Best Tech advice

Monday 30th July 2012

Easy Ways to Clear Space on Your Laptop’s Hard Drive

By Melanie Pinola | PC World | 30 July 2012

   
Here’s how to get some breathing room back.

That’s true whether you have a gigantic hard drive quickly filling up with applications, movies, music, and photos or live with one of the newer ultrathin laptops sporting fast but tiny solid-state drives that can’t hold much to begin with.
 
Thankfully, lots of easy ways exist to reclaim hard-drive space and keep the dreaded “out-of-disk-space” warnings away. Let’s check some of them out.

Clean Up Files You No Longer Need

The first step is to get rid of the common space-hogging culprits. These include unnecessary applications and a variety of useless system files. Your Recycle Bin, Temp folders, and random system files may be hogging gigabytes of potential free space. Microsoft’s built-in disk cleaner, Windows Disk Cleanup, will free up this space for you.
 
Go to the Start menu, type disk cleanup in the search box, and press Enter for the screen where you can whisk these items away. (If you have a particularly packed system, have patience while Disk Cleaner does its magic.) By the way, you can schedule Disk Cleanup to run regularly in Windows’ Task Scheduler. Here’s how:
Click the Start button, type Task Scheduler in the search form, and press Enter.
 
Under the Actions menu, select Create Basic Task. Follow the wizard to enter a description and set a daily/weekly/other schedule, then type cleanmgr.exe in the Filename box to schedule it. That method runs Disk Cleanup at a set time but still requires your input. If you want to run Disk Cleanup in the background without your supervision, you can create a scheduled task to do this using the command line:

Here are some other areas to consider for cleanup.

Uninstall Unnecessary Applications: At one point or another most of us have installed programs we thought we would use, or just wanted to try, but ultimately don’t need.
 
To get rid of those unnecessary applications, such as old games or tax software good for only one year, go to the Start menu, then Control Panel, and click Programs and Features. Select the program or programs you want to uninstall, and click the Uninstall button at the top.
 
Also, if you have more than one video player or music player or other types of duplicate applications, get rid of the dupes. Use a Dedicated System Cleanup Tool: Sometimes your manual cleanup efforts don’t catch all the stray items that can be wasting disk space. A utility designed just for thoroughly cleaning your system can do the job a lot better.
 
For a complete cleaning job, take a look at CCleaner. This free utility erases browser histories and caches, temporary files, system restore points, and other items responsible for your disk drive’s bloat. Eyeball Your ‘Miscellaneous’ Folders: Some types of folders also just magically accumulate more files.
 
Maybe you have a “temp” or “misc” folder that you just stuff random bits into. Make sure all those forgotten files are ones you actually want to keep; move the useful ones into folders with more helpful names and delete the others.
One folder you should definitely weed out regularly is the Downloads folder. If you ever want to reinstall a program, chances are you’ll want to use the latest version available from the developer’s website rather than the dated one you downloaded long ago into that catch-all folder, so feel free to delete those old installation files.

Target Large and Duplicate Files

If you’ve done the above, you’ve made a big improvement in your hard drive space usage, but now let’s dig deeper.
To find out what’s really taking the most amount of space on your hard drive, use a disk space analyzer. WinDirStat (free) scans your drive to show you graphically how much space each file takes up. Select the large blocks in WinDirStat to hone in on the files that are taking up the most space–and are therefore candidates for deletion.
 
Auslogics Duplicate File Finder (free) finds those pesky files you’ve stored in more than one folder. You can also search solely for duplicate files that take up a large amount of space, quickly identifying the worst offenders.

Move Key Folders to an External Drive

  Perhaps the easiest way to slim up your system is to expand your space with an external drive. With a cheap USB hard drive or even a flash memory card, you can store your growing collection of photos and videos off of your computer and use your primary drive just for launching your operating system and applications quickly.
 
  Prices on external drives have dropped dramatically recently, so you can have tons of cheap space just for this purpose. If you’re really stuck on space, you can move your whole My Documents folder to another location (that is, another drive).
 
To do this, right-click on the My Documents folder in Windows Explorer and go to the folder’s properties. Then choose the right destination under the Location tab. Or you could move just select folders to your external drive. Just make sure that you have a backup system in place for the files on your external drive, as you would (or should) for your internal drive. Back up the folders both locally and with online backup services like Crashplan and Backblaze, which can back up external drives.

Store on the Web

   Cloud storage services offer tons of free space online you can use instead of your hard drive. Microsoft’s SkyDrive, for example, gives you 7GB or 25GB free (depending on when you signed up for the service), while Box, Google Drive, and SugarSync Free offer 5GB. Dropbox Basic starts at 2GB for free.
 
If you get in on promotions that these services sometimes run, you could score even more space–Box, for example, has offered 50GB free in the past. To really save space, though, the service you use will have to let you either simply upload your files without having to sync them, as Box does, or exclude some folders from syncing (otherwise, you’ll still have those folders and files stored on your computer).
 
SkyDrive and SugarSync don’t seem to have this selective syncing feature, but Dropbox and Google Drive both do.
To stop syncing all folders to Google Drive, right-click on the Google Drive Tool, then go to Preferences. Check the box for Only sync some folders to this computer.
 
  For Dropbox, go to the Dropbox preferences, then the Advanced tab, and click the Selective Sync button. This is a great way to keep large folders like videos and photos in your online storage space and remove them from your computer’s hard drive. Other services you can use to save space include Amazon Cloud Drive (ideal for storing your music), Picasa or Flickr for your photos, and, of course, YouTube for videos.

Run Software in Your Browser

Finally, Web-based software can often rival desktop software in functionality–and such programs are often free. Instead of installing an office suite on your computer, you can use Google Docs or run Microsoft Office Web apps from within SkyDrive online.
 
Pixlr Editor can substitute for the space-hungry Photoshop for photo editing, PDFescape does the job of Adobe Acrobat, Screenr is an online screen recorder that can replace Camtasia, and, instead of Quicken for your personal finances, you could try Mint or Adaptu.
 
So don’t feel cramped if you have a small hard drive. Use some of these strategies and you may find your hard drive to be bigger than you thought.
 
Wednesday 14th March 2012

Important information on how to Protect Your Laptop

Follow our guide to safeguard your laptop, as well as the data that resides on it.

  

A laptop’s portability makes it convenient–and an easy target for thieves.

Losing your laptop can be devastating, especially if you keep important documents and files on its hard drive, without a backup. Here are five ways to protect your laptop from being stolen (or from remaining stolen), as well as to safeguard the data you store on it.

1. Use a Physical Lock: Physically locking your laptop to an immovable object isn’t exactly the coolest thing you can do, but it works. Just about every laptop on the market is equipped with a small lock slot that works with laptop locks such as the Kensington ClickSafe Keyed Laptop Lock (€45) or the Targus Ultra Max Laptop Cable Lock (€50).

These laptop locks work just as bicycle chain locks do: You find a large, immovable object, such as your desk, and wrap the metal cable around it. Insert the lock into your laptop’s lock slot, and your computer becomes virtually theft-proof, assuming that the thief cares about keeping it in working condition. This isn’t a viable solution for many places–you’re unlikely to find a lot of immovable furniture in a coffee shop, for instance–but it is useful if you need to leave your laptop alone for any amount of time (say, in a hotel room).

2. Install Tracking Software: Well, your laptop has been stolen. Or perhaps you lost it, and some unscrupulous individual picked it up (in other words, they stole it).

How can you retrieve it? Fire up the laptop-tracking software that you had the foresight to install on your machine.

A new breed of laptop security software has arrived, and it’s very effective. Using several different elements, including IP address locations, Wi-Fi positioning, and even the ability to turn on the laptop’s webcam remotely, laptop-tracking software can help you get your laptop back.

Flipcode’s Hidden, Absolute Software’s LoJack for Laptops, and ActiveTrak’s GadgetTrak are just a few examples of laptop-tracking software.

A small Mac application, the €15-a-year Hidden uses IP addresses to pinpoint your laptop’s location. On top of that, Hidden can take photos remotely using your laptop’s webcam, as well as capture screenshots of what the thief does on your computer, so you can identify the culprit by both face and name (if the person happens to log in to an email account or social network).

LoJack costs €30 a year, and works on both Windows and Mac computers. In addition to tracking your stolen laptop, LoJack lets you freeze your computer remotely, create a custom message to display on its screen, and remotely erase files from your laptop–a huge plus for business users who might be carrying sensitive documents.

GadgetTrak works with both Windows and Mac machines, and costs $20 a year. GadgetTrak uses Wi-Fi positioning to find the location of your laptop within about 10 to 20 feet, and lets you take remote photos of your laptop’s captor. The software is also tamper-proof, so no one can modify it on the laptop unless you deactivate the software from the GadgetTrak website.

Having laptop-tracking software installed on your portable doesn’t guarantee its recovery, and you’ll have to combine the software with some old-fashioned sleuthing (checking your local Craigslist ads for laptop fire sales, for example) in order to catch the thief. But it’s definitely a start.

3. Back Up Your Data: Losing a €1000 piece of machinery is pretty bad, but losing a €1000 piece of machinery with all of your important files on it is much, much worse. If your laptop ends up in the wrong hands, the last thing you want is for all of your data to land there too.

For this reason, you should probably invest in a physical external hard drive, such as the supertough IoSafe Solo Pro (€350 for 1TB), which is both waterproof and fireproof, or the versatile, hot-swappable LaCie 2big Quadra (€369 for 2TB). You don’t have to back up your computer every 5 seconds, but it is a good idea to back up the machine whenever you can remember to do so. It’s also wise to keep sensitive documents off portable machines and drives entirely, if at all possible.

For backing up recent documents, I prefer using cloud-based backup services such as Dropbox or Mozy. Cloud-based backup services are much more convenient because you can access them from anywhere you have an Internet connection, and you don’t have to plug your laptop into a physical hard drive.

Dropbox gives you 2GB of free storage space, which isn’t enough for an entire hard-drive backup, but is usually plenty of room for recent documents and files. Dropbox works by putting a folder on your system: All you have to do is save a file in that folder, and it automatically syncs with Dropbox’s server. The benefit of this autosync process is that even if someone steals your computer right then, you’ll still be able to access that file by signing in to Dropbox from another computer.

Mozy is more of a traditional backup service. For €6 a month, Mozy gives you 50GB of space for backing up your entire hard drive (if you so choose). Mozy also offers multiple restore options, including Web-restore and DVD-restore, as well as through the Mozy software client. Restoring files from the Mozy cloud is a more involved process than simple syncing, though–it’s backup software, not file-sharing software.

Passwords and Insurance

4. Don’t Store Passwords: It doesn’t matter how many obscure punctuation marks your password has if your computer automatically remembers all of your passwords. Be wary of using password-management programs such as LastPass on anything that could be stolen (it’s okay to stick LastPass on your 40-pound desktop, if you wish). You should also refrain from typing all of your passwords into a plain-text file on your computer.

[For tips on building secure, memorable passwords, check out “How to Build Better Passwords Without Losing Your Mind.”]

If you lose your laptop, you should still take the precautionary measure of changing all of the passwords to your online accounts, just in case something slipped through the cracks. Also remember to file a police report and consider identity theft protection programs, especially if you ever made an online purchase using the laptop.

5. Get Insurance: You can find multiple kinds of insurance that will cover your laptop being stolen, lost, or dropped.

The first place to check is with the laptop’s manufacturer: Many companies offer extra insurance (for an extra fee, naturally). You can also check with the store you purchased the laptop from–retailers like Best Buy typically sell extended warranties. Keep in mind, though, that extended warranties sometimes offer accident protection but rarely provide theft protection, so you may want to skip these plans if your main fear is losing your laptop.

If you can’t get your laptop adequately insured by the manufacturer or by the store you purchased it from, take a look at your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance. Many renter’s and homeowner’s policies insure all of your private property, no matter where it is when it’s stolen. These policies vary greatly, but usually they are limited to theft, vandalism, fire, and flooding–not accidental coffee spills or a fall from a windowsill.

If you use your laptop primarily for business purposes, your business’s insurance policy may also cover it.

Beyond those options, if you still can’t find the coverage you want, you can always consult third-party laptop and electronics insurance companies. These services offer the most comprehensive coverage for a notebook, though they can be expensive if your machine is already covered under another insurance policy. Safeware offers stand-alone notebook insurance that covers everything from theft and vandalism to cracked screens, accidental damage, and liquid spills.

I have not used Safeware personally, but I have used the similar, student-specific coverage from CSI Insurance Agency. It protects electronic equipment from theft, fire, floods, earthquakes, vandalism, electrical damage, water damage, and accidental damage. While I had CSI, I successfully filed three claims (one for laptop damage, and two for stolen cameras).

Protect Yourself? Even if you take all of these precautionary steps, having your laptop stolen will still be painful. But it will be less painful if you know that your files are backed up, your passwords are safe, your insurance company will pay for the loss, and you have a very real chance of catching the crook.

Friday 12th November 2011

How Is the Internet Changing the Way we Think?ed

  How Web 2.0 is Changing the Way we Communicate

Has it all become much too fast now? asks Andrew Pettie, reviewing How is the Internet Changing the Way You Think? ed by John Brockman.

Before we decry the internet – and who doesn’t enjoy a spot of internet-decrying, especially online? – it’s worth remembering that the world wide web is only a modern solution to an ancient problem.

Since the dawn of communication, human beings have needed to store, retrieve, filter, interpret and exchange information. The only difference today is that the internet achieves this at faster speeds and greater levels of sophistication than our brains, which leaves many of us feeling flustered.

You can hear this faint alarm bell of anxiety ringing in the title of John Brockman’s thought-provoking collection of essays, How Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think? (Note the implication: the internet is moulding us, not the other way around.)

Brockman is the editor of Edge (edge.org), a group of illustrious thinkers that aims to “seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds… and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves”. Members include Ai Weiwei, Brian Cox and Ian McEwan.

Each year Brockman asks a “big” question (in 2001 it was “what questions have disappeared?”; this year’s is “what is your favourite deep, elegant or beautiful explanation?”) and invites Edge’s 674 members to reply.

Thankfully, many of Edge’s essayists violently disagree with each other. To some, the internet is “a work of genius, one of the highest achievements of the human species” (Richard Dawkins) and “the most human of technologies” (the historian Noga Arikha). To others, it is “the greatest detractor to serious thinking since the invention of the television” (the neurobiologist Leo Chalupa) and “nothing more… than a very useful, and very dumb, butler” (the neuroscientist Joshua Greene).

The essays are peppered with insights. These include a theory that virtual cities will encourage states of psychosis, as real cities already do, and the observation that what we call old media (books, newspapers, television) are, in fact, very recent inventions, whereas websites based on communal sharing, such as Facebook, signal a return to prehistoric, tribal patterns of communication.

Some essays are detailed and logical, advancing their case via bullet points; others verge on the poetic: “where has slowness gone?”

The answer to the question posed in this anthology’s title appears, at least in biological terms, to be no. Or rather, not yet. “We know this,” says Mark Pagel, professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Reading, “because we can still visit some people on Earth who don’t have the internet, and they think the same way we do. My general-purpose thinking circuits are hard-wired into my brain from genetic instructions honed over millions of years of natural selection.” (The internet may not have evolved Pagel’s brain but it is clearly influencing his choice of metaphor.)

It is true that learning a new skill – such as solving crosswords or playing the piano – does reshape our brains. The hippocampus enlarges in the brains of London cabbies as they learn the Knowledge. It doesn’t mean, however, that cabbies think in a fundamentally different way from the rest of us. (They do, of course; it’s just not the fault of their enlarged hippocampi.)

It is also pleasing to read that people who claim the internet has improved their “multitasking skills” are talking rot. “Genuine multitasking, at present, probably exceeds the limitations of the attentional system of Homo sapiens,” the cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman says.

To illustrate the same point, Steven Pinker quotes Woody Allen’s joke about how a speed-reading course enabled him to read War and Peacein 20 minutes. Allen’s exegesis: “It involves Russia.”

The process of compiling and reading this book is an example of how the internet is both a help and a hindrance. Canvassing the opinions of so many far-flung thinkers would have taken months, if not years, of correspondence prior to the invention of email. Yet I’m glad it is available as a printed book. If its 140 short essays had been displayed on a website, there is no way I would have finished them. My mind would have flitted elsewhere, you would now be staring at a blank white space and I would probably have lost £25 playing online poker.

In fact, the only moments when I was able to think in a steady, concentrated way about the impact of the internet on my intellectual capacity came at times when I was forcibly disconnected from it: standing in the shower; going for a jog. The internet may not have changed the way we think, yet. But it is affecting our ability to concentrate.

Nevertheless, is it fair to blame a brilliant new technology for our failure to use it productively? Instead of playing poker, I could have downloadedWar and Peace.

How to Boost Your Smartphone Battery Life                                        

Tired of watching your phone die when you need it the most? Here’s a collection of tips and tricks for wringing a little extra juice from your Android, iOS, or Windows Phone 7 smartphone’s battery.

Tips and tricks to maximize the battery life of your Android, iOS or Windows Phone 7 device.

Do you know where your smartphone is? Unless you’re using it to read PCWorld.com, your phone is probably plugged into an outlet somewhere to charge, because the battery stinks. You can find plenty of good reasons why your smartphone battery sucks, most of which stem from the failure of lithium ion batteries to keep pace with the exponentially increasing power demands of rapidly evolving smartphone technology. Thankfully, plenty of tips and tutorials are available to help you wring every last drop of juice from your smartphone battery, and such tricks can be distilled down to two critical steps: Configure your smartphone for maximum battery life, and then download a reliable and trustworthy battery-optimization app.

Optimize Your Phone for Maximum Battery Life

Configuring your smartphone for maximum battery life entails giving up a few luxuries such as GPS tracking and a stunningly bright screen; but after testing these tricks, we’re willing to bet that you won’t even notice the loss. What you will notice is the few extra hours of battery life you’ll earn with simple tweaks such as dimming your smartphone screen, reducing the screen timeout to the shortest available time (preferably 15 seconds or less), and switching off the power-sucking Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radios when you aren’t using them. Making those three changes should net you an extra hour or two before your phone dies. If that’s not enough, however, check out our complete list of tricks that boost your smartphone’s battery life.     ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………  Friday 16th September

The LG Scanner-Mouse is the real magic mouse                                                DSC_0136 copy                          The new favourite device of the show is unquestionably the beautiful Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7. But our second? It’s not a phone, it’s not a tablet or a laptop, just a mere peripheral: the LG LSM-100 Scanner Mouse.

Nestled away at the back of LG’s vast, mostly 3D focused booth here at IFA 2011 in Berlin was this delightful little device, which works as a typical laser mouse, but contains a hidden secret – turn it on and move it over a piece of paper and it scans it in for you at up to 320dpi, saving you the bulk of a huge, dedicated machine if you’re determined to move to a paperless office once and for all.

The LG LMS-100 Scanner Mouse can save in all sorts of format (JPEG, TIFF, PNG, BMP, XLS, DOC, PDF) and can even share your boring documents to Facebook, Twitter, and perhaps more usefully, Flickr, and it works on Windows XP and UP, as well as Mac OS X.

We had a go beaming something in, and were surprised at just how sharp the image is, with clear, flat text and no sign of the crumples in the paper. It almost makes scanning fun, ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..  Thursday 8th September 2011   

How to clone a PC’s hard drive &

 Backup absolutely everything                             By Loyd Case | PC Advisor

If you’re about to upgrade your PC or laptop‘s hard drive or operating system, you should play it safe and clone your hard drive first. Here’s how.

There are a number of scenarios in which you might clone your hard drive. It’s ideal if you need to make a straight backup of everything on your PC, and essential if you’re about to perform a radical upgrade and want to be sure that you won’t lose any data. For example, this solid-state drive (SSD)upgrade may well involve cloning your existing drive. Drive cloning can also make a Windows upgrade less nerve-wracking.

Drive-cloning software  Norton Ghost

If you don’t want to change the operating system, the easiest way to upgrade a laptop hard drive is to use a drive-cloning tool.

Software that can make an exact, bit-for-bit copy of drive partitions has been around for years. Utilities such as Norton GhostAcronis True Image and the free DriveImage XML are useful tools for such purposes.

Here, we’ve used Acronis True Image Home 2010 (£30 inc VAT; free trial available) to clone our existing hard drive on to an SSD. We also rate the professional version of True Image for cloning system drives.

You can use a drive-cloning tool in two ways. You can create a bootable CD, then boot from that CD and run the software to copy the drive. Alternatively, you can install the program, then clone the drive by running the software within Windows.

We used the latter method, since our netbook has no optical drive.

Before we began cloning, we popped our SSD into a Thermaltake dock and plugged this into a power source. We connected a USB cable from the dock to the laptop, then booted up the machine. Once the drive was recognised, we launched True Image.

We knew from the drive layout (click Start, Run and type diskmgmt.msc) that the Recovery Partition must be 12GB and the System Reserved partition 102MB. The main partition was listed as 220.78GB, which is too large to fit our SSD. Luckily, our netbook is new, and has only about 22GB of data and applications installed on the hard drive.

We launched True Image Home and clicked ‘Clone Disk’. We chose to manually clone the drive, since we wanted to manage how the three partitions were cloned.

We then selected the source drive, which was our Toshiba hard drive, with a listed capacity of 232.9GB. Since we had only two drives connected, the SSD became our target drive.

Be sure to choose the correct target and destination drives. If you select these incorrectly, you run the risk of overwriting your system installation and losing your operating system and all your data.

We then clicked ‘Move Method’ and, since we wanted to keep the partition sizes the same, chose the ‘As is’ option. This makes exact duplicates of the small partitions, but Acronis True Image knows that the main partition will be smaller and resizes it appropriately.              ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….  Wednesday 24th August 2011

Cheaper iPhone may be in pipeline    Fake iPhones in Shanghai  Apple may be about to launch a cheaper version of its iPhone 4 as it seeks to compete with Nokia and Microsoft in markets such as China.

According to the Reuters news agency, Apple is in talks with Chinese mobile operators and the handset could be launched within weeks.

To date Apple has targeted the premium end of the mobile phone market.

However, some industry watchers are sceptical about claims of an “emerging markets” version.

“It is more likely that Apple will price down its existing model when it releases its next flagship product,” said Ben Wood, an analyst with CCS Insight.

The lower specification model would, according to Reuters, feature 8GB of internal storage, as opposed to 16GB or 32GB on the current iPhone 4.

Next generation

Apple is widely expected to launch the iPhone 5 this autumn. Speculation about its design and features is driving frantic discussion on blogs and news sites such as Macrumors.com.

Among the theories gaining traction is the introduction of a bigger touchscreen, redesigned antenna and an 8-megapixel camera.

Mr Wood believes that the idea of targeting different models at different markets made some sense.

“No-one questions Apple’s total dominance of the high-end of the market and it is a logical next step to push down the price and grab another slice of the mobile phone market,” he said.

But managing both a premium and cheaper product will be a “delicate balancing act”, he thinks.

“Apple has so far maintained an eye-watering margin that rivals can only drool over. People are prepared to stretch their budgets to get their hands on an iPhone so it will have to ensure that its premium product is good enough,” he said.

Thursday 28th July 2011. 

Group test: What’s the best pay as you go smartphone for under €300?

You are on a budget but you still want a smartphone? Look no further than here.

PC Advisor selects the Top 5 pay as you go smartphones for less than £250 available in the UK this month. We have looked right the way through our vast up-to-date selection of smartphone reviews and have picked our Top 5 smartphones based on what features you get for your money.                 1. Samsung Galaxy Pro – €300.00 Approx  Overall: 8/10  Samsung Galaxy Pro

Although it has a very small display when compared to the likes of the Apple iPhone 4 and Samsung’s own Galaxy S and Galaxy S II smartphones, the Galaxy Pro has reasonable specifications. It is powered by an 800MHz processor, has a hefty 512MB of RAM and 2GB of internal memory, and is equipped with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS.           2. BlackBerry Pearl 3G – €299.00 Approx  Overall: 8/10  BlackBerry Pearl 3G

The BlackBerry Pearl 3G is an excellent phone with some brilliant messaging, media and connectivity features. For us, however, the keyboard is a real drawback, especially since email and web address entry meant we routinely needed the full stop and @ signs, neither of which are default characters on the keypad.                                                                                       3.   Nokia X6 – €280.00 Approx  Overall: 8/10   Nokia X6

The Nokia X6 looks great, comes with tonnes of storage and has a decent onscreen keyboard. There’s also a plethora of multimedia features and an excellent onboard camera. We’re not too thrilled with the user interface, however, and using the X6 can be a frustrating experience.    4. HTC Wildfire S €240.00 Approx * Our Rating: 7/10  HTC Wildfire S

The HTC Wildfire S boasts impressive build quality and the full suite of Android features. The small phone (59x101x12mm) feels great in hand with its smooth, rounded corners and solid build.

5. Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini – €155.00 Approx Overall: 7/10Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini 

The Xperia X10 Mini clearly caught the fancy of our female colleagues who were completely at ease while dealing with the tiny phone. And the phone despite its diminutive size offered good performance across the board. So, maybe, the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini is a special offering by Sony Ericsson for the female population looking for a “size-zero” touchscreen phone that is powered by a very capable Android OS.    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  Microsoft: Windows 8 system requirements same as Windows 7, Tech giant hoping to avoid another ‘Vista Capable’ debacle                                                                                                                                      Microsoft has confirmed the system requirements for the forthcoming Windows 8 operating system will be the same as those needed to run the

Tech giant hoping to avoid another ‘Vista Capable’ debacle “In both of our Windows 8 previews, we talked about continuing on with the important trend that we started with Windows 7, keeping system requirements either flat or reducing them over time,” said Window’s corporate vice-president, Tami Reller, at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference, which took place in California this week.

“Windows 8 will be able to run on a wide range of machines because it will have the same requirements or lower.”

The existing minimum requirements for Windows 7 include a 1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of spare hard disk space and DirectX 9 graphics. Thjese are the same minimum requirements for the operating system’s predecessor, Windows Vista. Potentially, this means those with machines running Vista could be able to run Windows 8, although Microsoft did not confirm this.

Microsoft will be hoping to avoid a debacle similar to the ‘Vista Capable’ lawsuit, which saw a number of Microsoft customers claiming the company defrauded them by promoting PCs and laptops as ‘Vista Capable’ when they could only run Windows Vista Home Basic.

“We’ve also built intelligence into Windows 8 so that it can adapt to the user experience based on the hardware of the user. So, whether you’re upgrading an existing PC, or buying a new one, Windows will adapt to make the most of that hardware,” added Reller.   ***********************************************************************************  Group test: what’s the best compact camera? The Top 5 Compact Cameras you can buy

5. Fujifilm FinePix F500EXR  Fujifilm FinePix F500EXR

  • Reviewed on: 15 June 11
  • RRP: £221.3 inc VAT
  • RatingRated 8 out of 10

We found a lot to like with this attractively styled and well featured camera. For the price, it seems churlish to nitpick about elements such as the flash, which on some occasions will no doubt reward us by being ready for use when required. However, if you take a lot of close-up, detailed shots, as we do, you’ll probably favour a camera such as the exceptionally responsive Ricoh CX5 over this model, which is more about panoramas and cinematic sweeps.

4. Ricoh CX5    Ricoh CX5

  • Reviewed on: 8 June 11
  • RRP: £259 inc. VAT
  • RatingRated 8 out of 10

The Ricoh CX5 is better built than some of its rivals, and we can’t argue with the responsive focus and zoom. However, this camera is outclassed by both the Nikon Coolpix S9100 and thePanasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 and can’t handle low-light situations anything like as well as theCanon PowerShot SX220 HS.

3. Canon PowerShot SX220 HS  Canon PowerShot SX220 HS

  • Reviewed on: 1 June 11
  • RRP: £269 inc. VAT
  • RatingRated 8 out of 10

Canon has updated its likeable PowerShot SX210 superzoom camera and given it the improved high-sensitivity features that we liked so much on the chart-topping Ixus 300 HS. The Canon PowerShot SX220 HS is a dependable choice of compact. Largely similar to the SX210, it’s not the best-looking camera out there but does take consistently good photos. It’s sensible mid-priced choice. If GPS is a must, check out the Canon PowerShot SX230 HS.

2. Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20  Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20

  • Reviewed on: 6 June 11
  • RRP: £299 inc. VAT
  • RatingRated 9 out of 10

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 camera can produce clear and vibrant images, has a great zoom range, and it’s absolutely feature-packed. We found a lot to like in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20, in particular the choice of AVCHD and Mpeg4 video capture modes. It’s a decent, feature-laden camera, even without extras such as the intriguing 3D option. We were pleased to find Panasonic hasn’t sacrificed any compositional versatility, but we think this camera’s high price may put off those it is trying to convert.

1. Nikon Coolpix S9100  Nikon Coolpix S9100

  • Reviewed on: 8 June 11
  • RRP: £250.4 inc VAT
  • RatingRated 9 out of 10

Styled like a high-end enthusiasts’ compact, complete with natty pop-up flash and stereo microphones, the S9100 is nevertheless an accessible point and shoot. While we’d direct experienced photographers not requiring a large zoom to the Coolpix P300, results from the S9100 were better that expected. We could shoot at extreme telephoto setting and get pin-sharp results, while subtle corner softening at maximum wide angle is forgivable. Add a best-in-class focal range, and the Nikon’s a winner in our book. ***********************************************************************  Information Notice – The Provision of Universal Service by eircom – Performance                                        (1 January 2011 to 31 March 2011) Courtesy of (Com Reg.)

http://www.comreg.ie/_fileupload/publications/ComReg1146.pdf     Click & Check the Pdf. file link above to see full details of the Com Reg. report

******************************************************************************* The 5 best free online storage services,                                          Store, sync and share your files for no extra charge.

  1. DriveHQ FileManager
  2. Dropbox (Very good says Donie.)
  3. OpenDrive
  4. SpideOak
  5. ZumoDrive
  6. Conclusions

Online storage services like above that let you upload important files to a web-based server and access them from any of your other computers and mobile devices, are a brilliant resources for businesses.

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They usually use a virtual drive that exists on your desktop in some manner, and it is linked directly to your online storage space. The contents of this virtual hard drive remain in sync across all of the desktops, notebooks and mobile devices on which you have installed the client software.

You designate which files or folders that you want to be part of the virtual drive; everything on that drive is then automatically uploaded to an online server. From there it is accessible (by logging on with a username and a password) from your other devices, either from another installed version of the application, or via a web interface. And you can grant other people access.

However, with so many to choose from, which one should you plump for? I chose five services that store, sync and share your files in the cloud: DriveHQ, Dropbox, OpenDrive, SpiderOak and ZumoDrive and put them head-to-head to help you decide.

I reviewed them using their desktop front-end clients, and I used only the free account versions of these services (because everybody likes free stuff). Most of these also offer paid upgrades; in those cases, I list the other options that are available.

Incidentally, until recently Microsoft offered its own data synchronisation service, called Live Mesh, but it’s now defunct. Another Microsoft service, Windows Live Sync, doesn’t have direct syncing access to an online storage space. However, features of Live Mesh have been incorporated into the upcoming version of Windows Live Sync as part of Windows Live Essentials.

The new Windows Live Sync will give you 2GB of online storage for syncing files. Unfortunately, the next version of Windows Live Essentials won’t run on Windows XP, so XP users may want to check out the services in this roundup.

How we tested                                      I tried out the Windows version of the desktop application for each service. I installed the client on two laptops – one running Windows XP, the other Windows 7. The Windows XP laptop was left in my home office, turned on and connected to the onternet. The Windows 7 machine was taken to various locations with Wi-Fi access. I experimented with files ranging from 1MB up to 20MB in size.

A note about security: While all of these services employ some basic means of password protection for your files, and most offer assurances that your files travel over ‘secure connections’, the fact of the matter is that you are still uploading your personal and business files to a remote server. So beware.

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