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April, 2008

The machines! The machines! They’ve gone mad!

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Photo of a railway station

You think it’s annoying when Vista won’t let you play an HDCP video, or your printer locks itself out because it’s decided it’s reached the end of its life?

That’s nothing.

How about being a train driver and the train you’re (allegedly) in charge of refusing to move because its computer is in the wrong mode. (more…)

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Posted in: Random

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Stop! Please! (aka Spot the Difference)

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Lots of IXUS cameras in a pile on a desk

The image you see above is the result of a small torrent of Canon IXUS cameras that cascaded into the office today. There’s an IXUS 80 IS; an IXUS 85 IS; an IXUS 90 IS; and an IXUS 970 IS.

You’ll notice they all look rather similar. (more…)

Megapixels are Dead

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Finally got my hands on Canon’s latest addition to its DSLR range, the EOS 450D, at the end of last week. Am always keen to see the new models in this particular range since I own a 350D, which is now three years old.

My 350D produces 8 million pixels; the 450D 12.2 million. So here’s a 100% crop of two shots I took with the two cameras, roughly 20 seconds apart. I used the same lens (a Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 XR Di), at the same exposure settings (1/80th of a second at f/8) – click to enlarge them to full size:

Image from Canon EOS350DImage from a Canon EOS 450D

Both were taken in RAW mode and processed in Canon’s own Digital Photo Professional application with identical default settings – same white balance, same sharpness, same contrast, same everything. I think you’ll agree, the difference in detail is less than obvious. The shot on the right – the 450D – is a little larger in size of course, but the actual rendition of detail is as near identical as makes no odds. (more…)

Next month’s issue is cancelled

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Grand Theft Auto IVAnd here it is.

Virgin on Oxford Street (what’s Zavvi?!) had less than ten copies left at 9:45 this morning, and this copy is currently under lock and key somewhere secure and secret at Dennis Towers (err…my bag).

It’s not for PC Pro; hell, it’s not even on the PC, but it will eat up the best part of my May, June, probably even July when everyone else out getting sunlight and exercise. I’ll move the telly next to the window and wave at them with pity. Fools.

It’s actually provoked a feisty debate here at Pro. (more…)

Just in: Canon Digital Ixus 85 IS

Monday, April 28th, 2008

It’s a shame this little beauty came in just too late for the current issue. It’s Canon’s latest pocket digital camera, the Ixus 85 IS and it already has a several members of the PC Pro lusting after it.

First impressions are good – it’s very light, small and pocketable, exhibits the usual solid Canon build quality, 10-megapixel resolution, a 3x zoom ISO up to 1600, face detection and an impressive-looking optical image stabiliser similar to the system seen on our A List favourite, the Canon Ixus 960 IS.

Be sure to check the Reviews section for the full lowdown – we’ll be giving it the PC Pro treatment very soon.

Here’s an early shot taken with the camera…


Advice on sellotape engineering

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Broken laptop charger

A big part of what we do at PC Pro is to offer advice; we review all the new gadgets on the market so you can make informed decisions, and we offer help to get the most from them once you’ve bought them. It’s a service, one which 83,204 print readers and 800,000 online readers find helpful.

So why don’t my friends listen to me? (more…)

Nvidia Squares Up to Intel

Monday, April 28th, 2008

So, after finding out that Intel were planning to release its own graphics card – the mysterious and, at the moment, practically mythical Larrabee – the Nvidia boardroom must have been a fun place to be. The GPU market is, after all, where the Californian company has ruled the roost for the past few years thanks to the strength of the 8000-series and, now, the emergence of some decent 9000 series cards like the 9600 GT and 9800 GTX.

Nvidia\'s latest 9800 GTX graphics card

Evidently, it’s decided to come out on the offensive: Nvidia boss Jen-Hsun Huang recently lambasted Intel’s integrated graphics, which have long been a staple of PCs that don’t need to play games and edit demanding videos, as ‘a joke’. He also boasted of his plans to ‘open a can of whoop-ass’ onto Intel, which must be quaking in its boots – after all, its CPUs haven’t done that well, and they certainly not market leaders with no real competitors. Ahem.

(more…)

The inexorable bang-per-buck conveyor belt

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

While I was packing away after last month’s CPU Megatest, I came across an old Intel Pentium Extreme Edition 955, left over from a previous Labs. It runs at a blazing 3.46GHz, and when we reviewed it back in Issue 146 it was one of the fastest processors around. At around £650, it was also one of the most expensive.

The Pentium Extreme Edition 955 against today\'s mainstream processors

I was curious to see how well this veteran CPU had aged (and it’s not like I had anything else to do this week), so I dropped it into our testing rig and kicked off the benchmarking process. A few hours later, the results were in: the Pentium Extreme Edition 955 had scored 1.19. That’s far from disgraceful, but today, you can get a CPU that achieves that sort of score for as little as £90. To put that into context, I’ve tweaked our CPU graph (click for full-sized version) to show how the 955 would fit into the mainstream market if it were launched today.

If you take any sort of interest in computing – and let’s face it, you’re reading the PC Pro blog – you’ll have seen similar scenarios play out many times before. I remember my father paying £100 (around £350 in today’s money) for our first family computer, a Sinclair ZX-80. A year later, the ZX81 appeared, costing half as much and bringing numerous technological advances, including floating point arithmetic and a screen that didn’t go blank every time you pressed newline.

A more recent example: three months ago, I reviewed the Samsung 1TB Spinpoint F hard disk. I liked the drive, but felt that at £185 it was too expensive. Today that drive is selling for £96. Now it looks like a bargain – but of course in another few months we’ll be looking back at the days when we used to pay £100 for a terabyte drive and laughing at how naïve we were.*

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The AAAGH List

Friday, April 25th, 2008

It’s the current elite; the best of the best; the section everyone turns to for their buying decisions, with 108 items in 51 categories. It’s also – for several days of every long month – the absolute bane of my life.

Most months the A List goes without a hitch. We check items are still available, we find the latest prices and we refresh it with the best reviews from the current issue – usually trickling in slowly until the inevitable last-minute deluge the day before we go to press. But this month I decided it wasn’t good enough.

So I changed the categories around.

Trawling through back issues for suitable products to add; calling round manufacturers for up to date prices; checking those blasted E-Value codes from a certain large manufacturer still work – it’s frustrating enough without the rejigging of a number of categories. But we started it so we had to finish, and finish we did; and the result is a much more sensible selection of categories.

So when you pick up Issue 165 in a couple of weeks and you’re casually flicking through to that fact-filled section between News and Reviews, spare a thought for the work that goes into keeping it relevant. And for my receding hairline.

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Posted in: Rant

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Keyboard beyond belief

Friday, April 25th, 2008

If you’ve ever stared down at your lap and thought, “Hey, if only the crotch of my trousers had an integrated QWERTY keyboard”, then today is the day you’ve been waiting for. Almost every gadget website and blog in the world have picked up on the handiwork of one Erik De Nijs who, apparently, has designed a pair of jeans with an integrated crotchboard (we’re patenting the term, so hands off Belkin, Microsoft et al), as well as a mouse and knee-mounted speakers. Now we assume that these technojeans have Bluetooth, or at the very least some kind of wireless connectivity. Walking away from your PC or laptop while shackled to it via a USB cable could, possibly, be an expensive mistake. But, as there’s more than a faint whiff of Nathan Barley-esque nonsense about the whole affair, we certainly won’t be too surprised if it turns out to have been perpetrated by a devious art student from Shoreditch. And even if we do finally lay our hands on a pair, we’re going to be typing very, very softly indeed.

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