Categories
Computers How To Guides

How to build a good gaming PC for under £1000?

EDITOR NOTE: Since this article was written, many of the links to computer parts have become outdated, so they have all now been removed – note by Christopher

Computer parts and a computer case - a custom PCGaming is a great hobby to have, but to buy all the latest releases, not to mention the latest console that comes equipped with crystal-clear graphics and interactive gameplay, it could cost a small fortune. Many thrifty gamers looking to enjoy themselves without breaking the bank could do worse than build the ultimate gaming machine, especially if they have an affinity with playing on a PC.

It’s possible to get everything you need for less than £1,000. All you need to do is know what components are necessary, how powerful you want your machine to be, a few basic computer building skills and the right places to go for your bargains. My personal favourites are the technology section on netvouchercodes.co.uk, the Amazon discount emails, or their computer component recommendations and of course eBay!

Motherboard – £135

It’s the most important part of any PC – without it, nothing else would function correctly. This motherboard from Asus is ideal as it has no bottlenecks, slots for two graphic cards, processor slot and has capacity for as much as 32GB of RAM. It’s also pretty cheap considering what it enables.

Processor – £168

Also from AMD, this six-core Bulldozer processor is great for processing large amounts of data at speed. Among its other vital stats include an 8MB cache and impressive power of 8.3 GHz per core for a relatively low price, and is ideal for multitasking when playing two or more games at once. I found this particular bargain from CCL through their online voucher page.

Memory – £137

Combined, these products provide an impressive 16GB of RAM. This amount of memory is more than enough for even the most data-intensive games.

Random Access Memory

PSU – £60

Every PC needs a cooling system, and this PSU with inbuilt heatsinks is sufficient for an extremely powerful custom-built computer. It runs at 1333 MHz and has a capacity of 16GB, and controls your PC’s power output with minimum fuss.

Graphics cards – £228

The AMD Radeon graphics processor is the most expensive part of your PC, but it’s also the most important for ensuring the games you want to play look as vivid and lifelike as possible. They have 3GB of GDDR5 memory, 800 MHz clock speed for quick gameplay and has room for a second card if necessary.

Solid State Drive – £195

A hard drive of some sort is something else you’ll need, and this 250GB drive is one of the best available for gaming PCs. It has a 6GB/s transfer rate and is ideal for games which use up a huge amount of data.

All those components come to a grand total of around £930. Once you have all that, you can spend the remainder on a case to keep everything in its right place. £70 is plenty of money to spend on a case, no matter how wacky and original you want it to look. All it involves is a little shopping around.

Categories
Computers How To Guides

Some simple ways to speed up your Windows PC

According to StatCounter in August 2012, globally, Microsoft Windows XP, Vista and 7 accounted for the operating systems on 87.85% of computers around the world. That means that the majority of people own a PC which runs on Windows, as opposed to one which runs on iOS, MacOSX, Unix or another operating system.

An issue many Windows users often find is that after a while their computer seems to slow down. If this sounds familiar, then you should find this article extremely useful, as in it I am going to give you my personal tips on how to keep your Windows PC (XP, Vista and 7) running fast. This guide applies to both laptops and desktop PCs. 🙂

What Slows Computers Down?

The trick to understanding how to make your machine run faster involves working out what slows your computer down. It would be interesting to know what most people think slows their computer down, so if you have an idea, let me know in the comments.

The first and one of the biggest culprits which slow your computer down are background processes. These are things which go on in the background whilst you are doing things. Say you are trying to open up an internet browser, lets take Firefox as an example, then when you click on Firefox, it is very possible that plugins you have installed also try to start up and do things in the background. Until recently an really good example of this was the Google toolbar, which would start up a process to talk to Google and find out if it was up to date.

There are likely to be a lot of programs trying to do things in the background, whilst you are focusing on your task. Java, Apple, Google, Adobe (Flash Player and Reader) are big culprits, always whirring away in the background. If you have anything Google installed like Google Earth, Google Chrome, Google Talk etc. then the chases are it is taking a lot more resources than it needs. Likewise anything Apple like iTunes, QuickTime etc. are also likely to be slowing your PC down.

Another big culprit is disorganised hard disk files. Every time you delete something, move something, create a new file or folder etc. you change the layout of your hard disk and the structure of your files. This can often mean that related files can be put far apart on the disk, which is not optimal, also in order to get to a file, the computer may first have to locate it via following a redirect from where it used to be – this takes time.

The final major culprit I am going to address is unnecessary visual effects. Your computer can often get really bogged down trying to display fancy effects which you don’t really need, meaning you can’t get on and do what you wanted to do.

Now we know three of the main issues, lets fix them!

Stopping Unnecessary Background Processes

A tortoise with a rocket on its backStopping bad background processes is easier than you might think. There are a few ways to go about it, the way I find the most effective is though a tool named ‘MSConfig’. This can be found on Vista and 7 by typing in msconfig into the search box on the start menu, in in Windows XP by typing msconfig into the Run command box.

MSConfig allows you to make a lot of changes to your system, but unless you know what you are doing, I would stick to just two tabs, Services and Startup. To start speeding up your PC, go to the ‘Services’ tab and click ‘Hide all Microsoft Services’, which will stop you accidental stopping anything you need. Now untick anything you don’t feel you need. An example of a service you might want to untick is ‘Google Update Service‘, whilst an example of one you probably don’t want to is your Anti-Virus software’s one.

Remember stopping a service does not stop you opening a program. Say there is an Office service which you stop, it will not run in the background, but you will still be able to run Word, Excel and Outlook.

Now lets move onto the ‘Startup’ tab. Here you can also remove any service you don’t want to run, but this is specifically when you start up your PC. For example, if you have Skype installed, but don’t want it to run when your computer starts, then untick the Skype service. Likewise if you don’t want Google Talk to automatically start running, untick googletalk.exe – the Google Talk service.

Reorganise Your Hard Disk

Reorganising your files is really easy, it just takes time. A disk defragmenter is what you need for this, and Windows comes with one built in for free! There are third party ones available too, some of which are good, and others not so – your choice.

Simply start Windows Disk Defragmenter via searching for it in the start menu, or open My Computer >> right-click on the hard disk you want to defragment >> click Properties >> click the Tools tab >> click click Defragment now.

It may take any amount of time from 5 minutes to 12 hours (potentially more if you have a really big and messy hard disk) and during the process, I would advise against using your computer. Typically it takes an hour or two to defragment a hard disk.

Turn Off Unneeded Visual Effects

If you are happy to loose some of the sleekness your system has then this tip could really boost your computers performance.

First you need to open the visual effects panel. In Windows 7 right-click Computer on the start menu >> click Properties >> click Advanced system settings (on the left) >> then select Settings under the Performance section. In XP right-click My Computer >> click Properties >> click the Advanced tab >> then select Settings under the Performance section.

From here you can remove visual effects you don’t really need. If you like you can remove them all, but that could really change how your PC looks. Animate windows when minimizing and maximising, Show shadows under mouse pointer and Show window contents while dragging are all effects which really slow down your PC, but you are unlikely to miss. Experiment, and see which ones you can live without.

I hope these tips work for you, and have fun with your fast(er) computer!

Got any tips yourself? Why not share them below?

Categories
Reviews Software

Infix PDF Editor – Review

This is a sponsored review on behalf of Infix. To find out more about sponsored content on Technology Bloggers, please visit our Privacy Policy.

In this article I am going to review a piece of software by Iceni Technology, called Infix PDF Editor. The version I will be reviewing is Infix Professional for PC.

Infix PDF Editor is a program that enables you to edit and then save PDF documents. As Iceni put it:

“Infix Pro includes tools for handling graphics such as grouping, hiding and locking. It also adds the ability to edit and create clipping masks plus a vertical ruler to allow easier object alignment together with grids, guides and page margins.”

The quote mentions ‘Infix Pro’; this is because there are three different versions of the software. Form-Filler – a free version of the software which only lets you edit and reflow text. The ‘Standard‘ version of the software offers a lot more functionality, also allowing you to convert PDF files into other formats (ePub, RTF and HTML), add notes to the document, among other things. The ‘Professional‘ version lets you do even more, including joining multiple PDFs into one document, automatically renumber pages and adding/removing watermarks.

For full details of what the different versions offer, check out the table below which is from iceni.com.

Infix Version Comparison Table

The Form-Filler version of the software is free to download. The Standard version costs £59 and the Pro version £99.

So, that is the technical specifications of what the three different versions of the software offer, but, the real proof of the pudding is in the using – how easy the software is to use, and does it really work like it says it does.

The Interface

The interface is very easy to follow. It works in the same way that many programs do, so that you can find your way around it really easily, and you don’t have to spend a long time pondering what buttons do. I call this type of approach to software interface design KISS – Keep It Super Simple.

A KISS approach to interface design is, in my opinion the best. People don’t buy software for it to look good on their PC, they buy it because they want to increase their productivity, learning or enjoyment in some way.

As a result of the KISS approach, the interface does look a little basic. Basic is easy to understand, but not necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing.

In my opinion the functionality of software comes first, and aesthetics comes second. If you want software that looks okay and works well, then Infix fits the bill, however if you must have designer looking software, then you might be better looking elsewhere.

Below is a screenshot I have taken of the software.

Infix PDF Editing software interface
The interface design of Infix PDF Editing software

Ease of Use

As I mentioned above, the design really aids the usability of the software. It is easy to find the function you want with the various optional toolbars, and the menu options.

Much of the software on your computer is probably not made by Microsoft, however you will probably notice that most software designers stick to the standardised layout. File, edit, view and help are standard on the top menu, below the top menu comes some optional toolbars, then the main content you are viewing, with a few options (often involving resizing and scrolling) at the bottom of the window.

There are some software producers who stray away from this tried and tested design. Sometimes it works, often it doesn’t. In Infix PDF Editor, the design conforms to the standard design, meaning that it is really easy to work out what is what.

Does It Work!

Iceni Technology LogoOkay, the software may be easy to use, affordably priced, etc. however if it doesn’t work, you aren’t going to want to buy it. I can inform you that it does work, and it works really well!

I have tried editing various different PDF documents with the software and it has surprised me every time with the functionality it offers. Like in Microsoft Word, you can ask the software to track changes, and put them in a different colour. This can be really handy if you want to show someone what you have edited.

You can also add notes when editing PDFs, sticky-notes, scribbles, text highlights and stamps are all available options, and as you would expect, when you save, you can view the edits with any PDF viewer. For more details, check out this handy screenshot and explanation on the Iceni site.

Not only does the software make it easy to edit PDFs, but it also makes is it easy to copy data from them. Sometimes, the way the PDF is constructed, if you try to copy some of the contents, say to quote it, when it goes into your document, it can often be a little mixed up. Infix makes it really easy to copy data from PDFs and transfer it to other locations.

The software also makes finding and replacing text really easy. Edit > Find and Replace > Replace > type in the word(s) you want to be changed and what you want the change to be to > click ‘replace’ and the software will chew its way through the document, changing any occurrences of the terms you asked it to. If you are tracking changes, you can then see the words that have been changed.

There are so many other things this software can do, it would take far too long for me to talk about them all. To mention a few you can: adjust paragraph indents, add header and footers, add new text, merge PDFs and renumber pages.

Help

Good software always needs to be backed up by good help and support. Iceni Technology don’t fall down in this area though, not with Infix at least. Their website hosts a series of screenshot guides and video tutorials which help you get to grips with all the different functions of the software.

They also have a support helpline and email address.

Compatibility

Infix is very diverse, and can be installed on a USB memory stick, Windows PC (2003, XP, Vista and 7) or a Mac (with MacOSX 10.5 or above).

For Windows 2003/XP you need at least 512MB of RAM (almost all PC’s do) or 1GB for Windows Vista/7, as well as a 1GHz x86 processor/CPU and 60MB free disk space – that should be no problem.

In terms of weight (power and space needed to run the software) I would say it is relatively light. I have some programs that require around 15GB of hard disk space, and a very capable graphics card, along with a large amount of system memory. Don’t get me wrong, still check your PC is up to the job, but I personally think most peoples will be.

Is Infix Value for Money?

Like I almost always say when I end a review, whether you think the product or service is value for money really depends upon what your use for it would be. If you occasionally use PDF documents and would like to be able to change them as a convenience, but don’t really need the software for any reason, I would suggest that it probably isn’t going to be that useful to you.

If however you are regularly dealing with PDFs, for whatever reason, be it part of your job, hobby or whatever, and would find it helpful to be able to make changes to them, then I think you would benefit from Infix software. Whether you go Standard or Pro is for you to decide, I think they are both reasonably priced for the services they provide, and the additional help that you get online.

If you are interested in Infix PDF editing software feel free to visit the link which follows through to the software’s site, where you can learn more about it.

What are your thoughts about the software? Would you find it useful? If so, will you be buying it? Any questions, feedback or comments, as always, leave them below.

Categories
Business Computers

Back to the Basics: De-cluttering your Computer

If you own a PC or if you are using one at work then you just earned for yourself an extra responsibility of organizing your files and even your folders. This is one task that could sound really easy when the PC is still new until you start accumulating hundreds of different files and see the bad effects of cluttering your computer with both important and useless files. Of course the most apparent effect of file chaos can be seen on the PC’s speed as it tends to become slow as the day goes by and then errors start to appear, and then the PC crashes ultimately. Again, it all began in ignoring a rather simple task – organizing your files.

Saving files, regardless of its size, can influence PC clog up. But this is one convenience of owning a PC; you can create files such as photos, documents, movies, music, and more, store them and retrieve them later when necessary. This is just the way it’s supposed to be, right? We cannot not save files in our PCs, most of the times it is a necessity. Thus, the best way to attack this challenge is to intelligently organize files and folders. When I said intelligently, I meant not just simply arranging files in a specific way, it means de-cluttering both your PC and your life.

The truth is, file organization is not really a complicated task; it’s just as straightforward as organizing paper files. It all comes down to storing files in folders by categories and sequences that make sense.

A Laptop Full of FilesBefore organizing your files though, make a habit of classifying files as important or useless at the earliest phase possible: before saving files. If you can, avoid saving redundant and unnecessary files, then please do. It doesn’t take much time to evaluate a file’s importance to see if you should save it or not. While you master this habit, try another one: design and follow a consistent way of naming your files and folders. For instance, if you are using a PC at work wherein you need to store files related to customers, dealers and even colleagues, you may want to create sub-folders for each group and then store all files and folders related to each group under them. You can make organization more fun and effective by applying related icons to each sub-folder for easy identification.

It may be wiser to group related files together whatever its type. It doesn’t help to create specific folder for Word files, a folder for Excel files, a folder for PowerPoint files and so on. In Windows Explorer, you can set it to arrange files in a folder alphabetically and by type so it is easier to identify each file type. Besides, each file type is represented by distinguishing icons so it won’t be hard to identify a file by its type. It is smart to group files by project though if this makes sense to you or by month if date is an essence.

Another way to organize files is to separate current files to the completed ones. You may want to create a folder named “On-going” for current files and “Completed” for the finished files. Once you are done with a current file, you can just transfer it to the completed folder. Again, you can use this method only of it makes sense to you and your nature of work.

Also, it would be wiser to break a large number of files into separate sub-folders. This would make navigating into a folder easier. You can create sequential subfolders for invoices for instance. Thus, if you have an “Invoices” subfolder, you may want to create subfolders “Invoice_Jan”, “Invoices_Feb”, “Invoices_Mar” and so on within it. The notion is to store files in a group of logical folders instead of having one big folder. It makes sense then not to create subfolders for a lesser number of files. It would only take time to click on different folders if you only store at most 5 files in each folder.

Now, this will be an entirely different story if you already cluttered your PC with files (probably most are unimportant). You may have to spend time cleaning up your PC by deleting unnecessary files first and then reorganize your important files into separate folders. In organizing files, an optimization tool can certainly help. Optimization tools can automatically delete unimportant files and even temporary files that may have been affecting your PC’s speed and performance.

File organization is one task you should not avoid, no matter how trivial or boring you may think it is. This is definitely a prevention task rather than a cure as it could prevent future problems in time management as well as in your PC’s performance. If you want to make your work and your life less complicated, get better in organizing your files. It’s easy when you know how!

Categories
Business Computers

Why do we stick by Google and Apple but not Microsoft?

Apple’s Ads

I image that you have probably seen the Apple ads which are based around the two characters: Mac man and PC man. They have been released in various different countries with different actors playing PC and Mac.

The campaign which was known as the ‘Get a Mac campaign‘ was broadcast in North-America, the UK and in Japan, as well as on the web. In the USA Mac was played by Justin Long, whilst PC was played by John Hodgman. In the UK, comedy duo David Mitchell (PC) and Robert Webb (Mac) took the role.

Not sure what I am on about? Check out the video below:

If you enjoyed that you can find a whole host of similar ads in this Get A Mac Ad Campaign Collection YouTube video.

The UK Get a Mac campaign
Robert Webb and David Mitchell as Mac and PC

Apple have now removed the ads from their site, but they can still be found all over the internet. If you do a YouTube search for ‘Get A Mac’ or ‘Mac vs PC’ you get hundreds of results.

The interesting thing is, Mac only own about 7% of the computing market at the moment, that’s only around 2% up on four years ago.

Windows however owns more than 90% of the computing market, meaning that most of us have a Microsoft PC.

So why is is then that if you scroll down past almost any of the Mac vs PC ads on YouTube you see that the ratio of likes to dislikes is usually around 5:1. This means that if 1,000 people like the ad, just 200 dislike it. So despite most of us choosing to use a PC, we seem to support Apple, rather than Microsoft.

The Battle of the Giants

The computing industry was once dominated by the Apple-Microsoft rivalry, however in the last 5 years, Google has become a serious contender, making it a three way battle. Google is not only a more viable contender because of its new chrome operating system, but also because its search and other services are so popular.

Google has the most websites within the top 100 most visited online of any company in the world. Google.com, Google.co.in, Google.de, Google.com.hk, Google.co.jp and Google.co.uk all ranking among the top 25 most visited sites on the net. Google hold 6 of the 25 most visited sites, whilst Microsoft have just one (MSN.com) and Apple don’t have any.

Microsoft’s Ads

Microsoft have recently tried to mimic Apple’s hugely successful ads, but in order to attack Google. Google is one of Microsoft’s biggest competitors, if not its biggest, so after being ‘slagged off’ in Apple’s ads, it would appear that Microsoft hoped to produce the same effect, but this time with Google in the loosing position.

Below I have included one of their ads, entitled Googlighting.

UPDATE: Seems like Microsoft realised the ad didn’t quite work… it’s been taken down from their official YouTube channel, however there are a few others still hosting it if you search around.

Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t really like that ad. I think it looks like more of a pathetic dig at Google, rather than a cleverly designed way to boost one companies brand, whilst demoting the competitions – as Apple’s ads did.

It turns out I am not the only one who didn’t find that ad all that amusing, the ad is published on Microsoft’s own YouTube Channel, and yet has received just 5,117 likes, but a staggering 12,734 dislikes. That is a 5:13 ratio against Microsoft’s ad.

So we will stand by Apple when they attack Microsoft, but when Microsoft try to attack Google, we stand by Google. Why? Is it because we see Apple and Google as two trendy, current companies, and Microsoft as an outdated one, which we are loyal to out of convenience not choice? I like Windows 7, but I don’t like Bing, Google has to win for me. iPad vs a Windows tablet, iPhone vs Windows phone, I think I would prefer the iDevice.

Google’s Ads

I thought I should give Google’s ads a mention too. Google hasn’t yet (to the best of my knowledge) made any ads aimed at attacking the competition. Google show very few ads on television, and largely rely on their online dominance to help them promote their products.

Something I have found about both Google and Apple’s ads is that they often appear to be very well thought out, and the more modern ones are often extremely well recorded/directed and are very clean. Microsoft’s ads aren’t quite so chic, so is that where their downfall lies?

Who Do You Stick By?

Personally, I would rather say that I am a Googlite, or loyal to Apple, than say I am loyal to Microsoft.

UPDATE: I’m not so sure that I am loyal to Google or Apple anymore – and haven’t developed any more a loyalty to any other competitor either. Use the service which provides the best solution to your needs at the time.

Even though I am annoyed at Google, as it hit Technology Bloggers in the Penguin update quite badly, and as far as I am aware (and I have asked in the Webmaster Central forums) we, as a blog have done nothing wrong. In fact we have been doing what Google want, creating great, original content, look at some of the articles Jonny is producing to see awesome, original content, all our writers do, but he is really outstanding at the moment.

“We want people doing white hat search engine optimization (or even no search engine optimization at all) to be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling web sites.” – Google Webmasters Central Blog

I am sure we will soon recover, and will continue to strive to be an outstanding blog. Despite being (unfairly) hit, I am still loyal to Google, I believe that in the most part it is a very good, ethical company.

UPDATE: I am not quite so loyal to Google anymore, and am less convinced that it is all that ethical. A new philosophy: choose the best device/search engine/browser etc. for the time, loyalty doesn’t seem to pay dividends in the world of technology.

What about you though? Who do you stick by? Anyone, or everyone?

Categories
Computers Gadgets Tablets

How and why has the tablet industry grown so rapidly?

In 2011, it is estimated that 65 million tablet computers were sold globally. The population of the United Kingdom is currently around 62/63 million strong, meaning that last year alone, more tablets were sold than there are people in the UK. That is a pretty big figure!

Incredible growth

The tablet industry is a technology phenomenon, with regard to its growth rate. The concept for tablet PC’s has been around for a while now, however they have only been seriously released on the market, in force, in the last two years. Apple’s iPad launched in early 2010 (April in the USA, and May internationally) and since then the market has quite literally exploded.

Okay, there were tablets before the iPad, and concepts have been around since the 1950’s, however the tablet industry really ignited two years ago tomorrow, (the 3rd of April 2010) and it is a technology that already has over 60 million users! To put those numbers into perspective, it took Radio 38 years to get 50 million users, television 13 years, and the internet 4. Tablets reached 50 million users in just over a year. See what I mean about rapid growth?

After the initial launch of major tablets, hundreds of firms started to produce their own tablet, submitting their creation to the global market. Why? Well, future trends predict that we are likely to move away from our desktops and laptops and use evermore our tablets and smartphones.


The technology research firm Gartner Inc., predict industry sales to grow to more than 300 million by 2015. 300 million tablets means huge amounts of money being spent by consumers on tablet, and for big firms like Sony, Microsoft, Apple and Samsung, that means huge profits. The industry is now so big, and with such immense growth forecasts, that it is a no-brainer for most tech firms, to enter this lucrative market.

Why tablets?

But why do people prefer tablets to desktops? Well there are a number of reasons. I like bullet points, so here we go 😉One of the many tablets on the market

  • Tablets are very portable – you can take them almost anywhere, and with the likes of Wi-Fi, cloud computing and advances in wireless charging, there will soon be no need to have a permanent workstation
  • Tablets can do so much! – Most tablets have the ability to do what most PCs can do, so why do we need our PCs any more?
  • Apps – one thing tablets have that your regular computer doesn’t is apps. Apps are revolutionary and are changing the way we live our lives, as there does seem to be an app for just about everything!
  • Price – for what they can do, and the speed they can do it at, tablets are extremely competitively priced, especially compared to their PC counterparts, and with tablets, their is no monitor, mouse, keyboard etc. it is all built in
  • Convenience – tablets often run faster than computers, and can be accessed almost anywhere, making them one of the most convenient devices around, probably why they are becoming a massive hit with businesses around the world
  • Choice – there are so many firms with a tablet released, you really are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing!
  • Social media on the go – tablets and smartphones can provide you with access to social media when you are out and about, and given that most of us use social media, this is a huge positive

The future

Personally, in the future, I believe the device most of us will move to is the phablet. Phablet, what is that? Phone-Tablet. Smartphones revolutionised the way we communicate when out and about, as did tablets. In the future I think we are more likely to see the two come together. Basically tablets getting a little smaller, and smartphones getting a little more advanced.

Why do I think this? Well the smartphone industry and the tablet industry are two tech which are seeing major growth. Everyone wants a tablet, everyone wants a smartphone. In essence, most tablets and smartphones do very similar things, just in different ways. In the future I believe that the two will come together, share their features, and create the phablet!

Your thoughts

What about you though? What do you think about the tablet industry and its growth? Is is sustainable, or just a fad? Will we move away from our high tech craze, or does the future lie with phablets?

Categories
Computers How To Guides

Two good registry and PC cleaning tools

To keep your computer clean, inside and out, is often a challenge! I’m not talking about the dust and dirt that tends to accumulate in your computer’s case, but the nasty stuff that tends to cause your computer to become slower, little by little as you use it regularly.

I’m sure this is a problem you are familiar with, you bought a computer and the first thing you notice how fast it is. Everything runs without a hitch and programs are snappy like the beat of a well versed drum.

However 6 months later you start noticing a few things. It first starts out with programs needing to take a couple of extra moments to open, surfing the web starts to become a chore as things feel like they come to a crawl at moments. Even something such as turning on your computer seems to take forever and ever and ever. “This cannot be right!” you have probably thought to yourself, and you are correct!

Much like a motor car, a computer needs their fair amount of touch, love, & care. The problem is, if you are not sure exactly what to do, then you could end up playing around and damaging your computer. This is why, unless you are a PC expert, you should stick to using programs to help you do the fiddling!

The first thing you notice once you start searching for a good, safe, & efficient computer cleaner software is that there are a ton of them, more than you or I could ever count! Being the computer savvy person I am, it’s with the most honorable intent that I present to you the software that I personally feel does the best job. Some PC cleaning software can be dangerous, if it is not well made, or designed to damage your system, you could get negative effects. Check the software has lots of good reviews, if from a trusted source and experts like it, before you go downloading it onto your PC.

My favorite PC cleaner is CCleaner, which I think is an amazing little program. With a quick and simple Google search it is bound to come up – easily available on internet, if you’re unsure as to where to download it, always try to get it from the official website.

A screenshot of the CCleaner interfaceThis program is super handy because it clears out the majority of junk and trash you have incidentally stored and have hidden away in places you wouldn’t have imagined! When you launch the program you’re going to be presented with a handy onscreen menu; you should select ‘analyze’ and then ‘run cleaner’. Once completed you’ll notice that a whole lot of space on your computer has been freed and a sense of speed has been restored to your machine.

The second program that I would like to recommend is Glary Registry Repair which is a dandy little tool that I highly recommend, because I have seen it perform some truly glorious work.

Mostly everyone has heard of a computer registry, and that at times their registry becomes out of sync due to the programs that they have installed and uninstalled over time making incremental changes as it goes along.

A screenshot of the Glary Registry Repair interfaceGlary Registry Repair attempts to help you spot and fix the errors in your registry, so that your computer can run faster.

There are many different programs that you can use to speed up your computer and clean your registry. These are my personal favorites, however feel free to choose your own.

Categories
Gadgets Reviews

The Pocket Boom – Review

A week or so ago, a company approached Technology Bloggers and asked if I would be willing to review some of their products. I thought that this could be some fun, so I emailed them back saying: why not! They then send me a Pocket Boom to test and then review – this article is that review.

Please note, the opinions in this article are mine, and are completely honest – I am not being paid to write a review for them.

What is the Pocket Boom?

The Pocket Boom is a device that can turn pretty much any surface into a speaker. You just plug in your music – be it from your iPod, computer, tablet, stereo or whatever (anything that has a 3.5mm headphone jack) and place the vibrating speaker onto a surface, and it will vibrate the surface to turn it into a speaker.

The Pocket Boom
The Pocket Boom with its vibrator head and headphone jack out

What Surfaces Does the Pocket Boom Work on?

The clever technology in the vibrating head on the device is able to vibrate any surface and turn it into a speaker. However, on some surfaces, it vibrates it so little that the vibrating head is louder than the surface. Surfaces that I have found to be bad speakers include:

  • Brick walls
  • Solid wood – some thin wood works well
  • Clothing – some clothing does work, but not very well
  • Other solid objects with little capacity to vibrate

Surfaces that I have found to work really well include:

  • Cardboard – and other paper products
  • Thin wood – notice boards, some tables and chairs all work well
  • Metal – due to its ability to vibrate, metal is one of the best materials I have tried, filing cabinets, kitchen hood extractor fans, hole punches, beds, and much more!
  • Thin plastic – tubs, especially DVD (and Blu-Ray, Wii, PS3, Xbox etc.) cases and even washing baskets!

Does it Actually Work?

You may be wondering if it actually works, it seems too good to be true. Can the Pocket Boom really: turn anything into a speaker, turn anything into an amplifier; and turn anything into an equaliser?

My answer is simple. Yes.

You can be sceptical, but I have one and it does. As I mentioned above, some surfaces it really surprises you by how well it actually transforms that object into a speaker, whilst with others you can be left somewhat disappoint with the sound level – but never the less it does turn it into a speaker.

The Pocket Boom with all leads stowed away
The Pocket Boom with all leads stowed away (Compact)

From my personal use of the speaker, I would say that I think it works amazingly well on around 15% of objects, well on 70% of objects, and rather disappointingly on the other 15% of objects. So around 85% of objects to hand should be able to be converted into a good speaker pretty easily!

Check out this video to see it in action 🙂

Is it Easy to Use?

Clearly a lot of work has gone into designing the Pocket Boom, it has some great ideas behind it. The ergonomics need some tweaking before the product is 100% perfect.

The 3.5mm headphone jack lead that comes out to plug into your device is way too short to be practically used with most devices. That is a major flaw, but this has been fixed, as included in the box is an extender lead, so you can get an extra 40cm (ish) of reach.

The Pocket Boom and accompanying items
The items that come with the Pocket Boom

Inserting the batteries is really easy, literally slide back a cover, put them in and slide the cover back on. Dead simple.

The enclosed instructions do tell you how to pull out the speaker wire, so that you can place the vibrating speaker head on a surface, however I found them very hard to follow. I found a video on YouTube about how to do it though, and that cleared things right up, just pull the wire out whilst rotating it round at the same time – effectively pulling and unwinding.

The Pocket Boom's Instructions
The instructions that come with the Pocket Boom

One thing that I am still a bit puzzled about is the suction pad system. The speaker head has an adhesive suction pad on it so that you can stick it to surfaces easily. It does get dirty, and I have found that covering it with sellotape and then slowly removing the tape cleans it up and it becomes sticky again. In the pack some extra adhesive are provided, however I can’t seem to find any instructions as to how to change the pad. Hopefully when I need to it will be pretty easy.

What is the Battery Life Like?

I have so far been very pleasantly surprised by the life of the battery. Considering this is a device that is designed to effectively replace most speakers, it uses very little power. Normal speakers can be power hungry, however the Pocket Boom takes just two AAA batteries.

I have had my Pocket Boom vibrating and turning objects into speakers for around three hours now, and despite it being powered by just two AAA batteries, it is still working just as well now as it was when I started using it. The Pocket Boom would appear to be a great saver of energy, considering that two speakers would be unlikely to last that long, producing the kind of sound levels that the Pocket Boom can.

 How Good is the Sound Quality?

Okay, so it is portable, can turn almost anything into a good speaker, uses less power, therefore its weakness must be in its sound quality right? Wrong.

Personally I am very impressed with the quality of the sound the Pocket Boom can produce. I have used it on many surfaces, and found that everyone produces a slightly different quality, pitch and intensity of sound. Some produce music with much deeper bass levels, whilst others just produce really loud music! Some substances I would like it to go louder, but the volume level is always reasonable.

Depending on the song you are playing, the sound produced will vary. Sometimes you need to turn the volume down slightly, as the speaker head vibrates too much and doesn’t sound that great, but turning down the volume easily fixes this.

The Environment…

One thing I have noticed about the Pocket Boom is that it works better in quieter environments. Also, the size of the room seems to affect how well it produces sound, as it can really affect the acoustics. I have personally found that it works far better in small rooms than it does in bigger ones. If there is also a lot of noise, it doesn’t work as well, but for most environments it works really well.

I currently have it plugged into my PC, using the machine (metal) as the speaker, and it works really well. The environment is relatively quiet, and the volume of my PC is only on 20%, yet the sound is much louder than if it were through headphones!

Is the Pocket Boom Value for Money?

When I reviewed the Kymera Magic Wand I bought, I concluded that it was a great novelty product, but not really value for money at £50.

I think the Pocket Boom also has some novelty element to it, which you get when you first use it. I ran around testing it on everything I could! That has slightly worn off now, but the product is very practical and does work. As I said, I am using it as a speaker for my PC, and it is working very well.

The Pocket Boom retails at £20 (£19.99) which I think is a very reasonable price. I think that the novelty factor of the boom is probably worth £5 to £10, but after that you have an extremely practical product, which you find uses for in your every day life.

If you prefer to listen to high quality music, amplifiers and professional loudspeakers are probably for you, the Pocket Boom is not the best of speakers, but it is a bit of fun.

If however you are someone who just likes to casually listen to music, and the occasional bit of fun (as you find a new surface to try out!) then the Pocket Boom is a must have gadget!

The Pocket Boom and its packaging
The Pocket Boom in its packaging

As I said at the beginning of the article, this product has been sent to us to review. This company is called GearZap. Our thanks to GapZear for providing us with the pocket boom 🙂

Categories
News Science Technology

The BOINC Home Network

A few months ago, I wrote about LHC@home 2.0, which is a project that you can get involved in that allows you to use your spare computing capacity to help ‘crunch’ scientific data from the Large Hadron Collider project.

Rather shamefully, at the time of writing the article, I hadn’t actually taken part in the project, however after buying a new PC, I thought that it was my duty to donate my spare processing power to help science!


I started off by going to the SETI@home website, where I worked out that in order to take part in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) project, I would need to download the ‘BOINC software’ – so I did. When I installed the software I was amazed with the amount of different projects that I was able to partake in.

The BOINC software is effectively a management tool which lets you choose which projects you want to help crunch data for. Then it sets about downloading, analysing and then uploading the data in the background.

The BIONIC LogoThere are so many great projects that people can get involved in, from looking for extraterrestrial life and the Higgs particle, to projects providing power to those who are doing vital research into malaria, cancers and other important global diseases, and even trying to work out how and why gravity works!

From finding new medicines to helping university students, there really is something for everyone to get involved in.

If you are worried that it may slow down your computer, then don’t be, you can set how much of your processor BIONIC can use, as well as the amount of hard disk space it can take up, and also how it uses your internet.

The BOINC software comes with an easy to follow interface, and gives you announces of important events and discoveries relating to @home projects.

The BOINC Manager Interface
The BOINC Manager Interface

Think where we would be in terms of scientific advancements, if everyone were to give just 10% of their PC to some of BOINC’s @home projects.

You can make a difference, and you can help science! Please go to the BOINC website to download the software today, and get stated with some of the brilliant projects they have on offer! I personally believe that the following projects are really worth a look at:

  • Poem@Home – investigating protein structures, how they determine protein function, how they interact with one another, etc.
  • LHC@home 1.0 – the Large Hadron Collider project – with some extra software, you can also take part in LHC@home 2.0
  • climateprediction.net – attempting to improve climate modelling, and predict the possible effects of climate change
  • Einstein@Home – searching through data from the LIGO detectors for evidence of continuous gravitational-wave sources, as well as searching radio telescope data from the Arecibo Observatory for radio pulsars
  • Cosmology@Home – comparing theoretical models of the universe in order to try to improve future technologies
  • malariacontrol.net – helping in the fight against malaria, via creating simulations and models of the history of Malaria
  • SETI@home – analysing data from outer space, to try and find extraterrestrial life

Unfortunately, I now have to give you a warning. Whilst I am sure that the software and projects are all 100% safe to participate in, some organisations would not want you to install them on their computers. You would be perfectly okay to install such projects on your home PC, however I wouldn’t advise that you do it at work or school, as there have been incidences in the past of firms pressing charges against people for increasing their internet usage and filling up there serves by unauthorised software like BOINC.

That aside, I really do urge you to download the BOINC manager today, any start helping science! If this makes the offer any more attractive, most projects have their own screensavers, many of which look pretty cool!

Install it and leave a comment below to let us know how you are getting on 🙂

Categories
Computers How To Guides Internet

How to choose the right laptop for you

After my recent post on how to be a smart online buyer, I thought why just help people get a good priced product, as a good price doesn’t always mean good value.

As a laptop is something most people probably buy online, and as it is also something that often costs a lot of money, I thought why not help people choose which is best for them. Maybe in the future I will do the same for mobile phones, digital cameras and who knows what else!

What is it going to be used for?

The main thing you have to work out is what is the laptop going to be used for? Do you need something that can cope with 3D HD gaming, or are we just looking at text editing, emails and the web?

The more you want to be able to do with your laptop, the greater ability it will need to have, meaning that it is more likely to need a higher spec, and therefore probably a more costly speck.

I only really use the internet

If most of the stuff you do is online, then you probably don’t need a very high spec laptop – just a good internet connection. If you laptop is mainly used for blogging using an online system like WordPress, Blogger or TypePad, playing your favourite online games, typing emails using an online webmail service, and socialising using Facebook and Twitter (I should point out other social media sites are available ;-)) then you might want to look into Chromebooks – or low spec laptops.

The Google Chrome LogoGoogle says that Chromebooks are ‘nothing but the web.’ They run a 100% cloud based operating system, meaning that all your data, settings etc. are stored online, safe and secure in the cloud. This means they only take secconds (literally 8 or 9) to boot up, meaning you are off and working/playing in an instant.

Here is how Google describes Chromebooks:

“Chromebooks are built and optimised for the web, where you already spend most of your computing time. So, you get a faster, simpler and more secure experience without all the headaches of ordinary computers.”

Chromebooks are very fast as they need no virus protection, have no background processes slowing them down, neither does it need updates, since all of that happens in the cloud, basically everything runs from the browser.

If you don’t want a Chromebook, you probably only need a really low spec laptop, so that could be very cheap. Regarding operating system, if you like pretty styles, then go for Windows7, as that it stable and also ‘looks good’ avoid Vista, especially on low spec laptops, as it can really slow them down – XP and 2000 are also good.

It’s going to be a family laptop

If you are looking for a typical family laptop, where some of the kids will want to play flash games, but they will also need to do their homework, and the adults want to be able to check their emails and social profiles for updates, then you are probably going to be looking for a pretty standard PC.

To make sure it is quick and doesn’t slow down you would probably benefit from a dual-core processor. Dual-core means that the computer possess more than one CPU. Extra CPU’s means that you can process data faster, therefore your laptop will run quicker.

In order for your extra CPU’s to be effective, it would be a good idea to have at least 1 gigabyte (gb) of RAM, and preferably 2.

Windows7 would be perfect for family usage, as would XP. 2000 may look and feel a little dated, and Vista is likely to cause you a lot of grief!

I edit photos and run games and watch online media

If you like to have a lot open, and often are found editing photos, playing CPU intensive games, and watching HD videos, then you probably need a pretty powerful processor, along with a decent sized hard disk, a good amount of RAM, and a dedicated graphics card. Screen display resolution is also likely to be important, as if you like HD, but have only a standard screen, you can’t display HD.

Intel make a type of processor called i3 and another called i5. These are very well designed processors and run very well. If you see i3 or i5 on a PC, it is probably going to be a good one. Photo editing and gaming can be very hard disk space hungry tasks, so I would recommend getting at least a 250gb (preferably a 360gb) hard disk. With a laptop, short of getting an external hard drive, there is no easy way of expanding the amount of space you have.

This type of user would benefit best from 4gb of RAM, and a dedicated graphics card – this basically means that the graphics card is a separate component within the PC, which has it’s only memory and processing unit.

I do all of the above and more, and I do it all at the same time!

If you can never seem to find a laptop that is powerful enough for you there are a few options available to you – sadly, they area all rather expensive ones!

The first would be to get a powerful MacBook. MacBooks are notorious for their high specs, stable operating systems and therefore lack of time spent loading.

The second would to be to buy a quad-core i7 spec laptop. Most MacBooks run off core i5 and i7 processors anyway, however Windows also performs very well when being run on a core i7 machine.

The intel Core i7 proccessor badgeA dedicated graphics card is a must for this type of user, and 4-8 gig of RAM is recommended. Depending on how long you want to keep your laptop will determine how big your hard disk will need to be. My advice would be that if you are likely to want to keep the same laptop for any more that 4 or 5 years, get a terabyte hard disk.

Another option would be to have a custom built laptop. These can sometimes work out cheaper, but you need to be cautious, as if you, or whoever is building the laptop aren’t 100% sure of what’s what, then you could face compatibility issues.

Certain processors work better with certain types of RAM, certain operating systems require certain types of graphics cards, and certain hard disks are needed in order to be compatible with the rest of the machine. Basically certain part of the laptop will naturally work well together, however if you custom build your laptop, you might have 8gb of RAM, but the problem is, your processor finds it hard to deal with that type of RAM.

Other things to consider

When choosing a laptop, it is also important to consider things like who it’s made by. Different firms have different reputations for the quality of their laptops, but also consider the quality of their customer service. If their automated calling systems drive you mad, then it may be wise not to buy one of their laptops.

Furthermore, consider your other devices like cameras and phones when buying a new laptop. Some devices may not be compatible with your operating system, or you may need to get some new camera cables if your current devices can’t plug in to your new laptop.

Connectivity is another important factor: does your laptop have inbuilt Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or infrared? If you are forever connecting to mobile Wi-Fi, or your phone to download pictures, then it would be useful to have such functions inbuilt.

An inbuilt webcam and microphone can be very handy if you are often using programmes like Skype to talk to friends on the internet.

Also don’t forget the battery. If you barely use your laptop when you are away from a plug, then the battery is probably not of much importance to you, however if your laptop battery is important to you, you may want to avoid second hand laptops. Laptop batteries from second hand machines can often be less powerful and last less time than a normal battery would.

The right laptop for you

Getting the right laptop for you can be crucial in making sure that you get value for money, as a laptop with spare capacity is a waste of money, as is a laptop that cannot perform to the standard you need.

If you need any more help in choosing the right laptop for you, drop a comment below 🙂