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June, 2008

“Big cameras” banned

Monday, June 30th, 2008

London Eye
I had a parental visit at the weekend, and we decided to take in some of the tourist sites around the capital. On Sunday the itinerary involved a quick spin on the London Eye – it does actually move much faster than it appears to from my office window – followed by a gig in Hyde Park.

To the embarrassment of my family I had items from my bag confiscated at both.

This often happens to me, as an inveterate tinkerer and technology hoarder; bike parts taken by Science Museum staff, USB drives and mobile phones at a laptop manufacturer’s design centre. It’s no big deal to me, as long as it’s justified.

On the Eye it was a small toolkit I carry in case my bike falls to pieces. Fair enough; the spanner could be used as a weapon, perhaps, or to undo the capsule and send it plunging into the Thames. At the concert, though, it was my DSLR which was flagged up, as I was told that on the second day of the two-day event, staff had been told to stop “big cameras” from entering. This has been happening more and more in the last year or two.


Is Nvidia losing its grip?

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Gainward goes redToday sees a very telling announcement in the graphics world. Gainward, for years an exclusive producer of mainstream and overclocked GeForce cards, has launched its first Radeons to market – the HD 4850 and HD 4870.

You could look at it one of two ways. The simplest reason could be that Gainward (owned by non-exclusive card maker, Palit) simply wants to boost its profits by reaching a larger audience than it previously sold to. The other is that AMD’s current resurgence has Gainward looking upon Nvidia as less of a sure thing than before.

After all, each of Nvidia’s last few launches has seen the GeForces getting faster, but also bigger and hotter than ever before, while AMD is managing to keep up in the speed race while keeping its Radeons much more manageable, and vastly less expensive.

It’ll be interesting to see if any other manufacturers follow suit.

A plan you can bank on for finding parents

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Lloyds TSB has started issuing Visa debit cards to children as young as 11, allowing them to stock up on anything from cheap booze to Viagra from unscrupulous web traders, according to the Daily Mail.

When asked why the bank hadn’t informed the children’s parents that they were issuing them with a licence to drain their pocket money, the bank replied: “We don’t always have the parents’ contact details or know the family’s circumstances.”

It’s a shot in the dark, I admit, but wouldn’t the child’s address be a good place to start looking for mum and dad? Or is Lloyds TSB dishing out mortgages to 11-year-olds too?

My guilty secret ad the problem with my “” key

Monday, June 30th, 2008

MacBook N key

I have a guilty secret; although I work o PC Pro, I’m actually a avid Mac ethusiast. I fact, I’ve bee called a fa-boy by some in the past.

They’re everythig I eed from a PC. After a day istalling bechmarks, swappig out hardware ad searchig for drivers, all I wat is a machie that works well ad ever eeds tikerig with. The gorgeous OS and chassis desigs are a ice bous, too.


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Posted in: Random, Rant

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Beware of geeks bearing gifts…

Friday, June 27th, 2008

Like most magazines, we like product exclusives. A shiny new laptop, in our hands before the rest of the press, and a review online early enough to sate the baying masses. We get plenty of hits on the website, a way to reach readers who otherwise may have looked elsewhere, and the pride that comes from a few days or weeks of being the only place to read about a product.

But what worked for the old days of magazines is just getting ridiculous in this online, instant age.

In the last month alone I’ve spent days with several brand new products from several different manufacturers, each interesting in its own way, and each so new that no reviews currently exist on the internet. But rather than basking in the glow of all that humming web traffic, I’m just about ready to put my foot through the next TFT that lands in our loading bay.


Just in: ATI Radeon HD 4870

Friday, June 27th, 2008

This is the ATI Radeon HD 4870, rumoured before its release to be one of the fastest cards around, and it has just landed in our labs, only one week after it was announced.

It’s benchmarking downstairs in our labs as we speak – hence the odd angle in the image above – but we can already tell you that it looks to be incredible value for money.


Firefox 3 already rules the roost

Friday, June 27th, 2008

The full version of Firefox 3 has been available for all of 10 days now, and already it’s the most popular version of the browser being used to visit our website. I know Mozilla had a huge publicity drive to encourage people to download on day one and that Firefox is pretty active at encouraging people to upgrade to the latest version, but even still, the rapid take up of the new browser is impressive.

Here’s the breakdown of Firefox browser versions visiting this week:

1. Firefox 3.0 – 55.13%
2. Firefox – 39.27%
3. Firefox – 0.96%

And for comparison, here’s the breakdown for Internet Explorer:

1. Internet Explorer 7 – 68.86%
2. Internet Explorer 6 – 30.97%
3. Internet Explorer 8 – 0.09%

So Microsoft still has three out of ten people running an old version of its browser more than 18 months after Internet Explorer 7 launched, while Firefox has converted more than half of its users to the latest version in just over a week.  That should set a few alarm bells ringing in Redmond…

The big question, reader David Wright asks on comments below, is what has Firefox 3 done to its overall market share with PC Pro readers? Here’s the answer:

1. Internet Explorer – 53.74%

2. Firefox – 39.40%

3. Safari – 3.83%

4. Opera – 2.15%

Watch out Microsoft. The Fox is gaining fast.

Check out next month’s PC Pro – on sale 17 July – for our Power User’s Guide to Firefox 3.

War is peace; freedom is slavery; the new version is coming soon!

Friday, June 27th, 2008

I know, I know – this is supposed to be PC Pro, not Console Gamer.

But I realise you’ve all been anxious to know whether I got my copy of Super Smash Bros Brawl this morning. So, for the record: I did. Game on Oxford Street appeared to have a few hundred copies, and Soviet-style queues were conspicuous by their absence. I guess the weekend will be the real test.

However, while my fears of stock shortages seem not to have materialised, I did encounter a striking instance of another phenomenon mentioned in yesterday’s post – the strange way unreleased products exist as mere potential for would-be customers while being at the same time a very material reality for manufacturers and retailers.

Because can you make out the sticker on my copy of Super Smash Bros Brawl? This is a genuine, shrink-wrapped copy of the game, direct from Nintendo; and (presumably a few days ago) the retailer has stuck a sticker directly onto it saying “Coming soon“! The message couldn’t be clearer. It doesn’t matter if you’re staring straight at the thing: until launch day, it’s not here.

It reminds me of Microsoft’s “genuine software” campaign, which asks us to imagine that a genuine piece of software can somehow become counterfeit – and vice versa – without a single byte changing, simply on the say-so of an absent third party. But that’s a blog post for another day…

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Friday, June 27th, 2008

So, the top-level domain registration process has been opened up and you can now grab anything you like – just as long as you can put a decent business case to Icann, that is, and pay the whopping $100,000 registration fee. Oh, and buy and run all the expensive, power-hungry servers and hardware necessary to host it.

It seems unlikely that I will be grabbing www.matthew.sparkes anytime soon; I doubt I could recoup my costs by renting domains out to members of the Sparkes clan.

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Posted in: Random

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The calm before the Brawl

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

I am literally more excited about this game than anybody has ever been about anything ever.

The likes of David Bayon and Mike Jennings can keep their PS3s and their GTA IVs. Me, I’m much more excited about tomorrow’s UK release of Super Smash Bros Brawl (SSBB to its friends).

Excited — but also apprehensive, because, let’s face it, Nintendo doesn’t exactly have a great record on stock availability. My experience of actually using the Wii has been entirely positive; but buying it, and then buying games and accessories for it, has involved a surprising amount of anxiously standing in queues at stupid times of the morning. Because if you miss the first shipment of games/controllers/consoles, you may not have another chance to buy the thing you want for weeks or even months.

(Yes, I know I should pre-order. I tried that with the Wii console itself and all I got was an email the day before launch saying they didn’t have enough stock. Shut up.) (more…)

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Posted in: Random

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