CES 2014 finished recently, and although I’m a few weeks late, I thought I’d write about the stuff I found interesting.
Corsair Graphite 760T
Computer cases have had windows in side panels for years. However, something I’ve been wanting to see for a while is a case with a glass side panel. No matter how big that window is, if it is surrounded by metal, it just ruins the aesthetic. Luckily, Corsair seem to agree with me on this, so they made the Graphite 760T.
Of all the manufacturers to make a computer case with an acrylic side panel, I’m glad it was Corsair. Their cases have a clean aesthetic, while prioritising function over design. The side panel on the 760T is on a hinge and can easily be lifted off when it is open. There are tool-free mounts for optical drives, hard drives and SSDs.
ADATA 2TB SSDs
Talking about SSDs, ADATA have announced a 2TB SSD in a 2.5″ form factor. 2.5″ 2TB SSDs have been manufactured before, but none of them have been commercially available. However, the ADATA drive will be available to buy later this year. As always, it will cost a fortune at first, but competitors will release their 2TB SSDs and that will bring the prices down in just over a year.
SSDs are the future of computer storage. They are much faster than hard drives, and they are less prone to failure due to shock. Today, they cost about 10 times as much as regular hard drives, but prices are continuing to go down and it won’t be long before all computers have SSDs out the box.
Intel announced a computer the size of an SD card. It has an Intel Quark CPU with “Pentium grade” performance. This raises a question – Why are computers still the size of a house?
The Intel Edison is intended to be a development board for experimentation with the Internet of Things. However, I think it has an other purpose. The Intel Quark CPU in there is currently a dual-core processor and will only run at 400MHz, but if they can overclock it, I think it could be used in smartphones, tablets and even some Ultrabooks.
Dell 4K Monitors
In the next few years, many people will be replacing their HD TVs and monitors with 4K screens. Unfortunately, anything with 4K resolution seems to cost the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. The price of 4K screens will go down over time, but Dell, being a company who make their business keeping things cheap, have released 4K monitors at prices starting at $699.
Dell had to cut some corners to make such a cheap 4K monitor. Their 4K monitor uses cheaper display technology with lower quality colour and narrower viewing angles. Frame rate is also limited to 30Hz at its native resolution. However, it is still the cheapest 4K display, and it will push other manufacturers to bring their prices down.
I think we can agree that Project Christine was the best product at CES this year. It is basically a new kind of modular PC, including a large chunk in the middle which you could call the motherboard, and liquid cooled modules, including CPUs, SSDs, RAM and graphics cards, that will plug into PCIe-based connectors on the motherboard.
Project Christine will be good for people who want to build a computer, but aren’t comfortable with handling circuit boards or simply don’t know where all the cables go inside the computer. Project Christine is still in its prototype stages, but it’s a great idea and I hope it happens.
In recent years, smartphones have been getting bigger and bigger. In 2010, most flagship smartphones had screens between 3.7″ and 4″, and 4.3″ was considered huge. Today, most smartphones have screens reaching towards 5″, and many smartphones are exceeding that screen size. Now, 4.3″ is considered small.
Many people like smartphones with bigger screens, and I can see why. My Nexus 4 has a 4.7″ screen, and it is excellent for typing on. With the high resolution, it is also great for watching videos. Still, every time someone makes a bigger smartphone, I ask myself, how far are we going with this?
One-handed use isn’t too bad with my Nexus 4 when I’m scrolling through lists, but it could be better. When I’m holding my phone normally, reaching the home button or the notification bar is a bit of a stretch, and I have to move my phone a little bit to reach the top left corner or the back button.
I think Apple have the right idea with screen sizes. The iPhone 5S has a 4″ display, and Apple only increased this from 3.5″ to give the iPhone a 16:9 aspect ratio. The keyboard is still great to type on, and if you really need a bigger screen to watch movies on, you can get an iPad, or you can just turn on the TV.
I got my first computer on my 11th birthday, and I still have it today. It is a Dell Dimension 5150C with a 2.8GHz Intel Pentium D and 1GB of DDR2 RAM. It originally had a 160GB hard drive and ran Windows XP, although it has since been upgraded to 500GB and now runs Ubuntu. Back in 2006, I thought it was the best computer ever built.
I had just arrived home from school and my friends were hanging out in my bedroom. It was a 90 minute bus journey home back then, so if my friends were coming to my house, they’d probably get there before me. Anyway, I went up to my bedroom and saw a computer on my desk. This was such a surprise that I had to go downstairs to confirm with my mum if the computer was actually mine.
I was not allowed to turn my computer on straight away, because all my friends were here. They would all want a go too, and one of them would break it. I enjoyed this birthday party. It was one of the best I’d had. I got a pet hamster from my brother, and I had a home made SpongeBob SquarePants birthday cake (my favourite cartoon back then). Still, part of me wanted everyone to piss off so I could try out my new computer.
When everyone left, I turned my computer on to try it out. I had played with computers at my school, so I already knew a few things. I could maximise and minimise windows. I quickly figured out how to change the desktop wallpaper. The two problems I had with the computer at the time were the lack of Microsoft Office and it crashing when I tried to play a DVD.
A few days after I got my computer, my mum got a internet connection installed. I didn’t realise this at the time, but having a computer is basically useless if you don’t have Internet access. Sure, I could play Pinball, and I figured out the trick to getting DVDs to work, but I didn’t have access to YouTube or the wealth of SpongeBob content available online.
After a few months of having this computer, it started having problems. Every time I opened the Internet browser, it would crash. I was using Internet Explorer 6 at the time, because I didn’t know about Mozilla Firefox. From then on, I accessed the Internet by opening Windows Explorer and typing an Internet URL in the address bar. I don’t know why, but that worked.
After lessthan two years of having my computer, it had more problems. The anti-virus software that came preinstalled on the computer somehow disabled internet connectivity. It was asking for some password, and the password reset question was “What was the make of your first car?” I didn’t know how to fix the problem back then, so I had to live without internet access until we had the money for a new computer.
A few months after I got a new laptop, one of the people I subscribe to on YouTube posted a video about how to fix different computer problems that can cause a blue screen of death. One of the tricks he mentioned included a way to disable all the third party startup applications. I tried that trick on my old Dell and it worked.
As I said, I still have this computer today. It is currently being used as a server for some of my movies and TV shows. With only 1GB of RAM and the outdated CPU, I don’t think it could easily be used as someone’s primary computer. However, when I want to watch South Park on my Mac without being tethered to an external hard drive, the old Dell is a great machine for fulfilling its purpose.
A few weeks ago, Apple hosted their annual Worldwide Developer Conference, where they announced the next major releases of iOS and OS X. They also announced some pretty good updates to iCloud, as well as some new Mac hardware. This blog post is probably a bit late, but I’m going to go over what I think about Apple’s announcements.
iOS 7 gives the iPhone 4 and newer devices an entirely new look and feel, including a completely redesigned set of system apps. iOS 7 also adds a few new features, including a gallery that automatically arranges your pictures into “moments”, and a quick settings panel that can be accessed with a swipe up from below the screen.
A lot of people say iOS 7 was mostly influenced by Android. However, I think iOS 7 was influenced by nearly all competing mobile operating systems in some way. The new tab view in mobile Safari came straight from Android. The quick settings panel is also arguably influenced by Android, although I think that came from Samsung’s TouchWiz software and from SBSettings.
The translucent look and feel of the iOS 7 user interface reminds me of Jolla Sailfish, an operating system that will come on future Nokia smartphones. The new multitasking view came straight from Windows Phone. The swipe gestures could be linked to Android or Windows Phone, although in my opinion, the functions they perform are Apple’s idea.
As well as some good points, iOS 7 has its share of flaws. To begin with, the system app icons could be improved. Sure, they had to be changed, but I don’t think Apple put much thought into them. Most of the icons have been oversimplified, and the gradients they use are way too sharp. Still, some people like the new icons, and Apple have said the icons aren’t final, so hopefully they’ll look good by the final release.
iOS 7 comes with a redesigned keyboard to fit in with the translucent look and feel of the OS. However, apart from the design, the keyboard is the same as it has always been. There is no decent auto correction, and there is no option to type by sliding your thumb over the letters you want, a feature that has become increasingly available in Android over the last year.
iOS 7 will stop iPhone users from switching to Android for another year or so. However, I don’t think it will get people switching from their current smartphones. Android still allows for more customisation than iOS, and even Windows Phone has dynamic app shortcuts on the home screen, which many iPhone users have been wanting for quite a while.
The main problem I personally have with iOS 7 is the hardware support. Apple decided to stop supporting the 4th generation iPod Touch, even though it was the newest iPod Touch available less than a year ago. I don’t have a 4th generation iPod Touch, but I do have a first generation iPad, and I wasn’t happy when Apple decided not to update that to iOS 6, yet updating the iPhone 3Gs.
OS X Mavericks
OS X Mavericks comes with a few new features that I like. The new version of Safari comes with a redesigned new tab page and some speed improvements. The new version of Finder now supports tabbed browsing. Apple have also added integrated functions to system notifications, such as quickly replying to messages, or marking a new email as ‘read’.
OS X Mavericks mostly includes little improvements, such as the ability to tag files and a few software tweaks to improve the speed and battery life of their computers. As for improved support for multiple displays, I think that should have been an early software update for OS X Lion, but at least they fixed that problem at last.
These days, updates to OS X are quite cheap. OS X Mountain Lion was £13.99 from the App Store, and the year before that, OS X Lion was £20.99. I’m not expecting OS X Mavericks to cost any more than around £15, and I think that is quite good compared to the price of £50 for a Windows 8 upgrade. Assuming my 2009 MacBook Pro is still supported, I will probably buy OS X Mavericks on the day Apple release it.
Apple announced web versions of the iWork applications that will be available in iCloud later this year. The iWork web-apps will be able to edit iWork and Microsoft Office documents. iWork for iCloud doesn’t have all the functionality found in the native Mac software, but it will certainly have all the features required to make final changes to a Pages document or Keynote presentation.
Apple didn’t announce any new iOS hardware at WWDC this year. They announced a new MacBook Air with Intel’s new 4th generation Haswell architecture for improved speed and battery life, as well as a new Mac Pro, with a cylindrical design and improved cooling. They also announced a new AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule.
The new MacBook Airs have greatly improved battery life, with the 11-inch model getting 9 hours and the 13-inch model getting 12 hours. The base model MacBook Airs also got storage upgrades. However, I would have liked to see Retina displays in the new MacBooks. I think the screens in the MacBook Airs need to be at least 1080p to fit in with other ultraportable computers available.
The new Mac Pro is nothing like its predecessor. It is about ⅛ the size of the previous model, and it is built completely differently to how any other computer is built. Apple made their new Mac Pro smaller by replacing the cooling for each individual component with what they are calling a unified thermal core, which is basically a large heat sink in the middle of the computer for air flow to all the hardware.
The new Mac Pro also comes with PCIe flash storage, which is about twice as fast as an SSD connected through SATA, and about 10 times as fast as a 7200-rpm hard drive. Finally, the Mac Pro includes 6 Thunderbolt 2 ports, providing 20Gbit/s transfer speeds for those who need it, and 4 USB 3 ports, providing 5Gbit/s transfer speeds on a cheaper, more widely adopted standard.
Although the new Mac Pro seems like an amazing machine, it gives up one very important feature from the previous generation Mac Pro. The old Mac Pro allowed upgrades to the RAM, hard drives and disc drives. There were even PCIe expansion slots, giving users the option to upgrade their graphics cards. As far as I can tell, in the new Mac Pro, you can upgrade the RAM and that’s about it.
Apple’s new AirPort hardware is redesigned, and it is now taller with a smaller footprint. More importantly, the new AirPort hardware comes with 802.11ac wireless technology, which is noticeably faster than the 802.11n standard used on most wireless devices today. I like the look of the new AirPort Extreme, but I still think the AirPort Time Capsule is basically an overpriced wireless extern
I haven’t had much time to add to my blog lately, mostly because of exams. I want to start blogging again, and at some point, I want to redesign my website. For now, I’m writing a quick blog post to categorise the different types of computer users I have seen.
The dog has had plenty of experience with computers and plenty of time to get good at using them. However, they can only do basic, repetitive tasks. Give a dog an iPhone, and you will likely have to teach him now to use the home button. Dogs are generally older – people like your grandmother, or in my case, my mother – and they usually type using the hunt and peck method. If you type like that – I have some bad news for you.
The New User
The new user is like the dog in many ways. New users and dogs both have a similar level of computer knowledge, although some dogs may know how to perform certain functions in familiar applications, such as Microsoft Word. The key difference is that new users generally pick up skills faster than dogs, as they have had the benefit of learning about computers at a younger age.
The Average User
Average users know their way around their computers and smartphones. They are generally able to touch type, and they can mostly figure out their way around a new user interface with little trouble. However, they aren’t keen users. They generally stick with Microsoft Windows as their primary desktop operating system, and they show little to no interest in expanding their knowledge of computers.
The Experimental User
An experimental user is not like the users in the categories mentioned above. Experimental users find computers interesting. They tend to be more clicky than most people, and as a result, they spend a lot less time in the “new user” stage, and they usually skip the “average user” stage. Experimental users generally know a few tricks, such as changing icons for desktop shortcuts, and they can usually fix a computer.
Hackers are essentially experimental users with a bit more experience. Some hackers use jailbroken iPhone, but most use rooted Android devices. As for desktop software, nearly all hackers have at least tested out a couple of Linux distributions. However, many still stick with Microsoft Windows – mostly for software compatibility. Most hackers can build a good looking website using just a text editor, and more experienced hackers know a couple of programming languages.
Developers are the most experienced computer users. They are the people who write the software everyone else uses. Most developers use UNIX based operating systems on their computers. However, good developers have a variety of computers and smartphones running different operating systems, as well as a variety of screens of different sizes. They want the software they write to work everywhere, so they buy as many computers as they can get their hands on.
This sums up my thoughts on different types of computer users. I would class myself as a hacker, as I write the CSS for my website. Comments are encouraged and appreciated.
The Cover-Mate Desktop Charging Dock is made for LG and Samsung Smartphones. It should work with any phone with the Micro USB port on the bottom, and the wide end of the Micro USB plug facing the back of the phone.
As the name suggests, it is also able to work around a case. It will even work with thick cases like the ArmourDillo Hybrid Protective Case on the Nexus 4. When you place your phone on the charging dock, its weight will make small adjustments to the angle and height of where it sits.
This charging dock has a feeling of good build quality to it, for its price. It is made mostly from glossy plastic and, where the phone sits, matte plastic. There are two rubber feet on the bottom to stop it from sliding around.
This charging dock also comes with an extra Micro USB cable, in case you are using the cable you already have for something else. At around 1m in length, this cable will be far too short for some people to use. However, I think it is a nice touch.
There is one problem with this charging dock that can’t be easily avoided. When you are putting your phone on it, you have to hold the dock still and carefully place your phone on top of the Micro USB connector. This problem can be solved with wireless charging, and it does seem like something that will be used a lot more in the future. However, wireless chargers currently cost around £40, which is a bit steep. Besides that, most smartphones still don’t support wireless charging.
If you decide to buy this charging dock, I would recommend using it with care. Avoid using it on the edge of a table, or anywhere where the phone could get knocked to the ground. When the phone is on the charging dock, it is standing up and can be knocked down a lot more easily. I am mentioning this because even if your phone has a case on it, the screen of your smartphone can fall on top of the charging dock and get cracked.
This charging dock costs £19.95. I think it would be better priced at around £15. However, if you choose your next smartphone carefully, it should work with that dock. Because of that, the charging dock has good value for money overall. It can be bought from MobileFun.co.uk and MobileFun.com under Galaxy Note 2 accessories.
The idea of using a stylus with a smartphone seems a little bit old fashioned today. Steve Jobs never liked them, and they were originally meant to make it easier to use old resistive touchscreens. As smartphones evolved to catch up with Apple’s iPhone, the stylus mostly died out. However, Samsung started their Galaxy Note series, with the S-Pen advertised as the main selling point. The Galaxy Note II is currently one of the most popular smartphones among the Android crowd, and it easily matches Google’s Nexus 4 with popularity. Clearly, the stylus hasn’t completely died out, and there are still several uses for one.
Using a good quality stylus is one of the best ways to prevent fingerprints on the screen of your smartphone. A stylus can also be used to draw quick pictures on your smartphone or tablet, to save paper. One of the best uses for a stylus is for when you are wearing gloves. Finally, a stylus might be used by someone who wants to use a smartphone, but isn’t used to touchscreens. Although most mobile software today uses buttons big enough for users to tap with their thumb, some people still find a stylus to be a more accurate pointing device.
The first problem I found with this stylus is its length. The stylus is too short to be used like a pen or a pencil, and it is awkwardly shaped, meaning there is only one way to hold it comfortably. It is possible to get used to the length of this stylus, and it is meant to be small. However, if this stylus was around half the length of a pen, it would still fit into nearly any pocket, and it would be a lot more comfortable to use.
Another problem with this stylus is that it leaves prints on a smartphone screen. If you are looking for a stylus specifically to avoid fingerprints, you will find stylus prints instead, and they are just as bad. This isn’t a big problem, as the marks can simply be wiped off. However, it is something to keep in mind.
The biggest problem with this stylus is how it is made. The part used to touch the screen is covered in a thin layer of smooth plastic, to make it easier to use the stylus for swipe gestures. That layer of plastic started to peel off in about a day of regular use and some time in my pocket. Because of that, with too much swiping, the rubber tip at the end falls off. This problem can be solved by covering the end of the stylus with a thin strip of paper or sticky tape, but that way of fixing the problem makes the stylus look a bit cheap.
The other end of this stylus has a built in USB flash drive. This flash drive has 16GB to store your data, and it operates at a reasonably fast speed, only taking a few minutes to transfer around 1GB of data. It has always been impossible to have too many USB flash drives, and that is especially true today. Because of that, the USB flash drive adds a lot of value to this stylus.
I would recommend this stylus for someone who just wants an accurate pointing device for their smartphone, or for someone who wears gloves a lot. I would not recommend this stylus for someone who won’t use the USB flash drive. Overall, this stylus is a good idea, and with the £15 price tag, it has good value for money. However, it could certainly be improved. This stylus can be bought from MobileFun.co.uk, under Galaxy Note 2 accessories.
I chose the Nexus 4 over another smartphone for quite a few reasons. I chose it over an iPhone 5 because of how open it is to developers, and I chose it over an HTC One S for the attention it will get from the developer community. The on screen buttons are also pretty cool.
Unlocking the bootloader is really easy with a Nexus device. With the Android SDK installed on your computer, the bootloader of this phone can be unlocked with a simple Fastboot command:
fastboot oem unlock
And unlike many other Android devices, when a Nexus device is unlocked, all partitions are fully unlocked, meaning there is no need to use Fastboot to flash boot images to the phone with new ROMs.
The Nexus 4 is a developer’s phone. This means that, with the exception of Google Apps, all the software preinstalled on this phone is open source. Because of that, this phone will get plenty of attention from the developer community for years, and custom ROMs like CyanogenMod will become stable daily drivers almost immediately.
CyanogenMod was the first of the most well known custom ROMs to come to the Nexus 4, which means it has had the most time to mature and become stable. It gives you root access, as well as allowing you to make customisations to stock Android. It also comes with little goodies, such as Trebuchet Launcher and the Chronus clock widget.
AOKP development started after Google released Android 4.0 and the Galaxy Nexus in 2011. Like CyanogenMod, AOKP allows you to make changes to stock Android. It has more customisation features than CyanogenMod, which is why many people really like it. However, it doesn’t come with Trebuchet Launcher or the Chronus clock widget.
ParanoidAndroid is great for those who want something different on their phone. Basically, ParanoidAndroid allows you to use your phone like a tablet by moving the notifications to the bottom of the screen and scaling the graphics down. It allows you to specify which apps you want to run in tablet mode and which apps you want to use normally. Anyone with an unlocked Nexus 4 should give it a try, although I wouldn’t recommend it for someone with fat fingers.
In coming months, you can expect many other ROMs to come to the Nexus 4. I am currently waiting to see a version of MIUI for the Nexus 4, as I really like the look and feel. I also hope to see PAC-Man ROM, which basically combines the best features of the ROMs I mentioned above.
The ArmourDillo Hybrid Protective Case for the Nexus 4 is, as the name suggests, a rugged case that is made to protect the Nexus 4 from drops and bumps. This case comes in two parts; a flexible part that wraps around the back and edges of the phone, and a hard outer shell that covers the back and clings around the corners and two sides of your device. This case comes in red, blue and black.
The back of this case is not made for looks. However, although it doesn’t look as good as the glass back of the Nexus 4, it isn’t ugly either. The design of the back is made to provide good grip when holding the phone, and to ruggedise it. With this case, it doesn’t feel like I’m going to drop my phone, and I was also impressed to find that the case has a pleasant soft touch to it.
On the back of the case, there is a kickstand. The kickstand has to be opened with a finger nail. It also feels a bit cheap, and I think it could be broken off quite easily with a bit of abuse. However, it is a nice addition to the case, and if it is closed properly when it isn’t being used, it should last well.
One thing I didn’t like about the case is how the side buttons are covered. This is to provide maximum protection, and to keep the phone in good condition. However, the power button has to be pressed harder to wake the phone up and, although this isn’t a big problem, it takes some getting used to.
Another thing I didn’t like about this case is how the edges of it, at the front of the phone, go above the touchscreen. This makes it harder to swipe onto the screen from the left or right edge, a commonly used gesture in mobile apps. Of course, this is required to some extent with any case in order to protect the screen from drops. However, the edge only needs to be raised a little bit to protect the screen from drops on flat surfaces.
One thing to think about with any case is the amount of thickness it adds to the phone. This case nearly doubles the phone’s thickness. However, while this may be a problem to some people, it isn’t a problem to me. The Nexus 4 is quite a thin phone, and with the case on, it doesn’t feel that much thicker in the hand.
Overall, the ArourDillo Hybrid Protective Case is one of the better cases in its price range. I would recommend this case for anyone. Particularly, someone who wants to protect their phone, and who doesn’t mind imperfections like the added thickness. I would also recommend this case for someone who watches a lot of videos on their phone, because of the kickstand. This case can be bought from MobileFun.co.uk, under Nexus 4 accessories.
I chose to buy a Nexus 4 over another phone for quite a few reasons. I chose it over the iPhone 5 because I like having home screen widgets and moving wallpapers. I chose it over any other Android phone because I wanted quicker Android updates than what I could get on my HTC Desire S.
The Nexus 4 feels great to hold. It has glass on the front and the back, and soft touch rubber around the edges of the phone. The screen looks great, and the pixels are almost not there. The back of the phone has a really nice looking sparkle effect to it.
This phone has excellent software. I have full control over what is on my home screen, and I can even install a new home screen. I can launch Google Now from anywhere by swiping up from he home button, and I can even access some of my apps from the lock screen.
There are too many features in the software on this phone for me to pick a favourite, or even a set of favourites. I really like the convenience of having quick settings in the notification panel. I also love the PhotoSphere feature in the camera app.
Although I love this phone, it has its share of problems in both hardware and software. The biggest hardware problem with this phone is the glass back. It looks and feels great, but everyone drops their phone. With the Nexus 4, there is double the chance of having a crack on your phone whenever you drop it.
The built in speaker on this phone doesn’t sound terrible. However, it is certainly nothing special. It is not the loudest speaker on a phone, and because of its size, sound coming from it can be muffled very easily.
Although the Quick Settings panel in Android is really convenient, there is no way to change the toggles in that panel. This could be a real problem for someone who uses the portable hotspot feature on their phone a lot, or even an annoyance for someone who has automatic brightness enabled.
This phone costs £239 with 8GB of internal storage and £279 with 16GB. I would recommend paying extra for the 16GB model, as this phone doesn’t have a microSD card slot. Overall, the Nexus 4 is an excellent phone. It is one of the best phones of 2012, and with the hardware of this phone, the price point only makes it a more attractive choice.
While the Nexus 4 is an excellent phone for the average user, it is even better for hackers and developers. It is really easy to unlock this phone’s bootloader, and since it is a flagship phone from Google, it will get loads of attention from the developer community. For those who understand what that means, I am working on a Hacker Edition of this review.