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December, 2011

The worst tech of 2011

Saturday, December 31st, 2011

There’s nothing more exciting than getting your hands on the latest technology. Occasionally, though, a product comes along that falls completely flat, or has a fatal flaw; a product that really should never have got past the design stage in the first place, let alone into the factory and onto the shelves.

You might think we hated these products, but in their own inimitable way they’re just as fun to write about as the market leaders. So, for your delectation and ours, we’ve compiled our favourites from the past 12 months: the PC Pro rogues gallery…

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The 10 most optimistic press releases of 2011

Friday, December 30th, 2011

Failure

Like most media organisations, we receive a steady stream of press releases here at PC Pro. On an average day I’d estimate we receive around 30 emails and letters from manufacturers, developers and PR agencies, all earnestly drawing our attention to something or other.

Sometimes these releases are useful, and even interesting: a press release might, for example, contain advance warning of a forthcoming product launch, or an important announcement from a major industry figure.

If I’m honest, though, I’d have to say only a minority of press releases are so worthy. Many of them are what I call downright optimistic – in other words, the people sending them are being rather hopeful if they imagine that we will have any use for the information.

Here, for your entertainment – but with some names removed to protect the innocent who are, let’s be honest, only doing their jobs – are ten of the most optimistic press releases we’ve received in 2011.

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Posted in: Random

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The best free books to read on an Amazon Kindle

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Free books for Amazon.jpgThere are so many free books available for the Kindle that you never need spend anything more once you’ve bought the device. You have the entire canons of out-of-copyright writers such as Oscar Wilde, all the Sherlock Holmes adventures you’ll ever want to read, plus a myriad of other freebies. And in a way, those other freebies are the more interesting.

Some of the books are honeypots from professional authors, hoping to lure you into their 23-part series that tells the life story of an amazing spy/explorer/dancer/footballer. There’s nothing wrong with this, just go into it with your eyes open.

Some are only briefly reduced to free as a promotion, before being shoved up to full price. You can keep an eye out for such promotions by entering your email address at www.ereaderiq.co.uk (this site also provides a slightly clumsy search mechanism for finding free books).

Then there are some that barely qualify for the terms “books” at all. O’Reilly, for instance, produces a number of very short publications about technology that feel more like extended articles. (more…)

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Posted in: Random

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The computing relics unearthed in the PC Pro Labs

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Old MacsThe PC Pro Lab is a dark, dingy place full of cardboard boxes, benchmarks and more motherboards, processors and PCs than we care to count, but it’s also home to a variety of kit that’s slipped through the net –  some of it even dating back to before PC Pro launched in 1994.

From iconic machines like the IBM PC to the silliness of Sony’s £1,190 netbook, we’ve scoured the darkest corners and blown dust off some of the oldest, oddest and rarest kit we can find – starting with a true icon of the industry. (more…)

The Great PC Pro Christmas Quiz

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

Three signs on a question. 3d

How clued up are you on the world of computing? We’ve put together a fun quiz – well, let’s say a quiz, anyway – to test your knowledge of recent events, and not so recent technological lore. There are sixty questions: hover over each question with your mouse to check your answers. If you’re on a mobile platform and can’t hover, scroll down to the end for a complete list of answers.

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Posted in: Random

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Set-top censorship Virgin on the offensive

Monday, December 19th, 2011

When you have channels such as Television X and Playboy TV loitering in the nether regions of your electronic programme guide (EPG), it’s perfectly admirable to asterisk out some of the more risqué titles on offer, lest innocent teenagers accidentally wander into the listings.

But using a crude find-and-replace across your entire EPG can have unintended consequences. As Virgin Media has discovered, much to the amusement of the Twitterati…

Virgin Hancock grab

Virgin Arsenal grab

God alone knows what Virgin’s EPG will make of Willy Thorne’s Guide to Scunthorpe’s Snooker Balls, which is coming to Eurosport in the spring.

Grabs from @MarcSettle and @TheMediaTweets

How a wonky DIMM ruined my server upgrade

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Wonky SIMM

As you may be able to see in the highest-resolution version of the snapshot above (click to enlarge), it’s not every day one comes across a physically distorted DIMM.

This is one of a set of eight 4GB sticks, originally intended to boost the performance of a Hyper-V host machine at Ratcliffe & Brown Wines & Spirits, the subject of a forthcoming PC Pro Business Clinic. The server upgrade wasn’t part of the subject, but it pretty quickly turned into a source of aggravation – this bendy SIMM is not immediately apparent until it’s placed on a flat surface, and I tend to land DIMMs on a lump of textile, like a mouse mat or a rucksack; anything but a conductive perfectly flat plane like a rack-mounted server lid.

Surprisingly, it sat in the DIMM slot perfectly well. Unsurprisingly, the server (a Dell PowerEdge 2970) spat the dummy the minute power was restored, quite accurately complaining about “unusable memory” in the scrolling front-panel display.

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New TweetDeck: more mainstream, less flexible

Saturday, December 10th, 2011

The TweetDeck desktop client has seen a major overhaul, with a move away from Adobe Air and a whole new approach to accounts and feeds. It’s all very snazzy, with a blue theme and some very welcome touches: I’ve long loved Tweetlist’s highlighted usernames and links, so they’re very welcome here, and tweet boxes that scale dynamically to the length of the tweet are long overdue. That’s the positives covered.

On to the not-so-positives. The tweet box now pops up and steals the focus until you close it. A small change, you might think, but I regularly half-write tweets while I keep reading those of others, then react as I go. Sometimes I leave a tweet for ten minutes to decide whether it should really be sent (it usually shouldn’t). This prevents that, and it’s totally unnecessary. You also can’t send a tweet using Enter, and if you think you can go to Settings and change that, you can’t – it’s been pared back to the idiot-proof basics.

New Tweetdeck tweet

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Posted in: Rant, Software

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Will Windows 8 be a free upgrade?

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Windows 8 store

Nothing betrays desperation more than a company inflating statistics for its own end. Over the past couple of months, Microsoft has been inflating a stat about Windows 8 to the size of a hot air balloon.

Despite being probably a year away from launch, Microsoft claims that Windows 8 “represents the single biggest platform opportunity available to developers”. With tens of millions of iOS and Android devices already on the market, how on Earth does Microsoft justify the claim that Windows 8 is the biggest of them all? Because “half a billion PCs could be upgraded to Windows 8 on the day it ships.”

Replace the word “could” with “won’t” and you’ll be much closer to the truth.

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Spotify apps review: first look

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

spotifyMAIN

Spotify this week unveiled apps that integrate directly into the music streaming service, but this isn’t quite FarmVille for music lovers. Instead, the apps are, for the most part, geared at helping listeners find music — the system offers 15 million tracks at last count, so figuring out which ones you want to actually hear can be a challenge.

At the moment, the 11 apps are all free, and available to those on free subscriptions, and it’s hard to see that changing any time soon. For the most part, the apps are generally reviews and playlists — hardly something many people will shell out for. Moving the service to handsets might make apps chargeable, but even then, these are little more than curated content.

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Posted in: Newsdesk

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