous and automatic backup software to create a complete copy of your content and the cost comes in at £86 for the PC model and £94 for the My Passport Edge for Mac.
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Snippets! No Block On Online Porn Yet New Culture Secretary Maria Miller has suggested that keeping children safe online is the responsibility of parents and not ISPs. There are calls and online petitions asking for a block to be placed on ISPs as standard in order to stop the filth, but while Miller has said that the government is considering a porn block, she asserted that it’s really down to the parents to keep their kids safe.
Fella In Philly Plane Fiasco An American chap has been charged with falsely reporting explosives aboard a plane that was ordered to return to Philadelphia Airport. The man made the claim as he was rather cross at his girlfriend’s former boyfriend for posting a compromising photo of her on Facebook and he wanted to avenge her honour. What better way to do so than by claiming that said former boyfriend was carrying a liquid explosive on board his plane? Idiot. The lad has been ordered to stay away from the ex-boyfriend, firearms and he also can’t move from his home address. Like we said, idiot.
Nokia: “We’re sorry” The launch of a new smartphone was a big thing for Nokia. Shame that it managed to make an almighty cock-up of it, then. The firm has had to apologise when it transpired that a demo featuring video footage purporting to be made with its new Lumia 920 phone was actually made using an SLR camera. A blog post from the firm said that it should have posted a disclaimer. Or here’s a novel idea; just use the actual smartphone’s video in your advertising? The product release itself hardly set the world alight, with no pricing or availability announcements, plus Apple’s own conference looming large.
Monopoly Marks Turing’s Life
Now this is brilliant
lan Turing has generated a fair bit of press this year, given that he would have been 100 years old had he lived this long. What better way to commemorate his wonderful achievements than with the release of a Monopoly board in his honour. The special edition of the board, as reported by the BBC, swaps London’s famous landmarks and Community and Chance cards for places and events associated with the great man himself. So you can head for his birthplace in Maida Vale or Bletchley Park and Google has done the decent thing and paid for the production of the first 1,000 of them, donating them to Bletchley Park to help raise funds. If you want to buy one of them (and why wouldn’t you?), the place to do so is via the
Bletchley online store at www.bletchleypark.org. uk. They are expected to be shipped out to people in November. Interestingly, this new board is based on a handdrawn version of Monopoly created by the son of Max Newman, Turing’s mentor. The board also comes with a facsimile of the original hand-drawn version, donated to Bletchley when it was rediscovered last year.
Hewlett Packard Brings All-inOnes Two AIO PCs for consumers to choose from
ewlett Packard continues to announce a glut of new models with the arrival of a couple of new consumer all-in-ones to its ENVY and Spectre lines. The first, the HP Envy 23 offers multi-touch technology, which can sense up to all ten of your fingers on the screen for what it claims to be a more precise and immersive experience on its 23” screen. Equipped with Beats Audio, up to 3TB storage space, and an optional ExpressCache SSD, the model also comes with HP’s new Connected Photo app, which syncs photos across multiple devices while also offering some basic editing and instant-sharing capabilities. The SpectreONE is the thinnest in HP’s portfolio at just 11.5mm and it comes with a 1GB NVidia graphics card, two USB 2.0 ports plus a couple of USB 3.0 ports for good measure, an HDMI in, and Beats headphones jack. Interestingly, the SpectreONE ignores touch-screen in favour of a separate wireless
multi-touch trackpad and keyboard and it will come with a range of Ivy Bridge processors and NVidia graphics cards. HP’s TouchZone nearfield communications technology is another interesting inclusion, allowing users to perform various tasks via an NFC-equipped smartphone, such as photo transfer or even using it to login. To be honest, we’re not sure if the exclusion of touch-screen is wise, so is HP taking a risk with this one? The starting prices of the pair weigh in at £749.99 for the Envy 23 and £1,199.99 for the SpectreONE.
Micro Mart Community Corner It’s good to talk This is the part of the magazine that belongs to you. Want to show us your messy computer desk or send us a picture of Windows crashing in a public place? Perhaps you’ve got a picture of yourself holding Micro Mart while on holiday? If you have any news you’d like to share with the rest of the Micro Mart readership, please get in touch via email (letters@ micromart.co.uk) or one of the following: MM Forum: Head to forum.micromart.co.uk for discussions about all things PC, networking, OS, mobile, and tech related. MM Folding Team: With a home on the forum, the Micro Mart folding team is a productive part of Stanford University’s distributed computing project. To find out more about folding, and to put your spare GPU or CPU cycles to good use, head to tinyurl.com/MMFolds, say hi and help us fold!
The Micro Mart community forums are powered by InstantForum.NET the leading ASP.NET discussion forum platform from InstantASP. Learn more at www.instantasp.co.uk
Laptop Inventor Dies
Sad loss to the UK
ill Moggridge, the man who created the original folding screen and clamshell design for laptops, has passed away. Moggridge’s Grid Compass computer was designed way back in 1979 and was used by the US military, as well as
being installed aboard the space shuttle Discovery. That design retailed for over £5,000 but it was the first outing for the clamshell design in what is considered to be the world’s first modern laptop. The forward-thinking Bill Moggridge died from cancer. He was 69.
Over Search Results Former German president’s wife is not happy
oogle’s autocomplete feature has landed the firm in hot water once again. This time, it’s the former wife of the former German president Christian Wulff who is suing the company. The problems stem from when you type in the name Bettina Wulff into the search engine, when suggested search terms include ‘escort’ and ‘prostitution’, both of which she denies ever having worked as despite various rumours surrounding her background. Google says that the autocomplete feature reflects what other people are searching for online, with widely circulated rumours
ultimately leading to the autocomplete suggestions. Reports suggest that the rumours started in a bid to derail Mr Wulff’s political career and German publication Der Spiegel has written that Mrs Wulff has spent two years fighting allegations she was once employed as an escort. Autocomplete has raised alarm bells before, of course, with a disabling of the function in Japan earlier this year as a man found his name being linked with crimes that were nothing to do with him, plus French human rights organisations accused Google of antiSemitism when searches for Francois Hollande resulted in the suggestion ‘jew’.
Asda Slashes Laptop Prices
Students on the agenda in big price drop
n time for students around the country who are trudging their way to university, Asda (www.direct.asda.com) has cut the cost of a bunch of laptops to what it’s calling market-leading prices. Included in the price slash is the Medion Slimline,
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reduced by £100 to just £299. For your money, you get a 14” screen, 4GB memory and 750GB hard drive space in its slight 1.9kg frame. You can also save on the likes of an Intel Core i3 Dell Inspiron N5050, now selling for just £339 with a 500GB hard drive and 4GB RAM.
What’s In Store This week, James Hunt looks at places to put your stuff
t’s a special storage-theme instalment of Component Watch this week, as we investigate the deals available on various types of archival media. Suggestions that this line of thinking is the result of an attempt to format-shift an entire CD collection into MP3s will be ignored, with prejudice, mainly because we don’t want to think about a task that tedious ever again.
Deal 1: Pioneer BDR-207DBK BD-RW Drive RRP: £68.01 / Deal Price: £59.92 Recordable Blu-ray discs offer huge amounts of storage in a simple-to-use, disposable format, and until internet speeds catch up, there’s always room for optical media. This Pioneer recordable Blu-ray drive is available for order from Aria at a tenner off the retail price, and while it’s not currently in stock, Aria will ship it to you as soon as it’s ready. A bargain like this is worth the wait! Where to get it: Aria Technology - bit.ly/ UDfyGd Deal 2: 2TB Seagate Barracuda Green RRP: £129.99 / Deal Price: £77.56 If you’re trying to build a low-power system that still packs a punch when it comes to storage, the 2TB Seagate Barracuda Green offers a huge amount of space but combines it with low power requirements and pleasingly quiet performance. Speed freaks need not apply, but if you’re more concerned with keeping things discreet than shaving milliseconds off data access times, this could be the drive for you. Where to get it: CCL - bit.ly/qEd245 Deal 3: Seagate Momentus XT 500 GB HDD RRP: £83.98 / Deal Price: £71.70 Hybrid hard drives combine traditional and solid-state storage for (in theory) the best of both worlds - fast access speeds and high archival capacity. The Momentus XT is faster than a normal
hard drive but doesn’t have the high price that a similarly sized SSD drive would. Automatic caching ensures the files you use most are placed on the SSD portion of the drive, improving speeds and optimising performance without any manual intervention needed. Where to get it: Systo bit.ly/QxVuV4 Deal 4: 4TB Western Digital My Book Live Duo RRP: £329.00 / Deal Price: £249.99 External hard drives are the best way to keep long-lasting secure backups, and with 4TB of space the Western Digital My Book Live should fulfil any of your data storage needs. As well as being a backup drive, it’s also a media server with support for iOS and Android devices and the ability to stream content over the Internet. You know it’s serious because it has its own 800MHz CPU to help with streaming and access speeds! Where to get it: Pixmania bit.ly/SwcyhH Deal 5: OCZ Agility 3 120GB RRP: £121.99 / Deal Price: £68.32 Now cheaper than ever, the OCZ Agility 3 is based on secondgeneration SandForce technology, making it one of fastest SSDs around. It’s a 2.5” drive, so desktop users may need to buy a conversion bracket, and the SATA cables come separately, but when the price is this low it’s hard to complain too much. SSD storage remains one of the best ways to upgrade a PC, so even if the capacity isn’t especially large, it’s hard to argue with a price like this given how large the performance improvements will be! Where to get it: Amazon - amzn.to/NUMaMO
Has Apple Retained Its Bite? It was the first iPhone launch since the death of Steve Jobs, but did it show the innovation that Apple’s founder was famous for? David Crookes looks at the repercussions of one of the biggest smartphone launches of all time
t’s rather amazing, considering the number of Apple users awaiting the iPhone 5, that there was actually a time when the whole foray by the Cupertinobased company almost didn’t happen. Here we’re faced with Apple’s latest salvo in a blistering smartphone war - one which has seen court cases, copycat allegations and the final cracking of the mobile web - and yet the very device that has shaken up the whole phone market was very nearly shelved. That was then and this is now. For all of the talk by Sir Jonathan Ive,
who designs Apple’s wonders, when he said there “were multiple times where we nearly shelved the [original] phone because we thought there were fundamental problems that we can’t solve” nothing matters more than what we do have. Once again, Apple doesn’t disappoint, with a feature set that brings the iPhone into the cutting edge once more. If there was any disappointment, it was that the vast majority of these features were heavily leaked beforehand.
Before any iPhone launch, there are predictions galore. With iPhone 5, there were lots of supposedly leaked photos too, and one of these was spot on, which suggests Apple really does have a problem with insiders getting information out. A graphic doing the rounds on the morning of the iPhone 5 announcement - 12th September - was so accurate that it must surely be disturbing Apple, especially because it is, in effect, tipping off its rivals. Such predictions, however, are big business, driving traffic to websites and
keeping people talking. The rumours about the Apple iPhone 6 have already begun in some quarters, with those who failed to get it right this time figuring they can hedge their bets and claim that Apple wants to include their so-called killer feature in the next model, next year. This, they surmise, was not the right time and, in some way, you can see where they’re trying to go. It could well be that many of the features pushed forward for the iPhone 5 will make it in the iPhone 5S or iPhone 6 or whatever may come next. However, we’re going to concentrate on what we have now. It was always taken as given this time round that the new iPhone would come with a bigger, thinner screen. When you look at the rival Samsung Galaxy range, you can see why this would have been a good conclusion. And here we have it: a taller iPhone 5 with a 4” screen that goes beyond the 3.5” of previous models. Able to show images in a 16:9 ratio as opposed to 3:2, it’s perfect for widescreen movies and for displaying the panoramic images that the new model now allows you to take. It’s still a Retina screen but it’s 30% thinner than the 4S. This screen has been fitted into a case that is just 7.6mm thick. It’s an amazing achievement, of that there is no doubt. The new look is the most striking aspect of the new phone. (“The iPhone 5 is the most beautiful consumer device that we’ve ever created,” said Philip Schiller,
Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing). A video shows Sir Jonathan Ives highlighting the manufacturing process of the iPhone 5, which is jawdropping. You would expect Apple to make it appear that each individual iPhone has been produced with the utmost care and precision, but the reality seems quite close: this is a product that oozes quality with its gorgeous aluminium body. It looks stunning, with a level of design that could well be the company’s finest, and it appears to have had more time and money spent on it than any of its rivals. However, there was much more to Apple’s announcement. For a start, the iPhone 5 will have a longer battery life, a fast A6 chip for faster processing speed, faster wireless, and, for EE customers in the UK, that all-important, five-timesfaster-than-3G 4G capability to allow super-fast mobile broadband connection to enhance file-sharing and videostreaming. It has surely been a poke in the eye for Vodafone and especially 02, which was the original carrier for the iPhone on these shores and we can expect some rumbling in that direction as both companies - and Three - start to kick up a fuss about being unfairly left behind. Surprisingly, the rear camera of the new iPhone continues to have eight megapixels, but the new panorama mode allows 28 megapixel pictures to be taken. The connector has also altered.
Out has gone the traditional 30-pin dock connector and in its place is the smaller Lightning. Gone too are the soundleaking earphones of old and in come EarPods that are stable in the ear and protect against sweat and water. And there’s more too. Now iCloud works better than ever, syncing Safari on iOS with that on your other devices. There’s also a new feature called Passbook that will allow users to store tickets for concerts and boarding passes. Siri can post messages to Facebook. The new maps has turn-by-turn spoken directions and you can zoom into a 3D city and explore it to death. It’s an impressive package that, in combination with iOS 6 (set to be released to the masses on 19th September and made available for iPad too), adds 200 new features. While these were undoubtedly intriguing, it was hard not to be disappointed that Apple decided to leave out nearfield communication this time around, choosing not to explore the ins and outs of contactless payment systems that it would no doubt want to profit from in some way (maybe it hasn’t discovered quite how yet). Also, some were annoyed that the Home button remains in place given its tendency to stop working on quite a number of handsets, while others were miffed that in many ways it just brings the iPhone 5 up to the standards
of some Android phones, which are starting to innovate in leaps and bounds. And, although there will be adapters to connect the iPhone 5 to old peripherals, many will be dismayed at the hassle. That said, you can’t stick with old tech forever and neither would we want Apple to. Despite these problems, people are always intrigued by Apple innovations,
The very fact that people continue to get excited about what is to come from Apple in a way that we rarely do with other manufacturers says much. One thing is certain, though, and that’s that Apple must continue to innovate. There is a sense that iOS has not actually changed all that much from the first version - at its heart are the app icons on page after
Britons are more likely to take holiday for the release of a new Apple product than they are for the birthday of a family member and much speculation has surrounded the announcement that the revamp of iTunes won’t be available until October. It does appear strange that we have to wait, and it’s fuelling gossip that there will be more announcements alongside this update. Could this be when the rumoured iPad Mini becomes available? Will it tie in strongly with iTunes? Perhaps Apple has had the same idea as Amazon and is building a contentfocused smaller tablet device that has iTunes at its heart and that concentrates purely on movies, games, magazines and books.
page. That, of course, is being rather unfair, but it does appear that many of the innovations are coming from elsewhere at the moment and it was rather jarring, for instance, to see Apple copying Android’s notifications last time out, even if they are more descriptive and work better than on the rival operating system. This was a view expressed by Dan Lyons, creator of the ‘Fake Steve’ blog. Lyons is Newsweek’s technology editor, and he came up with some rather damning statistics, which stated Apple
spent less on R&D than Google and Microsoft - “a paltry 2% revenues, versus 14% for Google and Microsoft” although Apple is an incredibly profitable company so such a small percentage may well be misleading. What does hit home, though, is that the Android platform now represents 68% of the smartphone market, up from 47% a year ago, while Apple slid to 17% over the same period. And this is where Apple has to take notice. Yes, it is a premium product, but lessons need to be learned. “To use a car analogy,” says Lyons “six years ago the iPhone was like a sexy new flagship model from BMW or Porsche. Today, it’s a Toyota Camry. Safe, reliable, boring. The car your mom drives. The car that’s so popular that its maker doesn’t dare mess with the formula.” The iPhone was first launched in 2007. At the time, Nokia and Research In Motion, which makes the BlackBerry, were seen as untouchable. Indeed, it is safe to say that the vast majority of people who have ever owned a mobile phone have had a Nokia handset at one point. Today, thanks to Apple, both companies struggle to make an impact. Even though Nokia and BlackBerry handsets are cheaper, people still want Apple. Its main competitor today is Samsung, which makes phones that run on the popular Android operating
How Important Is The iPhone To You?
The iPhone launch, as always, leads to queues and, according to one survey, Britons are more likely to take holiday for the release of a new Apple product than they are for the birthday of a family member. The survey by www.vouchercodespro.co.uk polled 1,156 employed adults from across the UK asking what events, if any, they would be willing to take a day off work for and given a number of options. The event that Britons were most likely - 34% - to take a day off for was for “an important sporting event”. However, the results also found that respondents would be more willing to take a day off for an Apple product release day than a relative’s birthday, with 21% claiming that they’d take annual leave for the latest Apple product, as opposed to just 18% for a relative’s birthday. George Charles, the company’s marketing director, said, “I don’t think family members would be too pleased to know that the launch of a new iPhone outweighs their birthday in terms of importance.”
system, which Apple has claimed rips off its own innovations. It’s here that competition is fierce; Samsung has become the world’s biggest smartphone company in volume terms, and it stole a march on Apple by launching the new Galaxy Note 2, a cross between a phone and tablet, dubbed a ‘phablet’. Nokia has also launched the Lumia 920 smartphone, with an ‘augmented reality’ camera and HTC has new products to launch this week in New York (we don’t know what at time of going to press), but it’s Samsung that is having the greatest impact. Not that Apple should be too scared. Even though it’s well known that Apple launches a new handset each year, it sold a record 26 million iPhones in the past three months. The demand is insatiable, and the iPhone 5 looks set to become the biggest selling Apple phone of them all. Whether or not it’s enough to topple Android handsets and take the largest percentage of the 1.5 billion devices that are set to be sold each year by 2015 is doubtful, but it will certainly take a sizeable chunk this year. Analyst Adam Leach, leader of Ovum’s Devices and Platforms practice, is sceptical,
however. He believes Apple needs to do much more than it has to take the lead in the smartphone market. The company says it has used something it calls the the SmartVendor Scorecard, which it claims is a way of measuring success in the consumer technology industry. While Leach expects the new iPhone to be Apple’s most successful to date, he feels that the lack of a redesign of the iOS user experience and underlying software platform in the next two years will mean Apple going the same way as Nokia and RIM. It may also be a bone of contention that older apps will have black bands at the top and bottom of the iPhone 5 screen: app makers will have to scramble to rectify that one. The big question for Apple, adds Leach, is whether Tim Cook will be brave enough to call time on the iPhone cash-cow in time for a successful transition? “Apple has successfully built the iPhone from a radical new entrant to the musthave smartphone,” he said. “While the company is still reaping the rewards of the brand equity of the iPhone, consumers are notoriously fickle when it comes to buying handsets. Without the continued innovation which we are accustomed to with Apple, the company risks losing consumer appeal. The iPhone redefined the smartphone category in
2007, but it can’t rely on past success to guarantee its future or rely on litigation to keep its competitors at bay.” Leach believes that technology companies need to do more than just announce new versions and updates to existing offerings if they’re set on owning every aspect of the consumer’s digital existence. “It is therefore imperative for these companies to move outside their traditional areas of expertise; hardware companies have to build up their software and service expertise and vice-versa, or risk leaving the door open to their competitors,” he concluded. What happens next depends on how well Apple continues to adapt without Steve Jobs, who died almost a year ago. There has been speculation that Apple might be fallible without him. When Samsung launched the Galaxy S3 with a bigger, fantastic touch-screen in May, it would undoubtedly have caused furrowed brows at Apple’s HQ. It doesn’t help Apple that Samsung has cheaper phones in its line-up too. But it’s a good thing: it means Apple cannot rest on its laurels. There will be no doubt that Apple, having already suffered a collapse once in its lifetime, only to bounce back thanks to Jobs, will look to rivals such as HTC, RIM and Nokia and see just how pressured profits and revenues can become. Leaders today can become followers tomorrow and it would be a mistake to write any of them off. mm
The term ‘Retina display’ seems to be a byword for quality and superior technology, but what does it actually mean?
Are Retina Displays In The Eye Of The Beholder?
nyone interested in the latest technology can’t have missed the move towards ‘Retina’ displays, as first promoted by Apple for the iPhone 4. They’ve since made it from the phone to the latest iPad, and even the MacBook Pro range. Note that ‘Retina Display’ is a brand name used by Apple and the term ‘Retina’ has been trademarked in various regions, but the technology itself doesn’t belong to Apple. It simply uses this name to describe screens that it claims have a pixel density high enough that the human eye is unable to see pixelation at a typical viewing distance. As such, other companies are also bringing out products with displays of ‘retina’ nature. What does this really mean for users, though, and is it nothing more than marketing speak to get us to buy something we don’t really need?
Let’s Get Retina
The term ‘Retina display’ by inference suggests that the screen is somehow so good that the retina of the human eye is unable actually differentiate it from reality. However, to be technically correct, the only way that this is going to work is with a ‘virtual retina display’, where light is projected into the eye at a greater pixel density than the sensor array that covers the light sensitive areas inside the eyes. So how many light sensitive cells are in there precisely? Lots. I’ve seen various numbers quoted around the internet, but the most common is that if the human eye was a camera it would have a resolution of 576 megapixels, with an ISO rating of 800 at night and less than 1 in daylight. That said, the human eye isn’t a still picture camera; it’s more like a video device that builds data continuously based on previous
information. We also have two eyes, creating a multi-source up-scaling effect, and we keep our eyes moving, which boosts the apparent resolution even more. However, there are other complications, because the receptors in the eye are divided into cones and rods that sense colour and light intensity independently, and there are many more rods than cones. If you eliminate the 100 million rods, then we only have a colour resolution of about 5MP, although when mixed with the 105MP rod data, that alters things significantly. That’s why when we operate in low light conditions we tend to have very poor colour perception. However you slice and dice it, the human eye is an amazing piece of video capture technology, the likes of which we’ve yet to achieve in manmade devices. So for an digital image to be truly ‘retina’, surely it would have to deliver a resolution of 576 megapixels, or roughly a display of 34,000 wide by 17,000 high. Obviously that’s a monitor you can’t buy, but then a ‘retina’ display doesn’t need to The Safari icon on the original iPad and the latest cover our entire field model. The resolution increase is quite dramatic, of view. That therefore
but do you need to get this close to appreciate it?
RETINA DISPLAY This Apple promo explains why the higher resolution displays look better, but it doesn’t really consider that 50% of its owners don’t have the perfect vision to appreciate it
shows what’s critical is the pixels per inch (PPI) of the display and the range at which it’s viewed. It’s generally agreed that the standard for ‘normal’ human vision, which the Americans would call 20/20 and we’d call ‘10’ in the UK, has an acuity of about one arc minute. For those who missed that maths lesson, an arc minute is 1/60th of a degree, or 1/21600’s of a complete circle. The generally agreed calculation is ‘retina’ requires the viewing distance ‘d’ and the pixel spacing ‘s’, and from this you can work out the angle between two adjacent pixels, and if that’s less than an arc minute, then it would fit the criteria of a ‘retina’ display’. However, a major factor in the calculation is the distance viewed, and that’s not something that’s set in stone; it’s an individual thing. I’m forced to assume a ‘typical’ viewing distance for most displays, but then at least for that I can then work out if Apple truly is offering ‘retina’ and if other products fall into that category.
150dpi and the other at 300dpi. Next, place them together on a board and ask people to approach them until they can discern which is printed at the higher quality. You have to get closer then you’d normally hold a print, which makes you wonder why we generally print them at the better quality. It also assumes we all have perfect vision, which statistically isn’t correct. If you bounce these numbers around, you’d realise that with a lower PPI, the older iPads and non-Retina MacBook Pros will look pretty much the same as the Retina devices, because they’re viewed from further away. In the case of the third-generation iPad, the display is actually 264ppi and the MacBook Pro is just 220ppi, which allows the latter to remain competitive with anything over 15 inches separation from the viewer. If you held either at the range of the iPhone, neither would be without visible pixels. The bigger the display and the further away you view it, the lower the PPI needed to have a Retina-type effect, because logically if you can’t see pixels, it doesn’t matter what the resolution of the device actually is. Using this logic, I’ve constructed a grid of some of the devices I own (see below), the distance I view them at, and mixed in a few well-known products for good measure. All the calculations were performed using an online tool at bhtooefr.org/displaycalc.htm. I’ve made a very arbitrary selection of devices, mostly based on those I have or those that claim to be ‘retina’ in quality. As you can see, the iPhone 4 and iPad v3 both exceed the PPI needed to render pixels unoticeable at the distance they’re normally held. I’ve seen internet versions of my grid online, where they assume people hold iPads 16 inches away, which is at least two inches closer than I hold my identically displayed HP Touchpad. However, 16 inches
PPI Versus Distance
When Apple launched the iPhone 4, with a Retina display, it quoted a PPI of 326 pixels for every inch of the panel. Viewing that phone display at 10.5 inches or further away, you can’t discern individual pixels with normal vision, so technically it deserves its ‘Retina’ moniker. But this isn’t so extraordinary. If you want to do a small experiment to prove how unremarkable it is, print two 6x4” pictures, one at
This online calculator let me take the lid of ‘retina’ displays
Screen Size (Inches)
Screen Height (Inches)
Viewing Distance (Inches)
PPI For ‘Retina’
% Of ‘Retina’
iPad 1 And 2
50" TV Blu-ray Playback At 72"
Asus Transformer Prime
PC With 24" 1080p Display At 30"
HTC Sensation XE
The more pixels that need to be manipulated, the more power they’ll use is a better test, because if the iPad 3 is still ‘retina’ quality at this distance, then it passes with flying colours. The only snag for Apple is that both the Nexus 7 and Asus Transformer Prime are also winners, and should therefore promote themselves as ‘retina’ (or something else that isn’t trademarked). Watch your 50” TV from more than 72 inches (6ft) away - and who doesn’t? - then you’ll be unable to determine an individual pixel and that meets the criteria too. It’s possible to reverse the calculation and work out the threshold where all displays become ‘retina’-quality, but I didn’t wish to bore you with that chart. What’s true is that Apple crossed line with the resolution of its displays that means you can’t see individual pixels, but that’s not exactly unique to it.
Sadly, in many respects the ‘Retina display’ is mostly just another marketing term that has little or no value in reality. All computer displays have the same effect as Apple’s Retina displays and similar products from other companies at the point where you can’t perceive an individual pixel, at whatever distance that happens. Because of this almost, every TV sold could be classed as ‘retina’ on the basis that most people don’t sit less than four feet away from them!
Apple made much of the ‘Retina Display’ in the new iPad when it launched it, though most developers’ applications can’t access all those pixels directly
What’s true is that displays are getting to a higher and higher resolution, allowing you to get rather close to them and not see pixels. As an aside, this isn’t the nightmare of quality control for display makers that you might imagine, because if people can’t see a single pixel, then they can’t see faulty ones either, allowing sub-standard displays to be shipped without massive numbers of complaints. There’s also an issue about these displays regarding power consumption, because the more pixels that need to be manipulated, the more power they’ll use. Therefore, in portable devices these types of ultra high resolution displays are actually less desirable, if you prefer long periods of use over sharper images. There’s also a manipulation overhead for the GPU, which Apple has tried to get around by effectively leaving the device with a resolution that’s half what the panel can achieve and then smooth scaling the output. What’s important to understand is that while Apple invented the term ‘Retina display’ (along with the rectangle, I’m told), many of the devices we use on a regular basis also fit into this category, even if they’re not marketed as such. What’s a common factor in all of this is also personal visual acuity, because the notion of a ‘retina’-class display assumes we all have ‘normal’ vision, where in reality the number of people in our population with that is actually only about 50%, with that reducing to almost nil beyond a certain age. Therefore, screens of much lower resolution might well be similar to ‘retina’ display to a large number of people because that is the best they can see. If, therefore, you know you don’t have good vision, a Retina display or one like it will probably be entirely lost on you. Where Apple must be applauded is that it’s pushed up the resolution of mobile devices, which makes everyone else making these things improve their resolutions too. The display panel in the new iPad is actually built by Samsung of all people, and it’ll be selling that to Android tablet makers too. However, there’s a cloud on the Apple horizon, because once pixelation is invisible at the distance these devices are normally viewed, there isn’t actually anywhere else to go in terms of image sharpness. Extra resolution will be entirely pointless, unless you insist on operating your phone while it touches your nose. As such, the ‘retina’ display is a trick that they can only play once with each product, because it’s not something you can easily top. And it only worked because 50% of the buying public didn’t realise that because they have poor eyesight all displays are ‘retina’ to them! mm
Corsair Graphite 600T Steel Silver Case
• Price: £145 inc VAT • Manufacturer: Corsair • Website: www.corsair.com
C Considering you can easily buy a PC case for less than £40, why would you want to spend more? Well, there are plenty of features you'll only get if you're prepared to pay for them. Here, Ian Jackson looks at some cases ranging from £90 right up to £290, and tells you what's what.
orsair’s 600T is a cracking-looking case. With sculpted lines and ridged panels that look almost aerodynamic, this is a chassis that should appeal to most PC enthusiasts. The case is spacious enough to accommodate almost any PC build, but as a midi tower rather than a full tower model, it is far more compact than giants like the Cooler Master Cosmos II or the Xigmatek Elysium. Removing the side panels, we find a contemporary layout with a bottom-mounted PSU tray and plenty of roof-mounted cooling. Moving to the front of the case, we find with six hard drive caddies that also hold SSDs and there's space for four 5.25” devices. Each of the drive bays is tool-free in nature, allowing you to easily snap new drives in or out. We’d have preferred the HDD bays to be a little less flimsy, but this is unlikely to cause any problems for DIY system builders. As standard, there are three fans included - a 200mm fan in the roof, a 200mm fan at the front and a 120mm fan at the rear. The top fan can be replaced with two 120mm fans if you prefer, and there's just enough space to squeeze in a slimline 240mm radiator as well. Corsair’s H100 sealed unit comes instantly to mind, but there would be enough space for a custom loop as well. Two grommets at the back of the
case also allow you to externally mount a radiator if you prefer. Moving back to the case’s exterior, we find plenty of connectivity. Four USB 2.0 ports are joined by a single USB 3.0 port and a FireWire port, as well as the two obligatory jacks for your microphone and headphones. The large circular dial on the roof allows you to control each of the three fans. Both the top and front grills can be popped off for easy cleaning, though the dust filtration is minimal - the holes are too large for this function. Even on minimum speed we would not describe the 600T as very quiet. It’s by no means alarmingly loud, but the case would not be suitable for those seeking to build an ultra-quiet computer. Fortunately, its cooling prowess is significantly better, with the 600T putting in a great showing for CPU and motherboard temperatures and a reasonably showing for the GPU as well.
The finish of this edition of the 600T is a striking steel silver paint job. Most 'silver' cases are quite bright and look like brushed aluminium, but the lustre of this case is a lot darker. As its name suggests, it far more closely resembles brushed steel. It will therefore be a little disappointing for those expecting it to be made of metal that this case is clad in all-plastic panels. Although the quality of the plastic is very high, when compared to an all-metal case like the Silverstone FT03, it can’t help but feel less pleasing from a tactile point of view. There is no doubting the 600T is a great case, and this steel silver edition adds a unique-looking product to Corsair’s line-up. It may seem expensive for a steel and plastic chassis, but the build quality, cooling and features make it well worth the money.
A lovely-looking case with good cooling, a great all-round design and plenty of connectivity
Xigmatek Elysium Windowed Case DETAILS
• Price: £139 inc VAT • Manufacturer: Xigmatek • Website: www.xigmatek.com
he Xigmatek Elysium is a truly gigantic case. Those tempted to purchase it just for its handsome, industrial looks would do well to measure the area around their desk before taking the plunge. Those with sufficient space, however, will be rewarded with one of the most flexible and accommodating chassis on the market today, all for a surprisingly affordable price. Dominating the front of the case are 12 5.25” bays, six of which are taken up with two 4-in-3 hard drive modules. Each bay has a quick-release catch for easy installation, and the hard drive modules slide out easily enough for drive installation. Each hard drive is screwed in through rubber grommets to reduce vibrations, although there's no native SSD support. Each of the 4-in-3 modules also has a 120mm fan, which serve as the case’s sole intakes. These are illuminated by a white LED. Moving up to the top of the case you will find the case’s connectivity. There are two USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, two audio jacks and an eSATA port. There is also a handy HDD/SSD dock that allows you to plug in any internal drive to transfer data without needing to open the case. Adjacent to the connectivity panel is a large power button and a small reset switch. As well as the two aforementioned 120mm intakes there's also a 140mm rear exhaust fan and a large
200mm side exhaust fan. Each of these fans also has white LEDs as standard. There's no built-in fan controller within the case, but there are two Molex to fan adaptors, each of which can be used to power six fans. These will be of most use to those using water cooling setups - a demographic this case is clearly designed to predominantly cater for. It's one of the few cases to accommodate a triple 140mm radiator, either in the roof or on the floor. You cannot accommodate two of these huge radiators at the same time, however, as the PSU has to go either in the top or at the bottom. Fortunately, there is ample space for additional radiators elsewhere others can be accommodated in the front drive bay area or mounted to the 140mm rear exhaust. The case’s vast motherboard tray has no fewer than 12 cut-outs for tidy cables, and there's plenty of space between the off sidepanel and the motherboard tray to hide unsightly leads. Even extended ATX motherboards like the EVGA SR2 can be accommodated with ease, and there are ten cut-outs for expansion cards,
making the case ideal for a quad SLI or CrossFire setup. The Elysium weighs in at over 15kg fully unladen, so we were pleased to find four casters supplied as standard. These will greatly ease moving the system in and out if you perform regular upgrades, though the feet need removing in order to accommodate them. Although this won’t be a case for everyone, it is by far the best case on the market priced at under £150 for water cooling enthusiasts.
A lovely looking case with good cooling potential, a great all round design and plenty of connectivity
Cooler Master Cosmos II fan controller. As well as a three-pin power connection, each fan also has a two-pin LED connection. Unless you're water cooling it’s unlikely you will need to use more than a few of these, but if you do need them, rest assured they're available. In terms of performance, the Cosmos II has good if not spectacular temperatures. The lack of dedicated GPU cooling means it runs warmer than the Xigmatek Elysium. The CPU and motherboard temperatures are more impressive, but much of that is by virtue of the fact there’s so much breathing room. There’s no doubting the build quality of the Cosmos - it truly is a triumph in this regard - but given its eye watering price and the case’s impractical size and weight, it will end up being an object of lust rather than a realistic proposition for most of us.
• Price: £290 inc VAT • Manufacturer: Cooler Master • Website: www.coolermaster.com
ooler Master is a company with no shortage of experience in the high-end case market, but at £290 including VAT, this is a case that will impact your wallet almost as hard as it will your senses. Little can prepare you for the sheer enormity of the Cosmos 2. Without any hardware installed it weighs 22kg, and at over 70cm tall it’s the largest desktop case we've ever tested. Despite the size of the case, the Cosmos looks gorgeous. Clad in thick black soft-touch plastic and brushed aluminium, it oozes quality from every pore, something only enhanced by the smooth sliding action of the 5.25” bay covers, and the two side panels that open like the doors of a luxury saloon. Inside the case you will find a large EATX motherboard tray, 13 3.5” drive bays, three 5.25” bays and a bottommounted PSU tray. Six of these bays can be easily removed for replacement with a dual 240mm water cooling radiator, and the top panel can also be removed to accommodate a triple 120mm radiator. As standard, the case ships with a front 200mm intake, a 120mm exhaust for the roof and two 120mm fans designed to cool the drive bays. Two of the drive bays are lockable 'X-dock' drives, which allow
you to quick-release hard drives from the front of the chassis - handy if you need to take your data with you. Under the sliding 'bonnet' on the roof of the case, you will find a touch-sensitive panel. This includes the power button, a reset switch, and four separate buttons that control the speed of the case’s fans. The fans are grouped into four different 'zones': the top, front, HDD area and GPU areas. There's also a discrete button under this panel to turn the case’s LEDs on and off. Towards the front of the bonnet area you will find
the case’s connectivity panel. There are four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, a single eSATA port and two audio jacks. Some might argue for the presence of a FireWire port in a case that costs almost £300, but it just goes to show how much of a fringe connectivity standard this is becoming since the release of USB 3.0. Behind the motherboards tray there is ample room to hide your unsightly cables, and it’s just as well. The rear of the Cosmos II is like spaghetti junction, with a myriad of leads feeding the
An exercise in excess, the Cosmos II is a wonderful, if impractical, chassis for the wealthy PC enthusiast
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Fractal Design Define R4 DETAILS
• Price: £89.99 inc VAT • Manufacturer: Fractal Design • Website: www.fractal-design.com
he cases we've examined so far appear brash and arrogant when compared to the understated lines of the Define
R4, but for some users this will be the essence of its desirability. For every customer who wants go-faster stripes and aggressive LED-illuminated vents, there will be at least another who prefers clean lines and a minimalistic appearance. In many ways the Define R4 owes its design ethos to high-end refrigerator manufacturers: just go to your local department store and you will find rows and rows of kitchen products that look
almost exactly like scaled-up versions of this case. Swedish manufacturer Fractal Design specialises in low-noise products, and the R4 is no exception. All internal panels have been clad in noise absorbent material, with even the spare fan mounts plugged with thick removable pads, which Fractal calls its 'ModuVents'. Leave them in place and no noise will escape through these normally open vents. Take them all out and you’ll end up with a case with as much air cooling potential as any other case in this group test. As standard, the R4 ships with two fans: a 140mm model at the front and another at the rear. There’s space at the front for another 140mm fan, space for two more at the top and another in the side. Peer inside and you’ll find yet another mount, this time at the bottom. Each of these can also accommodate 120mm models, so if you already invested in low-noise fans, you can reuse them in this case. Compared to the R3 that preceded the R4, not a great deal has changed. The case is a little wider in order to accommodate the larger fan units and the eight internal 3.5” bays can now be split in two in order to accommodate oversized video cards remove the upper section and even the 12” 6990 will fit with ease. Fan speed can now be controlled from the front of the case instead of via a rheostat at the rear, and there are still only two 5.25” bays in the case rather than the more conventional three or four. With the number of 5.25” bay devices dwindling and users requiring optical drives less and less, this won’t be a problem for
too many people - for those needing accommodation for more devices, the firm offers an 'XL' variant with four bays, albeit in a much larger chassis. All in all, the changes in the case are evolutionary rather than revolutionary, but then the R3 was a spectacular chassis already. In operation, the R4 is practically noiseless for all intents and purposes when the fans are set to low noise. Run them at medium, and it’s a match for any other case in the group test. Despite its low noise credentials, the Fractal is well designed. Its CPU temperatures are only a few degrees shy of the best cases here - something that could easily be remedied should you wish to take advantage of the many fan expansion opportunities available. While its monolithic appearance may not appeal to all users, the Define R4 is another great product from Fractal Design. Its highly flexible nature makes it a suitable case for high-end gaming machines and media PCs alike.
A beautiful case that combines remarkable ﬂexibility with extremely low noise levels
Silverstone Fortress FT03 Elysium Windowed Case DETAILS
• Price: £116.99 inc VAT • Manufacturer: Silverstone • Website: www.silverstonetek.com
ilverstone’s Fortress range already comprises of two currently available cases. The FT01 is a beautiful all-aluminium midi tower chassis, while the FT02 is arguably the finest air cooling case on the market, but both look positively orthodox when placed next to the latest model in this innovative manufacturer’s line-up. The FT03 has a bizarre form factor for a PC case. Firstly it’ has a positively tiny foot print of just 235x284mm, yet is as tall as a normal midi tower, at nearly 500mm high. It has no visible I/O plate area at the back and there’s no space for a conventional optical drive. Despite this, there’s no debating the design, because the FT03 is undeniably beautiful. This particular example is decked out in titanium grey, but the chassis also comes in black or silver. Remove the side panels and the FT03 starts to make sense. Firstly, the entire layout is a flip design with space for a micro-ATX motherboard rotated 90º. The I/O ports sit under a hatch on the roof of the case and there’s a large cubby hole for the PSU (180mm deep maximum) at the bottom. This is connected to the external power plug via an internal extension cable. Only a single slot-loading optical drive is supported, but the system supports two 3.5” hard drives (one via a hot-swap caddy)
as well as a 2.5” SSD. Air is channelled through the case by two internal 120mm angled fans before being exhausted out from the top, and there’s enough space in the chassis for two gigantic video cards in SLI or CrossFire - even the 12” 6990 fits in with an inch and a half to spare. Even the most experienced of system builders will need to refer to the FT03’s instruction manual during construction. The various mounts work well when you know how, but the chassis has as much in common with a conventional ATX case as
a laptop chassis does. Despite this, the build quality is excellent. There are only tiny gaps between the various panels and everything clips in perfectly. In terms of connectivity, the FT03 is quite minimalistic. There are just two USB 3.0 ports plus audio jacks, with no space for eSATA or dedicated USB 2.0 ports, and there's no fan controller. We’d recommend users invest in a PCI slot-sized rheostat if they have enough spare space, because the standard fans, although far from deafening, are noticeable when ramping up to full speed.
Despite its odd form factor, the FT03 provides super temperatures. GPUs exhausting heat vertically rather than horizontally clearly works well, as the GPU temperatures of this case are joint best on test. The CPU temperature was also extremely impressive, just going to show that you don’t need a case the size of a bus to house a heavily overclocked i7 chip. Given that the FT03 requires PSUs of up to a certain size, micro-ATX form factor motherboards and a slot loading optical drive, it may not be suitable for those wanting to simply transplant their existing PC into a new case, but for those wanting to build something unique and beautiful from scratch the case is definitely worth the investment.
A daringly designed case with stunning looks and surprisingly superb temperatures
HO SC I
Fractal Design Define R4
Silverstone Fortress FT03
The Fractal Design Define R4 may be only a moderately evolved product from the previous generation, but the R3 was one of our favourite high-end cases. Each of the changes implemented in the R4 are logical, well thought out and improve this already superb product. Equally adept at catering for high-end multi-GPU gaming rigs or quiet media centre machines, the R4 really is a case that can cater for any PC enthusiast - provided, of course, you can live with its monolithic looks.
Choosing second place was difficult, because each of the cases on test is an excellent example of modern chassis construction. In the end, we chose the innovative Silverstone Fortress FT03. It may require careful choice of components, but get this right and you will be rewarded with a case that delivers spectacular build quality, great temperatures and genuine high-end credentials in a case with a footprint half the size of the competition. That’s a triumph worthy of an award.
For this group test we tested using an Asus Rampage Gene Z77 motherboard and an overclocked core i7 3770K running at 4.6GHz. We used the Akasa Venom Voodoo Cooler and a GTX 670 EVGA OC edition video card. To maintain a fair testing environment, the GPU fan was locked at 40% for the duration of each test. For fans with a built-in fan controller, a medium fan speed was employed to provide, where possible, an equivalent setting where we feel users would set their own fan speed for a given specification.
*tested at medium fan speed
REVIEWS Freecom Network Drive XS 1TB In the market for a small network attached drive? Check this out DETAILS
• Price: £85.65 (via Ebuyer) • Manufacturer: Freecom • Tel no: 01784 439 781 • Website: goo.gl/HeFGG • Required spec: 900MHz processor or higher, 256MB RAM+, LAN (RJ45) or USB 2.0 port, CD-ROM drive, Windows XP or later
o me, the setting up of a network attached storage drive should be quick and easy, with the drive itself being of a decent capacity, discreet, quiet and small enough to fit into the allocated tight space next to the router. Okay, not everyone has such requirements, but finding a network attached drive that ticks all the boxes has been something of a chore. Enter the Freecom Network Drive XS, a hardy-looking unit that combines some very good features into a compact case that's only just bigger than a 3.5" hard drive. Freecom has, over the years, gone from strength to
strength. Its external product range has always been of a good quality, and although it has often forsaken cuttingedge technology in favour of lower-costing parts, it's always managed to provide a stable and trustworthy selection for the budget desktop user. The Network Drive XS is no exception, and while it has its quirks, it's a solid unit. Nevertheless, at a price of roughly £85, it could turn customers away. Bundled within the box you'll find the drive itself, an external power pack (with UK and European plugs), a 1m Ethernet cable, 1m USB cable, accompanying CD, quick start
guide and an offer for 35 songs free with registration to eMusic. Looking at the drive is uninspiring; it's a rubberised hard drive case after all. It certainly won't win any beauty pageants, but in all fairness a network attached drive isn't supposed to be 'pretty'. The rubber suit that covers the drive enclosure does an admirable job of reducing vibration and noise, although being a fanless enclosure, the noise is dramatically reduced already. Also, it provides an excellent grip should the drive be moved about, and it provides some impact protection. However, it's also an incredible dirt and dust magnet, and within a few days the rubber will be covered in dust particles, cat hair and dead flies. That aside, the ports are easily accessible and the unit is small enough to fit snugly into most situations. Setting the drive up couldn't be easier. You have two choices with this drive: use it as a desktop external USB drive or hook it up to your home network and install the Freecom Network Storage Assistant from the CD. The FNS Assistant will provide the most basic of interfaces when installed by listing the available devices on your network. All you need to do is click on the link for the
web interface, and your default browser will open up with the relevant IP address. From within the web admin you can set a manual IP address, change the admin password, add users along with their read/ write access, set up the FTP server, BitTorrent downloads and media server functions. Once you've done what you need to do, just access the drive as you would any other shared hard drive and add your files. Simple. There are a few niggles that I need to mention. For starters, there's no indication light on the drive, so you'll have to press your ear against it to hear if it's working. Surely a simple LED could be included? Secondly, the media server function is a little weak and it took a reboot of the unit before a movie that was transferred into 'Videos' finally appeared. Thirdly, the power cable is ridiculously short; a metre is barely enough to accommodate fitting the unit into a lounge cabinet, for instance. Niggles aside, the Freecom Network Drive XS is a good unit. Small, easy to set up and quiet, but a tad expensive for what you get. mm David Hayward
A decent network attached storage device. A bit pricey, but okay
k c la B in se a C r to a d re -P X l o AeroCo AeroCool hunts the gaming enthusiast with the X-Predator super-tower
• Price: £109.99 (Overclockers UK) • Manufacturer: AeroCool • Website: www.aerocool.com.tw • Required spec: Flex ATX/ATX/micro-ATX/ E-ATX/XL-ATX system
or those wanting to build a high-specification gaming PC, a case that stands out is as much a necessity as a decent power supply. The AeroCool X-Predator cleverly delivers a striking and innovative design with excellent features and functionality. From the outside, the general aesthetics are best described as Lockheed Skunkworks with a twist of retro Cylon. It's not for everyone, but I defy anyone to ignore it. The louvered stealth-inspired roof is one of the many stylish aspects. It can open and close according to your preference, and when open provides an effective means to eject large volumes of air from the case easily. Air can enter through numerous filter screened mesh sides, with the help of multiple
fans. In the standard design you get two 230mm fans, one in the front and another in the roof. But mounting points exist for four more 120/140mm fans in the side, another 120/140mm in the rear and a final one in the floor. Alternatively, the side can mount a 200mm fan, if you have one of those handy. With so many fans to consider, AeroCool has provided a dual fan controller, accessible on the front panel, where you can also get access to USB 2.0/3.0 and eSATA ports. That's par for the course, but unlike the AeroCool StrikeX I recently covered, there isn't a proper USB 3.0 header on offer, just a through cable to an external port. What's more exceptional is the amount of space available inside this case - so much that I don't think you could find a motherboard or video card that wouldn't fit in here. AeroCool specifies that it will take a monster XL-ATX system, like Gigabyte's X58-UD9, and a video card that's a whopping 330mm long. The size coupled with excellent cable management
makes for a very tidy layout, where accessibility isn't an issue irrespective of how much gear you put in here. I especially loved the number of rubber grommet clad holes included, which enable you to run every motherboard connected cable out of sight almost to the point where it connected, including the ATX 24-pin line. AeroCool has also put in some holes for those who like water cooling, allowing for an external radiator to support both the CPU and a GPU on independent cooling circuits. As for drive support, there are internal racks for six hard drives, and another six 5.25" external slots, which is plenty for most people. This all begs the question: are there any good reasons not to want this case? It might be argued that for north of £100 you might expect a higher build quality than the SECC steel and plastic construction here, but it's perfectly serviceable and cheaper than a comparable BitFenix Colossus. The only real concern is its sheer size. The X-Predator is
600mm high, 234mm wide and 555mm deep. That's a serious enclosure, though it could be challenging to find an XL-ATX compatible one that's much smaller. Overall, this is a high-quality design, reasonably priced for what's on offer, and with massive scope for modification and enhancement. The review model was black, but AeroCool also makes a black/orange and black/green combos, and a pure white version that costs an extra tenner. mm Mark Pickavance
A case big enough to take almost any PC imaginable
AOC MyStage E2343Fi 23'' LED Monitor Apple fans gets a high-quality screen with iOS special sauce DETAILS
• Price: £203.70 (MoreComputers) • Manufacturer: AOC • Website: www.aoc-europe.com • Required spec: PC with VGA or HDMI outputs and an Apple iPhone, iTouch or iPod
've become blasé about how thin modern displays can be, but even I was struck by the depth of 12.6mm that the AOC MyStage E2343Fi offers. It's also very light at 2.8kg, making me wonder before I opened it if AOC had sent me an empty box. In terms of monitor specifications, it's all that you might expect from a high-quality 23" 1080p TN technology display. Inputs are provided for VGA and HDMI on the rear of the base, which therefore can't be separated from the screen. That means there's also no VESA mount for wall positioning, but AOC has balanced this limitation by using the base in an usual way. The base has a soft acoustic covering that encloses two 5W 'SRS premium' speakers, but
more importantly, the front has an Apple iOS-compatible docking station. Due to the shape of the dock, this is specifically made for the iPhones and iPods, and dropping one of these into place allows the monitor to become a media centre driven by the Apple hardware. You're told not to have a 'bumper' on the device, and depending which model you own, you'll either get audio through the speakers or the video output on the screen too. Nice. Menu selection allows for a choice of which input to have, and you can also have combinations like HDMI video and iPod audio if you wish. I was hoping that AOC had considered Android users by providing a means to connect their hardware, but it entirely dropped that ball. There is a USB port on the rear, but it won't charge a phone, because it's for connecting to the PC via an entirely non-standard maleto-male cable (provided). And, unless the screen is actually connected via VGA to a running PC, the audio line is ignored entirely. That's a double-fail, although I still managed to get it to work nicely via an HDMI cable from my HTC Sensation XE.
Viewable Image Size Brightness (Typical) Contrast Ratio Response Time
23" (169) 250 cd/m2
1920 x 1080 @ 60Hz
Analogue Input Digital Input Built-in Stereo Speakers Universal iPhone/iPod Docking Station Energy Star Compliant EPEAT Rated Dimensions
RGB D-Sub HDMI (DVI-D with HDCP)
The USB connection can be used to sync the iOS device to the PC, but AOC didn't consider providing any pass-through USB hub for a mouse or keyboard. A little lateral thinking might have given this product a much wider appeal, but it appears that AOC only has love for Apple here. As a product, the MyStage E2343Fi somewhat inconsistent, in that the screen is excellent and delivers well saturated colours, and the speakers have very little bass. I'll admit, they do have great treble, but they're not likely to win any audio quality awards. The other cloud on this horizon is the launched-by-now iPhone 5, which I confidently predict doesn't have the same docking connector as the previous models, and therefore won't work with the E2343Fi. As such, this monitor is exclusively for those Apple fans who don't intend to upgrade to the latest hardware. This is a nice monitor, but for this money I'd want an IPS panel, and the docking station facility
2 x 5W Video & photo playback on some models Yes Yes 21.5 x 15.9 x 7.2" (547.2 x 404.6 x 182mm) 6.27 lbs (2.85 kgs)
is only useful while compatible working hardware still exists. AOC does make a similar model without the docking station, the i2353Fh, and that costs about £150 or less, and is has the added bonus of being an IPS panel. mm Mark Pickavance
A monitor that's aimed squarely at iOS fans
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge S430 3364 Lenovo offers a classic business laptop with plenty of desirable features DETAILS
• Price: £795.88 (PC World) • Manufacturer: Lenovo • Website: www.lenovo.com/uk/en
et us get the major issue out of the way from the outset: this lovely Lenovo S430 3364 model doesn't return you much change from £800. That might make most home users wheeze, but this product is really aimed at business users who are typically less price sensitive. And for those in business, I'm confident that this unit ticks most of the boxes they'd want from a mobile system. Looking at the specification, you get a third-generation 2.5GHz Intel Core i5 processor, wired up to 4GB of DDR3 and a 500GB 7200rpm hybrid drive. When you factor in the NVidia GeForce GT 620M graphics, you have a system that while not gaming friendly, is certainly at the high end of general computing performance. The display is a 14" wide aspect panel with a natural resolution of 1600 x 900, though the mini-HDMI output provides for those that want 1080p presentations. Those things are great, and worth having, but what really sold this system to me was the magnesium alloy construction, enabling Lenovo to deliver a 1.8kg solution that's feature packed. I've reviewed notepads that weigh more than that, and that's with enough battery capacity here to operate for four hours or more.
Style is a very subjective thing, but 'minimalist' best describes the Thinkpad asthetic that Lenovo has focused on. Everything looks functional and exudes an air of purpose. It's nice to hold, the keyboard is well set back so that your palms are supported while typing, and you get the option of a trackpad, attaching a mouse, or using the Thinkpad signature 'nipple'. I can't say that I'm keen on fingerprint readers, or the Thunderbolt port, but it includes them anyway. More useful connections, to this writer's mind, are the multiple USB 3.0 ports and the miniHDMI output. The strong points of this hardware are that on battery it is almost silent, the chiclet keyboard works really well even with the limited travel available, and it doesn't quickly become excessively heavy or hot when balanced on your lap. This Thinkpad is for someone who genuinely works on the move, rather than someone who takes a PC with them for status purposes or to play solitaire on the train.
Key Features • • • • • • • • • • • •
Core i5 3210M 2.5GHz Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit 4 GB RAM 500GB hybrid drive ( 16GB flash ) DVD-writer 14" wide 1600 x 900 / HD+ NVidia GeForce GT 620M / Intel HD Graphics 4000 Magnesium alloy construction Thunderbolt/DisplayPort Three USB 3.0 ports Mini-HDMI Premium entertainment experience with Dolby Home Theater v4
For those who like the S430 concept, you can get a marginally cheaper version of this hardware for about £739.99, with NVidia N13P graphics and a more ordinary hard drive. You can also get a Core i7 processor and an SSD for closer to a grand, if you want even more performance. Having used this one, though,
I think the combination of power and battery life is just about optimal in this particular S430 3365 design. mm Mark Pickavance
A powerful notebook system that doesn't skimp on features
Anti Tracks 8 Is your PC a treasure trove of application usage and browsing history? Roland Waddilove tries a tool for covering your tracks ks DETAILS
• Price: £22.41 (three PCs) • Manufacturer: Giant Matrix • Website: www.giantmatrix.com • Required spec: Windows XP or later, 1GB RAM, 1GHz CPU, 10MB disk space
verything you do on a computer is recorded somewhere and Windows remembers the files that you run and the documents you open. Web browsers remember the URLs of the sites you visit, the pages you look at, and their contents. Websites store cookies containing information about you. Applications you use store information too. Any files you save on the disk drive remain even after being deleted and with the right tools they can be recovered. Giant Matrix’s solution to all these security threats is Anti Tracks, which is now up to version 8. It costs £22.41, but it can be installed on three PCs and there's an option in the program to create a portable version that can be carried on a CD or USB flash drive and used anywhere, so it’s quite cheap when you take this into consideration. Anti Tracks starts with a wizard, which is used to select the items you want to clean. The wizard can be run any time you want to change something or you can go into the settings and select any of the half dozen
or so categories and modify them. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, AOL, Netscape and Opera browsers can be cleaned. The number of different options varies with each browser and there can be up to nine, such as cookies, cache, autocomplete history, browser history, downloaded programs and so on. White lists of allowed
It seems to have everything covered 52
cookies and URLs can be created and Firefox and Thunderbird profiles are catered for. A total of 26 different Windows tracks can be erased. There are too many to list, but they include the temp folder, recent documents, the Recycle Bin, application logs, the clipboard, the DNS cache, Windows logs and so on. Deleted emails in popular programs such as Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird and others can be erased so they can’t be recovered. The history and tracks stored by certain
applications can be deleted. The list of supported ones isn’t long, but a few odd entries aside, most appear to be programs you would want to erase the history from, such as downloaders, FTP tools, photo editors, instant messengers, media players and so on. It is possible to add your own applications to the list to be cleaned if you know what files, folders and registry keys must be erased. Cleaning can be scheduled hourly, daily or weekly. A file shredder is included and files can be dropped on the Anti Tracks window or right-clicked to erase them using one of five secure methods. The free space on the disk can be erased to prevent deleted files from being recovered and the PC can be automatically shut down afterwards. Files can be hidden within other files and it's possible to encrypt and hide a file inside your holiday snaps or your favourite music tracks. There's a Password Wallet that securely stores all your passwords. It's hard to think of anything Anti Tracks doesn’t do and it seems to have everything covered. mm Roland Waddilove
A comprensive and useful application
Hero Academy Mark holds out for a hero
• Price: £13.99 • Manufacturer: Robot Entertainment • Website: www. robotentertainment.com • Required spec: Windows XP or later 1.6GHz CPU, 1.5GB RAMM, 800MB HDD space, GeForce 8800 video card
aving taken the iOS world by storm, Hero Academy has now been released for the humble PC. The turn-based strategy game has been a huge hit on the mobile platform, and it's easy to see Hero Academy’s origins both in terms of the simple gameplay and graphics. Playing like a simplified version of Heroes of Might & Magic, Hero Academy puts you in control of a team of fantasy types (warriors, wizards, etc.), who must battle against enemy units in a turnbased arena. Being a fantasy game, there are various races you can choose to play as, including humans, orcs, dwarfs and elves. You are then placed onto a battlefield grid where you have to take it in turns to
wipe the other side out before they do the same to you. The rules are easy to pick up. Every team has a crystal, which is the source of their power, so you must guard this at all costs - if it's obliterated, then it's game over. As you play the game, you can select different spells and powers for your team members to equip themselves with and use to weaken your opponents. Every
movement you make uses up an action point, and you're allowed a maximum of five points per turn. Your opponent is then given five action points to spend, until their turn ends and it's your chance to go again. How you spend your action points is obviously the difference between winning and losing a game, but the good news is even if you spend all your action points in a turn and it doesn’t work out how would expect it to, you're given a second chance to try a different strategy with the action point rewind facility. This resets all your previously spent points and allows you to try out different strategies until you get it right - a clever feature, as it really allows you to hone your strategy and plan your every move in detail. The many different abilities you can use with your units, such as better defence, healing or attack, gives Hero Academy a more complex game than you would first imagine it to be, and it's all the better for it. Granted, the graphics could be better - they do actually look like they belong on a mobile
phone - but you can forgive this minor niggle when a game is as addictive as this to play. For this price you cannot really go wrong. This is an addictive strategy game with a surprising level of depth to it. The icing on the cake is the cross-platform multiplayer mode, meaning you really can take on your friends wherever you are, no matter if you're at home, on the train or even in the office. Just don’t try to act the hero when your boss is around... You have been warned! mm Mark Pilkington
Proves itself to be equally as good on the PC as it is on iOS
1953 - KGB Unleashed Mark Pilkington has himself some point-and-click 'fun' DETAILS
• Manufacturer: UIG • Price: £14.99 • Website: www.uieg.de • Required spec: Windows XP or later, 1.6GHz CPU, 1.5GB RAM, 800MB HDD space, GeForce 8800 video card
ands up if you remember Myst. It may be decades old now, but the pointand-click adventure game still holds a place in many PC owners’ hearts. Myst may be a classic, but the downside to that it has often been emulated by far inferior titles. In more modern times, these clones have been few and far between as more sophisticated adventures have made their way into the market, but occasionally you're given a throwback to those Myst-y eyed days (see what I did there?). 1953 - KGB Unleashed is one such clone, and those hankering after a nostalgic point-and-click romp may wish to stop reading now. In fact, it's a Myst-ery why the developer decided to make it at
all. Okay, okay, I’ll stop with the awful puns now. There are no prizes for guessing what the game is about. Set in, er... 1953, the game begins with you waking up in an underground complex below the streets of Moscow. As you start to explore your surroundings, you gradually piece together who you are and why you're there, slowly uncovering KGB secrets and evidence of strange experiments that have taken place. Most of this information
is revealed in letters and documents that you find lying around as you complete the various puzzles presented to you. To be fair, the game's plot is probably the most interesting aspect of 1953, and if there was a reason for you to keep playing until the end, it would be to find out where the storyline takes you next. The graphics themselves are very atmospheric, and they combine well with the plot as you’re introduced to more and more horrific concepts as to what the experiments entailed. As you're seeing everything through your character's eyes, you feel a few chills when you enter a room where someone has operated on a person or conducted arcane tests on some hapless soul. Actually playing the game is easy enough. You can move the in-game camera around 360º and activate certain objects with your mouse pointer by clicking on them. A right-click will call your inventory up and help solve puzzles you encounter along the way. They're all logically
set out, and you will find plenty of hints in the text and surrounding area. The biggest problem this game has is it's just so... basic and outdated. The original Myst first came out in 1993, and there's little here that shows any large degree of advancement since then. Not even a compelling storyline of mystery and conspiracy can save what is an aged concept. When placed next to today’s graphic adventures, it just looks old and clunky... mm Mark Pilkington
Outdated and simply no fun to actually play
Krater It's a bit like Diablo, so it must be good, right? DETAILS
• Price: £14.99 • Manufacturer: Lace Mamba • Website: www.kratergame.net • Required spec: Windows XP or later, Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz or equivalent, 2GB RAM, 5GB HDD space, DirectX 9 video card
hat would happen if you mixed the postapocalyptic world of Fallout with the gaming mechanics of Diablo? That was the very question Krater’s Swedish developer asked itself when working on the concept for a new game, and the answer turns out to be... well, a bit of a mess, quite frankly. Originality is hard to come by in videogames, but if you are going to copy your ideas from a successful title such as Diablo III, you could at least do a good job of it. There are some fundamental problems that prevent Krater from being any pleasure to play. Buggy, uninspiring gameplay and the
lack of character development are the main culprits here. The hack and slash gaming style of Diablo appears simple enough on the surface, but with so many clones around, which have failed to emulate its playability, it's obviously a much more complicated feat to achieve than it at first seems. Unlike the aforementioned title, where you control one character, in Krater you're in charge of a team of three members. With your group, you must explore the wasteland and complete missions in a desolate and broken world, collecting items and battling anyone (or anything) that gets in your way. So far so good. Being an RPG, you would expect a high level of character affinity, but once your characters die in Krater, that’s it; they are dead for good. This means you're forced to change team members regularly. You never really get a chance to develop your characters, which for an RPG is a crying shame. All they become is just a new set of stats to play with, and for this reason you begin to not care what happens to them.
The level cap even changes at points in the game, meaning you must change your existing team members in order to take full advantage of it, and then battle opponents to reach the new level cap. So the team members you have invested time in building up are taken away from you - a senseless exercise that only serves to further detach you from your squad members, making you wonder why you spent any time developing them in the first place. It’s not all bad news, though. With the Mad Max style post-apocalyptic setting making a nice change from the normal fantasy environment, the graphics artists have done a fine job when it comes to portraying a futuristic world. The game also carries a nice sense of humour with it, and the light-hearted take on the in-game world is a welcome addition to what
could otherwise be quite a depressing affair. Those are minor plus points, however, and shouldn’t distract from the fact this is a poor-man's Diablo. It beggars belief that you would choose to play this over its more famous counterpart. Granted, it is available for much less money, but why settle for second best? On paper, Krater sounds like a great idea, but scratch beneath the surface and you will find a game that is set in the apocalypse in more ways than one... mm Mark Pilkington
A laborious and pointless venture that only serves to suck the enjoyment out of playing games
Overall Issue 1227
How To Buy… A BLU-RAY Blu-ray discs are now firmly entrenched as the new standard for optical media, so how do you find the best Blu-ray drive for your PC? James Hunt investigates
ow that high-definition media and monitors have become the norm, installing a Blu-ray drive in your PC has gone from being a luxury to a virtual necessity. Although some of us may feel like resisting the introduction of yet another format to buy our favourite movies on, there’s no doubt that Blu-ray is here to stay, and that means that if you want to watch the latest films on your computer, attaching a Blu-ray drive to it is the best way to do so. Putting cynicism aside for a second, there are valid reasons for Blu-ray discs to exist as a separate entity from DVDs. Crucially, because Blu-ray discs can typically store up to 50GB of data, they’re the only way you can reasonably view films in high-definition 3D, and
HOW TO BUY… A BLU-RAY DRIVE
they’re the easiest way to get high-definition films onto your computer - at least until download speeds catch up. Indeed, it probably won’t be too long before the plummeting cost of Blu-ray discs makes regular DVD releases entirely obsolete. However, that’s not all you can use Blu-ray drives for. As with DVDs and CDs before them, their high capacity and low size makes them an excellent medium for data storage. You can buy some retail software on Blu-ray, but a far more popular way to use Blu-ray discs for data is in the form of recordable media. The appearance of recordable Blu-rays was initially marked by high prices for equipment and media, but recently both have dropped to affordable levels. With their ultra-high storage capacity, recordable Blu-ray discs could well prove a reasonable archival format for datasets that would otherwise be too large for a single DVD, and for that reason it’s worth looking into. So what’s the difference between a good Blu-ray drive and a bad one? What features should you look for? And what manufacturers are worth paying attention to? The answers to all these questions and more will be revealed in this guide.
How Much Should You Spend?
At the moment, the average price for an internal Bluray drive is in the region of £50, and you can expect to pay no more than £10-£25 extra for one with the ability to write and rewrite to Blu-ray discs as well. For that reason, we suggest that you budget in the region of £75 when looking for a recordable Blu-ray drive, and around £55 when looking for a standard Blu-ray reader with no recording capabilities. It’s possible to buy drives that are substantially cheaper than £50. Sony, for example, produces an internal Blu-ray writer that costs only £35, but this is a slimline product
designed for laptops and therefore doesn’t perform well compared to standard desktop models. Although you can expect Blu-ray performance that is comparable to fullprice models, such drives compromise their performance on CDs and DVDs. Unless you’re only planning to use
Their high capacity and low size makes them an excellent medium for data storage Blu-ray discs, it’s worth spending the extra money on a full-size drive if you’re buying for a desktop machine! In terms of the media itself, you can buy good-quality dual-layer Blu-ray recordable discs for as little as 60p each, meaning 500GB of storage will cost only £6 - vastly lower than the price of 500GB if you’re talking about a hard drive or solid-state format! Rewritable Blu-ray media is also available at the cost of £3-£4 a disc, but the low price of write-once media probably makes them a poor choice in anything other than very specific situations.
What Make/Model/Manufacturer Should You Look For?
Thinking about brands to actively look for, Pioneer, LiteOn and LG have consistently made top-quality optical drives at reasonable prices for a decade at least. The Pioneer BDR-207EBK, for example, is one of a few models that support BD-XL discs, but it is priced at the top of our recommended range. By comparison, the
Pioneer BDR-207DBK is much cheaper and fulfils all of the technical criteria you’d want out of a Blu-ray recorder. If you’re only interested in a Blu-ray reader, the LiteOn IHES112-115 is a capable budget model that has support for the major Blu-ray formats and a small form factor to maximise the available space inside your PC - it’s only 17cm long, which isn’t that much bigger than the discs themselves! Note that big-name brands like Samsung and Sony tend to be more expensive than others, but in the case of Blu-ray drives there’s little, if any benefit to spending top amounts. External drives from these manufacturers may look more stylish, but performance sees no obvious benefits.
capabilities, meaning you can plug them directly into a TV without the need to connect them to a computer. They can also be used with notebook PCs which may lack a built-in optical drive. You may also see Blu-ray writers advertising ‘LightScribe’ technology. This has little to do with the Blu-ray format itself, and is actually a system that allows optical drives to etch labels into the surface of optical discs that have a supported coating. Essentially, they save you having to get a sharpie out after the disc has finished being burnt. You’ll find the technology in units from several manufacturers, but it’s far from essential.
What Technology Should You Look For?
As with DVDs, Blu-ray discs come in a variety of standards and conﬁgurations
Whether you’re buying an internal or external Blu-ray drive, it’s important to check the support for various disc formats. As with DVDs, Blu-ray discs come in a variety of standards and configurations, so be clear about what the drive supports before you pay. For reference, Blu-ray Recordable discs (BD-R) hold 25GB per layer, so support for dual-layer BD-R Discs will give you the ability to store up to 50GB on one disc. The latest iteration of the format, called BD-XL, can support tripe and quadruple layers allowing up to 100GB and 128GB to be stored respectively - but in order to burn these sizes your device will require specific support on the hardware level, so unless it’s stated on the box, assume it isn’t available. As with CD and DVD drives, the speed of Bluray discs is given as a multiple of a single speed transfer rate. For Blu-ray discs, 1x speed means that it can copy 4.5MB a second either to or from the disc. This means that writing or reading from one 25GB layer will just under 95 minutes (assuming a constant transfer rate). Of course, no current drive runs that slowly by default, and most current Blu-ray drives read at 12x speed and write at a maximum of 6x speed. There are two main kinds of Blu-ray drive that you might want to buy. Internal ones fit inside your PC and take advantage of being more compact and quieter and have generally faster transfer rates. External ones are a little slower, but are also portable and may even have stand-alone
Is Now The Right Time To Buy?
The recent swathe of natural disasters in East Asia does mean that the price of hard drive and solid-state memory has bounced a little even as optical drives have continued to drop, so in one sense Blu-ray drives are in a good
HOW TO BUY… A BLU-RAY DRIVE
place when considered against the alternatives in relative financial terms. That said, it’s only a small benefit, and one likely to be offset when you consider that the price of optical drives tends to do nothing but drop until the format is superseded by another. The longer you wait, the cheaper it’s going to be. For example, DVD drives once cost several times the price of a CD drive, but now you can pick one up for as little as £15, and it’s financially unviable to sell CD-ROM drives alone. Rather than worrying about market forces, the right time to buy a Blu-ray drive is the moment you want to actually view a Blu-ray disc. Any earlier and you could be cheating yourself out of a price drop! One question that is worth asking is how often you expect to actually view Blu-ray discs at all. There’s a fair chance that the constantly improving download speeds of modern telecommunications architecture will mean that within the next few years, it’ll be possible to download high-definition movies - maybe even 3D movies - at speeds fast enough that they’re effectively on-demand. If you’re planning to use a Blu-ray drive for data, there’s definitely a place for it in the longer term, but if you’re thinking of using your drive for media alone, be aware that it may be out of date in a couple of years. The longer you wait before buying one, the more probable it is to become obsolete before you’ve had your money’s worth!
What Are The Technical Constraints?
Be careful if you’re buying an external Blu-ray drive. The speed of USB ports may limit the speed of your drive, as USB 2.0 can only cope with transfer rates equivalent to 8x read speed, meaning you won’t be able to copy data any faster than that regardless of the speed of the drive. If your computer and drive both support USB 3.0 connections, however, the speeds are enough to cope with the fastest external Blu-ray drives, at least for now. If you buy an internal Blu-ray drive with a SATA connector, there is no need to worry about connection bottlenecks of this kind, because SATA is much quicker than even the top speeds DVD drives are able reach at the moment. As with all internal components, there is a power requirement for internal Blu-ray drives that may be an issue if your PC has no extra capacity left, but this is incredibly unlikely to affect most users. Even the most powerful Blu-ray drive takes up a small fraction of the power a graphics card or CPU requires, so unless you know your PC is already operating at capacity, you shouldn’t expect any difficulties in this regard. If you’re buying a Blu-ray drive with the intention of using it to watch movies, remember that your system will need additional components in order to display them at their highest quality. Obviously, you need a monitor with a resolution of at least 1920x1080 in order to view HD movies in their full resolution, but the copy protection on Blu-ray discs means that you can only watch their content in high definition if your monitor and PC are connected through a digitally protected cable (or wireless connection). In practical terms, this means that to watch a movie in high-definition using a Blu-ray drive, you need to
What’s The Alternative?
Although there’s no direct alternative to installing a Blu-ray drive in your PC, there are different ways to achieve the same results (depending on what purpose you actually bought it for). If you want to watch high-definition movies on your computer, it’s possible to download them from legitimate sources. 1080p content is available on iTunes, for example, and can even be streamed from YouTube. At present there is no legal alternative for getting hold of 3D movies, though, because either their file size or licensing restrictions (or a combination of both) means you’re unable to download them from any major digital media retailer. If, however, you want a Blu-ray drive to create high-capacity backups, a cheap external hard drive should be able to handle as much data as several Blu-ray discs and has the added bonus of being easily accessible and more resistant to damage. It will, however, cost a little more in the short term and mean you have to delete old backups once the drive is full, so if you’re interested in making long-term backups you may end up with an inadequate solution. Finally, if you just want to watch HD and 3D movies and don’t mind whether they’re on your PC or not, you could always just buy a stand-alone Blu-ray player. Obviously, you won’t be able to get data from them onto your PC, but you should be able to attach one to your monitor even if you don’t have a highresolution TV, so it’s worth considering for that reason alone. Many stand-alone Blu-ray players can even be connected to the internet to download firmware updates and extra content, so you lose out on very little in the long run!
have an HDMI, DisplayPort, or some other HDCP (HighDefinition Copy Protection) compliant connection. Although some DVI connections support HDCP, older graphics cards with DVI connectors may lack the required technology, so check with your manufacturer if you’re unsure. If you’re forced to use VGA or some other non-HDCP compliant connection, this doesn’t mean you can’t watch the movie at all. You can still watch the content on Bluray discs, but it will be limited to 720p instead of 1080p - a lower resolution designed to discourage piracy of high definition content over analogue connections. And, of course, the final technical constraint worth mentioning is that you can’t watch 3D movies without a 3D monitor and glasses, so if your plans for a Bluray drive include 3D movies, you’ll need to buy the necessary accessories. mm
Monetising The Mobile Web David Briddock investigates the challenges of mobile advertising
nly a year or two ago, the majority of online access originated from desktop and laptop PCs. Almost overnight there’s been a sudden and dramatic shift to the mobile web. This movement is gathering pace at an incredible rate, not just in the US and Europe, but across the globe. It’s a movement that has the many of today’s largest organisations, including Google and Facebook, extremely worried. Why are these modern-day colossuses so concerned? What can they do to alleviate their concerns? And will they survive the competition from a new breed of agile, innovative, mobilesavvy organisations?
Around the world, desktop web access has either flatlined or is in decline. Mobile is the new way to access the web. Today’s powerful mobile phones, with their large touch-screens and smart apps, are no longer just audio and textual communication devices. They are highly capable, user-personalised, location-aware computers, able to surf and interact with the internet in a multitude of different ways. The typical smartphone user already spends far more time interacting with apps and surfing the web than making calls or sending messages. As smartphone ownership becomes the norm rather than the exception, this is a highly significant factor. Take into account the rapid growth in internet-connected tablet devices, along with a dash to implement the higher-speed 4G mobile network technology, and you have an unstoppable wave. Within the next year or two the vast majority of internet traffic will originate from mobile devices - a movement that some have entitled Web 3.0.
exceeds the quickly dying, but still heavily funded, print medium. This revenue stream imbalance will have to be addressed soon. On face value, Google’s rising revenues look pretty good. However, the cost per click has fallen for three straight quarters, with a 16% fall last quarter. In other words, although more people are advertising with Google, they are paying much less for each advert. Facebook’s user-base growth also looks good, but the rise is almost exclusively due to mobile users. Around a quarter of its user population access Facebook via a mobile device, and around 10% are already mobile-only users. Despite these statistics, Facebook is only just starting to experiment with mobile advertising. Last year only around 15% of Facebook’s revenue came from mobile ads. The lack of a coherent mobile revenue generating strategy contributed to the poor share price performance after its Wall Street debut. As Facebook itself has acknowledged “If users increasingly access Facebook mobile products as a substitute for access through
This rapid change has caught many organisations off balance. Companies whose business model is dominated by online advertising are particularly concerned. Urgent action is required to avoid watching their ad-generated revenue plummet over the next five years. US online advertising revenues for 2011 totalled around $32 billion. In contrast, the total revenue for mobile-specific web advertising was just $1.5 billion. Yet over 10% of the total US media consumption is attributable to mobile devices - a figure that already
The Facebook smartphone key
MONETIZING THE MOBILE WEB personal computers, and if we are unable to successfully implement monetisation strategies for our mobile users, or if we incur excessive expenses in this effort, our financial performance and ability to grow revenue would be negatively affected.”
Amazon Kindle special offers
The Problems With Mobile
So what are the problems associated with monetising the mobile device? Screen real estate is one of the biggest and most obvious constraints. A typical laptop display has around 16 times the screen area of a 3.5” smartphone display. It’s a real challenge to design visually attractive, click-enticing adverts that don’t dominate the whole display. Existing web technology doesn’t really fit the bill, and many mobile browsing activities operate in a cookie-free environment. In addition, many smartphones have dozens of specialised apps to access online resources and services. Map apps are an excellent example of Web 3.0-centric technology, with interactive discovery of geo-specific services and commodities, plus plenty of advertising opportunities - a fact recognised by Apple when it ditched Google Maps for its own maps app based on TomTom satnav technology. However, there’s room for optimism. Studies show around 60% of mobile users click on a mobile ad at least once a week - although the percentage of ‘accidental’ clicks and the click-to-sale conversion ratio aren’t easy to quantify. And eBay recently cheered Wall Street with encouraging figures highlighting a big increase in mobile purchases in the early part of 2012. In addition, a smartphone offers ad-friendly opportunities for hitting users with offers based on their location, movements, previous searches and communications. Currently, there are many privacy issues to overcome before this can become a reality. Nevertheless, it’s certain to be an increasingly common feature in successful mobile advertising campaigns, with users offered tempting deals in exchange for their personal details.
Wanted: New Ideas
As mobile device usage evolves, mobile advertising needs to evolve too. We’ve already seen a shift from text and banner ads to more sophisticated efforts. And there’s a growing need for alternatives to the pay-per-click scenario. With a click-to-call model (goo.gl/SjmiY) the advertiser only pays when the user responds with a phone call. Another new tactic is posting an entry into the user’s smartphone diary, say for a new film or music concert.
Social networking organisations already have a captive audience. Facebook recently introduced sponsored stories to users’ news feeds. Subscriptions offer similar branding opportunities. Dropbox, Evernote and Spotify all offer premium services, pushing relevant ads out to signed-up users. Location-specific deals are another largely untapped area. The new Groupon Now service entices users with short-term deals as they wander down the high street. Only by popping in for a sandwich or haircut right there and then can you take advantage of the discount offered. Putting your branded hardware in the hands of users increases the monetising opportunities. In the US, Amazon’s Kindle ‘Special Offers’ device displays screensaver ads in return for a $25 reduction in the purchase price. It’s a very effective strategy, with these ‘special offers’ versions substantially outselling the ad-less Kindles. Google is also trying the branded hardware approach. Androidpowered devices have already passed the 400 million mark, and its new Nexus 7 tablet will help to maintain the upward trend. The Nexus 7 is priced very aggressively, suggesting Google is happy to take a loss on each sale. After all, the extra screen real estate - four times that of a typical smartphone - fits its Web 2.0 advertising model and technology much better. Microsoft is likely to promote similar discounted deals on its upcoming Windows RT-based Surface hardware. In fact, to attract consumers in an increasingly crowded tablet marketplace, it may have no choice. Facebook is working hard to put a ‘Facebook key’ on a range of mobile phones and is talking to HTC about a branded smartphone. Yet it still feels vulnerable. Facebook’s move to buy the tiny (13-man) Instagram photo-sharing company for $1 billion is solely to bolster its mobile presence and offerings.
Apps As Ads
Apple 3D Maps - 3D
Apple Maps Routes
Traditional ads aren’t the only way to peddle your brand. Creating marketing products can be more effective than buying mobile ads from media companies and ad networks. Putting an app in a consumer’s hands, especially one they will use many times a week - or even a day - is a great solution.
Brian Wong of Kiip
realise rewarding users for simply spending time with a fun and addictive app has huge potential. In future, not having a game designer on the marketing team might seem like a big omission. One of the most interesting gamification models comes from start-up company Kiip (kiip.me). Although Kiip only has around 30 employees, it’s already secured big-name clients such as Pepsi, Disney and Best Buy. What’s different about Kiip? When a player reaches a certain point in the game, Kiip introduces an ad-centric reward, such as a coupon. Complete a level and you could be rewarded with a free cup of coffee or a 10% discount on clothes. An example is the MapMyFitness app, where users are offered a free bottle of Pepsi’s Propel for every eight miles they run. Instead of avoiding pop-ups and trailers, now users actively seek them out simply by playing the game. It’s led to dramatic growth. Kiip is already inside 300 apps on over 30 million iOS and Android devices and has rewarded over 50 million players.
Steve Jobs announcing Apple’s iAd Nike+ GPS app
Keys to Success
Free-thinking innovation is the key, including interactive widgets, engaging content, addictive games and prize contests. Take Nike, for example. It’s taken advantage of Apple’s iPhone and App Store to deliver desirable mobile apps straight into consumers’ hands. Apps like the Nike+ GPS for tracking and analysing runs and cycle rides. Apps like this often generate as much goodwill and purchase intent as a banner ad. Of course, Nike will still buy ads, but this direct-to-consumer route is very attractive. Interactive ads are another fast growing area. The aim is to engage users rather than annoying them with a repetitive pitch. Apple’s iAds are a case in point. With an iAd app, users can explore a virtual world, play a game and enter prize contests. They offer full-screen video, 3D renditions, touch and accelerometer interaction, plus many other features. This BMW-i ad (goo.gl/ V7Rdt) is just one example. Google is keen to encourage individuals and organisations to place short ads on its YouTube platform. It’s already very popular, with some advertisers seeing six-figure annual revenue returns. The recent launch of AdWords for video will make it easier to monetise YouTube. App developers themselves can be a source of income too. Developers can pay to have users directed to their own download store from inside the app. A ‘pay-per-download’ model will entice many developers to sign on the dotted line.
These days, it’s not uncommon to find marketing teams devoting considerable time and effort tp game-influenced strategies. They
While the challenges posed by Web 3.0 require a new kind of thinking, the potential offered by the mobile platform is alluring. Access to user-specific data and feedback is critical. Once captured, it’s possible to approach advertising nirvana and target the right ads at the right people. The ad’s message could even be altered based on a user’s behaviour and previous responses. Currently there’s a scramble to address a missing piece of the puzzle. By introducing branded ‘mobile wallet’ technology, organisations can capture purchase information. Finally, they’ll be able to close the loop and quantify their marketing effectiveness based on actual sales figures. The monetisation of mobile devices has only just begun. Web 3.0 will change the computing landscape. Place your bets now as to who will crack the secret to monetising the mobile web. mm
As well as being declared the first ‘social media games’, the London Olympics also emphasised the popularity of the mobile web. In the UK, mobile access accounted for 46% of all Olympic online traffic, while across Europe around a third of all Olympics-related searches originated from mobile devices. Video figures are just as impressive. The BBC revealed 41% of video streams were watched by mobile device owners, and US broadcaster NBC delivered 45% of its online Olympic videos to smartphones and tablets.
THE CAREERS SERVICE
The Careers Service: The Web Developer This week, we find out about the skills and qualifications necessary to become a successful web designer working in the education sector…
eb design is a huge business right now. Any business worth its salt needs a website that stands out, both in terms of functionality and user experience. Paul Timney is a web developer working in education, creating a platform for pupils and teachers to use to support their classroom work.
What do you do?
I’m the senior web developer for Kenton School, managing an in-house production team of three web developers and a graphic designer. We build and maintain the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) for the school, which is our bespoke platform that provides pupils with online resources to support their learning.
What does a typical day look like for you? What hours do you work?
My day starts at 8am. Since we support the entire school, our work comes from a variety of departments, year leaders, pupils and staff. One day I’m coding an interactive game for the History department, the next I’m building a room booking system for our huge campus. I’d say 80% of my day is coding, 20% is managing work, colleagues and customers. My day ends at 4pm. Scheduling our day to have that extra hour after school gives us a nice little window of time to test pieces of code without disrupting classroom teaching.
How did you get into the job?
The senior web developer job was advertised in the local papers, and at the time I was working for a national bank in a systems documentation role, so the initial appeal was the chance to be a developer again. At the interview I got the chance to see first-hand the existing VLE, to talk through the extremely ambitious and progressive aims of the school, meet senior managers and really get a feel for what it would be like to work at Kenton School. I was lucky enough to be told that I was what the school was looking for. That was over four years ago and it’s the best career decision I’ve ever made.
What kinds of skills are essential to doing your job?
What qualifications did you need for the position?
When it was advertised, my post specifically asked for a computing science degree (I have a BSc (Hons) in multimedia computing), but experience and a strong, diverse portfolio of work is just as important as qualifications.
What’s the best thing about doing your job?
Until recently I would have said the variety, as literally no two days are the same, but over the past 18 months, I’ve been working with one of our pupils on an ‘extended work experience’. This pupil is on the autistic spectrum but has a staggering proclivity for web development. My time with this pupil has been more rewarding than any other job or project I’ve done over my career and I’m hoping to offer apprenticeships to other pupils.
What advice would you give someone wanting a similar career to yours?
The most successful developers I’ve met are all approachable and willing to talk like a human being, not in coding gibberish. Save the technical talk for your local networking events (which you should totally make the time to attend!). If you can demystify the ‘techie stuff’, then people will remember your contributions, listen to what you say and seek your advice on new projects. mm
With iGoogleâ€™s doors closing next year, David Hayward has a look at a few alternatives to the customisable start page
or those of you who donâ€™t know, Google has decided to pull the plug on iGoogle some time in November 2013. For many, this is just another in the long line of Google projects that have bitten the dust over time. For others, though, iGoogle has been their preferred web start page since it appeared on monitors way back in 2005. Apparently, Google is discontinuing iGoogle due to the fact that it believes the need for it has eroded over time. However, there was a time when over eight million people used iGoogle and something like 25% of all visits to Googleâ€™s home page came via iGoogle, so why get rid of it? One of the many theories is the unforeseen evolution of the internet, and the rise of the mobile and handheld smart device market along with their associated apps, which can provide the same information push as iGoogle but without the need for the administration of the iGoogle page and controls. Another theory is that Google is now concentrating its efforts and pushing Google+, after the lacklustre response the service has accumulated over the last year of its existence. Although, according to Google, over 100 million
iGOOGLE ALTERNATIVE users are now signed up to Google+, signing up and actually using are two very different things indeed. Whatever the reason, iGoogle will be gone in a year; so what do we have as an alternative for those iGoogle refugees? As it happens, there’s a decent selection of customisable ‘start pages’, as they are known, which can be used to replace the faithful friend that was iGoogle. The following are three of the most interesting we found with just a very brief search, along with more in the extra boxout. As a start page is a very personal thing, it’s difficult to gauge what one person finds cool and another finds outright ugly. The choice, as always, is up to you, but check these out before you make the move from iGoogle.
Netvibes certainly looks like a contender
Netvibes, as it’s advertised, is a personalised dashboard publishing platform for digital life management. Despite being a descriptive mouthful, Netvibes is probably the most complete solution for iGoogle you’ll find. Using a collection of widgets, you can gain access to everything from email to the results of the local under-12s football team, there’s pretty much a widget for every occasion built into Netvibes. To start, head to bit.ly/QedNkn, and click the green ‘Get Started’ button. You’ll now be sent to the pricing page, with three options: the free version, which is what we’ll be using; the Premium version, which does everything and costs an unbelievable $499 per month (yes, you read it right!); and finally the Premium for Teams, which would involve a customised dashboard for companies and the like for their agents to connect with. Unless you have more money than sense, then we’re guessing you should click the ‘Go Basic’ button to start using the Free version. Once you’ve signed up, either by filling in the boxes, or via the Facebook app, you’ll be redirected to your new start page. The screen is divided into widgets that can feed all sorts of information to you, and tabs that can split the screen and allow you show as many widgets as you possibly can an infinite number of times. Add this to the ability to create an unlimited number of dashboards and we think that even the most connected of users will be satisfied with what Netvibes has to offer.
Netvibes is a serious alternative to iGoogle
Yes, you read it correctly, $499 per month!
The desktop can become an extremely cluttered place remarkably quickly if you get a little gung-ho with the adding of widgets, so prudence is advised here. However, once you have a clear
and visible page, Netvibes turns out to be a worthy successor to iGoogle. There is some tweaking involved, but with a little perseverance you’ll find that Netvibes does an admiral job of
Ustart is lightweight and fun, plus it’s amazingly quick to load
displaying everything you’ll ever need to know.
On the heels of Netvibes, with its vast array of functionality, is the free service UStart.org. UStart.org is a French company that has created a surprisingly powerful start page that is as customisable as iGoogle or Netvibes. Start by navigating to ustart.org, which goes without saying really, and you’ll be greeted with a helpful but brief setup wizard, which will walk you through the initial setting up of your new Ustart home page. From here you can choose which widgets will be present, what social networking elements will be included and what theme you’d like to have. Once you have your page, you can opt to kill off certain widgets, or include many more via ‘Customise Your Page’. The usual suspects are there to begin with: weather, email, Facebook, Twitter and some kind of news feed along with a very Windows 8 Metro-looking time and date in the top right of the screen. The array of widgets available isn’t as extensive as what Netvibes has to offer, and in many ways this comes across as being slightly better, as a little too many widgets can spoil the start page. In addition to the number of widgets, you can also click on the ‘More’ link located in the top left of the screen to open up a new blank page ready to filled with whatever you want. This can be done just the
once, but offers more real-estate to fill. Next to the ‘More’ link there’s an ‘RSS Reader’ link, which will display, in a list format, all the RSS feeds in chronological order that you receive via the widgets you have installed. Although this may look messy, it does provide icons from where the feed has come from, whether that’s Facebook or the BBC for instance. Also, you can opt to display the feeds in a more detailed fashion or as a mosaic, but then you’re sacrificing the actual content of the feed for the more graphical look of icons and titles.
Once you have the page in a view you like, you can sign up to save the current format and have it displayed from any internet available machine the world over. Signing up is free, unobtrusive and as easy as either filling in the name, password boxes or by clicking on the ‘Login with Facebook’ box. Although UStart.org may not seem quite as polished or as graphically rich as Netvibes, it provides an excellent replacement for iGoogle and is one of the quickest pages we’ve seen load up in a long time. So if you want a simple, yet information-filled start page, then
We only displayed three alternatives, but as you can imagine, there are tons more. Here are some worthy mentions: My Yahoo: Yahoo has its own iGoogle-type homepage, with a selection of widgets and themes to satisfy you. Spaaze: Spaaze is a continuous corkboard of customisable information. It’s interesting, to say the least, and what it lacks in functionality it gains in looks. Protopage: Protopage is a kind of simpler look and feel to UStart, although it requires a little more setting up before you get it to look like an iGoogle replacement. Genieo: This is a really cool alternative. It’s a newspaper-styled start page that monitors the pages you’ve visited and the sites you visit most often. Check it out. Myfav.es: There’s no account needed with Myfav.es, it just displays large icons on the screen that you click to navigate to. Startpage.co.uk: A UK-based start page that can be used to create a decent replacement for iGoogle.
iGOOGLE ALTERNATIVE Symbaloo, with its tiles and Webmixes. Very modern
consider UStart.org as your homepage of the future.
This next start page is somewhat different than what we’re generally used to. Symbaloo displays a variety of coloured tiles, from RSS feeds to the usual mail checkers and weather apps, making for an interesting, if somewhat exotic looking and feeling home page. Start by going to bit.ly/QqSdIr and clicking on the ‘Start Tour’ app that’s in the centre of the screen. From this you’ll learn that the pages are called a ‘Webmix’ and consist of a compilation of pre-built or customised tiles that can display whatever you want, within reason, in the centre console. Creating a tile is as easy as clicking on one of the blank areas of the Webmix and filling in the appropriate boxes. You can opt to point the tile to a website, news source, radio station or one of the embedded pre-built functions. After that, you can name your new tile, choose the text colour, and design your tile with either a preselection of coloured backgrounds or by uploading one of your own images. Once the newly created tile is finished, click on ‘Add tile to Webmix’ and drag it to wherever you want in the Webmix screen. Editing the tile can be done by right-clicking on it and choosing edit
from the menu, which is also occupied by open, delete, copy/move and post to Twitter or Facebook. Creating a new Webmix is just as easy. Simply click on the ‘Add a Webmix’ link at the top of the screen and follow the wizard through its paces, but to be honest you’ll probably be suitably satisfied with the current selection of Home, Collection, News Highlights and Major News, which are arranged as tabs along the top of the screen. The Webmix can be edited to fill the screen or expanded/shrunk by small increments, and you can choose a different background from a preselection or by uploading your own image. By resizing the Webmix you’ll also be adding more space for tiles, so there’s plenty of space available for any extras, should you ever need them. As well as creating your own personal home page, Webmix and collection of tiles, you can also share your efforts with other Symbaloo users by accessing their public contributions of Webmix’s and tiles, or you could just opt for a constructed mix of the two, personal and public. Symbaloo is certainly a different look than what we’ve been used to all these years, and it’s quite a bold attempt at creating a new start page. It’s easy to use and can be very productive when you have it configured to your exact
requirements, but what it lacks is the quick one glance and click if you’re interested in a link, email, or news feed that comes in via any of the usual widgets you have installed. By having to physically click to view the BBC News feed, for instance, instead of having it permanently there is a feature that’s going to turn many users off using Symbaloo. Perhaps if it used a ‘Metro’-style method of displaying the latest feed inside the tile, then it may appeal more? Either way, give it a try and see what you think.
As we said earlier, the start page is a personal thing; you need to be able to customise it depending on what trends you want to follow this week. You need it to provide key information at a single glance, and you don’t want to have to go searching for information that you can easily have with a single click of the mouse. Will there ever be a replacement for iGoogle, or will we just end up using Chrome’s start page, or any of the speed dials that are now available in every browser? Who knows? Personally, my money is on Windows 8 Metro taking over as the interactive web-enabled start page, providing apps to email, news feeds and so on that can be viewed, configured and opened easily and all within a nicely packaged operating system. mm
Tips, Tricks & Tweaks: VirtualBox This week, David Hayward has a look at the rather excellent VirtualBox
y the time you read this, version 4.2 of the ever popular VirtualBox from Oracle will have been released into the wilds of the Internet. It will support such wonderful things as 3D-related graphical loveliness, improvements to the OS X host, support for up to 36 network cards, the ability to start virtual machines during system boot on Linux and various memory leaks plugged. Indeed, VirtualBox, although regarded as the poorer cousin when compared to the liked of VMWare, isn’t all that bad, and with a few tips, tricks and tweaks, it can be made even better.
If you haven’t already installed the very fine VirtualBox, then simply head over to goo.gl/T4lm7 and download the package that best suits your system. Once that’s down, click on the link for the VirtualBox VM Extension Pack, which provides further improvements and adds support for more goodies. Install the lot and click ‘New’ to start hosting some near perfect virtual machines.
Building your own image isn’t to everyone’s taste, although to truly appreciate VirtualBox, it’s best if you do at least try, so why not have a look at goo.gl/1bBto. This site contains many free VirtualBox images, ready for download and inclusion as if you had built them yourself. Although many of them are fairly new, there are some that haven’t been updated for several months. Generally speaking, the people who post the images make sure that they’re up to date on the day of their creation, but as well you know, all lot can happen in the vibrant world of the operating system in just the space of a week! To include a downloaded, pre-built image in VirtualBox:
clone an image, VirtualBox has included a command-line executable to aid with all sorts of image-related tasks. • Drop into a command line, and navigate to the VirtualBox installation path. • Type in, vboxmanage clonehd ‘path to the source image. vdi’ ‘path to the destination image.vdi’, and press Enter. • Obviously, you’ll need to change the ‘path to the ... image.vdi’ with your own settings.
Clone Existing Images (VirtualBox GUI)
For those who don’t want to go into the intricacies of the command line, there’s also a handy GUI-based way of cloning via VirtualBox itself: • Click on ‘File’ > ‘Virtual Media Manager’. • Highlight the image to clone. • Click on ‘Copy’ to begin the copy image wizard.
Convert An Image To RAW Format
VirtualBox, when it creates a VDI image, compresses the virtual machine and stamps it with the necessary elements for it to work on VirtualBox. To clone an existing image, without any compression, for use on another virtual machine application, do the following: • Drop into a command line, and navigate to the VirtualBox install path. • Type in ‘vboxmanage clonehd --format RAW ‘path to source image.vdi’ ‘path to destination image.raw’, and press Enter.
• Click on the ‘Add’ button. • Enter the operating system name (e.g. DOS), and - usually - the version will auto fill. If not, choose the closest working model. • Using the slider, choose the ‘Base Memory Size’, but don’t leave your host system without any available RAM. • Click on the radio button ‘Use existing hard disk’, and point it to the downloaded image. • Click ‘Create’, followed by ‘Start’ to power up the new virtual machine.
Clone Existing Images (Command Line)
Sometimes a simple copy and paste can have disastrous effects on a virtual machine file; after all, this is a virtual operating system contained in a file. Therefore to help you successfully
Seamless mode will make virtual machines work... Err... seamlessly
TIPS, TRICKS & TWEAKS It may take a little while, depending on the size of the image, but after you’ll have an uncompressed RAW file of the virtual machine image, ready for transport to any number of other virtual machine applications.
Convert RAW To VDI
Likewise, should you have a current RAW image of a virtual machine and you want it to be VirtualBox compatible, then do the following: • Drop into the command line, and again, navigate to the VirtualBox installation path. • Type in, vboxmanage convertfromraw --format VDI ‘path to source image.vdi’ ‘path to destination image.raw’, and press Enter. The RAW image file will be converted (this may take more time than converting from VDI to RAW), and you can add the image in the same way as mentioned earlier.
Installing OS X
There are many different and conflicting ways to install Mac OS X as a virtual machine within VirtualBox. Each has its merits but there’s the overhanging legality to installing a paid-for operating system. Of course, this is generally considered as okay if you already own and have paid for the said operating system, but getting it working 100% is something of a chore. However, those kind folks at Lifehacker have provided a walkthrough of sorts. While they’re copying the step-by-step process as mentioned in a site called ‘Tek411’ they seem to find it relatively sound to mention the getting hold of a copy of the OSX86 ISO, no doubt from some unmentionable and dubious download site. While we at Micro Mart hold no truck with the downloading of something naughty; we’ll leave the ethics of the procedure up to your good selves. Nevertheless, providing you legally own a copy of OS X, then have a read of goo.gl/7TtAv, and you should be in good stead to install it under VirtualBox.
Install Guest Additions
When you have your virtual machine up and running, whether it’s Linux or Windows based, take a moment to click on ‘Devices’ > ‘Install Guest Additions’, from the top bar in the active virtual machine window.
There are quite a lot of supported hosts, but these should work perfectly, without any issues, including the installation of the Guest Additions (listing from VirtualBox.org): Windows hosts: • Windows XP, all service packs (32-bit) • Windows Server 2003 (32-bit) • Windows Vista (32-bit and 64-bit). • Windows Server 2008 (32-bit and 64-bit) • Windows 7 (32-bit and 64-bit) Mac OS X hosts (Intel hardware required): • 10.5 (Leopard, 32-bit) • 10.6 (Snow Leopard, 32-bit and 64-bit) • 10.7 (Lion, 32-bit and 64-bit) Linux hosts (32-bit and 64-bit). Among others, this includes: • Ubuntu 6.06 - 12.04 • Debian GNU/Linux 3.1 (‘sarge’), 4.0 (‘etch’), 5.0 • (‘lenny’) and 6.0 (‘squeeze’) • Oracle Enterprise Linux 4 and 5, Oracle Linux 6 • Redhat Enterprise Linux 4, 5 and 6 • Fedora Core 4 to 17 • Gentoo Linux • SUSE Linux 9, 10 and 11, openSUSE 10.3, 11.0, 11.1, • 11.2, 11.3, 11.4 • Mandriva 2007.1, 2008.0, 2009.1, 2010.0 and 2010.1 Solaris hosts (32-bit and 64-bit) are supported with the restrictions listed in: • Solaris 11 (Nevada build 86 and higher, OpenSolaris 2008.05 and higher, Solaris 11 Express) • Solaris 10 (u8 and higher) The Guest Additions is great and will install the relevant drivers for the VirtualBox graphics capabilities, Shared Folders, Hardware Acceleration, Seamless Windows, USB, sound and network, as well as performance and stability optimisations.
Seamless Windows, as mentioned above in the Guest Additions, is a very cool feature that’s often overlooked. The Seamless Windows allows you to have the windows that are displayed within a virtual machine appear seamlessly on top of and side by side in the main host’s desktop. So if you have a Linux host, with a Windows XP virtual machine, you could start VirtualBox, initiate the Seamless Windows and use XP as if it was the installed host operating system, yet still have access to the Gnome panel, for example. It’s worth having a play around with, and although it can feel a little confusing to start with, give it a go and see if you can find a worthwhile use for it. To execute Seamless Windows, just press the ‘Host’ key, usually the right Ctrl+L. To return to a normal windowed mode, press the same again.
Loads More To Do
VirtualBox, where operating systems live together in harmony. It’s
There’s simple too much to mention in just a couple of pages, but by checking out the VirtualBox site and Googling some specific elements, you’ll soon become masters of the virtual machine and start creating your own customised versions of an operating system. If you do, how about sharing them with us via the Micro Mart forum, for instance? mm
enough to make Macca write a song about it
The Evolution Of
The Computer Virus Sarah Dobbs looks at how computer viruses have changed with the times, and how you’ll need to stay on your toes to keep from catching one
ou don’t need me to tell you to keep your anti-virus software up to date. You’ve heard it all already. You probably never open emails from people you don’t know, especially not if they have attachments. However, viruses are constantly changing, becoming sneakier and more malicious. As technology changes and as users become more savvy, the creators of malicious software change to keep up (which is why you not only need to have anti-virus software, but you need to make sure it’s kept up to date. Of course, you already knew that). Let’s go back to the beginning, and look at how the computer virus has changed over the decades…
There’s some debate over what really qualifies as the first ever computer virus,
but ‘Creeper’, created by Robert Thomas in 1971, seems like a good contender for that title. It wasn’t a malicious piece of code, though: Thomas was working at BBN, creating packet-switching networks, when he decided to see if he could write a self-replicating program and see how it would spread across the company’s network if he did. Actually, Creeper didn’t replicate itself; instead, it moved from one computer to another, displaying the message “I’m the creeper, catch me if you can” on the infected machine before moving on to another computer. The invention of Creeper was swiftly followed by the creation of ‘Reaper’, a program designed to remove Creeper from infected computers. Thomas probably didn’t realise it at the time, but he’d stumbled onto something that would create an industry and cause untold problems for decades to come.
BBN used DEC PDP-10 computers, which were commonly found in universities in the 1970s. The first operating system to host a virus, then, was TENEX, but it wouldn’t be long before other computers, and other operating systems, started to catch viruses of their own…
In 1982, 15-year-old Rich Skrenta created a sneaky bit of code that could infect Apple II computers via floppy disk. The Elk Cloner would pop up a poem on screen every 50th time an infected machine rebooted: It will get on all your disks It will infiltrate your chips Yes, it’s Cloner! It will stick to you like glue It will modify RAM too Send in the Cloner!
EVOLUTION OF THE VIRUS Because it could only spread via floppies, though, it didn’t spread too far - not least because Skrenta’s friends soon learned not to take disks from him. The term ‘virus’, to refer to selfreplicating malicious computer code, wasn’t coined until the following year. Fred Cohen, then a grad student at the University of Southern California, demonstrated how he could take control of several Unix machines on the university’s network via a self-replicating program, and his professor, Len Adleman, called it a virus. When he wrote his PhD, Cohen defined a computer virus as “a program that can infect other programs by modifying them to include a, possibly evolved, version of itself.” Now the phenomenon had a name and, for the first time, a semblance of purpose, beyond just playing tricks on people. No longer just a thought experiment or a cute prank, viruses started to become a real menace in the late 1980s.
In 1986, 19-year-old programmer Basit Farooq Alvi created the Brain virus, which infected IBM-compatible computers running MS-DOS, replacing an infected computer’s boot sector with a copy of itself. The following year, another DOS virus emerged: the Jerusalem virus, which lay dormant on infected computers until any Friday 13th, when it deleted program files. Also in 1987, another boot sector virus emerged, this one targeting Amiga computers. The most notable virus of the late 80s, though, was the Morris worm, created by Robert Tappan Morris Jr. The Morris worm didn’t do much harm initially, but computers could become infected more than once, and eventually, an affected machine would be running so many instances of the worm that it wouldn’t be able to run properly. Infecting Unix computers, spreading over the internet, the Morris worm was the first virus to catch the media’s attention. Suddenly, computer viruses appeared to be a legitimate threat - especially because no one really had much security in place to defend their computers against them. Despite claiming he hadn’t meant to do any harm with his worm, Morris Jr was arrested, tried and found guilty of violating the US Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and he got a $10,000 fine. That might seem a bit steep, considering only around 6,000 computers were infected, but it set a precedent.
Throughout the 90s, viruses continued to mutate and change. The Michelangelo virus, which activated on 6th March, caused some media outlets to recommend that computers users didn’t switch their machines on at any point on that day in 1992; a virus called Concept spread through Microsoft Word documents in 1995; and the Melissa virus, which sent out automated emails through Microsoft Outlook from any infected computer, wreaked havoc briefly in 1999. As Windows machines became commonplace and home computers became the norm, viruses started to become a problem for the average person, not just network administrators or corporations. In the 2000s, there were too many viruses in the wild to enumerate here, but some particularly notable ones included the ‘ILOVEYOU’ worm, which spread via email with ‘ILOVEYOU’ as the subject line and a fake love letter attached; the Anna Kournikova virus, which purported to be an emailed photo of the tennis player but actually launched a script to send itself on to everyone in the victim’s contacts list; and the Blaster worm, which contained a message to Bill Gates, telling him to fix his software to make its exploits impossible. One of the first viruses to target websites was the Santy worm, which infected around 4,000 websites that were running phpBB forums. It didn’t affect computers but defaced websites with a message that said “This site is defaced!!!” It might have been more than 20 years since Skrenta’s teenage pranks, but many viruses still amounted to little more than a desire on the part of the programmer to show off.
More Serious Consequences
In 2007, though, a nastier strain of virus emerged, in the form of the Storm worm. Initially spread through emails purporting to be about the weather, it didn’t do much that was noticeable to the victim’s computer, or at least not to start with. What it did was co-opt infected computers into a botnet, an enormous network of computers all doing things without their owners’ knowledge or permission, usually including criminal activities. The Storm botnet, among other things, is used to send out spam, and since millions of computers are infected with the Storm worm, in 2008 it was estimated that around 20% of all spam was sent by the Storm botnet. Yikes. Probably the scariest virus in recent years was the DNSChanger virus. Discovered last November, this crafty bit of malware found its way onto around four million computers, and quietly redirected DNS entries to the creator’s own servers. The virus’s primary function was to swap out online advertising for its own versions, but it also prevented infected
Trust No One
We all know better than to click on links in emails from strangers, but what about links shared via Twitter DMs or Facebook chat, from people we actually know? It’s usually pretty easy to recognise when a friend’s email account has been hacked and is sending out spam (unless you know people who really sell herbal Viagra), but it can be harder to spot on social networks, especially in a chat window or Twitter message. It’s very, very easy to click on something malicious without thinking, and scammers often hijack social networks to spread their malware.
computers from downloading updates to anti-virus software. The FBI managed to track down the criminals responsible, but turning off their servers would have left victims without internet access at all, so a massive campaign was launched to encourage people to check their computers for infection (and remove it, with the free tools provided) or face losing their connection on 9th July. By then, the number of still-infected machines was down to an estimated 300,000 worldwide, which is still pretty huge, all things considered.
Somewhere along the way, it started to seem like Apple or Linux machines were safer than Windows computers. Mostly that was because there were fewer of them in use, so malware creators tended to target Microsoft users. Rather than there being safety in numbers, there was a greater risk of picking up something nasty if you were using a common operating system. But nothing’s safe forever. While Apple used to advertise its computers as being virus-free, it’s recently removed that claim. In 2006, the anti-virus company McAfee warned that OS X had become a target for malware creators, especially since Apple had started using Intel processors in its computers, and the iPod had become so ubiquitous that it practically had a big red target drawn on its back. In 2007, a proof-of-concept iPod virus was demonstrated, and this April, it emerged that around 600,000 Macs had been infected with the Flashback Trojan, which spreads through a fake Adobe Flash
A little protection can go a long way
Player and steals user passwords as well as recruiting Macs into a botnet. From now on, Mac users are going to need to be just as cautious online and just as vigorous about installing and maintaining anti-virus software as PC users. Linux users, on the other hand, can still be pretty smug about the likelihood of picking up anything nasty online… for now.
The Next Generation
Of course, it’s not just desktop computers that can get infected with viruses. Mobile traffic currently makes up around 10% of all internet traffic, and that number is only going to rise as time goes on. The first mobile phone virus turned up in 2004; it was another proof-of-concept job, which
According to a report put out by Kaspersky Lab earlier this year, viruses were most likely to be found embedded in entertainment websites. Other places where malicious links were commonly found: 31%: 22%: 21%: 14%: 12%:
Be Careful Out There
Entertainment sites Search engines Social networks Adult sites Adverts
Kaspersky also looked at the applications most commonly targeted by malicious users: 35%: 25%: 11%: 4%: 4%: 1%: 20%:
Adobe Acrobat Java Windows components Internet Explorer Android root Adobe Flash Misc other apps
spread via Bluetooth, infecting phones running Nokia’s now defunct operating system Symbian. By 2010, an Android virus was being reported in the wild. The not particularly catchily named Trojan-SMS. AndroidOS.FakePlayer.a was capable of hijacking an infected phone and sending text messages, potentially racking up a massive bill for the unfortunate victim. Want the really worrying news? Some security firms reckon that really reliable mobile anti-virus software doesn’t yet exist, and many existing products just aren’t worth paying for. Jacques Erasmus, chief information security officer at security firm Webroot, reckons hackers could target trusted apps on the Google Play store and add malicious updates, which hapless Android users would download without a second thought. Mobile botnets are also starting to be reported too. It seems like before much longer, every security threat you might worry about on your PC will apply to your phone too.
Every prediction for the future right now seems to suggest more and more devices will eventually be connected to the internet. Could we be facing a world in which viruses could mess with our internet connected fridges, letting our milk go off and our eggs spoil? Or zombie internet cars, driven by a criminal on the other side of the world? Well, let’s not get too carried away, but it is important to remember that anything that can connect to a network is potentially vulnerable. That brings us back to the beginning: do make sure your anti-virus protection is up to date, won’t you? mm
As American as cherry pie? Not really: this peripheral company has been bought out and is now based in Germany…
ou might be familiar with the Cherry brand name already. You might even use a Cherry keyboard or mouse on a regular basis. But does the name ZF Electronics mean anything to you? Well, since 2008, they’ve been the same company. Let’s take a look back at the origins of the peripheral maker… Cherry’s founder, Walter Cherry, set up the company in 1953, working from the basement of a restaurant in Highland Park, Illinois. Originally named Cherry Electrical Products, the company initially had only seven employees, but it very quickly established itself, and within a year, its flagship product, the snap action microswitch, had become known as a ‘Cherry switch’. Cherry switches are used in all kinds of electronic devices, including industrial, automotive and medical products, but they’re probably most commonly associated with computer keyboards. Cherry manufactured its first keyboard in 1967, which means the company gets to lay claim to being the oldest keyboard manufacturer in the world, with 45 years of keyboard-building under its belt. Cherry’s early successes let it set up a string of subdivisions and ventures all over the world. In 1963, it launched its first European operation, setting up Cherry Mikroschalter GmbH in Germany. In 1970, it built a new head office and factory based in Waukegan, Illinois, then swiftly followed that up by entering into a new joint venture in Japan: Hirose Cherry Precision Company. In 1972, Cherry Electrical Products Ltd launched an English arm, and in 1980, a distribution centre was set up in France. Cherry’s business more than doubled during the 1980s, and in 1986, Cherry Electrical Products became Cherry Corp, a name that the company hoped reflected its varied business interests. Cherry entered yet another market in 1989, when it created Cherasia Ltd, a Hong Kong division, but then the company’s fortunes started to change. In the early 90s, the market for Cherry’s computer parts suddenly seemed to slump. Its stock prices fell and sales plummeted. In 1992, Walter Cherry stepped down as chairman of the company, letting his son, Peter Cherry, take over. After a while, Cherry seemed to recover. In the years that followed, the company set up yet more international operations, setting up shop in Australia, the Czech Republic, India, and Mexico. Its engineers, based mostly in the
Auerbach factory, worked on various keyboard-related innovations, including a gold-crosspoint system for gaming keyboards and a solarpowered keyboard. The combination of innovative technologies, Cherry’s reputation for reliability, and its worldwide reach meant that by the mid-2000s, Cherry was clearing almost $400 million in sales every year. It might have come as a surprise, then, that in 2008, Cherry Corp was acquired by German automotive company ZF Friedrichshafen. If you squint, though, it makes a certain sort of sense: all along, Cherry switches had had a wide range of applications, and it started to manufacture switches for use in the automotive industry in 1965. If ZF Friedrichshafen wanted to improve its electronics expertise, Cherry had the experience. And although the company has been completely incorporated and now exists as ZF Electronics, the Cherry brand hasn’t been abandoned. You’ll still find those little red cherries on several ranges of keyboards and mice; it’s just that the company is now based in Germany - but then its manufacturing arm always has been there.
At A Glance Founded: 1953 Founder: Walter Cherry Based in: Auerbach in der Oberpfalz, Germany Known for: Switches, keyboards and other peripherals Annual turnover: €250 million Staff: 3,100 Website: www.cherry.de
World Of Goobuntu What's Goobuntu? What's a Cubieboard, and is OpenSUSE creating a 12.2 ARM version? David Hayward has a look
David Hayward has been using Linux since Red Hat 2.0 in schools, businesses and at home, which either makes him very knowledgeable or a glutton for extreme punishment
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lthough not the most staggering news item ever reported on in the Linux world, this little snippet from the LinuxCon this week gives us an insight into what some of the big IT companies use as their in-house systems. Google engineer Thomas Bushnell has stated that the search engine's internal IT desktop team deploy a certain popular Linux distro for daily use, and it's deployed to its graphic designers, managers, software and systems engineers. According to the inner echelons of the mighty Google, Bushnell and his team go forth and install the latest LTS Ubuntu along with some specific resources that give access to the various internal workings for the Google engineers. As said by Bushnell, "Just go get Ubuntu and run it and you've got Goobuntu." As far as security is concerned, any application that can leave a gaping hole has been plugged, as has any attempt to access a remote or home server, and Goobuntu uses the Google internal software respository, as opposed to the Ubuntu's. Apparently, Bushnell and his team (and Google in general) much prefer the Debian packaging system, instead of Red Hat's RPM, due to the fact that dependency relationships are easier to solve and that the system is far superior. I suppose it's no great surprise that someone like Google uses a well-established off-the-shelf distro for its Linux machines, but it's food for thought and slightly interesting, at the very least.
is overwhelming. Ever since the launch of the Raspberry Pi, every man and his dog has been cashing in on developing and releasing the next big little thing. Some of the tiny boards that are released aren't really worth the extortionate amount they're asking for, but one or two do have some very interesting possibilities. Take, for example, the Cubieboard. It's another palm-sized offering, with Ethernet, HDMI output, two USB ports and an MMC slot. This is fairly standard these days, but an added extra has piqued the interest of those who are into such things: the addition of a SATA connector. Now, instead of having to include a powered USB hub to cater for keyboard, mouse and a link to a hard drive, you can plug that 3TB SATA drive directly into the board, effectively making a more versatile 'computer'. And with a 1GHz cortex-A8 processor, Mali400 GPU and 1GB of RAM, the Cubieboard is certainly no slouch, making it an ideal media centre for the discrete lounge user.
The wealth of super small computers available nowadays The Cubieboard. An RPi challenger?
It comes with a unspecified version of Android pre-installed, but other ARM-based flavours can be added, as with the other boards of this type. The cost? Well, at the moment the Cubieboard comes in at a rather gentle $49, or ÂŁ30.61 to those of us this side of the Atlantic. Not a bad contender for its more famous cousin, wouldn't you say? Anyway, there's not a huge amount of information as of yet, but the project's site is being constantly updated, so pop along to cubieboard.org, and see what's new.
Yes, it's apparently true. An ARM-based version of OpenSUSE 12.2 is currently being worked on, along with many of the new features that the recent release has been accredited with. The ARM CPU is certainly proving to be a force to be reckoned with, as nearly all the major Linux distributions have now implemented their wares onto this platform. OpenSUSE ARM should be available in a few weeks.
Amiga Update Sven Harvey brings you more updates from the Amigaverse
onsidering this is supposed to be a dead platform, it's amazing the amount that is actually going on!
Following an extended hitaus of over 18 months, the Intuition Base website has been brought back to life thanks to new contributors Eldee Stephens, Antti Korhola, John Nelson and Jonathan Haddock helping out site originator Darren Glenn. The site is a repository of information about Amiga OS4.x and its hardware and is rapidly being updated to the changes in the last couple of years, though links to information about at A1-X1000 have been added already. Check the site out at www.intuitionbase.com.
AmiKit upgrades itself on booting thanks to AmiKitAutoUpdate, so once installed from within the AmigaForever player or directly from an image along with the appropriate Kickstart ROM and a Workbench installation, you'll get the lastest version. However if starting from scratch (especially on a PC) it's worth considering Amiga Forever, because everything is present and ready to go - just head to www. amigaforever.com. However, you can grab just AmiKit itself from amikit.amiga.sk.
In the last couple of weeks, AmiSystemRestore (from os4depot.net) has reached its third beta version while the 0.6 beta of AmiDark (2D game engine) is also available from www.amidark-engine. com. Also over at os4depot. net is the third release (R3) candidate for Timberwolf - the Amiga reimplementation of Mozilla/Firefox.
With the Amiga Mini seemingly having been relegated to being nothing more than a casing now that Commodore USA encourages you to put your own hardware in, the company is now offering a new 'Amiga' configuration, which is actually an x64 PC box. Using a variation Amiga Mini casing (but only in black), a cheaper motherboard appears to have been employed, with the available specs only including a Sandybridge i3 processor with no other options at point of assembly. The machine starts at an eye-watering US$995 without monitor and includes the Commodore OS, which is a Linux flavour. The specifications are: • • • • • • • • • •
Upgradeable to 16GB of fast DD3 memory. (4GB as standard). Integrated NVidia GeForce GT 430 graphics with 1GB of DD3 memory. HDMI, dual DVI and DisplayPort output (includes VGA adaptor). 7.1-channel high-definition sound. 6Gbps SATA for incredibly fast HD reads. 2 x USB 3.0 and 2 x USB 2.0 ports for exceptional external data access. A slot-loading Blu-ray drive that can also write DVDs. 2 x wi-fi antennas for outstanding signal reception. A 320GB hard disk storage for video and personal data. A 6-in-1 memory card reader (MMC/SD/SDHC/MS/MS Pro/xD)
WorldMags.net Just a shame it's x64 based and that the new AmigaOS can't go near it!
Sven Harvey has been our Amiga specialist for over 12 years, drawing on his vast computing knowledge which is itself the result of 21 years of retailing computer and video games
The latest edition of AmiKit has been released. Now up to 1.6.2, Amikit is a specially enhanced AmigaOS installation with pre-installed software packages tailored to give the
best classic Amiga experience possible, usually via emulation in combination with Amiga Forever. The front-end has three options: either Scalos, Workbench or even (Directory Opus) Magellan II. The AmiKit environment is based on AmigaOS 3.9 and thus includes all the OS updates for that release. Also included are full versions of certain software for you to try out in the Amiga environment. One rather major inclusion is Realsoft's Real 3D, which in its modern Windows/Mac form is now called Realsoft 3D. Along with Real3D is Phenomena, the particle physics program from Delta Knowledge for the rendering program. Other full programs are also included. Even the odd game is included, such as the Tales Of Tamar, and of course because it's based on AmigaOS 3.9, there's a plethora of games and applications you can use on the installation. WHDLoad works happily, so installations of games and scene demos using that system can be used.
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Amazon Turns Up The Heat The online retail giant announces a ream of new gadgets. Ian McGurren checks them out
Ian is a professional IT analyst, a semiprofessional writer and a pretty amateur electronic musician. He likes gadgetry and loves making gadgets do things they were never designed to do
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et's face it, there are loads of tablets to choose from, from excellent to good to downright terrible. Previously, the most reliable benchmark of quality was cost, with the better quality devices coming at an understandable premium. However, in recent months this has all been changed, with Google's Nexus 7, a high-quality tablet for just £159. It would seem that it's all over, then? Well, Amazon might have something to say about that... Originally released in the USA in 2011, the Kindle Fire was Amazon's tablet version of its already wildly popular Kindle e-book reader. Like other e-book-related tablets before it (Barnes & Noble's Nook Color, for example), it was basically an Android tablet with a lockeddown UI, so it could only perform Amazon-related tasks - read books, watch streamed films, browse the web. Powered by a dual-core 1GHz CPU and with a 7” 1024x600 IPS screen, it was no slouch. The price of $199 made it a sure-fire success. With the release of an updated Kindle Fire, Amazon has seen fit to finally bless us here in Europe with the device too. What's more, it'll be joined by the new Fire HD, though not the 8.9” version sadly. So what do the new Fires offer?
Kindle Fire HD
The Fire HD is the new premium Fire product,
available in two form factors: a 7” model in the vein of it's predecessor, though here with a 1280x800 screen, and the beefier 8.9” with an impressive resolution of 1920x1200. Both feature dual wi-fi aerials and Dolby mobile driving on-board dual speakers, and both are powered by a dual-core OMAP4 CPU (at 1.2GHz and 1.5GHz respectively) with a PowerVR GPU for enhanced video duties. There's 1GB in RAM and 16-64GB in storage available, but don't expect any micro-SD slots or OTG USB. The bad news for us in Europe, though, is that Amazon has only blessed our shores with the 7” model for £159 (8GB) and £199 (32GB).
Kindle Fire 2012
Essentially a turbo-charged version of the 2011 Fire, the 2012 model has a slight speed
bump to 1.2GHz dual-core and more RAM at 1GB. This simply means the device is much the same as the 2011 model but this time with an all-important price drop - it's being released here for an attractive £129. That's the good news, but unfortunately it's not all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows; there are some restrictions with the software. Essentially, the Fires are not Google authorised products, meaning they don't come with the full gamut of Google apps, including Gmail and, most importantly, Google Play. That's not to say they are bereft of apps, as they do come with Amazon's own app store, which boasts some 30,000 apps itself, though this lags behind the 600,000 that Google Play hosts. The basic Fire runs a heavily skinned version of Android 2.3, whereas the HD models run a 4.0 derivative, but both are locked down tight. If you just want books, browsing and video, or if you have a Kindle, and want to add to it with a tablet experience, the Fires are a good prospect, priced keenly and backed by a huge name in Amazon. However, they'e not tablets and are very much locked into the Amazon ecosystem, so if you want the true Android tablet experience, the Nexus 7 is still the best way to go.
Ridiculous Reality Shaun has seen an alternate reality, which will soon happen on the old Atari XE XL
Mayhem On The ZX81
After reporting on ten whole releases for the Sinclair ZX81 last week, I'm pleased to say that there are another couple of games for the binary beast from Revival Studios, both of which are available as digital downloads or on cassette tape costing €3.99 and €7.99 respectively (so approximately £6.50 for the cassette at current exchange rates). The first, called Mayhem, stars Clive Junior, a bearded
inventor with a passing resemblance to the great Sir Clive Sinclair, but with a full head of hair. His latest madcap invention has unfortunately failed quite dramatically, exploding into many pieces in his workshop, and you must help Clive Junior avoid the debris and collect any parts that can be salvaged. Avalanche is the other piece of entertainment software from the fledging development studio, and this one mixes Space Invaders with Tetris. The aim is to shoot the various gems that are falling down from the top of the screen, which are marked
with symbols. These must be matched to the current insignia on his ship. Matching four gems in a row will decrease the speed at which they float downwards, as well as increasing your score. To find out more and to check out the other 8-bit platforms supported by Revival Studios, head over to www.revivalstudios.com.
Shaun has a passionate interest in 8-bit computing and gaming, and has been finding novel ways to use retro technology since 1994
Game Of The Week: Toofy In Fan Land
Platform: Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48/128K Developer: Paul Jenkinson Publisher: Self-published - randomkak.blogspot. co.uk Toffy in Fan Land is a 2D platform game for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, which has been developed with Jonathan Cauldwell's excellent and clearly very powerful Arcade Game Designer. It features Toofy, a normally happy kind of creature who's seen all of his nuts maliciously stolen and scattered around a mysterious maze in the weird and wonderful world known as Fan Land. There are roamers that should be avoided, but in each screen there's also one or more whirling fans. When you manoeuvre Toffy over these, he's sent to whichever way the air is being blown and flips, so if there's one on the floor pointing up, he's thrown up to walk on the ceiling. This twist on the platform concept makes for an interesting game, as it requires some thought to get through each screen. So you could say there are some elements of a puzzle game thrown in for good measure, just to keep your grey matter working. Everything is nicely presented, as you'd expect, and there's some really challenging screens as well as some hidden ones just to keep you on your toes. Paul has developed some excellent games for the old Speccy, and the above link will list them all, so it's worth taking some time out to play this and his other titles to fill up on 8-bit goodness.
dam Wachowski is working on an Atari XE/XL remake of the cult Flash game Continuity, which mixes the traditional 2D platform game with elements of those annoying (or enjoyable) slider puzzles - you know the ones, where you have to put the squares back into order either as numbered or to make a picture. The original is by Martin 'Matosimi' Simecek, with the Atari version having what I would say are improved visuals. The task is to guide the trapped pixelated humanoid to the exit after grabbing the key to open the door. But the level is divided into square segments, which can be moved horizontally or vertically into the gap, therefore changing the layout and the available exits from that particular piece. Only if there is a proper link from one part to the other are you able to leave the current part of the puzzle. It sounds like such a simple concept, and so far looks like it'll be an excellent 8-bit game. This could be the best Atari release since the 3D bounce'em-up Yoomp! To check out the preview, head over to tinyurl. com/Atari-Reality.
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Ryan Lambie has loved video games since he first stared up in awe at a Galaxian arcade cabinet in his local chip shop. 28 years on, Ryan writes about gaming for Micro Mart. He’s still addicted to chips and still useless at Galaxian
Labour Of Love
This week, Ryan checks out the next instalment in the Call of Juarez series and takes a closer look at the indie MMORPG Love...
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Plug And Play
The wild west is a theme used sparingly in games, at least when compared to, say, sci-fi, fantasy or war. Techland’s Call of Juarez, released in 2007, and its sequel, 2009’s Bound in Blood, were rare exceptions, bringing Stetsons, sixshooters and the badlands of 19th century America to the first-person shooter in memorable style. Unfortunately, last year’s Call of Juarez: The Cartel, an attempt to bring the series’ grizzled outlaws into something resembling the present, was a thoroughly dismal experience. Somehow, Techland had lost its storytelling edge in the transition to modern Mexico, and lines such as “You’ve been spotted red-handed” did little to liven up the dreary plot about amoral cops versus vicious drug dealers. There’s new hope for Call of Juarez, though, in Techland’s next entry, subtitled The Gunslinger. It sees the series return to its old west roots, and will, we hope, also serve as a return to form. Early reports
have already been positive, and we’re particularly taken with the unusual way its story is told. The Gunslinger’s missions are presented as the semi-drunken ramblings of a wizened old man. Propping up the bar in a dusty watering hole, he tells his tall tales to anyone who’ll listen, and there’s always the suggestion that his stories of violence might be entirely fabricated. Exactly how The Gunslinger will look isn’t clear at this stage; thus far, Techland’s been rather coy in its marketing, with the game’s announcement trailer providing little more than two
minutes of live-action drama, and the first screenshots - which you can see on these fine pages - showing little more than an old saloon, a shack in a forest, and gallows sitting in a dusty town. Techland isn’t a studio known for its high production values, but there’s an atmosphere and detail in these shots that we hope will find their way into the finished game. The Gunslinger provides a fresh start for Call of Juarez. At the game’s unveiling at an event in Paris early in September, Techland’s Blazej Krakowiak talked about its break from the
The Gunslinger returns the Call of Juarez series to the dust of the old west, which, after the dismal previous entry, can only be a good thing
Game designer Eskil Steenberg has spent the last five years making his unique MMO, Love, and it’s now free to download from his website
previous games, both in terms of characters and plot. “We have some ideas for some great stories that we’ve wanted to tell since Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, Krakowiak told MCV. “We have a new protagonist, a new format. We can go places we couldn’t when we were tied to previous storylines and characters.” Call of Juarez: The Gunslinger is due out in early 2013.
Although the vast scope and constant demands for new content often mean that your average MMO requires the efforts of dozens of artists and coders, there’s a growing number of online games made by relatively tiny studios. The most famous is undoubtedly Minecraft, created by Markus Persson and Jens Bergensten, which became something of a phenomenon in 2010. Then there’s Love, an MMORPG created by just one person, Eskil Steenberg. For the past five years, he’s been diligently creating an online adventure that is both ambitious and unique. Its visuals - which look like a Impressionist painting drawn to life - are a world away from the relative realism of most MMOs, and its gameplay is very different too. Set in an ethereal, procedurally generated world, players work together to build and evolve settlements, which is achieved by finding and bringing back tokens to wherever their community is established. As tokens are retrieved, new abilities are unlocked, and defences gradually spring up. And defend your settlement you must, because elsewhere in
the world, five other AI tribes lurk, all determined to take your settlement from you. If you take a look at Steenberg’s demonstration video (bit.ly/TzFao3), you’ll get an idea of the strange new world he’s created. The whole place has a dreamlike, hallucinatory feel, and there are weird things in there called bomb pods, build pods, bounce fields and stompers. Essentially, these are tools that players can use to traverse or alter the environment, which can be battered, warped or built up into whatever shape you choose - Love, then, is a little like the classic god game Populous, with players working together in tribes to gradually transform a persistent online world. Bravely, Steenberg’s made his game available for free. “I have tried to make the game of my dreams and to push the envelope of what a game can be in every area,” he wrote on his website. “Now I really think you should play it. So much that I’m making the game free.” Whether Love will become as phenomenally successful as Minecraft, only time will tell. But by making his game free to play, Steenberg’s certainly caught the attention of most of the web’s major gaming websites - it’s just possible that the added publicity will give the game the community it deserves. You can find out more about Love at quelsolaar.com.
person shooter from 2K Marin. Originally planned for release in 2011, the negative public reaction towards it prompted a significant redesign, and it’s now said to be scheduled for release at some point between April 2013 and March 2014. The game we’re really interested in, though, is XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Developed by Firaxis, maker of the Civilization series, this version of XCOM is much more faithful to the one originally created by Julian Gollop more than 20 years ago. Its graphics and presentation are sharper, and there’s now a multiplayer mode, but the isometric perspective and turn-
based strategy are present and correct. There are squads of six player-controlled soldiers to pit against alien invaders, destructive environments, and all the classic commands from the original games, such as line of fire and overwatch. What’s more, the PC version of XCOM looks extremely promising, since Firaxis insists that it’s taken advantage of the format’s extra power, providing an iteration of the game that’s far better looking than the one for consoles. “At the end of the console life-cycle, the PC is just superior hardware,” lead designer Jake Solomon told PC Gamer. “So the textures are higher res, the zoom levels are much further.” The PC version’s been built to accommodate a keyboard and mouse setup too, which is surely the way a turn-based strategy game’s meant to be played. XCOM: Enemy Unknown is due out for PC on 12th October.
Firaxis have brought Julian Gollop’s brand of strategy up to date with XCOM: Enemy Unknown, due out on 12th October
As regular readers of these pages will know, there are currently two remakes of the legendary 90s strategy series X-COM in the works. One, simply called XCOM, is a first-
15 years on, Byte Night is more vital than ever.
Mark Heath VP Engineering, XenServer Byte Night Sleeper
Homelessness amongst young people has many root causes. You can help Action for Children to tackle them by joining the IT and business community for Byte Night 2012. Sleep out or chip in and you will help change the lives of some of the most vulnerable children and young people across the UK. With only a sleeping bag between you and the elements, you’ll join celebrities, CIOs, systems developers, business managers, marketers and more. It’s our fifteenth year and we’re aiming to reach a total of £5m in fundraising. With your sponsorship, donations, fundraising and of course, one memorable night - we can do it!
Byte Night: 5 October 2012 Got a QR code reader? Scan over this QR code now to visit the website
Belfast Cambridge London Scotland Thames Valley For more information, visit: www.bytenight.org.uk
Meet Aaron Birch. He’s here to help you with any general upgrading, software and system building problems. He’s got advice aplenty, and you’re very much welcome to it!
Keys To Retail
I own a Dell PC, which I purchased some time ago. It came with a copy of Windows XP already installed, and, as far as I can remember, I never had an actual XP install disc. At the time I thought nothing of it, and I’ve used the PC with no real issues for a while, and so had no reason to really care. This is no longer the case, though. I’ve since had a big problem with my PC, which I don’t really need to go into right now, as I’ve formatted the system in order to start again from scratch. This wouldn’t be too much of an issue except for one thing, I have no Windows XP disc - something I wasn’t aware of at the time, and so, didn’t check. So I came to install Windows, without a disc and had no option but to use a retail XP disc that I had for another PC that I no longer use. I didn’t think this would be much of a problem, but I was wrong. When I came to install the operating system, all seemed to go well enough until I had to enter the XP key, which wasn’t accepted. I entered the proper key from the retail edition, but it wouldn’t accept it, and the installation refused to continue. I tried a couple more times, just in case it was a one-off glitch, but got the same result. I then noticed that I had a licence key stuck to the side of the PC itself and tried that, but got the same result, the key wasn’t accepted. As I never got a disc (or at least, I can’t find it anywhere), I’m at a bit of a loss, as I can’t install Windows with my current setup. What, do you think, is the problem, and is there any way around this issue? Edward This issue you have here, Edward, is that your system will have been supplied with an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) key and will
have been pre-installed with XP. This key is tied to your system and, as such, your PC will only accept the OEM key with a Dell OEM copy of XP. As you don’t have this special OEM copy, you can’t install XP. OEM PCs are tied down when it comes to activation. Not only do they have specific keys and installations (the key stuck to the side of the PC), but OEM hardware can be identified, even from the BIOS level. This makes life difficult. Online activation is also usually disabled on OEM models, as they already come pre-activated. This is a measure that Microsoft introduced to combat piracy. There are less than legitimate ways to get around this, which I obviously can’t recommend, but there are also other ways, with the easiest simply being to contact Dell and request support. The support you receive will obviously depend on warranties and the like, but you may be able to request a replacement recovery disc. This can then be used to restore your PC to the factory default, complete with fresh installation of XP. Alternatively, you could contact Microsoft, and with proof of purchase info and your existing key, you may be able to arrange for an OEM copy of XP. Once you acquire this, you’ll be set. For some more information about the OEM activation and licence key issue, along with some steps you can take to ensure you don’t run into the problem again, you should visit technet. microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb457078. aspx. Not only will you find a couple of OEM keys provided by Microsoft to help users in your situation, but you can also find out how to create different types of XP installation disc, such as unattended and sysprep. OEM copies of Windows are tied to the PC they’re sold with
Send your questions to:
Aaron Bich Micro Mart Dennis Publishing 30 Cleveland Street London W1T 4JD
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Please try to keep your queries brief and limit them to just one question per letter, simply so we can squeeze in as many as we can each week. Please include relevant technical information too.
THE EXPERTS Fixing a corrupted Recycle Bin isn’t too difficult
My Bin Is Garbage!
I have a problem with my installation of Windows Vista. Basically, I seem to be unable to delete anything from my Recycle Bin. When I attempt to, I’m told I don’t have permission to do so, and I’ve been told by a friend that my Recycle Bin appears to be corrupted. This isn’t something I’ve seen before, and as the contents of the bin are unwanted files that I’ve deleted, and nothing important like system files or programs, I can’t see why on earth I don’t possess the correct permissions to remove them. I’m concerned, because I’ve deleted quite a lot of data recently, and some files are pretty big and are taking up quite a lot of space on my hard disk. I’d really like to be able to get rid of these files if possible, and hope there’s a simple solution to help me do so.
First, you can use an elevated command prompt to force the Recycle Bin to empty. To do this, simply click ‘Start’ > ‘All Programs’ and locate ‘Command Prompt’. Then right-click on it and select ‘Run as administrator’ from the context menu. Now, once at the command prompt, type ‘rd /s /q X:\$Recycle.bin’ (where ‘X’ is to be substituted for the correct drive letter, such as C). Press Enter, and if needed, repeat the process for each drive/ partition in your system. Once done, go to the desktop and refresh it (F5 or right-click and select
Lydia The Recycle Bin in Windows can become corrupted every so often, and one of the symptoms is Windows reporting that users don’t have the correct permissions when it comes to deleting files permanently by emptying the bin. Thankfully, this is easy enough to fix. There are a couple of things you can do to easily banish this issue.
‘Refresh’) and all should be well, and the Recycle Bin should be empty. An alternate solution involves manually deleting the Recycle Bin file within Windows Explorer. Before you attempt this, you need to ensure you can see hidden system files and folders. Open Windows Explorer and press Alt to reveal the menu bar. Click ‘Tools’ > ‘Folder Options’ > ‘View’ and then, in the list, uncheck ‘Hide protected operating system files’ and place a tick next to ‘Show hidden files and folders’. With this done, click ‘Start’ > ‘Computer’ and go to the drive on which Windows Vista is installed. Double-click the drive and in the folder list you should see an item called ‘$RECYCLE.BIN’. Highlight this and then press ‘Delete’. When prompted to confirm, click ‘Yes’ and when prompted further, select ‘Continue’ and do the same action for all items. Keep confirming if prompted further and the file will be removed. Once this is deleted, the Recycle Bin is effectively removed from your system and Vista will create a shiny new, working bin. You may need to refresh the desktop to see the changes, and in some rare instances, you may even need to restart, but once done, you’ll be fine.
My computer is based around an Athlon 64 X2 6000+ CPU and an ASRock N68C-GS UCC motherboard. The board has two DDR2 slots and two DDR3 slots, and up till now I’ve been using 2 × 2GB of DDR2. However, as the price of DDR3 is so low, I recently bought 2 × 4GB of DDR3. It didn’t work, though - the computer wouldn’t boot. I’ve got them replaced but I’m still in exactly the same boat! The modules are nothing fancy, just Kingston DDR3-1333. Surely these should be okay, or is there a specific brand or speed needed for the N68C-GS UCC? Ray Simon, TalkTalk In the old days, the type of RAM you could use was determined by the chipset on the motherboard. This was where the memory controller was housed. Some chipsets could handle two different types, so you might have got slots for, say, EDO and SDRAM, SDRAM and DDR, or DDR and DDR2. You could never use two types simultaneously, though. With almost all AMD CPUs since 2003 and all Intel ‘i’ CPUs (Core i3, Core i7, and so on), the memory controller is native - it’s housed within
the given CPU. It therefore makes no difference what chipset you’ve got on your motherboard or even what slots are present - RAM support is determined solely by what CPU is fitted. And that’s your problem, Ray. Socket AM3 chips - Athlon II, Phenom II, and all the rest - have memory controllers that support both DDR2 and DDR3. So with one of those chips in your ASRock, you could fit either type and have perfect lift-off. However, earlier chips, those designed for Socket AM2 and AM2+, have memory controllers that only support DDR2. These absolutely will not work with DDR3, even though the board has the slots. That’s the position you’re in with your Athlon 64 X2. Sadly, there’s no mention of this fact in the N68C-GS UCC’s manual. You’re not the first to be caught out, believe me. I notice that the relevant page on the ASRock website (bit. ly/PeFfe1) does actually make the situation plain, but how many people who already own the manual are likely to look there? A very unsatisfactory state of affairs, to be sure. If you’ve ever been caught out by this, don’t beat yourself up
Meet Jason D’Allison, a veteran of Micro Mart’s panel of experts. Jason’s here to help with any technical questions to do Send your questions to:
Jason D’All.ison Micro Mart Dennis Publishing 30 Cleveland Street London W1T 4JD
Contact Jason by email at:
While we try to cover as many questions as we can, we regret that Jason cannot answer your questions personally, but he’ll cover as many as he possibly can each week. Please ask one question per letter and remember to include the full specification of your computer, including its operating system.
Issue1193 1227 Issue
I’m using Windows 7, and clicking a program icon on the taskbar brings up a row of that program’s open documents (or tabs or other instances of the same program) - just as if I hover over the icon. On
my PC at work, though, things work differently. There, clicking an icon causes the last-used open document to maximise (hovering over the icon does the same as before). This is like previous versions of Windows, where each document had a separate icon. How do I achieve this on my own PC? I’ve
Why do we so often want new versions of Windows to work like the old versions?
looked through no end of settings, but can’t find anything that seems relevant.
Ken, via email If I recall correctly, I’ve covered this before. Not for a fair while, however, so I’d say we’re good to go. What you need to do is tweak the Windows registry, Ken. Click Start, type ‘regedit’ in the search box (without the quotes), and press Enter. Once you’re in, navigate to the following location: HKey_ Current_User\Software\Microsoft\Windows\ CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced. Next, bring up the context menu by right-clicking any blank area in the right-hand pane, select ‘New’, then select ‘Dword (32-bit) Value’. For the name, type ‘LastActiveClick’, then press Enter. Right-click this new dword, select ‘Modify’, and for ‘Value data’, enter ‘1’ (by default it’ll be ‘0’). Finally, click ‘OK’. For the setting to take effect, you’ll need to restart the Windows ‘shell’. Confusingly, this is called Windows Explorer, yet it’s much more than just the file manager more usually associated with that name. The simplest way is to reboot, but you can also click Start, hold
I’m the proud owner of a Google Nexus 7. I’ve had one almost since the device launched and I’ve gone from a tablet sceptic to a tablet convert! However, I’ve now got a problem. Basically, it’s become incredibly slow. This only started after I downloaded Shadowgun THD. At times the Nexus is now unusable. I’ve uninstalled Shadowgun and this has restored some of the speed, but not all of it. Is my unit faulty?
down Ctrl+Shift, and right-click any blank area of the Start menu. The subsequent context menu normally shows just Properties, but now you’ll see a second entry: Exit Explorer. Click it. To get Explorer restarted, first press Ctrl+Shift+Esc to open Task Manager. Next, click the File menu and select ‘New Task (Run)’. In the text box, type ‘explorer’ (without the quotes) and press Enter. Job done! Clicking a taskbar icon will now maximise the program’s last-clicked document. Subsequent clicks will maximise the lastclicked document before that - and so on
by Android, so once you lose a further 2GB you’re only left with 11GB. As you’ve found, if you eat into that final 2GB and then try to free it up again, performance still probably won’t return to normal. Only wiping the device clean and starting with a fresh ROM currently achieves that. At this stage it’s not known if there’s
S. Stiles, Gmail Unfortunately, this problem seems to be widespread. I assume you have the 16GB model, as the 8GB Nexus 7 is unaffected. The slowdown isn’t related to a specific app but to a lack of storage. The only known solution at the moment is to ensure that you never have less than 2GB free. That’s frustrating, because despite being a 16GB device, 3GB is eaten
and so on. Effectively, the documents will maximise in reverse of the order they were minimised - the last to be minimised will be the first to be maximised. If you reach the point where all documents are maximised, subsequent clicks of the icon will cycle through them in the same order, with each in turn getting the focus.
a fundamental hardware flaw at work. Fingers crossed that the issue can be solved with a simple patch or hardware update! Sadly, it’s true that the Nexus 7 has been plagued with problems since its launch. Most are related to the screen (affecting both the 16GB model and the 8GB model). A common one is light seeping through one of the sides of the case. Another is a creaking bezel (fixable by opening the unit up and tightening the screws). Yet another is a flickering backlight (I suspect my own model has this issue). Of course, the number of flawed units might be quite normal and we’re hearing so much about them simply because of the colossal volume of sales. Who knows? After all, you only ever hear the complaints, never the praise. For the moment, I think you need to hold fire. Getting a replacement won’t change anything - you’ll almost certainly hit the same problem. Wait and see what happens. If it transpires there’s a hardware fault, get your unit swapped for one from the next, modified batch. This is one of the benefits of the Nexus 7 over the cheaper (and often very good) Chinese imports - you can send it back to the supplier or to Google or Asus without much hassle.
I’ve been speaking to my neighbour and she admitted that on occasion she and her th h husband have occasionally stolen my wi-fi if theirs has st broken for some reason. I’m b not entirely comfortable with n this, and obviously if she’s th able to do it I suppose others a in the local area can too. Can yyou tell me how to check whether this is happening and w what I can do about it? w
Meet James Hunt. He’s here to help make sure you stay protected. If you have any virus, spyware or malware-related issues, please get in contact! Send your questions to:
James Hunt Micro Mart Dennis Publishing 30 Cleveland Street London W1T 4JD
Contact James by email at:
firstname.lastname@example.org While we try to cover as many questions as we can, we regret that James cannot answer your questions personally. Please ask one question per letter and please keep your questions brief.
1227 Issue 1194
If you’re looking for unauthorised wi-fi users, you should be able to find out which devices are connected by logging into your router’s IP address and checking the statistics and/or reports. It varies from device to device, but usually you need to type 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.0.1 into your preferred browser and log in using the admin username and password. If you don’t know the admin password, it’s a safe bet that it’s still the default, so use Google to search for your router’s make and model number, alongside the phrase ‘default login’ to get the username and password combination you should use. Once you’re in the status back-end, you’ll be able to find a link, which will show you a list of devices that are connected over wi-fi. Again, we can’t say where precisely without seeing the make and model of your router, but it’ll generally be listed under ‘connected devices’ or ‘attached devices’. This list will show any device, whether a phone, games console, tablet or computer, which is connected to your router, either physically or over wi-fi.
Anyone trying to get a free ride will have to look elsewhere You can check how many you know, and you may even be able to blacklist those you don’t recognise just to be sure that they can no longer use your internet connection. That said, what you really need to do is enable some kind of security. An unsecured wireless connection leaves any data you send vulnerable to all kinds of snooping and interception. It doesn’t take much for someone to harvest your usernames and passwords over an unsecured wireless connection, and with that information they could perform all sorts of fraud and theft. Worse still, if your connection isn’t secure, you could be liable for any illegal activities performed by anyone
using it. If your neighbours are using it, anything illegal they do can only be traced to you, rather than them. For that reason alone, you should really turn on WPA encryption for your wi-fi device. Ideally, you want to enable WPA2 if your router supports it (and any recent one should.) This is also done in the router backend (it’ll probably be listed under the ‘Security’ heading) and will mean that any device connecting to your wireless connection will need the WPA key to connect. This ensures that the data you send cannot be intercepted by anyone else, and that anyone trying to get a free ride out of your connection will have to look elsewhere!
App of the week
APP OF THE WEEK
Freemake Video Downloader v3.1 Downloading an online video has never been so easy, as David Hayward demonstrates with this week’s app
e’ve often praised the developments of Freemake. com. Its video converter is quite simply one of the best we’ve ever tested, and the Freemake Music Box is a work of art. Recently, though, the company behind all these wonderful free applications has updated one of its products, a thoroughbred known as Freemake Video Downloader.
The installation process is the usual affair. Head to goo.gl/VJtCk and download the 1.2MB installation file. Execute it and follow the on-screen setup, opt-in to send details to help improve FVD, full or custom installations, include plug-ins for Firefox or Chrome (or both) and choose to enter into a draw to win an iPad. The choice is, of course, up to you, but after a brief setup, the installation will contact the Freemake servers and download the remaining 11MB of data to install automatically. After the installation, if you’re using Firefox, when next you launch you’ll be asked to add the FVD plug-in, and after a browser restart you’ll have a nice blue icon located in the top right of the main Firefox screen.
set of options that can be used to further improve the already impressive features of this wonderful app.
Clicking on the ‘Options’ icon, located at the bottom left of the main FVD screen will yield a four-tabbed window that covers general options, connection settings, access to online accounts and the default app language. The General tab contains options to show popups and use the Video Grab Pro tool, as well as hiding thumbnails for adult sites, hiding downloaded adult videos and setting a password protected parental lock for adult sites. Adult site browsing is a fact of life, and it’s nice to see a developer catering for the needs of all. In addition there are new options to set priority for downloads, via a queue, and to limit the download speed on a single or multiple queued downloads. You can now download videos and MP3s that are optimised for use on an iPad or transfer to iTunes and Android.
Freemake’s software just keeps getting better, and version 3.1 of FVD is no exception. It’s a major update that sees improvements that can only better the way we interact with our online world, packed in a neat, well designed application. Well worth an installation.
Ease of use is the name of game here. That’s not an easy task considering the wealth of video formats, codecs and so on that need to be dealt with when playing around with a video, especially an online one. Thankfully, Freemake has made the job of downloading a video easy on the eyes and the brain. To start with, as a quick tutorial, find a video on one of the 10,000 supported sites, click on the new blue FVD icon and the application launches, automatically entering in the URL of the video in question. From here, you’ll be presented with a basic window, which is broken down into steps: Step one - choose the quality of the video (360p, 720p, 1080p, for instance - the higher the quality, the larger the download). Step two - choose your action, to either download only, extract the original audio from the video, or convert to a number of default devices (AVI, MKV, MP3, iPad, Android, PSP, etc.). And step three - choose a location in which to save and convert the chosen video. It’s really quite simple, and each step provides you with various snippets of information, such as bit-rates, time and the final size of the download. But beyond the simple interface, there lies a powerful
Download video and audio from over 10,000 supported sites
Features At A Glance
• • • • •
Set priority for downloads and put video downloads in a queue. Limit download speed. Download videos in WMV format. Download online videos and MP3s optimised for iPad format. Easy transfer to iTunes of video and audio files converted to Apple gadgets.
here are times where the world of technology brings such pain and despair that I find myself wondering about the relative virtues of fashioning macrame pots or taking up amateur kabuki. It was the same overriding urge that I had to shout ‘please leave the stage’ when I recently saw Clint Eastward talking to an empty chair that overtook me when I subsequently watched the launch of the new Windows 8 mobile products from Nokia.
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I’m used to the horrible presentation style where everyone is ‘exited’ about this ‘amazing’ new product and the ‘incredible’ future it will bring. But, having it delivered on the back of what Nokia and Microsoft have so far achieved would be hysterical if it wasn’t impacting on so many Nokia employees and their respective livelihoods. Let’s have a quick reality check here. Nokia has thrown its lead as the biggest maker of mobile phones down the toilet faster than anyone thought was technically possible. In 2010, it controlled 37% of the smartphone market, and in July of this year it had managed to trim that down to just 16%. There is no sign that it’s pulled out of this commercial power-dive yet. What’s more sobering is that a sizeable amount of this drop has taken place since the new Lumia devices were launched and Microsoft became its best buddy. I’m thankfully not a lone voice in my concern, because after its implausibly upbeat presentation, stockholders voted with their wallets. Within short order, 13% of its share value was wiped out by the widespread chanting of ‘sell, sell, sell’. Apparently what really upset investors is that while forthcoming about the colours and features of the new Lumia 920 and 820 models its reticence to talk about dates, prices or even carrier partners made the whole exercise decidedly moot. Of course, leaving out critical information seems entirely consistent for Nokia, which has yet to address the veritable woolly mammoth in this room: that people aren’t remotely excited by the prospect of owning a Windows phone. I hate to bring this up, but they really don’t want a Windows phone, however Nokia dresses it up in a bright costume. Thankfully, the low point of hearing Stephen Elop’s personal plea for continued CEO status was soon overtaken by events, when a
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THIS WEEK'S CROSSWORD much more entertaining a promo video of the new Lumia ‘OIS’ video capture technology was analysed. If you’ve not caught this video, it is well worth a look. It features a couple videoing each other using their super Lumia ‘PureView’ phones while cycling, demonstrating the amazing anti-shake technology that Nokia placed in there. Except when you look more closely, the couple rides past a reflective window, revealing a film crew using a DSLR to capture the video from a van. Nokia was forced into a grovelling apology about this footage being a ‘simulation’, and then just hours later when it was revealed that the night photography used later in the promo was also not caught with a Lumia. The sad facts are these: Nokia is no longer the mobile phone maker it once was, the Windows mobile phone isn’t on the Christmas list of many and faking promotional material won’t help change that.
Mark Pickavance LAST WEEK'S CROSSWORD Across: 7 Inline Linking, 8 Consul, 9 Boldly, 10 Algebra, 12 DBase, 14 EMACS, 16 Sunrise, 19 Swivel, 20 Frames, 22 Brian Halligan. Down: 1 INNO, 2 Tissue, 3 Declare, 4 Limbo, 5 Skylab, 6 Analysts, 11 Limewire, 13 Buffalo, 15 Caveat, 17 Roadie, 18 Alpha, 21 Exam.
DISCLAIMER The views expressed by contributors are not necessarily those of the publishers. Every care is taken to ensure that the contents of the magazine are accurate but the publishers cannot accept responsibility for errors. While reasonable care is taken when accepting advertisements, the publishers cannot accept any responsibility for any resulting unsatisfactory transactions. They will, however, investigate any written complaints. Images used on the front cover are for illustrative purposes only. As amazing and knowledgable as we clearly are (not to mention good looking and athletic), sometimes we make mistakes when it comes to buying technology. As a case in point, this week we made the
Down 1 The combined Linux-ApacheMySQL-PHP server package for Ubuntu. (Acronym) (4) 2 Attribute something as belonging to. (6) 3 Each of a series of Soviet artificial satellites, the first of which (launched on 4th October 1957) was the first satellite to be placed in orbit. (7) 4 Faster for external disk storage than USB 2.0 or FireWire 400. (5) 5 Of or forming a single irreducible unit or component in a larger system. (6) 6 A harmonic with a frequency that is a multiple of the fundamental frequency. (8) 11 Not agitated; without losing self-possession. (8) 13 Popular model of synthesiser produced by Moog Music from 1979 to 1984. (7) 15 The butler’s back at ASK.com apparently. (6) 17 An empty space within a solid object. (6) 18 Units of force that, acting on a mass of one gram, increases its velocity by one centimetre per second every second along the direction that it acts. (5) 21 A standard used to automatically connect a computer to a new internet connection.
error of buying a laptop from a high-street chain, whose name sounds like a popular Indian food (particularly popular with MM’s own Jason D’Allison). The one in the shop seemed okay, but when we used it at home, we found it full to the brim with manufacturer bloatware and an anti-virus application that sucked up every spare ounce of the poor processor’s power every time it booted up. Sadly, an attempt to exchange it at the store was met with complete resistance by the utterly joyless (and rude) staff. Thankfully, a completely new installation of Windows (deleting the included recovery partition) helped speed things up a bit. The warranty’s probably gone, but what the heck; we know what we’re doing (we think).
Issue 1227 1213
Next Week September Special
s e g a a P nd
xtrNew PC A E 2 3 ng A nts! i
Top tips for smarter computer shopping
Great PC systems to buy right now
The upgrades that make a real difference
Plus lots of motherboards, RAM, cases and more
Issue 1228, on sale 27th September!
• What Will 4G Really Mean For You? • Where Are Yesterday’s Computer Pioneers Now? • Are Pay Monthly MMORPGs Doomed? • First Look At The Nintendo Wii U WorldMags.net
Published on Sep 20, 2012
Micro Mart Magazine for over 19 years, Micro Mart has been the home of low cost computing. Its weekly editorial content covers all aspects o...