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since 14/07/2003


Acer Aspire SA85 (92.CF870.U83) 27/01/2007

Good things come in small packages

Acer Aspire SA85 (92.CF870.U83) Acer SA85's have become my system of choice when recommending systems to education and small business, this particular model provides a superb mix of speed, reliability and value for money. I first came in contact with Acer S85's through work, since we stopped buying from one provider and need to look for someone new. We started buying SA85's from Insight because they were cheap - they have proven better than expected. Packaging ~~~~~~~~ The SA85 comes packaged into a cardboard box about a third larger than the PC itself, inside the box is the Base Unit, Keyboard, Mouse a set of Speakers and a poly-bag containing the a kettle lead, modem cable, driver CD and a quick install guide. The speakers and keyboard/mouse are packed in cardboard, and void spaces in the box are filled with polystyrene foam, whilst this protects the contents from damage, polystyrene is harder to recycle and many areas don't offer public recycling services services, cardboard would be better. You occasionally get a two pin American kettle lead with the PC, which can be frustrating for users who do not have a stock of them although Acer have offered to make good on it if you provide them with a receipt. The huge catch is there is no display, by default this system is supplied sans display, which provides some confusion to some customers (particularly the ones that don't or can't read my handwriting) Design ~~~~~ The base unit itself is a compact box, the power, suspend and HDD/Optical activity ...

Magners Irish Cider 27/01/2007

Smooth and Sweet - must be the ingredients.

Magners Irish Cider Magners Irish Cider is a new drink to me, I discovered it during the summer of 2006 after someone suggested that Strongbow wasn't the best cider in the world. I have tried a couple of other ciders since, but I can still say that Magners has proven to be of the highest calibre, it must, however be served with ice. Presentation and Price ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~ Magners appears to come in two forms, from 500ml ring-pull cans or from 568 or 750ml bottles. The bottles are made of brown glass and the cans of aluminium so both are recyclable if services exist in your area. The labelling is a striking (and very Irish looking) yellow, green and black with gold bordering around the logos. The bottles are crimp style (i.e. not screw cap) with foiling over the bottle top, supposedly to preserve freshness. The actual content of said containers is a rich golden/orange colour that after a couple of pints is strangely mesmerising when the light hits the glass on a summer day. Magners is quite expensive for a cider, my local charges £3.20 a 586ml bottle, which isn't going to break the bank, but it is enough to make you feel guilty if you don't buy the first round. Taste ~~~~~ I will state the obvious that Magners tastes a bit of apple, you notice it most when you pour it out and the fizz comes to the top as the smell hits your nose you can taste before the pint is anywhere near your lips. The bottles say that the Magners is a blend of seventeen different variety's of apples but it ...

Eve Online (PC) 27/01/2007

The EVE of Enjoyment

Eve Online (PC) EVE is one of those games that you will struggle to put down; the game itself grabs you from the outset. The graphics are nothing less than stunning; you don't even need a top end graphics card. The game play itself can be a little hard to grasp, however pick your friends and you will be well on the way to that big payout. SIGN UP ~~~~~~~ After you have created your account, you will be presented with three empty slots. Click on one of these slots and you will be asked some basic questions about the character you want to create. There are four basic races in the game, each one having particular attributes and skills that are associated with them. You will then be asked to give your character a history, what bloodline did he or she come from, to what school did he or she go, and what did he or she learn at school. These choices will further affect what skills your character starts with. Before your character is finally created you will be asked to create a face for them, this will appear next to your biography and next to text you type in chat channels. The customisation options and the rendering quality is awesome, you can change your appearance from the sharpness of your chin to the "evilness" of your eyes. SKILLS ~~~~~~ Since I have been talking about skills, there are currently over 300 skills implemented in game, you can choose to train any skill you want at any time, however some skills have other skills at its pre-requisites. Each skill has a rank, which ...

Mozilla Firefox 26/01/2007

Firefox 2.0 - Just a version number?

Mozilla Firefox Firefox is one of those internet "things" that happen and everyone knows about it, even if they don't know exactly what it is, they have read about it in the newspaper or seen it on TV, does that make Firefox media hype or is there some substance behind the graphics and press releases... I believe there is. Many have criticised the Mozilla Foundation of releasing Firefox 2.0 too early to try and take some of the glory from Microsoft. It is true it was released at around the same time as Internet Explorer 7 (as was Opera 9) however I believe the features speak for themselves and show a maturation of the browser after its début to the mainstream browser market with Firefox 1.0. The major feature that you will notice with Firefox 2.0 is the front end graphics have had a refresh, very little has changed with the functionality although the way that tabs are handled is far more like Opera and IE7, and indeed Firefox 1.5 with Tab Mix Plus. The feature I found to be the most useful (and unfortunately the least intuitive) is the in-line spell checking, this facility allows "spell as you type" style spell checking in all text. Unfortunately to get it to work you have to install a dictionary, fortunately these dictionary's are the same as those provided for Thunderbird. With the advent of phishing on the internet both IE7 and Firefox have included phishing filters that attempt to highlight suspicious websites, fortunately (or hopefully not unfortunately) I have not had an ...

ABIT NF7-S2 - motherboard - ATX - Socket A - nForce2 Ultra 400 30/01/2005

ABIT of NForce can go a long way

ABIT NF7-S2 - motherboard - ATX - Socket A - nForce2 Ultra 400 ABIT boards have always been the choice for the PC enthusiast, their mix of performance, stability and features; have always provided the most to those people who want to get as much out of their computer as humanly possible. Now that the AMD’s Socket A range of processors have finally come to an end the NF7-S is arguably the best Socket A motherboard in the market. Version 2 of the board fixed a lot of the problems with the original board resulting in a feature packed stable board affordable for even those on the tightest budget. Board Features ~~~~~~~~~~~~ The board itself comes in a rather attractive red PCB; the connectors may not be a bright and exciting as the UV reactive connectors on the DFI LANParty. The positioning of the connectors however are pretty much spot on. There is plenty of clearance round the heatsink fan for some of the larger heatsink/fan combinations. The IDE and Floppy connectors are close to the drives, without being up so close that the cables become crumpled. The only flaw with the connectors is the placement of the ATX and the ATX12v connector as it requires the thick ATX cable to be double back under the power supply. DDR Memory can be fitted to the board via the three, DIMM slots, these slots can take up to 1GB DIMMs each totalling a respectable maximum of 3GB (the technical limit of any mother board is 3.5GB) the motherboard supports Dual-DDR mode, which is intended to speed up access to memory by doubling the number of reads and ...

Toshiba Satellite Pro A40 29/01/2005

The Office Laptop

Toshiba Satellite Pro A40 Toshiba are arguably one of the best known business laptops, they are certainly know for their price tag if little else. However in recent years they have been pushing into the lower end markets with surprisingly good quality laptops at reasonable prices. Toshiba’s Satellite Pro range represents the middle range of business laptops, supporting the normal run-of-the-mill business applications such as Word, Excel and Power Point. However they are not the best buy if you are looking at buying for a general purpose laptop. The graphics card is not up to anything more than the simplest 3D rendering, and the connectivity options leave a lot to be desired. The Hardware ~~~~~~~~~~~ Starting with the basics, the SP-A40 a reasonably slim laptop only 38mm deep, 340mm wide and 265mm back to front. The TFT display is a clear and comfortable 380mm corner to corner (14”). Toshiba haven’t made the best use of the space available to them as there is 28mm of horizontal and 30mm vertical plastic “screen real-estate” that the TFT could have been pushed out into. Below the screen are the basic controls, from right to left: Power, Rewind, Fast Forward, Play/Pause and Stop. Other than the power button, the controls require proprietary software to be installed and running to operate. The keyboard is average for a laptop, the normal selection of compressed keys. The notable relocation of the “Windows” keys from either side of the keyboard to the top right section of the keyboard along with ...

Lenovo ThinkCentre S50 8086 (VZA26UK) 19/01/2005

ThinkCentre... Think Smarter

Lenovo ThinkCentre S50 8086 (VZA26UK) ThinkCentre... Think Smarter IBM’s range of workstations have always been backed up with a long history, after all shouldn’t IBM be the experts, they did “invent” the PC after all! IBM’s ThinkCentre range represents IBM’s mid-range business workstations, enough power and multimedia capabilities to run the top end office and productivity, whilst keeping costs down to make the systems as affordable as possible. A hidden but equally important part of the ThinkCentres resides inside the computer and installed on the hard drives, these discrete design decisions and software packages that are shipped with the machines. I have recently installed 86 IBM ThinkCentre S50’s at work; this review is my attempt to distil my experiences into words. WHATS IN THE BOX? ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~ When the box arrives at your door, or in my case three pallets full of them, you are presented with a small, but heavy box. Most of the box is taken up with packaging, all cardboard, so nicely recyclable. In amongst the packaging you will find everything you would expect to find with the average computer, PS2 Keyboard, USB Mouse, Manual, desk stand, and Software CD. The system unit itself is small only 310mm by 350mm by 75 mm but very heavy as the machine is built primarily from steal. On the front there is a floppy drive, optical drive, headphone and microphone sockets, two USB ports, a power switch, power indicator LED and a hard drive activity indicator. On the back there are six additional USB ...
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