How to Change The Language, Accent & Gender of Siri

Siri has a huge selection of languages to choose from, and did you know you can change the accent and gender too? Here’s how to change the language or accent of Siri. Please note that Siri isn’t available on all iOS devices. In regards to the accent, the accent of Siri at a virtual assistant level cannot be changed to a particularly large degree, but rather the voice on your iOS device which is used for text-to-speech and voice assistance can be changed to more accents.

Open the settings app and tap on “General”. Now tap on “Siri”, tapping on “Language” will reveal the full list of languages that Siri is available in, tap on your required language to enable. There may be multiple of what is effectively the same language such as “English (United Kingdom)” and “English (United States)”. Tap on “Voice Gender” to change the gender of Siri and tap on the preferred gender to enable. Please note that different voice genders may not be available for all languages.

To change the accent for other speech-enabled areas of iOS, go back to “General” in settings, then “Accessibility”, then tap on “Speak Selection”. Now tap on “Voices” then tap on your required language, we’ll use English here as an example. Now you should be able to see the available accents, so for English we have United States, Australia, United Kingdom, Ireland and South Africa, tap on the slider for “Speaking Rate” to preview each voice. And that’s pretty much it.

WordPress.com or WordPress.org?

So you’re wanting to start your own blog / website? Cool! And you’re wanting to use WordPress? Great choice! But which WordPress should you use? Start a website on WordPress.com or with WordPress.org? This article aims to clarify the difference between using WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

WordPress is an open source, free content management system created primarily with MySQL and PHP. It’s actually the most popular blogging platform on the entire internet!

The difference is fairly straightforward. With WordPress.com you can create a blog or website very quickly and customize many elements of the website. With WordPress.com you can use a free WordPress subdomain such as “example.wordpress.com” for example and there is the option of purchasing a domain directly from WordPress such as “example.com” but still keeping the same control panel etc. WordPress.com takes care of all of the technical stuff and all you have to worry about is the content. So WordPress.com is a great way to get started quickly.

WordPress.com does have some limitations however. Such as the inability to install plugins to achieve bespoke functionality more easily. WordPress.com also doesn’t allow you to build your own themes and plugins with PHP and CSS to achieve a more tailored design for your website or blog.

With WordPress.org you have more freedom but it may be more difficult to get started. For one, you’ll have to find a host for your website, do your own maintenance and possibly use additional tools to ensure the security of your website. Additionally with a WordPress.org installation, you can use your own advertisements through services such as Google Adsense, whereas with WordPress.com (even with your own domain name) you cannot make use of advertisements.

So the bottom line is, if you want a simple, free solution and you don’t plan on monetising your content, a WordPress.com website will be your best bet, if you’re wanting to go the extra mile, monetise your content, create a website more tailored to your requirements, manage your own data and you don’t mind spending money in the process, a WordPress.org website will be the better choice.

NETGEAR DGND3700v2 Wireless ADSL Router Review

Price & Specifications:

The router currently retails for around £99.99 and for that you will get a router with a Built-in modem, WiFi supporting IEEE 802.11 b/g/n 2.4 GHz & IEEE 802.11 a/n 5.0 GHz, the router has a transfer speed in excess of 300 Mbps, supports both 2.4GHz & 5GHz wireless connectivity, useful if there’s lots of 2.4GHz traffic in your area, it also features Wi-Fi Protected Access® (WPA/WPA2—PSK) & WEP, Double firewall protection (SPI and NAT firewall), Denial-of-service (DoS) attack prevention, Live Parental Controls with flexible and customizable filter settings, the router also supports ADSL2+, it has 4 internal antennas for greater range (can’t really beat the external antennas though), there’s also 2 USB 2.0 ports, 1 ADSL2+ port, 5 10/100/1000 (1 WAN and 4 LAN) Gigabit Ethernet ports, it supports pretty much any OS, and it measures: 223mm x 153mm x 31 mm. Other features that they don’t really mention includes the readyshare support for hard drives and printers attached to the router and the ability to create guest networks of both the 2.4 & 5GHz variety.

DGND3700v2In The Box:

In the box you get the router itself, the manual & other documentation, an ethernet cable, a phone cable & ADSL filter and the power adapter.

Aesthetics:

As far as appearance is concerned, the router is fairly modest and won’t look particularly out of place anywhere, it has a plain black glossy shell, no visible antennas, a nice light blue trim surrounding the status lights on the front of the device (there’s a lot of them) and a stand that allows you to mount the router in a vertical space-saving position, it’s removable too if you wanted it to lie flat. There are also some ventilation holes around the perimeter of the device.

Setting Up The Router:

The router was relatively easy to set up. The manual contains the general setup information for plugging in the various cables and whatnot and also how to access the router’s control panel. I simply plugged in the cables that I needed to and plugged in my notebook computer via ethernet and accessed the router’s control panel via it’s IP address (192.168.0.1). I was surprised to see that the control panel had a fair amount of polish to it. It’s a nice, easy, clean looking UI that seems to get straight to the point. I proceeded to connect the router to our broadband connection and used the router’s setup wizard to automatically find our ADSL type and as soon as that was done, the router was online! I then proceeded to turn off all wireless networks except for our main 2.4GHz network, we didn’t really require the 5GHz network or either of the guest networks. It’s very easy to individually toggle functions in the router’s control panel. Readyshare was a bit of a pain to set up and use to be honest as you need corresponding software on the client computers in order to use the connected printer and / or storage drive, it isn’t simple plug and play unlike some routers which was disappointing.

You can also control the router with your phone or tablet too which is nice, there’s a NETGEAR Genie app which allows you to toggle basic functions of our router, unfortunately the app’s UI isn’t as good, it felt like something that was put together as a prototype and was just never finished.

There are also lots of troubleshooting & help menus built into the control panel and utilities to measure the upload & download speeds, connection stability, noise margin, line attenuation etc. These are all very welcome features as it really can help you diagnose any connectivity problems.

Life With The Router:

The router has been great for the most part, a solid performer. It never struggles to allocate sufficient bandwidth to individual devices and I haven’t once had the router crash. It’s wireless range is average. The router is slim & compact which is a plus, you could probably put it between books on a bookshelf and it really wouldn’t be noticed or have too much of a footprint. The router also seems to keep quite cool, obviously I still wouldn’t recommend putting it in an extremely confined area though. Readyshare is just terrible, I really much would’ve preferred it if storage devices and printers would just register to all clients as a storage location with an IP or a simple IP printer. Fortunately the printer wasn’t much of an issue in this case as the printer is wireless, but to those who want to use an existing USB printer or storage device over the network, it is possible with NETGEAR’s software.

Hybrid Drive or SSD?

Hard drives are becoming a dying breed when it comes to primary drive choices. Flash technology is becoming more advanced and cheaper, but still not as cheap as an equivalent sized hard drive and that’s where hybrid drives come into the equation. So that leaves us with the question, which one is currently the better choice? A hybrid drive or an SSD?

Before the hybrid drive and SSD became more mainstream and affordable there were super fast hard drives (excluding server grade SCSI drives). An average hard drive runs at 7200rpm, increasing this speed (along with the speed of several other components within the hard drive) allows it to perform more quickly, the VelociRaptor by Western Digital being a good example. It spins at 10,000rpm and can read and write much faster than most other desktop and laptop hard drives. These super fast hard drives are still around today and are still a cheaper option than an equivalent sized hybrid drive or SSD, but they’re still slower than both and consume more power which is a potential issue for portable computers – with some laptop hard drives running as low as 5400rpm to save power.

Hybrid drives or “SSHD” have been around for a while but have only recently became more mainstream for use in personal computers. Hybrid drives combine SSD and hard drive technology in the one single unit and the idea is simple. Combining the excellent performance of an SSD with the afforable storage of a hard drive. What lets these drives down when it comes to performance is how data is managed on the drive. There is usually a classic hard drive of let’s say 1TB, internally connected to this drive is a small SSD chip which is say 8GB. The way it works is simple but not the most efficient. The data is permanently stored on the hard drive, the small SSD chip basically acts as a buffer between the rest of your computer system and the hard drive. It works in a similar way to RAM. Recent data is temporarily stored on the SSD chip and this is what gives the hybrid drive the advantage over the classic hard drive as the computer can more quickly execute what is on the SSD chip as SSD technology has much lower read and write times.

SSD is at the other end of the spectrum. SSD drives are significantly faster than a hard drive, when upgrading from a hard drive to an SSD you’ll instantly notice the difference. SSD does come with a few issues however. For one, it’s still quite expensive when compared to an equivalent sized hard drive. Another issue is that with an SSD you have to be careful what you’re doing with it, if an SSD is continuously written to, it significantly increases it’s chances of failure. Of course the same could be said for a hard drive, except with a hard drive the wear is usually much more gradual and it tends to be more than often a moving part that fails such as a motor or the drive head rather than the very structures that keep your data intact.

There’s no denying that SSD is getting cheaper and more reliable and I’m sure eventually it’ll become the standard. The best advice I usually give anyone who wants to choose between an SSD and a hard drive is to get both – prodiving your system can accommodate multiple drives. Run the OS and all of the applications from the SSD and keep all of your other data on the hard drive. A hybrid drive is a great solution for when two drives isn’t possible and for when an SSD is too expensive and a standard hard drive is just too slow.

Using Lasers to Blast Space Debris!

A group of Australian scientists a few months back won government funding to create and develop huge lasers (of the invisible light spectrum infra-red variety) that could potentially be powerful enough at some point in the near future to blast away debris orbiting the Earth! How cool it that!?

Science fiction becomes science fact! The Australian scientists have reportedly received a government grant of $20m (around £10.8m) to create and develop these incredibly powerful and complex lasers. This government grant coupled with a private investment of $40m (around £21.6m) will enable them to create these lasers in their own high-tech observatory. They won’t initially be attempting to blast away space debris however, instead simply tracking minute pieces of space debris, with the goal to eventually be destroying this debris.

Supposedly there are over 300,000 pieces of space debris which they’re hoping to destroy within the next decade. Why bother destroying this debris you ask? It’s estimated that we could only be around 20 years away from catastrophic domino-effect high speed collisions, which could ultimately lead to all satellites in low orbit being destroyed or knocked out of orbit. A lot of this debris is man made, such as massive old segments of solid rocket boosters to parts as small as nuts and bolts zipping around the Earth at phenomenal pace.

It has been stated that any debris that is blasted away will burn up and disintegrate in our atmosphere and the process of targeting the debris is extremely precise. Eventually the ultimate goal once these lasers have been adequately tested is to set up multiple observatories worldwide to combat space debris in future.

Google I/O 2014 – Top 5 Announcements

Yesterday Google held their annual I/O conference and there were some pretty interesting and new things announced at the keynote. Here’s my top 5 list of things that for me was the most interesting and the most important.

  1. A new version of Android.

A new version of Android (5.0) is due in the fall which currently Google are simply referring to it as “Android L”. It has many significant improvements over the previous version of Android including a smoother and more cohesive user experience, a new UI, notification enhancements, 64-bit processor support, less resource hungry, the ability to use a smartwatch to authenticate oneself, Android auto and a ton of other improvements. I’m most excited to see this new, more refined UI in Android and the performance improvements that’ll be coming in this new version. Android Auto also looks to be interesting, same sort of idea as iOS car play, it’ll be interesting to see how both of these platforms will play out once more manufacturers integrate these systems into more of their vehicles.

  1. New UI design language.

Google announced that they’ve created a new universal UI design language that they are calling “material” and they’ll be rolling out across many Google products and it’ll be cross platform. A few of the new features of this new design language is the update of the already fairly widely used and well accepted “Roboto” font, vivid colours and new subtle animations. This framework that Google is pushing for UI design should prevent many apps on Android from looking sloppy and incohesive from the rest of the Android platform, bringing Google that one step closer to more uniformity.

  1. Entry-level pure Android devices for developing markets.

An excellent move to bring more Android devices (and mobile connectivity in general) to more places.

  1. Android TV.

The successor of Google TV and again a much more cohesive user experience by the looks of it. Nice, clean looking UI and many of the same features and entertainment services you’d likely find on the average Smart TV. Good integration with mobile Android devices too.

  1. The Moto 360.

A smartwatch that isn’t “in your face” it retains that classic simple element of “it’s a watch, you use it to tell the time” with a bit of seamless “almost in the background” smartwatch capabilities. And a round face! I think it’s the sign that technology is working for you when a user experience becomes transparent and I think that is what Google are trying to achieve here with the Moto 360 and it looks like it’ll do well.

The Difference Between 1080i & 1080p

Ever switched display modes or resolutions on your television or game console? You may have noticed that along with different resolutions, there is usually an additional letter after the resolution such as 1080i or 1080p. The latter is typically considered to be the better choice for a display mode, yet it is not usually made clear as to why.

The “i” in a display mode stands for interlaced and the “p” stands for progressive. The difference between these two modes is in how it refreshes what is on the screen. When running a display in an interlaced mode, when the next frame is displayed it gradually bleeds through in a linear fashion (much like one of those old transitions on Windows Movie Maker back in the day). Progressive is quite the opposite, the frames are simply displayed one after the other instead of blending the frames together. This is the primary reason that progressive display modes are usually favourable.

When running on an interlaced mode, moving object outlines and other highlights may look somewhat blurred and distorted as the frames are blended together whereas when in a progressive mode, moving object outlines and other highlights should retain a fair amount of crispness. The main advantage there used to be with an interlaced mode was whereas older progressive displays may have had lower frame rates resulting in a “choppy” image, interlaced modes removed that problem all together (because the frames effectively smoothly transitioned from one to another). Currently however, most displays are at least 60Hz, effectively eliminating the frame rate issue with progressive displays, making progressive display modes the most favourable.

GTA Online- How to Get The Obey Tailgater

The Obey Tailgater more widely known as “Michael’s Car” or “That car that looks like the Audi A4 / A6 / A8” is a fairly rare car to come by in the world of GTA Online. It is arguably one of the best handling and best performing saloon (or sedan) cars in the game and offers a reasonable amount of customisation options. This makes it a great getaway vehicle (4 seats) and a decent car to cruise around in too. It does not spawn under normal conditions and is not available to purchase on the Legendary Motorsport or Southern San Andreas Super Autos websites in-game, but this does not make it completely unobtainable. The way to obtain this vehicle may require a certain degree of patience and perseverance.

How It’s Done:

Step 1: Probably the most important step, this vehicle can only be obtained in GTA Online if Simeon has requested the vehicle. If he hasn’t requested it, then you likely won’t find it spawning anywhere.

Step 2: Providing Simeon has requested the vehicle, the Tailgater typically spawns in a couple of locations. Search carefully it can be easy to miss!

The Locations: The two typical locations for the Tailgater to spawn are at the golf course car park by Richman / Rockford Hills and the car park at the south end of Vespucci Beach.

Once you find the Tailgater, bear in mind that you’re going to attain a 2 star wanted level as you take the vehicle as it has been requested by Simeon, perhaps devise an exit strategy before you speed away in the Tailgater, afterall you don’t want to end up destroying it if you’ve been looking for it for a while. Or if possible call Lester to remove your wanted level (it’ll cost money). A couple of good locations to evade the super GTA V police (the most irritating and ruthless police Rockstar have ever put into a game) are up a large hill away from any roads close by or even driving into the nearest Los Santos Customs (providing the police did not follow you to either of these locations).

Next (if you haven’t done it already) perhaps think about obtaining full ownership and insure the vehicle, at Los Santos Customs, that way you can keep your new Tailgater.

And hopefully that should be it! As far as I know, this is the only known way of obtaining the Tailgater in GTA Online, if you have any more methods, feel free to drop them in the comments below.

Update – You can now purchase the Tailgater! (Although using this method may save you some money.)

Also feel free to check out my Rockstar Social Club profile! – http://socialclub.rockstargames.com/member/jhdmaxx

Screenstagram- Instagram Screensaver For Windows & Mac

I’m always on the look out for awesome screensavers and this is certainly one that fits that description. This is an interesting screensaver as it is one of the rare few that are actually connected to a service in real time. I’m a prolific user of Instagram, however I probably view more Instagram images than I actually share. So if you’re a regular browser of Instagram and you’re on the lookout for a good screensaver, Screenstagram may be the one for you.

The screensaver can of course be configured to show you only certain images, simply authenticate the screensaver with your Instagram login details and you’ll be able to choose whether or not you want to show user names on the images, to show your home feed (if you’re not logged in it will just show popular images), you can also choose to just show images you’ve liked and you can also choose to show images that include your defined tags (this requires you to be logged in).

Unfortunately there are a few downsides to this screensaver. For one, this is as far as the customisation goes, and there aren’t any settings you can adjust in regards to how the images are displayed e.g. image tile sizes, transitions, etc. The screensaver can also be a little slow and a little glitchy at times, but I suppose that this is bound to be expected from a screensaver as complex as this one.

Overall, Screenstagram is great if you’re a fan of screensavers and you are a regular user of Instagram, it could probably use a little work but it works well for what it is, and all the better seeing as it’s available for both Mac & Windows!

You can download Screenstagram here. – http://screenstagram.s3.amazonaws.com/download.html

Soundstream- Audio Responsive Mac Screensaver

I’m always on the look out for great screensavers and this is one that I’ve had installed for sometime now (although I haven’t used it that much). This is a very unique screensaver as it is responsive to any audio coming in through your microphone.

The intensity of the screensaver also changes accordingly to the intensity of the audio coming in. So if you’ve got some low ambient background noise for example, the screensaver will swirl around gently, if there is loud music playing the screensaver will be more vivid and energetic. For this reason, the screensaver will also work well if you’re a fan of visualisers, in fact they actually provide an option to install it as an iTunes visualiser.

The main downside to this screensaver is that it’s a little heavier on CPU usage than most other standard screensavers, so if you’re running this on a notebook system and it is left idle for long periods of time with the screensaver running, it may lower your battery level more quickly. But apart from this, it’s a great screensaver if you’re looking for something a little different, and a screensaver that’s a bit more fun and interactive.

The screensaver is free and is available to download here. – http://pcheese.net/software/soundstream/

Minecraft – 3 Bedroom House

I bring you a modern, 3 bedroom house that you can download today. Certain aspects of the interior layout and exterior look are largely inspired by modern estate housing in the UK. The house and garden occupy 2800 blocks of land (40 blocks wide, 70 blocks deep) and the house is 27 blocks high. The exterior has been constructed from smooth sandstone and traditional red bricks.

The house features a concealed redstone lighting system for each room and a working redstone operated shower system in the bathroom. All interior and exterior doors are operated by way of pressure plates. The interior walls have been constructed of primarily the same smooth sandstone block as seen on the exterior of the house and stained clay, however the interior walls can be easily customised to your taste if required.

Downstairs you will find a reasonably sized living space, a dedicated dining area featuring door access to the rear garden and you’ll also find a good sized kitchen also featuring door access to the rear garden and access to the garage .

Upstairs you’ll find a modern bathroom featuring a working shower system, a toilet, and a washbasin. You’ll also find 3 similarly sized bedrooms 2 of which featuring 3 block wide closets. The attic is a great place for storage but can be easily changed into a small loft conversion if required.

At the back of the house you’ll find a spacious garden with a decked entertainment area and a hot tub, but again there’s the potential for expansion, such as the installation of a shed, extending the house, or even a good sized outdoor swimming pool.

The entire house took a few hours to build spread out over a few days.

The house can be downloaded via the link below. The house is available in both MCEdit schematic form and the original world save. If you download this house feel free to share what you’ve done with it (even if you haven’t changed anything and you’re just wanting to show your appreciation), make a video response to the original video, share an image on Instagram or Twitter or even fire over an email to me. And who knows, what you’ve done may even get featured in a future blog post or video!

Watch a video tour of this house here! – http://youtu.be/u0vEe3Q11nY

Processor Cores vs Clock Speed

Ok, so you’re looking at purchasing a new system or processor. But which should you look for more in a processor? More cores or a higher clock speed?

Of course it ultimately depends on exactly what you’re intending to use the system for, and what applications you’re likely to be running. Let’s take Apple’s new 2013 Mac Pro as a prime example of the cores vs clock speed debate. The Mac Pro is currently available in four different processor configurations, a 3.7GHz quad core version, a 6 core 3.5GHz version, an 8 core 3.0GHz version and a 12 core 2.7GHz version. Out of these four versions, the 12 core 2.7GHz model will be the slowest in terms of realtime performance and the 3.7GHz quad core model will be the fastest.

Clock speed generally determines how “fast” a processor performs calculations. The number of cores generally determines how many calculations a processor can perform at the same time. Back in the first days of dual core processors, the main advantage of this secondary core was to increase the processor’s power and thermal efficiency as less power was needed as the processor was running at lower clock cycles and less heat was generated by this lower clock speed. However today with our quad, 6, 8 and 12 core processor configurations, this is more about improving the performance of applications that can take advantage of a multi-core configuration.

For example, most everyday users would probably opt for a system with 2 or 4 cores. This is simply because most everyday applications can only take advantage of this number of cores. The same can be said for most computer video games, which even now, most aren’t optimised for multi-core systems. More optimised applications such as video editors can usually take advantage of more processor cores and this typically will improve the application’s performance with processor intensive operations such as exporting a video. This main multi-core advantage can especially be seen when running an application such as Cinebench. The image in Cinebench that is rendered by the processor is split up into multiple squares. A high clock speed will enable the processor to render these individual squares more quickly, but you’ll only be able to render an amount of squares that is the same as the number of processor cores. So if you’ve got a quad core system, your processor will render 4 of these squares at the same time, but if you had a 12 core system, 12 of these squares would be rendered at the same time, but slower for each square if the clock speed is lower.

So basically, if you’re only going to be using your computer for general tasks such as email and browsing, then you’d likely be ok with a dual or quad core processor. But the best configuration to go for, for an all-round everyday machine / production machine is a system with a healthy balance of both cores and clock speed.

What do you look for in regards to computer processors? Higher clock speed or lots of cores?

32bit or 64bit Windows Installation?

Okay, so you’re wanting to install Windows, but which is “better”? A 32bit installation or a 64bit installation. Most systems these days ship with 64bit installations by default. The reasoning is fairly simple.

The primary reason you’d most likely want to install a 64bit version of Windows is to effectively “future proof” your computer. One of the primary limitations of a 32bit installation of Windows is the fact that it cannot handle anymore than around 3.25GB of memory. Any more than the stated amount and the rest will simply remain unused. A 64bit installation can handle a much larger amount of memory. Depending on which version of Windows you’re running however there may still be additional limitations. For example, a 64bit installation of Windows 7 Starter & Home Basic can handle the maximum amount of 8GB of memory, Home Premium 16GB, and the rest of the versions 192GB.

So memory is one of the primary reasons to use a 64bit installation of Windows. Also take into account that a 64bit version of Windows typically requires a higher minimum amount of memory than with a 32bit installation. Another reason you’d likely want to use a 64bit installation of Windows is that a lot of memory / CPU intensive applications built for a 64bit installation will benefit in regards to overall performance.

Now you may be thinking “What will and will not be compatible with my new 64bit installation?”. Typically there’s not much to get in the way in terms of application compatibility as even if it’s a 32bit executable, a 64bit Windows installation should still be able to run the application. Usually one of the main headaches with upgrading from a 32bit Windows installation to a 64bit installation is that there’s no way to perform a direct upgrade with all files & settings intact. In other words, you’ll more than likely have to perform a clean install if you’re upgrading from a 32bit Windows installation to a 64bit installation.

Compatibility in regards to your hardware might differ however. Before forking out your hard earned cash on a 64bit installation it’s probably worth checking that all of your components are 64bit-ready, and perhaps even a peripheral check too. If it’s a particularly older system, chances are your processor might not support 64bit operation. In such a case it may be worth checking if you can upgrade your processor to a 64bit-capable processor and in some cases the motherboard may also need to be replaced. It’s fairly safe to say though that most newer systems are fully 64bit capable.

So all-in-all a 64bit version of Windows is something you should probably aim for, if you’ve already got a system with a 32bit installation and it’s working fine, performs adequately and you have no plans on upgrading the memory past the 3.25GB mark, then there’s no real reason to upgrade, but if you want to put more memory in and prepare your computer that little bit more for the heavier, more intensive applications of the future, go for the 64bit installation.

JETech Aluminium iPhone 5 / 5S Case Review

I recently upgraded to an iPhone 5S and felt the need to purchase a new case to keep my phone in it’s new and shiny condition. I’ve purchased a lot of cases in my time and this is by far the best quality case I have ever purchased.

The JETech aluminium iPhone 5 / 5S case is available to purchase on Amazon and you have a respectable choice of colours: black, blue, grey (mine!), plum, and purple. The case features a silicone lining that is first applied to your phone, then the sturdy outer aluminium shell is applied. The overall look of the case is very utilitarian, practical yet elegant. The anodized aluminium finish looks great, one of the downsides is that the branding is a tad prominent on the back, to me at least anyway. Another minor downside is that the silicone insert can cause some slight pocket drag and can attract dust and lint.

The silicone insert covers the volume buttons and small holes are cut out for access to the mute switch and the lock button. The bottom of the phone isn’t covered by the case and is completely exposed which may be concerning as you may end up damaging the unprotected area of the device, but it does work in your favour too as the case will allow you to accommodate unusually large headphone jacks and potentially docking systems. The case also attaches to the phone very securely, so there’s no fear of your phone falling out of it.

Overall I’m really impressed with this case, the aluminium construction is very sturdy, the silicone insert prevents any scuffs and scratches from inside the case and it’s very respectively priced at only £5.99!

If you wish to purchase this product, please use the Amazon link below so I get the credit for recommending it.

For iPhone 5 / 5S – http://amzn.to/1mkTqiK

For iPhone 4 / S – http://amzn.to/1dhyEZ9

iPhone 5S Review

Earlier this week I upgraded from my iPhone 5 to the iPhone 5S. Overall it’s been an ok upgrade from the iPhone 5, but true to the iPhone series, not much has really been changed.

Why the iPhone 5S?

As I mentioned in my iPhone 5 review last year I already had an iPhone and I still enjoyed what the platform had to offer. Seeing as I also have an iPad running the same OS and a couple of Mac computers which all talk to each other seamlessly, it made sense to go for the latest device on the iOS platform, of course I did consider other devices for a “bit of a change” such as the Nexus 5 which runs buttery smooth stock Android, but it wouldn’t integrate as seamlessly with what I already have.

My impressions: Unboxing and initial Setup

As also mentioned in my iPhone 5 review, Apple didn’t disappoint with the packaging, very thick robust cardboard, no audible box farts, the phone was easily removed (placed in front of everything else inside of the box), everything else had it’s own separate compartments inside the box. Same old. Same old.

Very easy set up process if only because I already had iCloud configured, simply restored from previous iPhone backup and the phone was fully set up in around 20 minutes. The only issue I had was that my social media apps had de-authenticated themselves (I’d guess for security reasons) and the Google Chrome app went missing.

Inside the box as with the iPhone 5 there was the mains charger, a USB to lightning cable, Apple stickers, the warranty and manual booklets and a pair of Apple earpods.

As before it’s good to see when companies embrace the concept of “the first impressions are the lasting impressions”.

My Impressions: Overall Design and Ergonomics

As with most of Apple’s products these days, it’s minimal yet incredibly sexy. Not many physical buttons. All pretty much the same from it’s predecessor, apart from the back casing colour, the changed camera flash LED shape and a flat fingerprint sensor home button with a metallic ring around it. Black glass on the front, smooth “space grey” aluminium on the back, compact connector design (lightning), generally sturdy construction. Both the glass on the front and metal on the back feel as though they might get scratched easily over time just like the iPhone 5, but the new space grey finish may make scratches less noticeable. As with the iPhone 5, the mixture of smooth metal and glass makes it quite slippery, a rubberised texture may be preferable but not as sexy.

My Impressions: The Display

Crisp, clear, no ghosting, vivid colour reproduction and consistency across the entire display, good contrast, virtually unlimited viewing angles… everything I like to see on a display, exactly the same as the iPhone 5.

My Impressions: The Speaker(s)

The audio sounds clear and crisp for the most part. Also exactly the same as the iPhone 5.

My Impressions: Overall usage

Compared to the iPhone 5, the device feels marginally more responsive. The 64-bit capabilities don’t really translate to the end user yet as there just aren’t enough apps utilizing this new architecture. The touch ID sensor seems to recognise finger prints quickly enough and is a welcome addition to the iPhone series. The new true-tone flash does seem to make images taken with the flash appear more true to life. Slow motion video recording is also a welcome addition and can be fun to use, just make sure you’ve got enough light! (An unusual side effect of slow motion video recording is requiring more intense light) Despite the battery being larger than in the iPhone 5, the battery life seems to be more or less the same as on the iPhone 5. Apart from these differences the iPhone 5S is just a slightly modified, slightly faster version of the iPhone 5.

My Conclusion

Overall the iPhone 5S was a decent upgrade from the iPhone 5, if you’re wondering whether it’s worth the upgrade from an iPhone 5 it I’d say not so much as they’re near identical. Of course it’s entirely up to you at the end of the day. If you’re upgrading from an older iPhone however such as the 4 or 4S, then you’d most likely notice a huge difference.

Razer Project Christine Unveiled at CES 2014

It’s always exciting seeing new exciting things from the international Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and a few days ago a product known as “Project Christine” caught my eye. Project Christine has been created by the popular computer gaming equipment manufacturer Razer. Razer have already in the past proved that they can create very good computer systems with the likes of their Blade Pro gaming laptop system, and now it seems that they may be expanding further and creating a gaming desktop system.

Project Christine (I’m guessing that won’t be it’s final title) is an interesting form of a modular desktop computer system. I personally love modular design. Currently I’m sporting an older Mac Pro system as my primary desktop system and I’ve expressed in the past as to how much I love the lack of cables inside the Mac Pro, everything just plugs in and everything has it’s place, much unlike the system I had before the Mac Pro which was a custom build which was just an insane mess of cables, and unfortunately there was no way around it.

Project Christine takes modular desktop design to a whole other level and offers modules for literally every component of the system. 1 module for the optical drive, an impressing looking control panel on the front which takes up two of the front module slots, 2 SSD modules, a front I/O module, 1 audio module, 3 GPU modules, a CPU and RAM module, 1 rear I/O module, and a positively huge power supply and water cooling module. And all of these modules simply slide out of the main chassis. No screws! Of course there’s likely screws securing the components on the insides of the modules.

The entire system looks to be primarily an aluminium construction, with a black anodised finish and complimented with illuminated green highlights. It makes it look other-worldly, if a little reminiscent of Dell’s Alienware computer series.

Overall then, Project Christine looks to be an excellent product for those who just don’t want to deal with masses of cables and over-complicated case designs. It makes you almost want to actively upgrade it, as it won’t be much of a hassle, sure it’ll probably come with a premium price tag, but you could likely justify the price with the classic principle of knowing that you won’t have to change the entire system in the near future.

You can visit the official page for Project Christine by clicking here.

The Problem With The 2013 Mac Pro

Last month Apple finally launched it’s completely redesigned Mac Pro. Now it’s a much smaller, sleeker and shinier desktop system that Apple say “can actually sit on your desk”, acknowledging the fact that the older Mac Pro was on the large side. Apart from this new Mac Pro looking like “Darth Vader’s trash can” there are some other issues that run deeper than the widely criticised bold new cylindrical design. Expansion capabilities.

The old Mac Pro’s enclosure was older than many people thought. With it’s outer shell design dating back to 2003, from the Mac Pro’s predecessor the Power Mac G5. Of course the internal design was drastically different between the two. The Mac Pro was praised for it’s modular design and the ability to upgrade most components with what was generally non-proprietary hardware. Internal expansion was abundant in the old Mac Pro.

The new redesigned Mac Pro is internally expandable to a certain degree. You can upgrade the memory which as before is standard ECC memory, but it’s a little faster being DDR3 at 1866MHz. It features standard Intel Xeon processors, which contrary to previous beliefs is supposedly not soldered to the motherboard. But that’s about it for the non-proprietary hardware. You could potentially upgrade the SSD but it’s a proprietary component and is in the form of a PCI express card. Now you may be thinking “Well that’s ok, I’ll just get the beefiest model and I won’t need to upgrade anything, plus Thunderbolt connectivity is all the expansion that anyone needs”. That may be true for some people, but remember this is designed to be a power user’s computer, the image below illustrates the exact nature of the problem.

Mac Pro Problems

3 External Hard Drives, 2 External Blu-Ray Drives, 1 Fibre Channel Adapter, 1 Matrox DS1 and a bundle of cables later, you’ve matched the potential expansion capabilities of your previous gen Mac Pro. Essentially, the new Mac Pro is kind of an ironic story. A sleek, elegant, minimalist design but it will turn your desk into spaghetti junction.

I’m all for making things easier, cleaner and faster, but when it ends up creating a mess somewhere else, that just seems backwards. This is not to say that the new Mac Pro is a bad computer or you shouldn’t buy it, even benchmarks have proven that the new Mac Pro runs laps around the previous generation equivalents. And certainly it is quieter too. But I for one feel that too much has been sacrificed in order to make it smaller and more efficient.

Currently I own the previous generation Mac Pro, which is still more than fast enough for my requirements, but I feel that when it comes time to upgrade I may have to switch to something a little more mainstream and cheaper such as the iMac (even though I’ve expressed my distaste for all in one desktop systems in the past). I’d say the Mac Mini, but it would likely be a step down as high resolution multi monitor setups (my 2 x 2560×1440 displays) with standard Intel HD Graphics wouldn’t be as smooth as with a dedicated graphics chip, and underpowered mobile-oriented processors in a desktop system is never fun.

What’s your take on the new Mac Pro? Not enough internal expansion or does it make up for it with it’s smaller footprint and faster components?

Samsung UE40F6400 40″ Smart 3D LED Television Review

A couple of months ago I purchased the Samsung UE40F6400 40″ smart 3D LED television to replace my 32″ Samsung standard LCD television. Overall I’m moderately pleased with my purchase but I still believe that smart televisions have got a long way to go, and as I’ve said before 3D really isn’t that big of a deal and for most movies and TV shows, 3D isn’t necessary for the most part and occasionally can be somewhat of a distraction.

Aesthetics:

The television is extremely visually appealing, the bezel around the screen measures only just under 1″, the television itself is also an extremely slim and attractive unit. The primary colour is glossy black with a sort of glass type effect around the perimeter of the television. Fortunately due to it’s small bezel the television isn’t really all too much larger than my previous 32″ Samsung television with a much larger bezel. The slim, sleek television is complimented nicely with an elegant looking x shaped stand finished in chrome, the television can also swivel on it’s stand which is always nice. There are no physical buttons on the front of the television and a simple power indicator LED which bleeds through the bezel on the bottom right of the unit. On the back you’ll find the screw holes for attaching a wall mounting bracket to the back of the television, a load of vents, the antenna connection, component connections, a scart connection, 4 HDMI ports, an IR out port (to extend the IR receiver), a headphone port, an optical audio out port, and 3 USB ports, 1 of which are reserved for Samsung’s optional webcam attachment for using Skype. There were a couple of things that I thought samsung could improve on however, for one there are no cable management solutions behind the television, whereas on my previous television I was able to keep the cables tidy with the strap that was attached to the back of the television. The controls can also be a bit fiddly too, if you like to turn on / off your television by physically pressing the power button, it’s on the back as a sort of joystick which also controls the volume and channel selection which works well enough but seems unnecessarily fiddly. A simple touch panel built into the front bezel would have been preferable, although respectively space for forward-facing controls is an issue when you slim down the bezel.

Setting It Up:

Fairly straightforward, make sure you have a nice even soft surface to place the television on when you slide it out of the box, the setup will be easier with two people, but for most it’s still easy enough to set it up yourself. Next you need to attach the stand, if you’re mounting the television on a wall, you won’t really need the stand. The stand components should just slot into place, then use the 4 phillips screws provided to secure the stand. Be careful not to rub any zips that ma be attached to your clothing or other sharp objects directly against the LCD when moving the television if you’re moving it by yourself.

Then there’s the software setup, as soon as you’ve plugged it in and turned it on, the television will display the initial setup wizard, just follow the points on screen. Then after the initial setup you’re free to tune and tweak your television to how you like it.

Using The Television:

Most of the functions and apps can be found in the unified Samsung Smart Hub, it works well enough although I find Samsung’s interface for everything on the television to look very dated, similar in a way to Samsung’s TouchWiz Android interface, there’s just a lot of junk and clutter everywhere, it looks like the typical interface of something you might find from 2007, I’m not saying it needs to be totally flat, but Samsung sure could do with a lot more polish. I’ve also found when the television initially turns on, the Smart Hub can be jittery at times and starts to drop frames when transitioning between apps and other media. Some of the apps also seem pointless (like the browser which is really not great) and some of the apps are also poorly designed and generally look like utter dog crap and are as functional as a chocolate teapot. Such as the Twitter app which looks like it’s design was inspired from when Twitter was first created. Not good Samsung. Not good. Apart from these minor / major drawbacks the Smart Hub works well enough for the most part.

The DTV (or Freeview to us people in the UK) is a good experience overall, the interface is much better than on the rest of the system, it’s very similar to Sky in functionality (and looks to a certain extent) you can also plug in an external hard drive via USB and record what’s on TV which is definitely a useful feature. Some of the web apps work well, such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer which stream well with generally no issues.

The media player seems to work well enough and supports a wide variety of formats, simply load a USB memory stick or external USB hard drive with your music, videos or pictures and the television will more than likely play it if it’s a common file extension. The media player even supports MKV files! The interface doesn’t have much junk or clutter either which is nice and for a simple media player I should definitely think so.

Gaming on the television is ok, but you’ll probably need to adjust some settings before you get the best gaming performance. This is because of a technology Samsung use to smooth out moving images on screen. What I noticed however was that every now and then you’d see a delay of a few milliseconds on the screen. That may not sound like much but if you’ve got fast moving gameplay on the screen the game will almost seem jittery at times as the screen is trying to catch up with smoothing out those moving images. Turning off this smoothing feature didn’t really make any negative visual difference to me, other than putting an end to the annoying screen jitteryness, the gameplay was still nice and sharp and movement was smooth enough.

That brings us on neatly to the picture quality, I would say for an LCD it’s outstanding, the colour accuracy seems good, although you may want to turn down the saturation slightly in the settings. The blacks are nice and deep even at high backlight brightness. The one slight issue I did see which is only visible if the room is dark and the television is displaying a completely black screen, was that there was some slight backlight bleedthrough around the inner edges of the display, but it’s definitely not noticeable under general use.

Oddly enough the television comes with two remote controls. One is a classic remote control with all of the buttons on it that you would likely need and the other a smaller remote control with a few buttons on it and a trackpad. I didn’t really get a great deal of use out of the trackpad remote (assumedly because it’s mostly for the useless browser). The standard remote control was good enough for all intents and purposes, looks a little on the cheap side on the top of the remote but the underneath has Samsung’s wood like texture that they’ve been plastering all over their devices since the Galaxy S III. Fortunately both remotes come complete with their own batteries.

I’ve said since 3D televisions started to become popular that 3D was unnecessary for most content, and now that I’ve got my own 3D television I still stick by what I said. The television comes with two pairs of 3D glasses, which I suppose look kind of cool and geeky and are moderately comfortable to wear for an extended period of time. The glasses each use a button cell battery just above the nose arch to power glasses. It’s fairly easy to pair them to your television and to start watching something in 3D you simply need to hit the 3D button on your remote and it’ll give you multiple options for 3D then press the small button on top of the glasses. The 3D works well enough but as I say is mostly unnecessary and somewhat of a gimmick and a distraction. Unless you’re watching a film made to be watched in 3D (Avatar for example). The other issue I had with the 3D is that is can sometimes hurt your eyes after a while, I tried to watch the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special in 3D and had to just give up after the first 10 minutes (although I was in a dark room so that may explain). Gaming in 3D can equally be as eye-staining. On the plus side you can adjust the 3D settings such as how much depth you want to the image, the higher you set it the more 3D things will appear.

Overall the television is an ok purchase but as highlighted previously the UI needs major scrubbing, the smart functions need to be re-evaluated and the 3D is unnecessary for the most part but I suppose it’s a good to have the option and perhaps it would be someone else’s cup of tea to watch Sky News in 3D.

I purchased mine in store from Currys / PC World for a respectable £549

You can find it by clicking here.

TurboScan- Scan Documents Using Your iPhone

I recently came across a useful little app called TurboScan. It’s available on the App Store for the iPhone. Overall I’d say I’m fairly impressed with the app. It’s interface could be a little better but looking beyond that, the app is a great purchase for anyone wanting to scan documents with their iPhone.

How it works is quite simple, just hit the camera button in the app, take a picture of the document as straight as possible, the results are often better too if you use a contrasting background to the document, so if it’s on white paper, try and place it on a darker surface. Once you take the picture your camera will automatically use it’s flash and you may notice that the app seems to add a sort of filter to the image.

If the image is of good quality with the edges of the document clearly distinguished, the app should automatically crop the picture and instantly show you the result, you can choose from a black and white or a colour image. If the image isn’t of the best quality or the document has no distinguishable edges, you’ll need to manually crop the image, then you’ll be shown the result.

The app really does work quite well, in fact I may even go as far as to say I would now most likely use my smartphone instead of my all in one printer for scanning documents.

The app is a great value purchase at £1.99 and you can find it by clicking here. Let’s just hope that they improve that UI in the near future!

WhatsApp Finally Receives iOS 7 Update

I, like many have been awaiting the release of a redesigned WhatsApp. Although I really don’t use WhatsApp that much, it still frustrated me that the app was still using the now somewhat dated design of iOS 6. Finally this week they’ve released the iOS 7 update.

The main features and changes within the new update include how contact list photos are now circles rather than the previous square, in keeping with the design of the built in contacts app in iOS 7, apparently the WhatsApp now also features different notification sounds. You can now also create lists to send broadcast messages to multiple people and groups. Overall the app now feels more consistent with the iOS user interface and user experience.

In addition to these UI changes, the icon has also been updated to a more flat design, reminiscent of the default messaging app’s icon.

The update is free and can be obtained from the app store.

Here’s a link to the app store with all of the information for the latest version of WhatsApp.

Doctor Who- The Day of the Doctor Review

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Last week the epic 50th anniversary special broke the simulcast world record, with it being broadcasted in a total of 94 countries in 6 continents, simultaneously it was shown in over 1500 cinemas worldwide. I’m a huge fan of Doctor Who since I discovered it with the relaunched series in 2005. Of course the entire show was first created in 1963, over 50 years ago. I’ve watched bits and pieces of the classic Doctor Who series and despite less impressive special effects and somewhat underwhelming costumes and “monsters”, I was still impressed by the fact that the overall “feel” of the show was exactly the same.

The Day of the Doctor was a very special episode indeed. The episode is set in the present day on Earth (2013) with the 11th Doctor (Matt Smith), Earth in 1562 with the 10th Doctor (David Tennant), and various places on Gallifrey during the time war including Arcadia and The Citadel, and an unknown building / planet where John Hurt’s character the War Doctor or what is / was the true 9th Doctor is hiding in.

I thought the storyline was truly amazing, with us pretty much instantly being plunged into the action. It didn’t take long either to start thinking of what certain things at the start of the episode meant, like the painting of Arcadia titled No More / Gallifrey Falls, which was repeated several times throughout the episode like a mini story arc. Being a hardcore whovian, I have wanted to see this illusive time war on screen since the series relaunched in 2005. It’s always interesting learning more about the even more illusive Time Lords too, who even in the classic series were really not in it that much (with the likes of “Trial of a Time Lord” being an exception). The Gallifreyan weapon known as “The Moment” or “The Galaxy Eater” was also an interesting piece of Time Lord tech (first mentioned of in the 2009 episode The End of Time Part 2) and answered the question as to exactly just how the Doctor did it.

Also a bit off topic of The Day of the Doctor . There was a mini episode on the BBC website a few days before the episode aired called “The Night of the Doctor” which is still currently available to watch here. The mini episode also gave further explanation as to how the War Doctor came into being and how the 8th Doctor (Paul McGann) acted throughout the Time War. So this mini episode coupled with The Day of the Doctor really did bridge the gap between the 9th Doctor we know (Christopher Eccleston) and the 8th Doctor.

The Zygons were a good choice of monster for the 50th Anniversary Special and added a bit of classic Doctor Who monster action to the episode. They were also clever plot devices as they had the ability to shape shift so you sometimes didn’t definitely know if certain characters were indeed who they seemed to be.

The humor throughout the episode was fantastic! (in the words of the 9th doctor) The constant banter between the three Doctors (that’s the 11th Doctor, Sandshoes and Grandad) when they were all on screen was simply hilarious. The fez made an appearance again and the 10th Doctor also breifly got to wear it this time. It was great seeing the 10th Doctor again too (my favourite Doctor) seeing as David Tennant hasn’t changed at all since leaving Doctor Who, when watching it, it was like he had never left, although his iconic wild hairstyle could have been a little more wild. John Hurt was a great choice for the War Doctor, he’s one of those guys who sound inherently wise. He looked the part too, dressed in a worn leather jacket and semi-8th doctor style garments he really looked like he’d been through a war, but still looked like he was somewhat a continuation of the 8th Doctor. Even down to the sonic screwdriver which looked like a hybrid of the classic sonic and the 10th / 9th Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. The War Doctor’s TARDIS was also interesting being a hybrid of the classic series TARDIS with the iconic “round things” (of which the Doctor’s do not know what they are or what function they serve) and the 9th / 10th Doctor’s “grunge phase” TARDIS interior, although the 10th Doctor had acknowledged that he did not like the newly redecorated TARDIS interior. The exterior of the war Doctor’s TARDIS was effectively the same as the 9th / 10th Doctor’s TARDIS but was riddled with all kinds of battle scars and burns.

Interestingly Billie Piper didn’t play Rose directly in The Day of the Doctor. She did a great job of playing the interface of the Time Lord weapon “The Moment” which was using a face the Doctor liked, but seeing as it’s a sentient Time Lord invention it got it a little wrong and used a face from the Doctor’s future instead. The face the Moment chose also happened to be of Rose when she was the Bad Wolf, further adding a more alien and a more powerful element to the Time Lord’s most dangerous weapon.

Further light was also given to the mystery of why The Doctor was the sworn enemy of Queen Elizabeth I. Queen Elizabeth I was a great character but unfortunately didn’t have more of a part to play beyond the first part of the episode. Jemma Redgrave was also back in Doctor Who playing the head of UNIT.

The episode also had an unexpected turn towards the climax of the episode. As we were all getting sad at the prospect of all three Doctors having to destroy Gallifrey (again) Clara managed to change the 11th Doctor’s mind and with the help of all the other 12 Doctors, Gallifrey was saved and the Daleks shot themselves to bits. They made it seem as if Gallifrey had dissapeared by hiding it in a “pocket” of time. Oh the joy from my inner geek seeing 13 TARDISes flying towards Gallifrey and John Hurt subsequently shouting “Gallifrey Stands”. We also managed to get a quick glimpse of the 12th (technically 13th Doctor) Peter Capaldi.

After all of the flying aroung in TARDISes the 3 Doctors finally have a chance to have a cup of tea and a chat. The War Doctor goes away and subsequently regenerates, and the 10th Doctor then departs for a second time. Both Doctor’s won’t remember what they just did so to them Gallifrey is still destroyed / time locked (poor Mr Who). There was also one last surprise which was the unexpected appearance of Tom Baker (4th Doctor) as “The Curator” his role was unclear but many whovians (including me) are wondering if it has something to do with the UNIT worker Osgood with the 4th Doctor’s scarf throughout the episode. The Curator tells the 11th Doctor of the true meaning of the No More / Gallifrey Falls painting, indicating that it’s true title is “Gallifrey Falls No More” meaning that the Doctor’s plan to save his planet had indeed been successful.

The episode ended with all 12 Doctors together looking up at a large burnt orange planet (perhaps Gallifrey) with the 11th Doctor stating that his next adventure is to find his home (implying that Gallifrey is hidden somewhere in the Doctor Who universe). I believe this will be Steven Moffat’s plan to bring back the Time Lords to grant the Doctor more regenerations, afterall it would seem that currently Peter Capaldi is the last regeneration (12 regenerations for a total of 13 total Time Lord incarnations)

Overall I thought the episode was brilliant and very fitting for the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who and I’d hope that this great show continues for more many more years to come.

Doctor Who Collectable Die Cast Dalek Review

A couple of days ago I purchased a couple of die cast collectable Daleks from the popular British science fiction television programme Doctor Who. I purchased the standard gold version of the Daleks and the black Dalek Sec version.

The Dalek Sec version retails for £19.99 and the standard Dalek version for £18.99. So it’s an extra pound for the Dalek Sec version but that is justifiable as there is only 1 Dalek Sec! You could probably say that both of the Daleks are a little bit pricey as they’re not particularly huge, but on the other hand they’re not particularly minuscule either.

Both of the Daleks have a fairly solid construction with the main body and mid section both being die cast metal, but unfortunately the head domes, lights, eye stalks, plungers and gun attachments are all made of plastic. Also unfortunately the plunger and gun attachment do not swivel or move around, but the eye stalk does allow for vertical movement and the head dome swivels.

Underneath the Daleks you’ll find the rollers which allow you to easily move the Daleks across a surface and can give them a more somewhat menacing look. Of course unfortunately they won’t fly or do anything fancy, there are no LEDs or sound effects, but they’ll look pretty cool on any Doctor Who fan’s shelf. The detailing on the Daleks is very good for the most part, they’ve even taken the time to stamp on the little Dalek ID underneath the eye stalk, there is some excellent metal detailing on the sort of “bumper” on the base of the gold Dalek.

Overall the Daleks are a fairly good purchase if you’re a fan of Doctor Who, if you paid around £5 extra you could go for the likes of the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special Dalek which is a much larger version with a Union Jack painted on it which does feature lights, sounds and other special effects, which I would say would be more appropriate for a toy, versus these die cast Daleks as there are certainly many small plastic components that could potentially be broken off and swallowed. But if you’re a fan of Doctor Who, if you like collecting Doctor Who items, if you want something literally just to sit on your shelf, then certainly these Daleks should suffice.

You can find where to purchase these Daleks by using my Amazon links below, and that way I’ll get the credit for showing you this product.

Standard Gold Dalek Version – http://amzn.to/19CjCQt

Black Dalek Sec Version – http://amzn.to/1emacs7

You can watch my video review of these Daleks here – http://youtu.be/AF6xrGVrR7I

HP Photosmart 5524 e-All-in-One Printer Review

A few months back I purchased the HP Photosmart 5524 e-All-in-One Printer. For some time before, I had contemplated purchasing a wireless printer (more convenient) with a scanner (there have been numerous times I’ve needed one) and a printer that will allow me to use airprint. After looking around I found this rather stylish all in one printer from HP. For what it’s worth, the printer is a great value purchase. In this article I review it.

  1. Aesthetics

The printer has a nice clean and simple design, fairly compact for an all in one printer. Most of it’s construction is a matte texture black plastic with glossy black plastic highlights. For the most part the construction feels fairly sturdy and of an acceptable quality. There’s a small logo on the top and the model number is stamped on the front. On the front you’ll also find a small access panel to insert a memory card, however I did find this little access panel to feel rather cheap and flimsy. On the front you’ll also find the nondescript control panel which has all of the various buttons one might need to operate the printer. Most printer controls however are not physical and are used in conjuction with the touchscreen which although uses a seemingly plastic overlay, it seems to actually be a capacitive touchscreen which is always great as it translates directly to better responsiveness with touchscreens. So overall the look and feel is good, and again a surprisingly small footprint for an all in one printer.

  1. Setup

Setting up the printer was very easy (in fact easier than HP makes it out to be). I unboxed the printer, and removed all of the necessary packaging. I inserted the included ink cartridges into their corresponding slots and then plugged in and powered on the printer. The printer took a few minutes to prepare itself, printed out a head alignment page and prompted me to scan the alignment page. Once that was done it took me through a setup wizard to connect the printer to my computer(s) and / or my wireless network. The printer was fast to connect to my wireless network and it then prompted me to setup HP’s Web Print service. I don’t really have much need for the service so I cannot comment on how easy it is to set up that particular service. HP’s Web Print can be skipped fortunately, so I was now all setup and ready to go. I didn’t use HP’s included CD with the printer software on as I knew it would more than likely be outdated. So I visited HP’s website and downloaded and installed HP’s printer / scanner software on the computer(s) on my network. I did notice a slight software difference between the Windows version and the Mac OS X version however. Unfortunately it seems that the wireless “Scan to PC” doesn’t exist for Mac OS X, but you can still use HP’s scanning software (or the scanning software built into Mac OS X) to scan documents over your network. So overall the setup was relatively straightforward.

  1. Using The Printer

The printer does use inkjet technology so if you’re printing regularly you may spend a fortune on ink (inkjet printers use ink very quickly). The quality of plain text documents is great, not quite as sharp as a laser printer but still quite impressive for an inkjet printer. The quality of photos is also quite good compared to most inkjet printers, fortunately there are settings you can toggle to optimise the printer for photographs and you can use glossy photo print paper with the printer too. Wireless and wired print jobs are both just as fast, the printer will respond with only a couple of seconds delay and seems to print documents quite quickly too. Air print also seems to work quite well and quite quickly. The scanner is pretty much just like any other scanner, apart from it’s automatic cropping feature which I had only discovered when I was scanning some old family photos. Basically, say you scan a photo that is smaller than the overall surface area of the scanner, the printer detects where the edges of the photo is and crops the resulting scan accordingly. The only issue I had was that the scanner can sometimes get confused as to where the edge is, for example there was a photo that I scanned where there was a white object of some sort in the middle of the photo but the software couldn’t make up it’s mind and effectively chopped up the photo into multiple pieces. The scanner can scan directly to your computer wired or wirelessly and you can also scan to a memory card.

  1. The Verdict

This all in one printer is great value for money and is ideal for home use. It is compatible with wide variety of operating systems including iOS and offers potentially useful internet printing services. There are indeed cheaper all in one printer alternatives out there but spending that little bit extra may give you a better experience. I wouldn’t advise this printer in an office setting, as with is being an inkjet, the ink doesn’t last as long and isn’t as cost effective as it’s laser alternative. I had purchased it here and I received an extra pack of A4 paper and an extra set of inks.

Quick Tip – Identifying a Font

Ever stumbled upon a font online and wanted to find out what particular font that was? I’ve certainly had this issue before and have wondered if there was some sort of service that could identify the font in question for me. Luckily enough there is a service which I have been using for some time called WhatTheFont.

The website which is available by clicking here is capable of identifying a font via the use of images. So for example, say you see a logo with a font you’d really like to use you can simply copy and paste the image URL into WhatTheFont, you choose which parts of the logo are which characters and WhatTheFont will give you a list of the fonts in it’s database that most closely match the font in the image you chose.

If there is a font on a webpage that isn’t an image, it’s still possible to get an idea of what font it can be too. It’s quite simple. Just take a screenshot on whatever device you’re using, crop the image if you require and then simply upload that image to WhatTheFont. Using the same steps as detailed previously it should give you some idea of what font most closely resembles the one in the image.

There are a couple of limitations with this service however. One of the limitations is because of the fact that the service uses images, if the image in question is low quality and / or pixelated the website will have a great degree of difficulty identifying the font. The other issue there is, is that not every font is in their database so the website will give you the most accurate representation of the font you want but it may be slightly different. The other issue isn’t necessarily an issue with the website but more of an issue of the fonts themselves. Fonts have different licensing, some fonts you can download for free, some we’re talking thousands for a personal licence, then a bit more for a public license. So although the font may display on the website, you may still not be able to download the font.

But apart from the small issues, the website is potentially a great little tool for anyone wanting to identify a font.

Quick Tip – Formatting Drives in OS X

In Windows it’s a relatively simple process when formatting a drive, but if you’ve recently switched to OS X, you may be wondering how you can format drives too. The functionality isn’t really built-in to the Finder so we must use a system utility that is built into OS X.

This method will work on pretty much any type of drive that is compatible with most systems, regardless whether they are plugged in via USB, Firewire, Thunderbolt, SCSI, SATA or even physical media such as a CD or DVD.

Let’s get started:

  1. Open a new finder window.
  2. Open the Applications folder.
  3. Open the Utilities folder.
  4. Open the application called “Disk Utility”

Another quick tip: A quicker way to open an application is by pressing Command + Space and searching for the application’s name, check to make sure you have the correct one highlighted then just hit enter.

Within disk utility it provides you with a list of all available drives on the left, many different function buttons along the top and a pane on the right to manage your selected disk.

  1. Click on the disk that you wish to format, and make sure that it is the correct disk.
  2. The pane on the right should now display a sort of tab bar of which reads First Aid, Erase, RAID & Restore. You’re going to want to hit the Erase button.
  3. Upon clicking on the Erase button you’ll now see two dropdown menus in the right pane, one reading “Format” and the other “Name”. Select the format which you desire, if you pick any of the formats that read Mac OS Extended, the disk in question will not have a cross platform compatible filesystem (Windows won’t read it). If the drive needs to be connected to Windows at some point, I would advise choosing either MS-DOS (FAT) or ExFAT as they are compatible with Windows.
  4. Now choose a name for your drive, it can be anything you want.
  5. You can choose your desired level of security by pressing on the security options button. It’s a useful function if you’re giving or selling the drive to someone. The higher the security level, the longer it’ll take to wipe the drive.
  6. You can also choose to erase the free space which basically doesn’t touch the data on the drive but effectively destroys the data on the empty area of the drive.
  7. As soon as you’re done configuring all of your preferences just hit Erase! And that’s it. If it’s a simple format with no security it should only take a few seconds, but depending on the security setting you selected it could potentially take from a few minutes, to hours to even days.

Minecraft – Generating Cylinders With WorldEdit

Need to know how to create cylinders in Minecraft with WorldEdit? Here’s how.

There are a couple of commands that can be used here, there’s the solid cylinder command and the hollow cylinder command.

So the first thing you’re going to want to do is decide where you want your cylinder. Ideally on flat level ground ensuring enough space is left to stop your cylinder cutting into any existing structures, unless of course you’re wanting this effect.

Then all you need to do is open the chat and type //cyl if you’re creating a solid cylinder or type //hcyl if you’re creating a hollow cylinder. This sould then be followed by the block ID or block name, such as “155” or “bedrock” for example, then type the radius which is the number of blocks out in each direction from where you’re standing and then the height of the cylinder from the block you’re standing on upwards. Your command should now look something like this: //hcyl stone 5 10

Now just hit enter and your cylinder should appear. If you’re not happy with the cylinder simply type //undo into the chat box and hit enter and any changes made will be reversed and you can start again.

Want to see how to do this in video form? Click on the link below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q17nKle33kY

How to Mount Your Smartphone or Tablet to a Tripod- iStabilizer

and of course then there’s the problem of the adhesive all over your shiny smartphone or tablet. Or perhaps you could create some sort of elaborate elastic band setup to try and hold your smartphone or tablet in place. Whatever the temporary solution, it’s usually not a very elegant one.

A few months ago I came across a useful little gadget aptly named “iStabilizer”. Essentially it is a clamp that facilitates the holding of your smartphone or tablet and on the bottom features the screw thread to fit a standard 1/4″ tripod screw thread.

The build quality of the iStabilizer is fairly decent, the main body of the clamp is made of a black plastic and the moving top of the clamp is basically a metal rod bent into the correct dimensions for the clamp base. The interior of the clamp has rubber strips adhered to it’s surface to avoid scratching the smartphone and to create more grip. The main downfall of the iStabilizer is that it’s support for different sized devices is somewhat limited. The small model will easily hold an iPhone (the iStabilizer was created mainly for use with the iPhone hence it’s name), a Samsung Galaxy S II may fit at a squeeze and probably most HTC devices, but something like the Galaxy Note you’ll have no luck with. It simply does not extend far enough to accommodate some of the more wide smartphone models out these days. However they have recently released a new version called iStabilizer XL which may accomodate some of the larger smartphones out there. The iStabilizer is also relatively easy to adjust as it’s clamp mechanism is spring action, ensuring that the device is secured whilst allowing you a greater range of motion for adjusting the positioning of the device.

Overall then the iStabilizer is a great piece of kit if you’re looking for an elegant solution to mount your smartphone or tablet to a standard tripod. The company also provides other models in their range such as the iStabilizer Flex, the Glass or even the Dolly.

You can check out their website and get more information about their products by clicking here.

I purchased my iStabilizer through Amazon. It can be found by clicking here.

Quick Tip – Windows 8 Tools Menu

Windows 8 has now been out for over a year and if you’ve been using it for a while you’ve more than likely familiarised yourself with all of the various features here and there which help you to be more productive. With the old start menu gone however, it can still be a bit of a pain to access various settings and tools in Windows 8. Of course you could download an application like Start 8 to bring back the beloved start menu and solve all of your problems, but if you’re familiar with Windows 8 and you’re comfortable with how to navigate within the operating system, then you’re not really going to want to download an application to facilitate the old start menu functionality.

However there is a useful little menu that can provide you with access to various tools, system settings and other useful utilities to enhance your productivity. And the best part, you don’t have to download anything! This tip may be especially useful for power users out there.

How it’s done:

Just hold the Windows key + X to access this little known little tools menu.

On it you will find shortcuts to Programs and Features, Power Options, Event Viewer, System, Device Manager, Disk Management, Computer Management, Command Prompt, Command Prompt (Admin), Task Manager, Control Panel, File Explorer, Search, Run & Desktop.

Unfortunately it isn’t a direct replacement to the old start menu but it could potentially be a useful menu to adjust settings and launch utilities on the fly.

This keyboard command should work in Windows 8.1 and I would imagine other future distributions of Windows.

Logitech Z506 5.1 Computer Speaker System Review

A couple of months ago I purchased a replacement speaker system for my main computer setup. I decided to purchase the Logitech Z506 5.1 computer speaker system. I chose it for it’s powerful subwoofer and it’s 5 satellite speaker arrangement. Most of all though I chose it because of it’s extremely attractive price tag of just £59.99.

Specifications:

  • Speaker power: 48W
  • Subwoofer power: 27W
  • Amplifier: 75W
  • Input type: 3.5mm Stereo Mini-Plug
  • Accessories: 3.5 mm and six channel direct audio cables (RCA cable not included)

Unboxing & Setup:

The speakers were packed well in a surprisingly compact box, inside the box was the 5 satellite speakers 1 rear left, 1 front left, 1 center, 1 front right, 1 rear right and 1 subwoofer, the subwoofer houses all of the various inputs and outputs as well as bass control. The cables for the satellite speakers are of a satisfactory length. You’ll also find the 3.5mm stereo jack to connect to your computer and a six channel direct audio cable. The setup was relatively straightforward, plug in all of the necessary cables and power up the speakers.

Aesthetics:

The speakers have a nice clean appearance, the satellite speakers are slimmer than some other speakers, the center speaker has a little clamp / stand arrangement on it’s base to attach it to a computer monitor if you preferred. I chose not to as it makes my setup look slightly bulky, plus I don’t really need to see my speakers to be able to hear them. The center speaker along with the front left and right speakers sit behind my two 27″ monitors whilst the rear left speaker sits on the window ledge behind my chair and the rear right speaker sits on the corner of the return section of my desk. I’ve stuck that particular speaker down on the desk as they can get knocked over quite easily. The subwoofer looks like pretty much any other subwoofer it’s a large black box with a hole in the front and the speaker cone is on the bottom of the unit facing downwards, I’ve situated my subwoofer on the floor next to the desk.

Sound Quality:

I’m not an audio professional so I won’t pretend to be able to detect very subtle differences in audio, but I’m thoroughly impressed with the quality of the audio from this speaker system, especially for the price, you really can’t complain. The 5.1 surround sound really creates an immersive audio experience whether it be music, games or movies. The highs seem crisp and clear while the bass is controlled but deep and immersive. There isn’t much of an electrical hum either when the unit is switched on but there is no active audio from the source.

The controls are very simple too, there’s a bass control knob on the back of the subwoofer and to adjust the volume there is a volume knob on the front of the front right speaker. The only issue I’ve had so far is the small issue of if you adjust the volume manually (as opposed to within the OS) the speakers can sometimes make popping noises when the volume is being adusted.

Other than that small issue these speakers are great value for money, and with a good brand behind them (Logitech) they’re sure to be very reliable.

Minecraft House Tour – Redstone Edition

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a Minecraft house tour video and in celebration of our now over 10,000 YouTube subscriber count and over 5,000,000 video views, I give you the third iteration of the Minecraft house tour videos. The redstone edition.

In this video I give you a tour around my fully redstone automated Minecraft house. The house features a dark wood and cobblestone exterior, a stained clay and sandstone interior, multiple elevations, 3 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, a home office, a library, an attic, a basement full of laboratories, a living room, an indoor pool, a games room, a kitchen, a dining room, a garage and an outside shed. The house also features working concealed redstone lightning systems and concealed redstone shower systems.

The house is much smaller than the two previous iterations but the more compact design allowed me to focus more on the interior and minimising the wasted space and the number of empty rooms. The house was designed bottom up to facilitate the use of concealed redstone systems via the use of cavity walls, floors and ceilings.

The main exterior design and framework of the house took a couple of days to build whilst the interior of the house is constantly under development.

If you’d like to see the YouTube video, you can watch it below or watch it on YouTube by clicking here.

Also be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel to instantly find out when I’ve uploaded videos.

Thank you to all of my wonderful YouTube viewers for taking this channel to a level I never thought it would reach.

How To – Refresh Google Chrome New Tab Page Thumbnails

One of the small things that irritate me in Google Chrome is the irregular refreshing of the thumbnails on the new tab page. Of course if you don’t use the new tab page then this article is irrelevant to you, but to those who do, this article aims to show you how to manually refresh the thumbnails on the new tab page. Another solution could be to remove the recently visited websites on the new tab page, of course then the problem is that it may take some time for the websites you want there to reappear.

What you’ll need:

  • Google Chrome (I’ve tried this method on version 26 for Mac & PC, procedures detailed below may vary according to which version of Google Chrome you are running, I don’t think this will work on Chrome OS)
  • An SQLite browser (you can download one free from a variety of software vendors, any one will do usually)

How it’s done:

  1. Close any open Google Chrome windows (remember to save anything you were working on!)
  2. If you’re using a Windows computer paste the following into the address bar of Explorer or into Run command:

%LOCALAPPDATA%\Google\Chrome\User Data\

You now need to open a folder in this directory which may be named default or Profile

If you’re using a Macintosh computer open a new Finder window and navigate to:

/users/[username]/library/application support/google/chrome/

You now need to open a folder in this directory which may be named default or Profile

If you’re using a Linux computer, navigate to:

/home//.config/google-chrome/default

You now need to open a folder in this directory which may be named default or Profile

  1. Inside of the folder, scroll down until you see a file named “Top Sites”.
  2. Highlight this file and open it with the SQLite browser you downloaded earlier.
  3. Navigate to the “Thumbnails” table.
  4. Double click on the cell you want to edit for the relative website URL in the “thumbnail” column and in the pop-up click the clear button & save your changes.
  5. Close the SQLite browser and launch Google Chrome.
  6. Your thumbnail should now be cleared, you will need to click on the website to generate a new thumbnail and that’s it!

How To – MacBook Pro Memory Upgrade

More memory or RAM is a great way to give your MacBook Pro some extra “grunt” and make multitasking much more efficient. If you’ve upgraded memory in a laptop before you may be intrigued as to how the memory is upgraded on the MacBook Pro, after all, there are no visible vents or access panels on the bottom of the MacBook pro. It’s actually a surprisingly pleasant upgrade process with the MacBook Pro and in this article I’ll show you how. Note: This guide is for the non-retina version of the MacBook Pro, the Retina MacBook Pro’s memory is soldered to it’s motherboard and cannot be upgraded.

You’ll need:

  • Smallish screwdriver of the phillips variety
  • Your replacement memory chip(s)
  • An anti static wrist band (I don’t usually use one but it’s usually better to be safe than sorry)
  • Optional can of compressed air, in the event that you may just be counter productive and clean out the dust bunnies while you’re at it.
  • Time (about 10 minutes of it, 15 if we’re allowing for complications)
  • A soft surface to place our highly scratchable notebook on.

How it’s done:

  1. Make sure the notebook is shutdown and isn’t plugged in.
  2. Close the notebook (if you haven’t already) and turn it over so that the Apple logo is facing down.

MacBook Pro Base

  1. Take the smallish screwdriver and start unscrewing the screws around the perimeter of the giant bottom panel of the notebook. (Note: a couple of the screws are longer than the rest, remember where they go.) Store the screws somewhere safe.

MacBook Pro Base Screw

  1. Once all the screws are out, remove the bottom panel. Be wary of a any dust flying out, you don’t want to be sneezing into the internals of your MacBook, Apple doesn’t cover accidental damage caused by snot on your motherboard. Store the panel in a safe area, it’s made of thin aluminium so it can bend quite easily.

MacBook Pro Base Off

  1. Locate the memory modules on the motherboard & carefully remove them by using the clips on the sides, insert the replacement memory module(s).

MacBook Pro Memory Out

  1. If necessary give the insides a little blast with a can of compressed air. Especially in the heat sink if the notebook has been used for some time.
  2. Resintall the bottom panel back on to the notebook and screw in the screws into their correct holes. Be sure not to over-tighten the screws, this could damage the threads.
  3. You should now be all set to go. Turn your MacBook Pro back on, if any strange beeps occur or it doesn’t start up something has gone wrong with the upgrade, check the memory modules are properly installed and they are of the correct type. If all else fails you may need to contact Apple’s support. As soon as your MacBook is on the desktop proceed to click on the Apple menu in the top left of the screen and click “About This Mac” in the dropdown. If the upgrade was successful the correct memory amount should appear.

Quick Tip – Showing Hidden Files In OS X

In Windows it is incredibly simple & fast to show hidden files in Explorer and if you’ve made the move from Windows to OS X, you may be wondering how you can do the very same thing in OS X. It’s not in any menus as such which is a pain, so it can not be as quickly toggled as it can in Windows. But there is a way and it is as follows. This method is known to work in OS X Lion 10.7 and OS X Mountain Lion 10.8, I would imagine the method will be the same for OS X Mavericks 10.9, it may work on older iterations of OS X, but use at your own discretion.

Let’s get started:

  1. Open a new finder window.
  2. Open the Applications folder.
  3. Open the Utilities folder.
  4. Open the application called “Terminal” (This is essentially the command prompt of OS X)

Another quick tip: A quicker way to open an application is by pressing Command + Space and searching for the application’s name, check to make sure you have the correct one highlighted then just hit enter.

  1. Paste this code into Terminal then hit enter:

defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles YES

  1. Hold the Alt key and right click on the Finder icon in the dock and hit relaunch.
  2. And that’s it! You should now see any hidden files you may have been looking for. Hooray!
  3. You can either leave hidden files visible or when you’re done just paste this code into terminal and your hidden files should be hidden once again:

defaults write com.apple.Finder AppleShowAllFiles NO

What Is Wireless Charging & How Does It Work?

It is truly a mystery why more devices aren’t using wireless charging. It seems like such a simple idea that has tons of applications yet it’s still not used in many consumer devices. But a more interesting question. How does it work? Wireless charging is not the real name for this technology, it’s real name is “Inductive Charging”. In the process of induction charging the emitter and receiver make use of an electromagnetic field to effectively charge the device(s) wirelessly. There is usually a base station for the charger on which the device(s) that need to be charged sit on top.

A good example of wireless charging that has been around for some time could be the charging system of most rechargeable electronic toothbrushes. Because electronic toothbrushes are usually in close proximity to water it is important that the toothbrush is completely sealed, essentially the removal of physical electrical contacts. And so pretty much all rechargeable electronic toothbrushes these days use wireless or “inductive” charging.

Another notable device that uses inductive charging could be the Google Nexus 4 smartphone. The Nexus 4 has a built in inductive charging plate built in to it’s back cover. You can even get inductive charging kits these days to create the same wireless charging experience on your existing smartphone. You simply attach the corresponding charging plate to your device usually through means of plugging it into whatever port your device uses for charging/data transfer. One notable kit is the Powermat. It supports all kinds of mobile device and allows for simultaneous wireless charging of any device which has been made compatible with the charger.

So overall wireless charging is great. Who doesn’t like to eliminate another wired connection!? It’s just a shame that more companies are not embracing the wireless charging technology. It is just a so much more elegant charging solution (a more elegant solution would be not having to charge the device at all! We can only dream) I think another good idea would be to build in inductive charging into furniture surfaces so there would be no need for the mat either. Imagine simply being able to place your phone on your bedside table (assuming you may have one) and the device charging by simply being there.

I beg of you large companies, make inductive charging a standard!

What do you think? Good idea or a complete waste of time and money?

ASUS’ New 31.5″ PQ321 4K Display 3840 x 2160!

I love high pixel density, and that’s why when I stumbled upon this new display I couldn’t help but drool. ASUS are releasing a couple of new 4K computer displays this year one measuring 31.5″ and the other measuring 39″. The 31.5″ features a breathtaking resolution of 3480 x 2160 on an IZGO panel from Sharp, that kind of resolution should be made illegal. This may essentially be the retina version of desktop computer displays that we’ve all been waiting for.

This display isn’t for the faint hearted however, it will requite a VERY powerful graphics card and will take up either 1 Display Port 1.2 output or two HDMI ports to run this beast, let alone be able to play an intense game on it! The displays will allow up to 60Hz refresh rate unfortunately (due to the sheer amount of pixels) so don’t be expecting a high-performance 4K + 3D computer monitor just yet (perhaps in a few years).

Other technical specifications of the display include a 16:9 aspect ratio, LED backlighting, 8ms grey to grey response time, 350cd/m2 brightness, 176 degree viewing angle, it also features a couple of built in 2w speakers. ASUS have not confirmed when it will be launched but it is expected to cost around the sum of $4000 (£2555.10).

New products targeting relatively uncharted waters like this really do get me excited. The really interesting thing also will be seeing how other competitors will try to make better products than this. I feel that the most likely candidates to release 4K computer displays in the next couple of years include the likes of Apple (to market within their “Retina” range), Dell (to market within their “UltraSharp” range), Samsung (to market within their “professional” range) and possibly HP.

Will you invest in a 4K display (TV or computer display) any time soon?

Lightning vs 30-pin Connector

Apple’s lightning connector, the successor to the classic 30-pin dock connector has now been out for some time. It’s smaller and more versatile than the classic 30-pin connector, but how much better is it really? In this article we aim to find out. The 30-pin dock connector has been around since the unveiling of the third generation iPod back in 2003 (the connection for the two prior models being firewire). It was starting to become clear once the iPod was the general go-to mp3 device what Apple was thinking with the design of the 30-pin dock connector and due to it not changing for 9 years, the dock connector was truly integrated into everyday products.

For example, whereas you may struggle to find a Micro USB port on an MP3 docking station, you’ll more than likely find a 30-pin dock connector. The dock connector was even integrated into more unexpected items such as the arm rests of sofas so you can plug in your iPod or iPhone and enjoy your content on speakers either built in or plugged into a cable trailing out of the sofa. Dock connectors in the stands of televisions were also becoming quite popular a few years ago. The idea being that you could charge your iPod or iPhone from your television and also use the speakers within the television for listening to audio from your device. Dock connectors even started to be integrated in new cars so that you can plug in your iPod or iPhone and use the device hands free if necessary but also to play audio from the device, eliminating the need for CDs or radio.

The dock connector did seem to stand the test of time and it’s functionality was never really questioned. The unfortunate thing with this connector however is that it was quite large, this effectively held back making devices thinner and lighter because of that huge port. The other disadvantage was that the dock connector could only be plugged in one way. Of course you could say this about many other connections that was still use nowadays such as USB 2.0, I genuinely can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally tried to insert a USB connector in the wrong way. And of course even the likes of Micro USB is a one-way connector. The lack of being able to flip the connector wasn’t a huge issue but it does make it easier when you’re fumbling about in the dark trying to put your iPhone on charge.

So lightning is substantially smaller than the 30-pin dock connector and I just wish Apple had created this new connector sooner rather than later. By introducing this new connector after 9 years of the 30-pin connector, they solved a few problems but created a fair few more. For one, anyone who uses accessories that use the 30-pin connector can’t use their lightning device with it without a special adapter. Not only is this inconvenient but it is unsightly and costs more money! Also unfortunately the lightning connector cannot transfer some of the signals the 30-pin connector could. The lightning connector only supports data via USB, charging via USB and the output of analogue audio. I think my main issue with the connector was it’s name for the most part, calling it lightning just seemed so… meh. Why not just be sensible and call it the 8-pin dock connector?

The lightning connector uses 8 pins to transmit it’s signals along with an additional 9th which is the metal shroud around the connector which doubles up as a ground. The pins within the connector span the entire width of the connector meaning that the connectors on one side is the same connector as on the other side. So what allows the connector to be used both ways without frying the internals of your new iPhone is an interesting idea. Within the devices that feature the lightning port, the device has a special processor dedicated to analysing which way the connector was inserted and changing which connecter does which within the port as opposed to within the connector. Quite clever really, and the processor doubles up as an authentication chip, which will allow only supported devices to be connected to the device.

Overall then the lightning cable is the technical winner in the lightning vs 30-pin battle but it really just wasn’t that big of a deal. The whole onboard authentication / connector orientation processor is a clever idea but perhaps everyone would have been more “wowed” if this connector was released years ago. At least that way we’d now have a healthy amount of lightning accessories!

Cold Cathode vs LED Backlighting

CCFL (Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lighting) and LED (Light Emitting Diode) backlighting technology has been used for quite a while in a variety of LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) panels. LED is the newest out of the two coming into light (no pun intended) in the last few years. Whilst CCFL is the oldest of the two being the original backlighting system in LCD panels. So it should be a simple answer of yes LED is better because it’s newer. But it’s not as simple as that unfortunately. This article aims to help you understand why.

If you were / are the user of an LCD panel whether it be a television or computer monitor from beyond 5 years ago, chances are that the panel was / is using CCFL backlighting. Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lighting is a fairly simple idea. If you’ve ever seen those large fluorescent light tubes that you most commonly find in the likes of office buildings, a CCFL tube is simply a very small version of those large tubes with slightly different technology behind them. Whereas the fluorescent lighting in your office will run “hot” the tubes in the backlighting system of an LCD will run “cold” hence the term cold cathode. This is essential as if too much heat was generated the screen would get too hot and the panel itself would likely be damaged in the process.

LED backlighting is also a fairly simple idea. What has essentially been done is the small fluorescent tubes have been replaced with tiny strips of LEDs. LEDs are those little “bulbs” that you find everywhere nowadays in a wide array of applications. In car headlights to torches to the standby lights on your electrical appliances. Like CCFL bulbs they don’t produce much heat which makes them ideal for use inside of a display backlighting system.

So what are the main advantages with the older CCFL backlighting technology?

  • The light emitted from more recent CCFL backlighting systems are sometimes more natural than the sometimes colder, harsher light produced by white LEDs.
  • Often more cost effective. CCFL displays are often cheaper than the likes of LED backlit displays, however the prices are now becoming more or less the same accross the board.

And how about LED?

  • Allows for thinner and lighter designs. We all love thinner and lighter technology!
  • Lower power consumption. This is even more evident when using laptops with LED backlit displays instead of the traditional CCFL tubes. Battery will usually last a bit longer.
  • Generally allows for higher brightness. This is true but the brighter an image not always the better. Also don’t forget that whilst LED is continuing to become more and more developed, CCFL backlighting still sometimes provides a more natural light to the image.
  • Can often illuminate the screen more evenly than with CCFL tubing. The issue with CCFL tubing is that it is simply placed around the perimeter of the screen and with the magic of light refraction the entire screen is lit. However LEDs are thin enough to be placed behind the panel itself and illuminate the screen more evenly
  • No warm up time. Ever remember turning on your CCFL backlit display and it appeared a little dim at first then it steadily got brighter and brighter. LED doesn’t have that issue fortunately it comes on in an instant.
  • Longer life. Yep, LED is without a doubt the longest lasting type of bulb on the planet.
  • Does not need a voltage inverter board. This is just another component that often fails on laptop systems. This usually results in the screen physically still working but no actual illumination of the display. Not a costly replacement but certainly a pain.

As you can see LED seems to have more advantages than the older CCFL technology. At the end of the day it mostly comes down to preference, price, the quality of the display in question and whether or not you can see the difference. For example, my two large desktop monitors (Dell U2711) use CCFL backlighting even though they’re fairly new. Whilst my 13″ MacBook Pro uses an LED backlit display. Between the two there really isn’t much of a noticeable difference. But if I had to choose I would likely say that LED is the way forward if only due to the advantages that come with LED backlit displays.

WWDC 2013 Announcements – My Impressions

Apple announced a series of updates at the 2013 WWDC keynote and in this article I aim to give you my impressions of what I saw.

True to form Apple started with a bang a fancy intro that “warmed the hearts of viewers” I for one am not one of the Apple sheeple that unjustifiably love everything that Apple does. I dislike the whole pomp and circumstance and cult like behaviour that Apple love to throw at people’s faces. Just show us the products already! But maybe that’s just me, anyway I digress.

So the first major update that was unveiled was OS X 10.9 they jokingly highlighted that they now have a big problem “we’ve ran out of cats” and then subsequently joked about creating a version called OS X sealion. Don’t put it past them! The man presenting all of this was named Craig Federhigi, he seemed to have a nice style of presenting, kind of approachable and lighthearted. Nice to see someone presenting with a little more personality.

So the next version(s) of OS X will be named after places in California where apple designs all of it’s products. The next iteration of OS X is called Mavericks. I imagine this name will result in confusion for when users name the version either shortening it to “Mav” or mistakenly calling it “Maverick”.

The OS seems relatively unchanged however much less skeuomorphism such as in the calendar app. A lot of polishing and deeper integration of iOS such as cross platform notification synchronisation.

And now on to some hardware that was shown. Apple first highlighted the new series in MacBook Air, the new Airs use Intel’s Haswell CPUs for huge power savings without sacrificing computational horsepower. Apple now claim that the Airs will have an “All Day” battery life. 9 hours for the 11″ and a whopping 12 hours for the 13″! That is pretty impressive by any laptop’s standard.

And then they showed us a sneak preview of what I was most interested in seeing. The new Mac Pro. As soon as I saw it I immediately acknowledged that it looked like a bin. A shiny bin with ventilation holes that doubles up as a USB hub. It’s certainly different in terms of style it’s essentially a black glossy cylinder. I really really was not expecting this. It is much smaller than the previous Mac Pro computers at only around 10″ high and around 6 inches wide. It’s dimensions are handy in a way as it means there is potential for the next Mac Pro to sit on your desk.

Other than the styling however the new Mac Pro certainly packs a punch with it’s computing power. It features the latest in Intel Xeon CPUs allowing you up to 12 cores. It allows for only flash internal drives that run through PCI express many many GB/S throughput in and out. It now also has a more advanced cooling system where at it’s centre there is a thermal core and one huge fan at the top of it. This should in theory make the Mac Pro much cooler than before and should minimise any noise due to the large fan. The memory has also been updated to the fastest ever clocked ECC memory it’s DDR3 at around 1800-1900MHz. There are also multiple GPUs inside allowing you to connect multiple 4K displays simultaneously. Nice.

So this new Mac Pro is powerful but there’s a catch (besides it’s styling) which initially threw me off. It’s pretty much non-upgradable. In fact it appears the only thing you can upgrade is the memory. Immediately I thought this was a completely bad move but then I began to think. With pretty much every computer of mine that I’ve ever upgraded I’ve upgraded it once. It is nice to have the option to change one component when it is the main bottleneck (cheaper too!) but in the end if you were to purchase a very high spec Mac Pro from the beginning it probably would last you quite a few years and taking into account resale value you wouldn’t be left in the dark. So it may actually be a possibility that I may upgrade to the new Mac Pro. A small possibility but a possibility nonetheless. Especially not any time soon as I imagine it will cost me a good couple of kidneys to purchase.

An so the final and most widely anticipated reveal that was iOS 7. It changed. It changed a lot. iOS has pretty much always stayed the same since it’s original release in 2007 and this year Apple aims to completely change it. Basically I love it and I hate it. I love the new features that Apple are bringing into their mobile OS such as finally a control panel, an interesting way of displaying the wallpaper which Apple are calling parallax which basically allows the wallpaper to adjust it’s position according the device’s orientation. This creates an interesting optical illusion which makes the icons look like they’re floating above the wallpaper. The lock screen is now much cleaner and Apple have gone for a new skinny font, somewhat reminiscent of Windows Phone. A new multitasking system which allows for a more intuitive multitasking method. General enhancements such as new transitions, new menu views, a more organised photos app and other goodies that will make this a brand new OS but still familiar enough that you won’t have to read a manual. The new iTunes radio also seems interesting, however it is probably feature I will not use. So for these reasons I love it.

However. The icon design is… well.. kind of… disgusting and for that reason I hate it. But it isn’t all doom and gloom because if and when Apple realise that it was a mistake then they will surely use this new OS framework to build on and polish to perfection which is an exciting prospect.

So these are my impressions of what was shown at WWDC 2013. The bottom line is. Things are changing drastically, perhaps for the better. But perhaps not.

iPad Air vs iPad Mini Retina

Recently Apple released the iPad Air, the successor of the iPad 4th Generation and the iPad Mini Retina, the successor to the iPad Mini.

Unlike before however there is now no difference in the performance of these two new devices. Both run the same A7 chip with the capability of running 64-bit applications (although there aren’t many of those yet to take full advantage of the 64-bit capabilities), both have the same cameras, the same amount of memory, in fact both even share the same style enclosure with it’s more rounded edges and smaller bezels, and the same colour options too. So which is really “better”?

The simple answer is neither, it now comes down to price and preference as opposed to before where it may have also been the specifications. Both are in essence, the exact same device. Of course the only BIG difference (pardon the pun) is the screen size. One features a 7.9″ screen, the other a 9.7″ screen. Both screens now feature Apple’s “retina” technology too, so both will be just as sharp as one another.

The screen size difference of 2″ or thereabouts really may not seem that like that much of a difference but it really is when you see it in person. I currently own a 4th generation iPad and I recently purchased an iPad Mini for my mother for her birthday a couple of months back. Between these two now older devices I still prefer my full size iPad, but the 7″ form factor really is more portable. Whereas it’s very uncomfortable holding my full size iPad with one hand, holding the much lighter iPad Mini is no problem at all. The iPad Mini can also fit into some large pockets too which may be a plus for some.

When it comes time for me to upgrade I think I’d still happily spend that bit extra for a larger screen especially now that the iPad air is thinner and much lighter, I’m sure it would be more comfortable for one-handed use, but at the same time I’d almost be tempted to purchase both the iPad Air and the iPad Mini but that’s coming out of the mouth of a geek who loves hardware.

The iPad Air currently costs £399 versus the iPad Mini retina at £319. And of course you’re not just limited to these latest models, if you’re on a tight budget you can still purchase the iPad Mini for £249.

Which one would you buy? Or which one have you bought? Why did you choose that model?

Doctor Who Series 7 Finale Review

The finale to series 7 of Doctor Who was broadcast on Saturday, titled “The Name of the Doctor” it definitely seemed that the episode would be an epic one and that it was.

The beginning scenes of The Name of The Doctor was probably my favourite part. It took us to Gallifrey (the Doctor’s home planet) and showed us the first Doctor stealing a faulty TARDIS and then subsequently showed us other scenes of past Doctors with Clara superimposed into the background of each scene. It was video editing done really well and it was just awesome seeing the past doctors in a montage of sorts.

Of course in the episode we get to also see the familiar faces of Madame Vastra (the Silurian) Jenny and Strax (the Sontaran) their involvement in the last couple of series however has seemed just sort of… random. It seems to be one of those classic Steven Moffat “Let’s just do it for the sake of it and because we can” kind of situations. I don’t know perhaps it’s just me.

The new monsters that are referred to as the whispermen were fantastic! I think the more intimidating creatures are usually the ones that are near silent and move slowly towards you, and the fact that they have totally featureless faces and nasty looking teeth makes them all the more creepy. The whisper men seemed somewhat reminiscent of the Trickster. (Google it if you haven’t seen the trickster from Doctor Who / The Sarah Jane Adventures)

The main villain in the episode was the now 3 time recurring “The Great Intelligence” and is arguably one of the better villains of Doctor Who.

The story sees the Doctor facing what he believes to be his death and we get to learn new things about time travel such as “the one place you should never go is your grave” which is an interesting point it probably would be the most depressing place to go. (Except the Doctor’s is dangerous and whatnot so that’s mostly why he can’t go there)

We finally also get to understand who and what Clara is and it was another brilliantly clever idea based upon the perils of time travel. It was also an interesting scene when the TARDIS shows the time map of sorts in which the Doctor has traveled. The Doctor also explains how time travel is like fracturing the universe and what they could see in the TARDIS was all of the fractures. Interesting stuff. Of course also there was the cliff hanger of an ending in which we saw John Hurt’s character in the 5oth anniversary for the first time.

All in all then, I thought the episode was a brilliant end to the series and an interesting run up to the 50th anniversary and I’m thoroughly looking forward to what’s in store for the anniversary in November and getting to see the 10th & 11th Doctors in an episode together along with John Hurt playing an unknown version of the Doctor, perhaps the real ninth Doctor from the time war? Well I guess we’ll have to wait and find out.

If you’re a fan of Doctor Who please share what you thought of the series finale. Did you enjoy it? What was the best part(s) for you? And are you excited for the 50th Anniversary?

13″ MacBook Pro Impressions

The other day I decided to purchase a refurbished 13″ MacBook Pro to complete my little circle of synchronisation and to give me the power to do more on the go. Long story short I’m loving this machine. This article aims to help you understand why. For about a year I’ve been rocking a Compaq Presario CQ57 laptop which worked well for what I was using it for (browsing and the occasional image manipulation and website development session) but anything more than that and the laptop’s processor was hopelessly, hilariously defeated.

Over the last year or so I have slowly been transitioning more towards Apple’s products and services for my primary technology ecosystem. I started with the iPhone, then eventually purchased a Mac Pro to replace my custom built desktop system which sadly died. And towards the end of the year I purchased my first tablet. Incidentally it was the iPad 4. And so the laptop was the last to go and it made sense to purchase something that would integrate seamlessly with my existing systems.

I first thought about purchasing a MacBook Air but I dislike how little can be upgraded plus there is that rare occasion where I do use physical media. Fortunately I knew I would go for 13″ regardless, it’s a nice balance between portability and screen real estate. The issue though, was that I wasn’t prepared to spend over £1000 on the latest MacBook Pro. I knew there would be better deals for refurbished units and so I went looking and found this little beauty.

Early 2011 13″ with a second generation Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of memory and a 320GB hard drive, OS X Lion preinstalled. It performed brilliantly out of the box for the most part but it was considerably slower (due to the hard drive) compared to my Mac Pro.

The first day I had it I had upgraded the OS to Mountain Lion and also found something interesting on the inside of the machine. Out of curiosity I checked what type of memory was installed an wouldn’t you know it, it was the same type as in my older laptop and so I was also able to upgrade the memory to 8GB at no extra cost! The day later (yesterday) I decided that I just couldn’t live with these hard drive speeds anymore and decided to go out and purchase a 120GB Samsung SSD. And so now the laptop is as fast as greased up lightning. In fact I might say even slightly faster than my Mac Pro.

So overall I’m loving this machine it’s fast, surprisingly sleek despite it not being a retina model or a MacBook Air and has quite a few interesting and useful features. Some of my favourite features include the backlit keyboard which comes on automatically when the laptop senses that the light level is low, the handy little battery meter on the side and the huge trackpad filled with useful OS gestures to increase your productivity. The unibody aluminium body is absolutely seamless and makes the laptop exceptionally rugged. It’s not the lightest laptop in the world though.

The battery life of the laptop has been excellent despite it’s age. And for entire day’s worth of work I can expect to have to charge the laptop once or twice. So overall I don’t think I have anything to complain about, I suppose it could be a little lighter and a little thinner but I suppose that’s why Apple made the successor to this laptop the Retina MacBook Pro.

Great hardware coupled with great software makes a great experience. And that is what I feel I have received.

iOS 7 – What Would You Like To See?

iOS has only changed slightly since it was unveiled in 2007 and many feel that it is long due a major overhaul in it’s UI. iOS has arguably always offered one of the most fluid user experiences and with every iteration as the hardware gets better iOS is further optimised for the faster hardware.

As an iOS user there really is no denying though that iOS could do with a refresh. There are elements within iOS that just scream dated and some major polishing just needs to take place. In this article I’ll be going over some of the changes that I am hopeful for in the next major iteration of iOS.

  1. Further Intuitive Use Of Banner Notifications & Removal / Redesign Of Push Notifications

The banner notifications introduced in the last couple of years are fantastic, certainly compared to that of the classic push notification system anyway. The banner notifications were an indirect copy of the notification system from Android. Yes it was originally Android that came up with the idea of a nice simple interactive little notification that flips over at the very top of the screen, Apple seemed to follow suit as they realised that it was an extremely effective way of displaying notifications in a non-intrusive way, so for example, if you’re trying to watch a video, the notification will display briefly at the top of the screen and go away by it’s own accord, as opposed to an annoying and intrusive push notification that pops up over what you’re trying to focus on.

I believe that there could still me more ways that the banner notification could be made more intuitive. For example, the very simple solution of adding more basic and currently intrusive notifications such as calls for example. Say you’re trying to write a text message or doing something else that requires you to focus intently, if you currently receive a call on the iPhone the ENTIRE screen is taken up by the call controls and the contact picture (if you have one assigned for that person) it can get extremely annoying, especially if you don’t want to answer the call but you equally don’t want to hang up on the person in case it comes across as rude.

I also believe that push notifications could be redesigned to be a little more user friendly and if not at least a general UI update. I still find it weird that everywhere else in iOS neutral colours are used for the UI with the occasional glass effect but the push notifications box is blue and looks like the kind of thing that you’d see in an early version of Mac OS X. It’s not terrible, just inconsistent with the rest of the UI.

  1. A Flatter Design Would Be Refreshing

Or at least the removal of garish textures from built-in applications. A flatter redesign has already kind of taken place in the form of the music app. With the release of iOS 6 saw the music app get completely redesigned and I like the flatter more clean appearance. No early Mac OS X elements such as bubbly controls & unusual use of non-coordinating colours, just a really nice clean design that should stand the test of time and as usual the neutrality of the design was combated with the addition of small details that people with an attention to detail (like me!) would only notice. Such as the spun metal slider buttons which respond according to your device’s rotation. Seriously try it, move your iOS device around and look at the little spun metal sliders. The light changes according to the positioning of the device. Kinda neat! And small utterly pointless details like that really show you that the UI developer(s) really took their time with it to make it just right and overall adding to a better and more satisfying user experience.

I really would like to see the removal of unnecessary and often garish textures too. Such as the material textures that still exist from when Apple went through a weird “let’s put a leather texture on the borders” phase.

  1. Easy Access To Device Settings

This has been a dream for anyone who has seen SB settings on a jailbroken iOS device or the device settings buttons in the Android notification center. It has always been an unbearably slow process to change a quick setting on iOS. Such as switching connections on and off for example. Whenever I want to turn my Wi-Fi on or off I must launch the settings app, navigate to the Wi-Fi menu option and tap the switch to off or on depending on what I wanted it set to of course. It has just made sense for years for Apple to put options like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, screen brightness an orientation lock into the notification center and I would hope that they do or come up with another more intuitive method of doing it. Of course they’ve already somewhat included some quick toggles in the UI such as the orientation lock option within the multitasking bar.

  1. It’s An Ambitious Hope With An Unlikely Possibility… More Customisation Options

I know I sound silly saying it and I know Apple would likely never allow personalisation changes more than adjusting your wallpaper but I would love it if there were more options on adjusting the UI, such as the ability to change the colours of UI elements, heavy adjustments of the lock screen and perhaps even the ability to change transitions.

  1. Replace The Obsolete Multitasking System

Exposé or Mission Control for iOS? Or something along those lines anyway. Multitasking on iOS is very simple and works well for the most part but it’s really falling behind. Compare the multitasking system to that of the latest Samsung devices or the intuitive multitasking system of BlackBerry 10 and you can see how it really could be improved. After all, Apple have already done really well with the likes of Exposé and Mission Control in Mac OS X it’s a mystery why they haven’t yet added a similar multitasking system to iOS. I would hope at least this is something Apple will work on in iOS 7.

  1. More “At A Glance” Information Solutions

Windows Phone has been strutting it’s stuff with live tiles for a few years now and it’s easy to understand why Microsoft decided to take that approach. Information at a glance is just more convenient compared to opening a full-scale app for small amounts of information. Such as the weather or stocks for example. I think Apple could possibly implement this type of solution in subtle and major ways. For example if they wanted a subtle way of implementing it they could simply add the live information only to applications that offer small amounts of information such as the weather app. The weather app icon in it’s current state is always displaying a sun icon with 23° next to it. This could be easily improved by showing the current weather conditions in your area, so if it is raining and cold (usual british weather) the icon would display a rain cloud and the local temperature next to it.

So that is most of what I would like to personally see in iOS 7. Are you tired of the UI of iOS? What would you change if you could?

Smartwatches. The Next Big Thing?

I’ve always found wearable technology a bit… well… gimmicky. Whether it was a Bluetooth headset, or a mini clip on MP3 player (iPod Nano). However there is now one form of technology that does somewhat intrigue me. Smart watches.

Smartwatches have technically been around for a while now and they’ve all sucked pretty much. Early smartwatches were basically standard watches (digital) with a load of buttons on them that could double up as a little calculator. Very gimmicky indeed. If we advance sightly we’ve seen watches that double up as “cell phones”. Basically the same sort of design as the calculator watches but included a radio transmitter, a sim card slot, a speaker and a mircrophone. They’re actually still around too, in the form of cheap imported GSM devices with wrist straps that are beyond unusable.

I know I sound somewhat skeptical about the future of wearable tech but I can assure you that I’m starting to have a much brighter outlook on it all, if only because manufacturers now understand how gimmicky the older devices were and how they can make them seem much less gimmicky.

The recently released Pebble smartwatch, a popular new product that came into being via the crowd funding platform kickstarter is a prime example of wearable technology that integrates itself with your current system(s), isn’t overly gimmicky, and serves a real-world purpose. The Pebble smartwatch is a piece of wearable technology that I am actually considering purchasing at some point UNLESS a company comes along and makes something better.

The idea of the Pebble smartwatch is fairly simple. It’s a mirroring device… of sorts, that is combined with a watch. The idea being that you connect your smartphone to the device via Bluetooth, whether it be your Android or iOS device and you can interact on a basic level with your smartphone on the go without actually having to retrieve the device from your pocket. So for example say you have your phone in your pocket and you receive a Twitter notification, the watch will vibrate and display a preview of the tweet on the watch face. This could be useful in a few situations, such as if your phone isn’t very accessible, or if you’re concealing your device at a social event.

So the device has multiple functions (besides being a watch of course) but it seems that the interaction between you and the device the watch is mirroring is somewhat limited. This is where perhaps I’d like another company to step in.

There have been rumors of several major companies with smartwatches in development. One of them being Apple with their rumored iWatch. Seems like a pretty typical Apple-esque naming scheme. Google have also been rumored to have one in development, however I would say that it is unlikely for Google to develop such a product in the near future if only because of the wearable tech product they’re currently pushing (Google Glass) which is an entirely different form of interaction.

So what do you think? Will smartwatches become the next big thing? Or is it still a silly idea?

Self Stirring Mug Review

Back in December I received an interesting gift from my sister. A self stirring mug! Yes I know the review seems odd and slightly (very) delayed but nevertheless let’s review it.

The Appearance:

The mug is composed of many different pieces. The outer shell of the mug is brushed aluminium or brushed stainless steel for the most part and the inner lining of the mug is a matte textured black heat tolerant plastic. The same plastic is used for the handle, the battery cover and base plate and the battery compartment. At the bottom of the interior of the mug you’ll find the stirring mechanism which is a sort of tiny plastic propeller. I thought the mechanism would be bigger but we’ll talk about how well it works soon.

The mug also has a large rubber yellow button for the stirring mechanism, would’ve preferred black or grey but I imagine some wouldn’t be able to find the button then!

So the mug is a winner for me with it’s appearance as I love black and silver finishes on products.

Using the Mug:

To stir the mug you simply hold down the button and it gives you a satisfying “click” when it’s pressed in. The stirring function of the mug is actually quite impressive. It certainly packs somewhat of a punch when the batteries are at full capacity so much so that if you fill the mug near to the top, there is the danger of the liquid within the mug overflowing due to the centrifugal force pushing the liquid against the walls of the mug.

The mug runs on two standard AA batteries and it seems to be fairly economical as the batteries do last some time before you notice any sort of stirring lag.

The base plate / battery cover on the bottom of the exterior of the mug comes in handy. Because there are multiple cavities between the plate and the interior of the mug, it doubles up as a built-in coaster. So you don’t have to worry about making any rings on your beloved coffee table (unless the base happened to be wet).

The metal finish also seems to be very resilient to any sort of liquid and doesn’t seem to tarnish, telling me that it most likely is aluminium.

So overall the mug does come in handy.

The Problems:

The mug doesn’t come without it’s own set of problems however. Due to the fact it’s battery powered you will have to replace the batteries eventually, not really a problem as such but a minor inconvenience. The interior of the mug isn’t very good at keeping clean. The matte texture plastic seems to accumulate a tea or coffee coating very quickly, this can be washed away but it can get irritating. The spindle or “mini propeller” as I like to call it tends to get stuck after a day or two of no use, this can be solved with a simple poke with a teaspoon, but then it kind of defeats the purpose of a self stirring mug. The last problem and it’s the most worrying one, because there are cavities between the interior of the mug and the battery compartment, condensation occurs if a cool liquid was inside of the mug. This is worrying because the batteries oxidize fairly quickly, and if they were in there for quite a few months it wouldn’t take long for acid and other harmful chemicals to leak out of the battery, potentially injuring someone.

But apart from these few little issues the mug is a very geeky lazy man’s or woman’s kind of mug. And it sure will cause a stir at the office! See what I did there… with the stir…. and the… nevermind.

I’ve Finally Advanced To Final Cut Pro X

If you’re tuned into my regular YouTube videos at youtube.com/jhdmaxx you may have noticed that the videos have had a little bit of extra “sparkle” to them. I’ve finally advanced to Final Cut Pro X. This article aims to help you understand the benefits of investing in such an application and whether or not you really need to.

The first ever video editing application I used was Windows Movie Maker built into the well known (for the wrong reasons) Windows Vista operating system. I thoroughly enjoyed using the application, it was simple, easy to use and was good enough for the results I was looking for. Unfortunately Microsoft decided to get rid of the built in movie maker shortly before the news of Windows 7, the successor to Windows Vista. So basically nobody was given the chance to stay with the application that they loved and Windows Live Movie Maker took its place. I didn’t like it. And so I moved onto something a bit different. Camtasia Studio. I started using Camtasia Studio when I decided to start recording screencasts for YouTube. I thoroughly loved using it. So much in fact that I was still using it up until about September last year!

But then…. the passing of a great friend. My custom built computer died and I was concerned about upgrading to Windows 8 (I’m still not overly fond of it) and so I came to the supposedly dark side that was Mac OS X. Initially I was still set on using Camtasia Studio until I realised that the Mac version sucks. And so I invested in a simple cheap solution that was iMovie. iMovie is arguably one of the easiest video processing applications I’ve ever used, there’s not really much to learn, it does almost seem “too simple” but in all honesty it’s actually capable of producing results that one could assume was not possible with such an application.

It was only recently I decided to try out Final Cut Pro X. The way it behaves is fairly similar to that of iMovie regarding the likes of the magnetic timelines etc. And also any option that’s available in iMovie is available in Final Cut Pro an example being title clips and transitions. iMovie is quite literally the VERY stripped-down version of Final Cut Pro.

There are quite a few features that I love about this application including the ability to batch render projects. I like to record and edit several videos in one go and so this feature has definitely came in handy. Basically what batch rendering allows you to do is edit and export your various projects simultaneously, saving you time to do whatever else you need to do.

There are literally tons of features in Final Cut Pro that I could ramble on about all day but let’s try and start to wrap up this article.

Overall it’s been a worthwhile upgrade, but there’s a few things that I would advise anyone looking to get Final Cut to look out for. And they are as follows:

  1. It Comes With a Learning Curve.

It does come with quite the learning curve, it’s definitely easier to learn how to use the application if you’ve used iMovie before but if this is the first time using it or anything like it, it may be a bit challenging to get to grips with it.

  1. Not All Buttons Are Necessary.

What I’m basically trying to say here is don’t be put off by the many menus and options in Final Cut Pro, if you’re like me and it’s pretty much light video editing, most of the options and buttons you probably won’t use.

  1. Price.

It may come across as a tad pricey being available in the Mac App Store for £199. But it’ll definitely be worth it if you’re planning to somehow make the money back on it.

The Conclusion: Do You Need It?

No. And Yes. There’s no definitive answer other than it depends what your uses are, how much you’re willing to spend on video editing software and whether or not what you’re currently using does everything you need it to do.

I’m fairly happy overall and I think the price is fairly justifiable considering it’s wide array of features and full integration with other editing & production suites.

Are APUs The Future?

As we geeks know, the typical I/O system of a desktop or laptop system usually consists of a CPU and a GPU. CPU stands for Central Processing Unit and is in charge of managing… well… pretty much everything really. And the GPU which stands for Graphics Processing Unit is usually in charge of… you guessed it… graphics.

But what is an APU? Is it better? Is it more efficient? Well this article aims to show you the difference and help you make the decision between an APU system and a conventional system.

APU stands for Accelerated Processing Unit, sounds fancy doesn’t it? That’s because it is. It is a truly tiny chip that typically resembles a small CPU, but inside of the APU is where things get really interesting. Whereas on the typical laptop or desktop system, the CPU and GPU are separate, they are both by the use of some sort of magic crammed into this one little chip, and hello, the APU is born.

Both Intel and AMD make APUs (including a few other companies which aren’t as well known) but it has mostly been AMD who have really been pushing this new system to the masses, with increasingly positive results.

So lets go over the main advantages with an APU:

  1. It’s Small

Yes they’re absolutely tiny! Which means we have more room for extra goodies or quite possibly even an overall slimmer, more compact device. This proves especially well when used in the likes of tablets, which typically are required to be as slim and light as possible with the least amount of moving parts.

  1. It’s Cool

Very cool in fact! Whereas a typical AMD CPU may register a temperature of around 35-45ºC at idle, an APU is typically much cooler (lower clock speeds) and remains cool even when under extreme load.

  1. It’s Efficient

APUs work wonders in general use laptops if only because they have low clock speeds and require less cooling. This means that whereas a laptop battery may last 2 hours with a typical AMD CPU, the battery life could be doubled and then some via the use of an APU.

  1. GPU Memory Is Usually Dedicated

When AMD set out to create their new APUs they wanted to make them ok for gaming, and they are for the most part. This is because most of the APUs that AMD make use dedicated memory. Dedicated memory is typically favoured over shared memory if only because it will deliver better graphics performance and enable you to multitask more efficiently.

  1. They’re Cheaper

Yes, oddly enough it’s one form of product miniaturization where the smaller more efficient product is actually overall cheaper than it’s larger counterpart. This is mostly due to the manufacturing process, seeing as only one company are involved with the making of the one chip, there are less costs for the original manufacturer and due to the small size of the APU, less materials and less energy is used in the making, compared to the much larger CPUs.

So these are probably the main advantages of APUs but let’s take a look on the flip side and see what disadvantages there are.

There are two main disadvantages with APUs and they are as follows.

  1. You Can’t Upgrade Them

There are typically no user serviceable parts to an APU system, the APU is usually physically soldered to the mainboard, so unless you’re very VERY skilled with a soldering iron with an insanely tiny tip, you’re stuck with what AMD give you.

  1. Low Overall Horsepower

APUs just aren’t as powerful as the conventional system of separate CPU and GPU. Period.

The problem which is also it’s strong point is it’s efficiency. Because the CPU is usually clocked within the 1-1.6GHz range, intense photo, video or audio processing is near impossible. This is where the raw untamed power of the likes of a Core i5 Processor starts to show. Trust me I’ve tried even light video editing on my Compaq Presario laptop at 1.00GHz and it was just too frustrating to even contemplate carrying on, let alone trying more heavier processor-intensive tasks.

The Conclusion: Are APUs The Future?

I’m fairly convinced that more and more technology will be fused into a single chip. A non-upgradable, non-customizable system that you buy, keep for 2 years, throw away, get a newer more powerful one. Then do it all over again. It’s just the way it’s going these days. We live in a more disposable society, make do and mend is fading away and it’s semi-oldschool geeks like myself who still try to help. APUs will be the next CPU and GPU system, though I also believe more systems as mentioned previously will be fused together, such as mainboard controller chips for audio, I/O, bus speeds and even RAM is starting to be soldered onto the mainboard these days.

So tell me, do you use a system with an APU? Would you?

128GB iPad Recently Released

Apple recently released a new option for the iPad on their website. A 128GB version! Overall I think this was a good move by Apple to offer an iPad with a higher capacity to truly compete with many recent tablets being released also offering fairly high storage options.

This iPad really isn’t for everyone though, the WiFi version alone retails for a heavy $799. That’s a lot of money for a device which still isn’t very content production oriented! But hey, if the iPad is literally the only computer you need and you plan to keep it for a fairly lengthy amount of time and you have an unusually large collection of media, this tablet may just be the one you’ve been waiting for.

Ironically, Apple released this new version not long after the release of Microsoft’s Surface Pro, a tablet which did ruffle the feathers of the people who were excited for it. Basically what happened was the Surface Pro was labelled as the 64GB model and to many buyers it was a disappointment when they actually received the tablet. The reason being, yes indeed the Suface Pro did offer 64GB of onboard solid state storage, but just under half of it’s capacity was taken up by the very core of Windows. So basically you buy a 64GB tablet, you get 30GB or so to actually play with.

Fortunately, if you’re after the 128GB iPad, you’ll probably get around 97% of that space to play with, the OS and anything else that cannot be removed usually only takes up a few GB, so hooray if you were worried about storage on the new iPad.

So yes the 128GB iPad is now available, it’s no different than the new 16GB, 32GB, or even your 64GB. You can just store more things on it!

So yes, if you’ve got money to burn you can buy it here.

What is 4K?

If you watch and or listen to tech news, you may have came across a recent buzzword of “4K”. You may be wondering what it’s all about and how it may benefit you. This article aims to shed some light on the matter and allow you to understand what it is, when you may see it and how much it costs.

So to put it simply 4K is the step up from HD. A Full-HD display is always at a fixed resolution of 1920 x 1080. Now there’s nothing “wrong” with this resolution exactly, it’s the pixel density that is lacking slightly. Think about a 22″ LCD computer display at 1920 x 1080 compared to a 63″ LCD television also at 1920 x 1080. The pixels just wont be as densely packed and in our day in age we like our displays to be as sharp as physically possible. Of course 4K may not be that big of a deal to some, let’s say you’ve got a 25ft living room and the television is a 42″ LCD and it’s literally on the other side of the room. Pixel density really doesn’t matter when we’re dealing with these kind of distances.

On the other hand however, you definitely would notice the difference in a 1080p video and a 4K video, the difference is night and day. You may have noticed how much more well defined and true-to-life everything was when you upgraded from a non-HD display to a HD display, it’s the same kind of difference but on a bigger scale (literally). For example if you go to your local electronics store and look at a 63″ display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and a 32″ display next to it with the same resolution, you’ll notice how much sharper the image looks on the 32″ display. So basically 4K will allow us to have an insanely large display but with the image quality that is virtually indistinguishable from that of a smaller, lower resolution display.

The term 4K is actually quite generic, it’s like when people say when a screen is “HD”. Is it 720p? 1080i?

4K is split into several resolutions, they all have different standards and they are as follows:

  1. 4K Ultra High Definition Television

The resolution of this format is 3840 x 2160, the aspect ratio is 1.78:1 and the pixel count is 8,294,400.

  1. Digital Cinema Initiatives 4K (Native Resolution)

The resolution of this format is 4096 x 2160, the aspect ratio is 1.90:1 and the pixel count is 8,847,360.

  1. DCI 4K (CinemaScope cropped)

The resolution of this format is 4096 x 1714, the aspect ratio is 2.39:1 and the pixel count is 7,020,544.

  1. DCI 4K (Flat Cropped)

The resolution of this format is 3996 x 2160, the aspect ratio is 1.85:1 and the pixel count is 8,631,360.

  1. Academy 4K (storage format)

The resolution of this format is 3656 x 2664, the aspect ratio is 1.37:1 and the pixel count is 9,739,584.

  1. Full Aperture 4K (storage format)

The resolution of this format is 4096 x 3112, the aspect ratio is 1.32:1 and the pixel count is 12,764,752.

That’s a lot of pixels!

So bottom line is pretty much none of these are really of any of your concern, the only one you’ll likely come across is the 1st one which is the standard resolution of a 4K LCD television, the aspect ratio looks kind of goofy but works out as near enough 16:9 aspect ratio.

All of the other resolutions are pretty much the standard 4K resolutions that some of the new digital cameras natively record at.

The Conclusion: Do You Need 4K?

You do! And you don’t! Sorry, I can’t assume an answer as it’s YOUR preference and likely your money that may be spent on 4K technology. I would however strongly advise against 4K tech. For the time being that is. If only because it’s expensive. Like REALLY expensive and 1080p should work just fine until the prices of 4K displays are reduced by a substantial amount.

Also take into account that if you wanted to use a 4K display for the likes of gaming, you’re going to need some serious graphics horsepower to be pushing that amount of pixels and at a decent frame rate. Needless to say however, I’m sure I speak for gamers around the globe when I say that 4K gaming is going to be “pretty freaking sweet”.

4K screens will definitely become mainstream within the near future, and this kind of resolution coupled with OLED will make for some pretty gorgeous displays within the next few years.

So tell me. Will you go 4K soon? Or are you perfectly content rocking Full-HD?

A Bright Future For PlayStation 4?

For those of you who may not know Sony recently announced the PlayStation 4, the official successor to Sony’s previous popular video game console the PlayStation 3. The PlayStation 4 is due for release in Q4 of this year and the future definitely seems brighter for Sony and the PlayStation.

So lets go over the bulk of the information that Sony gave in their February event.

First of all the PlayStation 4 will be the first console released by Sony that will embrace the x86-x64 system architecture, which as many geeks may know is widely used in today’s modern PCs. The previous architecture that Sony was using was the Cell architecture. The reasoning behind this change was to make it easier for developers to develop applications and games for the upcoming console. Seeing as modern PCs are based on x86-x64 architecture, games and applications could be tested natively on the very same development system rather than in some sort of emulated environment.

The biggest change was to Sony’s perspective. Sony aren’t focusing all that much on the hardware of the next PlayStation. In fact, we haven’t even seen what the console will look like. Sony are focusing on one thing for it’s upcoming console. The experience. I for one happen to be very happy that Sony are focusing on this. More and more these days we are starting to see more companies thinking the correct way of that it’s really not the features it’s the implementation and it’s not about the horsepower it’s about making a good experience. Something the end user really enjoys using, even if they’re not using it to it’s full potential. But make no mistake, Sony also have some innovations with this upcoming iteration of the PlayStation.

One of the first innovative things that was shown was the controller. The next controller is literally packed with controls, but it’s not in a way in which makes it seem “messy” or unnecessary. There’s now a conveniently placed touchpad on the top of the controller which should be useful for browsing (we have yet to see how this can be used in games) and a new shiny share button next to it. Which brings us swiftly onto Sony’s next main focus of social media. It’s true, gaming on consoles can sometimes seem a little “boxed in” and it’s nice to see that in the next PlayStation we’ll be able to record and share gameplay via the widely known Ustream service and share updates, screenshots, scores etc to the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

Again it’ll be interesting to see EXACTLY how this will be implemented but hopefully Sony will stick with their new standpoint. The next thing which I found quite interesting was the ability to stream games. Sony isn’t the first to offer game streaming, it’s been done before but wasn’t all too great and wasn’t implemented in the same way. Basically Sony want it’s users to be able to thoroughly test out games before they buy them so they will offer the ability to stream the game live from Sony’s servers. This is pretty cool as it means instead of downloading a demo and waiting 30 minutes to play it, you can select it from Sony’s stores and instantly preview it. The thing that concerned many about this was reliability. First of all Sony is going to need some new HUGE server farms if they want this service to be reliable and speedy and this is where Sony really made things more interesting.

Sony said they plan to create a PlayStation network. Sound familiar? Well it’s not what you may think. Basically as we know internet connections around the globe (except for in Japan) are truly terrible. We’re way behind in speed if only because not every router is plugged into a fiber-optic connection. This is where Sony said they’ll help. So essentially what they’re wanting to do is allow you to get another internet connection which is made for the PlayStation. So small download times, reliable streaming and a fully cohesive experience. Sounds good! Again, we have yet to see how Sony will do it but if they manage to pull it off, Sony will have certainly stepped up their game (literally).

Of course we haven’t seen what the PlayStation’s rival the Xbox will become yet, but one can only assume that there will be a lot of healthy competition in the next couple of years in the video game console industry.

What are you hoping for in the next PlayStation?

iPhone 5 Impressions

So I’ve now had my iPhone 5 since the 26th of February and overall it’s been a fairly decent upgrade from my aging iPhone 4. So in this post I’ll be going over my impressions.

The story of my slightly surprising purchase.

Why the iPhone 5?

Well I already had an iPhone 4 and I still enjoyed what the platform had to offer. Seeing as I also have an iPad running the same OS and a Mac computer which all talk to each other seamlessly, it made sense to go for the latest device on the iOS platform.

My impressions: Unboxing and initial Setup

As usual Apple didn’t disappoint with the packaging, very thick robust cardboard, no audible box farts, the phone was easily removed (placed in front of everything else inside of the box), everything else had it’s own separate compartments inside the box. Always a nice touch. So enough about the packaging, what was it like setting up?

The setup process was fairly painless if only because I already had iCloud configured so I was able to get the device into a fairly functional state without even being at home. (I set the iPhone up in work). The only things I didn’t have was my music library and picture albums that I synchronise via my computer(s) at home. Annoyingly enough Apple thought that the Micro SIM card was still too big so they threw a Nano SIM into the iPhone 5. Which saves around 0.000000000000003mm of space. Seriously Apple there was no need. So basically it means if you’re upgrading from an earlier iPhone you will have to upgrade your SIM Card. AGAIN.

Inside the box there was the mains charger, a USB to lightning cable, Apple stickers and the warranty and manual booklets. There was also a pair of Apple’s new earpods. The earpods are an usual looking piece of hardware to say the least and oddly enough the audio quality from the earpods seemed better than that of Apple’s in-ear headphones that I reviewed not too long ago.

So yes initial setup and unboxing process was very pleasant, it’s good to see when companies embrace the concept of “the first impressions are the lasting impressions”.

My Impressions: Overall Design and Ergonomics

As with most of Apple’s products these days, it’s minimal yet incredibly sexy. Not many physical buttons. Black glass on the front (also available in white) smooth greyish blue aluminium on the back (Apple call it slate), compact connector design (lightning), generally sturdy construction. What struck me most about the iPhone 5 is how incredibly lighter it is than it’s predecessors. This is actually something I don’t like believe it or not, because I enjoy heavy phones, seriously I don’t know why but when they’re heavier (but still compact) there just seems to be an effect of great build quality to the device. But hey a small price to pay for a better performing device. Both the glass on the front and metal on the back feel as though they might get scratched easily over time. The slate finish is laughable in terms of it’s robustness, aluminium is starting to bleed through ever so slightly on the chamfered edges even though my phone has been in a case from day 1… Well day 2 to be exact but still. The mixture of smooth metal and glass makes it quite slippery, a rubberised texture such as that of the Google Nexus 7 may be preferable but not as sexy.

The phone is longer but not uncomfortably longer than the iPhone 4. There’s around a half an inch difference in the height between the two. The difference really didn’t seem that big of a deal. You get a little bit more content on a webpage (a line or two), you get an extra row of apps on the homescreen and HD videos don’t have black bars around them. Apart from these advantages there’s really not much all that different. The headphone port is not on the bottom which is a better place for me rather than on the top. It now means when I’ve got my earphones plugged in and my phone is in my pocket. I can remove said phone and it will be the right way up. No swivelling! Yay! I would also say that the design for the speaker / microphone grills are definitely more visually appealing than on the iPhone 4.

My Impressions: The Display

Crisp, clear, no ghosting, vivid colour reproduction and consistency across the entire display, good contrast, virtually unlimited viewing angles… everything I like to see on a display. Everything looks sharp especially text. Compared to the iPhone 4′s retina display, I would say the iPhone 5’s display is slightly more vivid (really ever so slightly), but both are on par with everything else. The only downside I saw (which is more of a personal preference) is the glossy display, I’m a diehard matte user so using the display in brightly lit areas can be a challenge, however the display seemed to cope quite well in direct sunlight. The finger prints are unbearable, Apple’s “oleophobic” coating has little to no effect whatsoever. The glass on the iPhone 5 seems more robust than on it’s predecessors, I dropped it on a rough concrete floor in the warehouse of my workplace (not intentionally of course) and the glass didn’t have a mark on it. The only damage was a slight aluminium bleed-through by the headphone port. But even this was virtually unnoticeable.

My Impressions: The Speaker(s)

The audio sounds clean, even when pushed to full volume whilst playing something quite bassy. The speaker(s) seem to be able to somewhat replicate low bass tones but not in an enjoyable way. As with most small computers and smartphones the speakers are “tinny” for the most part.

My Impressions: Lightning

I’m pretty much just going to repeat what I said in my iPad 4 impressions article.

Overall lightning is a nice step up from the traditional 30 pin dock connector which has featured in Apple’s mobile products for over 10 years. It’s compactness makes it very appealing and saves space for other goodies in Apple’s devices. It’s also nice that the cable can be used any way around inside it’s corresponding port (for anyone who’s ever tried to plug in a 30 pin connector in the dark and got it the wrong way around several times). Synchronisation through lightning seems to be marginally faster than the 30 pin in a straight head-to-head but apart from these points, lighting isn’t really as big of a deal as it has been made out to be. In some cases this new connector will make more problems as it will not be compatible with your existing 30 pin accessories unless you purchase an adaptor sold separately.

My Impressions: Overall usage

The usage overall is enjoyable. iOS is as fluid as ever and the experience still becomes transparent as time progresses. The battery life is ok, not bad, but not particularly good either. I can usually expect around 50-65% battery life by the end of the day if used normally and connected to 4G. Due to the powerful Dual-core A6 processor, you can expect gameplay to be incredibly smooth in terms of framerate. Most realtime tasks are also considerably more speedy compared to my iPhone 4 and it’s now dated A4 processor. Despite all of this processing power and 1GB of RAM, the iPhone 5 can still sometimes struggle to render web pages smoothly, especially if the page has continuously updating content and heavy HTML5/CSS transitions. The cameras built into the device are fantastic for the most part but Apple still haven’t put in the features that I most crave such as manual focus and the ability to lockdown the auto white balance and exposure. The panoramic feature is ok but you can get the same results and often better by using panoramic apps that have been out for years. The front camera records in 720p which is nice and the rear camera supports full 1080p video which is even nicer.

Any app that was made for previous iPhones can also run natively on the iPhone 5. Altough sometimes the apps haven’t been updated and you end up with 2 HUGE black bars at the top and bottom of the App, it’s bearable but annoying in mainstream applications. This issue is being steadily resolved as more and more App developers update the Apps for the iPhone 5’s larger screen. There are literally tons of features that I could continue talking about all day but seeing as your eyes are probably bleeding from reading the entirety of this article I’ll draw this to a close now.

My Conclusion

Overall the iPhone was a great buy for me, I can’t really say if the person reading this article (that’s you!) would enjoy this product. I’ve also done my best in this article to show where Apple may need to do some more work to iron out these bugs. As I’ve said before, it would be unfair to compare this product to anything that is aiming at a completely different price point or type of person but what I will say is that for what it’s worth the iPhone 5 is a great product. If you’re thinking of upgrading your previous generation iPhone I would say the iPhone 5 would likely be a decent upgrade.

BlackBerry Z10 Initial Impressions

Last week my work colleague went out and purchased BlackBerry’s new Z10 smartphone to replace his aging BlackBerry Bold 9780. So fortunately I managed to get my hands on the device and get a thorough sense of what was new in the BlackBerry ecosystem. I’ve never been much of a fan of BlackBerry’s devices for anything other than business but the Z10 certainly breaks the mould that BlackBerry have been using for years.

So let’s get started with our overview of this new device.

My impressions: Unboxing and initial Setup

The unboxing of the device was fairly similar to unboxing any other smartphone these days. The box was fairly small, the phone was on top of everything else when sliding open the box, the battery was separate from the phone and it came bundled with it’s USB cable, wall charger, a pair of earphones and the device manual and warranty documentation. The phone also came with it’s own grey pouch. It’s texture is somewhat that of suede, but it’s mixed with something else that makes it feel almost borderline unpleasant. As with BlackBerry’s previous pouches, it also has the magnets in it that interact with corresponding magnets / proximity sensors within the device itself. Always a nice touch.

The setup seemed fairly simple, insert your battery, turn it on with the button on the top, wait for it to boot, the setup wizard guides you through the initial setup of the device including adding a WiFi network and adding an existing BlackBerry account (or creating a new one). The setup wizard was fairly similar to that of Android and iOS. A handy thing to point out is that if you’ve already synchronised your stuff with a Blackberry account, it’s all imported for you near instantaneously.

My Impressions: Overall Design and Ergonomics

It’s incredibly slick at 9mm thick and it’s a huge step up from BlackBerry’s aging traditional QWERTY design. Upon first seeing the device it definitely has a similar appearance to that of the iPhone 5. (A generic black rectangle with all four corners the same size) though there are some differences. For one the Z10 is made of plastic as opposed to the aluminium finish of the iPhone 5. This makes the Z10 much lighter, all smartphone makers seem to think that making lighter smartphones is a good thing. I like a heavy device! But moreover, the Z10 has a rubberised texture on the back which feels fantastic in the hand and allows for a more robust grip of the phone. The glass on the front of the device only covers the LCD unlike a lot of smartphones these days which are sporting the full-glass look. Less fingerprints, yay! On the front of the Z10 you’ll find no physical buttons whatsoever but we’ll get onto why in a minute. You’ll also find an LED alert light at the top of the display. On the top you’ll find the headphone port (standard 3.5mm), the lock / power button conveniently placed in the middle and a pinhole microphone. On the bottom there’s pretty much nothing. On the left side of the phone you’ll find a Micro-USB port for charging and a Micro HDMI port. The port placement for the charger isn’t ideal as it will make grasping the device uncomfortable when it is plugged in. On the right side of the device there is a volume rocker switch with a voice control button on the center which is a nice touch but you’d probably make more use of a dedicated camera button in it’s place. Underneath the back cover you’ll find the microSD card slot, expandable storage is always a plus on a smartphone.

My Impressions: The Display

The pixel density of the display is outstanding and I’d say for the most part it’s on par with the likes of the vibrant display of the Samsung Galaxy S III and the retina display of the iPhone 5. The display measures 4.2″ diagonally and has a resolution of 768 x 1280 pixels. As with all of the smartphones these days it’s glossy so be prepared to have to wipe away those finger prints and avoid very brightly lit areas. Overall though bright, great contrast, great viewing angles, a respectable aspect ratio, vibrant and very densely packed pixels. Everything I like to see on a display.

My Impressions: The Speaker(s)

The audio sounds clean, even when pushed to full volume whilst playing something quite bassy. The speaker(s) seem to be able to somewhat replicate low bass tones but not in an enjoyable way. As with most small computers and smartphones the speakers are “tinny” for the most part.

My Impressions: Overall usage

The OS is very different from what you may be used to if you’ve had a previous BlackBerry device. Or any other device for that matter! BB10 is very reminiscent of the OS that featured on the BlackBerry Playbook but has been reconfigured and updated to accomodate the smaller screen. A major downside of the OS is that there are quite a few apps available but not many GOOD apps. And developers have yet to release a lot of apps that are now commonplace on Android and iOS. An unusual feature is Android emulation which allows you to effectively run Android in a virtual capacity on the device. The problem with this concept is simple. IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE first of all. This was supposed to be a new hope for BlackBerry but it just goes to show how much RIM must be worried about the success of this device if they’re having to emulate another OS due to lack of properly implemented features and good native apps on BB10. The other issue is that the Android version that was initially included for emulation was a very early version and it has only just recently been announced that Android 4.1 will be able to be emulated. This still isn’t the absolute latest version of Android. Get it together BlackBerry, your new OS works, don’t rely on your neighbour’s stuff. Another issue with the emulation is that the apps will run like they’re being emulated (not well).

As for general use the interface is relatively clean and consistent, the BlackBerry logo on the screen bezel doubles up as an unlocking tool. Swipe up from the logo to unlock the phone (not the lock button oddly enough). Swipe up and to the right to access your messages and so on and so forth. The OS relies heavily on multitouch gestures which is a nicer and more fluid way of navigating on your smartphone. The multitasking system is interesting but lacks in the implementation side of things. It’s cool because you can see live previews of everything that you have open but the issue being that you can only have open 8 apps at any given time. So for example say you open 8 apps and Twitter was the first one to be opened. When you open Facebook, the Twitter app is killed off. Weird. You’ll also find a grid in which your apps sit much like in Android and iOS. They have bulky glass frames around them to make the layout look more unique. Unique yes. But necessary no. Many would prefer a slightly cleaner appearance. Native app performance is on par and perhaps even better than on Android and iOS. Angry Birds performs just as fluidly on this device.

The messaging and communication center of the device is seemingly a joy, you can integrate all of your social networks, your SMS, your BBM and your Email. All in one central location. But if you like these things to be a little more separate then perhaps look elsewhere. Typing out messages is made a little more interesting by a new kind of predictive text whereby you type your message and suggestions will pop up above your fingertips and all you have to do is simply swipe up to add that suggestion to replace whatever word you’ve typed or insert the suggestion where you were starting to type the word. Clever and well thought out indeed. Also to mention the on screen keyboard is the same style as the keyboards on the older physical QWERTY keyboards on previous BlackBerry devices. A good way to start weaning die hard physical QWERTY users off of their favourite input method.

The camera is excellent, it copes well with bright or dark conditions and offers it’s party piece called time shift. It’s essentially burst mode like on Android but it’s more intuitive. The browser is extremely fast especially with HTML 5 content. A little race between Safari on an iPhone 4 and the browser on the z10 trying to load and play the same YouTube video proved the sheer speed of this device. This performance is owed to the Snapdragon S4 Plus 1.5GHz dual core beast of a mobile processor. The device also happens to have 2GB of memory, though this seems more than what’s needed for smooth operation of this device. After all you can only run 8 apps simultaneously!

The storage options of this device are fairly simple. It ships with 16GB of onboard space but you can also add an additional 64GB of space by installing a 64GB microSDXC.

The battery life of the device doesn’t seem all too impressive compared with other smartphones. This is unfortunate considering BlackBerry’s history of impressive standby time. But I suppose corners must be cut for that slim profile, the beast of a processor and that large LCD display.

My Conclusion

There are many many more features and pros and cons I could go through but you’re probably getting tired of reading this now so I’ll leave you with my final verdict.

Overall the device is sound. It works well. It’s a great start for BlackBerry’s new OS. But the value just isn’t there yet. A similarly priced or even a device costing less running Android or iOS would likely give you more value for money and above all else a refined well-developed good experience. Because remember the golden rule… It’s not the features, it’s the implementation and there are areas where this principle wasn’t applied to the device, for example it’s good that the multitasking system is unique in it’s own right but is it really more intuitive? Easier to use? Cohesive across the board? I’ll let you decide. Of course whatever is good for me isn’t necessarily good for you but before forking out a wad of cash on the z10 I urge you to perhaps also check out what BlackBerry’s competition is doing also to find something which truly works for you. From a business standpoint I’m really not qualified to comment on whether or not this device or OS will save BlackBerry / RIM from their decline and I’ll let you be the judge of that. I would hope BlackBerry will be along for much longer and continue on their new quest of end-user happiness. I have been thoroughly impressed with what BlackBerry have to offer and I remain hopeful for their future in the smartphone industry.

Is 4G Data Network Speed Really That Important?

The term 4G is thrown around a lot these days and to put it simply, 4G is the next step up from 3G in terms of network data speeds. But is 4G really that big of a deal?

4G is relatively new in the UK with currently only EE offering offering true and stable 4G network speeds. On the other hand in America 4G has been around for a while longer and is widely available from multiple providers and devices.

3G network speed is typically rated at a minimum of 200 kbit/s whilst 4G is usually has an average of around 3-6mbit/s. So it can be said that there may be a substantial difference in download speeds. But is it really necessary?

For the most part, if you’re an average user chances are 4G really shouldn’t be a major deal for you. In general, mobile devices don’t use that much data and when they do it’s usually at a half decent speed for the primary task at hand. For example, say you’re on your way to work on the train and you decide to check what the weather is like (even though you’re already outside) you’ll really only be transferring a few kilobytes of information. So in this case even the speed of a 2G network would suffice theoretically.

Okay so let’s take this one step up. You’re on your way to work on the train and you want to check your email. So you launch your email client and download a few megabytes worth of information. You then proceed to reply to an email with plain text and send a few megabytes. 3G is more than enough in terms of data speed for sending and receiving emails. And again, you could probably get away with 2G even in this case. So let’s take this one step further. You’re on your way home from work on a… let’s make it a bit different. An elephant. And your colleague texts you a link to a YouTube video they forgot to show you earlier in the day. It’s a video about cats so you’re obviously going to want to watch that video before you get home (you might forget when you get in!). So you tap the link and then pops up the YouTube app and the video starts to load. This is the first time you’re going to appreciate your download speed at this point. 2G data speed is simply not enough to stream any, let alone low quality online video. 3G and above will be your best bet here.

So if you haven’t gathered by now. For the most part 4G data speed isn’t that big of a deal unless you’re streaming content on a regular basis. 3G will always suffice for the basic data needs, whether it be social networking, email, weather or location updating. 3G is more than enough in most circumstances. By all means though, don’t allow my seemingly pessimistic views on 4G steer you away from it. 4G is great for what it is. But when your operator tries to sell you it for substantially more than your regular old 3G network don’t just jump into it. Decide whether or not you really need that data speed. And when I say decide, think long-term. Your contract may last 18 months so in that time you may want to start streaming video and music on the go. If that may be the case, then you’re going to want to have as much potential as possible.

It’s usually better to get a little more than you need, than having to use something which is not fulfilling your wants and needs. Think of your computer for example, say all you need is 3GB of memory for what you do but there may be a chance that you may need more at some point, then go for 4 or 5GB. That way you can have the resources you need when you need it.

Another point to mention about 4G connectivity is that it isn’t available everywhere. I mean hey… even 3G connectivity isn’t available everywhere. And it’s now been in operation for over 11 years!

The bottom line is. Don’t spend extra money for a 4G contract or device just because the number is higher than 3G. Just because something has a higher number on it doesn’t make it inherently better, despite what the marketing frequently shouts at you.

Mixed Emotions About The New TARDIS

So I think this is my first post on something non-tech related on this website and I aim to make a regular habit of it. Afterall the content I produce is generically geeky. So it can’t all be about one thing! Even though there’s lots to talk about with tech. So here’s my first Sci-fi / Doctor Who / Television / Media post! We couldn’t have asked for a better topic than the most popular dimensionally transcendental time vessel in the universe. The TARDIS.

This Christmas (Not the one coming near the end of 2013, the one just gone) the new TARDIS interior was finally revealed on Doctor Who. There have been many styles of TARDIS over the years my favourite interior design being the 9th / 10th Doctor’s TARDIS. It just looked so organic with the coral everywhere, the buttresses supporting it’s main structure and the ominous green glow that graced the set. It spoke volumes of “The TARDIS is more than a machine” it’s an interdimensional conciousness with buttons and glowy bits attached to it!” And it made sense that the TARDIS was new and old at the same time. Afterall it’s supposed to be relative to time and space so theoretically it doesn’t need to look slick and modern to be a time machine. And it’s older than the Doctor, he’s now over 1000 and he stole the TARDIS from Gallifrey when it was even called a “museum piece” at that time. So you’d think naturally it would look a bit weathered.

I also enjoyed the 11th Doctor’s original TARDIS interior with it’s somewhat magical aesthetics. And a certain madness to it and it’s dimensions that reflected upon it’s owner’s personality traits.

I’m not much of a fan of the TARDIS interior designs from the original old series of Doctor who with it’s cold white lines, non-descript roundels and not many wacky and unusual looking controls. It just seemed too human and too modern. Again, it’s a time machine! It’s relative to time and space so it’s style shouldn’t reflect on certain design trends. Otherwise it’s style would have to be every design trend. Ever.

I also enjoyed the design of the 8th Doctor’s TARDIS interior. Despite the film not having very good production values and was ruined slightly by americans. Sorry. But it’s true. I enjoyed the film for what it was though.

I think I speak for most fans though when I say it’s a love/hate relationship.

I love it because it looks slick and space-worthy.

I also hate it because it looks slick and space-worthy.

I really can’t make my mind up about it. I would still definitely say that the 9th / 10th Doctor’s TARDIS interior is my favourite for the reasons I listed previously.

I think the Doctor Who production team were also unsure about how to feel about it too. I don’t know if anyone noticed but the exterior of the TARDIS (the blue box) in the Christmas special was all weathered and looking like it had aged / been through a war. Perhaps it was to compensate for the interior. Oh well, who knows what drove them to the decision of making the TARDIS look like this but genuinely all I can say is that I love it and hate it. Weird.

How do you feel about this new TARDIS design? Love it? Hate it? Don’t mind it?

And what’s your favourite TARDIS interior to date?

How To Keep Your Laptop Cool

We’ve all been there. You leave your laptop on the bed for 5 minutes and when you pick it up it’s hotter than the sun! Laptops are well known for cooling and ventilation issues. Due to their small form factor, the heat has less places to go. It also doesn’t help that the fan is underneath.

So how can you make your laptop run cooler and perhaps even quieter than what it may be currently? There are quite a few solutions and most of them cost little to nothing so let’s get started.

Why do laptops typically get hot?

There are quite a few reasons why your laptop might be getting a little warmer than usual. The most common reason is because they’re laptops. Laptops in general don’t have such great cooling systems. Laptop cooling systems usually involve an exposed centrifugal fan attached to a relatively small heat sink. The fan’s job is to simply blow air through the heat sink. The heat sink is basically a mesh of thin metal that is perched on top of the processor and any other chips that require cooling. Between the heat sink and the processor there is usually a substance called thermal compound which basically allows for a more efficient transfer of heat from the processor die and the optimal thermal point of the heat sink. The high temperature is usually caused when the temperature of the processor exceeds the cooling system’s capacity and cannot deliver adequate cooling to combat the rising temperatures of the processor. Even if the cooling system of a laptop is enough to allow for the high temperatures of the processor, the high temperature is most often caused by external events that can make laptop produce more heat than it should. So, how can we control these external events?

Point one: Clearance

Clearance is the easiest way of lowering the temperature of your laptop. When we say clearance we are referring to the gap between the base of the laptop and whatever the laptop happens to be placed on. You can increase the clearance with anything really. If the laptop is on a bed, place something solid and stable about an inch thick underneath the back of the laptop, the charger brick for example. This will not only give the laptop some room to breathe (because the vents are usually situated around the back of the laptop) but you’ll be counter-productive as it’ll prop up the laptop at a more ergonomic angle for typing.

Okay so say this isn’t working for you, you could use something a little more professional. But you’ll likely have to pay some money for it. This is where a laptop riser or cooler could come in handy.

So what these accessories basically do is prop up the laptop and offer additional cooling solutions. They’re available in all different shapes and sizes from different brands at different prices. Some are literally just a perforated wedge to fit under the laptop, whilst others can offer fans that are powered by the USB ports of the laptop you put on top of it.

So these devices are probably your best bet to keeping your laptop as cool as possible.

Another important tip is to not use the laptop on a bed as the fan will be trying it’s hardest to suck in air but in the process pulling the bed sheet(s) flat against the intake grille of the laptop, potentially causing the laptop to overheat and at the same time sucking in a load of dust and clogging the heat sink. Which swiftly brings us on to our next point of cleaning.

Point Two: Clean out!

It’s likely after a few years of use (perhaps a shorter amount of time depending on the dustiness of your environment) your fan and heat sink assembly will be struggling to cool effectively due to them being caked in dust. Mmm cake… Back on topic. You have a few options to evict this debris from your system and they are as follows:

  • Compressed air sprayed directly into the fan and any vents. (Your best bet)
  • Foot pump with a tapered end sprayed directly into the fan and any vents. (Works quite well in the event of compressed air not being present)
  • Vacuum cleaner with nozzle placed directly over the vents. (Slim chance of it making any sort of a noticeable difference, you may also cause a build up of static which could damage the sensitive electrical components of the laptop.)
  • Take that sucker apart! (Really not advised if you don’t know what you’re doing, can end with tears, blood (with dust in the wounds), sweat and worse (a broken laptop!). If you know what you’re doing though, this may be the best solution as you can make sure ALL of the dust is gone and hey while you’re at it you could even put on some fresh performance thermal compound which again brings us swiftly onto our last and most advanced solution. Gotta love how I bridge these separate points without you seeing it coming!

Point Three: Replace the Thermal Compound

Thermal compound is essentially the paste that has to be applied between where the processor meets the heatsink. Thermal compound is usually a whitish or greyish colour and is typically a highly viscous paste. The compound has to be applied in certain ways for certain processors. This includes graphics processors, controller chips, Intel processors and AMD processors. There are also a variety of different ways to apply the compound based on the model of processor.

So what basically happens is over time this thermal compound starts to dry up and doesn’t conduct heat as well as it originally did, so you’re going to want to replace it with something better.

I’ve recommended a few different compounds such as in the quote below from the very same article. Again! I’m so lazy.

“My personal favourite is Arctic Cooling’s MX-4 thermal compound which is easier to apply than AS5 (Arctic Silver 5) and typically improves thermal conductivity by a few degrees. This compound is also non conductive and typically comes in a large syringe so you’ve got plenty for more compound jobs.”

So replacing something as simple as the goo between the processor and the heat sink can seriously change your laptop temperature for the better. So it may be worth trying if you haven’t already. But as i also mentioned in the previous point, it’s not for inexperienced people. You’ll likely need to take the entire laptop apart to gain access to the CPU die and the fan and heat sink assembly. Makes me wonder why laptop manufacturers don’t put a nice little door on the bottom of the laptop for easy access to the processor and the fan and heat sink assembly. I mean they do it for the hard drive, memory and network card so why not the processor? I suppose we’ll never know.

Either way these were just a few points to help you decrease the temperature of your laptop. I hope you found this article educational and somewhat entertaining.

Google Nexus 7 8GB Impressions

So this may be somewhat of another delayed post but I purchased a Google Nexus 7 back in late october for my mother.

She’s had it now since her birthday in late october and overall she’s loving it.

So here’s how it all started.

The Story

My mother doesn’t really like buying new tech things if she’s already happy with what she as and if she doesn’t need it. She also lives by the old saying of if it isn’t broken don’t fix it. And it’s a fair point! Why buy something that you do not need or want. So shortly after the release of the Google Nexus 7 I showed her how cheap the Nexus 7 was and how she might make use of a tablet. She was already at this point thinking about purchasing a Kindle or another digital reader of it’s kind. So I suggested (knowing that she won’t go and get one) that I get her one for her birthday. And she accepted my offer.

So I headed over to the official Google Play store about a week before her birthday and placed an order for an 8GB Nexus 7 Tablet for just £159. If you’re a geek, you may be thinking at this point that 8GB is really not that much but remember… It’s my mother, an average user. She’ll never come close to the limit on that thing.

The delivery came within a day or two which I was very pleased with and the box was in surprisingly good condition despite it not being wrapped in cellophane, which more and more manufacturers are doing these days.

Ironically around a week later, the 8GB Nexus 7 was discontinued and the 16GB version took it’s place at the same price.

My impressions: Unboxing and initial Setup

So if you’re a subscriber to my regular videos at youtube.com/jhdmaxx you would likely have came across my unboxing of the Nexus 7 last year, if you haven’t seen it or want to watch it again here is the link to the unboxing. – http://youtu.be/4kgDsSlgk8w

As for the initial setup, all was rather straight forward. We turned it on and instantly Google’s setup wizard appeared to help us set up the device. Fortunately my mother already had an Android phone (Samsung Galaxy S II) so we were able to simply transfer her device settings, apps and data from her Google Account to her new tablet.. After the importing of her data and about 5 minutes of waiting for an update to install the Nexus 7 was ready to go!

Fairly fast. Very straightforward.

My Impressions: Overall Design and Ergonomics

The overall design of the Nexus 7 is very sleek to say the least and despite it’s incredibly tiny price tag the materials used scream quality all over. The back of the tablet is rubberised which helps to minimize it’s slippery nature and adds a more robust feel to the tablet. Another advantage which I quickly noticed is that the rubberised texture also makes the Nexus 7 less prone to scratches when running the device naked and placing it on a hard surface with potentially scratchy particles on it.

My Impressions: The Display

The display on the Nexus 7 is fantastic for what it’s worth, it has a PPI of 216, not quite retina display (264 PPI) but it’s still very sharp measuring 7 inches with a resolution of 1280 x 800. The colours on the display are reproduced vividly and due to IPS technology the viewing angles are fantastic. The colours seem to not be quite as vivid and the contrast is not produced as accurately as some of the other android devices that feature OLED displays, but you really can’t complain for it’s price.

My Impressions: The Speaker(s)

The audio sounds crisp, no distortion was heared when pushing the speakers to maximum whilst playing low bass tones. The speaker(s) seem to be able to somewhat replicate low bass tones but not in an enjoyable way much like I have found on the iPad. As with most small computers the speakers are “tinny” for the most part.

My Impressions: Overall usage

If you were to hand me the Nexus 7 and i didn’t know how much it costed, I would have guessed way over £159. Seriously, for what the Nexus 7 costs, it truly exceeded my expectations. Being a fan of open source software it was also nice to see pure Android for a change instead of all of the crapware that the other companies layer on top to make it more “personal” such as Samsung and their TouchWiz interface which in reality is just slowing down Android and adding half-baked features that haven’t been implemented properly. The device is speedy enough for most tasks but classic Android-flavoured lag starts to set in when scrolling through a document or a web page, however this being said the lag is definitely less pronounced with this tablet on Android 4.2 than any other Android device I’ve seen to date. The Nexus 7 also appears to feature a magnetic sensor in it’s bezel similar to that of the iPad and Blackberry smartphones. Basically if you have a case that has a front cover and has a corresponding magnet under it’s surface, it will allow the device to be woken up or put to sleep if the cover is opened or closed. Although we did have an issue with a third party case unexpectedly locking the device from time-to-time. The Nexus 7 has no back camera which really isn’t much of an issue as there’s a front one which is usually the most commonly used camera on a tablet. The camera is 1.2MP and isn’t too bad for video calling. You can also apparently make the front camera record in 720p with a modification. Oddly enough, it didn’t seem the device came with a dedicated camera app so you’ll need to download one to take and pictures with the camera. There are only a few apps that are truly optimised for the screen on the Nexus 7, but fortunately due to it’s screen size and resolution, problems with unoptimised apps are not as pronounced on the device.

My Conclusion

Overall I don’t really think you need to look further for an Android tablet costing under £200 and as I always say (and as people always ask), it’s unfair and invalid to compare this tablet to the iPad. They’re both on two completely different operating systems and are aimed at two completely different price points. Chalk vs Cheese. But if what you’re looking for is somebody to say if you made the right decision, I would say for £159 you definitely did.

iPad 4th Generation Impressions

So this may be somewhat of a delayed post but I finally purchased an iPad!

So I’ve now had my iPad since the 26th of November last year and overall I’m loving it. So in this post I’ll be going over my impressions.

The story of my slightly surprising purchase.

So on the 26th of November after a long day at work I decided to go and pick up an iPad. I decided upon the popular retailer PC World as it was on the way home from work. So I went into the store walked up to the iPad section and looked around for a bit. After a bit of pondering I was ready to make my purchase, I was set on purchasing the 3rd generation iPad 16GB WiFi. So I asked a nearby customer assistant if they had any in stock, she replied yes but also that the next iPad up (4th generation with lightning) was available for the exact same price. She then proceeded to ask if I wanted that one instead, to which I obviously replied Yes! So that was indeed an interesting surprise. So all in I paid £399 of my hard earned pennies on this little beauty and I have not once regretted my purchase.

Why the iPad?

Well I’ve been wanting a tablet computer for a while now and it only seemed like the correct decision to get a tablet that would integrate seamlessly with my primary ecosystem (my Mac Pro running the latest version of OS X and my iPhone 4 running the latest version of iOS).

My impressions: Unboxing and initial Setup

As usual Apple didn’t disappoint with the packaging, very thick robust cardboard, no audible box farts, tablet easily removed (placed in front of everything else inside of the box), everything else had it’s own separate compartments inside the box. Always a nice touch. So enough about the packaging, what was it like setting up?

Honestly, it’s difficult to describe without sounding completely biased or appearing to have a deeply ingrained love for a brand without justification but I’ll say it anyway. Seamless. Absolutely seamless. I didn’t even need to plug the iPad in to get all of my stuff. I simply signed in with my Apple ID, enabled iTunes WiFi sync and my iCloud data was imported automatically. I think the most complicated part of the process was getting 3rd party apps on the same level of synchronisation with the likes of my iPhone. This is something I would really like to see on any device which I haven’t seen yet. The ability to synchronise data from within apps, for example you may have the popular game 100 floors on your iPhone, but if you got it on your iPad you’d have to start again. If this was integrated you could be up to the same level on both devices.

Inside the box also comes the mains charger, a USB to lightning cable, Apple stickers and the warranty and manual booklets. Oddly enough there’s no earphones in the box, this was somewhat disappointing, especially when considering the price paid.

So yes initial setup and unboxing process was very pleasant, it’s good to see when companies embrace the concept of “the first impressions are the lasting impressions”.

My Impressions: Overall Design and Ergonomics

As with most of Apple’s products these days, it’s minimal yet incredibly sexy. Not many physical buttons. Black glass on the front (also available in white) smooth silver aluminium on the back. No visible screws, compact connector design (lightning), generally sturdy construction. There’s a fair bit of weight to it, wrist fatigue doesn’t take long to set in. Can sometimes feel awkward when holding it in a portrait orientation. Both the glass on the front and metal on the back feel as though they might get scratched easily over time. There can sometimes be a strange sensation of static when touching the metal on the back whilst the iPad is plugged in. The mixture of smooth metal and glass makes it quite slippery, a rubberised texture such as that of the Google Nexus 7 may be preferable but not as sexy.

My Impressions: The Display

Crisp, clear, no ghosting, vivid colour reproduction and consistency across the entire display, good contrast, virtually unlimited viewing angles… everything I like to see on a display. Everything looks sharp especially text. Compared to the iPhone 4′s retina display, I would say the iPad’s display is slightly more vivid, but both are on par with everything else. The only downside I saw (which is more of a personal preference) is the glossy display, I’m a diehard matte user so using the display in brightly lit areas can be a challenge, however the display seemed to cope quite well in direct sunlight. The finger prints are unbearable, Apple’s “oleophobic” coating has little to no effect whatsoever. I fixed the glossy issue with a matte screen protector after about a week of use.

My Impressions: The Speaker(s)

The audio sounds clean, even when pushed to full volume whilst playing something quite bassy. The speaker(s) seem to be able to somewhat replicate low bass tones but not in an enjoyable way. As with most small computers the speakers are “tinny” for the most part.

My Impressions: Lightning

Overall lightning is a nice step up from the traditional 30 pin dock connector which has featured in Apple’s mobile products for over 10 years. It’s compactness makes it very appealing and saves space for other goodies in Apple’s devices. It’s also nice that the cable can be used any way around inside it’s corresponding port (for anyone who’s ever tried to plug in a 30 pin connector in the dark and got it the wrong way around several times). Synchronisation through lightning seems to be marginally faster than the 30 pin in a straight head-to-head but apart from these points, lighting isn’t really as big of a deal as it has been made out to be. In some cases this new connector will make more problems as it will not be compatible with your existing 30 pin accessories unless you purchase an adaptor sold separately.

My Impressions: Overall usage

The usage overall is enjoyable. iOS is as fluid as ever and despite the amount of hardware, the experience still becomes transparent as time progresses much like on the iPhone. The powering of the device has been something that has thoroughly impressed me. The device charges very quickly due to it’s higher voltage charger but struggles to charge when plugged into a standard USB port. The battery life is incredible to say the least and is definitely a major selling point over a classic laptop system. If not touched for the day but still connected to WiFi and pulling in emails, you can expect the battery life to still be in the nighties by the end of the day. Due to the powerful Dual-core A6X with quad-core graphics, you can expect gameplay to be incredibly smooth in terms of framerate. Most realtime tasks are also considerably more speedy compared to my iPhone 4 and it’s now dated A4 processor. Despite all of this processing power and 1GB of RAM, the iPad can still sometimes struggle to render web pages smoothly, especially if the page has continuously updating content and heavy HTML5/CSS transitions. I have also had multiple issues with browsers crashing instantly when launching when pages remain from the last browsing session. This has happened multiple times on both Google Chrome and Safari. The cameras built into the device are fantastic for the most part but Apple still haven’t put in the features that I most crave such as manual focus and the ability to lockdown the auto white balance and exposure. They also left out the panoramic feature from the iPhone. That being said you don’t want to be seen taking pictures with an iPad. It looks weird. The front camera records in 720p which is nice and the rear camera supports full 1080p video which is even nicer.

Facetime is enjoyable on the iPad but due to the quickly gaining wrist fatigue that follows holding the iPad up, it’s not the most ergonomic way of calling people. It can be corrected by purchasing a case that has a stand or propping the iPad up against a considerably heavier object on a non-slip surface. There are a lots of Apps available for the iPad but there’s also quite a few that are available on iOS for iPhone but haven’t been optimised for iPad. It’s not the worst App emulation ever but it’s not the most elegant of solutions. There are literally tons of features that I could continue talking about all day but seeing as your eyes are probably bleeding from reading all 1451 words of this article I’ll draw this to a close now.

My Conclusion

Overall the iPad was a great buy for me, I can’t really say if the person reading this article (that’s you!) would enjoy this product. I’ve also done my best in this article to show where Apple may need to do some more work to iron out these bugs. As I’ve said before, it would be unfair to compare this product to anything that is aiming at a completely different price point or type of person but what I will say is that for what it’s worth the iPad 4 is a great product. If you’re thinking of upgrading your iPad tst generation I would suggest looking at the iPad 3 or 4, if you have an iPad 2 and you’re wanting to upgrade I would say the same, if only for that gorgeous retina display and the performance enhancements that come with the newer generation devices.

Do Registry Optimisers Actually Work?

There is an unbelievable amount of registry optimizers available on the interwebs, many promising to boost the real-time performance of your Windows machine by organising registry keys and removing registry keys that may be invalid. This article aims to allow you to understand that for the most part, most of these registry optimizers aren’t worth your time.

Registry optimizers have always been somewhat of a placebo to start off with. You may stumble upon a advertisement on a website that advertises a registry booster / optimizer / cleaner and instantly your first thought is “wow, I’ve never thought of “cleaning” my registry, this program will make my computer fly!”. This is exactly the placebo effect that most registry optimizers will have on the end user. You’re made to think that it’ll make your computer faster and when you’ve ran the registry optimizer you may feel that things are faster, but in all honesty most registry optimizers are a waste of time and space.

The registry in Windows contains all of the appropriate information that applications need to run, preferences in Windows, Windows features, and hardware information and driver sources. If you were to go into the registry and delete keys left, right and centre, your machine probably wouldn’t start up again. The registry is a very delicate local web of information that is required for your machine to operate properly. This is why whenever you make changes to the registry, always back up the information, or even better, make a system restore point.

Here are the main reasons, why most registry optimizers do not work and why you should avoid using them unless completely necessary:

  1. Your registry does NOT need “cleaning”. A greater number of registry keys and / or invalid keys does not mean that your computer will slow down, fail or need anything more than a simple disk cleanup and a defrag.
  2. Registry optimizers have NEVER shown any real-time performance enhancements, your computer won’t start up faster, programs will not launch faster, editing video, photo or audio will not be enhanced. Notable Microsoft MVPs have also noted that registry optimizers do not enhance real-time performance (trust them, they know what they’re talking about!)
  3. They CAN cause damage to the Windows registry. Never mind trying to enhance your performance, these tools can stop your Windows installation from working properly at all.
  4. Many of these free utilities can be rogue applications posing as optimizers that could actually be something more sinister such as malware, spyware, trojans, worms and beyond. So BE CAREFUL what you download and install.

So all in all, most registry optimizers do not work, and I admit even I have thought that some may have enhanced general system performance (CCleaner’s built-in registry cleanup) when in matter of fact it’s simply the placebo effect kicking in or the fact that I may have simultaneously used disk clean up utilities (can speed up Windows as it means less work for the dreaded indexing service) and a defrag (the best thing you could do to enhance the disk performance after long periods of use, and multiple application and update installations and uninstallations).

Do not let this article discourage you from choosing how you enhance the system performance of your computer, but just keep in mind the points above which may help you choose the correct performance enhancing methods and utilities.

Will Microsoft Surface Succeed?

If you didn’t know already Microsoft are releasing a new tablet this month. It’s called Surface. And don’t get confused (like I did initially) the product is not the same as Surface that we saw a few years ago which is now named Microsoft PixelSense. What makes this product really unique is the fact that Microsoft has created both the software for the tablet (Windows 8) and the hardware itself. It remains to be seen whether or not the experience will be flawless, but it likely will due to the hardware and the software both being made for each other. So with this somewhat Apple-ish approach, it really might just work!

Microsoft Surface will be a dangerous move on Microsoft’s part, if only due to the incredible competition in the tablet market and Microsoft will have to keep in mind a couple of very important factors for this new product to succeed. Of course success is relative to the company or individual, for Microsoft it has always been all about the numbers rather than the overall user experience. Microsoft Surface could change this coupled with Windows 8. After all Microsoft are really trying to cater for the average user rather than major corporations with it’s upcoming release of Windows 8.

The first point Microsoft will need to keep in mind is uniqueness. What will truly set apart Microsoft surface from other tablets on the market. And it’ll surely be up against some real heavyweights with better price points. Seriously, since the release of the iPad the tablet market has grown to insane proportions. We now have more Galaxy tabs then Galaxies in the universe, a 7″ £159 all-Google bargain and many others to mention. So what will really make this tablet unique? The roll out keyboard is handy and a little different but it wouldn’t necessarily be a main reason to choose this tablet. Ultimately the software available will be the make or break factor. Certain people will be happy with the fact that they will be able to run their desktop applications on Surface but others not so much.

This is where good implementation will need to come into play. Software HAS to be rewritten to be optimized for this device, and certainly there will be a lot of developers out there banging their heads against the desk screaming why due to the amount of work they’ll have to put in so that their apps work properly with Surface or any other touch screen for that matter. There will be certain applications that still don’t work all to well with a touch screen. The likes of which could include video and audio editing software. Trust me I’ve tried to edit with multiple applications on a touch screen and it isn’t as precise or intuitive as a traditional mouse and keyboard.

So there will definitely be a learning curve with this product, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, change is good, it helps move things along so we’re not stuck with an 11 year old operating system for which support is ending for in 2014 coughWindows XPcough. What I’m hoping for again is that Microsoft don’t leave other users in the dark. For me as a geek Windows 8 isn’t my cup of tea, I prefer certain legacy methods of getting things done in a desktop environment, but to be fair Geeks probably take up around 0.0000000000000003% of the human population, so it’s fair for Microsoft to focus on the average user more, I just would’ve liked at least an option.

The second point that Microsoft will need to keep in mind is the price. If Surface is priced appropriately (within the $200 – $300 bracket) then things might go fairly well, the price will be the ultimate determining factor and if Microsoft manage to make it cheap enough, they’ll be able to use it for marketing. Seriously if it is cheaper then the iPad, Microsoft will highlight that point. If it’s more expensive then they’ll probably just use the completely relative excuse of “It’s better”.

So who knows, Windows 8 is just around the corner and so is Microsoft Surface, we’ll just have to wait and see how things play out.

Are All Computers Bluetooth Enabled?

I recently received an email from asking the question “Are all PCs are able to use a Bluetooth keyboard?”.

The simple answer to this is no, if you have a desktop computer the likely outcome is that your computer is not Bluetooth enabled. However many new laptops, ultra-portables, netbooks and all-in-ones include Bluetooth connectivity built in, this is a handy feature as you can connect to devices and perform Bluetooth file transfers without 3rd party hardware solutions.

So to make your computer Bluetooth enabled, you may need a 3rd party hardware solution such as a Bluetooth adapter in the form of a USB Bluetooth Dongle, which usually looks like a memory stick, or a PCI / PCI Express Bluetooth card which can look like a graphics card / PCI WiFi card. You can also purchase nano Bluetooth receivers if you prefer your Bluetooth dongle to not get in the way.

Another solution may be actually trying to find out about your laptop’s motherboard and if a model of laptop with the same motherboard happens to have a Bluetooth card built in. This may indicate that you may be able to purchase an internal Bluetooth card and have a technician install it for you.

So there are a few solutions available to enable Bluetooth connectivity on your computer.

Is There a Cure For Stuck Pixels?

The simple answer is yes, there might be, depending on the nature of the stuck pixel(s) and also depending on the type of technology in use. Stuck pixels can be a nightmare to say the least and you tend to find them on many screens and are usually not the result of damage to the screen itself, stuck pixels are usually manufacturing defects of the screens themselves, you are also more likely to find stuck pixels on very cheap screens, for example if you were to purchase a replacement screen for a iPod Touch, there’s a chance it may have a few stuck pixels.

Stuck pixels can come in a variety of flavours, black, white, red, green, blue, you name it. They can be pretty much any colour the human eye can recognise. Black would usually indicate that a pixel may be dead, which is a slightly different thing and usually means that the pixel cannot be physically brought back to life, it is not necessarily stuck, it’s actually just off. So there, now we know the difference between a stuck pixel and a dead pixel, but of course as pointed out previously, stuck pixels can be black as well, so it can be difficult to differentiate between the two and it may be worth trying to get those pixels un-stuck.

So there a are a variety of solutions available for actually un-sticking stuck pixels, usually what many will do is use a video that has multiple colours within it. Essentially what this concept is, is using videos that you can find online that are usually entitled “Stuck Pixel Fixer” or something along those lines. What this video will do is quickly flick through a series of colours usually black, white, red, green and blue. This rapid colour changing will usually excite the liquid crystal in your display and possibly fix the stuck pixel. (Also to note, stuck pixel fixer videos usually require looping for several hours to work to full effect).

Other cures have supposedly been found, solutions as bizarre as taking the end of a pencil with an eraser and poking the affected area with the eraser (whilst playing a stuck pixel fixer). This can supposedly fix the stuck pixel, although I wouldn’t recommend it in case you were to cause additional problems with the screen such as permanent cosmetic damage. I’ve been fairly lucky with stuck pixels over the years, I’ve never had stuck pixels on computer displays, I’ve only ever had stuck pixels on a replacement PSP screen which I then subsequently returned to the manufacturer.

Also to mention, if you have one stuck pixel in a very inconspicuous area such as in the very corner of the display, it’s probably something you shouldn’t worry about, as it’s not affecting the functioning of the screen and it’s barely noticeable. However if it’s somewhere in the middle or there’s a giant cluster of them, then you may be obliged to actually replace that display. Companies also have limitations on how many stuck/dead pixels are acceptable and will usually not offer a replacement if it is only few stuck pixels and not in a localized area.

So, there you go, I hope this post may have helped you with your stuck pixel issues (even if you haven’t came across one yet).

The Advantages of Performance Thermal Compound

From when I ever first became aware of the existence of thermal compound also known as thermal paste, I thought that simply any thermal compound would do. However I was very much mistaken.

Thermal compound is essentially the paste that has to be applied between where the processor meets the heatsink. Thermal compound is usually a whitish or greyish colour and is typically a highly viscous paste. The compound has to be applied in certain ways for certain processors. This includes graphics processors, controller chips, Intel processors and AMD processors. There are also a variety of different ways to apply the compound based on the model of processor.

For example, in the past the standard way to apply thermal compound was to simply apply a small amount of thermal compound in a circular manner then simply use the pressure of the heat sink to compress the compound. A modern example of showing all of the different ways to apply thermal compound could be the application process of the first and second generations of Core i3, i5 and i7. On these processors, two methods are preferred, there’s the die line method and the complete surface area spreading method. Both of which depend on the thermal compound, the type of heatsink and which processor it is being applied to. The die line method is simply where the compound is applied with the thickness of about a grain of rice and a length of about 2-3 grains of rice across where the processor die sits just under the heat spreader.

So what advantages do high performance thermal compounds have and what are the differences?

Well lets start with the classic stock white or light grey compound that is usually just labelled “Thermal Compound” and costs pennies. This compound is the least effective and is quite often the culprit in the infamous PS3 YLOD problem. The compound is usually more of a cream texture and it tends to dry in quite a crusty manner. This paste however may work just as fine in some situations, particularly on low-heat-output processors.

So then we move on to the better performance compounds. This includes compounds such as the famous Arctic Silver 5, Arctic Cooling MX-4, Xigmatek Freezing Point, Tuniq TX-2 and Antec Formula 5. These compounds are usually more expensive than the conventional stock thermal compound, however they offer huge advantages. Arctic Silver 5 is a famous thermal compound which happens to have very small silver particles in it. The advantages with such a compound is of course extreme thermal conductivity. Whereas the stock thermal compound will usually have some degree of thermal resistance, thermal compounds at this performance level will have virtually no heat resistance. This essentially means that almost 100% of the heat output will travel to your cooler and then will subsequently be taken away by the means of a fan or a liquid cooling solution.

This compound also has other advantages due to it’s chemical formula such as the prevention to separate, migrate, bleed or run. This allows for a stable compound for use on your processor. I myself have used Arctic Silver 5 on my PS3. My PS3 (fat version) has been out of warranty for some time now and I already had experience in taking apart the PS3 system. I decided to add some Arctic Silver 5 to my PS3′s two processors to increase it’s cooling performance (it was getting quite noisy) and decrease the chance of YLOD (Yellow Light of Death). Upon opening up the console and separating the processors from their respective heatsinks, I noticed that the thermal paste was virtually none-existant. And the small remnants that were there where like small crusty pieces of chipped off paint. This was quite obviously the reasoning behind the high fan speed of my PS3. So I removed the old compound with a couple of alcoholic swabs and used the surface area spreading method to cover the entire surface of the processors. Overall the procedure made an amazing improvement. I thought adding this compound might make a small difference but the outcome was way above my expectations. The fan now stays at virtually the same start-up speed when the console is idle. Upon gaming, the fans do kick up, but nowhere near before. And as soon as I return to the home screen the fans decrease in speed again.

This really shows how much you can benefit from a good thermal compound. As mentioned previously there are many different compounds on the market and the ones listed above are regarded as some of the best performing compounds. My personal favourite is Arctic Cooling’s MX-4 thermal compound which is easier to apply than AS5 (Arctic Silver 5) and typically improves thermal conductivity by a few degrees. This compound is also non conductive and typically comes in a large syringe so you’ve got plenty for more compound jobs. Many say the disadvantage with AS5 is the curing time. This is essentially the initial 200 hour constant run-time to allow the compound to work it’s magic. During this time the compound will start to get thinner as the processor heats up to remove any air bubbles and to allow the compound to enter all of the various small ridges and gaps between the processor and heatsink. The processor will be at a slightly higher temperature at this stage. After this stage the thermal compound starts to thicken and becomes what it will be for the foreseeable future.

So these are the advantages (and a couple of disadvantages) of high performance thermal compound.

When Will OLED Displays Become More Mainstream and Affordable?

So if you’re familiar with display technology, you would have heard about LCD, LED and OLED displays. I made a video a while ago detailing the key differences between each display technology and talking about which is the best in terms of image quality and which is the best value.

LCD display technology is now probably the most common display technology. LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display. The previous widely known display technology was CRT. CRT stands for Cathode Ray Tube. You would have known the Cathode Ray Tube as the huge, heavy, large, eye straining and downright ugly old displays. The technology was used in computer monitors and televisions and had a lot of disadvantages and previously pointed out, however, most don’t know that the colours on a CRT display were true-to-life. Due to the phosphorous coating on the inside of the screen and the RGB (Red Green Blue) electron gun. Then came the plasma display (which many are confused about as it looks somewhat like an LCD). The plasma display was an equally heavy but much slimmer display. It offered the same advantage of true-to-life colour of the CRT, whilst moving more towards the slim form factor of an LCD. Plasma displays were typically not found under 32″ and were never really conventional for use on the desktop.

LCD had already come a long way at this point, laptops had been shipping for years with this (not as perfected as today’s) LCD technology. The primary reason that it took so long for LCD to become mainstream was due to the technology not being as tried and tested as CRT and plasma. LCDs of the past also consistently had problems replicating true-to-life colours, the contrast ratios were truly shameful, the refresh rates were too low and the backlight bleed-through was off the scale.

Pretty soon though by the early 2000s LCDs started becoming mainstream due to the company NEC making hugh breakthroughs in LCD technology. LCD technology is still used in LED and OLED displays. The fundamental difference is within the backlighting systems. Standard LCD displays use CCFL bulbs (just like the large fluorescent tubing in office lighting systems) whereas an LED display is simply a display that uses LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) instead of the conventional miniture fluorescent tubing. This LED backlighting typically will enhance the lighting of the image as CCFL bulbs will usually not emit light equally across the screen. LEDs are also more power efficient and are noticeably cooler to the touch. LEDs will typically not get dimmer over a period of time and will also last much longer than CCFL lighting.

OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) technology still very much works on the same principle as LED but is a bit more intuitive. OLED essentially follows images around the screen. So whereas LEDs and CCFL bulbs are placed 0n the outer edges of the screen, OLEDs are placed within the surface area of the display directly behind the liquid crystal. The advantage with this is that you get true blacks and insane contrast ratios. The image will also appear more defined and sharper to your eyes.

OLED technology is used in a lot of smartphones these days because it simply looks incredible. However OLED has only recently been deployed within televisions and monitors. This is because OLED displays use expensive materials and are much more difficult to assemble than traditional LCD displays with LED and CCFL backlighting systems. There is only two main disadvantages with OLED at the moment which is the high price tag and the glowing image problem. The glowing image problem only occurs in some screens and it is basically where light is bleeding though onto black surroundings, this can be seen sometimes if a half white and half black image is on an OLED display. On the edge of the white parts, you may see glowing as if it is fading into the true-black areas of the screen. This may discourage some to purchase these displays as the image will theoretically not look as sharp.

So with all this in mind, I would personally say that OLED displays will become mainstream and affordable within the next few years. I also believe that display technology as a whole will continue to advance rapidly and we will see many exciting display technologies within the next few years.

GTA V to Have “Crews”

An interview was held with IGN on March 22 concerning Max Payne 3. Dan Houser (a writer for the GTA video game series) revealed that the Multiplayer game mode of GTA V will allow for what Rockstar calls “Crews”. Crews will be introduced in Max Payne 3 and will supposedly be featuring in future Rockstar video game titles.

Crews essentially allow clan-style groups to be created, in which you are rewarded for playing with other crew members and completing objectives together. You will also be matched with other players of equal ability, this theoretically ensures that all players will cooperate efficiently and should be able to complete the objectives that are set.

An extract of Dan Houser’s interview is shown below.

“The beauty of this system is that crews persist over time and across future games. Multiplayer is an ever-more important part of all our games moving forward. And by creating crews through Social Club, the crews that you create in Max Payne 3 will be ready and available for you to play in Grand Theft Auto V from day one. It’s all part of our larger approach to make multiplayer deeper and richer than what’s currently available, much more easily accessible to the newcomer and rewarding for the hardcore.”

The interview gives us more information regarding the multiplayer system of Max Payne 3, however it gives us a good understanding of how the multiplayer system will work in GTA V.

Inkjet vs Laser Printers

With all of the printer technologies out there, you really have to wonder which is better for the job at hand? Inkjet or Laser? So I have an inkjet printer downstairs which is used occasionally for quickly printing off various documents. The printer is a HP Deskjet 1000, do feel free to check out the review here and the video review here. However this printer isn’t really up to the job of printing off professional photographs and generally things that will require a lot of ink.

So there’s also laser technology and in the past they were only available in black and white and weren’t very cost effective. However today there’s colour laser printers which are much more cost effective.

For the most part I would say you’re probably better off going for a laser printer, of course it’s relative to the price and of course laser printers are going to cost more than the inkjet printers, but for the quality it’s definitely worth it. However this is only my recommendation if you’re printer-happy, if you’re only going to be using the printer very occasionally (like me) and it’s just for text documents then inkjet may be an ideal and cheaper option.

Laser printers are all the rage these days due to their ability to print in what is essentially high-definition, the DPI or (DotsPerInch) on a laser printer far exceed that of the inkjet printers. The resolution on some laser printers even exceeds that of an ultra-sharp display! The colours also tend to be more natural and due to the higher resolution, test and images are crystal clear.

So there you have it, laser is the winner, but if you’re not printer-happy, an inkjet printer might just fit the bill.

Wireless vs Wired Internet Connectivity

There’s wireless everywhere these days, whether it’s wireless in a coffee shop, wireless in your home, and you can even tether your phone to create a WiFi hotspot. And even your phone works off a type of WiFi aswell, or at least the type of radio signals used within telephone networks is similar to WiFi. And even Bluetooth, a PAN network (personal area network) is somewhat based on the same principle as WiFi.

So with WiFi everywhere you really have to wonder “hmm… is wireless really that much better than wired?” and to put it simply it really depends on what you are doing. If you’re deciding on whether to go wired or wireless, there’s no definitive answer other than, if you’re going to be moving around a lot then you’ll want to go with wireless.

As you know wireless literally is wireless, you can actually use the device without wires to connect to the internet and then the only wires that are really needed are the likes of chargers and other power supplies that may be required, other than that wireless internet really is as it says on the label wireless. Which is pretty good as I said if you’re travelling or just want to use internet on the go.

So wired also does have it’s advantages and we’ll be going through exactly what the advantages are of wired. So for example in my room I have a desktop computer and I also have a laptop computer. The laptop computer obviously runs on wireless as well as wired I suppose, if I really wanted to I could connect it through ethernet or even dial-up. However the desktop is primarily wired and this is due mostly to speed, reliability and the strength of the connection.

Wired is typically much faster than wireless, however of course there are some limitations to this speed, usually due to how much bandwidth the router or hub will allocate ethernet devices but typically it’s a much more reliable connection. Another advantage of ethernet is that there is typically no interference whatsoever, which can be a major problem with wireless. For example if your microwave interferes with your WiFi, which it can, then you’ll typically have to switch WiFi channels, channel 1 to channel 11 which is just a royal pain.

So overall then there’s still no definitive answer, but wireless is your best bet if you’re travelling or you just want one less wire in your setup!

The Future of The Xbox

So if you’re familiar with the hugely successful gaming console known as the Xbox, you may also know that a new version is due within the next couple of years. The Xbox is made by Microsoft, the very same company who creates the Windows Operating System. The Xbox has only had two major releases, first with the original Xbox which was shadowed by the Sony PlayStation 2 which is still the most sold console in history with an amazing 154 million units shipped worldwide. The second generation Xbox known as the Xbox 360 was a major hit as it was released in 2005 the technology behind the Xbox 360 was far more advanced than the PlayStation 2. The only other semi-major release of the Xbox was the Xbox 360 slim. Which was essentially the same but with more “polish”. The third major iteration of the Xbox has been named by many as the Xbox 720.

This article will just be detailing some of the key features that many are expecting from the new Xbox. So this article is based on mostly speculation with a sprinkle of fact.

So when is is expected to be released? According to various developers for the next generation Xbox, we can expect to see the release of the next Xbox in June 2013. This leaves just over a year till you can apparently get your hands on it! Providing the world doesn’t end in 2012.

How can we guess the specifications of the next Xbox?

Well…this is achievable through comparing the specifications of the Xbox 360.

The Xbox 360 was released in 2005 with the best of 2005 technology at it’s heart. It’s processor was a bespoke IBM three core processor at 3.2GHz and the system also included an ATI graphics processor.

No wonder it costed so much initially! So the latest rumors are indicating the the next generation Xbox will feature a graphics processor based on the same architecture as the AMD 6670, the advantages of such a graphics chip would be multi-monitor support, DirectX11 support and also support for OpenGL. However this chip has been dubbed as “disappointing” to gamers of the next generation Xbox as it the performance wouldn’t exactly be “next gen”. Also to note, if the next Xbox is released in mid 2013, AMD would have already released the 8000 series, with most likely double the processing power.

Allegedly Microsoft are finally planning to install a Blu-ray player to replace their HD DVD drive. This is great news as it means that more game data can be stored due to the dual layering technology and extremely dense filesystem. So theoretically speaking, games will be an equally immersive experience as on the PC. Blu-ray discs are also fairly difficult to scratch due to a thick malleable coating on the disc surface, which is great news for Xbox owners who move their console on a regular basis (we’re all familiar with the disc scratching problem on the Xbox).

Other alleged features include Ethernet and WiFi connectivity, bluetooth, extreme integration of Kinect technology and touch sensitive controls. All of this information is mostly speculation, the thing most people are hoping is that Microsoft use more advanced graphics technologies, which would likely make the console more sought after than the conventional gaming PC.

What Can We Expect From GTA V?

So we all know that GTA V was announced last year, but it seems some of us know more than others. A post was written on GTAForums.com in November from who was apparently a UK PlayStation Magazine employee, who’s colleagues had exclusive access to a demo of GTA V a couple of days before writing the post. It is not clear if the information within the post was a load of nonsense or actual things we can expect to see within the game. However let’s hope these things are true because it all sounds rather amazing to say the least.

So the post is below, enjoy.

“Hi all, I am new to this forum and what I am writing here is not to spam/troll, etc. I work for a Playstation magazine in the UK ( I will not be disclosing any further details….) and a select few of our team have seen via video links with Rockstar in Scotland 30 minutes of in-game footage. I have not, personally, been privy to this unfortunately but I will relay to you what I have heard so far and I promise you that none of this is BS but that is down to the lot of you fans to judge. Ok, here goes:

1: The game world is absolutely massive and will push both xbox and PS3 to the very limit in terms of what it has accomplished. Yes, the main city is simply Los Santos however is it AT LEAST 4 times bigger than Liberty City in GTA 4 and that is just Los Santos. The surrounding country side, beaches, etc are massive. For instance, we saw the main character ( an African/American, early 30′s) travel by car from the center of Los Santos into the wildnerness and it took over 15 minutes. The views were incredible from farmhouses with cattle, huge wind farms, an oil refinery which appeared to be living and breathing with nearly 100 NPCs working on machinery, operating vehicles, lifting and loaded, etc, unlike the gas works in GTA 4 which seemed to only house a few NPC at a time. The forests are more beautiful than those in RDR and featured people camping, young NPC drinking and dancing around campfires, people riding dirt bikes and jumping over logs, streams, etc. The water effects, forna, plants, trees all looked beautiful.

2: The shooting mechanics have been greatly improved with animations for diving, climbing, rolling and crawling all added for better realism. The re-loading animations for new ammo also look cooler, less static.

3: There is much more climbable elements in the world such as ladders, overhand climbing, etc.

4: There are animals in the game from dogs to cattle but at this time it is not confirmed if you will be able to harm the animals. Rockstar were able to get away with it in RDR as it was a true depiction of the world in which the game was set. Allowing dogs/cattle to die in a game sent in current times may cause headaches with PETA. Its unclear if Rockstar were joking here.

5: There are planes to pilot and they can be crashed into buildings if you choose to do so….

6: Rockstar have included many, many more interior locations such as a shopping mall, college campus, police station, a huge hospital and there is also a vast underground sewer network which one mission later in the game involves a jet ski chase that culminates in a Fugitive-esque waterfall jump ( there are nods to the ridiculous but awesome Ballad Of Gay Tony missions)

7: The city is full of NPCs jogging, weight-lifting, hitting on women, being chased on foot by cops, shopping, washing cars, fixing fences, moving home, filling up their cars, etc.

REAL JUICY INFO:

1: Cars can be upgraded/repaired and it has been considered to have a car have fuel forcing the player to fill her up.

2: The dating aspect of the game is gone. You still have a cell-phone but only people you will meet in the game will call you to ask you to do a mission or to ask you to do something else before the mission.

3: Weapons include the usual arsenal you’d aspect but the flamethrowers, remote mines, laxer trip mines and claymores are included. It is possible now to pick up random objects in a street/buidling to use as a weapon. There is also a museam where it is possible to steal old age swords, axes, etc.

4: it is possible to rupture a fuel line and if you shot at the trail of gasoline it will lead straight back to the car blowing it up.

5: mini games such as bowling, darts, etc have all gone. You can play basketball, weight train, arm wrestle, gamble and cage fight, enter triatholons, water races, cannoing, ab-saling, rock climbing, base jumping, ski diving. More to be confirmed.

6: Character customisation is back but only in terms of clothing, body weight, etc. The player you start off which, much like CJ, can’t be altered by race, age, height, etc.

7: Rockstar said burglary missions may return but only as part of missions and not on neigbourhood houses.

8: No children NPC at all. Ever.

9: There is now an ability to grab people and use as sheilds or in “hostage” situations.

10: The cops are much, much, much more realistic. If you kill somebody when you know there are no cops around you will not run the risk of a one star as often as you would in GTA4. The cops will use smoke and tear gas, dogs, riot gear and rams to knock down the doors of buildings you are hiding in.

11: You can enter some buildings and lock doors, push objects in the way to barricade.

12: You become better at things as the game progresses. If you only ride motorbikes then you will increase your skills, same as individual weapons.

13: Certain weapons can be customisable and some even home-made.

14: One mission involves breaking out a very familiar GTA icon from a previous game…

15: Torrential rain fall and sunshine and even tremors will appear in the game.

Hope you enjoy”

Interesting stuff indeed. I suppose we can only hope for these features, especially if you consider that even if these features were in fact included in the demo, they may not make it to the finished product.

Anyway I hope you enjoyed this post, truly enlightening and exciting.

Yashica HD Camcorder Review

The correct pronunciation of Yashica escapes me.

This camcorder records in 720p HD, which is 1280×720 at 30 frames per second and it is encoded with H.264, so you can expect the recordings to be fairly high quality-ish on the camcorder and we will get more into my experiences with this camcorder soon. Also to add this camcorder is able to take pictures in 16 megapixels.

So upon reviewing the quality of my first recording I was disappointed to see that the image was rather grainy, another thing that disappointed me instantly was it’s field of view, it is what is known in the video recording world as “terrible”. Even comparing my Microsoft Lifecam Cinema, we could see a lot more in t a single shot compared to that of the camcorder. And the Lifecam Cinema was closer!

The camera itself if quite nice to hold. I didn’t have any particular problems with holding this camcorder for extended periods of time which is good and it felt more comfortable than a classic camcorder and I even did this years annual Geeky Room Tour video with is camcorder and my hand did not get tired at all.

So the camcorder itself also has quite a problem with white balance, it makes everything rather orange and struggles to keep the image appropriately lit when the camcorder is moving around, compare this to the lifecam cinema which is much cheaper and is not a camcorder which the white balance remains stable throughout any recording.

The camcorder also has “night mode” which makes everything horribly pixelated and a flash which works quite well.

The camcorder also comes with a mini HDMI to HDMI cable so you can use you HD TV as an unnecessarily large viewfinder. Fortunately the camcorder is able to sit atop a tripod so if you’ve got one lying around, the camcorder should be able to screw on snugly.

So overall I’d say this camcorder is probably not worth the money, you could get a cheaper, higher quality, possibly not as nice to hold compact camcorder from a large vendor and be much happier with your purchase. So this being said you probably won’t be seeing many videos made my be with this camcorder if only because the Lifecam Cinema is more than adequate for my recordings.

Trust Starzz Microphone Review

If you’ve been watching my latest YouTube videos at youtube.com/jhdmaxx, you may have noticed that I sound quite different. That’s because I went and picked myself up a new microphone!

So I purchased this microphone about a week ago and you’ve probably guessed the name of it now due to the title of the post, this is the Trust “Starzz” microphone. Overall I’d say this has been a pretty good purchase for it’s price, it costed under £10 with free delivery on Amazon and I’ll be putting a link at the bottom of this post for this product.

I’ve had a fair amount of good luck with Trust, Trust have certainly been rather trustworthy in the past and they remind me of Logitech in a way, except for the fact that they don’t actually provide any of their own software to anything really other than generic drivers. I’ve had Trust keyboards and mice in the past, I’ve got a Trust USB hub behind my monitors and now I’ve completed the package with a Trust Microphone.

As said previously I haven’t really experienced any problems with this product, the only thing I’d say about this particular microphone that somewhat grinds my gears is that is works more like a condender microphone, so if you have it further away (like I usually do) then the audio may sound slightly muffled and not as articulated towards the microphone, but move it closer it sounds much higher quality if you simply talk directly into the microphone.

So this proximity issue may become a problem, particularly if you’re recording video or audio and you’re across the room, then I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this microphone for that.

Since it is designed like a studio microphone it includes a universal multi-directional tripod and upon removing the microphone from it’s tripod it strikes you how much smaller this microphone really is than a standard studio microphone. Another thing which led me to purchasing this microphone is it’s looks (aesthetics are just as important as it’s function) it’s black and silver which is great news for me seeing as everything technology wise in my room is black, silver, white and grey.

This microphone plugs in through a 3.5 mm jack which is good news as it means it’s compatible with more devices than if it were USB. The cable is also 2.5m so you can take it on your journey across the room! So all in all, I’d proudly recommend this microphone if only because of how high the quality is for it’s tiny price.

HP Deskjet 1000 Review

So I’m back with another review, this time it’s about the HP Deskjet 1000, a simple budget inkjet printer from HP. I’ve already done an unboxing of this product which can be found Here. I have been impressed for the most part with this printer, but being a budget printer it certainly does have it’s shortcomings as well, which I will be going into throughout this post.

So as far as the aesthetics go, quite nice, it has a simple grey and silver finish which I like as it goes with everything I have in my home office/entertainment centre/bedroom seeing as all technology products are black, silver and grey (I love simple modest colours). The lid on top of the printer simply lifts up to support the paper that has been loaded into the printer and will stand upright at about a 45 degree angle at the back of the printer. The lid feels like very high quality plastic, no cheap milk bottle type nastiness. The lid also has some instructions about how to properly load specific paper types underneath the lid.

On top of the printer we have the power button, we have the model number on the left side of the lid and we have the logo on the right side of the lid, these strategic positions make both sides of the printer appear appropriately outfitted instead of just having one heavily cluttered side. On the front of the printer we have the supporting tray for your finished documents with also features a nice little arm that swings out of the tray to further support your documents and stop them from falling onto the floor or desk. Behind the supporting flap we also have the service hatch or sorts which is for changing the ink cartridges. Upon opening the hatch the printer will align the cartridges in the middle of the hatch to allow you to easily remove and install cartridges. The cartridges simply click into place on the supporting internal brackets. The hatch also provides some instructions as to how to install and remove cartridges.

On the front we also have the energy star logo and I have found the printer does live up to that sticker. It will sleep to conserve power and it will only awaken if there is a printing job to be done. The printer gives a clear indication as to if it is awake or not, if it is sleeping the power light will continuously fluctuate, and if awake the light will be static. The printer also uses a power brick to transform it’s power instead of a built in one which also dramatically enhances it’s power saving abilities.

One of the bad things I noticed about this printer was before even using it. This printer does not come with a USB cable, which is just shocking if we’re honest. Every device which is connected via USB should have some sort of USB cable in the box, but no. I actually had to provide my own USB 1.0 to 2.0 cable in order to connect this printer, seriously I’m sure even most Wi-Fi enabled printers have some sort of USB cable in the box just in case. I’m now looking into purchasing a larger USB cable to connect directly to my machine as the printer is currently connected to my secondary monitor’s built in USB hub which has it’s benefits and drawbacks.

In terms of print quality, it was pretty good, however there would be some instances of smudging upon handling the document, not to an extreme level like some old inkjet printers used to but it was certainly noticeable when looking closely. The smudging tended to only occur with large fonts and images on documents.

So all in all the printer is pretty good value for money, very cost effective and has a cheap retail price (£19.99 in Comet) but if you’re looking for very high quality maybe consider the more expensive options such as laser printers.

Are Netbooks Good Value For Money?

In short… no. That opinion may seem somewhat biased but to tell you the truth, I’ve experienced the problems with netbooks and I actually have a netbook as well. Netbooks have been around for longer than most people remember, most people think that they have only come about over the last few years, however this is not true. Many early netbook were running Windows 95!

The reason most think netbooks are a relatively new technology is simply due to the terminology used. The term “netbook” has only come about over the last few years but the fundamentals for a netbook is what has been around for a long time. The older netbooks may have simply been referred to as an “Ultra Portable” or “Mini Laptop”. The difference between these old machines and the modern day netbook is the processor. The processor used in the older machines were standard laptop processors, the modern day netbook processor is called the “Intel Atom” and is not a standard laptop processor. The Atom processor comes in a variety of flavours, however still retains the low clock speed for extended battery life.

These processors are typically what make these little machines so slow, if netbooks had proper laptop processors, then I may be inclined to say that they are of a suitable performance level, however this will most likely never happen as the netbook would likely have to be larger, would consume more power and produce more heat. The advantage with the Atom is it’s small size, low power consumption and can be operated without the typical cooling system of the average laptop, which serves for a small, lightweight, low power consumption device.

The bad performance of netbooks may also be blamed on the operating systems. Most netbooks these days are shipping with Windows 7 Starter or Windows XP. These operating systems are typically too much for the netbooks to handle and hardware upgrades are usually required shortly after purchasing. The most common component usually upgraded is the Memory as most netbooks ship with 1GB of memory as standard, this is usually upgradable to 2GB, depending upon the machine. Some netbooks allow up to 4GB of memory reportedly, however this is no use if the processor is still sluggish.

In all truthfulness, netbooks are not a bad investment if you’re literally just browsing the internet, but I haven’t found anything else that netbooks are good at other than another use that I will mention just now. As you may or may not know, I’ve recently created a new Minecraft server that is available at mc.jhdmaxx.com, and it is powered by a low power consumption, small device. Yes… you guessed it the netbook is being used as a Minecraft server and for the most part it’s doing pretty well. If you experience any lag on the server though, you can probably guess why. So… all in all, the netbook in my opinion is probably a waste of money, but don’t let that stop you from trying, as I said there may be some advantages, and just to clarify, the prices of netbooks are not that far off the average laptop so I’d rather pay the extra money on something that will perform to a decent degree.

Has Mac OS X Lion Put an End to the Hackintosh?

Has Mac OS X Lion put an end to the Hackintosh? Well that is certainly an interesting question and in short…no! The Hackintosh still lives on even with the advances Apple has made with Lion’s installation process. As you may be aware of, the Mac OS X Lion installation process is very different to the previous methods of installation. The traditional method was to insert a retail disk with the operating system on into the machine and follow the installation procedures. That has now changed for the most part. Lion is now purchased on the Mac App Store on an existing version of Mac OS X, and it is then executed as an application.

Many thought this would be an end to the Hackintosh, I thought otherwise. 3rd party developers are constantly pushing the boundaries with the work that they do and the Hackintosh is part of that work. Since the release of Mac OS X Lion it is still possible to Hackintosh it. There are a few different methods of installation. The obvious one being to install Snow Leopard, then purchase Mac OS X Lion from the Mac App Store (making sure that all the necessary kexts are backed up). And another option is to use 3rd party Hackintosh installers.

Some popular installers are: “iAtkos” “OSX86″ “TonyMac” and “Hazard”. The most favoured currently is “iAtkos”. The “iAtkos” installer is a modified version of the original install and the installation process can be tricky. You have to download a 4.7GB DMG image, burn it do a DVD using Disk Utility if you have access to an existing version of OS X. Then you have to restore the DMG image to a USB drive and install the popular bootloader “Chameleon” to it. If you’re runing Windows, you need to burn the DMG image using “Transmac” and then use x-flash or some other application to restore the DMG to USB media then install Chemeleon”.

So, all in all, eve though iAtkos is your best bet for making a Lion Hackintosh, it’s still gonna require some effort. It’s nice to know that the human race is still creative and adventurous enough to attempt the impossible.

How Good is The ATI Sapphire Radeon HD 4350?

My graphics card has been upgraded! Thanks to wirelessspider for donating his old graphics card an ATI Sapphire Radeon HD 4350, I’ve now upgraded from my old nVidia GeForce 8400GS and for the most part I’m pretty happy with the increase in graphics performance.

In the windows experience index my previous score for gaming graphics was 3.3, this has now increased to 5.7 (which is good enough for MY needs). It was evident that my nVidia wasn’t good enough when I got a strange flicker a few weeks ago. I also noticed that my graphics card struggled to process the graphics of a game as simple as Minecraft. I knew I’d have to upgrade sooner or later.

The drawbacks of this graphics card is that is falls short of the more up to date models (5000 and above) which are capable of eyefinity. This graphics card is not unfortunately, however I may consider buying the same graphics card and running both of them in crossfire x on the machine that I am still currently building. This way I can have up to 4 screens powered by DVI and HDMI (I may purchase some converters if I still plan to use the same monitors (Dell 2009W).

So I’ve played my various sessions of Minecraft with this new graphics card and I am satisfied with it’s performance. A video review of this graphics card will most likely be created soon.

Should I Get a Laptop or a Desktop Computer?

One day you may be asking yourself, should I get a portable computer or a static computer, the simple answer is… both! (If you can)

Yes both have their advantages and disadvantages which I will be covering in this blogpost. So, first of all you may need to ask yourself questions along the lines of, will I be moving this computer around frequently? Is size an issue? Am I prepared to cater for either form factor of machine.

So here’s some information on what I think about laptops, their advantages and disadvantages. So as we know Laptops are portable computers theoretically designed to sit on your lap (not all laptops like sitting on laps) as far as portability is concerned laptops are usually more portable than a desktop machine. The advantage of this is that you can take it wherever you go and do work, play games and surf pretty much anywhere (surfing can only take place if you’re connected to the internet, and no I would not advise actually surfing waves with your laptop, I don’t think that’s covered in the warranty) this portability leads on to some disadvantages. Chances are if you are using your laptop on the go you’re running from a battery and batteries must be charged in order for the device to function, so you’ll probably be tethered to a wall socket somewhere down the line. Another disadvantage is reliability, If you’ve had a desktop before you will probably have noticed that they don’t break as frequently as laptops.

Another advantage which can also be a disadvantage is most of the parts are not upgradable or replaceable to chances are everything inside the laptop should work from day one and drivers are usually easily found for it’s internal components.

Your laptop may get scratched, there may be cosmetic damage to the casing, things like keys may fall off, the screen may break and eventually your battery will stop charging after a few years. Also since your laptop may be moving whilst in operation damage to the harddrive could take place, eventually the heatsink (part of the cooling system) will become clogged full of dust (usually the only way to remove the dust is complete disassembly) which will likely cause your laptop to constantly overheat, liquid damage may take place, and all of these things usually lead to it’s eventual death. Generally speaking laptops are underpowered compared to desktops so don’t be surprised if your laptop has trouble running heavy applications or playing graphics intensive games. (Quite a few of these things happen to even the best looked after laptops.)

Don’t be too afraid of laptops though as they can be more of a blessing than a curse (also laptops generally have better resale value than desktops, seriously check online and compare prices for use deskops and laptops, the difference is astonishing).

So we’ve had a look at laptops now for the desktops. Don’t think that all desktops are large and chunky, just take a look at the Mac Mini or the Dell Zino HD for example (yes I class MiniPCs or “Nettops” as desktops too). Desktops are generally much more customizable than laptops, you can usually change cases, graphics cards, power supplies, processors, memory modules, motherboards, harddrives, optical drives… the list goes on. Desktops may also offer greater performance out of the box compared to that of an equal specification laptop.

So, the disadvantages… well for one sometimes that are quite large so portability may be an issue and usually more than one cable is required for the machine to operate so you may be dealing with spaghetti junction when it does come to moving it from it’s primary location. Desktops usually depreciate very quickly compared to laptops and you may find that it sells for much less compared to that of an equal specification laptop. Typically desktops don’t have a wireless adapter so chances are if you’re not on a wired connection you’ll need invest in a wireless networking attachment, these can be a USB peripherals or perhaps a more hidden PCI wireless networking card.

So this has been a quick overview of the advantaged and disadvantages of both laptops and desktops, I hope you have found this article helpful and / or interesting.