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July, 2012

Help PC Pro write its Linux distro Labs

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Ubuntu

In the past couple of years, we’ve seen huge interest in the reviews we’ve published of the different versions of Ubuntu. The popular free operating system has a massive following, and rightly so. It’s a fully fledged operating system, complete with office software and a host of useful tools and utilities. And Ubuntu, which has now reached version 12.04, is now a usable, mature operating system.

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ISPs’ playground fight has no real winner

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

virgin1

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) adjudications page is looking increasingly like an incident report book from a nursery school playground.

Almost every Wednesday, either BT or Virgin (although sometimes other ISPs feature) indulges in petty bickering over how the other one over-eggs its services: “he stole my conker, and then claimed it was the bestest in school”.

BT and Virgin are, frankly, making themselves and the ASA look ridiculous by constantly making questionable claims and running to teacher every time someone else omits an asterisk from the small print.

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Open internet pledge: can we trust our ISPs?

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

fine print

It would be churlish not to welcome the fact that several of Britain’s biggest ISPs have signed a pledge committing to the principles of the “open internet”. A pledge not to block access to any legal website or degrade content provided by commercial rivals is progress for those of us who’ve been worried about the erosion of net neutrality.  Yet, it would be highly naïve to take the ISPs and mobile networks at their word.

Britain’s ISPs have a history of saying one thing and meaning another, with “unlimited” tariffs that are littered with restrictions, “up to” speeds that are as fictitious as Tolkein novels, and a long history of run-ins with the advertising watchdog. Take the TalkTalk ruling from earlier this year, where the ISP sidestepped a ban on promoting “the UK’s safest broadband” by adding the word “connection” to the end of that phrase. It was a staggering display of contempt for both the ASA and its own customers.

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There’s something funny in Microsoft Office 2013!

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

Microsoft Office is one of those products that takes itself very seriously. If it were a person, it would wear a starched shirt and refer to its father as “sir”. So imagine my shock when I found a feature in Office 2013 that could, at a stretch, be described as a funny.

To see it for yourself, launch Word 2013, choose the Insert tab and hover over the Shapes button. You’ll see this:

Word 2013 almost funny

Okay, it isn’t going to pick up a gong at the Productivity Software Of The Year Comedy awards, but have you seen anything even resembling mild humour in a Microsoft Office product before?

How to get Google Music on your UK Nexus 7

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

GoogleMusicIf, like me, you’ve recently acquired a Nexus 7 tablet, you may have been excited to spot a button at the bottom of the home screen labelled “Google Music”. Press it, though, and you’ll find it can only play music that’s stored locally. The full online Google Music service isn’t available outside of the USA, presumably due to licensing issues related to Google’s music download service.

That’s frustrating – because Google Music isn’t only an MP3 shop. It also includes a free cloud syncing service. This allows you to upload your entire existing music library (up to 20,000 songs) to Google’s servers, then stream songs and playlists to any Android device via the Google Music app. Since the Nexus 7 lacks the space to store a large music collection internally, it’s a very useful service to have.

And the good news is it’s very easy to get Google Music working on any compatible Android device from outside of the US. In fact, it’s so easy that you have to wonder whether Google is half-hoping this is what people will do, even if it can’t offer the service openly.

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ZTE Grand X review: first look

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

ZTE Grand XZTE isn’t well known on these shores, as the only handsets we’ve seen from the Chinese firm have been budget efforts like the Skate or Orange-branded devices such as the San Diego. ZTE hopes that’ll change with its Grand X.

First things first: this isn’t a phone to put the Samsung Galaxy S III in its place. For starters, the chipset isn’t anything as powerful as Nvidia’s quad-core Tegra 3 but the weaker, dual-core Tegra 2. There’s also no sign of the hand-stretching panels that now appear in high-end handsets – ZTE has made do with a 4.3in, 540 x 960 screen that’s typically favoured by more modest phones such as the HTC One S and Sony Xperia P. We certainly spotted some pixels, but the screen is bright, vivid and usable. (more…)

M-Disc: the DVD that “lasts forever”

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

M-Disc

All archival methods have their strengths and weaknesses, and many of the latter involve longevity. Hard disks, flash storage, tape, DVDs: they all degrade, and whether you’re a lone consumer with a photo collection or a large business with vital files, losing data to the ravages of time is tough to avoid. It’s a problem the cloud may well yet solve, but even there you’re placing your trust in a third-party, and as we’ve seen in the last few weeks even the cloud is vulnerable to the elements.

The ideal solution would combine security and permanence with the affordability and convenience of using standard, everyday tools. A company called Millenniata claims to have developed exactly that. (more…)

Microsoft PowerPoint 2013 review: first look

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

PowerPoint 2013 Metro style interface

PowerPoint’s 2013 makeover looks very similar to the other Office apps. It has, of course, gone all Metro on us, with the title bar gone and borderless windows. The Ribbon is still there but larger, making touch control possible.

And, as you’d expect, support for touch navigation has been introduced, with swipe and pinch gestures allowing users to manipulate slides in an immediate and intuitive manner, while creating or delivering presentations.

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Microsoft Outlook 2013 review: first look

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Outlook 2013 Mail

The over-riding first impression of the PC Pro team when opening Outlook 2013 was to cover their eyes. The new Outlook is white. Very white. As our Real World columnist Paul Ockenden noted on Twitter: “the Office 2013 applications all look like wireframe mock-ups, waiting for a designer to colour them in” and that’s particularly true of Outlook. Worse still, there’s no way to change the colour scheme as there has been in previous versions.

Once you get over the whitewash and start fiddling with Outlook 2013, new features start to emerge. The first thing to note is that Office 2013 can be installed alongside an existing Office installation, and Outlook 2013 automatically sucks in your existing mailbox and settings. A word of caution: one member of the PC Pro team found they were unable to open their existing installation of Outlook 2010 once the new software had been installed, but two others were fine.

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Microsoft Excel 2013 review: first look

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

Excel 2013

Excel might have been been pushed to the back in the main demonstration at Microsoft’s Office 2013 launch event in San Francsico, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. In fact the two feature improvements highlighted during the demo —  Flash Fill and Quick Analysis — show some real imagination has gone into the new version of Excel.

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