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December, 2010

My New Year’s resolutions for 2011

Friday, December 31st, 2010

The New Year is traditionally a time for looking forward — witness the annual tradition of making promises to oneself to improve and grow. Happily, I need no improving, and I certainly don’t need to grow; so instead I’m going to welcome 2011 by writing about some of the display resolutions I have known and loved over the years.

64 x 48 (1981)

ZX8164 x 48 was the graphical resolution of the Sinclair ZX81. That may sound rather low, and indeed it was: early Space Invaders clones pretty much involved squares shooting squares at other squares. It was addressed in a rather unusual way, too. The screen was divided up into a monochromatic 32 x 24 grid, of which each cell could contain either a text character or a graphical block. These blocks looked a bit like miniature Tetris shapes (they’re at the start of the character table above), and could be stacked together to make complex – if rather large – shapes.

As you can see, text was actually rendered at a much higher resolution, and by using clever hardware tricks some programmers did manage to make use of the ZX81’s full 256 x 192 resolution, enabling them to create stunning photorealistic visuals. Not. (more…)

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The worst tech decisions of 2010

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Hands on headThere have been some stunningly good tech decisions in 2010: Amazon’s shrewd Kindle price cut and Microsoft’s (long overdue) decision to bash the nails into Windows Mobile’s coffin, to name but two.

But we’re not here to champion the champions, or lavish praise on the sensible: if you can’t wage bitter recriminations during the festive period, when can you? So, here we present the worst tech decisions of 2010.

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The ten worst products of 2010

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

We’ve seen some absolutely brilliant kit this year. Stand-outs include the obvious (think the Apple iPad) and the less obvious (why hello there, Sony VAIO Z13), but this blog is to celebrate the rubbish. The stuff that, with any luck, may already have been pulled off the shelves due to its sheer stupidity.

In a very particular order, here goes:

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Top ten price comparison websites

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Looking to save pennies in the aftermath of a blowout Christmas? Made a New Year’s resolution to tighten your belt? You need to get down to your local price comparison website.

It isn’t just about Kelkoo and Google Products any more either. These days there’s a huge choice of specialist sites, catering for everything from supermarket shopping to selling your mobile phone. Here’s our pick of the best.

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Stuart Turton’s Alternative Tech Awards of 2010

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

AwardsAs we usher in 2011, how better to reflect on 2010 than with some awards. To that end, I present the “Stuart Turton in association with PC Pro but not officially endorsed by them Awards”. For convenience sake, this will henceforth be abbreviated to the STIAWPPBNOEBTAs – which admittedly sounds like a gulag in Stalinist Russia, but will have to suffice.

So without further ado, it’s the first annual STIAWPPBNOEBTAs! Drum roll, please.

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Sick of reading? Five cool things you can do with your Amazon Kindle

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Kindle

While the Amazon Kindle is pretty handy at reading eBooks, it has a few other functions that help you kill the time between Christmas day and heading back to work after New Year’s. Here’s our top five: let us know any others in the comments below.

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Christmas TV guide for geeks

Friday, December 24th, 2010

TV remote control

As usual this Christmas there’s the best part of naff-all on the main channels, so for some real techie viewing it pays to look around the schedules – which is precisely what I’ve done. First, a disclaimer: I have absolutely no idea how good these programmes will be, I’m going in blind with the rest of you. So fingers crossed, here’s some geek content you might not have spotted…

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Displaying a location marker on a Google Map

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Google Map

One of the most popular features on websites today is a marker pinpointing a location on Google Maps. It’s incredibly easy to add such a map to a website and I’m going to show you how.

I said it was easy, and with the recent release of version 3 of the Google Maps JavaScript API, it’s become even easier. With the previous version of this API, you had to register your map to receive an API key, but that’s now no longer necessary.

Naturally Google provide a comprehensive guide to the Maps API, but I will run through the basics here.

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Android App of the Week: Posterous

Monday, December 20th, 2010

PosterousSocial-networking tool Posterous has been around since May 2008, and it’s gained a sizeable following thanks to its minimalist design, which allows you to post links to photos, MP3 files, documents and video in seconds.

While Posterous has a fully functional mobile site, we’re surprised that it’s taken this long for an Android app to appear, especially since the iPhone version was launched in August 2009.

We’re pleased it has, though, because the new app makes using this simple service even more convenient. Open the app and click the button marked Post and you’re presented with a simple blogging interface, with title and body copy boxes alongside a couple of option buttons: the former allows you to add tags and location information, and the latter facilitates photo or video attachments.

The app lets you post to several different sites – handy if you’ve got one to post news about your favourite sports team, for instance, and another for personal links and musings – and a range of settings means you can choose different levels of picture and video quality to conserve bandwidth. (more…)

Internet censorship: the slippery slope starts here

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Hazard signsDo you remember good old AOL? The once near ubiquitous, “family-friendly” ISP that only let certain “safe” websites into its walled garden, and practically forbade users to venture any further. Think Steve Jobs crossed with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Well we’re all AOL customers now: or at least, that’s what the Government would like us to be.

A few weeks after Conservative MP Claire Perry tested the waters by suggesting ISPs should apply cinema-style age ratings to pornographic sites, Communications Minister Ed Vaizey has all but made it Government policy (i.e. he told The Sunday Times).

“This is a very serious matter,” he told the newspaper. “I think it’s very important that it’s the ISPs that come up with solutions to protect children,” threatening to do so by law if the ISPs don’t get it together, much like the previous Labour Government did over music piracy and the ensuing Digital Economy Act – and look how swimmingly that worked out!

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