Category Archives: How To’s

What Computer – Which Computer is best?

What Computer

As technology is ever improving computers are equally changing, getting faster and smaller. The choice of computer was relatively simple when it used to be limited to either a Desktop or Laptop. Now we have Netbooks and Tablet PC’s to also consider.

What Computer – The Desktop

Custom PC - Cube PC
Custom PC – Cube PC

The Desktop PC is a relatively large computer and as the name suggests it normally sits on top of your desk with a separate display, keyboard and mouse. But even this format has expanded to include all-in-one computers like the Apple iMAC and Acers Z5700 touch screen. There’s also small format media PC’s similar in size to a shoebox but retaining the separate display keyboard and mouse.

The Pros/Cons: Generally you get more performance for your money and they are upgradable so there is some obsolescence built in. The Cons: Generally they are large and need a lot of desk space (but not always see Cube PC).

What Computer – Custom PC  the desktop solution

We still think the desktop PC has a lot to offer, particularly in its future proofing. We build custom PC’s using standard components which means that we can generally offer upgrades keeping pace with advances in technology and changing needs.

For example a customer buying a entry level custom PC  from us for say running Microsoft’s Office and maybe surfing the Internet then develops an interest in digital photography. In most cases this would generally mean buying a new computer or laptop but for our customers we can upgrade the memory and add better graphics capabilities and so for a much smaller cost they can continue to use the same computer for their new interest.

We’ve added more details on this in another post which can be read here.

Laptops Netbooks and ChromeAcer Ultrabook

Laptops have become much more popular in recent years with rapidly falling prices and ever increasing specs. However they do have drawbacks – not all Laptops are equal, they may look the same but what is inside can make a huge difference to the performance. Some laptops are just not that well made, check the reviews before buying and watch for the catch behind that temptingly low price. Some Laptops come with the previous generation CPU a slow Dual Core will frustrate even the most patient user. They can run very hot and even though they go also by the name laptop it’s best not to use them in your lap.

It’s also rare that they can be significantly upgraded so buy the best you can otherwise you could be forced into an early replacement purchase defeating that initial low cost outlay.

But get it right and a Laptop can be a great purchase – spend more than £600 to get a good one check that the processor is at least an i5 or AMD’s equivalent. Get one with at least 4Gb memory and 500Gb hard drive. And don’t forget that screen look for a bright HD screen that can be viewed in daylight.

Netbooks – those cut size Laptops have had their day tablet computers have over taken from them, but saying that I still use one for photography on the go, my Acer One has a ITB hard drive and built in SD card support meaning I can transfer my photos to the hard drive on the fly and view them on a relatively large screen.

Chrome – a new entry to the market, these are restricted to the Chrome OS (Linux) so you can forget running Microsoft’s products e.g. Office on them but you can add Apps, so there is some useful software out there. They are relatively slow though and are best restricted for use on the Internet. More powerful versions are coming online so watch out these could be the Laptops to have in the future.

How To’s – Powerline Network Adapter

Powerline Network Adapter

These days the majority of our customers are buying SMART TV’s without realising that to get the SMART bit working they need to connect the TV to the Internet. We also find that the majority of these TV’s do not come complete with the technology to connect immediately. You usually have to buy a WiFi dongle or run a network cable from the back of the TV to your router.

TP-LINK Powerline Adapters
TP-LINK Powerline Adapters

 

Our own experience in successfully connecting WiFi dongles to the Internet has been somewhat mixed, it works and then for some reason just stops working, which means returning to the customers home to reconnect, which is a pain.

What’s the answer? we’ll we now use Powerline Network Adapter, basically these devices turn your power sockets into a computer network. For the user all you do is put one into a socket near to the device be it a computer or TV and the other goes next to your Internet Router. You tend to buy these devices in pairs and most are paired straight out of the box, but if not it’s a simple case of holding down a button between 3 and 8 seconds until the LED’s flash and then they pair. Pairing means they are linked together.

The ones we buy come with 2 short Cat 5 network cables so there’s usually nothing else to buy.

These devices are great for extending your wireless network. We’ve used them to link one router to another in effect creating 2 wireless hotspots. This is really easy to do, most of us have an old wireless router laying around, which has it’s own Hub/Bridge built in, which you can connect to the Powerline Adapter using the Cat 5 cable. Forget the Internet or telephone line connection on the 2nd router as it will get this connection over the Powerline Network Adapter from the first router, which is already connected to the internet. (NB: this does not work with BT Hubs – you cannot have 2 BT Hubs running at the same time)

As a bonus 200Mbps is fast enough to Stream Full HD movies so you can use these to connect your PC/Mac to your TV and stream your media over the power lines to your TV. We’ve setup several TV’s to use this technology by searching for a media server in the TV’s SMART menu, not all TV’s support this but SONY and Samsung and I suspect Sharp TV’s do work well with this setup.

This is our current favourite Powerline setup.

TP-Link TL-PA211KIT 200Mbps Mini Powerline Ethernet Adapter – TPack

Technical Details
  • HomePlug AV standard compliant, high-speed data transfer rate of up to 200Mbps, enough for HD video
  • Super Small Design with a new exterior, blends in completely in front of any power outlet
  • Twin Pack design good for establishing a Powerline network initially
  • No new wires, use existing electrical wires
  • Up to 300 meters range over the household power circuit for better performance through walls or across floors
  • Easy Plug and Play operation, No configuration required
  • Patented Power-Saving Mode automatically reduces power consumption by up to 65% (Actual data will vary because of the network conditions and environment factors)
  • Establish a 128-bit AES encryption to secure Powerline communications simply by pressing the Pair button on the adapter
  • Built-in QoS assures the quality of bandwidth sensitive applications such as voice, video and online games
  • Supports IGMP managed multicast IP transmission, optimizes IPTV streaming
  • Standards: HomePlug AV, IEEE802.3, IEEE802.3u
  • Modulation Technology: OFDM
  • Protocol Support: TCP/IP
  • Network Operating System Support: Windows 98SE, 2000, XP, 2003, Vista, Windows 7, Mac, Linux (Utility only support XP, Vista, 7)
  • Advanced Features: Build-in QoS, Intelligent Channel adaptation, Support 128-bit AES Encryption
  • Interface: 1 10/100Mbps Ethernet LAN Port
  • LEDs: PWR, PLC, ETH
  • Range: 300 meters in house
  • Certifications: CE, FCC, RoHS compliant
  • Dimensions (LxWxH): 93x56x30 mm (3.6×2.2×1.2 in)
  • Temperature: 0~ 40C
  • Storage Temperature: -40~ 80C
  • Operating Humidity: 10%~ 90% RH
  • Storage Humidity: 5 %~ 90% RH
  • Power Consumption: 3 W

What Computer – Which Computer is best?

What Computer

As technology is ever improving computers are equally changing, getting faster and smaller. The choice of computer was relatively simple when it used to be limited to either a Desktop or Laptop. Now we have Netbooks and Tablet PC’s to also consider.

What Computer – The Desktop

Custom PC - Cube PC
Custom PC - Cube PC

The Desktop PC is a relatively large computer and as the name suggests it normally sits on top of your desk with a separate display, keyboard and mouse. But even this format has expanded to include all-in-one computers like the Apple iMAC and Acers Z5700 touch screen. There’s also small format media PC’s similar in size to a shoebox but retaining the separate display keyboard and mouse.

The Pros/Cons: Generally you get more performance for your money and they are upgradable so there is some obsolescence built in. The Cons: Generally they are large and need a lot of desk space (but not always see Cube PC).

What Computer – Custom PC  the desktop solution

We still think the desktop PC has a lot to offer, particularly in its future proofing. We build custom PC’s using standard components which means that we can generally offer upgrades keeping pace with advances in technology and changing needs.

For example a customer buying a entry level custom PC  from us for say running Microsoft’s Office and maybe surfing the Internet then develops an interest in digital photography. In most cases this would generally mean buying a new computer or laptop but for our customers we can upgrade the memory and add better graphics capabilities and so for a much smaller cost they can continue to use the same computer for their new interest.

We’ve added more details on this in another post which can be read here.

What is a Network – What is a PC Network?

PC Networks are simply a way of connecting 2 or more PC computers together to share information, files, music, pictures and these days a printer and Internet connection.

BT Hub
BT Hub

Most of you will have all you need to put together a PC Network for example if you are connected to the Internet chances are you are using a Wireless Hub that’s the box connected to your telephone/cable connection. You either already connect to it using either a wireless connection or a cable connected to one of the sockets on your Hub.

If your lucky your hub has 4 of these sockets which means you can connect up to 3 more PC computers by cable (cat5) to the hub. You can connect considerably more using WiFi usually up to 255 computers.

BT Hub network connections
BT Hub network connections

Now it gets difficult you’ve connected your computers together but now you have to get them to share data by setting up the PC computer for File and Print Sharing. This should be all that is necessary but experience tells us that there maybe problems with permissions, security and policies etc.

Unless your fully knowledgeable on PC computers I recommend that you talk to us about setting up your PC Network when you get to this point.

iPad as a Universal Remote

I’ve finally found a use for the iPad. Up to now I’ve thought it’s a toy for people who cannot afford the MacBook or for those hoping it will do the job of an iPod and a MacBook, but it’s too large to carry in your inside pocket and underpowered to really do serious work with.

Enter the RedEye Mini

RedEye Mini
RedEye Mini

But apparently a company called ThinkFlood has thought about this and have come up with an adapter RedEye Mini which for $49 turns the iPad (with suitable software) into a Universal Remote. They also have a similar product for the iPod Touch and iPhone.

Example Screen Shots

OK the iPads not small but it compares well with other Home Cinema control systems and of course it will also have added features over these devices so when not using as a Universal Remote you can use it surf the internet – maybe check the channel guide online before selecting your TV channel or decide whether to reach for a DVD for those many evenings when there is just nothing on.

For those of us that love gadgets now you can justify buying an iPad even if it’s just so that you can consign all those remote controls for the TV, DVD, Satellite, Audio Systems, Cinema System and so on that you have laying around to the back of the cupboard.

Crestron - iPad Home Automation
Crestron - iPad Home Automation

The Pro AV Industry is also developing similar Home Automation systems using the iPad with configurable icons which will allow the consumer to design their own control system with unique icons. Using this for example you could write a sequence (Macro) to turn on/off the lights, close the curtains, lower the screen and activate all the Home Cinema Equipment ready for you to just drop your Blu-ray disk into the player and you are ready to show.

iPad as a Universal Remote

I’ve finally found a use for the iPad. Up to now I’ve thought it’s a toy for people who cannot afford the MacBook or for those hoping it will do the job of an iPod and a MacBook, but it’s too large to carry in your inside pocket and underpowered to really do serious work with.

Enter the RedEye Mini

RedEye Mini
RedEye Mini

But apparently a company called ThinkFlood has thought about this and have come up with an adapter RedEye Mini which for $49 turns the iPad (with suitable software) into a Universal Remote. They also have a similar product for the iPod Touch and iPhone.

Example Screen Shots

OK the iPads not small but it compares well with other Home Cinema control systems and of course it will also have added features over these devices so when not using as a Universal Remote you can use it surf the internet – maybe check the channel guide online before selecting your TV channel or decide whether to reach for a DVD for those many evenings when there is just nothing on.

For those of us that love gadgets now you can justify buying an iPad even if it’s just so that you can consign all those remote controls for the TV, DVD, Satellite, Audio Systems, Cinema System and so on that you have laying around to the back of the cupboard.

Crestron - iPad Home Automation
Crestron - iPad Home Automation

The Pro AV Industry is also developing similar Home Automation systems using the iPad with configurable icons which will allow the consumer to design their own control system with unique icons. Using this for example you could write a sequence (Macro) to turn on/off the lights, close the curtains, lower the screen and activate all the Home Cinema Equipment ready for you to just drop your Blu-ray disk into the player and you are ready to show.

Maxed out your hard drive! – clone a new one

I’ve had to do this myself on numerous occasions now – you’ve maxed out your hard drive there’s just no more room left for all those programs, images and music files you’ve downloaded.

Internal Hard Drive
Internal Hard Drive

An easy solution is buy yourself an external disk and move your data to that, but sometimes, particularly if it’s a laptop you just want a bigger drive.

I’d say this is not a job for the non technical as you need to go inside the laptop at some point but here’s the process.

You need to buy a replacement hard drive – I’d go for a minimum of 500GB it should be a 2.5″ drive and as this is an upgrade I’d buy one with a spin rate of 7200 rpm and go for a 16MB cache. This can have a significant improvement on the original 5400rpm drive, making power up and the running of programs almost a third faster.

You also need a external hard drive enclosure with USB – you need this as you will fit your new drive in this for the cloning process before installing into your laptop.

You will also need some software to be able to clone your drive – I’d recommend a free program called TODO Backup which can be downloaded from here:- http://www.todo-backup.com/

The Process

  1. Install your new hard drive into it’s enclosure
  2. Connect to your laptop via USB and make sure that your computer recognises it.
  3. Run your cloning software and following the instructions, make sure you se t your laptop drive as the source and the USB drive as your destination.
  4. Depending on the size of your drive the cloning process can take several hours so make sure your laptop is connected to the supply otherwise the process will fail when your laptop runs out of power and shuts down.
  5. When the cloning process is complete shut down your laptop.
  6. Remove the new cloned drive from it’s enclosure.
  7. Remove your drive from your laptop – it usually just slides out but sometimes it’s in a cradle and so you will have remove the drive from this.
  8. Install the new drive first into the cradle if it has one  and then slide into the connectors on the laptop.
  9. Now comes the good part – restart your laptop and all being well your new drive boots and shows your all your programs and Windows Explorer lets you see how much more space you have.
  10. However you may find it’s exactly the same size as the old drive as it’s cloned it exactly. To get around this you need to resize the partition for which you will need Partition Software which is also a free download from here:- http://www.partition-tool.com/
  11. Now you can install your old drive into the enclosure and this gives you the bonus of an external drive that’s a complete backup of your original files and data.

I need to add a note here – sometimes the new drive needs to be re-mounted – what this means is you need a Windows systems disk to run Repair and this will remount your drive and update your boot record.

Maxed out your hard drive! – clone a new one

I’ve had to do this myself on numerous occasions now – you’ve maxed out your hard drive there’s just no more room left for all those programs, images and music files you’ve downloaded.

Internal Hard Drive
Internal Hard Drive

An easy solution is buy yourself an external disk and move your data to that, but sometimes, particularly if it’s a laptop you just want a bigger drive.

I’d say this is not a job for the non technical as you need to go inside the laptop at some point but here’s the process.

You need to buy a replacement hard drive – I’d go for a minimum of 500GB it should be a 2.5″ drive and as this is an upgrade I’d buy one with a spin rate of 7200 rpm and go for a 16MB cache. This can have a significant improvement on the original 5400rpm drive, making power up and the running of programs almost a third faster.

You also need a external hard drive enclosure with USB – you need this as you will fit your new drive in this for the cloning process before installing into your laptop.

You will also need some software to be able to clone your drive – I’d recommend a free program called TODO Backup which can be downloaded from here:- http://www.todo-backup.com/

The Process

  1. Install your new hard drive into it’s enclosure
  2. Connect to your laptop via USB and make sure that your computer recognises it.
  3. Run your cloning software and following the instructions, make sure you se t your laptop drive as the source and the USB drive as your destination.
  4. Depending on the size of your drive the cloning process can take several hours so make sure your laptop is connected to the supply otherwise the process will fail when your laptop runs out of power and shuts down.
  5. When the cloning process is complete shut down your laptop.
  6. Remove the new cloned drive from it’s enclosure.
  7. Remove your drive from your laptop – it usually just slides out but sometimes it’s in a cradle and so you will have remove the drive from this.
  8. Install the new drive first into the cradle if it has one  and then slide into the connectors on the laptop.
  9. Now comes the good part – restart your laptop and all being well your new drive boots and shows your all your programs and Windows Explorer lets you see how much more space you have.
  10. However you may find it’s exactly the same size as the old drive as it’s cloned it exactly. To get around this you need to resize the partition for which you will need Partition Software which is also a free download from here:- http://www.partition-tool.com/
  11. Now you can install your old drive into the enclosure and this gives you the bonus of an external drive that’s a complete backup of your original files and data.

I need to add a note here – sometimes the new drive needs to be re-mounted – what this means is you need a Windows systems disk to run Repair and this will remount your drive and update your boot record.

Malware ‘Security Shield’

Malware Security Shield screenshot
Malware Security Shield screenshot

Watch out for the Malware “Security Shield” – I’ve fixed 2 PC’s with this already, whatever you do do not click on it as it will take you to a site demanding $79. Fortunately there’s a fix which you can download usually from your Anti-virus supplier or search the net. Be aware though you’ll have other viruses/trojans that need fixing.

‘My Security Shield’

My Security Shield
My Security Shield

This site offers a more comprehensive guide to identification and removal of this Anti-spyware app ‘My Security Shield’ which changes periodically in design but the removal is essentially the same at bleepingcomputer.com. I also recommend the use of Malwarebytes a Malware removal App which can be found for free download at download.com

Malwarebytes Screenshot
Malwarebytes Screenshot

NTFS for MAC – NTFS file system support for MAC’s

NTFS for MAC


NTFS for MAC – NTFS file system support for MAC’s

If like me you find yourself using both a PC and a MAC on a regular basis you must have come across the situation where swapping files between the 2 is needed. Unfortunately MAC does not support NTFS file systems.

Fortunately there is a utility which you can download to get around this NTFS for MAC. NTFS-3G installing this lets you read and write to NTFS formatted external hard drives. It also supports other file formats as well which is a bonus.

Apple – Downloads – System/Disk Utilities – NTFS-3G

A file system driver for the NTFS file system, enabling write support and other advanced features.

NTFS-3G Screenshot
NTFS-3G Screenshot