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January, 2009

All the week’s reviews

Friday, January 30th, 2009

LenovoThis week the office activity has been dominated by the £250 Challenge, so PCs and laptops took something of a back seat in reviews. Still, we saw a fine business system from Lenovo, the ThinkCentre M58, which made use of the company’s fantastic desktop chassis. With everything accessible and removable in seconds, we wish consumer manufacturers would take note, and the Lenovo earned a deserved Recommended award.

HPAs far from the business side of things as we could get was the HP HDX16-1000, an entertainment behemoth of a laptop with an HD screen, Blu-ray drive and a TV tuner. It’s not very portable and battery life is as iffy as you’d expect, but for its sheer assault on the senses it’s well worth a look – and it’s not too expensive either.

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Posted in: Random

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The Goodwill PC grinds to a halt

Friday, January 30th, 2009

So, the £250 PC Challenge. To bring you up to speed, while Tim was stuffing my colleagues’ underwear with £20 notes so they could run out and build their PCs, I was left to go cap-in-hand to see if I could build or acquire one for precisely zero pence. Before I explain my progress thus far, I’ll just recap everybody else’s for those who’ve not been following events:

As we speak motor-mouthed deputy editor David Fearon is bringing his unique bartering style to the shops on Tottenham Court Road in an attempt to wangle a £250 PC out of our tight-fisted neighbours.

The boy/beast that is staff-writer Mike Jennings has already assembled his stunted gaming PC and now spends most of his day making it watch eighties action movies in the hope that all this machismo will shame it into a spontaneous upgrade. The technology equivalent of putting hairs on its chest.

Taking inspiration from Gordon Gecko, David Bayon donned a power suit and simply glowered at the Internet until it offered him a cheap PC in exchange for leaving it alone. He’s currently puffing away on a large cigar and shouting “sell sell” at Darien Graham-Smith,  who hasn’t spoken since escaping the blatant falsehoods dwelling in the eighth level of hell that is Ebay. He now wears the look of a man standing in the ash at the end of the world, and we can only assume he’ll come back to us when he’s ready.

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The 10 weirdest items sold on Amazon

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Think Amazon’s just a cheap way of getting hold of bestsellers and DVDs? Think Again. We’ve uncovered 10 absolutely incredible items for sale on the online emporium.

1. Wolf Urine Lure-32 oz

Wolf Urine LureThe blurb says: “Use our 100% urine lures to create the illusion predators are present in the area you wish.”

Reviewer Glenn Berkemeier says: ”Today is Valentine’s Day and I hoped that a little splash of this would drive my lady wild. But alas… I sleep alone again. Also I keep hearing all this howling outside my bedroom.”

2. Bombproof Your Horse

The blurb says: “A clearly illustrated manual that shows equestrians how to prepare their horses for the unexpected, turning them into safer, more pleasurable mounts.” 

Reviewer Adam ‘The Zebra’ Popovich says: “I spent several hours reading this book, and there is absolutely no information about bombproofing horses, which the title implies. Because of this, I lost my fourth Arabian this month due to horse bandits.”

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Posted in: Random

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The importance of being important

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

It\'s important, okay?I challenge the world: has anyone actually found any use for the High Importance button in Outlook? Yet again I’ve received a message this morning marked with a little red exclamation mark, telling me the sender considered the message important.

But I don’t. It’s one of a long line of messages I’ve received this morning, and it ranks right there in the middle. I don’t know why I find this so annoying – the fact that someone I’ve never met has decided what’s important to me – but I do.

Am I alone? And can someone actually think of a positive need for the High Importance button? Let me know. It’s important.

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Posted in: Rant

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The building begins in earnest

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

So good they couldn\'t spell \'IT\'.After all of the shop-scouring, penny-pinching and quibbling over precisely which CPU, GPU and PSU to buy, all my parts have finally arrived and I’ve begun to put my rig together – a process which, so far, hasn’t been fraught with problems. Although, saying that, I’ve probably just jinxed it, so I hope that my colleagues don’t use eBay and the Internet to come up with vastly superior machines.

My final shopping list – after taking suggestions from the helpful comments of Grimer, E and Ian Devlin, among others – looks like this:

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Posted in: Random

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Panasonic’s Toughbooks get tougher

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Panasonic are today launching the latest updates to their Toughbook laptop range. The fully ruggedized CF-30 and CF-19 Tablet models have now reached mk3 status, while the semi-ruggedized CF-52 crashes the party in its newly revamped mk2 guise.

Take a quick glance at the photographs and even the most avid of Toughbook laptop-spotters would have trouble noticing any revolutionary changes, but as Panasonic were keen to stress, the new models show the all the hallmarks of a subtle, careful evolution.

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Kaspersky causes Windows 7 slowdown

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Word 2007 When even Linus Torvalds is heaping sardonic praise on Windows 7, you know Microsoft must be doing something right. But the gloss was definitely starting to come off for my colleague Stuart Turton and I over the past week or so.

For some unfathomable reason, Word 2007 was really starting to struggle – letters would appear on screen an annoying second or so after you typed them, and scrolling through long documents produced more jerks than an X-Factor audition. Not an ideal scenario for harassed journalists on press week.

Word’s not usually the first application to exhibit performance problems. If your processor or memory are being pushed to breaking point, you’d normally expect 3D games or DVD playback to be suffering from the heebie-jeebies first – but both those applications were fine on our systems. A performance widget on my desktop also confirmed that the processor and 3GB of memory in my laptop weren’t being unduly burdened by Word, either.

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Isle of Man made redundant

Monday, January 26th, 2009

The steady trickle of job cuts has become something of a grim fascination for me in recent weeks. The numbers are astronomical: 16,000 unlucky folk are staring down the barrel at IBM, while another 5,000 are updating their CVs at Microsoft. Thankfully though, I’m not one to dwell on the merely depressing when outright despair can be found just around the corner. To that end I decided to go looking for the big number waiting at the end of this maudlin rainbow.

Armed with a calculator, Google and fifteen minutes of free time I added up all the recent job cuts. The number is staggering. If you’ve already had a particularly bad day or are considering taking a bath with your toaster, I suggest you look away now. In my completely unscientific estimation, the tech industry has promised to shed 83,650 jobs [running total below the cut]. That’s basically the population of the Isle of Man, and 3,000 more than the den of inequity that is Old Trafford.

Now bear in mind, most of the announced job cuts come with an “up to” caveat. There’s also a couple in there that are speculation at this point, though they’re well-informed speculation. Anyway I’ve listed below my names and figures for your viewing displeasure. Before you take a look though, can I suggest you put down that bread knife.

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Posted in: Newsdesk

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Second-hand? Several days-hand, more like

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Well, it’s done: over the weekend I bit the bullet and ordered my second-hand PC for the £250 Challenge. It’s a decent-looking machine, with a Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB of RAM and a 19in TFT, which should make it a very viable desktop PC. Hopefully our dear editor Tim Danton will agree when he comes to judge our entries.

But getting to this stage has been a monumental hassle – far more so than I’d anticipated. When I volunteered for the £250 Challenge I thought buying second-hand would be easy: just scout around the various classified and auction sites, visit the local second-hand shops, draw up a shortlist, fire off a few emails, bish bash bosh, job done. (more…)

All the week’s reviews

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

DellIn a varied week for reviews, the most notable new arrival was Dell’s Inspiron Mini 12. Attempting to take the netbook category up even closer to true laptop size, it failed on so many counts that our review concluded by saying, “even the presence of XP Home and a high-capacity battery would only elevate the Mini 12’s score from a maudlin two to an unremarkable four.” Harsh words indeed.

BelkinComponents and peripherals proved much more successful, with Belkin’s N+ draft-n router earning high praise from reviews editor Jon Bray. With the choice of ADSL or cable variants, impressive performance in our tests, a USB port for external storage and a very attractive price, it jumped straight onto our A List.

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Posted in: Hardware

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