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March, 2009

The Government wants to track our cars… but should we care?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Does the Government want to track our every move?I’m not generally the type of person to be worried by CCTV cameras and the concept of Big Brother watching my every move (my every move is very dull), but even I was a little perturbed to read an article in this morning’s Guardian suggesting that the UK Government “is backing a project to install a ‘communication box’ in new cars to track the whereabouts of drivers anywhere in Europe”. (Click here if you want to hear the author of the report discussing the story.)

Now it turns out this is a slightly over-dramatic first sentence to the Guardian article. (more…)

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The key to Linux’s mainstream success

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Our esteemed editor, Tim Danton, recently ran a thought piece wondering whether Linux would ever hit the mainstream, his ten cents worth clattering down on the side that says “probably not.”

His conclusion was an interesting one, principally because I haven’t heard it before. To paraphrase Tim, Linux will remain niche because open-source vendors don’t have the inclination to push it that extra mile, to front up for “the hassle-free” experience that users expect in their operating system. Not when they have a devoted, tech-savy user base already to hand.

It’s an intruiging point of view, but one predicated on a fallacy. If anything, Linux works the hardest for the hassle-free experience of any of the operating systems. Each alpha, beta and RC is passed through thousands of hands before it ever gets anywhere near an end user. Each line of code is mulled, every aspect of the operating system considered – by that I mean that unlike the revolutionary three years jumps of Windows or Apple’s OSes, Linux is in a constant state of evolution.


Full HD – not all it’s cracked up to be

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Being embroiled in a digital compact cameras group test at the moment, I’ve noticed an insidious little logo starting to appear on boxes and the little tags attached to new cameras. The logo says, “Full HD”. Nothing wrong with that of course, except it often refers to still-image resolution.

It’s not wrong but it’s certainly surprising, if you do the maths. (more…)

The sound of a silent PC

Friday, March 27th, 2009

...if it\'s the last thing I do. I’ve become a bit of an obsessive over the past couple of months. Around about then, I noticed that the noise emanating from my PC was becoming more annoying than usual; I was slowly being ground down and my resistance worn away.

Every time I played games, the ever-present hum of heatsink fans, hard disks and spinning optical drives ruined quiet moments. Every time I wasn’t blasting through the wastelands of Fallout 3 or rumbling around rally circuits in GRiD, my soundtrack was magnified, becoming more intrusive by the minute.

And what’s where my obsession begun: the endless creaks, groans and whirrs coming from my PC needed to be crushed, eliminated and silenced.


I kissed a flash, and I liked it…

Friday, March 27th, 2009

MacBook ProSomeone was asking about SSD drive upgrades in a comment thread; I just took a bit of a risk and tried the OCZ Apex Series 120GB inside my two-ish year old MacBook Pro.

You want the short summary? It works. And how: the machine boots in a shade over 4 seconds.

The detail is where the devil lives, of course. This wasn’t a full test, by any means – i got a recommendation from a mate and thought the risk worth taking: I wanted to extend the life of the trusty MacBook but if it turned out the whole idea was a non-starter I could always use the SSD in a more mainstream laptop, and I wanted to see if the claimed advances in flash architecture really did make the whole concept more usable. Well, that and a conversation with the guys at Overclockers who instantly categorised all the cheaper options by a four-letter word rhyming with “trap”. But then, vendors with new expensive things to sell often do that…


Meet the, um, clockwork smartphone

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Fish and chips. Steak and ale pie. Rolls and Royce. Some things were always meant to be together. Now take a Swiss watch, with a mechanical winding rotor, and merge it into a… cellphone.

Nope, it’s not working for me either.

Use the rotor winder to charge the phone battery. Nope, it’s still not doing it for me.

Maybe the quiet, understated look of the device will convince you that this is a sensible coming-together of two worlds…ulysses-smartphone

To see the Ulysse Nardin Chairman in all its 3D glory, head to

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Will Linux ever hit the mainstream?

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Note the Windows logo on the N310!Reading today’s story about the chief exec of Red Hat admitting he was unsure if Linux had a future on the desktop reminded me of a conversation I had just two days ago, at the Samsung European Congress in Vienna. The big news here was Samsung announcing three new netbooks (all running Windows XP, including the highly unusual Samsung N310), and after the big speech five of us UK tech journalists were offered the chance for a roundtable chat with a couple of Terribly Senior People from Samsung.

As is usual with Terribly Senior People, they were quite resistant to actually giving away any information that might be considered useful, but one thing came out loud and clear: initially Samsung did seriously consider a Linux netbook, but after speaking to retailers it won’t be dabbling with Linux any time soon. (more…)

Google predicts Arctic chill for Scotland

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

The residents of Stornoway in Scotland might want to put an extra log or two on the fire. According to a rather alarming Google weather report, the Outer Hebrides resort is facing unseasonal temperatures of -17C over the next few days. 

Stornoway The BBC, on the other hand, has the minimum temperature pegged at a far more reasonable 5-6C. What does Google know that the Met Office doesn’t? Or is this a direct result of having eco-doom monger Al Gore as a Google advisor?

We demand answers.

(Thanks to PC Pro reader Phil Taylor for the tip-off.)

How to connect your PC to your hi-fi

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

It appears there’s some confusion, even among a few of my colleagues, about audio and PC speakers and amplifiers and stuff like that. Specifically, whether you can plug a PC into normal stereo speakers, whether it will work if you do and how to do it. We’ll start with a few simple facts in handy question-and-answer format.

Can I use normal living-room stereo speakers with my PC?

Probably not directly, but essentially yes. There’s no fundamental difference between PC speakers and normal speakers, except that PC speakers have a built-in amplifier. To use standard hi-fi stereo speakers you just need an amplifier to drive them. So, either get yourself a separate hi-fi amp and speakers, or take the cheap option and plug your PC into the stereo in the living room.


First look: Samsung N310

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

group-of-nc310sSamsung placed a great deal of emphasis on the N310’s design when announcing it to assembled journalists at its European Forum 2009. And in the flesh it certainly makes a strong impression.

The outer coating looks almost like painted polystyrene to the untrained eye, and it’s only when you feel it that you realise this is moulded plastic vaguely reminiscent of 70s kitchens (think coloured Formica). It’s unusual, but somehow it works – because the surface is textured, when you hold it the N310 actually feels quite nice in the hand. (more…)






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