Wednesday 30 June 2010

Full range of Acer products now available

You may have already spotted it, but we now have a full range of products from industry leader Acer on our sites. You may know them for their Laptops and Desktop computers, but did you know they also make Monitors, Televisions and even Mobile Phones.

Thursday 10 June 2010

Solid State Drives

I've recently been spending some time trying to speed up my PC. As usual over time, performance seemed to have become a bit sluggish, so a disk and registry clean-up, un-install session and a defrag was in order.

All done but I'm still not happy! This machine should be flying - so whats going wrong? So I set about some analysis of what my machine is actually doing. After some indepth monitoring of my performance monitor in the Windows Task Manager I realised the processor was hardly doing anything, the memory was only half used and the gigabit network card was practically on tick-over.

So why do I still sometimes have laggy performance when doing simple windows tasks. After a process of elimination my focus turned to the hard drive. I found out I had a Seagate 7200rpm SATA drive with 2MB cache. Seems reasonable to me for a year old desktop machine. But the more I monitored performance the more I realised this was now the weakest link in my machine. So on I moved to research the latest drives. Solid State Drives (SSD) and more importantly to see if I could justify the cost of an upgrade to save me a few, but an annoying few, seconds!

To my pleasant surprise I found the prices have come down to something very affordable and in terms of size I don't really need huge capacity. Most of my data is stored centrally on our server so I really just need enough space for the Operating System and some of my key applications. So I turned to my trusty back issues of PC Pro magazine. Bingo! A labs section review of Solid State Drives in the June issue. After a quick read and a check on our site for prices I'd settled on the "PC Pro Recommended" Intel X25-M 80GB Drive (SSDSA2MH080G2R5) at £174. (£20 cheaper than when it was reviewed)

The tiny drive arrived in a small retail box and comes with a mounting bracket to allow it to fit neatly into a desktop machine. I swapped the SATA cable from the existing drive onto the SSD and attached my current hard drive to another SATA connection, then set about loading Windows from scratch. Immediately there is a significant speed difference as the obligatory reboots whilst installing and applying updates are noticeably faster. After a couple of hours of re-installing all my applications I was ready to go.

Wow! Now I'm really flying! Applications appear on screen as if they have just been minimised, not loaded from scratch. There's no point trying to give you any time measurements - Everything is just the blink of an eye. It's the best £174 I've spent in years. I think our standard PC configuration will be changed to incorporate these drives as standard since non of our users need large local drive space and when you offset the cost against a normal drive then you are only looking at around £100 premium. Admittedly I did pick a "PC Pro recommended" drive, and they did find some "dogs" that gave no noticable speed increase over a normal hard drive. So if you are thinking of trying this kind of upgrade then do your research or stick to this drive. The end result of all this effort is that we now have a dedicated category for SSD's on our site that contains 60+ drives.

If you are still not convinced watch this amazing video from Intel comparing the speed of an SSD to a traditional hard drive. Good luck with your upgrade!

Wednesday 9 June 2010

New threat: tab napping, please be aware

I'm always reminding people not to click on links inside emails as its a very insecure thing to do. The trouble is that's what IT Managers everywhere are telling people to do and as such phishing attacks are declining. That's the good news.

The bad news is that hackers are as always one step ahead and there's a new threat out in the wild. Its called 'Tab Napping'.

The basic gist of it is, you go to an online banking site and get to its login screen, then you suddenly think of something else you wanted and open a new tab to do a quick google search. Normally there's nothing wrong with that, however if you hit a malicious site the original tab could change without you knowing about it. When you click back to it, you expect to see a login page and as far as you are aware you browsed to it yourself so its in a trusted zone in your mind. If you then submit your login details, you could be supplying fraudsters with your details.

These attacks are highly sophisticated but here's how to protect yourself:
  • Make sure you always check the URL in the browser address.
  • If the URL looks suspicious in any way, close the tab and reopen it by entering the correct URL again.
  • Avoid leaving tabs open which require you to type in secure login details. gets more phones

Our range of sim free mobile phones has been expanded this week. You'll find handsets from Blackberry, HTC, Nokia, Samsung, Acer and more. Plus loads of Phone Accessories

iPad Review

I managed to get hold of an Apple iPad a few weeks ahead of launch, but it has taken me until this long to get over having to give it back, before I could bring myself to write about it.

I'm going to use the UK adverts own claims to write my review, it makes sense. Interestingly I would urge you to watch the UK and American versions which are essentially the same but use a slightly different turn of phrase to appeal to each audience respectively. Something many companies, not just in technology, fail to do and alienate their audiences because of it.

'What is iPad...iPad is....Thin'
I prefer the word slim to thin which is a moot point but I think slim has better connotations than thin, in this image obsessed world of ours. But it is indeed slim, smaller than most people expect it to be, although the comment invariably made is, 'Oh it's just like a big iPhone'. Well yes, it is.

Yes it is beautiful and if you are into engineering and product design, then this makes you want to weep at it's incredible construction and promptly go home and destroy anything that is inferior, which is pretty much most things. But let's get something straight, I am saying this about the design which even the most stalwart anti-Apple person cannot disagree with. Believe me I checked and forced it into the hands of technical people who virtually spit in the direction of the fruit branded company. They had to admit, it is cool.

'Goes anywhere and lasts all day'
Apart from being slightly nervous about being mugged by carrying it around ahead of the UK launch, it is convenient to carry about. I don't think it would ever fully replace a laptop and I would want a good case to protect it, particularly the screen but it was useful, which I will come to in a bit. It lasts all day and then some. Oh Apple please apply this to the iPhone. It has an incredible battery life but made the iPhone look, frankly, rubbish. In fact I keep looking at my iPhone now with a sneer on my face. You do have to charge the iPad for a long time but it is well worth it.

'There is no right way or wrong way'
Nope there most certainly isn't. Which ever way you turn it, the content moves to suit. And that is all there is to say.

'It's amazingly powerful'
Hmmmm, what does this actually mean? It was quick, instantaneous and when you were near a Wi-Fi connection it was quicker than most laptops. But one rumour I have heard is that until everyone is on freeview and the television people have passed over the old bandwidth to the mobile networks, lots of people using iPads for the internet or as a phone will break the current infrastructure.

'It's magical'
It's not magical. There is no magic in an iPad just a lot of clever programming, coding, design, navigation etc, etc. It does not cast spells or cause people to fall in love inexplicably.

'You already know how to use it'
If you are already a user or past user of Apple products, specifically the iPhone or iPod, then yes you do. Normal PC users will still declare that everything is backwards and intentionally designed to be the opposite of PC function just to mess with their heads.

'It's 200,000 apps and counting'
Well I've heard there are only 3,000 available and in the states, PADGadget and TechCrunch, claimed there were 5,405 as of the 1st of May, so I think their claim that there are 200,000 doesn't necessarily mean they are all available to the public and only 20% of them are free. Some of the apps I played with were cool but not really anything new from the iPhone, perhaps better and easier because there is more screen space to play with. Films were amazing on it, as were games and browsing the internet. Books I can see being a big hit with commuters and frequent flyers. I had a particular addiction to Bebbled.

'All the world's websites in your hands'
Browsing the internet, from what I can gather, is everyone's favourite part. It is just so easy.

Scenario 1; You are in bed and (sadly) think of something you want to know, nay need to know right there and then. You pick up your laptop, open up the screen wait for it to wake up, by which point you are fully awake. Once it is awake, you open your browser, wait for it to load, type into Google, click search and wait for the list to load, then click on the website you want.

Scenario 2; You are in bed and (sadly) think of something you want to know, nay need to know right there and then. You lean over and grasp your iPad, slide to unlock, touch safari, type straight into Google, choose from the list of websites and hey presto.

The only downfall is when a company has not optimised their website for the mobile web. But then that is their loss, most likely.

'It's videos, photo'
When it comes to things like this I should really have been born a boy. I am a big fan of Transformers. I loved it in the 80's as a child and collected the stickers for the book with my friend who was a boy (at 8 he was not my boyfriend, I was very particular about this). I love the films and used Christmas as an excuse to buy my husband the special DVD box set that actually changes into a Transformer. So I loved being able to watch Transformers on the iPad in glorious, spectacular detail. When I showed clips to others it elicited predictable 'oooh's' and 'aaah's'.

I must admit I didn't really look at any photos, but judging by the graphics, they'll be marvellous.

'More books than you can read in a lifetime'
This falls down with me. It's one of the only areas I am a weird purist in. I love books, books are sacrosanct to me. I don't even purchase them online unless it is a study / work book and even then I still prefer to wander into a hallowed, quiet, low-lit book shop to finger the pages.

But putting that aside, the book function was pretty cool and thumbing through Winnie-the-Pooh virtually was a novelty. I can imagine travelling with an iPad when you only have a little space in your luggage and it dispensing with the whole, 'Oh-wa, which books do I take so as not to stop me from being able to bring back duty free' dilemma. It also means if you make the wrong choice you can easily chop and change.

I also can't listen to the advert without wishing they would say 'more books than you can shake a stick at', rather than the actual line.

'It's already a revolution'
If by that they mean when you walk into a public place for a meeting everyone in there will go into a hushed silence and look at you like you have just brought in a piece of the moon, then I think the word they are looking for is revelation. There are no revolts in the street for the iPad and no-one has ruled 'let them have iPads', followed by heads being lopped off by an angry mob.

'And it's only just begun'
This I would agree with but not just for Apple and they need to be careful here not to tip over the line of confidence in a solid product, to arrogance and cockiness. The Android phone is widely tipped by many to upset the Apple cart with the iPhone dominance and I sincerely hope they are not greatly underestimating other technology companies out there. They may have consolidated touch screen technology, and cemented that it is here to stay, but that just gives many other companies the building blocks and a solid platform to build another generation of products.

In Summary
It really is an expensive toy to most. Many people would like one but don't know how to justify having one against their disposable income, which for the masses is still tightly counted and rightly so.

Apple fanbois will want one and if they can will buy it.

Initially, I failed to see it's purpose other than it being handier than a laptop for browsing the internet, quite cool for films and other grown up play time activities. It was when, for me, I took it to client meetings that it came into it's own. It was so useful to be able to sit in a public place and punctuate my points with an instant, online demonstration, without going through the rigmarole of setting up my laptop, trying to get on a Wi-Fi connection (many places still have crap connections) and worrying about where to plug it in without being sued by someone tripping over it.

My other bug bear, which you can't get round with touch screen technology and is quite funny when you think about it, I don't like people touching my screen. I'm very particular about this with my laptop. So to have something as pretty as the iPad covered in greasy smears and smudges irked me a little bit, so I'm now a compulsive polisher.

Finally, I will go back to the original point. I can't help it, it's just so beautiful.