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The UKs most comprehensive test of parental controls
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CONTENTS Whats inside?

CONTENTS
THE UKS BIGGEST-SELLING COMPUTING MONTHLY
COVER STORY
PC PRO EXCELLENCE AWARDS 2013 24

Issue 229 November


COVER GUIDE

The votes have been cast and counted and we can reveal your favourite broadband ISP, tablet, laptop and PC makers, and much more. Plus! The editorial team pick their products of 2013.

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FEATURES

COVER STORY

MY PC IS INFECTED: WHAT NOW?

40

INSIDE A BRITISH PC MAKER

46 p130 p40

What should you do when your PC is struck down by malware? We explain how to get your system back to full health.

We take a look behind the scenes at Novatech, visiting its Hampshire factory to see what goes into making a homegrown PC.

REGULARS
Prolog Technolog Feedback Idealog Subscriptions How we test A-List 7 9 10 59 60 119 146

REAL WORLD COMPUTING


THE LANDRUSH FOR NEW WEB DOMAINS 68 Advanced Windows & Mac Mobile & Wireless Online Business Security & Social Networking Office Apps Web Apps & Design Networks 76 79 82 85 88 93 96

IN DEPTH
BUILD A MOBILE MINDER TO MONITOR YOUR DEVICES 52

Barry Collins explains why you cant afford to ignore new top-level domains.
CAREERS 72

Kevin Partner explains how to assemble a cheap, sensor-based system to track how much time your kids spend on their devices.
CREATE VECTOR GRAPHICS WITH LIBREOFFICE DRAW

56

Contact us & next month 153 Epilog 154

We explain how to get started in a rewarding career selling IT products and services.

Need to create clean, pin-sharp designs for illustrations or logos? We show you how to get started for free.
USE YOUR TV AS A SECONDARY DISPLAY

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Darien Graham-Smith shows you how to beam videos, pictures and web pages onto your big screen.

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Whats inside?

CONTENTS

IN THE LABS...
COVER STORY

43 NEW REVIEWS THIS ISSUE

REVIEWS
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PARENTAL CONTROLS

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Which parental-control packages will keep your kids safe? We test 15 both paid-for and free against more than 150 undesirable sites to see which offer the best protection.

NEWS

PCs, LAPTOPS & TABLETS Samsung Ativ Book Plus Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite Toshiba Satellite C75 Dell XPS 12 Acer XC600 Nexus 7 (2013) COMPONENTS & PERIPHERALS Samsung Galaxy NX Canon EOS 70D HTC One mini Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini Nokia Lumia 625 Contour RollerMouse Re:d Contour RollerMouse Free2 Logitech Trackman Marble Logitech Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad T650 Logitech Wireless Trackball M570 OMG Life Autographer Leap Motion Controller SOFTWARE Sony Sound Forge Pro 11 Xara Designer Pro X9

102 103 104 105 106 107

108 109 110 110 111 112 112 113 113 113 114 114 117 118

PARENTAL CONTROLS Norton Family Blue Coat K9 Web Protection F-Secure Internet Security 2013 Kaspersky Internet Security 2013 McAfee Family Protection OpenDNS Basic TalkTalk HomeSafe Trend Micro Online Guardian Windows Live Family Safety AVG Family Safety Bitdefender Parental Control G Data InternetSecurity 2014 MetaCert Net Nanny 6.5 SafeDNS ENTERPRISE Boston Value Series 121 Western Digital Sentinel RX4100 Qsan AegisSAN LX P600Q-D316 Netgear ReadyNAS 2120 HP OceJet 7110 Y-cam Cube HD 1080 Lexmark CX410de Xerox DocuMate 4700

136 137 138 138 139 139 140 140 141 142 142 142 143 143 143 120 122 124 126 126 127 128 128

THIS MONTH

12

We investigate why hundreds of innocent sites were blocked by Britains biggest ISPs in a bodged attempt to thwart piracy sites. Plus, the end of the Ballmer era at Microsoft, how researchers scan the entire internet in an hour, and John Hemming MP writes a guest column on his fears over mandatory parental controls.

PC Pro on YouTube

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005

Prolog OPINION

Microsoft must not lose touch with its loyal developers, says BARRY COLLINS

nd so the man who made developers, developers, developers a maniacal catchphrase is leaving to spend more time with his golf clubs. Nobody who watched that infamous 2006 video of a sweat-drenched, breathless Steve Ballmer repeating that mantra as he bounded around the stage could question his affection for developers. (One doubts whether even Mrs Ballmer has ever witnessed such passion.) But is Microsofts enthusiasm for developers waning? The curious thing about Ballmers developer dance is that this wasnt a man rallying his old regiment: hes a salesman, not a programmer. I dont doubt he could still code me under the table, but this was the outsider trying to prove like a prime minister at an army base that he was in touch with the troops. And, once the thousands of developers in the audience had lifted their jaws off the oor, they lapped it up. This mutual affection has remained strong over the past few, difcult years for Microsoft. Ive attended several Build and TechEd conferences, and the warmth and enthusiasm ooding out of the audience during keynote addresses and product announcements has never failed to amaze me. Even when Microsoft demonstrated the most insipid features of the rst preview of Windows 8 in 2011, there was no shortage of whoops and applause. The biggest difculty in covering Build conferences, in fact, is trying to ignore the infectious enthusiasm and remain objective. Of course, Microsofts legendary generosity to paying Build attendees helps. At this summers Build, every developer walked away with a Surface Pro, an 8in Acer tablet, and two full-year subscriptions to Ofce 365 and Adobe Creative Cloud, not to mention the free parties, and tables creaking with complimentary food and drink. Look after your developers, and theyll look after you. Yet Microsoft has failed to nurture its developers this month. For reasons its keeping close to its chest, Microsoft has decided to break with convention and not release the RTM version of Windows 8.1 to MSDN subscribers ahead of time, making them wait for the full launch like the rest of us (unless they, ahem, happen to stumble across a leaked version while downloading their Linux distros and other perfectly legitimate software via BitTorrent). Various theories have been propounded for Microsofts sudden change of policy, ranging from a desire to keep key new features secret

for the big launch in October, to the altogether more plausible scenario that Microsoft will (by its own admission) be twiddling with the code right up to the release date, and it doesnt want the current build going public in case meddling reviewers discovers the bugs and declare Windows 8.1 to be a tin of Winalot. Whatever the reason, it hasnt gone down well with developers who pay Microsoft up to 8,500 per year for MSDN accounts, partly for the privilege of getting their hands on OS code early. How are we supposed to test our software for Windows 8.1? wrote one angry developer on the Microsoft blog announcing the Windows 8.1 RTM. [On] the day it will be automatically installed on users machines? So we software developers can take the blame for applications that dont work on Windows 8.1? Great way to lose your partners. He was far from the only malcontent and these are only the comments that were clean enough to pass Microsofts moderation. Angering developers is unwise at this point in the evolution of Windows 8. Show me a developer who got rich from a Windows 8

The lack of compelling apps is the biggest remaining problem with Microsofts much-maligned operating system
app, and Ill give you a ride on my ying pig. The lack of compelling apps is by far the biggest remaining problem with Microsofts muchmaligned operating system, which has seen many of its initial wrinkles ironed out in 8.1. Microsoft should be moving Heaven, Earth and couple of other planets to make sure theres a few competitive apps in the Windows Store by the time the Christmas ads for Windows 8.1 devices start to appear. A year after launch, there still isnt a single Windows 8 app that beats anything Ive seen on Android or iOS; there are none that I even use regularly. The Windows Phone store is little better. If I were in charge of Microsoft (the CV is in the post), Id have spent the Nokia billions on a few decent app-development studios instead of a manufacturer that was already wedded to Windows Phone and making a pretty good st of it (see my review of the Lumia 625 on p111). Developers, developers, developers. It was maybe the wisest thing Steve Ballmer ever said.

BARRY COLLINS is the editor of PC Pro. Hes cancelled his hearing checkup now that Ballmers no longer doing press conferences. Blog: www.pcpro.co.uk/links/barryc Email: editor@pcpro.co.uk

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PC PRO NOVEMBER 2013

007

Technolog OPINION

Hard disks are shrinking, but DARIEN GRAHAM-SMITH isnt feeling the squeeze

n 2001, a salesman in Dixons tried to persuade me to buy a lightweight laptop without a oppy-disk drive. This was a scary and unfamiliar idea, and I insisted on paying more for a much chunkier, business-class system with a front-facing 3.5in drive. You can probably guess how the story ends. I should have seen it coming. With CD writers, USB ash drives and ADSL internet connections all crashing into the mainstream, it ought to have been obvious (as it was to my friendly retail advisor) that the oppy drive was on its way out. Had I exercised a little more foresight, I would have walked away with a cheaper, thinner, lighter laptop. Why am I telling you this? Because lately Ive been experiencing a sense of dj vu not about oppy drives, of course, but local storage in general. Until recently, when friends have asked for my advice about laptop purchases, Ive always recommended they shell out for the biggest SSD they can afford. I like to think of this as experiential wisdom, based on decades of seeing what will I ever do with all this space? turn into this stupid, tiny disk is full, and theres nothing left I can delete. For as long as I can recall, its been a truism that you can never have too much storage. Yet Im coming to realise that Im making the oppy-drive mistake all over again. The reason for buying the biggest hard disk possible is to accommodate all your data locally, but thats becoming less necessary as time goes by. Its a process thats been going on for years. First, webmail services freed us from tending our own monolithic mail archives, then YouTube started taking care of our videos. More recent ventures such as Google Drive and Ofce Web Apps have airlifted our business documents into the cloud, while Apples iCloud has taken to storing our music and movies on its own disks. Flickr will host up to a terabyte of photos for you, and any data thats left can be ofoaded onto the likes of Dropbox and SkyDrive. This isnt down to a single driving force. What did it for oppy disks wasnt a Big Bang, but a creeping pincer movement led by faster internet connections and more advanced storage media. Similarly, the rise of cloud services is supported by a combination of gravitational shifts. The rise of smartphones and tablets has brought about a hunger for remote data access that was barely there ve

years ago. In that same period, the average home broadband speed has quadrupled, according to Ofcom. Theres been pressure from the other side, too. Five years ago, PC Pro was reviewing premium laptops with 512GB hard disks; todays aspirational models typically have a mere 128GB. Thats an inescapable corollary of the move to superfast solid-state storage. As such, cloud storage becomes not only a convenient way of getting your data onto other devices, but also a convenient way of getting it off your primary storage. Hence the growing appeal of media services such as Spotify and Netix, where the data streams directly from the cloud and with the exception of a small playback buffer never hits your hard disk at all. There are still reasons why you may prefer to rely on local storage. For a start, anything you want to keep private should never be entrusted to the cloud: you cant ever be completely sure your providers security wont be compromised, either by hackers or government agents.

The rise of smartphones and tablets has brought about a hunger for remote data access that was barely there five years ago
Video editors and photography enthusiasts will also likely want more space than a cloud provider can cost-effectively offer them. Also, the latency of cloud storage makes it a non-starter for hobbies such as music production. Dont forget backup, either: cloud backup can be tremendously convenient, but if you dont want to tie the recoverability of your data to someone elses uptime, periodic local backups are still a good idea. Those issues aside, though, Ill no longer be encouraging my friends to remortgage their homes to get their hands on a 512GB SSD. Instead, Ill suggest they buy a bog-standard 128GB laptop and invest in a much cheaper external USB 3 hard disk. The internal storage might seem a little tight now, but if Im reading the winds correctly, it should come to feel more spacious over time. That idea sounds absurd and counterintuitive now but no more so than the idea of a PC without a oppy drive once sounded.

DARIEN GRAHAM-SMITH is PC Pros technical editor. He didnt write this in Google Drive on a Chromebook, but he could have. Blog: www.pcpro.co.uk/links/dariengs Email: darien@pcpro.co.uk

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PC PRO NOVEMBER 2013

009

FEEDBACK Your say

FEEDBACK
THE PICK OF YOUR COMMENTS FROM EMAILS, BLOGS OR PCPRO.CO.UK

STAR LETTER

I
In the September issue (see issue 227, p68), Jon Honeyball pointed out the weaknesses of the internet-security packages in which we place our trust. This is something that dawned on me a long time ago, when a friends computer was hit by the same fraudulent police notice Jon mentions. To clear it for him, I downloaded Windows Defender Ofine and burnt it onto a CD. Then I used the disk to boot his computer and ran Windows Defender Ofine, which found and removed the virus plus ve other trojans that had bypassed his up-to-date security software. I use Windows Defender Ofine on a regular basis, just to double-check all is as it should be. DAVID CLOWES Editor Barry Collins replies: Im all too familiar with the situation you describe. Last month, I spent a frantic afternoon attempting to clear a particularly nasty rootkit from a friends PC, but even though an ofine virus scanner claimed to have dealt with the miscreant, it reappeared every time we went back online. As Jon said in his column, malware is getting nastier, and the security suites are letting too much past.

Offline security

ve just enjoyed episode 272 of the excellent PC Pro podcast, in which the team discussed their frustrations with Google Chromes multiple processes appearing identically in Windows Task Manager, making it nigh-on impossible to identify a runaway tab. Chromes built-in Task Manager must be a well-kept secret. It can be found in the Chrome menu, hidden under Tools. It works well with Chromes concept of using separate processes for different pages, allowing tabs that go wrong to be killed off individually without restarting the browser. As well as being useful for tracking down web pages that are hogging system resources, the Chrome Task Manager is convenient for quickly nding any tab lost among multiple windows, or for weeding out tabs you no longer need. Sometimes, switching to a tab cuts its CPU load

immediately, especially if Chrome restarted with tabs from the previous session. It seems Chrome does less housekeeping on tabs that havent been looked at. Chrome has another little-known unique feature for managing tabs. By Ctrl+clicking or Shift+clicking tab headers, multiple tabs can be selected; these can be closed, pinned, reloaded, duplicated or, most usefully, dragged out to create a new window, or placed among tabs in an existing window. Tabs gathered into a window can be bookmarked as a folder (by clicking Ctrl+Shift+D or right-clicking a tab header), then closed to free up resources, or relaunched by right-clicking the folder. There are many Chrome extensions designed to help manage tabs, but these powerful native features are all it needs. Perhaps Google should make them better known. MATT LANDER

This months star letter wins a Corsair r Neutron 128GB SSD worth 110 Visit www.corsair.com

Microsofts recent announcement that its discontinuing TechNet, the resource centre for IT professionals, makes me wonder if the companys senior management has lost the plot. Its being dropped in favour of time-limited trials, which only cover the latest software, or an expensive MSDN subscription. Neither replace TechNet.

Microsoft TechNot

Let me spell it out for you, Microsoft: no IT professional in their right mind will be upsold from a 200-per-year TechNet subscription to a 5,000-per-year MSDN subscription when Linux is free. Quite simply, youve alienated your most loyal customers. We dont buy very much directly, but we have a massive inuence on the purchasing decisions of the organisations we work for, and they buy an awful lot of products and services. This move hugely increases the cost of training for IT professionals the real training that is done in our own time and at our own expense, so we can recommend your products to our managers. Some may turn to piracy, but many will look at open-source options and recommend these, as it will be easier for us to maintain our skills. Alienating the invisible sales force at a time when Microsoft isnt exactly making headlines with fantastic new products is a fairly dumb

thing to do. Well done, guys: you might as well give yourselves a Darwin Award for this one. SHAUN PUGH

Until about three years ago, it seemed Google was about making cool stuff, and making the world a better place. Then, for whatever reason, it started battling for the ecosystem witness how many of its services require Google+. These days, the user comes second. After it stopped Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync for Gmail and killed Reader, I decided to move away from its services as much as possible; now I only use search. The decision not to make Windows Phone apps is another sign of its new approach. Its a shame in many other respects, Googles still a great company. MARC

Google going south?

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NEWS PC Probe

NEWS

IN-DEPTH REPORTS, ANALYSIS AND OPINION

Whos checking which sites are struck off the net?


Shona Ghosh reveals how hundreds of innocent sites were caught up in the Premier Leagues clampdown on online piracy

asic lapses in the way piracy websites are identied resulted in hundreds of legitimate sites being blocked by the UKs biggest ISPs, a PC Pro investigation has found. The Premier League won a court order on 16 July forcing Sky, Virgin, EE, Telefnica UK (O2), TalkTalk and BT to block FirstRow Sports, a site that provides links to illegitimate streams of football matches. The court ordered the providers to block an IP address used by FirstRow, but failed to check if the address was also being used by innocent sites. This oversight meant hundreds of sites, including www.radio times.com, were trapped in the ISPs anti-piracy lters, and the erroneous blocks were only spotted when customers complained. Why didnt the ISPs check the sites they were blocking? And why is it so easy for legitimate websites to be caught in the piracy crossre?

According to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, the accidental blocks came after the Premier Leagues lawyers told the ISPs to lter an IP address used by FirstRow. However, that address also resolved to a service used by hundreds of other sites to redirect visitors, say from radiotimes. com to www.radiotimes.com. When the ISPs added the address to their blacklists, customers found they were blocked from any site using the redirection service.

Blunderbuss approach

The problem was eventually xed, but it highlights how little effort is made by either rightsholders or ISPs to check if the IP addresses theyre blocking are correct, or free of unintentional consequences. Its the rst time this particular problem has [arisen], but its entirely predictable at the same time, said a spokesperson for digital rights organisation the Open Rights Group. There seems to be no process for minimising the risk this will happen, no process for rectifying these mistakes in the way the orders are written.

Site-blocking is still a relatively new phenomenon. In July 2011, lm trade body the Motion Picture Association of America won a landmark case forcing BT to block Newzbin2, a site that provided links to pirated lms. Following that ruling, a string of court orders forced the other major ISPs to block similar sites, including big-hitters such as The Pirate Bay and EZTV. Although the Premier Leagues court order against FirstRow was a cookie-cutter case in most respects, the error has highlighted

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than correcting the problem, highlighting the distrust that exists between the parties. Indeed, it was a source at one of the ISPs who tipped off PC Pro to the IP address-sharing issue in the rst place, and the Premier League told the BBC it only became aware of the issue when it was contacted by journalists. Manches Pritchard said its incredible that the ISPs dont perform their own checks before adding addresses to their blacklists. Its lousy customer service, he said. I would expect better than a blind observance of the law. While the ISPs have all issued public statements denying responsibility for the accidental blocks, a source at one provider admitted they put little effort into obeying court orders. Broadly speaking, ISPs dont like doing it [site-blocking], and we all do the absolute minimum exactly what is required of us by law, the source said. The apparent unwillingness of ISPs and rights-holders to take full responsibility for checking whether theyre accidentally censoring innocent sites means that over-blocking will most likely remain a problem for the foreseeable future. Yet even if both sides took greater care, experts believe that innocent sites will still be snared. A request to block an IP address may be compliant with a court order one day, but the address may be used for something completely different at some point in the future, said the Open Rights Group. These arent trivial little mistakes theyre an entirely predictable consequence of this whole strategy and process.

The Radio Times site was caught in the Premier Leagues crossre

how the process can go wrong as rights-holders try to add more and more sites to the blacklists. When it rst applied for the blocking order on FirstRow, the Premier League assured the court there would be no side effects as a result of barring that IP address. The Football Association Premier Leagues evidence is that this will not result in over-blocking, since that IP address is not shared, according to the judgement. According to legal expert David Pritchard, head of Manches LLPs Thames Valley litigation practice, the Premier League or any rights-holder has a duty to verify any evidence it submits to a court. Theres an obligation to give correct information to the court, he said. Its really surprising that people get these details wrong its indicative of sloppiness. Yet, despite misleading the court, it doesnt seem the Premier League will face any consequences for getting it wrong. The league admitted its mistake to PC Pro, but said it saw no problem now it has been corrected. As soon as we were alerted to the unintentional block of certain websites, we rectied the situation, said a spokesperson.
The Premier League said the lter would block only FirstRow

The high court order remains in place, and we have continued to work with ISPs to enforce it.

Minimal checks

Even if the rights-holders make a mistake, the ISPs should provide a safety net. Its understood that ISPs are legally obliged to let rights-holders know if they spot any accidental site blocks. In this case, however, it seems the ISPs were more concerned with embarrassing the rights-holders

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NEWS Headlines

TOP STORIES
READERS REACT TO THE MONTHS TECH NEWS

Microsoft finally swoops for Nokias devices

Ubuntu Edge grinds to a halt as funding falls $20m short

Microsoft acquired Nokias Devices & Services division for 4.6 billion, two years after the rms signed an exclusivity deal that saw Nokia adopt Windows Phone on its Lumia handsets. The buyout includes a 10-year licence for Nokias patents and leaves the Finnish rm with its networking and mapping divisions. This is a smart acquisition for Microsoft, and a good deal for both companies, said outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Microsoft is hoping the purchase will boost the Windows Phone platform from 4% market share to 15% in the next ve years. Nokias CEO Stephen Elop moved to the company from Microsoft before the Windows Phone deal and will now make the reverse journey, heading up the Devices & Services division. Following Ballmers retirement announcement (see p16 for more on this), Elops now seen as a leading contender for the top job at Microsoft.

support of Nokia even before it bought the hardware division. One has to wonder whether this move is borne out of desperation. Nokia needed an immediate cash injection from Microsoft as soon as the buyout was announced, and Microsoft could ill afford to see the only Windows Phone manufacturer to show any true enthusiasm for its OS go to the wall. Microsoft may have been Nokias only way out.

What you said: PC Pro

What we said: Its hard

to see why Microsoft felt the need to buy Nokia, said editor Barry Collins. It had the unstinting

readers werent surprised by the acquisition. Ive been saying for years that Elops strategy for Nokia was going to fail; this takeover proves I was right, said SwissMac. He never lost his loyalty to Microsoft, even though it should have lay with Nokia. Nokias smartphone struggles led some to hope that it would ip from Windows Phone to Android a move thats clearly off the table now, disappointing reader Trippynet. Combining Nokias hardware with Android would have been quite a potent combination, in my opinion, he argued.

Canonicals smartphone plans hit a setback after its campaign to crowdfund a handset running Ubuntu fell short by $20 million. The company had hoped to raise $32 million via crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to build the Ubuntu Edge, a smartphone that could be connected to a monitor and used as a PC. However, it raised only $12.8 million, from around 20,000 consumers and one enterprise backer, Bloomberg. The money collected will be refunded. Canonical insisted the campaign wasnt a total failure. While we passionately wanted to build the Edge to showcase Ubuntu on phones, the support and attention it received will still be a huge boost as other Ubuntu phones start to arrive in 2014, said Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth. He may be hoping the money raised will be enough to attract a handset manufacturer, although none have signed up to use the OS since it was announced in January.

a device that wouldnt exist until next year and didnt even have a full specications list, said news and features editor Nicole Kobie. Mark Shuttleworth may see this as a PR win, but it could be too little, too late. Manufacturers are already selling phones using Firefox OS, and Acer and HPs use of Android on all-in-ones suggests Googles OS could be the platform that bridges the computer/ smartphone divide. Forget the campaign: Ubuntus late arrival to mobile is the real challenge.

What we said: The Ubuntu


Edge is an intriguing idea, but Canonical was asking fans to contribute more than the cost of existing top-end smartphones for

What you said: Readers at the PC Pro website couldnt see the need for an Ubuntu phone. Couldnt [Canonical] just load it on a rooted Android phone? asked David. Im not sure why it needs its own hardware. Android is a version of Linux, like Ubuntu. Others had liked the promise of a smartphone-cum-desktop PC. Whats not to like in a phone that offers 4GB RAM, 128GB memory, Ubuntu and stock Android? asked Jim. A best-of-breed processor and LTE, all for $830. Thats before I get the chance to use it with a big screen as a PC.
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email: news@pcpro.co.uk

EEs monopoly ends as O2 and Vodafone launch 4G

EEs monopoly of the 4G market nally ended after Vodafone and O2 switched on superfast networks. EE repurposed its 2G spectrum to launch a 4G network last October, but delays to Ofcoms 4G spectrum auction meant rival operators couldnt launch their own LTE networks until this year. A fourth operator, Three, isnt launching a 4G network until the end of the year, but its trumped its rivals by announcing customers will receive superfast connections at no extra cost, provided they have compatible phones. It will also be the only operator to offer unlimited data on 4G. So far, 4G users have had to contend with EEs tight data caps, but both O2 and Vodafone are offering more modest tariffs starting at 26 per month for 1GB of data and EE has since revised its contracts in line with the competition.

market, O2 and Vodafone will be hoping for a similar boost, so it will be interesting to see how they deal with being undercut by Three. The early signs suggest consumers arent fussed by 4G meaning they may not mind waiting until Threes launch in December. Unless Vodafone, O2 and EE reconsider their tariffs, they may need to rely on exclusivity deals on the most desirable handsets to stop customers leaving.

What you said: Readers

What we said: EE has

made the most of its premium on 4G, getting 700,000 subscribers onboard and reporting a rise in data revenue for its second-quarter nancials, said staff writer Shona Ghosh. Though later to the

felt the arrival of 4G competition highlighted EEs errors. EE made a huge mistake with its prices and data caps when it launched, said EagleHasLanded. Rather than make its approach look attractive, it turned people off the idea and meant they waited to see what other providers would offer. EE should have started its tariffs at a much lower price with higher data caps to gain a head start. Others sang Threes praises. Shame my phone doesnt have 4G, otherwise my recent swap to a Three contract would have really paid dividends. Never mind its still a great announcement from Three, said DArtiss.

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NEWS Talking point

TALKING POINT
Members of the PC Pro team tackle the months big issue

teve Ballmer has announced hell retire from Microsoft within a year a move many have been advocating for some time. But are they right that its time for Ballmer to step aside? Microsoft has struggled to keep up with the shift to mobile computing, and the launch of Windows 8 has been a mixed success. Still,

the companys nancial situation remains strong, and its dominance in business computing remains intact, despite serious challenges from the stalling PC market and rival operating systems. How much is Ballmer to blame for Microsofts struggles and how much credit should he take for its continued nancial success?

Was Steve Ballmers reign as CEO a success?


Editor Barry Collins: In purely nancial terms, its hard to argue Ballmer was a failure: $6 billion prots for the last quarter alone isnt a sign of a company on its last legs. As far as Windows was concerned, the only way was down after he took over, with the OS retaining a market share of more than 90%. But is the company set fair for the future? With huge uncertainty over the ability of Windows 8 to grab attention in the tablet market, Windows Phone failing to disrupt the mobile duopoly of iOS and Android, and Bing failing even to chink Googles armour, Id argue not. Reviews editor Jonathan Bray: Microsoft is having a hard time of it right now, especially in the mobile space. Although the companys in a weak position, the bold decisions that have characterised Ballmers tenure over the past two years may yet bear fruit. The most promising area is smartphones, where Microsofts partnership with Nokia is producing some exceptional handsets. Windows Phone 8 is set to be a force to be reckoned with. Where smartphones go, tablets are sure to follow. Windows 8 devices have nally been appearing at more reasonable prices in recent months, boasting attractive features such as great battery life and bundled Ofce apps, so it certainly isnt all doom and gloom. Ballmer hasnt got everything right during his reign, but he has been brave. A year or two down the track, its entirely possible that his actions over Windows 8 will be looked upon in a far more positive light. Technical editor Darien Graham-Smith: Whatever you may think of Ballmer, I think its fair to say that timing hasnt been his friend. His tenure at Microsoft has coincided almost precisely with Apples spectacular renaissance under Steve Jobs a challenge no CEO would envy. Almost inevitably, Microsoft under Ballmer has sometimes appeared slow and out of touch in comparison to its barnstorming rival. But the fact that Windows remains heavily dominant in the consumer PC market, even after more than a decade of battering from Apple, suggests that, while Ballmer may not have had Jobs charisma, hes held the business together remarkably well. Editorial director Tim Danton: I nd myself in the strange position of agreeing with three different views. Yes, timing has been against Ballmer. Yes, hes made brave decisions that may yet pay off. And yes, theres a huge amount of uncertainty about the companys future. But thats what its like when youre in charge of a dominant company in a turbulent industry. There are facts and gures, though, that suggest Ballmer has failed. During his reign, Microsoft has slipped from top slot to sixth or seventh in virtually any brand ranking you care to choose. Meanwhile, according to Glassdoor, Microsofts own employees only give him a 47% satisfaction rating: this compares to 95% for Larry Page, 93% for Tim Cook and 87% for Marissa Mayer. Hardly a vote of condence. Barry: Ballmers biggest problem was that he didnt have the technical nous to set a vision for the company. There was never any fear of Ballmer issuing one of those legendary Gates memos, such as the call for the company to jump aboard the internet or sort out its security. Ballmer was a salesman, not a technologist, and after the departure of Ray Ozzie, Microsoft missed someone who could set, or correct, a technical direction. Who had the technical clout to tell Steven Sinofsky what he got wrong with Windows 8, for example? Darien: Another techie CEO was the last thing Microsoft needed. Bill Gates focus on the technology seemed sometimes to blind him to the needs and experiences of the average user (think, for example, of the fantastic idea of integrating IE into Windows Explorer). I wont say Ballmer managed to cure Microsoft of that tendency the Windows Vista debacle will always be a black mark against him but he was pragmatic about what individuals and businesses would pay for. A more technically focused leader could easily have evolved Windows into something much more advanced, and much less commercially relevant. Tim: The problem for Ballmer is that, to successfully follow Gates, he needed to be a great CEO. For that, his gambles had to pay off. Windows Phone needed to have more than 10% market share. Surface couldnt be suffering $900 million write-downs. Azure must be the dominant cloud platform, Ofce 365 the productivity tool of choice, Bing the number-one search tool. While there are plenty of green shoots indicating future success, Ballmers resignation is a sign that even he doesnt believe hes done as great a job as he should.

016

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NEWS Headlines

Scanning the web in an hour


Zakir Durumeric, a computer science PhD student and research fellow at the University of Michigan, explains why ZMap is a breakthrough

Q&A

esearchers from the University of Michigan have released ZMap, an open-source tool that scans the internet in less than an hour; existing tools take months to complete such probes. ZMap uses a new method to scan networks more quickly, and the team behind the tool has made it available to anyone with a Linux system and a fast-enough connection. Given it can take months to run a network scan, how is ZMap so fast? Previously, scanners would scan a small batch of the internet, move on, scan the next batch and go through them one by one. Theyd also keep track of their states which hosts theyve scanned, which hosts they need to scan, which connections are active, which have timed out. You waste a lot of time just waiting. Weve developed a scanner thats stateless we dont keep track of what weve scanned or what were going to scan. How did you improve existing scanning methods to achieve that? You could scan each IP address incrementally, but if you scan very quickly, youll overload a network. We wanted to scan in a random order without

maintaining all this excess state. We use an algebraic structure called a cyclic multiplicative group that allows us to jump from address to address. Once youve hit all the addresses, youll come to the rst one you scanned, so youll know youve scanned each address once. You only need to know the last address you scanned to get to the next one, so you keep hopping until you get back to where you started. You then have a random-looking permutation of the internet, without having kept track of the excess state. Whats useful about scanning the whole internet so quickly? There are certain phenomena we cant detect without all this data. ZMap lets us approach those problems. Take the HTTPS ecosystem, where we have all these certicates we trust on the internet. Theres no published list of who we trust, and we dont necessarily know whats out there until its out in the wild. This lets us nd every certicate in the wild. Before, we were blindly working on this ecosystem because wed see small, anecdotal reports, but not a global perspective.

Could hackers use it to exploit weaknesses? ZMap allows you to uncover vulnerabilities, but malicious users have already been performing these scans through

Im sure there are companies with a commercial interest, but our approach is to open up
botnets. This brings researchers onto the same playing eld as attackers. Also, ZMap is designed to run from one place and from one large internet connection, not to hide itself. Attackers want to remain hidden; were very open about what were doing. Given its power advantages, is anyone interested in buying ZMap? At this point, it isnt a commercial licence its all open. Weve seen a lot of positive response in the rst couple of days, with people pushing back new codes and probes to us. Im sure there are companies with a commercial interest in this, but as researchers, our approach is to open this up.

O
018

WIN
nline backup specialist Livedrive is offering ve PC Pro readers the chance to win a one-year subscription to its premium Livedrive Pro Suite service, worth 150. Livedrive Pro Suite integrates two separate products, which together offer a complete cloud-storage package.
PC PRO NOVEMBER 2013

A LIVEDRIVE PRO SUITE ACCOUNT WORTH 150


any computer with a browser and an internet connection through the Livedrive website. Livedrives desktop application is available for Windows and Mac, and apps for all popular mobile and tablet operating systems are available. For more information, visit www.livedrive.com. We have ve one-year subscriptions to give away. To enter the competition, answer the following question and email the answer to pcpro@livedrive.com by 31 October.

Livedrive Backup automatically creates copies of your important les in the cloud while you work. This will ensure you never lose your les again even if your computer is damaged or stolen. Livedrive Briefcase lets you upload more than 5TB of les to the cloud. You can then stream your movies and music, or edit your documents, from

Which file-storage service does Livedrive provide?

A) Thunder storage B) Cloud storage C) Clown storage

TERMS AND CONDITIONS Only one entry per person. Prize is non-refundable. Direct Livedrive customers who already have consumer accounts can add one years subscription to their current account instead. Customers who have Knowhow or Reseller Livedrive accounts cannot have one year added to their current accounts. Winners will be picked at random from a list of correct answers. Please refer to Livedrives own T&Cs for customer terms of use: www.livedrive.com/terms-of-use

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NEWS Infographic

Which is winning the battle for the living room?

TVs vs tablets
T
he 1950s are back: families are once again gathering in their living rooms to watch television together. So says Ofcom, off the back of a wide-ranging communications report that suggests that, contrary to popular belief, the number of adults watching TV every week has increased in the past decade. However, a closer look at the numbers reveals that families arent reverting to TVs at all: theyre turning to tablets to watch television shows and go online while parked on the sofa. Here, we delve deeper into the numbers to reveal how Britons are really watching TV.

Living room

91% 41% 4

of adults watch TV in their living room every week, up from 88% in 2002 of households have only one TV up from 35% in 2002

51% 56% 22%


Children

of adults have smartphones and 24% own tablets

of tablet owners watch TV with their tablet, and 60% of those do so in their bedroom of people watch different content from their family on different screens while in the same room

hours of TV are watched every day by the average viewer, up from 3hrs 42mins in 2004

50%

of children have their own TV in their bedroom, down from about 70% in 2007

39% 0%

of children with smart TVs use them to play games, compared to 21% of adults The change in childrens TV-viewing time since 2007

41% 28%

of parents say their children use a tablet on a daily basis

of children use a tablet for schoolwork. Most use tablets for entertainment purposes

77%
How we watch

of parents say tablets are useful for entertaining or educating their children

90% 67% 7%
020

of TV viewing is live, rather than via catch-up services

of homes have a digital video recorder. Time-shifted viewing increased from 2% in 2007 to 10% in 2013 of Britons have a smart TV. Of those, 77% have it connected to the internet

57% 54% 49%

of tablet owners watch live TV at least twice a week

of tablet owners use a catch-up service weekly to watch TV on their tablet of people use smartphones or tablets to surf the web while watching TV

PC PRO NOVEMBER 2013

www.pcpro.co.uk

Simple yet Powerful NAS

Turbo NAS TS-421

Access your data anywhere

Dropbox like feature - Qsync

Access your files & enjoy music collection with your mobile devices.

Sync your data on your computer, phone, and tablet with the new Qsync.

* TS-421 is featured with the new QTS 4.0 Turbo NAS operating system. QTS 4.0 is also available on TS-x12, TS-x69, and TS-x20 series.

Copyright 2013 QNAP Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.

www.qnap.com

NEWS Opinion

JOHN HEMMING MP asks why we should have to register to read legal content on the web

hile at school, my son was asked by the technical department why he and his friends had been looking at the Ku Klux Klans website. The answer? It was part of a history lesson. However, the fact the question was even asked is indicative of the way internet monitoring occurs. Because the internet is pervasive, questions are asked regularly about whether it allows children to be bullied into committing suicide, what the impact of porn is on relationships, and whether pro-anorexia websites are too easy to nd. The key question is, how do we address these issues? We already have network-level blocks on illegal child-abuse images. The debate more recently has been about how to lter other, legal content. PC Pro has done a considerable amount of work to highlight the problems with content lters. Inevitably, theyll sometimes deliver false positives and let through nefarious content. However, since theres been no proposal to change the law on internet

Given that it would be easy to operate DNS-based content filtering in a home router, why is it being done elsewhere?
censorship, theres been no debate in parliament, and theres a complete lack of transparency about how these systems work. Ive tried to bring clarity to the debate by challenging the four biggest ISPs (TalkTalk, BT, Virgin Media and Sky) to explain their technical solutions for content ltering. Virgin and Sky say theyre doing something based on DNS, but wont say any more, and BT says merely that its doing something later this year. Ive experimented with TalkTalks HomeSafe system the only one thats currently live by switching on all the lters, including social networking. Oddly, Facebook is classed as a social network, but Twitter isnt, because it redirects from port 80 to an encrypted web session on port 443. My own blog, http:// johnhemming.blogspot.co.uk, is categorised as social networking, but Conservative Home (http://conservativehome.blogs.com) isnt. TalkTalks system uses a proxy and so can only operate on port 80, since it wouldnt have

Labs Turn to p130 for our test of parental-control software


JOHN HEMMING is the Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley. He can program in eight programming languages. Blog: http://johnhemming.blogspot.co.uk Email: hemmingj@parliament.uk

the right certicate for an encrypted session on port 443. As such, its easy to get around: it doesnt take much to put an s after http in http://www.facebook.com. Port 443 could be blocked in the router, of course, but that would also block all e-commerce. All thats required to circumvent the DNS blocking route chosen by Virgin Media and Sky is an IP address, so I doubt this will be effective teenagers will happily exchange illicit IP addresses behind bike sheds. Although content ltering is awed, it should be made available to the bill-payer. Furthermore, it seems sensible to implement password control, so lters cant be changed without the agreement of the account-holder. Also, setting up lters to be default-on isnt a challenge to fundamental liberties. However, two civil-liberty issues cause me concern. The rst is a relatively minor one arising from TalkTalks system, which tracks the pages users look at. It can be evaded using simple encryption, but that isnt the point: why should an organisation be allowed to monitor peoples reading behaviour? If someone wants to read about the Ku Klux Klan, they shouldnt have to account for themselves. A second more important concern is that ISPs are holding a central database of individuals content-ltering preferences. Given that it would be easy to operate DNSbased content-ltering in a home router (some of which are implementations of Linux, in any event), why is it being done elsewhere on the network? Why should someone have to register on a database if they want to read about tobacco, gambling, suicide or porn? This, of course, isnt an issue of law: its an issue that will be resolved through market forces. Bruce Lawson, a constituent of mine, raised this concern with me, and Ive agreed to run a campaign against central databases of preferences. Our tool will be information. Well ask the individual ISPs to explain how their content lters work, and to reveal this on a website. Consumers will then be able to discover if their desire to be allowed access to dating websites or gambling platforms, say, remains private, or whether its stored on a central database of peoples preferred reading. In the end, content ltering isnt a replacement for supportive parenting. It may be useful to some parents, but people should have the freedom to read what legal content they wish without registering with Big Brother.

022

PC PRO NOVEMBER 2013

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BROADBAND IS BROADBAND IS BROADBAND, RIGHT? WRONG.


Theres now enough research to prove that those businesses with superfast fibre optic broadband find it transforms the way they work. It makes them faster, more efcient, more innovative. The Government estimates that if UK businesses switch to bre broadband, it will add an extra 18 * And you can have your slice of that for just 1.15 a day, with our BT Infinity for business. Here are five good reasons why billion to the economy. your business could be better off with superfast fibre optic broadband.

1. INFINITY FOR BUSINESS CAN HELP PEOPLE GET MORE DONE.


Its not just frustrating waiting for les to download or web pages to appear. Its inefcient and expensive. Innity for business is as much as 6 times faster than UK average broadband. Imagine that for a moment. Youll be downloading a big 200Mb le in less than half a minute. Uploading 30 photos to your website in 25 seconds. Time is money, as the clich goes, and you could be doing more with your time.

4. YOULL GET TECHNICAL SUPPORT, ROUND THE CLOCK.


Our network is 99.99% reliable, and youll have a technical expert to speak to 24/7. Our experts specialise in businesses like yours and can help with technical niggles like setting up email, or Wi-fi connections. And, of course, the great advantage of being with BT is that weve worked with more businesses than anyone else.

5. THE COST? JUST 1.15 A DAY. NO REALLY.


Perhaps you think that superfast fibre optic broadband is too expensive. Thats not true. You can have BT Innity for business installed for free by our experts, and have it up and running for just 35 a month. When you think of the difference it could make to your working day - and the impact it could have on your company as a whole, its one of the easiest business decisions youll ever make.

2. ITS LIKE A FAST LANE FOR YOUR BUSINESS.


You know that time of day when everythings slower you cant get online quickly because everyones online? It doesnt happen with BT Innity for business. It understands that you need to get things done urgently, so its like a VIP service for your business, because its consistently fast, even at the busiest times.

3. FIBRE MAKES BUSINESSES MORE INNOVATIVE. FACT.


Research shows that superfast broadband fuels innovation in companies like yours**. People are using it to cut down on travelling to meetings by using high quality video conferencing. You can do it on your laptop, with no fancy equipment needed. And if you like to do your thinking outside the ofce, you will have free, unlimited access to our network of over 5 million Wi-fi hotspots. It means you and your people can connect when theyre in different places, just as easily as you do when youre in the ofce. Simply, you work in a better, more exible way.

ON YOUR TO-DO LIST TODAY. GET THE BROADBAND YOUR BUSINESS DESERVES.
Call the number below, and feel free to ask any question you like. We can talk you through the process and reassure you on how simple it is to make the switch. And you can go online to see the difference BT Infinity for business has made to other companies. 30,000 businesses have already switched. We look forward to talking to you and making a difference to yours.

BT Infinity for business


Making technology work for people.

0800 678 1268


bt.com/superfastbusinessbroadband
*Federation of Small Businesses, referenced by Jeremy Hunt, Media keynote speech, 8 June 2010. **Getting up to speed: making superfast broadband a reality, NESTA policy brieng, January 2009. The speed to upload 30 photos is based on each photo being 2Mb (60Mb total le size). 6 times faster is based on BT Innity for business Option 2 maximum speed and UK average broadband speed from Ofcom report, March 2013. Broadband speed can be affected by a number of things: how far your business is from the bre cabinet as well as the wiring in your building. Not all lines in an Innity-enabled area can support the service. BT Innity for business may require a BT line or similar and a bre compatible router such as the BT Business Hub provided with Innity. Terms and conditions apply. The speeds provided by BT Innity for business are more consistent than standard broadband, giving you prioritised trafc with 16Mb assured throughput at 90% of the internet busy period. Youll need to be in range of a BT Wi- hotspot, have a wireless device and register for BT Wi-. Our Fair Use Policy and terms and conditions apply. 1.15 a day is based on BT Innity for business Option 2 for 35 a month on a 24 month contract.

FEATURE PC Pro Awards

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PC PRO NOVEMBER 2013

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PC Pro Awards FEATURE

Contents
Laptops 26 27 27 28 29 29 30 30 30 32 32 32 34 34 34 36

Find out who you voted the best tech companies in Britain, and discover our Products of the Year

Desktops Tablets Broadband Smartphones Mobile data Printers Monitors Digital cameras Motherboards Graphics cards Storage Wireless routers Web hosts Online retailers Products of the Year

nowing which companies you can trust when it comes to buying tech products is critical. As ever, you can rely on the collective experience of thousands of PC Pro readers as we present our Excellence Awards 2013. Thousands of readers lled out an exhaustive survey, detailing their thoughts on the laptops, tablets, PCs, smartphones and other tech products and services

theyve bought. This feedback and this feedback alone determined our 15 awards. This year, weve also extended our Products of the Year, which were decided by our editorial team.

How the awards were decided

The PC Pro Excellence Awards are the culmination of months of survey feedback from our readers.

We asked our readers to rate each product or service on a number of factors, such as performance, reliability and value for money. We then converted these answers to numeric values to obtain percentage scores for each category, from which we derived an overall score. Only companies with a signicant number of votes are included in our awards tables.

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PC PRO NOVEMBER 2013

025

FEATURE PC Pro Awards

Laptops
Winner Apple

pple claimed the Laptop Excellence Award for the fourth successive year, once again recording a score that put clear ground between the MacBook manufacturer and the Windowsbased competition. As in previous years, strong scores for customer support and reliability were responsible for handing Apple the title. A Customer Support satisfaction score of 88% was head and shoulders above the rest of the market, although with only a handful of premium-priced models to support, its arguably much easier for Apple to deliver consistent support than rivals

with ranges running into the dozens. Of course, if the laptop is reliable in the rst place, theres little reason ever to contact customer support, and here again the PC Pro readers agree with our reviewers nobody can match Apple when it comes to consistent build quality. It was the only company to record a Reliability score of more than 90%. Predictably, value for money was Apples weakest suit: it was the lowest scorer in this category

manufacturer in 2013, climbing from a mid-table position in 2012 to second place in this years poll. Samsung was dragged down by a poor Battery Life score in 2012, but it recovered sufciently to

Nobody can match Apple when it comes to consistent build quality


of the nine companies in our rankings. It was Samsung and value-laptop manufacturer Asus that scored highly, providing options for those whose budget cant stretch to a MacBook. Samsung also claimed the accolade of most-improved laptop post strong all-round scores this year. Indeed, if you turn to p36, youll see youre not the only ones to admire Samsungs work this year: the companys laptops also feature in our Products of the Year, voted for by the PC Pro editorial team.

The traditional PC giants Dell and HP failed to post anything above mediocre scores in any category, showing that the two troubled companies have work to do to win around the PC-buying public. As with smartphones, battery life remained the weakest area for laptop makers, with most satisfaction scores hovering around the 70% mark. Again, Apple stood out. However, that isnt because its battery technology is any more advanced than any of the other laptop makers; its because as our benchmarks have proved in the past OS X seems to be better optimised to preserve battery life than Windows.

Customer Support
Apple Samsung Asus Lenovo Dell Acer HP Sony Toshiba 88% 75% 76% 77% 77% 73% 75% 73% 74%

Reliability
94% 89% 87% 87% 83% 83% 82% 84% 83%

Value for Money


74% 86% 89% 82% 78% 85% 79% 75% 81%

Battery Life
85% 79% 76% 78% 71% 69% 70% 70% 70%

Performance
91% 86% 84% 82% 80% 76% 78% 80% 77%

Buy Again?
94% 92% 91% 90% 87% 85% 87% 87% 81%

Overall
88% 84% 84% 83% 79% 79% 78% 78% 78%

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PC Pro Awards FEATURE

Desktops
Winner

Chillblast
Highly Commended Scan

heres a familiar name atop our desktop PC award: Chillblast recorded industryleading scores in every category to claim the gong again. Were used to Chillblast PCs tearing through our benchmarks, and a 98% score for performance left almost everyone choking in the dust. Value for money cost Apple a desktop award, with Scan sweeping in to take a Highly Commended award, thanks to strong scores all round.

Customer Support
Chillblast Scan Apple PC Specialist Acer HP/Compaq Lenovo Dell 95% 90% 88% 80% 79% 75% 70% 78%

Reliability
97% 93% 92% 83% 86% 86% 86% 85%

Value for Money


95% 89% 77% 89% 85% 82% 87% 79%

Performance
98% 93% 89% 96% 79% 79% 81% 78%

Buy Again?
97% 93% 93% 82% 87% 93% 90% 86%

Overall
96% 92% 88% 86% 83% 83% 83% 81%

Tablets
Winner

Highly Commended Samsung

Apple

his award is only one year old, but Apple maintained its grip and slightly improved its Overall score. Samsung came close, delivering a vast array of tablets this year. Given that 95% of its customers said theyd buy from the company again, its likely to benet from repeat business. The newcomer to the market didnt fare so well. Microsofts Surface tablets were dragged down by performance and battery life, although neither were terrible. Amazons attempt to ood the market with budget devices hasnt been universally successful, with

Kindle devices falling down for the same reasons as Surface tablets. BlackBerrys deplorable Buy Again score is probably a reection of the companys failure

to commit to tablets, rather than a groundswell of dissatisfaction with its only tablet, the PlayBook. After all, you cant buy again if they dont sell tablets any more.

Battery Life
Apple Samsung Acer Asus Microsoft Amazon BlackBerry 89% 86% 86% 86% 83% 83% 88%

Reliability
95% 91% 91% 88% 91% 88% 91%

Ease of Use
94% 90% 93% 92% 89% 83% 86%

Performance
90% 86% 86% 86% 83% 81% 81%

Buy Again?
93% 95% 90% 93% 90% 83% 64%

Overall
92% 90% 89% 89% 87% 84% 82%

www.pcpro.co.uk

PC PRO NOVEMBER 2013

027

FEATURE PC Pro Awards

Broadband
Winner Zen Internet Highly Commended Plusnet

his years Broadband Excellence Award is a landmark for Zen Internet its the tenth successive year the widely admired ISP has claimed the prize. Thats no small achievement for the Rochdale-based company, which punches well above its weight in a market thats dominated by a handful of huge multinationals. Customer support and reliability have been the bedrock of Zens success over the years, and that continues to be the case in 2013. Its 95% score for Customer Support satisfaction was almost 10% higher than any of its rivals and almost double that of bottom-placed

AOL. Nobody comes close to Zens 95% score for Reliability, either, with Highly Commended BT-owned Plusnet coming closest, with 84%. The one area Zen may want to pay attention to is value for

O2 and Virgin Media are the best placed of the big boys, with Overall scores of 74%. If Virgin could match its routinely high scores for Performance with improved customer support and reliability, it could threaten Zens

Customer support and reliability have been the bedrock of Zens success
money: a satisfaction score of 79% is little better than average, and a drop from last years score of 84%. As with Apple, some people resent paying a premium for high-quality service. long-standing reign at the top of our Broadband award. Fibre broadband appears to have done little for BT. Its Speed score of 67% was only a modest improvement on last years 61%,

although its Overall score improved slightly. The AOL brand appears to be doing little to improve the image of the TalkTalk stable, either, propping up our table once again and performing far worse than the mothership. Customers of BE Broadband and O2 seem concerned that their ISPs have fallen into the hands of Sky. Although both posted decent scores across the board, only 62% of both would buy again, suggesting theres nervousness about being swallowed by the Sky empire. Not without good reason, either, judging by Skys scores: 58% for Speed satisfaction is well below the 74% recorded by BE and the 69% of O2.

Customer Support
Zen Internet Plusnet BE Broadband O2 Virgin Media BT Sky TalkTalk Orange AOL 95% 86% 81% 79% 66% 61% 66% 52% 53% 49%

Reliability
95% 84% 80% 81% 75% 75% 72% 62% 63% 59%

Value for Money


79% 85% 76% 80% 65% 63% 70% 72% 66% 56%

Speed
89% 73% 74% 69% 81% 67% 58% 55% 54% 40%

Buy Again?
97% 92% 62% 62% 81% 74% 69% 57% 55% 31%

Overall
91% 84% 74% 74% 74% 68% 67% 60% 58% 47%

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PC Pro Awards FEATURE

Smartphones
Winner

Google

pples reign as king of the smartphones is over, after ve consecutive years of success in our smartphone Excellence Award. Googles industry-leading 76% score for Battery Life and its outstanding score of 94% for Performance allowed it to steal Apples crown. Battery life is the chief complaint when it comes to smartphones, although overall satisfaction levels have improved this year. The one to watch is Nokia, which has slowly climbed back up our rankings, leaping from second-bottom in 2011, to fourth in 2012, to third this year.

Battery Life
Google Apple Nokia Samsung LG HTC Motorola Sony/Sony Ericsson BlackBerry 76% 65% 73% 67% 68% 64% 75% 65% 73%

Reliability
92% 90% 87% 85% 86% 81% 82% 82% 77%

Ease of Use
94% 94% 89% 88% 91% 87% 82% 86% 67%

Performance
94% 88% 87% 86% 86% 80% 75% 76% 68%

Buy Again?
98% 92% 90% 93% 85% 88% 84% 87% 65%

Overall
91% 86% 85% 84% 83% 80% 79% 79% 70%

Mobile data
Winner

giffgaff

he virtual networks continue to dominate our Mobile Data award, with giffgaff the quirky rm that operates on the O2 network running away with the award for the second year on the trot. Value for money continues to be giffgaffs strongest card, hitting a 94% satisfaction rating. Its parent company, O2, scored only 63% in this category. Virtual networks occupy the top three slots, with Tesco Mobile (which also runs on O2s network) and Virgin Mobile (T-Mobile) scoring well. The big boys are all down at the bottom end.

Reliability
giffgaff Tesco Mobile Virgin Mobile Three T-Mobile O2 EE Orange Vodafone 85% 77% 81% 78% 74% 73% 71% 70% 67%

Speed
80% 71% 72% 79% 71% 68% 73% 65% 59%

Customer Service
81% 75% 73% 64% 65% 69% 66% 59% 63%

Value for Money


94% 85% 80% 77% 71% 63% 63% 59% 57%

Buy Again?
94% 90% 85% 84% 77% 75% 73% 66% 68%

Overall
87% 80% 78% 77% 72% 70% 69% 64% 63%

www.pcpro.co.uk

PC PRO NOVEMBER 2013

029

FEATURE PC Pro Awards

Printers

Monitors

Digital cameras

Winner

Winner

Winner

Dell
Highly Commended
Canon, Brother

ViewSonic
Highly Commended
Iiyama, Samsung

Canon
Highly Commended
Nikon, Sony

ell may not be the rst company you think of when it comes to printers, but it narrowly fought off competition from the traditional printer manufacturers to claim this years prize. Value for money, including running costs, is what swung the award for Dell: its industryleading 85% satisfaction score in this category propels it above Canon, Brother and Epson. Yet, when it comes to print quality, Canon is still the preferred choice, with a score of 92%. A middling Value for Money score cost HP a place among the frontrunners. A 76% satisfaction score is the second-worst in the entire group, bettering only the 71% of Lexmark. Theres very little to separate the printer manufacturers in terms of reliability, however, with all scoring between 80% and 90% apart from Kodak, which scored 76%.

S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

ix percentage points is all that separated top from bottom in this years Monitor award, but ViewSonic squeaked home by the slimmest of margins, with Iiyama and Samsung nipping at its heels. An industry-leading score of 94% for Value for Money and an incredible 99% in the Buy Again category are the reasons the company topped the pile.

OVERALL SCORE ViewSonic Iiyama Samsung Asus Hanns G AOC BenQ Dell LG 95% 94% 94% 93% 93% 92% 92% 92% 91% 91% 89% 89%

igital cameras is another nip-andtuck category, with the winners decided by a photo nish (if youll pardon the pun). Canon was a joint winner with Nikon in 2012, but it edged in front of its rival in 2013 to land the award outright. Theres almost nothing to separate the companies in terms of image quality, value for money, reliability or video quality. As such, Canons 99% score in the Buy Again category compared to Nikons 96% was enough to land it the gong. Sony deserves a special mention for a strong all-round performance, which saw it claim a Highly Commended award alongside Nikon. Pentax has middling video quality to blame for it missing out on an award.

OVERALL SCORE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Canon Nikon Sony Pentax Panasonic Samsung Olympus Fujifilm 92% 91% 91% 90% 90% 88% 88% 86%
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OVERALL SCORE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
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Dell Canon Brother Epson HP Lexmark Kodak


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88% 87% 87% 85% 83% 81% 78%

10 Acer 11 HP 12 Philips

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FEATURE PC Pro Awards

Motherboards

Graphics cards Storage

Winner

Winner

Winner

Asus
Winner

EVGA
Highly Commended
Palit

Crucial
Highly Commended
Samsung

Gigabyte

eliability is essential when it comes to the component that the others rely on, and this year youve found it impossible to split two companies who deliver rock-solid motherboards. Asus and Gigabyte both scored 91% for Reliability, and both delivered an equal Overall score of 89%, making them joint winners of this years award. Even more impressively, 97% of both companies customers say theyd buy their motherboards again, which is a resounding vote of condence. Both have pedigree in these awards, too: Gigabyte has won six of the past seven Motherboard awards, while Asus was Highly Commended in 2013. Nobody delivers disappointing results in this high-scoring category. Even bottom-of-thepile Foxconn recorded an overall score of 81%, which is good enough to challenge for an award in other product categories.

ts now ve out of six for EVGA in our Graphics Card award, giving this company a pedigree none of its rivals can match when it comes to delivering fast and reliable 3D performance. EVGA swept the board in every category including Speed and Reliability and 93% of its customers said the company represented good value for money. Palit was close behind unlike last year, when no-one was close enough to land a Highly Commended award. Its 94% satisfaction score for Reliability suggests its a brand you can trust. Once more, this is a category where nobody delivered scores to be ashamed of.

O
1 2 3 4 5 6

ur Storage award always has a vast eld of competitors, but Crucial has followed up last years success with another marginal victory. It scored 97% in the Buy Again category, placing it narrowly ahead of Samsung, which can expect repeat business from 96% of its customers.

OVERALL SCORE Crucial Samsung Synology Kingston SanDisk Hitachi 94% 93% 92% 91% 89% 89% 87% 87% 86% 85% 84% 80% 77%
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OVERALL SCORE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 EVGA Palit Asus MSI Gainward Gigabyte Sapphire XFX PNY 93% 91% 89% 89% 88% 88% 87% 87% 85%

OVERALL SCORE 1= Asus 1= Gigabyte 3 4 5 6


032

12 Freecom 13 Seagate 14 LaCie 15 Toshiba 16 Buffalo 17 Iomega 18 Netgear

89% 89% 87% 85% 84% 81%

ASRock MSI Intel Foxconn


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FEATURE PC Pro Awards

Wireless routers Web hosts

Online retailers

Winner

Winner

Winner

Billion
Winner

Heart Internet
Highly Commended
Memset

Scan
Highly Commended
John Lewis

Asus

A
3 4 5 6 7 8 9

nother category where the result was too close to call, with Billion and Asus sharing the spoils. Billion surged narrowly ahead for speed, while Asus scored more highly for the range of its routers, but the pair were inseparable overall. ISP routers remain unpopular.

OVERALL SCORE 1= Asus 1= Billion TP-Link DrayTek Netgear Cisco D-Link Linksys 89% 89% 88% 87% 85% 85% 85% 82%

eart Internet has pulled off something of a coup, plucking the Web Host award from the Highly Commended Memset, who have won the award in each of the seven previous years its been part of our line-up. Heart edged ahead when it came to reliability, delivering a satisfaction score of 95%, compared to Memsets 90%. Indeed, both had scores of 90% or more in every other category (Speed, Reliability, Customer Support, Value for Money and Buy Again), indicating that these are two web hosts with exceptionally happy sets of customers. The results are a little more mixed for the three remaining companies who generated enough feedback to qualify. 1&1s strongest suit was Reliability (83%), but it suffered when it came to Value for Money (74%), while GoDaddy.com and 123-reg barely scored more than 70% in any of the categories. Only 59% of 123-reg customers said theyd buy from the company again.

I
1 2 3 4 5 6

t takes something special to head the vast eld of online retailers, and Scans scores of more than 90% in every category (Customer Service, Delivery and Overall) were enough to clinch this years award. John Lewis puts in another strong showing, repeating last years Highly Commended award.

OVERALL SCORE Scan John Lewis Novatech Apple Amazon CCL Online 94% 92% 91% 91% 91% 91% 82% 82% 81% 80% 79% 78%
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15 Argos 16 Tesco 17 Play.com 19 Currys 20 Pixmania 21 PC World

OVERALL SCORE 1 2 3 4 5 Heart Internet 94% Memset 1&1 123-reg 92% 78% 66%

BT Home Hub 81% 80% 77% 74% 69%

10 Belkin 11 TalkTalk 12 Virgin Media 13 Sky


034 PC PRO NOVEMBER 2013

18 Laptops Direct 81%

GoDaddy.com 66%

FEATURE PC Pro Awards

Products of the Year


Laptop of the Year Hybrid Tablet of the Year

Samsung Ativ Book 8


Weve seen plenty of stylish Windows laptops in 2013, but the Samsung Ativ Book 8 combines appealing looks with plenty of power. Its cheaper than the MacBook Pro, too.

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix


Lenovo has released many ingenious hybrid designs this year, but none have impressed us as much as the Helix, a traditional laptop design with a detachable tablet. Its an elegant marriage of power and portability.

Highly Commended
Apple MacBook Air 13in Asus VivoBook S200 Google Chromebook Pixel Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite

Highly Commended
Dell XPS 12 Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 Microsoft Surface Pro

Ultrabook of the Year

Tablet of the Year

Sony VAIO Pro 13


Sony has delivered some delicious ultraportables over the years, but none have been more desirable than the unbelievably slender VAIO Pro 13. It backs up the looks with plenty of power, too.

Nexus 7 (2013)
A late entry in the PC Pro Awards, the revamped Nexus 7 improves on last years model in every respect: sharper screen, faster components, longer battery life and slimmer design.

Highly Commended
Dell XPS 13 Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch Dell Latitude 6430u Samsung Series 7 Ultra

Highly Commended
Apple iPad Asus Fonepad Dell Latitude 10 Sony Xperia Tablet Z

036

PC PRO NOVEMBER 2013

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PC Pro Awards FEATURE

Alongside our reader-voted Excellence Awards, this year the PC Pro editorial team including our Real World contributors have put their heads together to select a dozen dierent Products of the Year. We asked tech companies to nominate their own products, then added to the shortlists with our own picks. Here we present the winners, plus four runners-up, in each category

Desktop of the Year

Camera of the Year

Apple iMac 27in


Apples slimmed-down iMac design proved theres still room to innovate on the desktop PC. Aside from the slender frame, it boasted the best screen weve seen on any all-in-one.

Nikon D600
Full-frame DSLRs were the preserve of the professional until Nikon arrived with the D600, delivering high-end features for a mid-range price. A model for amateurs and semi-pros alike.

Highly Commended
CyberPower Innity Fusion GT Dell XPS One 27 Intel NUC Wired2Fire HAL 4000

Highly Commended
Canon EOS 70D Nikon D7100 Samsung NX300 Sony NEX-6

Phone of the Year

Server of the Year

HTC One
The HTC One marks a stunning return to form for one of the early pioneers of Android handsets. Attractive, powerful and with better audio than any smartphone yet, the HTC One remains the device to beat.

Dell PowerEdge VRTX


The Dell takes blade-server technology, redesigns it and makes it more affordable. PCI-E architecture and shared storage add versatility you wont nd in blade servers.

Highly Commended
Apple iPhone 5 Nexus 4 Nokia Lumia 520 Samsung Galaxy S4

Highly Commended
Boston Value Series 380 G8 Broadberry CyberServe XE5-R224 Fujitsu Primergy TX100 S3p HP ProLiant DL320e Gen8 v2

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FEATURE PC Pro Awards

Security Software of the Year

Software of the Year

Bitdefender Internet Security 2013


Bitdefender Internet Security 2013 achieved a awless score in our anti-malware tests and packs in a generous range of supporting features, from anti-spam to parental controls. Best of all, once you have things set up the way you like, you can engage Bitdefenders autopilot mode for interruption-free protection.

Xara Designer Pro 9


Xara has long offered affordable alternatives to Adobe Creative Suite, but with Adobe forcing subscriptions onto its users, it has never looked more tempting. Improved bitmap-processing abilities, a full suite of drawing and web-design tools, and blistering speed, make it our favourite software package of 2013.

Highly Commended
Trend Micro Titanium Internet Security 2013 Norton Internet Security 2013 Kaspersky Internet Security 2013 Avast Free Antivirus

Highly Commended
Adobe Photoshop CC Microsoft Oce 365 StarDock Start8 TeamViewer 8

Business Product of the Year

Education Product of the Year

Epson WorkForce WF-3530DTWF


Small businesses will go to great lengths to keep IT costs under control, and the Epson WorkForce is the sort of device they dream of. A feature-packed multifunction inkjet printer with exceptionally low running costs, it includes a built-in fax modem, Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, automatic duplexing and a 30-sheet ADF.

Raspberry Pi
The government is keen to put programming back on the curriculum, but no ministerial dictat has done as much to reinvigorate the joy of coding as the Raspberry Pi a tiny, ridiculously low-cost computer that can be employed for all manner of tasks and has turned us into a nation of tinkerers once again.

Highly Commended
Microsoft Oce 365 NetSupport Manager 11 Sublime Text 2 VMware Workstation 9

Highly Commended
Dell Latitude 10 Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 Microsoft Oce 365 NetSupport School

038

PC PRO NOVEMBER 2013

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FEATURE Infected PCs

My PC is infected: what now?


I
040

Despite your best efforts, the worst-case scenario has hit: youve fallen victim to malware. Fortunately, Davey Winder three-time winner of the BT Information Security Journalist of the Year award is here to help
s your computer running slowly, crashing frequently and generally behaving a little oddly? If you re up your web browser, are you redirected to sites you havent asked to visit? Do pop-ups appear even when youre not using your browser? If youve checked for rogue search-engine add-ons and other undesirable browser extensions, and youve run a crap cleaner to rid your system of temporary les and other bloat, and its made little to no difference, it may be time to think about infection detection and removal. If thats the case, follow our guide below: it explains what to do to get your PC back up and running.

Disconnect it

Theres plenty of advice out there suggesting that your rst move should be to go online and run a scan using one of the many free tools available from OS and antivirus vendors. While this appears to be common sense after all, you need to know what youve been infected with in order to remove it effectively the truth

PC PRO NOVEMBER 2013

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Photography: intro, Danny Bird

Infected PCs FEATURE

Malwarebytes Anti-Malware is the undisputed daddy of malware-removal tools and its non-commercial version is free

Priced at less than 20, the Pro version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware provides real-time protection against malware threats

is that malware has evolved to the point where an active internet connection is the last thing Id recommend during a potential live infection. Besides, its likely that some malware will block the best-known security vendor sites, as well as those offering the tools to scan for and remove infections, making going online a waste of time. Err on the side of caution as far as internet connectivity is concerned and simply pull the plug on your router to prevent further data compromise.

IS IT MALWARE OR NOT?
Browser add-ons remain one of the biggest causes of slow, unstable machines and unpredictable system behaviour when browsing the web. Unfortunately, the browser is often the last place people dig around when experiencing any of these problems. Before considering any of the malware-removal routes outlined here, try looking for unwanted, undesirable and unstable browser add-ons. Remove any software that you didnt install or dont recognise (if youre not sure, Google it to nd out what it is and what it does). If youre a Chrome user, you can use the Chrome menu. Head to Tools | Extensions, where any add-ons are listed. These can be disabled one by one to see if performance improves, or deleted altogether if you really have no use for them. Firefox users should head to Tools | Add-ons | Extensions to do the same. Always restart your browser after removing an add-on.

Download a malware scanner

If you do have an antivirus scanner running, but malware is running on your system, assume that the software has been compromised: it could be that the malware has managed to disable updates or prevent it from loading properly. Whatever the situation, youd be silly to trust the scanner during the malware identication and removal process. Regular PC Pro readers will be aware from our Labs tests and reviews that no security suite or antivirus scanner is perfect, and none

An active internet connection is the last thing Id recommend during a potential infection
can detect every malware threat. Combining two or three free tools will serve you better: run one, follow any removal recommendations, then once the system has rebooted do the same with the next antivirus tool, and so on. At the end of this process, if all three show a

clean system, you should be able to get on with your life. I have a licensed copy of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (MBAM) (www.malwarebytes.org) sitting on a USB thumbdrive for such an emergency situation, but a free version that features all the necessary malware-removal functionality is available for non-commercial use; all its missing compared to the Pro version is real-time prevention and priority updates. If you dont have the necessary tools to hand, download the executables onto a clean (newly formatted) USB drive from another computer thats free from infection. Dont expect the scanning process to be quick: you want the full, deep-scan option ticked, so be prepared to wait a few hours for the results. Alongside MBAM, I also recommend using

Kaspersky TDSSKiller (www.pcpro.co.uk/ links/229ipc1), which is a free maliciousrootkit detection and removal utility. Rootkits can be particularly troublesome, since they penetrate deeply and intercept the Windows API at a low level. By hiding folders, les, processes and Registry keys, a rootkit can ensure that malware remains invisible to the user and antivirus scanners alike. Unlike most malware scans, a rootkit scan is quick it only takes a minute or so and TDSSKiller makes removal a simple matter of pressing a button and rebooting the PC after its nished.

Start Safe Mode

Using a dedicated malware scanner is a must, but doing so outside of Safe Mode is a big no-no. Running from inside Safe Mode is always a good idea, since this minimal version of the Windows OS basically uses generic

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FEATURE Infected PCs

Kasperskys free TDSSKiller detects invisible rootkits that other tools struggle to nd

drivers and nothing else; it certainly doesnt look to the startup apps that most malware relies on. It isnt 100% guaranteed, however: some advanced malware will be able to bypass these restrictions (more on that in a moment). Generally speaking, Safe Mode is started by hitting the F8 key repeatedly during booting unless youre using Windows 8, that is, since Microsoft helpfully removed that option to speed up PC booting. Windows 8 users can access Safe Mode by pressing Windows+R, typing MSCONFIG, pressing Enter, then selecting the Boot tab and clicking the Safe Mode checkbox under the Boot Options setting. This will get you into Safe Mode when you restart the computer. (Windows 8 calls normal Safe Mode Minimal, by the way; starting Safe Mode with a command prompt is called alternate shell, and starting with networking is called network.) After youve successfully cleared the malware infection, youll need to repeat the MSCONFIG process to return to normal booting. What if you cant get into Safe Mode? Some malware, such as the recent FBI ransomware, will lock down your computer and prevent you from accessing it in Safe Mode with command prompt in an effort to prevent removal. However, there are still ways to get in and remove the infection. Most experts will advise rebooting your PC into a Linux environment from a CD or USB drive, after which you can manually identify and remove the rogue les. Unfortunately, though, this is a classic case of expertitis. In the real world, the people most likely to have been infected by ransomware are also those least likely to be able to boot into and navigate a Linux environment, let alone be in a position to start deleting system les by hand. Luckily, third-party tools can help. Id recommend adding HitmanPro.Kickstart

(www.surfright.nl/en/ kickstart) to your malware-recovery toolkit. Its free to use for 30 days as part of the HitmanPro second opinion malware scanner. Sure, you still have to download this to a USB drive and then boot your computer from it, but there are video guides and step-by-step instructions available from the download site to offer guidance. Retaining a familiar Windows environment in HitmanPro.Kickstart not only makes running the cleanup process easier for the user, but also for the software itself. Since it uses a live, ransomed Windows environment, it has access to all the forensic information of the processes that have been started, the processes that are

running in full-screen to block access to the desktop and so on. This means it can determine which les and Registry keys belong to the malware, and therefore enable an automated removal process. Once youve nished removing the malware, run all your scans again in deep mode. This will be time-consuming, but its a required nal step in the process to ensure that the malware hasnt been reinstalled in a different location. Some malware is highly resistant to removal. If further scans show a re-infection, the only safe option left is the full nuke and pave involving a disk format and reinstallation of Windows, along with real-time protection. If your PC still show signs of infection after this, you need to move to the next step, which is often the hardest to swallow: asking for help.

Ask for help

Some malware will lock down your PC and prevent you from accessing it in Safe Mode

Modern malware leaves behind an often complex web of hooks into the operating system, but luckily theres plenty of help available. Its dangerous to click stuff and hope for the best; after all, thats probably what got you into this mess in the rst place. If you know the name of the malware thats on the infected PC, go online using a clean computer and visit the antivirus vendor websites for removal advice relating to specic threats. If you dont, head to dedicated forums of security-savvy helpers. The DSLReports

If you cant access Safe Mode or your PC at all HitmanPro.Kickstart could save the day

042

PC PRO NOVEMBER 2013

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Infected PCs FEATURE

Do like the Scouts and be prepared: Ninite makes restoring freeware applications easier

security forum (www.pcpro.co.uk/links/ 229ipc2), Bleeping Computer (www. bleepingcomputer.com) and the DaniWeb Viruses, spyware and other nasties forum (www.pcpro.co.uk/links/229ipc3) are all excellent ways to get free help from expert users. Be prepared to follow the rules at each forum, and dont be surprised if the rst thing youre asked to do is download free diagnostic tools and run a few scans. This will produce log les that the security gurus can decipher in order to advise on the cleanup procedure. I wouldnt suggest this as the rst step, however rather one to consider after having tried to identify and remove the infection yourself. Forums are never a quick x: it can take days if not weeks to resolve a malware issue.

Nuke and pave

If you cant wait that long to get your PC back up and running, or everything that youve tried has failed, the only realistic option left is nuke

and pave. Many IT security consultants will tell you that todays malware has become so tenacious that the only way to clean an infected machine properly is to completely wipe the computers hard drive and reinstall a fresh copy of the operating system. I count myself among this group. Assuming you have data backups and a clean system image, this can be accomplished in less time than it takes to complete a deep malware scan. Even if you dont have the backups and imaging, the nuke-and-pave approach of wiping and reformatting your drive(s) and then reinstalling the OS makes sense at this point. You can guarantee youre starting afresh with a clean system, and once all the core applications are reinstalled, the creation of a system image will ensure its relatively straightforward to bring the PC back online in future. If youre a bit of a freeware junkie, take a look at Ninite (http://ninite.com), which will create a single installer to reinstall the latest updated versions of all your apps in one fell swoop and save hours of your time.

BACKUP BOTHER
The danger in backing up your data post-infection should be obvious to all: you run the risk of backing up (and restoring) the infection too. The adage that you only realise you need a backup when youve already lost your data is as true today as it ever was, but the advent of cloud storage and fast broadband means theres no excuse for not backing up. Whether your data is backed up locally or remotely, its worth keeping an image backup of a clean system so you can easily return to full functionality without the hassle of reinstalling all your software and reconguring settings. If youre reading this out of interest, and not because an emergency is unfolding before you, I seriously suggest you take a look at what your data backup options are as a priority.

PLEASE IGNORE SYSTEM RESTORE


If youve fallen victim to malware, disable System Restore instead of using it. I know, it sounds like daft advice, since System Restore exists to help you get back to an earlier point in time when your PC was running smoothly. The aw in this logic is that you dont know when your computer was infected, and System Restore will quite happily back up and then restore the infection for you. It may well be that your malware has helpfully disabled access to the function anyway, but if not, go into the control panel and disable it via System | Performance | Troubleshooting until after the cleanup process. Also, delete all restore points for good measure before you start it up again.

Post-compromise

Dont forget that the post-compromise cleanup operation extends beyond simply removing all traces of the infection from your computer. You also need to consider the risk to your data that the malware may continue to pose. Yes, Im talking about passwords. This advice is especially important if youre one of the many who reuse the same passwords for multiple sites and services, but its pertinent for everyone. Change the passwords for all your email, social networking and nancial services. This is easy if you use password-management software such as 1Password or LastPass; if you dont, now is a good time to get on top of this aspect of your data security and start doing so. Prevention isnt something weve talked about, but if you ever nd yourself in a position

where you need to use the advice from this feature, youll almost certainly agree its better than cure. Make sure your clean PC operating system is kept up to date via Windows Update, and that all your software is updated whenever a new version becomes

The only way to clean an infected machine properly is to wipe the hard drive
available. Use real-time anti-malware protection, and educate yourself about how malware is distributed. Oh, and dont forget to use a Windows standard user account rather than an administrative account for your day-to-day computing needs, since this will greatly restrict the ability of malware to install itself in the rst place.

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FEATURE British PCs

Testers at Novatech double-check every aspect of its PCs, from peripherals to ports

Inside a

PC maker
Nicole Kobie takes a look behind the scenes at Novatech, visiting its Hampshire factory to see what goes into making a homegrown PC
PC PRO NOVEMBER 2013 046

wo images spring to mind when you picture a PC manufacturers factory: hundreds of Chinese workers on a production line, diligently assembling the latest gadget, and hi-tech robots creating components without a human in sight. The reality is different for British PC makers. We took a tour around Hampshire-based Novatechs factory to nd out what happens when you place an order for one of its PCs and to assess whether UK computer manufacturing can survive the shift to tablets, pricing pressure from overseas OEMs and economic challenges.

Where are the robots?

Despite the summer heat outside, Novatechs Portsmouth factory is cool and quiet. Although the

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warehouse is stacked full of cardboard boxes containing PCs, components and peripherals, it feels empty; theres no sign of any amazing gadgetry, but there are a few people. Half a dozen employees in the support department are xing customers PCs good-naturedly laughing at the minor problems theyve been asked to solve, and pointing out the incredible amount of dust inside one machine and a few more near the shipping door are packing pallets of products for delivery, attaching labels warning of the perils of leaving the boxes outside in rough weather (its happened, apparently). The production area where PCs are assembled is tucked away at the rear of the building past the rows of boxes and a secure cage for high-priced components and its bright, insanely clean and devoid of robots. Its surprisingly

straightforward, says Tim LeRoy, Novatechs head of marketing, and my tour guide for the day. A lot of people think therell be people in white suits, and lasers and robots, but its [done] much more by hand. And while theres a lot of skill

can be as basic as removing a graphics card or optical drive, or opting for a cheaper component. The process is started by placing a case on the belt. A list is afxed, detailing for whom the PC is being made and what components it will feature. When

People think therell be people in white suits, and lasers and robots, but its done by hand
and a lot of craftsmanship, its a production line. A conveyer belt snakes through the department, lined with large desk fans to keep staff cool. Work often begins from a base machine say, Novatechs standard Core i3 desktop and while half of Novatechs PCs are customised, this customisation a big order comes in, the team will do tens or hundreds of the same machine otherwise, every PC on the line could be different. The chassis rolls along to the next station, where components are doled out and tucked into the case. The PC then rounds a corner on the conveyer belt and assembly begins. Each employee installs a

different component, meaning theyll spend their day installing only motherboards, for example, squeezing in cables as they go. When each workers task is complete, the PC is rolled to the following bay for the next installation. Once the physical assembly is complete, its passed to the software installation and testing team. We have 80 test bays down there, and now we have an automated test system once youve plugged up, you can simply start up the test system and it will do all the testing and diagnostics on the machines for you, says operations director Steve Longmore. Then, USBs and other ports are approved. Every single socket is checked, Longmore adds. He admits assembly errors can occur, but thats why an emphasis is placed on testing. We check and double-check,

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then we check again, Longmore says. The essence is, if we make a mistake, we make it in-house. What we dont do is make a mistake the customer sees. While the step-by-step assembly and checking procedure may seem straightforward, the process has been developed over a number of years. Originally, it was two little roller conveyers, and one person testing one machine at a time it wasnt very efcient, he says. Now, the company uses what Longmore calls ow production the PC ows from one stage to the next, with each worker carrying out their specic task. Such a system is efcient and gives repeatable quality, he says. The process needs to be nely managed to avoid bottlenecks. Barebones PCs will go through that line faster than a top-end machine with lots of memory, large hard drives and big graphics cards, Longmore says. It really depends on the mix. Production supervisor Lisa Reeves is charged with ensuring the machines keep moving. If too many large PCs are put through at once, it will slow down the line, so either side of the slow one shell put in a faster machine, says Longmore. The PCs made in this production area are of the standard type: customised to balance budget and performance, but fairly straightforward. The other computers assembled by Novatech are performance-driven specialist machines, engineered for a specic job. We just built a big machine for a police force for digital forensics its basically codecracking and its this massive Darth Vader kind of thing with four graphics cards and two [Intel] Xeon processors, says LeRoy. Thats when the guys really enjoy it. Such one-off creations are assembled in a cooled room with server racks. On our visit, a beast with eight graphics cards to manage an IP CCTV network was loaded for testing. There were no more than ten members of staff in the whole PC production area although some had apparently wandered off for lunch. While the team isnt large, it manages to build an average of 5,000 machines per month. Not bad for people, rather than robots.

WHY BRITISH MANUFACTURING MATTERS

Chillblast has a 100-bay testing area, where PCs are given a 24-hour shakedown

We asked British PC manufacturers whether it truly matters if a PC is assembled here or elsewhere. Heres what they said. Marco Della Vedova, marketing manager at London-based Dino PC, said: I dont think it matters so much for the production process, but Im positive that it matters when it comes to customer and technical support, and pre- and after-sales. John Medley, marketing manager at Hudderseld-based PC Specialist, said: We feel its vital that our PCs are made in Britain. Our main objective is to deliver the best buying experience for our customers if we outsourced the production of our PCs, how would we achieve this?

Chillblast has 37 full-time staff at its factory in Poole, building as well as supporting its PCs

David Scott, production manager at CyberPower, a PC maker with 20 employees based in Gateshead, said: Being a global company, we feel its important to build PCs for the UK market in the UK. The UK has a unique standard of quality that needs to be upheld. The custom-built side [of PC manufacturing] needs to be controlled, even to the point of knowing the builder and quality-control engineer who will be working on the PC and explaining what the customer expects from their PC. Peter George, co-founder of Wired2Fire, a ve-person PC manufacturer in Dorking, listed a host of reasons: You can choose exactly what you want. With us, you can change anything. If it goes wrong, you can speak to someone here, who isnt in a call centre, which means they are easy to communicate with and know the subject. If it needs to come back for repair, youre returning it within the UK. Also, knowing a UK workforce is employed and the prots of that company go directly back into the UK economy has to be a good thing for the consumer. Ben Miles, spokesperson for Poole-based PC manufacturer Chillblast, added: Many of our customers tell us that buying British is an important part of their purchasing decision. Customers nd it reassuring that they have the peace of mind that the equipment theyre purchasing is built to the highest standards by professional system engineers here in the UK.

Womens work

Aside from the lack of robots, theres another surprise at Novatech: the PC production line itself is manned for lack of a better word almost entirely by women, and led by Reeves.

Longmore says Novatechs experience casts doubt on the prevalent idea that women arent interested in PCs. I dont think thats the case I wouldnt be surprised if its a 50/50 split, or its even more ladies than men

in here, he says. A lot of ladies are interested [in technology]. On the repairs side, for instance, when were trying to recruit staff, we often get men applying, but weve had ladies apply, too, and theyve been excellent.

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Novatechs production line produces and customises an average of 5,000 PCs of all types over the course of a month

Laptops are less customised than PCs, but still require testing

Novatech considered automated testing, but robots lacked exibility

While he admitted the smaller, nimbler hands of women help on the assembly line especially when it comes to customising laptops he said the gender divide is a non-issue for Novatech.

Hiring times

While Longmore says the most successful staff tend to be those who join the company because they have an interest in PCs, employees on the assembly line dont require any specialist skills the modular nature of the production process means its easy to train new employees.
Novatech also makes bespoke, specialised machines

The stages of assembly make it easy to train staff to build computers, says Longmore. Over time, we move the staff around and cross-train them, so at the end of the day, they can walk out of here knowing how to build a computer from scratch. However, building the specialised high-end PCs requires more experience. Many of our more experienced staff, and our repair staff, complete CompTIA qualications, and many have a degree in IT; they understand the hardware process, the construction of server systems, he says. While hes happy to invest in training workers, he admits there was a time when he considered using robots before deciding

against it. Robots are a huge investment, he says. If youre in a situation where youre building the same product day in, day out with the same structure and assembly process, you could ask a robot to do that. However, the investment side of putting robots in place to [work with bespoke machines] wouldnt pay off.

Whats next for Novatech?

Tablet testing

Novatech is undoubtedly focused on customisation, but the shift from standard PCs to tablets means it plays a part in this side of the market, too. The company offers tablets from manufacturers such as Asus and Lenovo, and while it cant customise them, it can offer support. Novatech also tests hardware at its factory. At the time of my visit, tester Steven Kerrin had an odd device laid out on his table: an Android tablet running a faux-Windows 8 skin. LeRoy says Novatech has seen three or four dozen tablets from Chinese OEMs come through its plant. Many of the devices are similar theres only so much you can do with a black rectangle but the company hasnt come across any of sufcient build quality or component quality to bear the Novatech brand.

So, will Novatech one day be a tablet manufacturer? People are thinking, Whats the next big thing?, but Maude from accounts isnt going to swap her desktop for a tablet, says LeRoy. You dont need to sit at your desk in [the accounts department] and swipe [at your computer] like youre Tom Cruise in Minority Report. Still, there are challenges in the PC market, especially from online retailers. He says Novatech has been the victim of benign showrooming where people come in, ask the knowledgeable staff what components to buy, then order them online at a lower price. We cant compete with the likes of Amazon and Tesco, so we dont even try. Thats one reason the rm has shifted from consumer sales to business: the latter is more likely to consider quality and invest in support. Despite these challenges, there are reasons for Novatech to be optimistic. LeRoy says the looming XP refresh is a massive opportunity, and rival OSes such as Chrome are encouraging companies to upgrade their hardware. We have to ght for it, says LeRoy, but the death of the PC is greatly overestimated.

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IN DEPTH Mobile minder

IN DEPTH
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Build a mobile minder to monitor your devices


Kevin Partner explains how to assemble a cheap, sensor-based system to track how much time your kids are spending on their mobile devices

he Internet of Things (IoT) is a grand idea a vision of a world in which everyday appliances can talk to one another seamlessly, and be monitored and controlled remotely. So far, weve yet to see a truly exciting application for the IoT concept. However, the technologies involved are now so cheaply available, and so easy to set up, that its perfectly feasible to set up bespoke IoT-style systems in your own home. Well demonstrate this here by showing you how to build a simple wireless system that parents can use to monitor the time their children spend using mobile devices.

The anatomy of an IoT system

Most IoT projects consist of one or more nodes connected to a network. A node ordinarily comprises a simple electronic controller, one or more sensors (bits of hardware that measure or detect something) and, sometimes, one or more actuators (bits of hardware that do something, either physically or electronically). In use, the controller collects input from the sensors and passes the information to a central control system. It may also instruct its actuators to carry out work in response to messages received over the network, or in direct response to sensor input. For example, a farmer might install a system in his greenhouse that employs nodes throughout. Each node could take input from soil, temperature and humidity sensors and use its built-in processing capabilities to take action, such as opening or closing vents, turning water valves or directing automated picking rigs as needed. All of this could be achieved without direct human involvement,

The mobile minder is a simple but effective piece of kit, consisting of an Arduino clone, a breadboard and a few bits and pieces attached to a box containing a magnetic sensor

but the data could also be fed back to the central control computer so that the farm managers could monitor and control the system as a whole. See Four great Internet of Things projects, opposite, for some other examples of real-world IoT applications.

The mobile-minder project

Most of us dont have farms to manage, but IoT principles can easily be turned to domestic purposes. Our chosen project is monitoring the

time your children spend on their mobile devices, whether thats playing games or using Facebook. However, since most children use a wide range of devices across numerous platforms, installing monitoring software on every one isnt feasible. However, if we take an IoT approach, we can instead keep a physical track of every device from a Nintendo DS to an iPad and record when its picked up, what device it is and when its put down again. We can achieve this by placing a node in each childs bedroom and

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Mobile minder

IN DEPTH

Contents
Build a mobile minder...............p52 LibreOce vector graphics.....p56 Online content on your TV......p62

Four great Internet of Things projects


Sensordrone (http://sensorcon.com ) is the closest real-world equivalent of a Star Trek tricorder. Connecting via Bluetooth to a smartphone, the Sensordrone can be used to measure temperature, humidity, light and carbon monoxide levels, among other variables, and transmit this data to a series of companion apps. BodyGuardian (www.pcpro.co.uk/ links/229idm5) is a tiny, stick-on sensor that allows a patients vital signs to be measured remotely by their doctor on an iPad or via a web interface. Water Canary (www.watercanary.com) is an easy-to-use, low-cost device for testing the quality of water. Designed for use in places without a secure source of safe water, the Water Canary uses light to analyse the quality of water and uploads the results so that problem areas can be identied quickly. The BRCK (http://brck.com) is a rugged device offering internet connection to parts of the world without reliable power supplies or broadband infrastructure. Featuring an eight-hour backup
The BRCK searches Ethernet, Wi-Fi and mobile-phone networks to connect to the web

battery for when the lights go out, it switches between Ethernet, Wi-Fi and mobile-phone connections to nd the best connection at any particular moment.

a sensor in each device. Many types of sensor are available that can be easily attached to a microcontroller; in this case, well use a simple magnetic switch. Attaching a small magnet to each of the devices you want to monitor means the switch will close whenever the device is placed next to it. When a child picks up the device to play with it, the switch opens, notifying the microcontroller and the parents in question that the device is no longer there. It certainly isnt a foolproof system it could be tricked with a fridge magnet, for example but it offers a simple way of making compliance with the rules easy for the parents to administer, and equally easy for children to comply with. To make the system easy to use, some sort of visual or auditory feedback should be built in, so its clear when the device has been successfully docked. To complete the system, well need a central hub to collect input from each controller and log usage. Most of the processing takes place at this level, so well base it on the Raspberry Pi microcomputer, which gives us the exibility to create any reporting system we want. The controllers themselves have a much simpler job they merely need to monitor the state of the magnetic switch, provide feedback to the children and relay events to the hub. Accordingly, we can use a simpler, cheaper microcontroller, such as an Arduino hooked up to a switch, with the addition of a light and a buzzer for feedback.

In order for our system to work, our controllers need some way to communicate with the Raspberry Pi. Wi-Fi is a possibility, but its overkill for a job such as this. Conventional radio is a much easier way to communicate, and British rm Ciseco specialises in this area: for 50 inc VAT, its Raspberry Pi Wireless Inventors Kit (www.pcpro.co.uk/ links/229idm1) bundles together a Slice of Radio RF board for the Raspberry Pi and a XinoRF microcontroller essentially, an Arduino Uno with a built-in transceiver. The kit also includes an SD card containing a version of the Pis Raspbian operating system, with all the software needed for radio communication preinstalled and congured, so its ideal as the basis of our project. We only need to add the Raspberry Pi itself, a couple of ABS boxes and a magnetic switch from UK supplier Bitsbox (www. bitsbox.co.uk). This, along with a self-adhesive magnet, is enough to build a working system, although you can customise it to your particular requirements. You can see the complete list of items weve used in the Components boxout on p55; apart from the Raspberry Pi and the Wireless Inventors Kit, they cost only a few pounds in total.

Talking on the radio

Connecting the Slice of Radio to the Raspberry Pi is a simple matter of pushing the RF module onto its GPIO pins and powering up. If youre not using the SD card from the Ciseco Wireless Inventors Kit, the product page on Cisecos website gives full instructions covering the minor conguration changes you must make to get it working. It also makes sense to set the Pi up so that we can control it remotely using Secure Shell (SSH), so that we dont need to hook up a keyboard and monitor to it every time we want

Setting up

Add this little blue board to your Raspberry Pi and you have a fully working, short-range radio transceiver you can control in Python

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to test our program or check the logs. This is done by typing sudo raspi-cong into the command line (or an LXTerminal window, if youre using the GUI), selecting Advanced and enabling SSH. Now, type sudo ifcong and take a note of the IP address assigned to the Pi. Be warned, however, that this isnt xed permanently it may change occasionally. Now, switch to your Windows PC, download the PuTTY SSH client (www.pcpro. co.uk/links/229idm2), extract the EXE le, run it and enter the IP address. A terminal window will pop up: enter the username and password (pi and raspberry are the defaults). You can now use the terminal window on the PC

as if you were typing directly into the Pis command line. Finally, its worth setting up the VNC remote desktop tool, so you can access the GUI from a PC. Do this by typing sudo apt-get install tightvncserver. When its installed, type sudo vncserver :1 and choose a username and password. To install a VNC client on the PC, go to www.tightvnc.com and download the full installer. Run it and choose Custom Setup, then remove the entry for the TightVNC server, leaving only the viewer to be installed. Next, its time to set up the XinoRF. To do this, go to www.arduino.cc and download

Making your mobile minder

the latest 1.5.x release of the Arduino IDE. Connect the XinoRF to the Windows PC using the USB cable and, after a while, Windows will download the appropriate drivers. You can now program the XinoRF in the Arduino IDE and upload the code to the microcontroller. This code is run automatically whenever the XinoRF is turned on, so once its working properly, the microcontroller will operate independently of the PC. The XinoRF has a series of header sockets into which you can plug cables; most can be congured either to output or read a voltage. We want to check whether the switch has been activated, which well do by running a cable from pin 2 of the XinoRF to the switch. When the device is removed, the switch opens and the voltage drops. When we read this, we can respond by activating the light and the buzzer, so the child knows the event has been noted. We can also send a message to the Raspberry Pi so it can be logged. See Making your mobile minder, left, for assembly instructions. Once youve completed the wiring, you can test it by plugging the USB cable into the XinoRF and moving a magnet across the switch. Youll know its working if the LED switches on and off.

Can you hear me?

Were now ready to test whether the Raspberry Pi and XinoRF can talk to each other. From the Pis command line, type sudo apt-get install minicom to install the requisite software. When thats done, start it by using the command sudo minicom b 9600 o D /dev/ ttyAMA0 (the last digit is a zero); the Pi will start listening to its serial port (the path at the end) at 9,600 baud. Now, on the PC, start up the Arduino IDE and type the following code:
void setup() { pinMode(8, OUTPUT); // initialize pin 8 to control the radio digitalWrite(8, HIGH); // turn the radio on Serial.begin(115200); //set the baud rate } void loop() { Serial.println("Can you hear me?"); delay(2000); }

We mounted the XinoRF in the lid of an ABS plastic box using standard PC board spacers, and mounted the breadboard in the other half of the box using its adhesive back. In the main part of the breadboard, electricity ows along rows (in the diagram above, this means vertically). It also ows along the four outer rails, so the red power lead connects to the yellow cable but not to the black ground cables. Making sure the XinoRF is turned off, connect the 5V pin to one of the rails on the breadboard. Connect the GND (ground) pin to the other rail. Connect the magnetic switch to two cables (the yellow ones in our diagram);

1 2 3

plug one end into the 5V rail and the other into row 14 of the breadboard. Connect pin 2 on the XinoRF to another socket in row 14: this will sense when the switch is opened. Connect the longer (positive) leg of the LED to another socket in row 14, and the shorter lead to row 13. Plug the resistor to join row 13 to row 9, then use a cable to connect row 9 to the ground. We now have a complete circuit with electricity owing from the power rail through the switch and the LED back to the ground. Connect the piezo buzzers ground connector to the ground rail and its power connector to pin 9, so we can sound it as necessary.

4 5 6

All Arduino programs contain two main sections: setup contains code that runs only when the microcontroller is turned on or rebooted; loop, as the name suggests, runs continually. The XinoRF has the radio connected to pin 8, so this code sets that to output a voltage, then turns it on. It then sets the serial port to the default baud rate of the radio and prints a message every two seconds.

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Mobile minder

IN DEPTH

Monitoring mobile use

Now its time to focus on making the Raspberry Pi do something useful with the incoming data. The rst job is to record the data as it comes in. For a proper long-term project, a full-fat database such as MySQL may be the best bet, but to keep things as simple as possible, well save it as a CSV le. This is easy to implement in Python on the Raspberry Pi, and it allows us to import the data into a spreadsheet program and analyse it at any time. To give us an easy way to view the data instantly, well create a web page containing the data as a table. This involves installing a lightweight web server on the Pi. To do this, enter sudo apt-get install lighttpd. Now, when you type the Pis IP address into a web browser, youll see a holding page from its /var/www folder, and any les placed in that folder will be accessible from the browser. By appending /data.csv to the IP address, you can download the data log to open in Excel. You can download the short Python le that achieves all this from www.pcpro.co.uk/ links/229idm4.

Next steps
The Arduino IDE allows you to use simple C++ code to program your microcontroller this code is broadcasting text over a radio connection

Upon clicking the upload button, the script is compiled and transferred to the XinoRF. The words Can you hear me? should then appear in the Minicom window on your Raspberry Pi. Our projects hardware is now set up.

Mobile minder 0.1

We can now exchange any information we want between the Raspberry Pi and one or more XinoRF units.

Components
Raspberry Pi (either model) XinoRF (Arduino Uno clone including RF module) ABS boxes to house XinoRF and sensor Breadboard (80 x 60mm) Piezo buzzer Red 5mm LED Single core wire Self-adhesive magnets Magnetic proximity switch 1K resistor Terminal block or insulation tape for joining cable to switch if you dont want to solder Parts available from http://shop.ciseco. co.uk and www.bitsbox.co.uk

For the purposes of this project, we want the XinoRFs to tell the Pi when a device is removed from the sensor pad and when its replaced. The message should contain a unique identier so that the Raspberry Pi knows which controller sent it, along with the data itself, which can be any sequence of ASCII characters. The XinoRF should wait until the Raspberry Pi acknowledges receipt of the message, so it knows that the data has been successfully received. Each time a child removes a device, well program the XinoRF to transmit a message that looks something like this:
#Xino1#Gilbert#DS#U#

The system weve created can log when any number of children pick up and replace any of their devices. With this information, we can monitor usage over time, and bring the data into Excel to nd out whether the children are sticking to the rules. We could do much more than this, however. For example, we could program the Raspberry Pi to generate web-based summaries, perhaps on a daily basis. Since radio communication is two-way, we could also make XinoRF sound the buzzer as a warning alarm when the childrens time is up. Similarly, we could have the Raspberry Pi send us an email or SMS if and when the critters abuse their playtime, and print out a summary at the end of each week that breaks down the usage of each child perfect for the fridge door.

This means the controller called Xino1 is reporting that Gilbert has picked up his Nintendo DS. The Pi can read the message, using the # symbol to delineate the different elds, then note the time and add the entry to its database. It also sends back a symbol to indicate that its received the message: weve chosen |, as it should otherwise never be used in any message content. The code to make this work amounts to only 100 lines or so which is just as well, as the XinoRF has only 32KB of storage. Thats still a little too long to print here, but you can download the code from www.pcpro.co.uk/links/229idm3.

By installing a simple web server on the Raspberry Pi, we can access real-time reports

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IN DEPTH Vector graphics

HANDS ON

Create vector graphics with LibreOffice Draw


Need to create clean, pin-sharp designs for illustrations or logos? Darien Graham-Smith shows you how to get started for free
f you need to create a simple diagram or illustration, vectors are the way to go. Simply put, vector graphics are images made up of lines and curves that remain perfectly smooth and sharp no matter how much you edit them, and which can be viewed and printed at any size without succumbing to jaggies. Working with vector graphics involves a small learning curve, but the fundamentals are simple to grasp and you dont have to pay a penny for the software. Admittedly, the most powerful vector packages come with steep price tags, but its perfectly possible to create clean vector designs with free software.

Vectors versus bitmaps

Creating and editing vector graphics is very different to working with bitmaps. A bitmap image such as a digital photograph is simply a dense matrix of coloured pixels. If you load one into a paint package and zoom in closely, you can easily see the individual squares that make up the image. You may also see the same effect if you print a digital picture at a large size. Some programs try to smooth over the jagged edges, so instead of turning into a blocky mosaic, your picture will come out looking soft and blurry. Either way, bitmaps dont respond well to being enlarged. Vector graphics represent a completely different way of thinking about images. Instead of containing pixel information,

Vector graphics represent a completely different way of thinking about images


a vector graphics le contains a mathematical representation of your image. For example, if you were to draw and save a circle in a vector graphics program, the vector le would store information about the origin and radius of the circle, along with its colour and various details of the line, if there is one, around the

circumference. When the circle is displayed onscreen, its naturally represented in pixels, but if you resize it or zoom in, the magnied representation is redrawn based on the original vector instructions, so it stays sharp. As such, vector graphics are perfect for print where they can be rendered at the fullest, sharpest resolution of the output device but they can also be used online. For sure, most of the graphics youll see on the web are bitmaps, such as photos or company logos. Bitmaps are more convenient for most web-type applications, and it takes very little processing power for a computer to paint one onto the screen. Working through the calculations required to render a set of vector instructions (also known as a structured graphics le) is much more demanding.

However, all modern browsers support the scalable vector graphics (SVG) format, which was introduced in 1999. This lets you easily place vector illustrations and maps on your web pages in vector format, so visitors can zoom in for a closer look, or print out the images at a more convenient size. It also means you can use exactly the same vector graphic for a small image and a large poster. Even if you prefer to put bitmap graphics on your web page perhaps to ensure the fastest possible loading times it still makes sense to design illustrations as vectors and create bitmap copies of them for online use. This provides the exibility to cleanly resize them without losing quality: simply make your changes to the original vector le, then re-export the bitmap at the desired size. For these reasons, its well worth getting to grips with vector graphics even if you only need to knock up the odd poster or diagram. Here, well show you how to get started.

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Vector graphics

IN DEPTH

Vector-editing software

The best known vector-editing packages are probably Adobe Illustrator and Corel CorelDRAW. Both support a wide range of visual effects such as drop shadows, pattern lls and textures, and allow you to create sophisticated multilayer documents that combine vector and bitmap images. Theyre professional drawing packages, and theyre not cheap: the latest versions sell for more than 300, although Corel offers discount packages for non-commercial customers. If you merely want to knock up the occasional vector, however, you can get by perfectly well with free software. Two popular options are Inkscape and Creative Docs .NET, but well focus on one that might well be installed on your PC already LibreOfce Draw, the structured drawing package thats included in the free LibreOfce suite. Draw contains all the basic drawing tools required to create vector-based logos and diagrams, and it can open and save PDF les, giving it a good degree of interoperability with other vector-drawing packages. It also offers a fairly conventional set of tools. Naturally, it has its own quirks and

LibreOice Draw contains all the basic tools required to create vector-based logos
specic ways of doing things, but if you end up moving on to a more advanced package, learning with Draw will stand you in good stead. For the same reason, you should be able to follow our tutorial below without too much difculty, even if youre using a different package.

Creating your first lines and shapes

When you rst open Draw, youll see a blank A4 page. Of course, the images you create can be any size and shape, but an imaginary A4 sheet is a convenient canvas to work with. The tools youll use for drawing are found in a strip along the bottom of the window. At rst, the leftmost icon (the white arrow) will be active. This is used to select and move objects, but right now there are no objects to move so lets draw one. Click on the line icon (second from left), and click and drag to draw a line across the page. The selected tool will automatically revert to the arrow, and youll see the line youve drawn now has a blue, square handle at each end. You can use the mouse to drag either handle and change the angle and length of the line accordingly or you can drag the line itself to move it while keeping its orientation and length the same.

By default, the line is a very thin hairline; you can make it heavier using the Line & Filling toolbar, which sits directly above the drawing area. Select the line and click the up arrow to change the width spinner from 0cm to 0.1cm: youll see the difference immediately. The dropdowns to either side of this control let you adjust the style and colour of the line. Once youve got the hang of this, try Free vector-drawing packages work on the same principles as industry-standard applications, such as Adobe Illustrator using the icons to the right of the line tool to For particularly creative designs, you draw arrows, rectangles and ellipses. If may want to take advantage of the perfectly you want to draw multiple shapes without smooth, mathematically dened curves that Draw automatically reselecting the arrow vector graphics can provide. These are known cursor after each one, double-click on the as Bzier curves, after the French engineer relevant tool icon. You can hold down the who popularised them. Shift key when drawing The tool for drawing Bzier curves is the rectangles and ellipses seventh icon in the drawing toolbar (directly to produce perfect to the right of the Text tool). In fact, this icon squares and circles, activates several different drawing tools, so and their ll colour click its dropdown icon and select the Curve can be set using the tool at the bottom left of the pop-up panel toolbar above. that appears. To use the Curve tool, drag a line onto the page as before. After you release the mouse Curves and custom shapes button, youll see the end of the line continues Lines and rectangles are enough to create to follow your mouse, curving away from the basic diagrams, especially if you combine point where you let go of the button. You can them with text labels, created using the T double-click to create your curve object, or text tool and formatted from the Character single-click to accept the curve and draw a and Paragraph dialogs, which youll nd second line segment joined onto your curve. under the Format menu. You can also edit You can repeat this process as many times text directly (see Designing a brand logo, p58). as you like to create a whole series of connected lines. If you want to add a new curve, rather than a straight line, click at the point on the canvas where you want your new curve to end, then drag the mouse to dene its shape. The next line segment you draw will curve away from this anchor, like the rst segment did. Theres no denying its a rather difcult process to get your head around, so its worth spending a little It can take a while to get the hang of drawing and editing curved lines, but persevere the results can be excellent time experimenting.

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IN DEPTH Vector graphics

Designing a brand logo


WALKTHROUGH

In this walkthrough, well design a logo for an imaginary business called Magenta Cat. Well start by drawing a magenta oval, which will become the cats head. We could use a regular ellipse, but to give our shape slightly more character, well draw it with the Curve tool, then manually edit and smooth the points as required.

Using the Polygon tool, draw two irregular triangles for ears and move them into place. To attach them to the head, select all three objects, right-click and choose Shapes | Merge. To create the eyes, do the same thing with two ellipses. This time, however, select Shapes | Subtract to punch the eyes out of the face.

A cat needs whiskers, so draw these using the Line tool: to make them stand out, set the line width to 0.03cm, and in the Line properties (right-click and select Line), set the Cap style to Round to give them rounded ends. With these details in place, we can tweak the contours of the cats face to give it a more natural shape.

Use the text tool to write the companys name next to the logo. To give it a bit of distinctiveness, tweak the shape of the letters. This is easy to do, since letters are structured shapes, like everything else on the page. Right-click on the text object and choose Convert | To Curve to turn it into a group of shapes with editable points.

Now were free to deform the letters as we wish. In this case, weve given the initial letter some ears and extended one of its legs. You can move multiple points at once by shift-clicking to select them, so making edits like this is easy. You might nd it helpful to drag in Snap Lines, as shown, to keep everything straight.

Our lovely logo is almost ready to face the world. Weve added a drop shadow to the text (via the Area Properties dialog, accessible from the context menu) and shrunk the page so we can export the logo as a conveniently shaped bitmap. Our design can now be exported, printed or embedded wherever we want.

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Vector graphics

IN DEPTH

Closing and tidying up shapes

Once youve drawn all the sides of your shape, you might want to close it that is, You can neatly align any make it a fully bounded object, rather than a number of shapes in Draw series of conjoined lines. You can close a shape by multi-selecting them while youre drawing it by double-clicking and using Draws built-in on the point where it started. Alternatively, if Alignment tools: youll nd youve double-clicked to complete your object the dropdown in the toolbar without closing it, you can right-click it and above the canvas, or in the select Close Object from the context menu to right-click contextual menu. automatically join the two open points at With a single click, you can either end. Once this is done, you can apply shunt all the selected objects colours and lls, just as you can with so that their tops, bottoms, rectangles and ellipses. sides or centres are aligned. Once youve created your shape, its likely For a greater degree it will be a little rough and require smoothing of regularity, you can also and tidying up. You can do this by selecting enable Draws grid to do it with the arrow tool, then right-clicking and this, select View | Grid | selecting Edit Points (or by pressing F8, or Snap To Grid. selecting Edit Points from the drawing toolbar). With LibreOfce Draws grid and alignment tools, its With this option active, Youll now see all the points that make up the easy to organise shapes into neat, regular arrangements any points you create or object, which can be dragged around or visually consistent as well as regularly move will snap to a coarse virtual grid, so deleted to tidy up your shape. aligned. Select Format | Styles and you can easily create objects with regular If you click on a point thats part of Formatting (or press F11) to open the angles and consistent sizes. You can drag a curve, youll also see the handles that Styles and Formatting palette: from here in additional Snap Lines from the top or dene the curve protruding from either side you can create, edit and apply styles that side ruler: when the View | Snap Lines | of it. You can adjust these handles to tweak can be used to give objects common stroke Snap To Snap Lines menu option is selected, the curve, or automatically smooth and and ll properties plus dozens of more points will snap to these lines, helping you balance it using the contextual Smooth advanced properties such as shadowing, to keep things aligned. Draws support for Transition and Symmetric Transition buttons transparency and text properties. object styles means you can keep things that appear on the toolbar below. If you want to turn a curve into a sharp corner, click on the point and click the Corner Point button; to turn a corner into the centre point of a cookie-cutter method that makes it very easy Creating more complex shapes curve, click the point and select Symmetric to produce complex shapes. For an example Draw offers a wide range of one-click shapes, Transition, or right-click and select Convert | of how the Merge and Subtract tools can including arrows, diamonds, pentagons, speech To Contour. Again, its worth spending a be used, see our walkthrough opposite. bubbles and stars. Youll nd tools for drawing few minutes playing with these tools, as all of these shapes, and many more, to the right well as Draws other controls, such as of the rst section of the drawing toolbar. Insert Points and Split Curve. These can be a big help when it comes to Saving your work Once youve mastered drawing open By default, drawings created in Draw are putting together signs, infographics and so and closed curves, its time to take a quick on. Theres also a tool for drawing Connectors saved in ODG format. Its an open format, look at the other tools available from the but very few real-world applications use it. lines which join shapes together and stay same icon. connected even if you subsequently move the For most practical purposes, youll want to The top row simply duplicates the lower use the File | Export function to save a copy shapes around, making owcharts and row, the difference being that shapes drawn organisation charts a breeze. of your work. As weve discussed, SVG is a with top-row tools are lled by default. The widely supported vector format, but you can lled and unlled Polygon tools work in almost If you want to create more complex custom also export the instructions for drawing your shapes, you can easily build them out of exactly the same way as the Curve tool, simpler shapes. If all you want to design in HTML or XHTML format, should except that they only draw straight Top tips do is move and format multiple you wish to embed them directly into a web lines. Polygon (45 degrees)does You can zoom into shapes at once, simply select page. If your image is for print, or embedding the same, but will only draw and out of your drawing in another document, PDF format is the them all at once (use shiftlines that are perfectly vertical, by holding down Ctrl and industry-standard choice. click to multi-select), then horizontal or angled at 45 rolling the mouse wheel. On its right-click and select Group Another option is to export a bitmap copy degrees convenient own, the mouse wheel moves of your work in various formats, including for drawing diagrams. from the context menu. your view up and down, and JPEG and PNG. When you select one of these Selecting Combine merges The nal tool in this if you hold down Shift it your selected shapes into one options, youll be prompted to specify a size drawer is the Free-form Line moves your view left editable, composite shape, with and resolution for the output le, since Draw tool, which lets you trace an and right. overlapping areas excluded must know how many pixels to use to represent outline as you would in a regular it. Youll notice that Draw assumes you want to an easy way to create shapes with paint program, then creates a close export the entire A4 page; if you want to create holes in them. Shapes | Merge will join approximation of it using Bzier curves. If the two together and ignore any overlap, while a graphic thats a different shape, you can you want to draw a particular artistic shape, reformat the page by right-clicking on a blank this is an easy starting point but youll Shapes | Intersect will keep only the overlapping area, selecting Page | Page Setup and typing in section. Shapes | Subtract uses the upper shape almost certainly need to tidy up and tweak new dimensions in the dialog that appears. as a template to crop the lower one a the curves by hand afterwards.

Keeping on the straight and narrow

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IN DEPTH Displays

HANDS ON

Use your TV as a secondary display


Darien Graham-Smith shows you how to beam videos, pictures and web pages onto your big screen

nce upon a time, home entertainment was all about broadcast television. Increasingly, though, were turning to PC-based services. According to the TV Licensing Authority, 29% of UK adults surveyed in 2012 were using catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer and 4oD and this doesnt even take into account PC-based services such as Netix and YouTube (see our infographic on p20 for more on the UKs TV-watching habits). Yet so-called smart TVs, with built-in internet connections, havent caught on. The licensing authority found that only 5% of homes surveyed had a smart TV and more than a third of those who did own one had never actually used it to go online. This may be because web-based services are typically accessed by typing, scrolling and navigating links, which translates poorly to a traditional remote-control interface. Proprietary systems such as Virgin Media TV On Demand use vastly simplied interfaces for this reason. You dont need a special box to display online content on your

TV, however. There are numerous ways to hook up a PC to your television, so you can enjoy the exibility of a full keyboard-and-mouse-driven interface, while taking advantage of what is probably the biggest screen you own in order to get the best from streaming and downloaded lms and TV programmes not to mention presentations, music and web-based services.

be automatically detected: if you already have a monitor or laptop display connected, your TV will by default be set up as a secondary display. If youd prefer it to mirror your primary display, you can set this in Windows Screen Resolution settings or, in Windows 7 and 8, you can simply press Win+P to bring up a quick set of Second Screen options.

HDMI and DisplayPort

Most modern PCs can be physically connected directly to a television. A desktop system will typically offer at least one full-sized HDMI socket, and some larger laptops do as well. When you connect a TV to this socket, it will

Increasingly, were turning to PC-based services for home entertainment


If youre using a laptop, its more likely to use mini-HDMI or micro-HDMI than the full-sized connector (mini-HDMI looks like a

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Displays

IN DEPTH

If your computer doesnt have any of these ports, you still have options. Many TVs offer a regular 15-pin VGA socket, so if your laptop Most modern PCs can be connected directly to a TV using HDMI or desktop has an analogue VGA connector, you can use this to hook it up. VGA shrunk-down version of regular HDMI, while doesnt carry audio, however, so youll want micro-HDMI is almost identical in size and to attach a secondary cable from your PCs shape to micro-USB). If youre lucky, your audio-output socket to your TVs audio input. laptop will have come with an adapter; Its also sometimes otherwise, youll need to buy a mini- or possible to use a DVI micro-HDMI-to-HDMI cable. connection. If your PC Another possibility is mini-DisplayPort: this has a DVI-I socket, too can be connected to an HDMI television you can use a simple with the right cable, or via a simple adapter. DVI-to-VGA adapter The signals can also travel over a high-speed to connect it to a Thunderbolt bus, so you might be able to 15-pin socket on connect your TV to a Thunderbolt port. the TV, and connect the sound via a separate HDMI and DisplayPort connections cable as described above. can carry sound as well as vision, so a single If its a DVI-D socket, however, that cable should do everything you need but means its digital-only, and your only option you may need to manually switch audio is to use a DVI-to-HDMI adapter cable to plug devices to get audio to play through your it into an HDMI socket. This may sound more TV. You can do this by right-clicking on convenient than using VGA, but DVI doesnt the volume icon in the Windows system carry audio, and your TV probably wont offer tray, selecting Playback Devices from the the option to play audio from an external pop-up menu, selecting the appropriate source while displaying HDMI video. So if device and clicking Set Default.

Other cable connections

you want sound, youll have to use a separate amplier (or your laptops internal speakers). You can tell what sort of DVI socket your computer has by looking at the long, at aperture at the left-hand side of the port: if its surrounded by four pinholes in a square conguration, its DVI-I. If the at hole is stuck out on its own, with no other holes around it, its DVI-D.

Wireless mirroring

Physical connections are simple and robust, but theyre not always convenient. If you want to call up videos and web pages from the comfort

Physical connections are simple and robust, but theyre not always convenient
of your sofa, without cables trailing across your front room, you want a wireless connection. If you have a modern laptop, you may be in luck. For the past few years, Intel has been developing and promoting a mainstream technology called WiDi short for wireless display which does exactly what youd hope. To use it, you simply need to put the TV into receiver mode, activate screen mirroring in the driver, and enter a pairing code (theres no need

A secondary PC
For many people, the ability to wirelessly connect laptops, tablets and phones to your TV means theres no more reason to station a PC permanently in the front room. But there are still advantages to keeping a dedicated PC connected to your TV. Such a PC could conveniently host a shared media library a task unsuited to a laptop, which will spend much of its time asleep, and which may offer only limited storage. An always-on front room PC can also serve as a personal video recorder; after all, not all programmes end up on iPlayer, and when they do theyre typically removed soon afterwards. It can even be used for gaming and other real-time activities, since theres naturally no latency. Clearly its inconvenient to drag a keyboard and mouse across your living room oor, but compact wireless keyboard and mouse controllers are cheaply available. Alternatively, you can use remote desktop software, perhaps running on a laptop, to control a front room PC wirelessly. Not all remote desktop tools are suitable for this task: Windows Remote Desktop Connection, for example, shows the remote desktop on your

OS Xs Screen Sharing feature enables a Windows laptop to control a Mac mini

connecting PC, rather than on the TV. The compact, free RealVNC tool, however, will let you virtually attach your keyboard and mouse directly to the remote PC, as will web services such as LogMeIn. The Screen

Sharing feature built into OS X will work too, and its VNC-compatible so you can easily control, for example, a Mac mini from a Windows laptop. You can set it up from the Sharing settings window.

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IN DEPTH Displays

to actually join a wireless network). The TV becomes a secondary display, with video and audio seamlessly carried across. As yet, weve seen few laptops that support WiDi, but Intels latest update to the Ultrabook specication mandates WiDi, and the technology is compliant with the Wi-Fi Alliances Miracast standard for wireless streaming. Whats more, software support is built directly into Windows 8.1, which should ensure more new PCs are manufactured with the technology. As for the other end of the connection: if you buy a TV today it may come with WiDi, but any set more than a few years old is unlikely to have built-in support. To get around this, companies such as Belkin make WiDi receiver boxes, costing around 70, which can pipe WiDi into your TVs HDMI input.

AirPlay requires an Apple TV box to be connected to your TV

Apples AirPlay has the advantage of working with the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch
The one downside of WiDi is latency: as a result of the time it takes to encode and transmit the image, the remote display lags around a quarter of a second behind the main one. This will probably make fast-moving action games completely unplayable.

bar (a square with a triangle pointing into it); click on it to open a dropdown menu that shows the option to enable or disable mirroring. In the forthcoming OS X 10.9 Mavericks release, youll also be able to use your TV as a secondary display, so you can play videos on it at its native resolution, while keeping your MacBook or iMacs display for desktop applications. The catch is that AirPlay requires an Apple TV box connected to your television (its detecting this box that tells OS X to show the icon). If you already have one of these, AirPlay is a great bonus, but if you dont, the 99 price might seem steep. Still, AirPlay is a supremely simple system, and while theres still a small amount of visible lag, the mirrored display feels more responsive than WiDi. AirPlay also has the advantage of working with the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch (see Mobile devices, below).

Apple AirPlay

If youre using a Mac from 2011 or later, Apples proprietary AirPlay system lets you mirror your display wirelessly onto a TV. Its a terrically simple system when mirroring is available, the AirPlay icon appears on the menu

Other approaches

If you dont have a WiDi-equipped PC, or an Apple TV box, all is not lost. AMDs latest A-Series processors support the companys own wireless display

technology, called Screen Mirror. Rather than taking the Miracast approach like Intel or relying on proprietary hardware like Apple Screen Mirror runs over your domestic wireless network and streams the image of your desktop using the well-established DLNA standard. This means you need a DLNA media receiver connected to (or built into) your TV to receive the stream; but theres a good chance you already have one, in the shape of an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 console, making this potentially a convenient, cost-effective option. A third related technology you may come across is WiGig, also known as 802.11ad. Its a multigigabit protocol that enables the direct wireless connection of PCs to peripherals, and its designed to support wireless DisplayPort connections. However, the technology hasnt been widely adopted, despite now being almost three years old. With Intel, Apple and AMD all pushing their own alternatives, we suspect WiGig displays have missed the boat.

Chromecast
Just launched in the US, and due for imminent release here in the UK, Googles Chromecast takes a novel approach to display mirroring. This compact gadget plugs into the back of your TV and mirrors web pages from the Chrome web browser, using your home wireless network to connect to a laptop or mobile device running the browser. For video, dedicated apps stream from YouTube and Netix directly to the device. Support for more services is promised soon; for now, the likes of iPlayer and 4oD can be streamed via regular display mirroring. This also works for local les that Chrome can open, such as MP3s and downloaded videos, and its even possible to beam the whole screen although this feature is experimental. Owing to the limited and inconsistent bandwidth of domestic Wi-Fi,
Googles own mirroring system is Chrome-branded

however, US reviewers have found it sometimes necessary to turn down the Chromecasts resolution settings in order to make full-screen video run smoothly. Since theres a public SDK available, third-party app developers are already busily expanding the Chromecasts capabilities. And the best news is the price: in the US, the Chromecast costs $35, which is expected to translate to around 30 inc VAT. Well wait to try the Chromecast ourselves before making a nal judgment, but it looks like an irresistibly simple and affordable way to get everyday content onto the big screen.

It isnt only PC displays that can be beamed to your TV. Apples AirPlay system supports iOS devices as well as OS X: when youre watching video, listening to music or browsing photos on an iPad or iPhone, you can simply tap the AirPlay icon to have the output routed via your Apple TV box. If youve stored a large library of video and music on your mobile device, thats a great convenience. Android users can also get in on the action. The simplest way to stream content from Android to a TV is using a Chromecast device (see Chromecast, left); but Android 4.2 also includes native support for Miracast, which is implemented in a good range of smartphones and tablets, including the Nexus 4, HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S III and S4. By default, when you use Miracast on Android, the devices primary display is mirrored, so the technology can be used not only to watch videos on the big screen, but also to browse the web, use apps and carry out any other tasks you may wish. However, that inescapable problem of latency means that, like most mirroring systems, it isnt suitable for playing action games.

Mobile devices

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The foundation of business network uptime

APC by Schneider Electric Smart-UPS units protect 24/7/365 network availability.


Safeguarding critical networking switches and routers
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Whatever your IT needs and configuration, we have the right Smart-UPS model. The family offers multiple form factors (tower, rack optimized, and rack/tower convertible) to deliver flexibility for any environment. And you can scale runtime to business requirements. In addition, you can proactively manage the network closet remotely and optimize energy use through a patented green mode on many models. Deployment is easy with optional Schneider Electric installation services. Smart-UPS backup units: the intelligent choice for your business network!

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RWC Contents

REAL WORLD COMPUTING


EXPERT ADVICE FROM OUR PANEL OF IT PROFESSIONALS

Our expert line-up


Advanced Windows & Mac
Jon Honeyball loses his rag over Microsoft update issues, but a few Mac-based improvements help to calm him down.

76

Mobile & Wireless The land rush for new web domains 68
Paul Ockenden nds a true, real-world alternative to technology analysts, and examines a couple of upgradeable cameras.

79

A host of new top-level domains are about to ood onto the market. Barry Collins explains why your business cant afford to ignore them.

Online Business

82

Kevin Partner explains how a helpdesk system could give your business a boost, elevating it above the corporate competition.

Security & Social Networking

85

Davey Winder is sick of paranoia over Facebooks privacy settings, and nds a way to revert Gmail back to the classic settings.

Careers

Stuart Andrews explains how to get started with a rewarding career selling IT products and services.

72

Office Applications
Simon Jones guides you through more PowerPivot features, and looks at how to translate phone numbers into E.164.

88

BUSINESS CLINIC
FREE BUSINESS ADVICE FROM PC PROS EXPERTS
Do you need help with a business IT problem? PC Pros Real World Computing experts will visit your company to deliver free advice on your rms IT setup. Send details to businessclinic@pcpro.co.uk and we could pay you a visit!

Web Apps & Design

93

Tom Arah gets to grips with the new apps on Adobes Creative Cloud, and wonders whether the new subscription strategy is best for all.

Networks

96

Steve Cassidy has doubts over the cost efciency of the cloud, and is horried at the use of USB drives for serious computing.

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Words may not break your bones, says DICK POUNTAIN, but they can hurt you

ve been reading a lot of anthropology recently. Not sure why, maybe because theres something about the current state of the world that makes me want to know more about the workings of the pre-civilised mind. David Graebers excellent paper, Toward an anthropological theory of value, has a fascinating section about the ancient Maori and their world view, in which I found one item particularly provocative. That Maori custom of sticking the tongue out during their haka war dance, so familiar to all rugby fans, always strikes us as a gesture of cheekiness or insult, because thats what it now means in most European cultures. However, this isnt what it originally meant to the Maori: when aimed at an enemy during a battle it meant you are meat, and Im going to eat you, and true to their word, if they defeated you they may well have done so. For some reason, this put me in mind of internet trolls. Theres recently been a surge of outrage about trolling on Twitter, sparked initially by rape threats against Labour MP Stella Creasy and feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, then amplied by bomb threats against various female journalists, including The Guardians Hadley Freeman. This stuff plays directly into debates about internet censorship (Camerons anti-porn lters) and freedom of speech, all of which constitute such a moral quagmire that one enters it very cautiously indeed. Ive always been largely in favour of the freedom to robustly criticise, in any medium at all, since to take the opposite view would mean to toe the line, to accept things the way they are. However, in recent years this issue has become more complicated after various laws against hate speech have been enacted. These laws make certain kinds of speech often racial insults into prosecutable crimes, and that raises two, very difcult points: rst, is it permissible to ban any form of speech, as opposed to action, at all (the pure freedom-ofspeech argument)? Second, how do you gauge the degree of offensiveness of a speech act (necessary in order to decide whether its prosecutable or not)? The argument for freedom of speech can be defended in abstract philosophical terms, but it always depends upon the old adage that sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me: that is, verbal threats arent the same as the actions that they threaten, and dont cause the same damage. Thats certainly true: the threat of rape isnt as

harmful as the act of rape, and the threat to bomb doesnt kill or demolish buildings. However, that isnt to say they cause no damage. One result of the recent revolution in neuroscience is conrmation that fear and anxiety do indeed cause physical damage to people. These primitive emotions are useful from an evolutionary point of view: fear keeps you from stepping off cliffs or picking up rattlesnakes, while anxiety forms part of the necessary binding force between mammals and their highly dependent offspring. However, both operate by releasing corticosteroid hormones that have all kinds of long-term effects if repeated too often high blood pressure, hardening of arteries and much more. Like re extinguishers, theyre necessary and welcome during an emergency, but make a mess of the furniture and arent to be played with. Trolling is playing with the re extinguishers. Its meant to induce anxiety, fear or confusion in order to dissuade the victim from some attitude or action of which the troll disapproves. To that extent, its a form of politics, and to that same extent its a kind of

To some extent, trolling is a form of terrorism, since both seek to achieve political ends by inducing fear
terrorism, since both seek to achieve political ends by inducing fear. The crucial difference is that terrorists dont just speak but act: they dont merely stick out their tongues but really do eat you. None of this is news, since bandits, tyrants, robber barons and military ofcers have known for millennia that you can bend a population to your will by terrorising them. In fact, theres now a whole new discipline that views our efforts to manipulate each others emotions as the driving force of history. We manipulate our own emotions with music, dance, art and drugs: why else would alcohol, tea, coffee, sugar, tobacco and opium gure so highly in the history of trade? We manipulate others emotions with scary stories (religion), clever rhetoric and the threat of violence. Democratic governments insist we delegate the use of force to our police and army; whether or not they can demand we also give up the threat of force remains a fraught question, but never believe that threats do no harm.

DICK POUNTAIN edits PC Pros Real World Computing section and wont tolerate any insults about his hat. Blog: www.dickpountain.co.uk Email: web@dickpountain.co.uk

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RWC Feature

The landrush for new web domains


A host of new top-level domains are about to flood onto the market. Barry Collins explains why your business cant afford to ignore them
The new gTLD system
Lets get the bad news out of the way rst. If like Barclays, Del Monte or Herms, you liked the idea of landing your own top-level domain name, youre already too late for the initial batch of releases, at least. Although considering youd need $185,000, alongside a host of expensive infrastructure requirements, its unlikely most SMBs could afford to get involved in the rst place. This doesnt mean you should write off all chance of landing a prestigious new domain name, however. There are three main types of gTLD being released: closed, restricted and open. Most closed registrations are brand extensions, where a company has bought its own name and plans to use it for its own purposes internally (reviews.pcpro, for example). Restricted domains are only open to applicants who meet a certain criteria companies applying for a .london domain will have to be based in the city, for example. Open domains will accept applications from anyone, in much the same way anyone can buy a .com domain today. The application process has, predictably, been mired in controversy. A number of organisations didnt apply in the spirit of the programme, and applied for whats known as closed generics, says Stuart Fuller, director of commercial operations and communications at corporate domain-name management rm, NetNames. This means in addition to applying for their own company names, some rms have applied to close off non-brand-specic domain names, too. Amazon, Google and LOral all applied for generic terms. LOral applied for .hair, Amazon applied for .book. Theres been a huge uproar. Around 600 open domains are expected to be released in the rst batch of around 1,900 gTLDs, starting this autumn. The order in which the domains will be released has already been set, after the governing body ICANN held what was possibly the worlds most expensive and dullest rafe. All of the gTLD applicants had to buy a $100 ticket, and a seven-hour-long draw at ICANNs New York headquarters decided in which order the domain names would be released. The running

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he starting gun is about to be red on the biggest land grab in the history of the web. Beginning this autumn, thousands of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) will be unleashed, giving businesses the opportunity to be more creative with their website addresses. No longer will businesses be restricted to .co.uk, .com or the slightly more esoteric likes of .net or .tv. Instead, theyll be able to put their brand name in front of gTLDs such as .play, .secure, or .app. They might choose to dot move, allowing the insurance company Claims Direct to switch from www.claimsdirect.

co.uk to simply claims.direct, for example. Theyll also have to keep a close eye out for their brands being tarnished on more derogatory domains such as .sucks and .adult, both of which are in the initial batch of gTLDs to be released in the coming months. Although the plan to release these gTLDs has been on the table for many years, awareness is still low. Many businesses may switch on just in time to nd that the domains they crave have already gone. Were going to give you a heads-up on the new gTLDs to make sure youre not caught out by this fundamental shift in the way websites are labelled.

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order is published on ICANNs website at www.pcpro.co.uk/links/229gtld and, as youll notice, many of the domains are in international, non-Latin script. This allows for Cyrillic, Hindi or Japanese iterations of .com, for example, which are foreseen to be in high demand. Many of the domain names are being sought after by more than one applicant. The .play domain, for example, is part of a three-way tussle between Amazon, Google and Famous Four Media (a fourth applicant has already bowed out). In such circumstances, ICANN wants the parties to meet and come to a private arrangement no doubt involving a large cheque or other form of bartering. There are lots of small companies making bids for domains such as .app or .music, making a calculated bid that theyll be paid off, says Fuller. Theyll say give me 300 grand to walk away. If the parties cant agree a settlement, ICANN will hold a private auction, with the highest bidder taking the domain, and the

After that, the domain names enter general availability, and are issued on a rst-come, rst-served basis, in the same manner that .com names are currently.

Most wanted
These are the ten most in-demand gTLDs being pre-ordered by 1&1 customers: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. .online .web .shop .london .app 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. .ltd .website .site .blog .limited

Whats a new domain worth?

Domain names can be even more valuable than search rankings


proceeds going to the losing parties. ICANN executives told PC Pro that around 10% of contended names have been settled already. As we get closer to the auctions, the light will become clearer, and well see how many settle and how many go to auction, says Akram Atallah, president of ICANNs generic domains division.

Registering a new domain

The big question business owners will be asking themselves is whether theres any value in registering a new domain name. Are customers more likely to nd your website with a swanky new domain name than with a plain, but established, .com or .co.uk? Who types in web addresses these days anyway? Doesnt everyone simply type the company name into Google? These are all valid questions, and ones that we dont yet have the answers to, and probably wont until the new gTLDs have been up and running for some time. What is clear is that many of the webs biggest names are clearly attaching plenty of value to the new gTLDs: Google, Amazon and Microsoft have all applied for several of their own at considerable cost, and as weve noted before, not merely to protect their brand names. Atallah argues that, even in the age of search being built into every browser address bar, theres still enormous value in a distinct domain name. Domain names are identiers, he says. Youll always need an identier, that will not change. A 2012 research paper from Microsoft suggests that domain names can be even more valuable than high search rankings. The researchers found that, when presented with a page of search results, the domain the site is hosted on can actually ip a users

preference about 25% of the time. The study found that users have learned to trust some domains over others and that users click on results from reputable domains even when more relevant search results are available. While the study was based on traditional domains (bbc.co.uk, for example), you can easily see how users may be swayed to read a news story from .bbc (a gTLD that the BBC has claimed) rather than another source. That same principle may be extended to other industries. Barclays is planning to allow business banking customers to register .barclays domains, for instance, in the belief that theyll pay a premium to be associated with a trusted brand. From a search engine optimisation (SEO) perspective, its uncertain how Google will treat the new domain names. Although current TLDs are believed to have a signicant bearing on Google search results a search from Google UK appears to give priority to .co.uk domains, for example it isnt clear whether .london domains will be afforded the same respect, for example. In one of its few public statements on how it will handle gTLDs, a Google Webmaster Help video on YouTube says the company

The rst open domains could already be appearing on the market. Before an open domain reaches general availability, there will be two crucial periods, called sunrise and landrush. The 60-day sunrise period will see registered trademark holders notied and given the option to purchase domain names using the new gTLD. This is designed to prevent opportunists registering coke.web, for example, and then attempting to hold the drinks rm to ransom. But given that around 20 new domains will be released every week, its a headache for well-known companies. For a brand-holder, its an absolute nightmare knowing when to apply, how many to apply for, says Fuller. Thereafter follows the 30-day landrush period, in which anyone can apply for the names the trademark holders havent already reserved. If more than one party applies for the same domain name during this period, theyll typically go to auction to decide who gets the virtual real estate.

Its possible to pre-order some domains: 1&1 has already received thousands of UK orders

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will go through a process of trial and error after the domains are unleashed. We want to return the best result, and if the best result is one particular TLD, then its reasonable to expect well do the work in terms of writing the code and nding out how to crawl different domains where were able to return what we think is the best result, the company claims. So if youre making Transformers 9 and you want to buy the domain Transformers9. movie, its reasonable to expect Google will try to nd those results, try to be able to crawl them well, and try to return them to users. Richard Stevenson, head of corporate communications at web host 1&1, believes therell be value in regional domains. I expect there to be a huge demand for gTLDs such as .london, he says. As SMEs are most often focused on their local market, and local search engine results are vital to them, geographical domains such as this will be an important consideration for them in the years ahead.

Special domains

Companies such as NetNames can manage the whole process for businesses

There are other, non-regional domains that might hold extra appeal. Security company Artemis is hoping to make the .secure domain a trusted place to do business, for example, so that consumers and businesses can rest assured that sites using that gTLD are trustworthy. To qualify for a .secure domain, sites will be required to agree to rigorous security policies that will strictly prevent the intentional use of .secure domains for malicious activity or the inadvertent creation of vulnerability through misapplication of security technologies. Site owners will also have to provide identity documentation, which will be checked manually, to ensure that companies are who they say they are, unlike normal .com addresses, which can effectively be registered in the name of your pet dog, if you so wish. Theyll also face regular audits of their security setup. The price for being part of this exclusive security club is likely to run to tens of thousands of dollars, although Artemis is

address is likely to surface higher in search results than one without. Other similar domains include .nance and .shop.

Blocking domains

Geographical domains will be an important consideration for SMEs in the years ahead
believed to have hundreds of businesses already signed up to run .secure domains, including several leading banks. There are other sector-related gTLDs that could appeal. Companies offering or reselling web hosting services might decide, for example, to purchase a .hosting domain not only because its likely that many of their rivals will do likewise, but because Google uses a sites URL to judge relevancy of search terms; a hosting company with a .hosting in its web

There are also a fair few new gTLDs that most businesses wouldnt want their brand to be seen anywhere near. Domains such as .sucks, .gripe, .adult, .sex and .porn are among the rst batch of approved gTLDs, even if the latter three are designed to segregate adult content, rather than drag brands into the seedier side of the web. Nevertheless, many businesses will want to take advantage of domain blocking to make sure their brands or trademarks arent used mischievously. Registrars will offer the opportunity for businesses to block domains (pcpro.sucks, for example not that anyone would ever dream of such a slur) at a reduced price, but they cant make active use of that domain (by redirecting it to their brand homepage, for example): it simply returns a holding message.

Registering domains

So how do businesses go about registering new domains, and making sure their brands arent being abused? It is, of course, possible for brands to keep an eye on the release of new domains and register or block individual domains themselves, but with 20 new gTLDs

expected to be appearing on the market every week, this could be quite labour-intensive. Companies such as NetNames can handle the whole process on behalf of businesses. NetNames starts by compiling a list of all the companys brands, considering them against three different types of domain registration generic, geographic and dot moves and then gives each a score out of 100. The report will generate recommendations on which domains a company should register and which it should block, and then NetNames deals with the process of registering the relevant domains on the companys behalf. Registrars are already beginning to take pre-orders for forthcoming gTLD releases. Weve been genuinely surprised by just how brisk UK demand has been for pre-orders of new gTLDs, says 1&1s Stevenson. Our portal has received thousands of orders since launching on 1 July. However, Stevenson believes most small businesses are likely to be caught cold by the domains. Not surprisingly, the big brands as well as media and creative industries worldwide are well positioned to move on new gTLDs, he says. However, my suspicion would be that the average UK small-business owner isnt sufciently aware of them. Indeed, recent research commissioned by domain broker Sedo found that awareness and understanding were low within European SMEs. Its time to start paying attention. You cant say you havent been warned.

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RWC Careers

So you want to work in IT sales


Stuart Andrews explains how to get started in a rewarding career selling IT products and services

CAREERS

here are thousands of IT resellers and solution providers working in the UK, with the top 250 employing almost 243,000 people and generating 46.5 billion in revenue, according to analysts IT Europa. Salespeople play a key role in driving this vast business, whether theyre junior staff manning the phones or senior managers handling major corporate accounts. Yet few people really appreciate what they do. Sales sometimes gets a bad name, says Steve Warburton, sales director for Zen Internet, but it can be a rewarding and exciting job. Id encourage people to be open-minded about a career in sales, and particularly IT sales, because it may not be what they expect. In many ways, IT sales is no different from any other sales job: you take the products or services your organisation makes or resells and sell them. However, at higher levels it may involve managing long-term relationships with companies that could last many years. Here, sales becomes more interesting, moving to packaging hardware and software products together as solutions. However, this involves a level of expertise. Does that mean IT sales requires an in-depth technical knowledge? Not necessarily, says Tim Holton, marketing manager for reseller Uniq Systems. For him, the

Good sales is about being able to explain the benefits of IT beyond a technical audience
more crucial thing is the ability to understand the needs of the prospect, and meet those needs. Experience can be more useful, he adds. If youre explaining the benets of a contact management system, its more important to understand the marketing, sales or service benets than to have technical knowledge. Up to a point, Warburton agrees. In any sales job, theres a process of gathering requirements and trying to understand what the customer is trying to do, and explaining the

benets of the technology, he says. Theres value in having an understanding of the technology, but over the years Ive seen our business change. We used to see people come in with IT degrees and technical qualications, but more recently weve been able to train people in the technology, particularly in the entry-level sales roles. However, he adds that for the senior roles, a degree of technical knowledge and also experience in an IT business or a telco becomes more important, since the enterprise customers youre talking to expect a level of knowledge, background and experience. For Mark Tomlinson, assistant manager of Novatechs business team, technical expertise is important because it builds condence. Everyone whos being sold to, in whichever shape or form, has to have condence in the company or organisation theyre buying from, he says.

eld, and while it can be advantageous to have an IT-specic degree, a degree in a business discipline might be just as relevant. Whats key, says Uniqs Holton, is that the job provides structured training and the opportunity to learn from successful salespeople. We do a lot of training in both sales and technical knowledge, says Tomlinson. The rst two or three weeks give quite intensive training on our products at least the basics and we do the sales side of training, too, so its a good combination. After three weeks of intensive training, Novatech continues to train staff for anywhere between six to 12 months before salespeople join the senior teams handling large accounts. The training will continue there, says Tomlinson, but youre trained effectively. You can make recommendations to customers, and you genuinely understand what youre talking about, so you can do much more of the solution sell.

Attributes of an IT salesperson

Getting started

Theres no xed pathway into IT sales, no specic course or qualication that companies look for. Companies take graduates from every

Beyond sales experience and technical expertise, what else do you need in order to be an effective salesperson? Both Holton and Warburton consider passion and enthusiasm important, as does Tomlinson. You have to

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be enthusiastic, and you have to care about what you do, he says. The most important quality is to be able to listen, adds Holton. The ability to explain the business benets of technology is one of the most important things, says Warburton. Many people can talk about technology, but its a rarer breed that can explain the business benets and how that technology can help the company. For Warburton, good sales is all about being able to explain those benets beyond a technical audience, and also ensuring that the solutions youre selling are relevant to the people youre talking to. Theres no point talking about the latest technology if that particular business cant benet from it. That ability to understand the customer, and what theyre looking for, is really important. Tomlinson thinks that it helps to be a logical thinker, but that reliability is also key. Thats what makes people come back, and what makes people want to use you, he claims. For Tomlinson, its all about building long-term relationships and a degree of trust. People are happy to pay for what they see as a justiable service, he says, because you dont let people down, or if something does go wrong you x it quickly, and youre very efcient. Being willing to go the extra mile when customers do have a problem is also important. Some parts [of the role] need a high level of technical knowledge, and you cant know everything, says Tomlinson. Sometimes you have to go out of your way and make a conscious effort to nd out information and support people. If [customers] genuinely believe that the person theyre talking to or work with their account manager is keen, and will always be there to try and help them as best they can, then youll always be their rst port of call. Warburton agrees, and believes that the days of the pushy salesperson and the organisations that rely on that model are numbered. Businesses are becoming much more aware of what they need, he says. They want to work with organisations that see it more as a partnership, and are able to offer solutions that complement what theyre doing. Finally, you need resilience. As Uniqs Holton says, The unique sales quality is being able to take a knock back and still believe that the next person you meet will be a sale.

A day in the life of an IT sales manager


Name: Steve Warburton Job title: Sales director, Zen Internet Experience: Degree in business information systems, 14 years at Zen Internet
Im an early riser, so I tend to be in the ofce between 7.30 and 8am. Before I start anything else, I look at my calendar and think about the meetings I have, and whats going to be the focus. I then see if there are any projects or activities that need special attention. I try my best to do that before I look at my email, since theres always a danger that your email drives from the sales team. Theyre very much at the coalface, and they provide useful feedback about what our customers are looking for. Sometimes Im on the road a few days a week, but, increasingly, much of that is done through conference calls. Other salespeople, particularly in the eld-based jobs, may be out of the ofce three or more days a week.

PROFILE

Im very keen to understand the customers needs. Whats their business? What are their current drivers?
your activity. In my role, its particularly important that I drive my own. I check my email to see if theres something from customers or anything internal that requires urgent attention. After that, it varies. The morning could be preparing to go out and see a customer that afternoon, or even later that morning. Im very keen to understand the customers needs. Whats their business? What are their current drivers? What are their focus areas and priorities? I could also be attending a meeting to provide feedback to the team, or to get feedback from them that Ill take on to internal product development meetings. Its really important to Zen to hear customer feedback I dont stop for lunch as often as Id like to. Its often a working lunch, although now and again I have lunch with customers or the team. After that there may be customer meetings, but theres no real pattern; it tends to be a case of whatever the topic is for the day. Towards the end of the day, I often like to catch up on any actions that came from that days meetings and tie up anything that needs tying up. Ive got a young family at home, so I try my best to clock off between 4.30 and 5pm. We avoid working from home wherever possible, although there are times when I may have to do so in the evenings or at weekends. Overall, though, we try to keep a good work/life balance.

Challenges and rewards

Its been a tough few years in IT, and particularly IT sales. Holton pinpoints the economic climate and the lack of budget as key problems. Many people arent expanding, so arent looking to spend on IT projects. For Zens Warburton, the biggest challenge is working in a constantly changing marketplace. Businesses are always introducing new technology,

he says, and the biggest challenge for salespeople is keeping abreast of those changes. This isnt only making sure that what youre talking about is still relevant, but also knowing when something isnt ready to be talked about. There have been times in the past where weve heard about the latest and greatest, he continues, but in reality the market isnt ready for it. As for the rewards, the nancial benets certainly help. According to gures from IT Jobs Watch, IT salespeople can earn between 23,000 and 75,000, with the majority in the 35,000 to 55,000 range. However, sales roles are always commission-based, which could make actual take-home pay much higher or lower than the nominal salary. Not that money is the sole reward. For the true salesperson, theres a pleasure in simply winning business. We operate in a

ercely competitive market, says Zens Warburton, and I think that when we win contracts, the salespeople get a lot of satisfaction from it. For Novatechs Tomlinson, its the relationships you develop that are the biggest plus. You end up knowing a lot about each other, and its great in that sense, he says. You get to talk to people on a daily basis who you really get on with and who you can really have fun with, but who you can also offer help to, offering solutions that really improve their IT infrastructure. When it all goes well, its good for all concerned. Everyone likes praise, and everyone likes to be told when theyve done something well, Tomlinson adds. When you get that, and you nd that this person who youve built that relationship with over a period of time is being patted on the back at their end, then thats a great feeling.

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RWC Advanced Windows & Mac

The seven circles of update hell


Jon Honeyball loses his rag over Microsoft update issues, but a few Mac-based improvements help to calm him down
JON HONEYBALL
Computer journalist and consultant specialising in both client/server and ofce automation applications. Email jhoneyball@ woodleyside.co.uk

ADVANCED WINDOWS & MAC

ve said it before and Ill say it again: Ofce 365 is one of the best things to come out of Microsoft in a long time. Im referring, of course, to the cloud-hosted Exchange Server implementation. Weve been using it here for a while now, and we have a number of E3 Enterprise licences. For what it costs me every month, I couldnt realistically keep a local server running in a cluster, manage it, update it and repair it when things go wrong. This is a classic example of a cloud solution working out cheaper per user per month than an on-site hosted solution. Im sold, and I recommend it as the de facto email solution. What Im not so pleased about is the way Microsoft has handled the upgrade to the 2013 wave. In February, Microsoft announced that all the new accounts on Ofce 365 would be Ofce 2013-enabled, meaning youd gain a shiny new administration portal, and access to Ofce 2013 to install and run on all your machines. You pay for this as part of the monthly subscription, of course.

This is appalling behaviour by Microsoft, and its enough to make me seriously worry
It was understood that new installers would receive the 2013 version immediately, that existing customers would be transitioned to it over time, and that this would be done on a per-server basis, with all the installations on that server being upgraded at the same time.

We were told wed receive an email one month before the transition to alert us, and that we could delay the transition if it wasnt convenient. For example, if I was in the middle of a complex multiserver transition from pure on-site hosting to mixed on-/off-site hosting, Id want and demand control over the timing of the transition. Thats only right and logical unlike the ham-sted, opaque and frankly insulting way Microsoft has bungled this entire process. Writing in late July, my installation still hasnt been upgraded, nor have I received an email to indicate when it might happen. I went nuclear at Microsoft through the UK press team, which looked into the matter. In essence, they came back to tell me it was impossible to nd out the status, since no-one knew or would say, and that it wasnt

possible to know when Id be migrated. I have no idea whether this delay is caused by another organisation on the same server having had a bad hair day, or whether theyve just forgotten my server entirely. A few days after I went nuclear, Microsoft posted one of its typical soothing blog posts on the subject, saying that more than 75% of users had already been transitioned, and the rest would happen by the end of July. Nonetheless, I remain part of the forgotten 25%. Whats really annoying is that Im paying for Ofce 2013 licences as part of my E3 licence set, yet I cant access the software in any useful way. I can download a site setup tool, which Im sure is just wonderful if your company is called BP or GlaxoSmithKline, but it isnt really suited to a small business such as mine. Ive been asking around, and everyone has come back with the same view: most people have now been transitioned, but no-one has any clue about whats going on. One person said

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they were thinking of cancelling the whole thing and starting again from scratch just to get this sorted. This is frankly appalling behaviour by Microsoft, and its enough to make me seriously worry about its ability to roll out changes that are promised for 2014. If it continues to operate in such a vague and high-handed manner, it will be hard to recommend Ofce 365 to my friends and clients. Im bitterly disappointed about all this. Microsoft must nd some way to show the status of each users transition schedule in a clear fashion. If you get new capabilities such as Ofce 2013, there has to be a workable transition path from the old world to the new. Anything less is taking the mickey.

Windows 8 update hell

I may as well continue along this thread of my upset with Microsoft, because Ive just had to do a full refresh reinstall of Windows 8 on my Dell XPS One 27 touchscreen desktop. I was trying to install a driver package for an HP colour laserjet all-in-one device, but every time I tried to run the installation it reached 90%, then failed with a generic oh dear-style error message. I tried ripping out everything that

The Refresh Installation option lets you reinstall Windows without losing your data

HP deserves its reputation for horribly complicated installation routines


could be causing the problem old drivers, old apps, the dried-up sandwich behind the processor fan but to no avail. To be fair, I should point the nger of blame at HP. It fully deserves its dire reputation for horribly complicated installation routines, which are a nightmare to perform and manage, and impossible to deal with if anything goes wrong. Something in my computer was upsetting this installer, but it couldnt tell me what it was, which simply isnt good enough. However, Im going to point another nger at Microsoft, since Windows 8 was supposed to be the operating system that didnt suffer from OS rot, that nasty degradation of OS performance that occurs over months and eventually requires a clean installation to sort out the mess. At least with Windows 8 theres the Refresh Installation option, which is like a full reinstall except that all your data is left in place. Your apps continue to work, too, providing theyre Metro apps any old-fashioned Win32 apps will need to be reinstalled from scratch. In the end, I ran this option on my Dell and it proceeded with no major issues. After the obligatory reboot, I tried to do an update and found myself in Windows 8 update hell. No less than 65 updates were required, followed by a few more then more still. And a few more.

Get the picture? In my lab, were nding a fresh Windows 8 machine takes more than a day to patch, even if you dont have to sit in front of it the whole time; the last Apple I booted and started, a new MacBook Air, took 40 minutes. Microsoft has to make this better. It must roll up changes into quarterly incrementals and make them available. I need to be able to take a virgin Windows 8 installation and roll a Summer 2013 update across it, followed by a small handful of deltas after that. Ive lost entire days to machines that require a bunch of updates, only to discover that after the obligatory reboot they need more. And more again. This has to stop.

Fumbling rmware

While Im on the subject of HP, my trusty 5550HDN A3 ofce printer has died. Deader than a dead thing, it needed the attention of a engineer, so we hunted around on the HP website and ended up with a large UK rm of HP-specialist engineers. What has transpired since has been nothing less than a catalogue of egregious errors by the rm: the wrong motherboard was ordered; the new parts took a week to arrive; work was delayed further while we waited for the engineer to arrive on site; and the toner cartridges were rejected
My trusty HP 5550HDN has died, and getting it xed isnt easy

by the new correct motherboard, which insisted theyre not genuine HP parts. They most denitely are, however and I had the source trail to prove it. So, we tted a completely new set of toners (at a cost of almost a grand theyre not cheap), only to discover that the printer had lost all its status information when the new motherboard went in, and that therefore there had been nothing wrong with the old toners after all. Then I discovered theyd tted the wrong rmware, so that the printer reported itself as a 4560 instead of a 5550 (which I wouldnt mind except that the 4560 is a 5550-lite that cant do A3). Id very much like to scream and shout, but the engineer is standing behind me peering into a laptop screen full of servicing info. Time taken so far? Six weeks and counting. Id assumed it would be possible to get my 5550 xed quickly and easily, and thus avoid spending a few grand on a new printer. However, looking at it today, Im far from convinced Ive made the right decision. If this engineer cant get the rmware sorted, Ill name it and shame it. As with Ofce 365, wait for next months thrilling episode this one will roll and roll...

Oce 2013 falls at

Im an Ofce 2003 kind of guy. I know where everything is; my muscle and eye memory is efciently tuned to these apps and they work. They may not be lled with the latest glittery baubles, but I dont care. Its a workhorse that works for its living. Recently, Ive been forced to move up to Ofce 2010, mostly because of le compatibility issues when using newer les on older

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versions of Excel. Ill confess I dont like the ribbon one bit, but Im learning to master it. However, today, in a t of pique and as part of the aforementioned Great Dell Refresh, I went radical, hip and chic and installed Ofce 2013. I dont like this any more than Ofce 2010. In fact, I like it less, especially its version of Excel, which features a gratuitous sliding animation whenever you move the cursor from one cell to another. It doesnt help in any way, but Im sure dozens of engineers sweated to ensure this kewl feature was there for release. Personally, Id prefer them to be working on getting Outlook 2011 for Mac to import OS X Mailboxes. Anyone can dream, cant they? To be quite clear, I hate this garbage, which grates horribly against my 25 years of using Excel. As a result, I started digging into the conguration menus to turn off this animation stuff, only to discover that you cant: the user interface contains no switch for Gratuitious 2013 animations ON/OFF. Youve got it and youd better like it. It turns out you can disable it if you decide to disable animations across the entire OS. Alternatively, you can dig around in the

The new Mac Pro boasts six Thunderbolt 2 ports I was hoping for four

Only the Office team could have such downright disregard for its users
Registry and start ddling with keys in an attempt to knock some sense into the program. Only the Ofce team could have such downright disregard for its users. Imposing something like this on a new version of Excel and not providing a way to turn it off is beneath contempt, and shows how little Microsoft understands its users. Check out the suggestions at www.pcpro.co.uk/links/229aw if you want to try to nail this sucker.

I was hoping for four, but six put the sparklies on top of the cream on top of the apple turnover. This will be my next desktop machine, along with a pair of 4K monitors. I feel my wallet trembling already. That makes it doubly good to see Apple nally release a major rewrite of its audio and music program, now called Logic Pro X. This is a rewrite in the same manner as Final Cut Pro X, but without most of the initial screw-ups that plagued that release. I love Logic, but Im still bafed by its complexity. Logic Pro X looks to be a careful and sensible rewrite, and I look forward to getting my head around it over the next few months. Those whove said recently that Apple is moving away from the professional market should take a look at Final Cut Pro X and Logic Pro X, along with the Mac Pro they might reconsider their position. Im not saying these are ideal tools for all users and problems, but you cant doubt their professional qualications. Finally, do you need to sort out your iTunes library? Do you have lots of songs with the wrong metadata in the wrong place? Ive found the paid-for version of TuneUp to be worthwhile when it comes to sorting out the huge mess my iTunes library had become. Ill

admit it isnt the most stable its prone to crashing and burning but it can work magic on your iTunes library. Give it a go it might work for you, too.

Initally, I was going to make the Leap Motion Controller (see our review on p114) the lead item for this column. I was so excited when I rst saw videos of this product more than a year ago: everything I hated on the touch desktop could be xed by this device. Maybe it could deliver where Kinect for Windows had proved to be a damp squib? I placed my order for two and waited. And waited some more. Finally, they arrived this week, a year later. Im very tempted to say oh dear and what a huge letdown. The people behind it need a slap around the head. Making Windows pointing support an optional download, hidden deep in their online app store, is the height of stupidity it makes it clear they dont know what problem theyre trying to solve. Yet, despite this, Im going to give it the benet of the doubt. It might complete its transition to Turkey of the Year and become the huge letdown it rst appeared to be, but it may pull itself together and get this technology to work effectively. Im still incredibly excited by it, which is probably why Im not throwing it straight into the nearest bin. But the clock is ticking, and Leap Motions window of opportunity isnt wide. I hope it can bring things into focus.

Leap of faith

Mac makeovers

And now, thankfully, for some Mac stuff. Mavericks, the 10.9 release of OS X, is now in beta, and seems stable. Its stuffed with nice little tweaks and adjustments, although a few of them take some getting used to. If you run multiple monitors, which I do on my desktop iMac setup, it comes as a bit of a surprise to nd that the traditional Mac menu bar that sits at the top of the screen now sits at the top of every screen; the app that is foreground on that screen gets to display its menu. My muscle memory was a little confused at rst, given that it was used to making a quick ick on the touchpad to take the cursor to the left, but Im getting used to it. Unlike those Excel animations, this change makes sense, especially if youre running virtual desktops. Apple has also announced the Mac Pro along with six Thunderbolt 2 ports. Yes, six.

Ive been excited about the Leap Motion Controller for a year, but it might be a letdown

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Game of phones
Paul Ockenden finds a real-world alternative to technology analysts, and takes a look at a couple of upgradeable cameras
PAUL OCKENDEN
Owner of one of the UKs oldest web agencies, Paul works on award-winning sites for many bluechip clients. Twitter: @PaulOckenden

MOBILE & WIRELESS

s a result of writing this column, Ive been sent all kinds of press releases over the years from technology analysts, full of their pontications on the mobile phone industry and where its heading next. Their stuff is pretty useless for this column, since its the very opposite of the hands-on, real-world approach I employ. I dont know where they nd the so-called experts who write these tech prediction reports, or why anyone would pay for their future-gazing most of it appears to be complete and utter tosh. How do I know that? Do I have a crystal ball thats better than theirs? No, I have a time machine. Seriously I have a time machine that allows me to go back and look at things people said in the past; its called Outlook. My email archive folder lets me look at what these analysts were saying last year. Or ve years ago. Or a decade ago... For example, in 2007, I was sent a report telling me Apple didnt stand a chance in the mobile phone market, and I have others from a few years later assuring me the iPad was a stupid idea because no-one wants to buy tablet

I was sent a report telling me Apple didnt stand a chance in the mobile phone market
PCs. Ive also received emails informing me that no other manufacturer stood a chance with business smartphones, since BlackBerry had the market sewn up and companies were too locked in. Those same analysts said Googles Android operating system was destined to be a niche player of interest only to techies and that

Windows Mobile (the stylus-based handset that predated Windows Phone) would become Microsofts biggest prot centre. Needless to say, Im picking out the worst samples. Im sure that, based on the law of averages, some of these analysts predictions have come true. But most of their reports are expensive ction. Theres a much cheaper, more reliable way to know which way the mobile tide is turning, and its simply to keep your ears open in public spaces. I was eating my lunchtime sarnie in the park the other day when I overheard a group of youths comparing their phones. Several had Android models, which were a bit meh, theyre all the same. One had a Nokia Windows Phone I couldnt see which model which apparently was well cool. Another had a BlackBerry a Curve OS 7, I think for which he was roundly mocked. He protested that he was the only one of them with BBM, to which a friend retorted, Whats the

point of BBM if none of your mates are on it? (I see his point.) Then, just as I thought phone scorn couldnt get any worse, the last of the group pulled out his iPhone and the rest started sniggering. One even said, The iPhone is for old people. That sums up Apples mobile woes better than any professional analyst ever could. Of course, the iPhone isnt only for old people: Im sure many of you reading this have iPhones and dont consider yourself old, although perhaps that group of youths would disagree. More and more of the people I see carrying iPhones are, um, mature, and although I have a largish circle of teenage family and friends, I cant remember the last time any of them became excited about an iPhone. This is a device, rather than a company, thing. It isnt that people have become particularly anti-Apple, since iPads still have a degree of credibility, while the companys computers MacBooks, in particular are very much lusted after by Generation Innit. I wonder whether part of whats taken the shine off the iPhone is its affordability. Once upon a time it was an aspirational

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Photography: Danny Bird

RWC Mobile & Wireless

It could be argued that the iPhone has lost its kudos by becoming affordable

product that cost a substantial amount more than other smartphones, but now you cant open a daily newspaper without seeing ads for it on a bargain contract. By becoming affordable, the iPhone has lost its kudos; the iPad and various Macs, however, remain reassuringly, conspicuously expensive. Can Apple turn this situation around to recover its mobile cool? If rumours are to be

By becoming affordable, the iPhone has lost its kudos; the iPad is reassuringly expensive
believed, it will soon unveil a new agship phone, plus a budget device. You may think that moving further downmarket would be a terrible mistake, if the reasons I describe for Apples loss of mojo are accurate, but I think its a clever move. Take an example from the car market: BMWs M Series is expensive, so much so that you hardly ever see one on the road. However, the aspirational value the M Series confers on the brand as a whole helps to sell many cheaper models: the bog-standard 3 Series still outsells the Ford Mondeo. This trickle-down marketing tactic isnt only used to sell cars. Consider restaurant wine lists: if you add a couple of very expensive wines to the list, few people will buy them. But just by having these as top markers, youll nd people select more expensive bottles from the rest of the list than they would have otherwise. Cognitive psychologists call this priming.

Take digital cameras as another example: the best-loved DSLR brands in the consumer market are those that also make eye-wateringly expensive models aimed at professionals. Huge prots are made on these models, as well as from the volume of lower-specication, lower-margin cameras sold. The coolness of the lower-cost devices is boosted by association with their premium stablemates. The same effect could work with the new budget iPhones. The agship device might become a premium product again, with all the cheap contracts being offered for the new budget model. Apple has tested the waters by launching the iPad mini, which seems to be working out okay, but there remains a nagging doubt about whether the iPhones phone for old people perception can be reversed. Only time will tell.

with any new release. Of course, phones and tablets arent the only electronic gadgets that can benet from updated rmware. My Blu-ray player, for example, often uses its internet connection to grab the latest version of its operating system from Sonys servers, and the DAB radio in my kitchen periodically calls home via Wi-Fi to check if theres an upgrade available. Its convenient having devices with their own internet connection, since they can grab the new code by themselves. However, its easy to forget that plenty of other, non-connected gadgets have embedded rmware, too. Manufacturers often provide updates for these as well (I recently updated the rmware in my washing machine). One area of tech thats often overlooked for updates is digital cameras. We often connect these to our computers to transfer photos, but people rarely make full use of that connected state to check if a rmware update is available. Thats a real shame, since new rmware often comes with signicant improvements, as well as bug xes. A case in point is Canons mirrorless, interchangeable-lens EOS M. At rst glance, it looks like a neat bit of kit, but as various reviews including PC Pros (web ID: 380002) will testify, its appallingly slow autofocus speed lets it down. Thats unfortunate; appalling one-shot focus performance aside, its an excellent camera. Think of it as the guts of an EOS 650D minus the mirror, but with a lens mount with a much shorter ange focal distance. You can also buy an adapter that allows you to mount any Canon or third-party EF or EF-S lens. It might look a little odd having such a tiny camera strapped to the end of a huge lens my biggest is the Sigma Bigma 50-500mm OS zoom but it works well. That brings me back to rmware. A few weeks ago, Canon released new rmware for

Firmware fettling

In a previous issue, (see issue 213, p77), I covered the pros and cons of updating the rmware on your mobile phone or tablet. In most cases, its a good idea, although its wise to wait a few days to see if other people have reported problems
Canons EOS M becomes a great little camera when you update the awful initial rmware

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the EOS M that completely cures the sluggish focus problem, so its now pretty much on a par with all the other mirrorless cameras on the market. However, I wonder how many people realise this update is even available. It totally transforms the camera and makes it far more attractive to anyone with a large collection of Canon lenses. If youre interested in the EOS M, keep an eye out for bargains on the internet. A couple of weeks before I wrote this column, Park Cameras in Sussex was offering the EOS M, an EF-M 18-55mm kit lens, a Speedlite 90EX mini-ashgun and an EF/EF-M lens mount adapter for 350 (unfortunately, this deal is no longer available). Throw in a 50 cashback

Its dead easy to make removable mounts for small gadgets using sugru
promotion from Canon and youre effectively getting more than 1,000-worth of kit for 300. Of course, nobody in their right mind would pay a grand for that bundle, but at 300 its a steal, and a no-brainer for anyone with an investment in Canon glass. Im sure similar bargains will appear again, so keep your eyes peeled.

Dashcams and self-setting rubber

Speaking of cameras, Ive been looking at buying a dashcam for my car. If you havent come across these devices, go to YouTube and search for dashcam; youll nd lots of videos of people having road trafc accidents, most of them taken in Russia. Apparently, this is because Russias law enforcement is so lax (and sometimes corrupt) that whenever such an incident ends up in court, video evidence is often given more weight than dodgy eyewitness testimony. As it happens, thats the reason Ive been looking at dashcams, too. We were involved in a minor prang recently, and the other party told his insurance company a story that was very different from the event we witnessed. If wed had video evidence, it would have made the claims process far simpler. If you do a web search or look on eBay, youll nd all manner of dashboard-mounted cameras. Some of them have GPS positionlogging, accelerometers for crash detection and front- and rear-facing cameras to record whats going on inside and outside the car. The more sophisticated models cost several hundred quid. The trouble is, I didnt like anything I saw. Given the title of this column, it should come as no surprise that I prefer gadgets that operate wirelessly. Most of the dashcams I came across require a power connection in

a small gap between the device and the mount. Then, wrap sugru around the base of the device, the car, and I dont want overlapping the sides (but power cables trailing all not the corners) so its held over the place. They securely but can still be easily were rather bulky, too, removed. Once the sugru has set, with built-in screens simply remove the camera and peel for reviewing the footage. away the cling lm. I want something discreet I also performed this procedure around that, above all, doesnt block the stem that holds my cars rearview mirror, so my eld of view. I now have an unobtrusive place to quickly Thinking slightly outside the box, I and easily mount the Mobius. You could use wondered whether I could adapt one of the a traditional suction-based windscreen mount, new breed of action cameras to work as an which the UK distributor of the Mobius sells in-car recorder. When you think of action quite cheaply, but I much prefer the hidden cams, you probably nature of my setup. picture devices such The camera is very simple, with a lens at as the excellent GoPro one end, a microSDHC card slot and a USB Hero3 or the Drift HD connector at the other, and three buttons and Ghost. Both of these a multicolour LED on the top. It records were still too big and video in 1080p at 30fps, or in 720p at 30fps boxy for me, though. or 60fps, and takes photos at 2,048 x 1,536. I turned my eyes to It also records audio. Usefully, you can reduce the Mobius Action Camera, which you can the video quality if you want to keep the le pick up in the UK for around 60. size down, but that shouldnt really be a Its a fantastic device, about the same size problem, since the camera can take 32GB and weight of a cars central-locking key fob, memory cards (and some users have had but containing a 1080p camera with a highsuccess with 64GB ones). quality, 120-degree lens. The picture quality Of course, using the Mobius as is excellent, and the Mobius adapts well a dashcam is only one possible to bright sunshine and nighttime Gru who? application. As an action driving conditions. Crucially, For anyone whos never camera, it can be used for it contains a rechargeable heard of it, sugru is a self-setting capturing extreme sports battery thats good for rubber compound available in footage when attached to around an hour and a various colours thats great for a helmet or bike, or even half of recording time, doing all kinds of repairs. It sticks as a recording platform which is long enough to most surfaces and remains on a remote-controlled for my usual journeys. pliable enough to adjust once set. plane or quadcopter. Its If I want to record a Its also a good electrical insulator. a lovely piece of kit with longer trip, Ill attach Its replaced Blu-Tack in my IT so many uses. something like the Innergie toolbox as the universal Theres a semi-ofcial PocketCell power source bodge-x solution. support forum for the camera (see issue 217, p77). at www.pcpro.co.uk/links/229mw, At rst, I simply used a bit of where youll nd plenty of details about Velcro to attach the Mobius to the the hardware, plus links to sample videos, headliner of my car, and it stayed put rmware updates and all kinds of hacks pretty well. However, I was worried it might and mods. Theres even an Android app for fall off, especially if I had a little bump with conguring the device (the alternatives are another car. Eventually I fashioned a removable a GUI app for Windows users or an easily mount out of sugru, a putty similar to editable text le for Linux or Mac users). Play-Doh that sets as a strong, silicone rubber overnight. Its dead easy to make removable mounts for small gadgets using this magical material. First, cover the device my Mobius camera, in this case with a thin layer of cling lm to prevent the sugru from sticking to it, making sure to leave
The Mobius Action Camera is compact and lightweight sugru is brilliant for mending or sticking just about anything

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RWC Online Business

Creating a supportive environment


Kevin Partner explains how a low-cost helpdesk system could give your business a boost, elevating it above the corporate competition
A few weeks later, I had the misfortune of buying something from Argos online, as I wanted to use up my PayPal balance. Argos boasts a commitment to customer service, but that isnt matched by the online support, which is truly appalling. It begins conventionally enough by issuing a ticket, but each time you reply to a customer service email it opens a new ticket, rather than adding the reply to the existing ticket. The support staff take at least 24 hours to answer each ticket, so you can imagine my frustration. In the end, I emailed them every piece of information they could possibly want, after which I heard nothing at all. Angry though I was, Id had my interest piqued by my Virgin Media experience, so I tweeted a complaint. Sure enough, Argos responded within minutes with an invitation to direct-message my details. The entire problem was sorted in a brief exchange of messages, a courier was booked and an apology was made. So, why the massive contrast between the online support and Twitter support? There are plenty of robust customer support systems to choose from, yet my experience of the service offered by big corporations retailers in particular is universally poor (with the exception of Amazon). Also, Twitter is hardly the ideal support environment, limited as it is to short text messages. Whats more, these retailers must have invested in some fairly powerful technology to enable several Twitter agents to deal with multiple ongoing cases. I dont think its too cynical of me to conclude that retailers are forced to engage with Twitter because of its public nature. In other words, the very problem that makes Twitter increasingly less useful to me as a social medium makes it excellent for getting helpful customer support. I dont think these companies worry much that Joe Public might notice angry tweets about poor service among

ONLINE BUSINESS

KEVIN PARTNER
Online businessman and app developer. Runs MakingYour OwnCandles.co.uk and app rm NlightN.co.uk. Email kev@xedprice website.co.uk

m only a half-hearted user of Twitter. Its lled with vast amounts of meaningless guff; it can be like listening in on the thoughts of the world and very nasty at times. Call me a hypocrite (@kevpartner, of course), but I use Twitter to broadcast myself, and almost 2,000 people willingly expose themselves to my invective. However, I rarely read tweets written by others, and I dont tune in when a big story is breaking the newsworthy needle is usually hidden in the hashtag haystack. So whod have thought it would prove the best route for getting customer service from big retailers? Recently, a contractors digger cut the Virgin Media cable connecting its Portsmouth hub with towns to the north and west, and the rst I knew of it was when I couldnt get online that morning. Virgin Medias status page was characteristically useless, rst acknowledging a fault that would be xed by 1pm that day, then pushing that back to three days, before a few minutes later claiming there was no fault. Meanwhile, I still had no broadband, so I took to Twitter to vent. I received a response fairly quickly; as a result, I had at least part of the truth an hour or two before the local news media. (Naturally, Virgins status page remained in blissful denial.) Over the next few days, the Virgin Media Twitter account provided useful information, far more than their web-based fault-reporting system. This puzzled me if the company is as committed to customer service as it claims, its rst priority should be keeping the paying punters up to date. Its true that the fault-reporting system requires a working internet connection, but so does Twitter.

Twitter makes companies customer service both public and searchable


their Twitter streams, but rather that Twitter makes their customer service both public and searchable. My email to Argoss support team, on the other hand, was just between the two of us and could be ignored quite safely. Its sad if some big companies are being forced to embrace Twitter and good customer service simply because they fear their practices might otherwise be exposed, but it makes Twitter a useful weapon for angry customers. However, Im still not convinced its a good choice for smaller online businesses. Its better by far to install an effective, ticket-based support system on your site than to expect customers to vent publicly to attract your

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of which feature in the systems used by most at the handwritten of these corporations. note. Adding a human Zendesks sophistication makes it quite touch to the largely difcult to set up, but its biggest drawback is impersonal process that it charges per agent, per month, so it can of buying online become expensive quickly. Ironically, this pays off in better means Zendesks pricing structure makes it less feedback and a higher likely youll grow your support team, which conversion rate. may impact on service levels. In other words, The same applies the price works against the point of Zendesk. when theres a problem This is a problem shared by almost all of these with an order, or a site services, and it has a particularly negative effect visitor has a question. on fast-growing businesses. They shouldnt need WishList Products, the developer of a to resort to Twitter leading WordPress plugin for membership sites, to get an efcient, is one such company. Co-founder Stu McLaren constructive and was facing the prospect of committing an extra timely response $600 per year, per seat as part of the process of good support should recruiting people to his support team. The best be built into the site. business ideas are often borne out of frustration That said, as your at whats on offer, so his rm built Rhino business grows, If you want responsive customer service from a big retailer, you Support (www.rhinosupport.com), a helpdesk relying on email as should publicly tweet, rather than privately email system that works the way he wants, rather the primary method of than conforming to industry defaults. dealing with customers becomes cumbersome attention. Id go so far as to suggest that The temptation when entering any new and time-consuming, particularly at busy times. resorting to Twitter is acknowledging that market is to look at its existing conventions As such, Ive been looking at off-the-peg your customers dont trust you enough and automatically adopt them. This might systems that claim to help. to contact you directly. seem like a safe option, but it results in a Ive often said here that great customer product that disappears into the crowd of service is the ace up the sleeve of small other, longer-established products offering Online help businesses, especially those that trade online the same thing. Whats more, your customers Spend even a few minutes researching helpdesk at least, it should be. As an online retailer, you probably arent familiar with industry services and it wont be long before you come dont have the recognition of companies such convention anyway: I had no idea that paying across Zendesk; indeed, I used the system on as Next, Debenhams and Argos, so its harder per seat was normal practice for helpdesk www.passyourtheory.org.uk for some time. to make that rst sale. One of the reasons the services until Id researched a few of them. Zendesk boasts the widest range of features conversion rate of the average e-commerce site By choosing a xed monthly fee, Rhino Ive seen, and could revolutionise the service is as low as 3% is that customers are frightened Support immediately differentiated itself from provided by retailers such as Argos. For to type their credit card details into any old its competitors. It may not appeal to all buyers, example, even the Regular plan includes website; theyre far more likely to trust but they have dozens of alternatives to pick forums, topic suggestions (which nds Debenhams site to be secure and not run off from; if xed pricing does appeal, Rhino is the articles that might match the customers with their Visa card number. only game in town. As owners of a growing query) and social media integration, none There are other ways to build trust, including having a worthwhile social media presence, a good payment provider and clear, open policies, but its once youve made your rst sale that you can exploit your small size to increase the chances of selling again to that customer. It bafes me why the big retailers make so little effort to make subsequent sales: only Amazon is any good at it, and even then its approach is scattergun. The biggest turn-off for repeat customers is feeling that theyre being treated with disinterest, or even contempt, by the company theyve bought from. Smaller online businesses can differentiate themselves by offering truly personal attention, both during the ordering process and when things go wrong. At my online retailer, we add a handwritten personal note to every order, thanking the customer for buying from us and, where appropriate, commenting on their choice or wishing them success. We do this because, despite having shipped around 15,000 orders, we still get a thrill when people buy from us. It costs nothing and may seem trivial, but Ive lost count of the customers who come back to review their purchase and mention their delight Zendesk provides better customer service than most big corporations

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RWC Online Business

online business themselves, the creators of Rhino Support made the crucial realisation that their customers like to know what price theyre committing themselves to. If I sign up to the Pro product, for example, Ill pay the same even if I double my number of support staff. We decided to sign up for a 45-day trial of the Solo membership, with the intention of upgrading to Pro when our silly season starts in October. Setup was simple, and you can build the helpdesk right into your site as a JavaScript-

If fixed pricing does appeal, Rhino Support is the only game in town
driven tab. When a visitor clicks on the tab, a contact form pops up that automatically injects a new ticket into the system. The support staff are notied via email, using rule-based lters that make it more likely an appropriate member of staff will see the query rst. Subsequent email replies are added to the same ticket (are you reading this, Argos?) so the entire conversation takes place within your email client. Theres also a nicely designed control panel interface,

which makes it possible to keep customer notes and reassign and close the ticket. You can also add a contact form to your site to replace any existing get in touch form, and set up Rhino Support to generate a ticket whenever an email arrives at your support address. The product includes a built-in knowledgebase that should enable visitors to discover the most common answers themselves (once youve worked out what your customers tend to ask, that is). Similarly, you can create canned responses to frequently asked questions that get through to the support staff, which enables them to pick from a list of responses, rather than retype the same answer over and again. Incidentally, if you nd yourself using canned responses and knowledgebase articles frequently, you should look at the information youre providing about these topics, since it suggests theres something many customers misunderstand. Finally, Rhino Support includes live chat, which is both useful and simple to disable (so visitors wont be frustrated when youre ofine). For an online retailer, being able to switch

Rhino Support needs to make it possible for us to customise the contact form

Backup broadband
Every online business needs reliable broadband. Ive been tempted by business packages, but I cant stomach the higher prices and lower speeds on offer compared to consumer versions. For the past few years Ive subscribed to the fastest provider in my area at the time, which until recently was Virgin Media. Overall, this has worked out well after all, merely having a business account wont help when you lose your connection for several days because a contractor has dug through the cable However, its as important to have a backup plan for your broadband as it is for your data. After dallying with several approaches, Ive settled on one that employs Threes mobile data network. Our home ofces have a wired network complete with NAS devices and several workstations, so I opted for a router we can drop into place. If the main connection drops out, I can replace the Virgin Media router with the backup and all will work as before, albeit more slowly. I chose the TP-Link TL-MR3220, since it features a USB slot in the back that accepts a mobile broadband dongle a quick Ethernet lead shufe is all thats needed to switch. This all swung into action during the recent outage, and once Id established it was going to be several days before the Virgin Media service would be running again, I dropped in the TP-Link, fed the USB dongle with a 10 Three SIM card and 3GB of data and we picked up where we left off. Ill confess to being smug about how well it worked until the next morning when Three suffered a rare nationwide outage and rendered my backup plan useless. I was saved by my Giffgaff plans generous data allowance I spent the morning working from a tethered Nexus 4 but it left us without a connected network for a few hours. A couple of months later, we relocated our ofces and the TP-Link worked perfectly as a stand-in while we waited for BT to install Innity. Indeed, the sorts of speeds we were achieving over 3G would have had my mouth watering a few years ago, when I was struggling to squeeze 2Mbits/sec from an ADSL line. The moral of the story? When your livelihood depends on an internet connection, have a backup and a backup for that backup. One day, it will happen.
Our TP-Link router allows us to easily switch between connections

to live chat when you know a customer is browsing your site not only helps you instantly handle support queries, but also helps you manage other kinds of communication its the electronic equivalent of discreetly standing alongside a customer as they select something. Rhino Support currently handles communications on my retail site that would previously have been dealt with via email and contact forms. However, as I write, its still on trial, since I have a few concerns. First, the contact form employs a slider that the user must drag across to submit queries (and, as if that werent wacky enough, the slider appears right next to a Submit button that does nothing). Now, I understand the need to deter automated spamming, but Id prefer the option of a CAPTCHA test, and I suspect this idiosyncratic mechanism will actually provoke support issues of its own. Fortunately, our business has been around long enough that we know how many support queries to expect; if this drops substantially, well suspect the worst. Im also frustrated that I cant customise our support page as much as Id like. Im sure more options will be added as the product matures, but I cant even add a logo at this point, despite Rhino Supports website claiming I can. Id also like to be able to customise the contact form itself, not only to remove that stupid slider but also to get rid of an ill-conceived stock photo of a woman who looks as though shes been sawn in half. Of these issues, the slider is the one most likely to scupper Rhino Support (when I nd myself considering writing a knowledgebase article about how to submit a ticket, its probably time to consider other options). So far, our experience has been very positive, but the biggest test will come during our busy period in the run-up to Christmas. Our task at the moment is to decide whether Rhino Support, or one of its competitors, will contribute both to our bottom line and reducing our stress levels when all hands are on deck.

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Security & Social

RWC

Facebook Graph Search privacy syndrome


Davey Winder is sick of paranoia over Facebooks privacy settings, and finds a way to revert Gmail to the classic settings
DAVEY WINDER
Award-winning journalist and smallbusiness consultant specialising in privacy and security issues. Email davey@happygeek. com; follow him @happygeek on Twitter

SECURITY & SOCIAL NETWORKING

t was back in January that Mark Zuckerberg revealed plans for Facebook Graph Search, and the functionality has been rolling out in dribs and drabs since. By the time you read this, the vast majority of the sites 1.1 billion or so members will be using it, and there are concerns about the privacy implications. The fear factor has been amplied by a number of hoax messages that have been doing the rounds, the latest of which has morphed from being about the Graph Search to a Graph App and now a Graphic App. Apparently, this comes at the same time as Facebook is changing global privacy congurations so that anyone searching with the app will be able to see your photos, likes and comments, no matter where they are posted. The workaround Facebook wont let you opt out, if you believe the hoax is to hover over a friends icon on your timeline and jump through a number of pointless hoops to disable whats shown on your feed. Actually, all that will happen is you wont be able to see

If youve locked down your privacy settings, Graph Search wont see anything
much of what your friends are doing all the stuff you joined Facebook for, in fact. These hoaxes are annoying, since they generate paranoia about the world seeing everything that you post on Facebook. So, lets get a couple of things straight before going any

further. If you want something to remain totally private and unseen, dont post it on Facebook (or any other social network or online forum); if you dont want Graph Search scraping up everything youve posted for anyone to see, make sure your privacy settings are congured accordingly. Sure, Graph Search makes it easier for people to search for stuff including your stuff but it doesnt change who that stuff is visible to. If youve locked down your privacy settings, Graph Search wont see your posts, photos or anything else. Information is king, and on social networks information about your friends and what theyve been up to is valuable, so any method of searching it more effectively I have to admit I havent yet been able to use Graph Search, so I

cant report back on real-world usage has to be a good thing. As a vegan with a whole network of vegan Facebook friends, I cant wait to be able to ask Facebook which restaurants theyve been visiting, for example. The key point from a privacy perspective is that these friends should be aware this information can be found, and by whom. Im not sure Facebook is doing a sufcient job of getting this message across, my evidence being the number of hoaxes that have appeared in the Timelines of friends who are usually sensible. So let me help you out: if you use Facebook and are worried about what data the Graph Search will reveal, and to whom, stop right now. I dont mean stop using Facebook, as some of the tinfoil-hat brigade have been suggesting, but stop worrying. The who is whoever youve already chosen to share things with: post a photo and set it to only me and only you can nd it, even in a Graph Search;

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be the cause of much debate, with opinion split evenly between at last, I can use my inbox and my inbox has become unusable. I liked the old Priority Inbox system, since it meant I could see all the important and unread stuff at the top of my mail pile each day, but that at-aglance view vanished as soon as the new Its time-consuming, but you can remove your tags from searchable photos with relative ease tabs came into play. Thats rather at odds with Googles promise of a redesigned set it to friends and only your friends can see inbox that puts you back in control and is it. If youre not sure of the audience settings for organised in a way that lets you see whats stuff already posted, you can review them at new at a glance and decide which emails you any time and change the settings per post. want to read when. Instead, I feel out of If someone else has posted a photo of you, control and unable to see what I want to. The its more difcult. Youll have to ask them to problem is the way Google determines which remove it, or report it as a violation of some emails end up in which folders, and the fact sort, but thats how its always been. Stories theres no way to choose how the messages are about people scraping millions of phone displayed within the folders. At rst glance, it numbers and email addresses from graph makes sense, with ve tabs available Primary, searches into a database are headline-grabbing Social, Promotions, Updates and Forums. sensationalism theres no real story, since Primary contains the stuff Google thinks these details must have been in the public you really want to read, or person-to-person domain in the rst place. I recommend, as Ive conversations, as it calls them. Social houses recommended many times before, that everyone things from social networks and media-sharing checks their privacy settings right now. and online dating sites (so a mouse-over dialog informs me). This is where things start to go wrong, and not only because I dont use dating sites. To me, social and person-to-person conversations are one and Click on the cog icon at the top of the the same: there isnt enough differentiation to Facebook screen and select Privacy Settings. start dividing them into such broad-stroke Now you can lock down who can see your categories. Indeed, the Social tab contains future posts and, importantly, apply the same nothing but dozens of notications of friend settings to previous posts that were shared with requests on LinkedIn and youve been tagged friends of friends or the public (although people in a post on Facebook-type messages. tagged in posts, and their friends, will still see Surely these should be ltered into Updates, them). You can also restrict whos able to search which is meant to contain auto-generated for you using the email address or telephone number associated with your account. Photos, and photos youve been tagged in, present more of a task. You can review these by clicking on the Activity Log from your timeline and selecting photos of yourself, then using the dropdown on each photo to review the tags one at a time. There you go Facebook Graph Search panic over, before most of us have been granted access to the thing

The Social tab contains nothing but notifications of friend requests on LinkedIn

updates including conrmations? (As it happens, that tab seems to contain a mishmash of purchase conrmations, newsletters, press releases and event invites, most of which I want to see in my Primary folder.) Theres a way to lter them yourself, by starring messages one by one and ticking the conguration checkbox that says include starred in Primary, but while that may give me back a measure of control, it isnt intuitive and it misses the point, since I need to have found the message already. Whatever intelligence and I use that word in a loose sense Google is applying to email to sort it into these folders, its missing something. The Promotions folder is supposedly where all the deals, offers and marketing rubbish goes, although Id have hoped all three could have been directed to my Spam folder, where they belong. Having talked to many people about this during the past month, Im convinced that if users were allowed to rename the tabs, Promotions would be labelled Spam 2. Anyway, guess what? My Promotions folder isnt full of rubbish, but rather important press releases and announcements from organisations I belong to, all helpfully mixed up with the aforementioned detritus. The same kind of organisational announcements and press releases also appear in my Forums folder, which claims to be messages from discussion boards and mailing groups. I can imagine this confusion being caused by some PR agencies and organisations, which quite sensibly employ mailing lists to send out their communications. Gmail appears to think it knows best, and as is often the way with such machine-driven dumbness, proves it isnt. Apparently, you can correct such misltering by dragging and dropping every wrongly categorised message into the folder you think most appropriate, at which point a dialog will appear asking whether you want all further communications from that sender to appear in the new folder. Since this appears to be done by implementing a whitelist based on the senders details, it wont prevent similar categorisation errors relating to other senders. In other words, its no long-term x. As you should have gathered by now, the ltering mechanism Gmail is employing with

Fixing an unsocial Gmail inbox

If youre a Gmail user, you should be experiencing the new tabbed system thats been rolled out to inboxes over the past few months. Whether or no its a good experience seems to

Warning: switching inbox tabs back on can seriously damage your social wellbeing

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With only a few clicks, Gmail usability nirvana can be restored

if you want to keep your folder display intact. Even more problematic is the fact that unread messages, which many of us (including yours truly) leave unread to ag for later, simply vanish from view as the folder lls up. The tabs indicate if any new messages have arrived, but nothing shows how many unread messages there are. Unless I scroll through ve tabs, I no longer have any idea how many unread messages I have to deal with. Explain to me again how this is meant to save me time and bring my inbox under control? categorised folders. What Id want to see at Ah hold on, that isnt quite true. If you a glance within those folders and I imagine click on the Categories dropdown hidden at most people feel the same is the most the bottom of the menu on the left of the important and unread messages. Google screen, the folder names appear with an evidently knows how to achieve this, since unread count beside them, but personally I it introduced such a system via the Priority nd such interface inconsistency counterInbox feature almost exactly three years ago. intuitive. All in all, I think this new interface This rather cleverly extended the reach of its removes functionality, rather than adds it, and already-efcient spam-ltering algorithm to despite the second tab sitting there shouting to separate the email wheat from automated the contrary, it makes Gmail a far less social chaff. Automatically generated messages email system than it used to be. and list-based stuff were weighted as less Thankfully, its possible to unravel all this important than email from people you madness in only a few clicks. If you replied to regularly, for example. click on the cog icon in the top Straight out of the box, this right and select the Congure system started working I dont Inbox option, you can for me, agging some like Mondays uncheck all the folder messages as important Ask any security outt that monitors options, which will and enabling me to see malware, and theyll tell you theres a cause your inbox to them at the top of my spike up to 200% every Monday. The revert back to the inbox. If I didnt agree researchers reckon the explanation is that classic view. Now, with the weighting, all the laptops that have been taken home head to the opposite Gmail allowed me to over the weekend are plugged back in side of the screen and click a - ag to and drop off all their malware. The good click the dropdown remove a message news is the detection spike is just that the arrow to the right of from the important malware is detected and dealt with. Inbox (which shows list; likewise, if it missed The bad news is for companies your unread count); something important, I whose networks arent here, you can select from could click a + and add so proactively protected. Important First, Unread First, it. The really clever bit was Starred First or my choice, Priority that the lter learned from these Inbox, which displays important and mistakes, so within a month, I hardly unread mail rst. The rst option, Default, ever had to touch those ags. will take you back into the folder view, so All thats changed with the tabbed inbox. you might want to avoid hitting that. Important messages no longer oat to the top The irony of all this is that tabs an attempt within individual folders, and everything is to enable better visual traversing of the email thrown at you in date-received order. Theres maze are unnecessary anyway, since Gmail no option to congure yourself out of this hell this tabbed inbox system is, in my opinion and experience, far from smart; indeed, its broken. But that isnt even my biggest gripe. You need to look at the way messages are displayed within the folders to understand that. For the sake of argument, lets say all my emails were being sorted into the appropriately

Important messages no longer float to the top within individual folders

has had a much more exible and user-friendly system to do just that for a long time, in the shape of labels. When labels were introduced, there was some online whinging about Gmail not adopting a tabbed approach like other email clients. Google responded by suggesting that labels were better as they allowed the exibility of attaching multiple labels to a single message. As it turns out, labels are better than Gmails new implementation of folders, too, because theyre user-congurable to boot. Creating labels is easy enough, although like everything in Gmail, they require a bit of time to start with. In the left-hand menu, click on More at the bottom, then scroll down to reveal the last option, Create New Label. You can choose the name for the new label itself, as well as its parent label, should you wish to nest them for easier sorting. Adding labels to messages is simple, too: tick the checkbox next to any message you want to apply a label to, then drag it to that label in the list. The dropdown arrow next to the label name lets you apply a colour to that label, so that all the messages in your inbox listing associated with that label are clearly identiable. And, of course, a click on the label name in the list itself will show you all mail with that label. If you want a truly social email experience, dont be fooled into thinking that Gmail folders are the answer just go for the old Priority Inbox option, coupled with the sensible application of labels.

An organisational function for Gmail has always been there, in the form of labels

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PowerPivot essentials: part II


Simon Jones guides you through more PowerPivot features, and looks at how to validate phone numbers and translate them into E.164
SIMON JONES
An independent IT consultant specialising in Ofce Automation, Visual Basic and SQL Server. He lives up a mountain in Wales. Email simon. pcpro@msdl.co.uk

OFFICE APPLICATIONS

ast month I wrote about getting started with PowerPivot for Excel (see issue 228, p88), which lets you quickly analyse large amounts of data. I looked at importing data; creating relationships between data tables; creating hierarchies and calendars; and also how you can easily add measures using functions such as SUM() and AVERAGE() in the calculation area at the bottom of the Data View. I also explained how to include a Calendar table in your PowerPivot model, either one you had built yourself or one imported from Azure Marketplace. The Calendar table is important for several reasons. It allows you to work with your own scal years, quarters, months and weeks, where these differ from the Gregorian calendar. It also guarantees youll still have a row in your Pivot Tables or Reports where theres no data for that period. This is important if you want to

PowerPivot makes short work of creating interesting datasets you can explore interactively
positively report a zero for a period rather than miss it out; skipping from April to June only because theres no data for May isnt normally a good idea, and also makes it impossible to compare periods from one year to the last. This is where you need to be creative with DAX functions in the calculation area at the bottom of the Data View. Last month I showed how you can add simple functions such as

SUM() or COUNT(), and name them. For this months example, Im going to work with a set of restaurant inspections from the King County health department in Washington. The data is available on the web at www.pcpro.co.uk/links/229oa. If you wanted to know how many inspections are performed in each period or on each establishment, youd need a measure such as this one:
Inspection Count:=COUNTA([Name])

functions, CALCULATE() and SAMEPERIODLASTYEAR(), like this:


Prior Year Count:= CALCULATE([Inspection Count],SAMEPERIODLASTYEAR(Calendar[DateK ey]))

In this example, [Name] is the rst column in the data, and happens to contain the restaurant name. The COUNTA() function counts non-blank data values. Now, if you wanted to know how this compared to last years performance, you could use two other

The CALCULATE() function in this instance takes two arguments, the rst being the expression you want to calculate, the second a lter using the SAMEPERIODLASTYEAR() function and passing it the date key column from your Calendar table. This does all the hard work: youll get the numbers you want whichever way you slice or dice the data. This is one of the great things about PowerPivot you dont have to code for every possible data-analysis approach. You only have to provide the dimensions and measures so your users can combine them however they want. When youre entering formulae, youll see IntelliSense tooltips designed to help you pick functions and values and get their syntax right.

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right-click Total Violation Points and choose Create KPI from the menu. In the KPI dialog, you can say how you want this KPI to appear; you want it calculated from Prior Year Points, so select that in the Calculated Field dropdown. If you wanted a more complicated calculation, youd add it as a separate measure before creating the KPI. You want lower scores to mean better, so select the green, Prior Year Count:=IF([Inspection yellow and red colour Count]=BLANK(), Dening KPIs in PowerPivot pits one measure against another scheme (bottom right BLANK(),CALCULATE([Inspection Count],SAM in the thresholds box) EPERIODLASTYEAR(Calendar[DateKey]))) Excels modern table syntax, but sufciently and set the thresholds to 90% and 120% you different that youll need to take some time to can either drag the markers or type in their Now you wont get a spurious previous learn how to do things neatly and efciently. boxes. So, if you manage to reduce this years gure if the current gure is blank, and the However, once youve grasped the basics, you violation points to 90% of last years value, resulting data will make more sense. You can can easily create good-looking models for youll see a green marker; if youre between make other measures from this data such as: others to play with. If you nd a need to move 90% and 120% of last years value, youll see a up to a more powerful environment, your yellow marker; and if youre over 120% of last Total Violation Points:=SUM([Violation PowerPivot models and knowledge can be years value, youll see a red marker. Points]) moved almost seamlessly into SQL Server Its worth noting that these standard icons Analysis Services, since it uses the same are lled circles, which are no good for the And: language and data storage engine. 4.5% of people who are colour-blind. If youre using red/yellow/green icons, its best to choose Prior Year Points:=IF([Total Violation ones that have different shapes or symbols, too. Points]=BLANK(), BLANK(), Phone number validation When you click OK on the dialog, the CALCULATE([Total Violation Points], SAME Were building a new line-of-business system for measure is given a trafc-light symbol to show PERIODLASTYEAR(Calendar[DateKey]))) one of our customers, and need to migrate tens its a KPI. Whenever you use this measure in a of thousands of contact records, along with PivotTable, you can choose whether to see its If you wanted to compare measures to address and phone-number information. The value, target or status, which is the appropriate a target, you could set up Key Performance client has requested the system has validation icon from the set you selected for the KPI. Indicators (KPIs). Say, for example, you wanted for the phone numbers, and translates them PowerPivot makes short work of creating to attempt to achieve a 10% reduction in into the international E.164 format. interesting datasets that you can explore violation points every year. You can create a The E.164 format shows what you need to interactively. The DAX language is very KPI on the Total Violation Points measure dial to reach that phone from any other phone powerful, and similar in many respects to based on the Prior Year Points. To do this, on the planet. All the different telco regulators specify how phone numbers must work within their respective jurisdictions, but E.164 is the overarching standard. If you write your number in that format, anyone will be able to call you, no matter where theyre phoning from. To understand E.164, you have to understand the anatomy of a phone number. The basic subscriber number is the last part, and it can be anywhere from three to 11 digits long (sometimes longer). Before that comes the area code, which may or may not include a trunk prex that is, a digit or two that tells the phone system youre dialling a number on a different exchange. In the UK, we use the trunk prex 0, but we lie to ourselves by pretending this is part of the area code. It isnt, as youll see when you format a UK phone number in the E.164 format you drop the initial zero. Before the area code is the country code Is food hygiene getting better or worse in King County? 44 for the UK, 61 for Australia, 353 for Ireland It isnt immediately obvious, but if you press the Tab key it will automatically complete the words shown highlighted in the list of choices; if you started typing a table name, PowerPivot will show you the list of all tables and elds with the names that match what youve typed so far. Press the Up or Down arrow keys to move to the one you want, then press Tab to accept it. If you looked at a PivotTable of the King County hygiene-inspection data, youd see rows for 2006 to 2014, which looks a little strange. The rows for next year are included because PowerPivot calculates the Prior Year Count for 2014 from the 2013 data. If you want to remove this and you probably do change the formula to include this simple IF() function:

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and so on. Virtually every country in the world has only one country code, but a few places have two or three, usually because theyre in the process of changing from one country code to another, or because their phone service is provided by two or more neighbouring countries. Finally, at the beginning is the exit code, which is the number you need to dial to tell the exchange that youre dialling an international number. The exit code differs according to where in the world youre calling from its 00 in most of Europe, but 011 in the United States, for example and E.164 species that you replace the exit code with a plus sign to cope with such variations. Mobile phones actually let you enter a + as part of the number and will send it to the mobile service to which youre connected to force it to dial the correct exit code. So, if your UK number was 01234 123456, the correct way to write this in E.164 format is +44 1234 123456: the plus sign replaces the exit code; 44 is the country code for the UK; 1234 is the area code (minus the trunk prex, 0); and 123456 is the subscriber number. Note there are no brackets in an E.164 number, and you dont put a zero in brackets between the country code and the area code. If you wrote it as +44 (0) 1234 123456, any call to that number would fail. Dont do it; dont let anyone you know do it; stop van drivers in the street and tell them the number on their van is wrong.

The world coloured according to the rst digit of country codes

To understand E.164, you have to understand the anatomy of a phone number

Countries table to include not only the ISO Country code (US, GB, FR, DE and so on) but also its dialling code (1, 44, 33, 49 and so on). This way, we can check that the phone number starts with a plus and the appropriate dialling code for that country. We also need to know whether the country uses a trunk prex that should be removed from the E.164 format. The most common trunk prex is 0, but youll also nd 1 (North America), 8 (Russia and its former republics) and 06 (Hungary). Most countries that use a trunk prex expect it to be removed if youre dialling from outside the country, but there are exceptions, such as Italy, where the trunk prex should be dialled as part of the This misuse is a crime against international area code both within and outside Italy. Italians telephony, far worse than when you see have to dial all the digits of their area code London phone numbers written as 0207 123 and subscriber number, but to confuse matters 4567 or (0207) 123 4567. The area code for further, Italian mobile numbers start with a 3, London is 020: if youre within the city, you not 03. So, although Italy ofcially has a trunk need to dial eight digits to reach another prex of 0, its telephone numbering scheme London number, for example 7123 4567. works as if it didnt. Similarly, Cardiffs area code is 029, and all its This is effectively the same as the North subscriber numbers are 20XX XXXX. They American Numbering Plan (NANP), which should never be written as (02920) XXXXXX, covers the USA, Canada and many Caribbean but rather (029) 20XX XXXX or E.164 format islands. The trunk prex for these countries is +44 29 20XX XXXX. If youre in Cardiff, you nominally 1, but this is also the country need to dial eight digits to get to another code or the rst part of the Cardiff number, which is why the Spaced country code for the islands so 20 is part of the subscriber Theres no way to know dialling a trunk call from one number, not the area code. the correct or usual spacing area to another requires you To get back to our of the area and subscriber to dial the 1, even if the area original problem how to codes in a phone number, since is in a different country. You validate the phone numbers these vary so much. Were just only have to dial the exit we need to know from having to assume that the user code (011) if youre dialling where in the world a typed them in correctly. It wont a number outside the NANP particular phone number make any difference when area. As such, dialling a hails. Luckily, all the it comes to dialling the number in the Bahamas, information were supplied number anyway. country code +1 242, from with for each contact contains Jamaica, country code +1 876, a country, so we can extend the

requires you to dial 1 242 XXXXXXX, just as you would if you were dialling from Chicago to the Bahamas or New York to Baltimore. As far as E.164 formatting is concerned, theres essentially no trunk prex in NANP countries the trunk is part of the country code. Having investigated all cases of trunk prexes in use today, I can only nd three countries that have a trunk prex but dont want it to be removed for inward dialling from abroad: Italy, San Marino and Vatican City. All three are run by the Italian telephone regulator, and as far as E.164 formatting is concerned, work as though there were no trunk prex. To validate a phone number and transform it into E.164 format, we just need to know the country and follow a few simple rules: Remove all dashes and brackets from the number; If the number starts with 00 or 00, remove these and substitute a plus sign; If it now doesnt start with a plus sign and the correct dialling code for the country, add these elements; If it starts with a plus sign and the wrong country code, correct this code. In any case, we let the user know weve changed the data and that they should check the changes are correct. If the country employs a trunk prex and we nd it immediately after the country code, we remove it. The rest of the number we leave alone, since short of making a trial phone call theres little more we can do to validate a phone number during data processing. Following this procedure at least means the numbers are all shown in a consistent format, which makes it easier to spot mistakes visually, and also means unied messaging systems that let you click to dial phone numbers are more likely to work. Also, if this information is synced to your mobile phone, youll be able to dial that number no matter where you are in the world.

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Web Apps & Design

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Clouded judgement
Tom Arah gets to grips with the new apps on Adobes Creative Cloud, and wonders whether the new subscription strategy is best for all
TOM ARAH
Set up his Edinburghbased design company in 1987. As well as design work, he provides training and consultancy. Email tomarah@ designer-info.com

WEB APPS & DESIGN

ve devoted several columns to the way Adobe is coping with the rise of mobile and HTML5 and the decline of Flash. Theyve included coverage of the new Creative Cloud (CC) software model (see issue 219, p97) and Edge applications (see issue 225, p93), and I hope that these have helped to explain what these seismic changes mean for users. Even so, Adobes recent launch of the CC applications still managed to shock me. The most obvious change is a new Creative Cloud desktop app a simple tabbed dialog quickly accessible from the status bar. In future, this is where youll control cloud-based le syncing and folder sharing, and download fonts from Adobes Typekit collection for local and web use. Since these functions arent ready yet, the Files and Fonts tabs are merely holding pages, which makes this new front-end feel distinctly ramshackle. In the end, though, the software on the Apps tab is what Creative Cloud is all about. Despite all the cloudy terminology, CC programs dont actually run remotely in a browser, but are

Adobe has quietly announced that Fireworks is no longer being actively developed
downloaded and installed locally. This means youre running the full desktop versions just as youve always done (so you dont need to worry about internet connection speed or downtime). The creative power on offer is extraordinary, with dozens of CC apps and supporting services that range from video-production tools centred around Premiere Pro and After Effects through print and electronic

publishing tools such as InDesign and the Digital Publishing Suite, all the way to the market-dening graphics applications Illustrator and Photoshop. For professional designers, having access to all of these top-of-the-range tools is crucial. That said, Adobe hasnt quite opened up its entire creative armoury the web tools Captivate and RoboHelp arent included, which is a disappointment. So which dedicated web tools are included? The CC desktop app has a dropdown that lters by category, so you can view, say, Audio/Video or Publishing. If you select the Web category, be ready for a shock. For the past eight years, Adobes whole strategy has revolved around Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Flash, the veteran web tools it acquired by taking over Macromedia. Sure enough, a new CC version of Dreamweaver appears on the list, but that appears to be all. In fact, both Flash and Fireworks are still there, but only just. Fireworks is still available to download, but it hasnt been updated its the old CS6 version. Fans may hope this is a temporary

measure and that a new CC version is in the pipeline, but it isnt. Adobe has quietly announced that Fireworks is no longer being actively developed. The argument is that Illustrator and Photoshop already provide all the vector- and bitmap-handling power you could possibly need. This really doesnt wash Fireworks great strength was mixing vectors, pixels and multipage layouts within a streamlined and dedicated web-orientated workow, and it will be sorely missed by web designers. So how about Flash? Again, you can still download the app-orientated Flash Builder, but its no longer being actively developed. There is at least a new CC version of Flash Professional but, signicantly, its no longer listed under the Web category, but under Gaming. This may seem odd considering that the Flash Player still supplies state-of-the-art rich content to a cross-platform audience of more than a billion across all desktop browsers, and remains the only way to reliably deliver such content (including video) to pre-HTML5 browsers. The thing is, as plugin-free tablets and smartphones become increasingly ubiquitous, Flash has much to offer in terms of producing standalone native apps, but has no future

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dramatically improve graphical formatting options (in supporting browsers). This new CC release adds further important advances such as non-linear motion paths, reusable templates and the option to link to the necessary JavaScript animation libraries through a CDN. After two years of active development, Edge Animate is nally production-ready Edge Muse provides a wysiwyg approach to rich web design and able to create reasonably rich awkwardly cutting and pasting CSS code and interactive HTML animations natively snippets to gain any benet. via JavaScript and CSS3. However, theres Theres one other new web application that still a long way to go before Edge Animate is ready for serious use, and thats Adobe Muse and HTML5 are mature enough to provide CC. I plan to look at Muse in more detail in a the sort of power and universality that future column, but its central idea is to enable Flash users used to take for granted. you to create engaging design-rich sites, in a Edge Animate CC fully wysiwyg environment, without writing may be leading the a single line of code. Whats more, a CC charge of Adobes new subscription comes with free hosting for up to Flash-free, HTML5ve basic websites on Adobes Business Catalyst based web strategy, but platform (complete with new support for simple its only the beginning. in-browser editing by your customers). Muse Equally vital to will be an absolute godsend to many of Adobes Adobes vision are two traditionally code-phobic, print-orientated other Edge tools: Edge Reow, which provides and CreateJS is a sticking plaster rather than a designers, who can now translate their graphic a fully visual approach to responsive page panacea. For the long term, it makes far more design skills directly into websites. Muse CC design; and Edge Code, which provides a sense to use a dedicated HTML5 tool. This has many strengths, but its largely irrelevant to streamlined IDE for coders. Ive looked at both is where Edge Animate CC comes in. Adobes existing web professionals who need to of these programs in past issues, too, and again I tested a preview release of Edge Animate be able to get in and directly handle their code. their longer-term potential is strong. However, (see issue 221, p97) with mixed feelings, but This brings us back full circle to Dreamweaver. the bottom line is that both are only previews things have moved on: the recent introduction and nowhere near ready for production use of web font support means you no longer have Edge Reow doesnt even provide the ability to to import graphics to employ typographically Whats new? export projects to HTML/CSS, so youre left rich text, while gradients and CSS lters What does the new Dreamweaver CC have to offer? That depends on whether or not youre already a CC subscriber. If you arent, all the features Adobe has rolled out to CC members since the last CS6 release will be new to you including enhancements to media handling; improved uid grid layouts that intelligently adapt to different screen sizes; a wider range of jQuery form and page elements; and web font support which, taken together, help you to exploit HTML5s growing design power. Even better is the tight integration with Adobes cloud-based support services: PhoneGap Build (free for CC subscribers) lets you convert your HTML5 projects into standalone apps compatible with both Android and iOS devices, and Edge Inspect (again, free for CC subscribers) lets you preview your work across multiple connected devices. So what does the new CC release offer over and above these? The highlight is undoubtedly the reworking of Dreamweavers CSS capability. Flash Professional CC can output projects directly to HTML5 but dont expect too much A new full-sized CSS Designer panel lets you producing rich browser content. Adobes main mission for its web users is therefore to help them transfer their existing skills (and clients) into this new HTML5-only era. With that in mind, perhaps the most welcome new feature in Flash Professional CC is its ability to output even the most complex timelines and script-driven animations as full high-denition video and audio, with no dropped frames. This is a useful workaround, but outputting Flash projects as video clearly isnt ideal: you lose the efciency and scalability of vectors and, more importantly, the possibility of interactivity. So how do you convert your interactive Flash projects to HTML5? Flash Professional CC now has the CreateJS extension built in, complete with enhanced support for buttons, hit areas and motion curves. For simple projects, this means that Flash Professional CC can now output directly to either SWF/ ActionScript for Flash-enabled desktop browsers, or as bitmap/JavaScript for mobile. However, its important to realise that this can go only so far. The bottom line is that Flash and HTML5 are very different beasts,

Muse will be a godsend to many of Adobes code-phobic, print-orientated designers

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create and see all of your pages CSS sources, media queries and selectors: select an element and all CSS rules that affect it are computed and listed so you can change their formatting directly, and visually where possible, in the Properties pane. Here, Dreamweavers Design View updates immediately, and Live View updates as you drag. There are still rough edges and it isnt as visual or simple as working with Edge Reows fully live HTML5 design surface, but its a major step forwards. The problem is that its the only major step forwards. When Adobe launched CC, it talked about giving early access to new functionality over and above the traditional 6, 6.5, 7 release schedule. Instead, it looks as though the CC will instead see a constant stream of minor point releases, with far less focus on those eye-catching new functions designed to persuade standalone users to upgrade. It isnt only Dreamweaver CC the whole CC suite feels strangely lacklustre, with even Photoshop CC lacking any standout headline-grabbers. In fact, Dreamweaver CC does offer one more major new feature the streamlining of its interface. As the Dreamweaver team blog puts it: We have begun to identify and remove parts of the application that are redundant. We have already removed ten panels, 14 dialog boxes, and 62 menu items. The problem is that many of Dreamweavers existing users disagree strongly with Adobes decisions as to which features are no longer required: dropping the Spry panel in favour of the new jQuery

It may be attractive and easy to join Creative Cloud, but its very hard to leave it
alternatives makes sense, but many users have been appalled at the loss of the Server Behaviors panel. Its true that most users who produce data-driven sites are moving towards content management systems such as WordPress and Drupal, and also true that Adobe responded to this outcry by restoring most data-handling capabilities via an optional extension, but its still clear that Adobe now deprecates the creation of data-driven sites from scratch, leaving many users less than happy. To take stock, the new CC suite introduces a new front-end for managing its cloud-based services, but its only half-working, with the main benets deferred. Meanwhile, old favourite Fireworks has been put out to pasture, while Flash which used to provide the USP of Adobes web strategy by enabling users to extend the capabilities of HTML4 is rapidly being driven out of the browser. In their place, Adobe offers a whole host of new apps, but at the moment these are a mixed bag: Muse is primarily aimed at traditional graphic designers;

the Edge Reow and Edge Code previews are practically useless as they stand; and while Edge Animate does now provide an HTML5 alternative to Flash, its still only a pale imitation. This leaves the veteran Dreamweaver carrying the ag into the new HTML5 era (for which it was never designed), and with a new version that adds only one major feature for The main advance in Dreamweaver CC is the CSS Designer panel existing CC users, and loses many more. and upgrades. From now on, all CC apps and Put this all together and the new CC future versions will be available only through suite hardly looks a compelling proposition annual and monthly subscriptions, either to for professional web designers, but this needs the full CC suite (currently 47 inc VAT per to be put into perspective. Five years ago, month), or on an individual app basis (with Adobe didnt expect us to be where we are Dreamweaver currently 18 inc VAT per today. Back then, the web was dened by the month, and Muse 14). ten-year-old HTML4.1 and CSS2.1 standards, Adobe says that the CC is a runaway and for web professionals wanting to push the success, with such high approval ratings that envelope, the obvious indeed only solution this is the natural next step. I dont agree. was Flash. By acquiring Dreamweaver, For many users subscription is a superb Fireworks and Flash, Adobe effectively option, but for many others it isnt. Many bought the design-rich web. However, the web designers are only really interested in advent of the Flash-free, HTML5-only iPad Dreamweaver for creating their code and changed the picture almost overnight. pages, and Fireworks for creating their Seen in this light, Adobe has achieved graphics. These users have paid for their wonders by turning its supertanker around. software and are happy to wait until the Under CTO Kevin benets of a new release are sufcient to Lynch (another justify the cost of upgrading. acquisition from Now, this traditional form of software the Macromedia purchase has been unilaterally removed. takeover), Adobe has Under the old approach, they could still do entirely redened its their work and make money even if they web strategy. Where didnt keep up with the latest release, but once it was the Flash as soon as they stop subscribing to CC company, its turning itself into the HTML5 theyre effectively left with nothing. It may company. Indeed, with the Edge tools and be attractive and easy to join CC, but its PhoneGap-based app creation, Adobe is well very hard to leave it, and of course those set to turn the existential threat posed by modest monthly payments soon add up. HTML5 into a great business opportunity In the end, its a question of principle. for both its users and itself. At the same When Steve Jobs announced that he wasnt time, through its CC initiative, Adobe has going to allow Flash onto the iPad, Adobes found a way to leverage the full range of its response was to bring out its founding fathers extraordinary creative software. For new Chuck Geschke and John Warnock to make an users in particular, the ability to tap into impassioned case for freedom of choice such extraordinary creative power without and letting the consumer decide. shelling out thousands of pounds If you cant Now Adobe is denying its upfront is extremely attractive, beat em own users choice. Adobes and in the right hands a CC The architect of Adobes ultimate response to Apples subscription can pay for itself response to the death of introduction of a hardwaremany times over. browser-based Flash and based walled garden has the rise of HTML5 has been been to create its own CTO Kevin Lynch. Now software-based equivalent. The real shock Lynch has left to become vice Many will be entirely happy This all brings me to the real president of technology within its walls, while others shock in CC: namely, Adobes for Apple... will want to think long and decision to stop selling the CC hard before entering. applications as standalone programs

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NETWORKS

A cloud of charges
STEVE CASSIDY
Steve mixes network technologies with human resources consultancy work. Read his blog at www.pcpro.co.uk/ blogs/stevecassidy. Email cassidys@cix. compulink.co.uk

Steve Cassidy has doubts over the cost efficiency of the cloud, and is horrified at the use of external USB drives for serious computing

ever renowned for my ability to hold it in, if I have to listen to another cloud presentation that sagely reminds us that once upon a time there was no power grid and everyone made their own electricity, I shall let go entirely and start screaming. Cloudy types love this analogy, that the centralisation of computing is every bit as inevitable as was centralised power generation, but I would argue that the cloud has yet to nd its Edison, let alone its Tesla. I was reminded of the 21st-century counter-argument by fellow Real Worlder Paul Ockenden, who remarked that his home solar array had changed his perception of the weather; during the recent heatwave, he was saying to all his pals its a nice 2.4kW outside. So while the cloudy types are looking back to history to justify their centralisation, right or wrong, the analogy they employ is galloping off in the other direction and whats more, the surrounding infrastructure is weakening their argument still further. Just recently Ive had a quote (as yet unrealised, which is an important qualier as I explain in the boxout) for 100Mbits/sec bre on a business tariff at a price Id previously

have expected to see associated with a tenth of that speed. Ive described here my data centre on a bookshelf project, which cuts back the power consumption of my server stack by using basic but current tech devices, which are every bit as fast as and many times more power-efcient than their predecessors. Heres where these themes collide: even allowing for my luxuriance of terabytes, which is far larger than most small businesses (and more fault-tolerant, too), my little data centre could very happily run on Paul Os summer-day solar power in fact, I could run three such stacks off 2.4kW.

Beware fibre geeks bearing gifts


Always treat your rst attempt at getting bre into your business with considerable care, since the last mile can be a nightmare. Even if BT Openreach already has dark bre in your building, it will always start the quotation process by pretending it doesnt. This draws you into a catch-22 situation where you have to sign the contract before BT will do the survey and establish the specic physical trench-digging costs to get bre to your location. The salesperson will say the contract can be cancelled should those costs prove prohibitive. These costs can indeed become painful: it can cost as much as the annual line rental just to get the cable to you.

One of my clients has ofces in an outof-town business park where a server room houses solar roof control and power feed system boxes: even on a cloudy day, they get around 4kW, which would even run their existing servers (never mind any lower-power upgrade) and the room chillers, too. Couple this kind of technology with widespread, superfast bre and then ask yourself: what was so great about keeping everything in a remote data centre anyway? The original conception of the cloud was that you could call upon compute power at times of high demand, then release it once you were done using it. As I wrote recently for our sister site Cloud Pro, the pricing models for cloud services that are beginning to appear arent quite based on this notion. If you want to understand what this means for your cloud computing plans, then sign up for the free Azure trial its suitably lengthy at six months, and is by far the cleanest and clearest example of on-demand, pay-per-use cloud services that youll nd today (especially if youre a long-experienced Windows network admin). The ouch! moment comes when you add up all of the work you have to do to get your

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Networks

RWC

You may be in for a shock when you calculate all your costs for Azure

data into Azure and then get the results back out again. Thats because Azure charges you not only for that classic run-ten-instancestogether cloud model, but also for uploading; storing; downloading again; computing; and for other peripheral net trafc (supposing you were running an HTTP server that customers could reach, for instance). It even charges you when your cloud Windows machine isnt running, and it charges you whenever Microsoft presents an update, too. Normally, it would be polite of me to insert a little box or table of likely prices here, but

What was so great about keeping everything in a remote data centre anyway?
that isnt so simple, since Azure is a dynamic place that fully exploits the soft nature of prices. Microsoft stays in touch with its Azure customers and presents fairly regular deals and one-off opportunities, teasers and tasters for those who havent yet tried the service, so your costs will vary as promotions come and go. Its all rather reminiscent of buying an airline ticket, only on a vastly greater scale. At the time of writing, Azure was proposing a special deal on cloud VMs for the video-encoding business: if you have hundreds of hours of video to transcode overnight, then they have just what you need. At this scale, the airline ticket metaphor breaks down because its actually closer to chartering your own 747 (or ten).

How to build a really bad network

I used to gauge how poor the support relationship between a business and the company contracted to look after their systems was from the amount of uff in their server. The age of the box isnt a reliable guide, nor is the

operating system version (although, like everyone in RWC, I greet the presence of Windows Small Business Server as a sure sign of trouble). But Ive now added a new omen to my book of Evil Signs: the number of 2.5in external USB drives tucked in and around the server rack or box. Ive blogged about the correct name for these damnable devices theyre not drives, theyre data mousetraps waiting to go snap! and send everything stored on them to that mysterious place where lost les go. BT designed an entire advertising campaign for its home consumer, internet-based backup product, solely around the fact that these things give no visible, rational warning of approaching doom, no lifetime counter that says one month to meltdown. The rst sign of trouble is when its too late and your partner (according to BTs little drama) is in oods of tears asking where all our baby pictures went. Of course, there is S.M.A.R.T. monitoring, but lets be honest, how many people watch that for any of their drives, let alone those in external USB casings (and on top of that how many people have the stats on how reliable these warnings really are?). My guess is that this technology was alright for a 40GB disk, meaning that the moment when S.M.A.R.T. starts to bleat is just early enough that you can recover your les onto another medium. But these days that little box the one you knock loose from the Exchange server when your hand quests in the dark at the back of a rack could easily be holding 1TB of
External USB drives should be known as data mousetraps

vital les. It isnt only baby pictures, either, but whole databases, software installations and multi-user project folders the variety of stuff found on these things when I scan them is staggering. (And yes, before you ask, doing such a scan off my laptop does often stop the business dead, which makes for an exciting project meeting.) It horries me that any professional IT support business could seriously employ such a device as additional storage for a server. Whenever I come across one, I ask if anyone knows whether the server will continue to function if I remove the dangling box. Most often, they wont know (although a few will yell oh, dont touch that! Its really important out of general principle). In my most extreme case, there was an almost-empty, data-centre-grade, 1U-high, superfast rack server, in an otherwise-empty full-height 42U cabinet. Yet this little 750GB disk would pendulum merrily about when the ofce was busy, because it contained their Exchange Message Store. Theyd run out of room on the single 2.5in SAS disk located in their four-cage drive array you see, so the engineer had brought in this helpful extension, and so cheap too! After I stopped hyperventilating, we spent a few hundred pounds online and a few days later some proper drives arrived. By using the standard manufacturers RAID management utility, we put these drives inside the cage and achieve some trivially simple fault-tolerance. That particular 2.5in USB drive is now in the drawer with their backup tapes. I can understand using a USB drive to hold an Acronis or Paragon session, or take images of the existing storage. Maybe thats how the rot sets in, when people start to imagine these devices are safe for more demanding scenarios. Personally, I believe in a bit of server-management theatre. Everyone should stage some occasionally to instil in people a sense of ownership and engagement with their IT overhead I turn up with an ancient external drive called a Venus something, which may only present a terabyte, and may only use two 500GB IDE disks to do that, but is very heavy, and has a fan and a carrying handle on top. This seems to reassure people that this is a step up in the world of nerds and that theyre now in good hands. No laughing at the back there!

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RWC Networks

Finding fault with fault tolerance

Are you active or passive? An assertive sort who takes the lead or a follower? Dont run away Im not trying to corral you into a team-building exercise. Im in the frame of mind to ask questions like this because Ive just helped to post-mortem an especially distressing case of fault-intolerant fault tolerance. This is another variation of my long-standing enquiry into the fallout and operating limitations of several internet access pipelines. Again, let me reassure you, this isnt about fumbling around with hardware more suited to falling out of a Christmas cracker than passing trafc down a spread of DSL lines. Rather, this is an interesting and salutary tale from way up the ranks, far above the kind of small-business hardware we commonly handle in that grey area between home and work networking. This is a tale not of multiple links and one rewall, but one link with several rewalls. Good fault-tolerant design is a moving target. It has taken several generations (as dened by Steve Jobs, who said good PC architecture could be expected to last ten years: a brave statement at the time, since no decent PC design had yet lasted that long) for enough incidents of disaster to be accumulated to establish whether the initial assumptions people make turned out to match the conditions within the actual disasters that happened. A lot of the initial work that went into fault-tolerant design was, for instance, about observed failure rates in printed circuit boards and microchips. Surely, they reasoned, these things are going to break down, with all those electrons whizzing about on puny trails of metal on breglass. These days, the process of circuit lithography is so well understood, and the

Imagine what happens when theres a 48-hour outage at a large enterprise


quantity of devices out there so vast, that this concern in early fault-tolerant design is greeted with derision. However, there are still software architects out there who stick a nice fault-tolerant label on a feature that is so antediluvian it might as well be making allowances for valve warm-up delays or yback buffering (one of those terms that sounds authoritative, yet is so anachronistic it must have a place in your next, most agonising PowerPoint stack). That doesnt seem to matter, though, if you have a suitably paranoid internet connection architect and enough money to buy four identical Cisco rewalls. Apparently, the right answer to fault-tolerance requests is to couple together pairs of rewalls into activepassive sets, with an interlink network patch

lead running between the two devices that lets the trail unit know when something evil and unexpected has befallen the lead device. This isnt an uncommon design decision dear old, almost-forgotten Novell NetWare used to do something similar with its heartbeat signalling between SFT server pairs and you can immerse yourself in this mindset in the more contemporary world of Microsoft Cluster Service by skimming quickly through TechNet (see www.pcpro. co.uk/links/229nt1). Let me say rst that when it comes to devices made out of poor-quality PCBs, or chips that are prone to total meltdown in milliseconds, I dont think of marketleading, enterprisegrade rewalls as being at risk; in fact, some Ciscos I put in at the turn of the century only went out of service in 2012. As such, I feel safe saying the risk this design purports to minimise isnt one Id put high up the priority list. What took the business out, of course, was a fault with the fault-tolerant monitoring subsystem. The link between the active and passive partners is a multipurpose Ethernet port, with other uses in other congurations. The two rewalls were chatting away using perfectly ordinary network packets until the lead unit nally malfunctioned, and started to stutter that is, to send half-formed and malformed repeated packets at the trail unit, which has no provision for a bad port suddenly cropping up on its heartbeat indicator connection. Accordingly, both rewalls stopped completely.

I know what youre going to say: thats hardly a frequently encountered failure, taking the worlds installed base of clustered rewalls as a sample. The counter-argument is that not only was it just about the sole occasion of this pair dying, it was also the only instance of any kind of failure on this kit since the day the lights rst went on. From the perspective of the hapless users, all the money spent on the promise of fault tolerance was wasted. In defending against one class of bygone fault, the system designers left themselves wide open to another from the same era of architecture, with no sensible way of recovering the situation within a couple of days. If you think a few hours without connection is a pain in a small business, imagine what happens when theres a 48-hour outage at a large enterprise. I came into the picture when senior management had spent a little too much time asking how such a thing could happen and making rumbling noises about a crisis of condence in suppliers, service providers and integrators anyone, in fact, who had participated in over half a decade of entirely seamless, continuous operation up to the moment of this incident. I cant leave it there, of course. I far prefer fault-tolerant designs that give up on the idea of heartbeats, and gear that sits and waits, doing nothing for periods of time longer than the interval between Olympic Games. Im an active-active person, who believes that participating devices (be they servers, routers, website farms or whatever) can be seamlessly folded in and out of a faulttolerant conguration, instead of being tied to each other like a pair of spinning nunchuks thrown in the air by Bruce Lee in a hissy t. That isnt fault tolerance, as I understand it.

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REVIEWS Contents

REVIEWS LABS
REVIEWS HIGHLIGHTS
FOR A FULL INDEX, SEE PAGE 5

Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus

102

Canon EOS 70D

109

Samsung squeezes a Retina-beating display into its latest Ultrabook.

A new autofocus system turns the 70D into a movie-makers delight.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini


The smaller version of the over-hyped S4 arrives.

110

Leap Motion Controller

114

This box of tricks lets you control your PC with a wave of the hand.

IN THE LABS

Parental controls
There are plenty of software packages and services claiming to protect your kids online, but which is best? Weve put 15 to the test.

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Opinion REVIEWS

We rely on computers for many things, but theyre far from perfect, says JONATHAN BRAY

omputers are experts in many elds. They can crunch numbers faster than any human; they make researching complicated subjects quick and easy; they allow us to talk to each other face to face across the world; and they let us keep tabs on the test match from our desks at work. These silicon marvels are wonderful, but as two separate occasions have brought home to me recently, wed be wise not to hand over too much responsibility just yet. This was rst highlighted during the rst leg of my drive home from my family holiday in France a few weeks ago. As usual, I didnt worry about the route-planning until I jumped behind the wheel at 9.30am on the morning of departure with a 603km journey ahead of me. Instead, I punched in my destination resort and put my faith in the satnav. This was, I admit, a mistake. Not because the TomTom Go 500 (web ID: 383008) is bad at its job, but because, like many technological devices, it has its limitations. In this case, I discovered it has no facility for common sense, nor to put it bluntly any way of reliably predicting the future. As we followed its instructions blindly across France, we hit bouchon after bouchon (thats French for trafc jam, you know). Every one of them was triumphantly spotted by the satnav, but in each case we had to stick to the original route and sit in the trafc, since the jams emerged after wed passed the points at which faster alternative routes were available. What should have been a six-hour journey turned tortuously into a marathon, and we eventually arrived at the hotel more than two-and-a-half hours after the original prediction. If Id engaged my brain rst and chosen a slightly longer alternative that passed fewer big cities (as my wife pointed out tetchily), wed have been much better off. If this doesnt sound too serious, take the second example I encountered this month: the problem of parental-control software (which we cover in our Labs on p130). If you were to take the claims of software companies and government do-gooders at facevalue, you might expect that simply switching on a lter would solve the ills of the internet, and allow our children to browse in perfect safety. As with route-planning and bouchon prediction, though, its far from advisable to hand over such an important job to technology, no matter how good it is.

You have to apply a little old-fashioned common sense to the job. Our test results (see p135) reveal that even the best lters have major weak spots. They might block most pornography, but if you blindly trust software, theres plenty of other objectionable material that slips through the net. What about the obnoxious sites promoting hate and hosting disgusting pictures of the recently deceased? During our mission to test these packages to their limits, we had to look at plenty of this material, and trust me its at least as bad as any of the pornographic content in our list of test websites. And dont forget the scourge of online bullying, highlighted recently by a handful of cases in the news. As a parent, you could simply block the sites on which this sort of behaviour occurs, but to do so isnt practical or sensible. What you need to do is keep an eye on your kids online activity, educate them about what to expect and how to behave; dont isolate them socially by imposing blanket bans. This isnt to say such lters are a bad idea far from it. In some circumstances, theyre

Educate your children about what to expect and how to behave online; dont isolate them socially with blanket bans
a good way to highlight to a child that a website he or she is attempting to access may not be acceptable to their parents or society. Filters can also act as a safety net to prevent potentially innocent web searches triggering an awkward conversation about the birds and the bees rather earlier than you might have anticipated. Fortunately, both of our award-winners this month are free, so using one wont even make a dent in your wallet. But make no mistake, in this modern age of unlimited information access, parents are going to have to answer awkward questions sooner or later and theres no computer or clever piece of software in the world that will do that job for you. So, while there are many jobs they do well brilliantly, even computers are far from perfect. It always helps to use common sense. Indeed, if we come to rely on computers too much, being stuck in a lengthy trafc jam will be the least of our worries.

JONATHAN BRAY is PC Pros reviews editor. Hes a little traumatised by what hes witnessed this month, so go easy and send cake. Blog: www.pcpro.co.uk/links/jonb Email: jonb@pcpro.co.uk

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REVIEWS Hardware

Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus


Theres plenty to like about this sleek Ultrabook, but better application support is necessary for the incredible, Retina-beating screen to make the Ativ Book 9 Plus worth the outlay
display (web ID: 378118) at its own game and beats it, thanks to a slightly higher pixel density and a superbly responsive touchscreen. Reviewing the screen requires two approaches. From a hardware point of view, its fantastic: its bright and clear, and the Windows desktop preset to display at 200% of its usual size is incredibly crisp. Other displays look pixellated and dated in comparison. The arrival of high-PPI screens on Windows laptops is undoubtedly positive. There are signs the Book 9 Plus is ahead of its time, though. Out of the box, the right-hand edge of the mouse pointer showed evidence of jagged artefacts. These cleared up once wed installed the preview of Windows 8.1, which improves support for high-resolution screens, but the Book 9 Plus still placed the odd hurdle in our way. Most applications work ne: the Microsoft Ofce apps look terric especially text and Internet Explorer works perfectly, but elsewhere we hit problems. After installing Chrome and setting the default zoom level to 200%, we were able to read web pages in the apps Metro mode, but the URL bar stubbornly remained 3mm high, which is too small to be usable. Switching to desktop mode improved things, but the application looked pixellated, and text was no longer razor-sharp. Things were worse elsewhere: Photoshop CC a natural application to run on a machine with such a high-specication screen was unusable, thanks to tiny icons and menu bars; Photoshop Elements suffered from the same lilliputian problem. Even Samsungs own software had

PRICE 1,081 (1,299 inc VAT) SUPPLIER www.currys.co.uk

hen Apples WWDC event concluded in June, there were a few disappointed faces. Product announcements came and went, but a MacBook Air with a Retina display wasnt among them. Now, Samsung has beaten Apple to the punch with the Ativ Book 9 Plus. A small crowd gathered in the PC Pro ofce as soon as it was out of the box: the matte-blue nish and thickness of only 13.9mm at its slimmest point make it a good-looking piece of kit even by Ultrabook standards. Unusually, however, the crowd stayed after it was switched on, thanks to the gorgeous 13.3in, 3,200 x 1,800 screen. It plays the MacBook Pro 13in with Retina

problems with the cutting-edge hardware: a bundled system utility warned that screen resolution is very high and urged us to change it. As with the MacBook Pro, the effectiveness of the Book 9 Plus will depend on developers rolling out support for high resolutions. Apples OS-wide scaling makes non-optimised software much more usable than this. Even if you focus purely on the hardware, the Samsung is a mixed bag. Its good looks are indisputable: the tapered base swoops smoothly towards the front of the laptop, with the

KEY SPECS
1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U 4GB DDR3 RAM 128GB SSD 13.3in 3,200 x 1,800 PLS touchscreen Intel HD Graphics 4400 dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi Bluetooth 4 micro-HDMI Gigabit Ethernet and DisplayPort via adapters 2 x USB 3 SD card slot 1yr RTB warranty 319 x 222 x 17mm (WDH) 1.4kg (1.8kg with charger)

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Photography: intro, Danny Bird; cutouts, Julian Velasquez; repro, Jan Cihak

Hardware REVIEWS

Theres no doubting the style of the Ativ Book 9 Plus, but poor application support for the 3,200 x 1,800 display dents its appeal

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0.64 0.74 0.67

BETTER

1.25

1.5

thicker back edge used for the Book 9 Plus ports. A pair of USB 3 ports, a micro-HDMI slot, and proprietary ports supporting D-SUB and Gigabit Ethernet adapters make it reasonably at home on a desk, while a springloaded ap on the left-hand side reveals an SD card slot. Beyond the pixel count, however, the display is mediocre. Its bright enough, at 361cd/m2, but contrast is average, at 220:1, and out-of-the-box colour performance is signicantly off-beam, with a Delta E of 8. It doesnt compare well to the Retina display of the MacBook Pro, which is calibrated in the factory and delivers superior performance gures. The keyboard is a standard Scrabble-tile model, and the widely spaced keys have a solid

base, making it easy to get up to speed. The large trackpad follows fashion by masking its buttons beneath a single smooth surface, and Windows 8s gestures work as well here as they do anywhere. However, the buttons can be troublesome: we often tried to select icons only to be rewarded with the right-click menu. At 1.8kg including the charger, theres no denying its portability. This is bolstered by the results from our battery benchmarks: 8hrs 3mins under light use means the power brick is an optional extra rather than a daily musthave. However, it isnt as good as the MacBook Pro in OS X, which lasted 9hrs 56mins. Its a similar story when it comes to raw performance. The

Book 9 Plus features the 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U and 4GB of DDR3 RAM, delivering a nal result of 0.64 in our benchmarks. Thats ne performance as fast as the Lenovo ThinkPad Helix (web ID: 383245), which has a Core i7 CPU but again its slower than the MacBook Pros 0.73. The only truly awkward compromise is the 128GB SSD, which may start to feel tight rather quickly. The integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400 is a necessary compromise, but we saw playable results in Crysis 47fps at Low quality. Samsungs ability to put together a good-looking laptop was already assured, and the Book 9 Plus puts things beyond doubt;

topping it off with such an ambitious display is a welcome bonus. However, before you rush out and drop 1,299 on it, its worth taking a breath: buy the Book 9 Plus and youll be an early adopter. Although its heartening to see Microsoft embracing highdenition screens with Windows 8.1, our experience suggests your enjoyment of the Book 9 Plus will depend greatly on individual application support. Its certainly one of the most interesting laptops of the year so far, but we cant recommend it unequivocally. DAVE STEVENSON
PERFORMANCE FEATURES & DESIGN VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL

Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite


PRICE 500 (600 inc VAT) SUPPLIER www.johnlewis.com OVERALL
If the Ativ Book 9 Plus doesnt grab you, but you like its style, Samsung has released a budget, plastic version thats worth considering. The Ativ Book 9 Lite costs less than half as much as its premium sibling, yet it doesnt lose much in terms of looks and portability. To keep the price down, Samsung has gone for a lowerresolution 1,366 x 768, 13.3in touchscreen and eschewed an Intel processor, plumping for an AMD A6-1450 instead. It scored 0.35 in our Real World Benchmarks, almost half the speed of the Book 9 Plus. Gaming performance is below par, too.

It isnt a laptop for heavy lifting, RECOMMENDED then, but everyday jobs suit it just ne, and battery life is excellent. In fact, a score of 7hrs 52mins in our light-use test delivers stamina similar to that of the Book 9 Plus. Overall, this makes it a tempting buy all the more so since a model without a touchscreen is only 500.

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REVIEWS Hardware

Toshiba Satellite C75


Toshiba serves up a giant-sized desktop replacement with a Core i3 CPU its a lot of laptop for the money
PRICE 417 (500 inc VAT) SUPPLIER www.argos.co.uk
screen is protected by a plainlooking lid, inside which the C75 comes nished in either plain white or a two-tone clash of grey and black plastic. A dash of pin-pricked silver around the speakers is the only concession to glamour. It all feels very plasticky, but that isnt to say its imsy. The chassis affords plenty of room around key components in case its dropped, and while the lid has some give, it does a good job of protecting the display it wasnt until we pushed hard that the lid touched the panel beneath and caused visible ripples. The full-sized keyboard and numeric keypad are welcome, too, and the light action of the keys and the spacious layout make for trouble-free typing. The touchpad feels cramped, though, and the slight lip around its edges gets in the way of Windows 8s edge-swipes. We expect most people will hook up a USB mouse. Toshiba has equipped the C75 with a 2.5GHz Core i3-3120M processor and a generous pairing of 8GB of DDR3 RAM and a 1TB hard disk. Thats an impressive roster of components for the price; the Toshiba would have fared well in last months budget-laptop Labs. Indeed, its overall result of 0.67 in our Real World Benchmarks would have placed it among the front-runners for application performance. The Core i3 may not be a premium

ith budget laptops slimming down to near-Ultrabook dimensions, Toshibas gigantic Satellite C75 looks almost comically oversized. If youre looking to replace a desktop PC, however, this big-bodied laptop deserves consideration. With a respectable Core i3 CPU, a spacious keyboard and a 17.3in display, the Satellite C75 could have what it takes to be a permanent resident on your desk. Measuring a whisker over 37mm at its thickest point, the C75 looks like it could swallow an Ultrabook whole. It isnt as weighty as you might guess from its dimensions, but youre unlikely to relish carting its 2.7kg bulk around. It could serve as a mobile workstation if exceptional battery life isnt needed, though: with the display dimmed to 75cd/m2 and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned off, the system ran for 5hrs 25mins in our light-use battery test. Toshiba has gone for a conservative look. The 17.3in

The Toshibas 17.3in, 1,600 x 900 display feels spacious

BATTERY: HEAVY USE 2hrs

BATTERY: LIGHT USE 5hrs 25mins

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processor, but the Toshiba feels anything but low-end. Gaming performance isnt as strong, however. With only Intels HD Graphics 4000 to call upon, it achieved an average frame rate of 33fps in our easiest Crysis test. Thats just about playable, but the average plummets to 10fps when you up the resolution and quality settings. Nevertheless, the big screen is an attraction. Where smallerscreened budget laptops often sport 1,366 x 768 displays, the Toshiba offers a 1,600 x 900 resolution that although less generous than the Full HD displays were used to on premium models still feels spacious. Image quality is ne, if not great. Brightness reaches an excellent 305cd/m2 bright enough for outdoor use, if you can lug it into the garden but a contrast ratio of 169:1 results in washed-out

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images. Darker greys blend into black, and highlights are crushed. Its ne for everyday use, as long as youre not doing any colourcritical photo editing. When it comes to connectivity, all the essentials are here. Theres only a single USB 3 port, which is a little stingy, but there are a further two USB 2 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, D-SUB and an SD card reader dotted around the edges. Wireless networking is capped at single-band 802.11n speeds, but unlike many cheaper laptops, the latest Bluetooth 4 connectivity is supported. Theres also a basic 0.9-megapixel webcam, and although contrast and detail are lacking, its good enough for basic Skype chatting. As a do-it-all desktop replacement, the Toshiba is a solid all-rounder. It has weak points, but if youre looking for a desk-bound laptop with a good turn of speed for around 500, the Toshiba Satellite C75 is a viable candidate at a sensible price. SASHA MULLER

10fps
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KEY SPECS
2.5GHz Intel Core i3-3120M 8GB DDR3 RAM 1TB hard disk DVD writer 17.3in 1,600 x 900 TFT Intel HD Graphics 4000 single-band 802.11n Wi-Fi Bluetooth 4 D-SUB HDMI 1 x USB 3 2 x USB 2 1yr RTB warranty 413 x 268 x 37mm (WDH) 2.7kg (3kg with charger)

LOW

REAL WORLD BENCHMARKS


OVERALL RESPONSIVENESS MEDIA MULTITASKING 0.52
0 0.25 0.5 0.75 1

3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600K, 4GB DDR3 = 1


0.67 0.82 0.68

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1.5

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Dell XPS 12 (2013)


Dell upgrades its XPS 12 with a Haswell processor the result is a sumptuous, long-lasting hybrid
PRICE 1,066 (1,279 inc VAT) SUPPLIER www.dell.com/uk

indows 8 ushered in a wave of weird and wonderful hybrid devices, and Dells XPS 12 was one of the most amboyant. Drawing on the designs of Dells XPS Ultrabooks and high-end laptops, the XPS 12 took the ip-twist screen of the Inspiron Duo (web ID: 363799), improved the specication and cranked up the bling factor. Now, Dell has added an Intel Haswell processor. Nothing has changed about the chassis, and thank goodness for that the original was lovely looking hardware. The base is moulded from a single piece of carbon bre, and another plate protects the back of the 12.5in touchscreen. Chamfered strips of metal run around the edges, and the backlit keyboard is surrounded by soft-touch, matte-black plastic. The ip-twist mechanism works beautifully. Tilt back the lid and the XPS 12 masquerades as a compact Ultrabook, with a spacious keyboard and a large, responsive touchpad; rmly prod

BATTERY: HEAVY USE 2hrs 28mins

BATTERY: LIGHT USE 12hrs 41mins

3D BENCHMARKS INTERNAL GPU


CRYSIS

RECOMMENDED the upper part of the display and magnetic latches hidden around the metal frame give way, allowing the screen to pirouette 180 degrees. The display can then be attened into tablet mode, or angled for movie viewing and web surng. Its a little thick by Ultrabook standards including the rubber feet, it measures 22mm thick. Compared to the pared-down Sony VAIO Pro 13 (web ID: 382456), it feels slightly leaden, too, weighing 1.51kg. The XPS 12 offers unrivalled battery life, thanks to its Haswell CPU All the same, it feels rock-solid theres no mistaking this for is rich and lively, although theres average of 52fps in our easiest anything but a top-ight portable. room for improvement: the panel Crysis benchmark. Inside, an Ivy Bridge processor doesnt cover the full sRGB gamut, Haswell comes into its own has been replaced by a 1.9GHz and the darkest greys are crushed when you dim the screen and Core i7-4500U CPU. Theres 8GB into black. unplug from the mains. In our of the latest DDR3L-RS RAM As before, connectors are light-use test, with brightness set and a 256GB Lite-On SSD, which limited to two USB 3 ports, a to 75cd/m2 and Wi-Fi off, the XPS results in a hybrid that feels as mini-DisplayPort and a 3.5mm 12 lasted 12hrs 41mins. Thats quick as its rivals. The SSD takes headset jack. Theres still no more than ve-and-a-half hours much of the credit here: in the AS Ethernet, but Dell has upgraded longer than the previous model, SSD benchmark, it read large les the XPS 12 to Intels dual-band, and almost an hour longer than at an average of 476MB/sec and 2x2-stream AC 7260 chipset, the longest-lasting Haswell laptop wrote them at 399MB/sec, which supporting 802.11ac transfer weve seen so far, Apples translates to nippy boot times and rates of up to 867Mbits/sec. MacBook Air (web ID: 382534). fast application load times. Bluetooth 4 makes the grade, too, The 12.5in, Full HD When it comes to application and is accompanied by an NFC touchscreen is cracking even if it performance, the Core i7 Haswell reader in the right-hand side of the lacks the active stylus support of CPU isnt faster than the previous wristrest. Wed have liked to see rivals such as Sonys VAIO Duo generation. A result of 0.68 in our an SD card reader, however. 13 (web ID: 382810) and image Real World Benchmarks is ample You can nd small faults with quality is good. Brightness peaks for most tasks, but it isnt blazingly the XPS, but it oozes quality. It at 385cd/m2, which is readable quick. Gaming performance is provides a workable halfway house outdoors, and a contrast ratio of similar to the last generation, too: between compact Ultrabook and 820:1 ensures movies and images the Intel HD Graphics 4400 chunky tablet. We wonder how look lifelike. Colour reproduction chipset managed a mediocre long the hinge mechanism will last under everyday use, but with soaring battery life and a gorgeous design, the Dell XPS 12 is better than ever. SASHA MULLER

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26fps 52fps
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12fps
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KEY SPECS
1.9GHz Intel Core i7-4500U 8GB DDR3L-RS RAM 256GB SSD 12.5in 1,920 x 1,080 touchscreen Intel HD Graphics 4400 0.9MP webcam dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi Bluetooth 4 NFC TPM 1.2 2 x USB 3 mini-DisplayPort Windows 8 64-bit 1yr on-site warranty 317 x 214 x 22mm (WDH) 1.51kg (1.78kg with charger)

REAL WORLD BENCHMARKS


OVERALL RESPONSIVENESS MEDIA MULTITASKING 0.55
0 0.25 0.5 0.75 1

3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600K, 4GB DDR3 = 1


0.68 0.72 0.76

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1.5

PERFORMANCE FEATURES & DESIGN VALUE FOR MONEY

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REVIEWS Hardware

Acer Aspire XC600


Desktop power with a smaller footprint, but other manufacturers have done it better
PRICE 354 (425 inc VAT) SUPPLIER www.acerdirect.co.uk
sufcient power to push the Acer to a result of 0.89 in our benchmarks not one for the history books, but more than enough for serious photo- and video-editing tasks. The absence of a dedicated graphics card isnt entirely bad. It does, of course, take its toll on gaming performance the Acer only managed a playable average of 36fps in our least taxing Crysis benchmark but it does keep down power consumption. With FurMark thrashing the graphics core, and Prime95 pegging every CPU core at 100%, the Acer drew 75W from the mains; while idling, the power draw dwindled to 30W. Thats by no means the lowest weve seen, but its frugal compared to full-sized desktop PCs. Unlike smaller PCs, the Aspire XC600 affords a modicum of upgradability. Unscrew the side panel and theres room for manoeuvre, even though the interior is cramped. Remove two screws at the front and the mount holding the SATA optical drive and 3.5in hard disk slides out (see 1 ), making it possible to replace either in a matter of minutes. Acer has also installed a single 8GB module of DDR3 RAM, so you can easily add another stick to instantly double the complement. Theres even a spare PCI Express x16 slot at the top of the case (see 2 ),
The lack of USB 3 ports is disappointing

2 3

he likes of Apples Mac mini (web ID: 379153) and Intels NUC (web ID: 379267) show that the desktop PC can shrink much smaller than a shoebox, and occasionally even show a little stylistic air, but the Acer Aspire XC600 eschews such cosmetic fripperies. This is a simple mini-tower PC, and apart from a fake brushed-metal effect on the dark grey plastic fascia, and a slightly curved faceplate the metal casing of the XC600 is square and lumpen, nished in utilitarian black. Ugly would be an unfair characterisation; boring is nearer the mark. Instead of splashing out on high-end industrial design, Acer has concentrated on delivering the most potent specication possible for the cash. Within the workmanlike chassis, the Aspire XC600 employs a 3GHz Core i5-3330 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard disk. Compared to other recent desktop PCs its hardly cutting edge, but the respectable quad-core processor delivers superb performance. The Aspire XC600 feels more than spritely in everyday use, with applications launching quickly despite the lack of an SSD. Theres

although only a half-height card will t, and the tiny 220W PSU will have a bearing on exactly what you can install there. The PCI Express x1 slot is occupied by a dual-band 802.11abgn wireless card (see 3 ), which provides two aerial sockets. Nothing about the XC600s exterior sets the pulse racing. The DVD writer is hidden behind the hinged, plastic frontage, and there are two USB 2 ports at the front, alongside an SD card reader and a

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pair of 3.5mm audio inputs and outputs. At the rear, there are another six USB 2 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet socket and D-SUB and HDMI video outputs. The two PS/2 connectors connect to the supplied keyboard and mouse, but these are dreadfully lightweight and plasticky we recommend you upgrade those immediately. The Acer Aspire XC600 doesnt get a great deal wrong, although its fair to say it didnt gather much of a crowd when we unpacked it. It delivers plenty of power for current applications, and the modest amount of upgradability is welcome. It isnt worthy of unequivocal recommendation, however. The lack of USB 3 is frustrating, and there are better alternatives on the market. For example, Fujitsus excellent Esprimo Q510 (web ID: 378769) crams capable desktop PC performance into a Mac-minisized chassis for similar money, making the XC600 a nippy, affordable little machine that nonetheless fails to threaten the A-List. SASHA MULLER

12fps
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5fps
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KEY SPECS
3GHz Intel Core i5-3330 8GB DDR3 RAM 1TB hard disk DVD writer dual-band 802.11abgn Wi-Fi 8 x USB 2 2 x PS/2 SD card reader Gigabit Ethernet 1yr RTB warranty Windows 8 64-bit 100 x 367 x 270mm (WDH)

LOW

REAL WORLD BENCHMARKS


OVERALL RESPONSIVENESS MEDIA MULTITASKING
0 0.25 0.5

3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600K, 4GB DDR3 = 1


0.89 0.92 0.91 0.84
0.75 1 1.25 1.5

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PERFORMANCE FEATURES & DESIGN VALUE FOR MONEY

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Hardware REVIEWS

Nexus 7 (2013)
An extraordinary tablet that improves on the original in every way, once again showing rivals how its done
PRICE 16GB, 166 (199 inc VAT); 32GB, 199 (239 inc VAT); 4G, TBC SUPPLIER http:/ /play.google.com
15fps in the taxing GFXBench T-Rex 3D test, around three times the frame rate of the older version. This is even more impressive when you discover the new Nexus 7 is drawing around 40% more pixels than the 2012 model. A new 1,200 x 1,920 IPS display represents the highest resolution weve seen on a compact tablet, delivering a display density of 323ppi much higher than even the 246ppi of Apples full-sized iPad (web ID: 373648). This makes black-on-white text, and vector-based apps such as Google Maps, look absolutely pristine. Video content and games look bold and bright, too: we measured a searing maximum brightness of 489cd/m2, and a stark contrast ratio of 1,111:1. The colour temperature on our test model 7,120K is slightly on the cool side, but it didnt suck the warmth out of the picture. The only real catch is that, as with the iPad, a screen this sharp exposes the shortcomings of the countless low-resolution JPEGs youll nd online. Round the back of the device, youll nd a new 5-megapixel, autofocus camera to partner the xed-focus, 1.2-megapixel front-facing one. Image quality is a little cold and noisy, but its ne for snapshots. Theres also support for Bluetooth 4, SlimPort HDMI (although compatible adapters arent yet widely available) and Qi wireless charging. As before, GPS, NFC and dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi are included. With all this hardware stuffed into such a slim case, you might expect power consumption to be a weak point. But while the
The rear of the new Nexus 7 sports a 5-megapixel camera

PC

he name hasnt changed, but the new Nexus 7 looks taller and thinner than last years model. Actually, the two devices are the same height, but Asus has slimmed down the side bezels, making the 2013 model 6mm narrower than the previous version. As a result, the top and bottom bezels feel oddly oversized by comparison. However, you quickly become accustomed to the shape, and its hard to complain about getting the same amount of screen in a smaller package. The new Nexus 7 is also lighter, down from 340g to 290g a palpable 15% reduction in mass over the previous generation and thinner, measuring only 8.5mm thick. That isnt quite as slim as Apples 7.2mm iPad mini (web ID: 378061), but if youre looking for an Android tablet, this is the thinnest and lightest weve seen. This doesnt mean its imsy, however: theres very little ex to the back, and scratch-resistant Corning glass covers the front. Inside, the quad-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro delivers much better performance than last years 1.3GHz Tegra and its supported by a generous 2GB of RAM, plus a 400MHz Adreno GPU. This makes icking around the Android 4.3 interface a stupendously snappy experience, and the full power of the hardware shines through in our benchmarks. The new Nexus 7 completed the SunSpider JavaScript test in 1,202ms almost 30% faster than the original model and smashed the Geekbench 2 test with a score of 2,639, a 65% improvement on last years model. It also managed an impressive
BATTERY: VIDEO PLAYBACK 11hrs 48mins

Narrow side bezels give the Nexus 7 a slightly stretched appearance

rating of the Nexus 7s internal battery 3,950mAh is below average, the device lasted 11hrs 48mins in our standard battery tests. Thats 1hr 10mins short of the Asus Fonepad (web ID: 381196), but well ahead of most other compacts. The 2012 Nexus 7 managed only 8hrs 48mins. If you want to nd niggles with the Nexus 7, you can. For a start, theres no microSD slot. The speakers are clear, but weedy, especially at the low end. The power and volume buttons sit almost ush with the case, making them awkward to press. And although the price matches that of the original Nexus 7, its not such great value any more especially when the 8GB Barnes & Noble Nook HD (web ID: 378385) is priced at 79.

What you get for the money, however, is a superlative piece of hardware. The 2013 Nexus 7 is the fastest, lightest, thinnest, narrowest, highest-PPI compact Android tablet on the market. Also, since its a Nexus, you get a beautifully clean Android experience, with the promise of indenite future support. If you want simply a cheap, capable and unfussy tablet, the Nook HD remains a tempting bargain; if youre in the market for something more elegant, more powerful and more future-proof, the new Nexus 7 is irresistible.
DARIEN GRAHAM-SMITH

KEY SPECS
Quad-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU 2GB RAM 16/32GB storage 7in 1,200 x 1,920 IPS LCD dual-band 802.11abgn Wi-Fi Bluetooth 4 NFC 5MP rear/1.2MP front cameras 3,950mAh battery Android 4.3 1yr RTB warranty 114 x 8.6 x 200mm (WDH) 290g

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Samsung Galaxy NX
Samsungs latest Android camera melds impressive versatility and superb image quality, but its pricey
PRICE 968 (1,299 inc VAT) SUPPLIER www.wex photographic.com
Behind its professional-looking exterior, the NX has the heart of a tablet. It runs Jelly Bean 4.2, so you can install Twitter, Instagram RECOMMENDED and your choice of editing apps, and work on your photos The Galaxy NX offers dual-band Wi-Fi, a SIM slot and a microSD slot without returning to base. Just like its consumer-focused accurate under both clear and The Galaxy NXs semi-pro stablemates, theres dual-band cloudy skies; contrasts are sharp; credentials are bolstered by a free 802.11n Wi-Fi and a SIM slot for and shallow depth-of-eld images copy of Adobe Lightroom 5 (web taking advantage of 3G/4G data dissolve into an attractive creamy ID: 382342) still the best bundled connectivity. Locally, it has 16GB blur when using the kit lens. Its software weve seen but its of internal storage which your easy to isolate a particular focal missing a separate charger, which shots share with apps, data and point by tapping the screen is unforgivably stingy considering the OS and a microSD slot for directly if it doesnt select the the camera costs 1,299. adding removable storage. correct area automatically. Technically, the Galaxy NX Signing up for a Dropbox Movies recorded at best has it where it counts. Shutter account during the setup process quality reach 25fps at 1,920 x speeds start at 1/6,000 of a second gives you 50GB of cloud storage; 1,080 or 50fps at 1,280 x 720, and stretch to a maximum of if you already have an account, and the output quality is easily 30 seconds, while the bulb it will be upgraded by the same the equal of its stills. Colours are mode is capped at four minutes. amount. You can choose whether natural and true, and theres no Focus is handled by a combined the Galaxy NX uses this space to smearing or jumping with pans or phase-detection (105 points) and upload each picture as its taken, high-detail scenes. The soundtrack contrast (247 points) system creating an immediate backup. is crisp and cleanly captured, too, rst seen in the NX300 and The overall tablet experience with quieter, more distant sounds sensitivity runs to ISO 25600, feels less comfortable than that of holding their own against louder with 3-stop compensation in the Samsung Galaxy Camera (web foreground sources. either direction. Image quality ID: 378649) or the Galaxy S4 The only sticking point is is hard to fault up to ISO 3200, zoom (web ID: 383539), however, the price. For those looking which was sharp and grain-free since the Galaxy NX is much for a jack-of-all-trades device, in our tests. There was some chunkier in the hand. Unless you Samsungs far cheaper, more softening at ISO 6400 as it tried swap out the 18-55mm kit lens pocketable Galaxy S4 zoom to suppress the grain, but by for, say, a shorter 20-50mm zoom provides a more even balance ISO 12800 we saw considerable or a 30mm prime (on which youll between the roles of compact dappling, with a strong texture lose the i-Function control), it feels camera and Android device. But clearly evident at the cameras like a lightweight DSLR with a if you buy the Galaxy NX for the ISO 25600 maximum. chunky grip; its unwieldy body right reason the ability to edit We saw no evidence of isnt suited to everyday tablet use. and share seriously high-quality colour fringing, nor of barrel photographs without having to or pincushion distortion, in any rush to your laptop its in a of our test photographs. JPEGs class of its own. NIK RAWLINSON were slightly recomposed when compared to the raw le, resulting KEY SPECS in fractional cropping around the 20.3MP APS-C sensor 3x zoom kit lens edges, but corner detail remained phase-detection/contrast hybrid autofocus 4.8in sharp on both compared to the touchscreen dual-band 802.11abgn Wi-Fi 3G/4G centre of the frame. Bluetooth 4 microSD slot 4,360mAh battery Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 137 x 101 x 38mm That grumble aside, were (WDH) 495g (with 18-55mm lens) impressed by the package overall, especially in terms of image OVERALL quality: colours are bright and IMAGE QUALITY FEATURES & DESIGN The Android OS allows you VALUE FOR MONEY to work on photos without a PC
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he Samsung Galaxy NX isnt your average premium-priced snapper. Featuring a 20.3-megapixel APS-C sensor and a range of interchangeable lenses, its the priciest, most high-end Android camera yet. Out front, theres an 18-55mm lens, with a barrel-mounted i-Function button for setting the aperture, shutter and sensitivity. The thumbwheel and shutter release are the only other controls: the rest of the features are accessed via the 4.8in touchscreen, where logical layouts let you quickly tailor your settings with a tap and a swipe, or a twist of the wheel. The crisp 16:9 touchscreen sports a resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels. It isnt articulated like the one on the Samsung NX300 (web ID: 381166), however, so youll have to crouch or stretch if you want to be more creative. Whats more, youll have to switch to a 3:2 screen ratio and ignore the black bars to the left and right to view the full 20.3-megapixel resolution onscreen. That said, its supplemented by an electronic viewnder, which is equally sharp and bright, and has a diopter control.

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Hardware REVIEWS
See the test shots Go to web ID: 383941

Canon EOS 70D


A stunningly fast new autofocus system makes the 70D a seriously tempting DSLR
PRICE Body only, 899 (1,079 inc VAT) SUPPLIER www.currys.co.uk

RECOMMENDED

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he Canon EOS 70D adds yet more spice to the increasingly competitive mid-range DSLR sector. Whereas last year it was all about the emergence of full-frame cameras in the affordable mid-range, this year Canon has brought an innovative autofocus system into play with its latest 70D. The Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology splits 80% of the image sensors pixels in half, creating two independent diodes that are used as phase-detect autofocus points. The upshot is faster, more accurate autofocus in Live View. Theres also a separate phase-detection sensor, used when shooting with the viewnder, which is no slouch either. The result is remarkably reliable autofocus: theres no hunting back and forth as the camera tries to locate the subject, it simply snaps into focus at breathtaking speed. Previous Canon cameras have struggled with video autofocus, but the 70D has no such problems, and crucially its all but silent with the EF-S 18-135mm kit lens. Its further boosted by a face-detection mode that keeps your subject perfectly in focus as they walk towards the camera down the wedding aisle, for instance. Alternatively, you can tap the 70Ds

touchscreen to adjust the focus point, with the camera responding quickly and smoothly. The 70D has 19 cross-type autofocus points, which can be selected individually or in zones. The slightly pricier Nikon D600 (web ID: 378103) has 39 autofocus points (although theyre more closely bunched in the centre of the frame than here). Rarely did we nd ourselves craving more, though. Focus isnt the only thing thats bang on: exposure is beautifully judged, too. The camera coped well with a series of tricky situations, including portrait subjects sat in front of bright windows, direct sunlight and areas of high contrast. Colours are accurate, if a little at on occasion. Canon has pushed the native maximum ISO limit up to 12800 (and you can also articially bump this to 25600), which is four times the maximum sensitivity of the 60D it succeeds. This allows you to shoot indoor sports action at frame rates as fast as 1/1,000sec, without needing a ash or tripod. Photos are speckled with noise at ISO 12800, and although they can be saved with aggressive noise reduction in Lightroom, it leaves the images looking a little soft and unnatural. Shooting at ISO 6400 delivers much cleaner results. Canon isnt being drawn into the megapixel wars. The

The kit lens autofocuses silently during video shoots

20.2-megapixel sensor is four megapixels worse off than Nikons cheaper D7100 (web ID: 383152) and eight megapixels poorer than the pricier D600. Once again, though, we rarely found ourselves yearning for greater detail. Photos shot with a 100mm macro lens were brutally sharp, although the kits lens did introduce softness at the edges. Built-in Wi-Fi is another feature that will appeal to studio-photography enthusiasts. The bundled EOS Utility software delivers remote control of the camera over a wireless network. The PC software provides a live view (at a limited frame rate) and allows you to adjust the focus point, aperture/shutter speed, autofocus mode and a range of other settings. Photos can be saved straight to the PC, or saved to both memory card and computer. Theres also a more limited iOS app that delivers direct remote control over the camera from an iPhone or iPad. In terms of body design, its difcult to nd fault with the 70D. The LCD display on the top plate provides quick-glance access to key settings, and Canon hasnt skimped on the buttons, despite the addition of an articulated 1,040kpixel touchscreen. There are dedicated buttons for autofocus and drive modes, autofocus selection area, ISO, metering mode, and several
The LCD display on the top plate provides quick access to key settings

more, plus a lock switch to avoid accidental setting tweaks. Most of the buttons can be manually recongured if you nd a setting doesnt fall easily to hand. Were not convinced by the dual scroll wheel/D-pad that sits to the right of the screen, though, which performs neither function comfortably. In terms of speed, the 70D canters through the frames. We measured it at rapid 7fps in both raw and highest-quality JPEG, which is faster than the D600s 5.5fps and even Canons professional-grade EOS 5D Mark III (web ID: 377806), which outputs at 6fps. In conclusion, were bowled over by the 70D. The new autofocus system is a genuine breakthrough, especially for those who shoot video from their DSLR, while performance and image quality cant be faulted. At just over 1,000 for the body alone, its a seriously tempting option for enthusiasts who want to sample professional-grade features. Indeed, if Canon had managed to squeeze in a full-frame sensor, wed be talking about our new A-List winner. BARRY COLLINS

KEY SPECS
20.2MP APS-C sensor 19-point autofocus (all cross-type) 7fps burst mode SDXC card slot 1yr RTB warranty 139 x 79 x 104mm (WDH) 1.25kg (body only)

IMAGE QUALITY FEATURES & DESIGN VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL


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REVIEWS Hardware

HTC One mini


A fast and responsive smartphone, let down by meagre storage and disappointing battery life
PRICE 317 (380 inc VAT); from free on a 25/mth, 24mth contract SUPPLIER www.handtec.co.uk
with channels of white plastic. The buttons, ports, sockets and camera are in identical positions, too. Yet, for all its similarities, the One mini doesnt feel as luxurious. The white plastic trim is the main culprit its seams feel cheaper than the Ones and the speaker grilles pick up grime. The specication differences start with the display, which is 720 x 1,280 instead of 1,080 x 1,920. Pixel density is still high 341ppi and the LCD is superb, with a top brightness of 489cd/m2 and an incredible contrast ratio of 1,482:1. The downgrades continue with the camera. Optical image stabilisation is gone, although the resolution is still 4 megapixels. In theory, the lower resolution allows for larger photosites, leading to less noise in low light; the One mini is indeed good in dim light.

TC made a comeback earlier this year when the HTC One (web ID: 380965) elbowed aside the Samsung Galaxy S4 (web ID: 381229) on the A-List. Can the HTC One mini live up to the high standard of its sibling? The One mini weighs 21g less than the One, and measures 5mm narrower, while its 4.3in screen is 0.4in smaller. This all makes a difference to how it feels in your hand and pocket. You dont miss out on the HTC Ones appealing design. The curved rear panel is nished in matte aluminium and inset

The HTC One mini is smaller, lighter and less powerful than the One

However, it isnt quite up to the Ones standards, and photos lack the crisp detail we loved in that phones pictures. We also spotted an odd mottling in areas

of blue sky, although this is only apparent on close inspection. The One mini is still 4G, but lacks an infrared emitter, and theres only 16GB of storage,

Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini


Samsung has taken the best bits of its agship and squeezed them down to form the Mini
PRICE 288 (360 inc VAT); from free on a 23/mth, 24mth contract SUPPLIER www.ebuyer.com

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amsung pulled out all the stops with its agship Galaxy S4, but the Galaxy S4 Mini aims for smaller pockets. The S4s 5in screen has shrunk to 4.3in, pitting the S4 Mini against HTCs pocket-sized standardbearer, the One mini (see above). The rst round, design, goes to HTC. The S4 Mini is essentially a smaller S4, and it looks just as underwhelming. Its made from good-quality, smooth plastic, and feels like it will survive everyday use, but isnt anything special.

The S4 Mini has an AMOLED screen, rather than the One minis LCD. This offers power-saving benets: playing looped video the S4 Mini lasted over 13 hours, compared to the One minis 8hrs 30mins. However, after our 24-hour mixed-use test, both phones had 60% remaining. The S4 Minis screen isnt up there with the One minis, however. It only has 540 x 960 pixels, compared to the 720 x 1,280 of the HTC, and its a struggle to read web pages when zoomed out fully, unlike on the One mini. We werent as impressed with the S4 Minis screen, either. It has wide viewing angles and punchy colours, but the maximum

The S4 Mini shrinks the Galaxy S4s screen from 5in to 4.3in

brightness is a middling 250cd/m2. Compared side by side with the HTCs screen which boasts pure, snowy whites the S4 Minis whites had a blue tinge.

Samsungs usual tweaks to Android are evident. Their appeal is a matter of taste, but we nd them prettier than the rather dour stock Android 4.2.

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with no microSD slot. Theres just over 9GB available out of the box, which isnt much when you consider space-swallowing 1080p video is easy to capture, and a game such as Asphalt 7: Heat will consume more than 1GB. The One mini also uses a dual-core 1.4GHz processor instead of a quad-core unit. Its benchmark results reect this: the One mini recorded a time of 1,306ms in SunSpider, a Quadrant score of 6,132 and a Geekbench score of 1,409, none of which match the Ones gures. The One minis score in the GFXBench T-Rex HD test was 9.3fps, which means smooth gameplay in most of the games we tried. Yet, even if the mini doesnt have the benchmark scores of the One, it still feels smooth, with

KEY SPECS
Dual-core 1.4GHz Snapdragon CPU 1GB RAM 16GB storage 4.3in 720 x 1,280 SLCD 2 display quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE tri-band 3G/ HSDPA/4G Bluetooth 4 dual-band 802.11abgn Wi-Fi 4MP stills 1080p video 1,800mAh battery Android 4.2 1yr RTB warranty 63 x 9.3 x 132mm (WDH) 122g

super-uid panning and scrolling in web pages, fast app launch times and good responsiveness in the HTC Sense Android overlay. This works just as well as on the One, and we prefer BlinkFeed HTCs vertically scrolling news and social networking homepage to Samsungs complicated equivalent. The front-mounted stereo speakers put most smartphones to shame, too. We had hoped for better battery life. The One mini has a smaller, lower-resolution screen and weaker core components, so the score of 60% remaining after our 24-hour test is disappointing. We like the HTC One mini. Its fast, feels like the HTC One in use and has a great display. With more storage, or a microSD slot, wed unhesitatingly recommend it. As it is, though, we cant quite give it the glowing endorsement we gave its stablemate. JONATHAN BRAY
PERFORMANCE FEATURES & DESIGN VALUE FOR MONEY

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The Lumia 625 boasts good battery life and a decent camera

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Nokia Lumia 625


A huge, long-lasting smartphone at an exceptionally keen price only the limited resolution disappoints

OVERALL

The S4 Mini has a 1.7GHz dual-core processor, which beat the One mini in our benchmarks, nishing the SunSpider JavaScript test in 1,008ms. Subjectively, though, the One was smoother: the S4 Mini was occasionally jerky when scrolling through complex web pages. Installing Chrome improved things, but the One mini retained the edge. We also ran the GFXBench T-Rex HD test, in which the S4 Mini trumped the HTC One minis 9.3fps with a score of 15fps. As with the HTC, every game we played ran ne, but the S4 Minis better score promises smooth gameplay in future titles. The S4 Mini has another advantage: its 5GB of usable storage is less than the HTCs,

KEY SPECS
Dual-core 1.7GHz Snapdragon S4 CPU 1.5GB RAM 8GB storage 4.3in 540 x 960 AMOLED display quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE/3G/HSDPA/4G Bluetooth 4 microSD card slot dual-band 802.11abgn Wi-Fi 8MP stills 1080p video 1,900mAh battery Android 4.2.2 1yr RTB warranty 61 x 9 x 125mm (WDH) 107g

but the microSD slot offers an affordable way to add more. The One mini has 9GB free, but no card slot. We saw slight overexposure on bright days when using the 8-megapixel camera, but theres a fair amount of detail, and colours are accurate. Shots outclassed the One minis 4-megapixel shots, which werent as detailed. As the light dimmed, though, the HTC overtook. The larger pixels of the One minis sensor produced less noisy photos than the S4 Mini, and the Samsungs camera struggled to focus. All in all, Samsungs Galaxy S4 Mini stands up to the competition: it trumps its HTC rival thanks to expandable storage and a faster processor. If you can live with the limited storage, the HTC One mini looks classier, but the S4 Mini edges it. CHRIS FINNAMORE
PERFORMANCE FEATURES & DESIGN VALUE FOR MONEY

he 4G Lumia 625 rolls off a production line that has delivered an avalanche of differently sized and priced handsets of late. Now we have the Lumia 625, a slab of a smartphone with a not-so-hefty price. The huge 4.7in display doesnt deliver anything like the resolution of similarly sized devices, at only 480 x 800, resulting in graininess and slightly blurry text and photos. It isnt a deal-breaker those who havent used a Retina-grade screen may not even notice and there are advantages to fewer pixels. The big plus is battery life. The Lumia 625 had 65% left after 24 hours in our benchmark, but, anecdotally, lasted much longer than the average smartphone with fairly intensive use of 3G. Its disappointing, however, that Nokia seems to have articially clamped the battery down, meaning it cant be easily replaced. The 1.2GHz Snapdragon CPU and 512MB of RAM are basic,

PRICE From 149 (179 inc VAT); from free on 21/mth, 24mth contract SUPPLIER www.nokia.com
but Windows Phone 8 ran smoothly, and fairly demanding games ran without complaint. A SunSpider benchmark score of 1,123ms is about 25% slower than the high-end Lumia 925, but its no embarrassment. The photos produced by the 5-megapixel rear camera arent shameful, either. The majority of outdoor shots were well balanced, with close-ups especially detailed, and theres scope to expand the limited storage: 8GB out of the box, and a microSD slot to supplement that by up to 64GB. Nokia has managed to squeeze a lot into the Lumia 625. The screen is huge, the battery lasts all day and the regular Nokia apps including turn-by-turn satnav, free music streaming and a battery of photo tools add to what was already a very compelling package. BARRY COLLINS
PERFORMANCE FEATURES & DESIGN VALUE FOR MONEY

KEY SPECS
Dual-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon S4 CPU 512MB RAM 8GB storage 4.7in 480 x 800 IPS display quad-band GSM/EDGE tri-band 3G/HSDPA/4G Bluetooth microSD card slot 802.11bgn Wi-Fi 5MP stills 1080p video 2,000mAh battery Windows Phone 8 1yr RTB warranty 72 x 9.2 x 133mm (WDH) 159g

OVERALL

OVERALL


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Mouse alternatives

If you suffer from RSI, the culprit could be your mouse. Thankfully, theres a host of alternatives on the market that can alleviate the strain. Weve spent the past month using five to find out which is best

Contour RollerMouse Re:d and Free2

Photography: Danny Bird; repro, Jan Cihak

PRICE Re:d, 200 (240 inc VAT); Free2, 183 (220 inc VAT) SUPPLIER www.wellworking.co.uk OVERALL Of all our mousing alternatives, Contours RollerMouse devices are the most expensive. For the cost of the Free2, you could buy three Logitech touchpads and countless standard mice, and the Re:d is even more pricey. Are they worth the money? If you have chronic RSI, the answer is unquestionably yes. The concept is simple enough: the RollerMouse allows you to control your cursor by way of a cylindrical bar

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that spins forwards and backwards and slides from side to side. Below it are left-click and right-click buttons, along with a scroll wheel and a sensitivity adjustment button. The bar is clickable, too. Its a surprisingly intuitive way of controlling the cursor, and after a few days of using them we found we hardly missed our mouse. We prefer the Re:ds larger, more sensitive roller bar, but both devices deliver

exceedingly accurate and sensitive cursor control, allowing effortless selecting, dragging and dropping. Also, because they sit directly beneath the keyboard, you hardly have to move your hand to move the cursor. Thats good news for RSI sufferers, as is the ability to swap between left- and righthanded operation. The only downside and its a big one is the price.

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Logitech Trackman Marble

PRICE 19 (23 inc VAT) SUPPLIER www.amazon.co.uk OVERALL

The cheapest mouse alternative in this roundup by far is the Logitech Trackman Marble. Its a basic, wired device, with four buttons sitting behind a large, red trackball, yet theres nothing cheap-feeling about it. Cursor control is smooth and accurate, with the large, red marble on its nose delivering a high-quality feel. Since its so large, the ball is as easy to operate with a thumb as it is with the ends of your ngers. Its an ambidextrous design, too, so its at home on the left- and right-hand sides of the keyboard. However, the best thing about the Trackman is how easy it is to make the transition from mouse to ball. Unfortunately, theres one snag the lack of a dedicated scroll wheel or button which turns an otherwise excellent device into an also-ran.

Logitech Wireless Rechargeable Touchpad T650


PRICE 50 (60 inc VAT) SUPPLIER www.ilgs.co.uk OVERALL

Logitech Wireless Trackball M570

PRICE 35 (42 inc VAT) SUPPLIER www.amazon.co.uk OVERALL

When Apple launched its Magic Trackpad in 2010, it was a curious novelty; in 2013, with the advent of Windows 8, the concept of a large, desk-bound touchpad is a serious alternative for PC users. The T650 is Logitechs take on the concept, and its just as well made as Apples version. The surface is made from smooth ground-glass, and it offers mechanical clicking, multitouch tapping and Windows 8-friendly gesture support. Connection is made via a small USB wireless receiver, and the touchpad can be recharged via a micro-USB connection. This touchpad almost manages to make Windows 8 make sense on a desktop. Twongered scrolling, panning and zooming are effortlessly achieved, as are Windows 8s edge-swipe gestures. The T650 adds a few of its own gestures, too: for example, you can swipe up and down with three ngers to bring up and dismiss the Windows 8 Start screen, and theres a four-ngered Aero Snap command. All in all, the T650 is a comfortable mouse alternative that brings Windows 8 to life. Its a marvellous piece of kit, if perhaps a little pricey.

Logitechs Wireless Trackball M570 marries the shell of an oversized mouse with a large, blue trackball on its left-hand edge. Its a familiar shape and design for people used to a traditional mouse, with a scroll wheel nestling between the two main buttons and a pair of dedicated back and forward keys alongside (the buttons can be reassigned to different tasks if youre not keen on these assignations). As its wireless and doesnt need to sit on a perfectly at surface, the M570 can be used when youre sitting on the sofa or using a laptop away from a desk. However, we experienced the occasional stutter while moving the cursor around our Windows desktop, something we didnt experience with our bog-standard Microsoft mouse. It isnt ambidextrous, and if youre looking for an alternative mouse because of wrist or hand complaints, the M570 may not be the best option: having to constantly use our thumb quickly tired the muscles around the top of our hand. We found the Marble more comfortable to use, despite the lack of scroll wheel, and its cheaper.

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REVIEWS Hardware

OMG Life Autographer


The low-quality images and high price undermine this clever, life-logging camera
PRICE 333 (400 inc VAT) SUPPLIER http://shop. autographer.com
The small, light device has a lens on the front and a clip on the rear to attach it to your clothing. Theres a small OLED display showing menu options, which is navigated via two buttons along the side. Turn it on, clip it to your shirt, and it will capture photos throughout the day thousands of them. It has 8GB of storage, enough for 28,000 images. The lens cover can be slid shut to stop the camera, such as if youre in the toilet or somewhere else where photography isnt welcome. When it does capture a shot, a blue LED lights up to let

MG Lifes Autographer camera is an intriguing idea: its a hands-off, wearable life-logger that takes snaps without any interaction from the user. The 5-megapixel camera doesnt just take a snap at a set iteration, such as every minute. Instead, it intelligently chooses the best moment to capture by using ve sensors: a motion detector, accelerometer, magnetometer, light and thermometer, although exactly how a temperature change signals that its time to take a picture is unclear.

This small, light device can be attached to your clothes

you and people standing around you know what its doing. Theres no shutter button to take a shot, although there is sequence mode, a slow burst mode that captures a series of nine photos which is handy if you

want to capture a particular scene and dont trust the sensors. Theres also no display to play back the images, or viewnder to see what the camera sees you have to trust the Autographer to do its thing. There are three capture modes that adjust the sensitivity of the sensors and, therefore, the frequency of the shots. While out on a walk on the low-frequency setting, it captured around 170 photos over four hours, and burned through around 15% of the battery. On the higher settings, youll end up with hundreds of images, and much shorter run times. OMG Life says the battery should last up to 15 hours on the low setting, a claim we found no fault with. Autographer can also be xed in one place to take snaps of a single scene changing such as a sunset or a crowd scene. The resulting images arent impressive, however. Motion blur was common, so sequences

Leap Motion Controller


A gesture controller that makes us want to throw our hands up in frustration, not towards the PC
PRICE 58 (70 inc VAT) SUPPLIER www.maplin.co.uk
times it was impossible to target items at the edges of the screen, or to locate the pointer at all. No degree of ddling with the softwares numerous accuracy and calibration settings resulted in a satisfactory experience. Another big problem was selecting items. The Leap Motion sensing area is divided into two zones: the hover zone, away from the monitor, where the device recognises gestures, and the touch zone, which detects the equivalent of left mouse clicks. The invisible dividing line between these two zones is directly above the sensor, but we found we had to dangle a nger in the touch zone for a good couple of seconds for a click to be recognised. Trying to accurately select a small item such as a link

ew products have generated as much hype as the Leap Motion gesture controller; none have so miserably failed to live up to their billing. In theory, the Leap Motion Controller allows you to navigate your desktop via natural pointing gestures, and to select items on the screen by poking towards them. In our tests, on a variety of laptop and desktop PCs, we did indeed nd it just about possible to scroll through the Windows 8 Start screen by gesture alone. Even with a steady hand, however, we found the onscreen pointer often wobbled uncontrollably, while at other

The static Leap Motion fails to measure gestures accurately

on a web page, for example borders on the impossible. In part, the problem is that the Leap Motion Controller is quite a rudimentary device. Whereas Microsofts Kinect uses a combination of RGB camera, depth sensor and motorised pivot to accurately track the motion of the users entire body, Leap Motion relies on two cameras and three infrared LEDs inside a static 3in box. Even if the hardware worked perfectly, the sheer arm-aching awkwardness of navigating your PC by gesture would still kill the idea. Weve just about grown

accustomed to swiping laptop screens, but dangling your arm in mid-air to select items and scroll through menus is tiring. We can imagine personal-injury lawyers licking their lips in anticipation of these things taking off in the workplace. Also, with no Kinect-like option to switch off tracking with a voice command, we often found ourselves accidentally activating the Leap Motion when we went to pick up the phone, for instance. The controller isnt solely intended for navigating Windows: it arrives with its own app store, offering a slim selection of paid-

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that would otherwise work nicely end up muddled with unclear images. The blur isnt only from walking or bumping the camera; a breath of wind left trees little more than green smears. Shots are often blown out or too dark, and while the 136-degree wide-angle lens helps the camera capture everything in view, it also means that some shots have odd curves and distortion. The software works well, though. We had difculties installing it on a Windows 7 PC it needs access to your pictures library, and without that simply doesnt work but it does a good job ltering through the thousands of images that Autographer takes over a few active days. The software can create a quick video slideshow, stop-motion style, which can be exported as a video at 480p, 720p or 1080p, or as an

KEY SPECS
5MP camera 136-degree xed-focus lens thermometer, magnetometer, motion detector, accelerometer and light sensor 8GB storage USB Bluetooth 37 x 23 x 90mm (WDH) 58g

animated GIF. You can set how many frames are shown per second, add music, and its easy enough to remove blurry images. It would be handy if the software automatically out blurry or useless photos, though. One clever feature in the software is the map. As it snaps, the Autographer captures GPS co-ordinates, plotting photos on a map, letting you view images by area or follow your progress on a hike, for example. As with the Lytro (web ID: 383074) the light-eld camera that lets you focus after the photo has been taken this isnt a replacement for your camera. It could be a fun toy to supplement travel photography or for outdoor activities, but the low-quality, blurry images make it ideal for neither. And like the Lytro, its 400, making it an expensive toy indeed. NICOLE KOBIE
PERFORMANCE FEATURES & DESIGN VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL

Many of the apps in the Leap Motion store are novelties

for and free titles. Here too, however, we failed to nd a single compelling demonstration of the usefulness of the device. In short, we could nd nothing to do with the Leap Motion that we couldnt do more accurately,

more conveniently and more comfortably with a mouse and keyboard. On the plus side, at least it isnt big enough to break the pane when the moment inevitably arrives to throw it out of the window. BARRY COLLINS
PERFORMANCE FEATURES & DESIGN VALUE FOR MONEY

KEY SPECS
Windows 8/7 or OS X 10.7 and above USB 2 (cable included) 1yr limited warranty 30 x 76 x 13mm (WDH) 32g

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Software REVIEWS

Sony Sound Forge Pro 11


PRICE 257 (308 inc VAT) UPGRADE 129 (154 inc VAT) SUPPLIER www.sonycreative software.com

Workflow improvements make this great RECOMMENDED audio editor more powerful than ever
punch-in recording and begin recording when the input signal crosses a certain threshold, or when a certain hen it comes to MIDI timecode waveform-based audio message is received editing, Sound Forge from an external is one of the best-known names source. Its also in the business and deservedly possible to record so. Recent versions have been so multiple takes powerful that you might wonder by simply hitting what more could possibly be The new in-place recording capabilities streamline the business of capturing audio Record with added to justify this upgrade. a loop active. The answer is a selection of in the multitrack capabilities overlap, a non-destructive Switching between takes isnt specic renements that dont introduced in version 9 (which crossfade is applied automatically. handled particularly neatly revolutionise the package, but have been expanded to 32 tracks Its a world apart from the old to access a previous take, you make certain tasks much easier. here), its no exaggeration to say Paste Mix approach. have to step back through your One of the biggest changes is that, as an overall package, Sound Other welcome additions undo history but it works on the introduction of the modeless Forge is starting to look like a include a miniature overview of a basic level. recording workow. In previous viable option for jobs that might the entire waveform at the top Another signicant versions of Sound Forge, clicking previously have been deputed to a of the window (a big help for improvement is the ability to the Record icon on the toolbar full-fat digital audio workstation navigating longer les), and an split a le into events. Not to suspended the main program (DAW) package. updated plugin chain interface be confused with regions, events and switched you to a dedicated That isnt to say Sound Forge that makes it easier than ever behave like audio clips in Sonys recording interface. Now that is a replacement for suites such to manage a non-destructive Acid software. This means they button immediately starts as Steinbergs Cubase 7 (web ID: sequence of VST effects. Its also can be dragged, re-ordered and recording into the main wave 378724) or Sonys own Acid now possible to route your input individually processed, making view, with no clunky switching Pro 7 (web ID: 245034). It lacks monitoring through the plugin it easy to knock a raw recording between dialogs. Its a much support for virtual and MIDI chain useful, perhaps, for session into shape. smoother experience. instruments, and offers minimal helping a performer tailor their Best of all, non-destructive For more complex recording support for multichannel mixing. performance to your chosen fading can be applied by simply tasks, the new oating, dockable It also does a poor job of handling production style. dragging in from the top corner Record Options window lets large plugin collections the On the subject of VSTs, of an event; where two events you set up pre-roll for easy unwieldy FX Favorites menu zplanes lastique time-stretching must be at the top of Sonys list tool originally bundled with for a revamp in version 12. version 10 is still here, thankfully. For a growing number of Even better, its now joined by tasks, though, Sound Forge makes iZotopes tremendously versatile it possible to handle your complete Nectar Elements vocal processor, audio workow in one place, which combines preamp, reverb, using a professional-grade tool compressor, de-esser, gate, EQ thats properly focused on the job and even basic pitch-correction in hand. Thats always been the functions in one efcient module. joy of working with Sound Forge, Nectar Elements costs 80 on its and while the price is certainly own, so if youre in the market steep, free alternatives such as for a do-it-all vocal plugin, its Audacity simply dont come inclusion here certainly sweetens close to this level of polish and the deal. power. DARIEN GRAHAM-SMITH All these new and updated features make Sound Forge an OVERALL increasingly powerful tool for EASE OF USE recording and mixing musical FEATURES & DESIGN performances, voiceovers and so The ability to split a le into events in Sound Forge Pro 11 lets you freely drag sections of audio around as if they were Acid clips VALUE FOR MONEY forth. Indeed, when you factor
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REVIEWS Software

Xara Designer Pro X9


An excellent design package has been refined a tempting alternative to Creative Cloud
PRICE 195 (234 inc VAT) UPGRADE From 78 inc VAT SUPPLIER www.xara.com/uk

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lets you quickly rough out areas of a photo you want to keep and those you want to lose, and then hether youre into intelligently creates photo editing, vector a mask accordingly. illustration, page Being able to layout or web design, theres one create reasonably name that dominates: Adobe. sophisticated cutouts However, theres an excellent like this greatly all-round alternative to the Adobe boosts productivity X9 can convert any publication to an HTML5-based website and publish it directly agships thats often overlooked when working on Xara Designer Pro (XDP). photographic compositions. slider to control each effect, theyre through bandwidth-efcient XDP stands out for its Once youve isolated the region unlikely to see serious use. If HTML5 and CSS3. extraordinary graphics engine, you want to work with, it can youre using the 64-bit version, Further web enhancements in which enables users to freely be enhanced, say, by changing this isnt even an option, since only X9 include more efcient handling combine object-based drawing brightness or hue, or manipulating 32-bit lters are supported. of page backgrounds and tiling control with pixel-based creativity levels, with the various yout As well as impressive vector lls; simple drag-and-drop within a multipage environment, options available from XDPs and bitmap handling, XDP is no replacement of navigation and manipulate it in real-time. In Photo tool. A useful new option slouch when it comes to handling bars that preserve existing links; X9, theres little in the way of new is the Photo Healing tool, which text and multipage publications. support for Google Analytics drawing capabilities, so the focus in a similar fashion to Photoshops Again, the focus with X9 is on so that you can monitor website is on boosting bitmap power, Magic Eraser, allows the quick making the most of existing power, trafc; a wider range of interactive starting with improved JPEG removal of blemishes and spots. with the ability to create advanced page elements; and intelligent processing and an optional 64-bit Again, you could probably have layouts by selecting a text area and swapping in of high-resolution version for superior handling of achieved similar results with the converting it to multiple columns, images on high-DPI devices. photo-heavy compositions. existing Clone tool, but X9 makes as well as quickly inserting page You can publish site designs Also new are the Region and the process simpler and quicker. and column breaks and page directly to a web server, and Mask tools that let you mark up X9 also sees signicant numbers. You can have X9 X9 includes a year of web areas of an imported bitmap that reorganisation with the previously automatically create new pages hosting. Web purists will still you want to edit or preserve. In separate Live Effects tool, now when text overows, and import turn up their noses, since you fact, the previous release already rolled in as another Photo tool les in the Word DOCX format. must surrender all control of offered much of this power, but yout, complete with an extended The biggest change to code, but for non-coders its the new approach is more intuitive range of non-destructive lters, text handling comes through an attractive proposition and, and accessible. Its designed such as sepia and thermal-imaging integration with Googles free thanks to HTML5, X9s wysiwyg to work with a new Erase effects. However, the additions are font library. From X9s font approach is surprisingly effective. Background command, which a mixed bag, and with only one dropdown, you can open a dialog When alls said and done, to view all of Googles typefaces, Xara Designer Pro X9 still cant and install them in seconds. compete with the sheer depth One of the big advantages of and breadth of professional Googles fonts is that they can be power provided by Adobe automatically downloaded and Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign displayed by modern HTML5 and Muse. What it does instead browsers, which brings another is provide most of all of these of XDPs great strengths into play: programs creative power within you can quickly convert any a single, integrated and fast multipage design into a full-blown all-rounder. Now that Adobe is website. Previously, this was an only providing its latest software awkward process, producing less through subscription, Xara than stellar results: XDP tended to Designer Pro X9 looks even resort to rasterisation to recreate more attractive. TOM ARAH large areas through PNG bitmaps. Now, it can produce most graphic OVERALL EASE OF USE effects, such as semi-transparent FEATURES & DESIGN text over a rounded rectangle, with VALUE FOR MONEY Layout handling has been improved in the X9 release a gradient ll and shadow, purely
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118

How we test REVIEWS

How we test
A REFERENCE GUIDE TO OUR BENCHMARKS AND TEST METHODS

ur benchmarks are designed to reect the way people actually use computers today. We use current applications, as well as a set of general responsiveness tests, to get an all-round picture of a PCs or laptops performance.

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Finally, we time how long it takes the multithreaded Cinebench 11.5 renderer to produce a complex 3D scene.

BATTERY-LIFE BENCHMARKS
Our battery tests are also designed to reect the real world, so we aim to determine the batterys life for intensive tasks and everyday browsing. In the light-use test, we optimise the system for power efciency Windows power prole is set to Power Saver and we set the screen brightness as close to 75cd/m2 as possible using an X-Rite i1Display 2 colorimeter. We disconnect the mains and run a script scrolling a selection of web pages until the system shuts down, giving you a realistic idea of surng time. For the heavy-use test, we engage Windows High Performance power prole, set the brightness to maximum and run the taxing Cinebench 3D renderer to push the processor load to the limit. This gives a worst-case gure for battery life from a single charge.
BATTERY: LIGHT USE 3hrs 14mins

Overall

Responsiveness

With low-power netbooks now so popular, its vital to know how responsive a system is. To measure this, we rst time how long it takes to open documents and switch between a series of common applications, including Word and Excel, Acrobat Reader X and Internet Explorer. We then

time how long the system takes to open, close and move dozens of Explorer windows.

Media

3D BENCHMARKS
CRYSIS

27fps 86fps
SMOOTH PLAY
LOW MEDIUM

PLAYABLE

10fps
UNPLAYABLE
HIGH

REAL WORLD BENCHMARKS


OVERALL RESPONSIVENESS MEDIA MULTITASKING
0 0.25

3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600K, 4GB DDR3 = 1


0.6 0.71 0.63 0.45
0.5 0.75 1 1.25 1.5

Our Media tests expose how well a system can process music, photos and video les. We use iTunes 10 to encode an album into AAC and MP3 formats, then Adobe Photoshop CS5 to work on a folder of 12-megapixel RAW photographs. We adjust the colours and curves, apply artistic sharpening and blurring, and save the results in JPEG format. Finally, we use Sony Vegas 10 to render a short 1080p video, with a picture-in-picture effect and a cross-fade transition.

We compare all timings with those of our reference platform: a 3.4GHz Core i7-2600K with 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 7,200rpm hard disk. All desktops are tested at 1,920 x 1,080; we test laptops at the displays native resolution. Each score is given relative to the reference platform: a score of 1.5 would indicate a PC that was 50% faster. We combine the three scores into an overall average, but we also show the breakdown of the three tests, so you can easily see a systems strengths and weaknesses.

3D benchmarks

Multitasking
BETTER

To really test a system, we simultaneously run the iTunes and Photoshop tests, then launch our Responsiveness tests over the top.

We test 3D performance using pre-recorded sequences in Crysis. We use the games Low, Medium and High quality settings in the resolutions of 1,366 x 768, 1,600 x 900 and 1,920 x 1,080 respectively. For really fast systems we replace the Low test with one at 1,920 x 1,080 and Very High quality. A systems 3D graphs (see left) will be coloured red, amber or green to indicate how smooth on average gameplay will be.

Displays

Tablets & smartphones

Cameras

Printers

Focus on

We test all monitors, laptops and tablet screens in the same way. We use an X-Rite i1Display 2 colorimeter to gauge colour accuracy (technically known as Delta E), maximum brightness, black level and contrast ratio. We also display a selection of our own high-resolution test images and Blu-ray videos to get a real-world perspective.

Tablets and smartphones are similar products, so we test them in largely the same way. We run a selection of browserbased speed tests (including the SunSpider JavaScript test). We also thoroughly test battery life by simulating real use: phone calls, browsing, playing a podcast, and leaving the device on standby for 24 hours.

Cameras are tricky to test, as no benchmark we can carry out will give us denitive gures. Instead, we carry out a set series of shots in outdoor and indoor conditions, and at different angles, then judge the results by eye, analysing how sharpness, exposure, chromatic aberrations and noise impact overall image quality.

We test inkjets, laser printers and all-in-ones using ISO documents, our own magazine PDFs and carefully selected, high-resolution photographs. Every test is timed to the second and the output quality judged. We use every menu and interface, and calculate running costs using the quoted cartridge yields and retail prices.

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119

REVIEWS Enterprise

EXCLUSIVE

Boston Value Series 121


PRICE 1,399 exc VAT SUPPLIER www.boston.co.uk
32GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 the same as the v2 range. Five of the CPUs have Intels latest dual-core HD Graphics GPUs, and are aimed at data centre desktop hosting and workstation duties. The ve server models in the range drop the GPU, but offer plenty of useful features to anyone looking for a fast entry-level server. Theres support for PCI Express 3 slots, SATA III and USB 3. The three L variants all have the low TDPs necessary for microserver applications. Delve inside the low-prole 1U Supermicro chassis, and youll nd the range-topping 3.6GHz quad-core E3-1280 v3 CPU. Turbo Boost 2 lets it step up to 4GHz if theres enough thermal headroom available, and it has 8MB of L3 cache. In contrast to its stablemates, all of which have 80W TDPs, the E3-1280 v3 has a slightly higher TDP of 82W.

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Up front, theres room for four hot-swap 3.5in hard disks

The first Xeon E3-1200 v3 production server to hit the market sets a high standard for features, value and performance
The Xeon CPU is presented on a compact Supermicro X10SLM-F motherboard (see 1 ). Intels new C224 chipset provides four SATA III and two SATA II interfaces, and, thankfully, its easy to differentiate between the two: the SATA III ports are white and the slower SATA II ports are black (see 2 ). Up front, theres room for four hot-swap 3.5in hard disks, and the backplane has been cabled directly to the SATA III ports. The only disappointment is that Boston didnt stretch to SATA III drives: the pair of 500GB hard disks included are SATA II models. There are plenty of RAID options: the C224 chip supports mirrors, stripes and RAID5 arrays. These can be managed from Windows using Intels Rapid Storage Technology (RST) utility, which provides tools for creating and monitoring RAID arrays and sending email alerts if problems are detected. Although the new Intel controller brings support for USB 3, the four external ports at the rear are limited to USB 2 speeds. The Supermicro motherboard has two USB 3 headers (which wont be of any use in this server), plus an internal USB 3 port for booting into a hypervisor. Theres also a dedicated 5V power connector right next to the SATA ports for a disk on module (DOM). Power redundancy is provided by a pair of 400W hotplug PSUs (see 3 ). Theyre much quieter than previous models: this is one of the quietest Supermicro 1U rack servers weve ever tested. The higher TDPs of the v3 CPUs means they wont better the previous generation for power consumption: we recorded idle and peak draws of 41W and 111W respectively. After we removed one of the 400W PSUs, idle and peak gures fell to 35W and 102W respectively. The F in the motherboard model name indicates that remote management is supported via a dedicated network port at the rear. The basic web interface doesnt rival HPs iLO4 for features, but provides sensor readings for critical components, plus SNMP traps and email alerts if preset thresholds are breached. Full control over power is provided, and remote control and virtual media services are also included. Notably, power monitoring makes its debut the interface provides three graphs mapping hourly, daily and weekly consumption. It will be a while before the blue chips release servers with the new Xeon E3 CPUs, but Bostons Value Series 121 has set the bar high. It offers great performance and features, wraps them in a quiet, low-prole chassis, and offers good value, too. DAVE MITCHELL

oston was the rst company off the mark with the Xeon E3-1200 and E3-1200 v2 CPUs, and now its repeated the feat by delivering the rst Xeon E3-1200 v3 production server. In this exclusive review, we look at the 1U rack server, the Value Series (VS) 121. The launch of the Xeon E3-1200 v3 Haswell family of CPUs is a big shift in focus for Intel. While the v2 model saw Intel gain a foothold in the microserver market, the v3 has far grander aspirations. This new generation is set to take pride of place in entrylevel servers, workstations and data centres. The v3 family comprises of 13 models. All utilise a single memory controller, which supports up to

KEY SPECS
1U rack chassis Supermicro X10SLM-F motherboard 3.6GHz Intel Xeon E3-1280 V3 8GB UDIMM 1600MHz ECC DDR3 RAM (max 32GB) Intel C224 chipset 4 x SATA III 2 x SATA II supports RAID0, 1, 5, 10 2 x 500GB WD Enterprise SATA II hot-swap hard disks (max. 4) PCI-E 3 x8 slot 2 x Gigabit Ethernet 2 x 400W hotplug PSUs RMM with 10/100 3yr on-site NBD warranty Power: 41W idle; 111W peak

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REVIEWS Enterprise

EXCLUSIVE

Western Digital Sentinel RX4100


Performance is average, but this Windows-powered rack NAS appliance has high-quality client backup and system recovery features
PRICE 8TB, 1,213 exc VAT SUPPLIER www.lambda-tek.com
inelegant. WD has retained one of the power inputs from the DX4000 board so you can add an external power supply. WSSE is beginning to look long in the tooth, but it provides a good range of features. These include le sharing, PC backup and recovery services, secure web access for remote users and integration with Active Directory. We found initial deployment lengthy. With a locally attached monitor, keyboard and mouse, you give a name for the appliance plus an admin password and leave WSSE to complete the setup process. Including the acquisition of critical Windows updates, the entire process took more than three hours. Next, you download the Connector and Launchpad software by pointing a web browser at the appliance from each client. You can RDP to the appliance, but its easier to use the Dashboard, which provides fast access to all WSSE features. WSSE has a sharp focus on PC backup and recovery and, after receiving the Connector, each client pops up in the Dashboard. You can create backups for selected les and folders or complete systems, and decide how long to keep daily, weekly and monthly backups. WSSE will run as many backups as possible within a daily backup window. This could cause problems with the initial backup since it runs only one backup at a time, but it will subsequently be faster as it uses VSS snapshots and block-level deduplication. You can customise WSSE with add-ins, and the RX4100 has WDs Mac Dashboard and a Connector for remote management via Windows Phone 7 devices. IP SAN functionality is present, too, since the price includes StarWind iSCSI target software. The RX4100s 4GB of memory made a palpable difference in our performance tests. Drag-and-drop copies of a 2.52GB video clip returned read and write speeds of 89MB/sec, whereas the DX4000 mustered 78MB/sec. Backups were only marginally faster: our 17.4GB folder of 10,500 les copied at 43MB/sec a mere 2MB/sec faster than the DX4000. Using the WSSE backup service, we secured 47GB on a Windows 8 PC in 50 minutes, and deduplication reduced server storage to 29.5GB. For restoration, you select a client on the Dashboard, choose a backup job and decide where to send it. For IP SAN targets, you provide a name to append to their IQN, choose a size and decide whether to apply CHAP authentication. Performance is good, with Iometer reporting a raw read throughput of 103MB/sec for a 100GB target. For bare-metal recovery, its possible to use a USB stick as a

The RX4100 is Western Digitals rst rack-mount NAS appliance

estern Digitals Sentinel RX4100 is a departure from the norm: its the companys rst rack-mount NAS appliance. At its core is Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials (WSSE), which supports up to 25 users and targets small businesses. While the form factor is new, the hardware isnt. Instead, Western Digital has taken the motherboard from its Sentinel DX4000 desktop appliance (web ID: 374449) and dropped it into a full-depth 1U rack chassis. The motherboard (see 1 ) is dwarfed by the size of the appliance, and the only differences are that the DDR3 memory has doubled to 4GB, and an extra USB 2 port has been added at the front. Look closer, and theres still the same 1.8GHz dual-core Atom D525 CPU (see 2 ), plus pairs of USB 3 and Gigabit ports at the rear. The chassis has a xed internal 130W PSU (see 3 ) and, although redundancy is an option, implementation is

3 1

bootable WSSE Full System Restore disk. We tested this by booting a Windows 8 client from the USB stick and using the wizard to reinstate it from the latest backup on the server. Cloud backup is on the cards, too, and comes courtesy of AuthenTec KeepVault, which costs around 400 per year for 500GB of storage. Just install the KeepVault add-in, choose which folders to protect and the program does the rest. Enabling protection on a folder immediately starts a backup, and there are options to request continuous backups, choose a time window and restrict bandwidth usage. We had no problems with real-time protection of a test folder, and whenever we updated a le or added new ones, they were copied immediately. With WSSE at its helm, the Sentinel RX4100 scores well for its client backup and recovery features. It also compares well on price with Qnaps TS-469U-RP (web ID: 379765). Ultimately, though, this isnt enough. With the TS-469U-RP providing superior performance, integral dualredundant PSUs and a much wider range of features, the Western Digital Sentinel RX4100 is just off the pace. DAVE MITCHELL

KEY SPECS
1U rack chassis 1.8GHz Intel Atom D525 4GB DDR3 RAM 4 x 2TB WD SATA II hot-swap hard disks supports RAID5 2 x USB 3 2 x Gigabit Ethernet internal 130W PSU Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials 3yr limited warranty

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Qsan AegisSAN LX P600Q-D316


A 10GbE IP SAN disk array with total redundancy, top performance and good expansion potential, all at a reasonable price
PRICE Diskless, 9,100 exc VAT SUPPLIER www.cms distribution.com

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Once fully populated, disk shelves can add extra storage

MBs looking for highly redundant IP SAN disk arrays can expect to pay through the nose if they go to the blue chips, but Qsan is offering a more cost-effective alternative. Its AegisSAN LX P600Q-D316 ticks all the right boxes: it offers dual controllers supporting active/active mode and cache mirroring; provides extensive RAID array choices; and seals the deal with plenty of expansion potential. It comes with dual-hotplug 500W power supplies and fan modules (see 1 ), and is 10GbEready. Both controllers sport dual Gigabit and 10GbE small-formfactor pluggable (SFP+) data ports, and are equipped with dedicated hotplug battery backup modules. Expansion potential is impressive. Each controller provides a SAS 2 port (see 2 ), and with Qsans J300Q JBOD disk shelves hooked up, you can go up to a maximum of 192 drives. These units also have a dual-controller design, so redundancy is extended throughout the daisy chain. Since each controller has a dedicated management port (see 3 ), redundancy is extended to these functions. You have two choices for access: a web browser or Qsans own QCentral utility, which is designed to manage multiple appliances. The web

Each controller sports dual Gigabit and 10GbE SFP+ ports

interface is fairly basic, but provides easy access to functions. QCentral is just as easy to use, and you can access various functions simply by clicking on components in the appliance graphic. For testing, we loaded up a quartet of Western Digital 4TB SAS 2 hard disks. The drive trays accept SFF drives, so we added a couple of 900GB WD Enterprise drives, too. The appliance doesnt support SATA drives, though. You start by creating RAID groups, and Qsan supports an extensive range of array types including Qsans N-way mirroring, where the array can contain multiple mirrors for N-1 failover. During RAID-group creation, the QThin feature allows thin provisioning to be enabled on a per-group basis. Within each RAID group, you create multiple virtual disks (VDs), which are your iSCSI targets. These can be of any size, and if you run out of room you can load more drives, add them to the RAID group and extend VDs as required. The appliance advertises one iSCSI node name, with all

accessible VDs appearing under this as LUNs. For access control, CHAP authentication is applied at the node level. However, you can further restrict access by assigning VDs to specic iSCSI host initiators or using a wild-card entry for global access. Snapshots can be run on selected VDs manually or at 15-minute, hourly, daily, weekly and monthly intervals. From both the web console and QCentral, you can select a VD and view all associated snapshots. Snapshots can be exposed as a new read-only or read-write target and initiators assigned so they appear as a new drive. The cloning feature will be handy for testing and basic VD backup: it allows you to create complete replicas of source VDs. It can also keep them updated by running scheduled incremental backups. VD replication over a LAN or WAN to another appliance is possible with the optional QReplica feature. The only drawback is that the second Gigabit port on each controller on both appliances must be dedicated to this task.

For testing we created a range of VDs within a RAID5 array and introduced the appliance to the labs 10GbE network. We used a Broadberry CyberServe with dual 2.6GHz E5-2670 Xeons, 48GB of DDR3 RAM, Windows Server 2012 and an Emulex OCe11102NM dual-port 10GbE adapter. With jumbo frames enabled, Iometer reported fast raw read and write speeds of 1,157MB/sec and 1,084MB/sec, which equates to an impressive 9Gbits/sec and 8.5Gbits/sec. To test maximum IOPS, we changed the Iometer block size to 4KB and saw a reading of 130,000 IOPS. For general database performance testing, we used 256 outstanding I/Os, a 16KB block size, 66% read, 34% write and a 100% random distribution. After an hour, Iometer settled at a respectable 9,700 IOPS. The P600Q-D316 is ideal for hosting business-critical storage. The lack of SATA drive support is a disappointment, but youll be hard-pushed to nd this calibre of features for less. DAVE MITCHELL

KEY SPECS
3U rack chassis 16 x hot-swap LFF/SFF SAS 2 drive bays 2 x 500W hotplug PSUs 2 x hotplug fan modules Dual active/active RAID controllers each with the following: 1.7GHz Intel Xeon C3528 4GB DDR3 RAM with BBU supports RAID0, 1, 3, 5, 6, 10, 30, 50, 60, N-way 2 x Gigabit Ethernet 2 x 10GbE SFP+ management port SAS expansion port web browser and QCentral management

3 2 1

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Netgear ReadyNAS 2120


Netgear has introduced a host of new features, but performance is poor and expansion limited
PRICE Diskless, 674 exc VAT SUPPLIER www.lambda-tek.com
314 four-bay desktop box (web ID: 383662), and here we take a closer look at the only small-business rack-mount model in Netgears range. The ReadyNAS 2120 uses the same low-prole chassis as the elderly 2100 (web ID: 350585), but features a number of hardware changes: the number of cooling fans has been halved, which makes

etgears ReadyNAS family of NAS appliances received a major refresh recently, with its ReadyNAS OS 6 software introducing plenty of welcome new features. We were impressed with the ReadyNAS
The updated software introduces lots of new features

it much quieter; the drive carriers are tool-less; and the motherboard and power supply unit are no longer on a removable board. Processing power receives a modest boost, too, with a dual-core 1.2GHz Marvell Armada XP teaming up with 2GB of DDR3 RAM. There are still dual-Gigabit ports, and Netgear has added pairs of USB 3 and eSATA ports. Disappointingly, the eSATA ports dont support Netgears EDA500 ve-bay units, so external expansion isnt an option. This is only available with the ReadyNAS 300 and 500 desktop models. First-time setup is slick. Simply point your browser at Netgears

ReadyCloud web portal and it will discover the appliance and set it up for you. ReadyCloud-registered users can view, add or delete les and folders. Files can also be remotely copied directly to the appliance by dragging them into the portals Browse page. The ReadyCloud portal has a quick link to the new Dashboard management interface, which is far superior to the old RAIDiator GUI. Its much faster, too it loads in a second or two and is noticeably more responsive. The switch from the EXT4 le system to BTRFS brings support for unlimited block-level snapshots. When creating shares or iSCSI LUNs, you can select

HP OfficeJet 7110
Good output quality and low running costs make this A3+ inkjet a ne in-house alternative to print shops
PRICE 115 exc VAT SUPPLIER www.printerland.co.uk

Ps OfceJet 7110 targets any small business thats looking to cut marketing costs by bringing print production in-house. This affordable, wide-format inkjet supports wired, wireless and USB connections, and teams them up with low running costs, slick cloud printing and mobile device support. Finished in dark brown, the HPs chassis is solidly built. The ability to handle A3+ paper sizes up to 329mm x 483mm is useful, and our only complaint is that the input and output trays can be

tricky to position correctly for the largest paper sizes. The lack of an LCD touchscreen means that you cant use HPs print app store, but the HP Connected web service allows users to email documents RECOMMENDED directly to the printer from anywhere. Wireless direct printing from a mobile device is also supported, and you can assign a global passcode to beef up access security.

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Emailed documents print quickly. We tested with a range of PDF, Word and Excel documents, and the longest we had to wait from sending the email was 50 seconds for an eight-page colour PDF brochure. Googles Cloud Print works just as well, and we found it even easier to set up. All thats required is to enter the HP Connected email address you assigned to the printer when

you registered it Google does the rest. HP even has a cloud portal for setup. Youre redirected here for the latest drivers and utilities, which are downloaded and installed automatically. During this phase, you can select which connection type you want. Its worth noting that setting up a wireless connection initially requires the printer to be connected via USB, but WPS is also supported and, alternatively, you can use the web interface

The OfceJet 7110 delivers vibrant, super-sized prints

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Enterprise REVIEWS

hourly, daily or weekly snapshots. All snapshots can be viewed from the Dashboard; to recover a le, folder or LUN, select a snapshot and choose the rollback option. Netgears ReadyDrop offers similar features to Dropbox (which is also supported), but doesnt store your data in the cloud. When data is placed into your local ReadyDrop folder, its automatically synced to the appliance. Likewise, anything dropped into the appliances folder will be synced to all linked ReadyDrop local folders. Performance crushes the 2120s aspirations, however. Using a Dell PowerEdge R515 server loaded with Windows Server 2012, it was well below par, with drag-and-drop copies of a 2.52GB video clip returning read and write speeds of only 95MB/sec and 65MB/sec respectively.

KEY SPECS
1U rack chassis 1.2GHz dual-core Marvell Armada XP 2GB DDR3 RAM 4 x hot-swap SATA drive bays 2 x USB 3 2 x eSATA 2 x Gigabit Ethernet 5yr RTB warranty

FTP speeds were similarly underwhelming. The FileZilla utility recorded download and upload speeds of 92MB/sec and 60MB/sec respectively. General backup operations are painfully slow, too it averaged only 33MB/sec when copying our 22.4GB mix of 10,500 small les. The 2120 offers real-time antivirus scanning as standard, but wed advise against enabling it if youre using it for backup purposes. With antivirus scanning enabled, our 22.4GB test sample copied to the appliance at a dreadfully slow 8.3MB/sec. Despite the impressive range of new features in ReadyNAS OS 6, the 2120 fails to impress in several key areas. Performance is poor, it lacks support for external expansion and compared to the superior ReadyNAS 314 its simply far too expensive. DAVE MITCHELL
PERFORMANCE FEATURES & DESIGN VALUE FOR MONEY

Y-cam Cube HD 1080


An IP camera that delivers plenty of surveillance features for the price, but image quality is disappointing

OVERALL

wizard. Simultaneous wired Ethernet and wireless connections arent supported, though. HP claims a top mono speed of 32ppm in Draft mode but, as with any inkjet, this is dependent on the page content. Our 32-page Word document returned 22ppm in Draft mode, 15ppm in Normal and 4ppm at the interpolated 4,800 x 1,200dpi Best mode. A 24-page colour DTP-style A4 document printed in Best mode delivered speeds of 3.6ppm. A4 colour photos in Best mode took between 1min 30secs and two minutes, while an A3 colour poster was delivered in ve minutes at Best quality and only 30 seconds at Normal quality. Print quality is excellent across the board. In our testing, text in Normal mode was clean with only

KEY SPECS
1,200dpi A3 inkjet 500MHz CPU 128MB RAM 802.11bgn Wi-Fi 32ppm/29ppm mono/colour USB 2 10/100 Ethernet 250-sheet input tray A4 monthly duty cycle: 12,000 pages 1yr limited warranty 585 x 419 x 189mm (WDH) Options: duplex unit, 41 exc VAT

minimal dusting around the smallest fonts. Colour prints on cheap plain paper looked slightly washed out, but prints on heavier paper grades were bold and bright. Photographs were deftly handled, and glossy prints oozed with vivid colours and ne detail. Even our toughest test prints showed smooth transitions across complex colour fades, and there was no banding or graininess. The 7110 is cheap to run, too. A4 printing costs work out at 2p for mono and 5p for colour. Use the cheaper 400-page black cartridge, however, and youll push mono costs up to 2.7p and colour to 5.7p. With low running costs and a low price, the HP OfceJet 7110 is top value. Businesses looking to cut print-shop costs for marketing material should seriously consider this printer. DAVE MITCHELL

t may be a little, palm-sized package, but Y-cams latest Cube HD 1080 IP camera crams in the features. It has a top resolution of 1,920 x 1,080, 802.11n wireless networking, night vision, motion detection and it offers direct recording to a microSD card or NAS appliance. The body is too small to accommodate a standard Ethernet port, so Y-cam uses a combination of mini-USB port and Ethernet adapter. The external power supply has a decent 3m lead, but Y-Cam also offers an optional PoE adapter. Y-cams setup utility nds the camera for you and offers quick access to its web interface. Three video streams are available: the rst goes up to 1080p, the second supports 720p and the third offers up to 256 x 144 pixels for mobile access. Unlike Aztechs WIPC402 (web ID: 383665), we had no problems during wireless setup the Cube HD 1080 connected to our Netgear WNR3500 11n router in a matter of seconds. The web interface provides a search facility so you can browse SSIDs and choose which network to connect to. Video quality at both 720p and 1080p is average at best. Colour balance and contrast are good, but the focus isnt sharp enough. The camera also had difculty coping with bright sunlight streaming through the lab windows. With 28 infrared LEDs surrounding the

PRICE 208 exc VAT SUPPLIER www.y-cam.com


lens, the Y-cams night vision is impressive. We found coverage easily went up to the claimed 15m. Once again, though, poor focus limits its usefulness. For motion detection, there are four windows, each with their own sensitivity settings. When triggered, the camera can send snapshots to its microSD card, network share or HTTP, FTP and email servers. It can record continuously to either a NAS share or microSD card, and you can also upload the cards contents to an FTP server. We had no problems linking the camera to an Asustor NAS appliance, where we could store snapshots and movies. You can also remotely browse the folder contents from the web interface, view recordings and delete them. For such a tiny camera, the Cube HD 1080 is packed with features. Crucially, though, image quality isnt up to par. For this price, wed expect better all-round performance. DAVE MITCHELL

With 28 IR emitters around its lens, the Y-cam demonstrates impressive night-vision abilities

KEY SPECS
1/2in RGB CMOS 2mm f/3.6 lens 15fps @ 1080p 30fps @ 720p H.264/MPEG-4/MJPEG 10/100 Ethernet 802.11bgn Wi-Fi internal microphone microSD slot external PSU Y-cam Setup software 1yr RTB warranty

OVERALL

PERFORMANCE FEATURES & DESIGN VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL

PERFORMANCE FEATURES & DESIGN VALUE FOR MONEY


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REVIEWS Enterprise
EXCLUSIVE

Lexmark CX410de
A low-cost workgroup laser MFP that combines good speed with stunning print and scan quality
PRICE 360 exc VAT SUPPLIER www.printer base.co.uk
bucks the trend. The new Unison extra-high-yield cartridges return a mono page for 2.3p and a colour one for 11p slightly cheaper than the A-Listed HP LaserJet Pro 200 Colour MFP M276n (web ID: 379879). It narrowly bests the M276n for print quality, too. We noted pin-sharp text and plenty of detail in colour photos. Colour balance and contrast are superb. Nor is the CX410de a slouch in the speed stakes, with an average time to rst page of 11 seconds. A 30-page Word document in both draft and photo/text modes took one minute, and a 24-page colour DTP document in photo mode printed at 30ppm. Copy speeds using the ADF are good, too: a ten-page document was duplicated in only 32 seconds. Best of all, scan
The CX410de churns out cheap, top-quality prints

exmarks CX410de colour MFP sits at the lower end of a new, 18-strong range of laser MFPs. It combines print, fax, scan and copy functions with a 1,200dpi engine, 30ppm print speeds and integral duplexing. In the past, Lexmark has taken some ak from PC Pro for its high printing costs, but the CX410de

KEY SPECS
1,200 x 1,200dpi A4 colour laser 600dpi colour scanner 800MHz dual-core CPU 512MB RAM (max 2.5GB) 30ppm colour/mono duplex 3 x USB 2 2 x RJ11 Ethernet 33.6Kbits/sec fax/ modem 250-sheet input tray 50-sheet ADF monthly duty cycle, 6,000 pages 1yr on-site warranty ABBYY FineReader 9 Sprint software 444 x 558 x 470mm (WDH) Options: MarkNet USB wireless adapter, 49 exc VAT

quality is remarkably faithful, with no grain or banding. From the intuitive touchscreen, RECOMMENDED documents can be As the CX410de is selling scanned to email, FTP servers, at a discounted price until the network shares or direct to a end of October, its superb value USB stick. A phone book keeps for money. The lack of any real tabs on fax numbers, and the cloud features count against it. For Printer Home utility lets you workgroups that demand the best scan to any destination. print and scan quality, its highly Lexmark simply cant match recommended. DAVE MITCHELL the M276n for cloud features, however. Theres no equivalent OVERALL to the HP Connected service, PERFORMANCE and no support for scanning FEATURES & DESIGN directly to Google Drive or VALUE FOR MONEY any other cloud services.

PC PRO

Xerox DocuMate 4700


A capable and reasonably priced A3 flatbed scanner that can pair with a DocuMate A4 ADF device
PRICE 494 exc VAT SUPPLIER www.printer base.co.uk
Installation on a Windows 8 desktop was swift, and as Xerox also includes WIA, TWAIN and ISIS drivers, the 4700 will work happily with any compatible software or application. The high-quality software bundle includes the Visioneer OneTouch utility, which enables the scanners Function button to be linked to a range of actions. Up to nine actions can be programmed, including scan-toprinter, application, email, fax, FTP server, SharePoint and a range of cloud destinations. OneTouch is brilliant when it comes to cloud scanning: the software provides quick links for a multitude of remote destinations. From the Visioneer Connect web form, links can be requested for Box.net, Evernote, FilesAnywhere,
The 4700s OneTouch utility allows for speedy scanning

arge-format ADF scanners are expensive for SMBs that rarely need A3 copies, but Xeroxs DocuMate 4700 offers an affordable solution. This standalone atbed scanner handles up to A3 paper sizes, and, thanks to its internal USB hub, works seamlessly alongside Xeroxs DocuMate A4 ADF devices.

KEY SPECS
A3 colour atbed scanner 600dpi optical resolution 24-bit colour 2 x USB2 external PSU daily duty cycle 1,000 pages Visioneer OneTouch and Acuity, Nuance PaperPort Pro 14, OmniPage Pro 18 and PDF Converter Pro 7.3 software TWAIN, WIA and ISIS drivers 1yr RTB warranty 580 x 495 x 115mm (WDH)

OfceDrop and more, and the free installer adds an option for Google Drive. Dropbox implementation is basic, however simply create a scan-to-storage prole for your local Dropbox folder. Scan speeds are nippy. A4 colour documents scanned in eight seconds at 300dpi and 16 seconds at 600dpi; A3 documents took ten seconds at 300dpi and 25 seconds at 600dpi. Scan quality is ample for documents, but the maximum 600dpi optical resolution is restrictive for scanning photos. Detail and contrast are acceptable, but speckling was apparent on areas of solid colours and backgrounds.

The Acuity plugins anti-skew function works well, but the image post-processing is less remarkable: although clarity improved, it slightly smeared some of our test documents. The redaction feature is nifty, though, and can be used to quickly obscure specic areas on sensitive documents. Xerox has put together a great-value package. It comes into its own teamed with a DocuMate A4 ADF, but even on its own, the DocuMate 4700 has plenty going for it. DAVE MITCHELL
PERFORMANCE FEATURES & DESIGN VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL

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LABS Parental controls

Contents
Norton Family Blue Coat K9 Web Protection F-Secure Internet Security 2013 Kaspersky Internet Security 2013 McAfee Family Protection OpenDNS Basic TalkTalk HomeSafe Trend Micro Online Guardian Windows Live Family Safety AVG Family Safety Bitdefender Parental Control G Data InternetSecurity 2014 MetaCert Net Nanny 6.5 SafeDNS
Photography: main intro, Getty Images

136 137 138 138 139 139 140 140 141 142 142 142 143 143 143

Buyers guide Feature table How we test Results ISP lters Mobile monitoring View from the Labs

132 132 133 135 141 145 145

Parental controls
Which parental-control packages will keep your kids safe, and which will let them access porn, gore or other adult content? We test 15 packages both paid-for and free against more than 150 sites carrying undesirable content to see which offer the best protection, and which leave children exposed to the worst of the web
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Buyers guide

here are two basic ways of protecting kids from inappropriate online content. Network-level lters block objectionable sites before they reach your home, so every device is protected. Client-based controls must be installed on every PC, but can provide additional protection beyond web ltering. Which you choose is up to you, but software-based systems are typically more exible. You can set different restrictions for different family members, and your child can often request access to sites that may have been wrongly blocked. You can also set up a

bespoke blacklist of URLs to block and a whitelist of sites to allow. Most software-based packages offer time-limiting features, too, and may allow you to block specic applications or protocols so, for example, you can make sure your kids arent lling your PC with illegal or potentially virus-ridden downloads. It may be possible to restrict games and videos according to age ratings. Another matter to consider is how each suite handles social networking and instant messaging. These services can be avenues for cyberbullying or unwanted contact from strangers, so many control

systems let you block specic types of online activity, and prevent personal data from being shared. Then comes the question of reporting. Some systems offer simple activity overviews, while others deliver live alerts whenever a site is blocked or a warning is generated something else to factor into your purchase decision. A nal issue to consider, if you go down the software path, is whether you want a standalone parental-control package or one built into a wider security suite. The integrated approach has obvious appeal, but these built-in

parental controls may offer fewer features than dedicated systems. All of these variables are set out in our feature table below, and discussed on the following pages, so read on to discover which system is right for you.

RECOMMENDED

AVG Family Safety


Overall Filtering Features Ease of Use Value for Money Pricing Price (inc VAT) Licence details Supplier Other licensing options inc VAT Free trial period OS support Mobile support

Bitdefender Blue Coat K9 Parental Control Web Protection



20 Unlimited devices, 1 year www.bitdefender.com


30 3 PCs, 1 year www.avg.com Options for up to 10 PCs N/A Windows 7, Vista, XP iOS app (included); Windows Phone 8 app (included) Software / DNS


Free

F-Secure Internet Security 2013


22 (included in full security suite) 1 PC, 1 year www.ebuyer.com 40 (3 PCs, 1 year), 65 (3 PCs, 2 years) 30 days Windows 8, 7, Vista, XP Android app (included) Software

G Data Internet Security 2014



31 (included in full security suite) 1 PC, 1 year www.play.com Options for up to 5 PCs, up to 2 years 30 days Windows 8, 7, Vista, XP

Kaspersky Internet Security 2013


22 1 PC, 1 year www.amazon.co.uk

McAfee Family Protection



7 3 PCs, 1 year www.amazon.co.uk

Unlimited licence keys for home use www.k9web protection.com Business: $2/mth per 2 PC or $18/yr Unlimited (report only) N/A Windows 8, 7, Vista, XP Windows 8, 7; OS X 10.4.7+ Android app (included) Safe browser for Android and iOS Software Software

Options for up to 3 PCs, 2 up to 2 years 30 days 30 days Windows 8, 7, Vista, XP Windows 8, 7, Vista, XP

2
Software

2
Software

Android app (15) Software

Filter type Features Category lters Customisable proles Customisable keyword lter Whitelist/blacklist Download blocking Multiple user proles Remote management Cumulative/ scheduled time limits App/game blocking IM and social network monitoring Unblock request button/form Reporting options

3 3 2 3/ 3 2 3 3 2/3 3 3 2

3 3 2 2/3 2 3 3 2/3 2 3 2
Web; various scope options Monitor phone calls, SMS, location Phone, online chat, email

3 3 3 3/ 3 2 2 2 2/3 2 2 3
In-app; custom scope Timeout blocking, enforce Safe Search

3 3 2 3/ 3 2 3 2 2/3 3 3 2
In-app; various scope options Full security suite Phone, online chat

3 3 3 3/ 3 2 3 2 2/3 2 2 2
In-app event log Full security suite Phone, email

3 3 3 3/ 3 3 3 2 3/ 3 3 3 3
In-app; various scope options Full security suite Phone, email

3 3 2 3/ 3 3 3 2 2/3 3 3 2
In-app; various scope options Age-rating enforcement for video and music Phone, online chat

In-app, web, email, SMS; custom scope Other major features Block video by rating, whole home ltering Technical support Phone, online chat

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HOW WE TEST

Our tests this month focus on web ltering. We set up each product or service on a clean Windows 8 laptop, and apply the strictest ltering rules that dont rely purely on whitelisting. This lets us identify any holes in each packages ltering system. We then try to visit 145 websites that, in our view, shouldnt be accessible to young children. This includes 74 pornography sites or image searches, plus a selection of sites promoting gambling, gore, suicide,

anorexia, hate and tasteless humour, as well as web proxies. This last category is important, since proxy services can reveal the contents of blocked sites. You can view the complete list of URLs tested at www.pcpro.co.uk/ links/229labs1. We also try to visit 18 sites that, in our view, shouldnt be blocked, including support pages for physical and mental health issues, teen magazines and other inoffensive sites such as the BBC homepage. If one of these is blocked,

we count it as a false positive. Again, these URLs are detailed at the above link. The total number of objectionable pages allowed through the lter, minus any false positives, determines the Filtering score we award to each package. We also award a Features score, representing the range and usefulness of features on offer; plus scores for Ease of Use and Value for Money. Our Overall score is an average of these, weighted towards ltering performance.

LABS WINNER

MetaCert

Free Unlimited https://metacert.com

Net Nanny 6.5



30 1 PC, 1 year www.netnanny.co.uk 60 (2 PCs, 1 year), 90 (3 PCs, 1 year) 14 days Windows 8, 7, Vista, XP; OS X 10.5+ Android app (8.50) Software

Norton Family

Free 10 PCs www.symantec.com Premier package, 30 (10 PCs, 1 year) N/A Windows 8, 7, Vista, XP; OS X 10.7+ Android app (included); iOS app (manage only) Software

OpenDNS Basic SafeDNS



Free One network, unlimited devices www.opendns.com Home VIP, $20/yr N/A N/A N/A DNS

TalkTalk HomeSafe

Included in subscription Unlimited www.talktalk.co.uk


Free Unlimited www.safedns.com Premium, 20/yr

Trend Micro Online Guardian


38 (included in full security suite) 3 PCs, 1 year www.trendmicro.co.uk Up to 10 PCs, up to 2 years 30 days Windows 7, Vista, XP Android app (20) Software

Windows Live Family Safety



Free Unlimited accounts www.microsoft.com

2
N/A N/A Safe browser for iPad; plugins for Chrome and Firefox DNS

2
N/A Windows 8, 7 Windows Phone 8 Software

N/A N/A Windows 8, 7, Vista, XP N/A

2
DNS

2
Network level

2 2 2 2/2 2 2 2 2/2 2 2 2 2 2 2

3 3 3 3/3 2 3
web and time management

3 3 2 3/ 3 2 3 3 3/ 2 2 3 3

3 3 2 3/ 3 2 2 3 2/2 2 2 3
Web; past two weeks Anti-phishing/malware, response ltering

3 2 2 3/ 3 2 2 3 2/2 2 2 2
Web; custom scope

3 2 2 2/3 2 2 3 2/2 2 2 2 2 2
Phone, online chat, email

3 3 3 3/ 3 2 3 3 2/3 2 3 3
Web (past week); email (biweekly)

2 2 2 3/ 3 3 3 3 3/ 2 3 3 3
Web; custom scope Enforce Safe Search, block phone downloads

2/3 2 3
Optional

In-app, web, email; Web, email; past week custom scope Block chat, newsgroups, N/A P2P, HTTPS Email Email, forum

2 2

2
Phone, email

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Filtering results

f youve ever suspected that parental-control packages are all the same, the table below should convince you theyre not. Each products percentage scores represent the proportion of sites of each type it blocked in our tests. In all but the false-positives category, a higher score indicates better protection; this is reected
PERCENTAGE OF SITES BLOCKED Porn
Norton Family 100% Net Nanny 6.5 100% Blue Coat K9 Web Protection

in our colour coding, with red representing the worst performance and green the best. In the false-positives column, however, a high percentage indicates that a large number of sites that we considered harmless were blocked. Here the colours are reversed: a score of 0% is coloured green, while 100% is red.

Balancing these two factors allows us to arrive at an overall ranking of the 15 products, reected in the ordering of the table. Of the products on test this month, Norton Family provided a reassuring degree of protection against objectionable sites, while succumbing to few false positives. Net Nanny fared slightly better

against offensive sites, but its very high false-positive rate knocks it down the table. At the bottom of the rankings, meanwhile, OpenDNS and MetaCert delivered awless performance in our false-positives test, but proved useless overall owing to their repeated failures to block non-family-friendly sites.

Gambling

Gore

Pro-suicide

Pro-anorexia

Hate

Tasteless humour
70%

Proxies/VPN

False positives
15%

100%

70%

100%

100%

80%

100%

100%

100%

90%

90%

90%

100%

100%

80%

96%

100%

100%

80%

70%

70%

100%

100%

20%

F-Secure Internet Security 2013 Trend Micro Online Guardian

99%

100%

90%

80%

80%

60%

90%

91%

25%

100%

100%

90%

70%

70%

50%

70%

100%

5%

Bitdefender Parental Control SafeDNS

92%

100%

100%

70%

70%

100%

70%

100%

55%

93% McAfee Family Protection

100%

100%

50%

70%

70%

90%

82%

50%

95%

100%

90%

40%

20%

40%

70%

100%

10%

G Data InternetSecurity 2014 Kaspersky Internet Security 2013 AVG Family Safety

95%

10%

70%

50%

70%

90%

90%

100%

45%

92%

80%

70%

80%

50%

40%

60%

100%

40%

99%

0%

60%

10%

10%

0%

60%

100%

5%

Windows Live Family Safety

97%

0%

40%

20%

10%

20%

60%

45%

5%

TalkTalk HomeSafe

91%

100%

50%

20%

0%

20%

40%

0%

0%

OpenDNS Basic 66% MetaCert 88% 0% 0% 20% 0% 0% 10% 0% 0% 100% 90% 40% 0% 10% 0% 73% 0%

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LABS WINNER

PC PRO

Norton Family
An eective and well-rounded parental-control system thats user-friendly for both parents and kids even the free edition puts paid-for oerings to shame
PRICE Free; Premier, 30/yr SUPPLIER www.symantec.com
web lter slices up the internet into o fewer than 47 categories, so you can, for example, choose to allow access to sites discussing sexual orientation, while keeping practical sex education off limits. In our tests, these lters proved reassuringly effective. With Nortons Young Child lter mode activated, every single porn site and proxy we attempted to open was cleanly blocked, as was every site promoting gambling, suicide, anorexia and other unsavoury matters. Safe Search was locked on for Ask, Bing, Google, Yahoo and YouTube searches, ensuring we couldnt reach most salacious or tasteless images. A few sites hosting provocative content did slip through, however, including Encyclopedia Dramatica and LiveLeak a reminder that no ltering software is perfect. Conversely, informational sites about health and teen lifestyle issues sailed correctly through the lters, with only three false positives. What really impressed us was how Norton handled blocked pages, presenting a non-judgemental holding page (illustrated with a cute cartoon puppy) offering a text eld for the child to send an explanation or an access request to their parents should they so wish. Its by far the most child-friendly experience of any of this months packages. The free Norton Family also lets you restrict how much time your child spends on the PC, and can warn you about or block attempts by the child to share personal information online. Reporting features are basic: you get a log of the past seven days activity, but no sort of graphical breakdown. However, a nice touch is the ability to view a thumbnail screenshot of every site requested by each child (whether or not it was blocked), allowing you to keep an eye on things without leaving the interface.

1 2 3

Blocked sites are replaced by a friendly explanation page You can get your family set up through the web interface Norton Familys lters are impressively granular

orton Family is a standalone client-based parental-control system, offered in both free and paid-for variants. The Premier suite has more features, but the free package may well do all you need. Its centrally managed from a simple web console; you can install the client on up to ten PCs, congure restrictions for each child, and specify which accounts on which PCs are used by which children. Default settings are applied based on each childs age, but its easy to tweak these and specify exactly what should be accessible to whom. Nortons
PORN OTHER FALSE POSITIVES 100% 88% 15%

If you spring for the Premier package, youll get much more advanced reporting features, as well as the ability to monitor the videos your kids watch, and apply additional restrictions to personal Android devices (basic web ltering can be applied with Nortons free Android app). For most families, though, the free application will probably sufce. You get all the most important ltering features, and it doesnt pester you to upgrade beyond the occasional pop-up invitation, which can be dismissed with a click. The free edition of Norton Family might not do quite as much as the likes of Kaspersky, but in terms of effectiveness and usability, its our favourite parental-control solution.
FILTERING FEATURES EASE OF USE VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL

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RECOMMENDED

PC PRO

Blue Coat K9 Web Protection


It isnt much to look at, but this package achieves a creditable balance between comprehensive ltering and false positives and the price cant be beaten
PRICE Free SUPPLIER www.k9web protection.com
Family, managed a clean sweep in this category. K9 Web Protection gives you plenty of control, with a host of options to play with. There are no age-based proles, as other packages offer, but you can choose between four preset ltering modes, with increasing levels of strictness. Theres also a custom mode, allowing you to pick from 69 categories of websites; an option that enforces Safe Search on all major search engines; and the choice of enforcing YouTubes Safety Mode. The PC software is also complemented by a free, safe web browser, based on the mobile Firefox browser, which can be installed on childrens Android and iOS devices. If you prefer not to block websites, K9 lets parents choose simply to monitor web activity, which can then be reviewed via the reporting tools. These arent particularly pretty to look at, but are comprehensive. A summary page provides an overview of web-browsing activity by category, so you can see where the problem areas lie. Click on a category and youre taken to a more detailed breakdown, displaying all activity grouped by day or month. From the childs point of view, K9 offers an equally sensible array of options. Once a website is blocked, K9 presents a warning page that explains whats just happened, and provides password-protected options that parents can use to temporarily allow the website or category. Whats more, if the child thinks a site has been wrongly blocked, theres an option to submit the URL to Blue Coat for review. It isnt wholly good news. The software can only block web trafc it has no facility for monitoring or restricting IM and other applications. And it isnt particularly clever. Instead of ltering out pornographic images from Google image search, for

1 2 3

K9s admin console is easy to use and full of features Parents can use K9 to monitor activity, as well as block it K9 offers time restrictions and category ltering

ur rst impressions of K9 Web Protection werent at all positive. From the cheesy logo to the basic website, the software looks like something that might have been knocked up in a teenagers bedroom some time in the 1990s. In our tests, however, K9 was one of the best performers proving that you shouldnt judge a book by its cover. It succeeded in blocking 94% of the inappropriate sites we threw at it. The only black mark was that it allowed three pornographic sites through: our winner, Norton
PORN OTHER FALSE POSITIVES 96% 88% 20%

instance, it simply blocks the whole domain. Its irritating that in order to protect other PCs or laptops in your home you have to apply for another licence key, although, since this is free, its an inconvenience rather than a rip-off. Theres also no way of managing multiple PCs remotely as you can with Windows Live Family Safety or Norton Family. Still, despite our initial reservations, we came away impressed with K9 Web Protection. The front-end is clunky, and provides no way of managing multiple users and PCs. However, it packs in plenty of features, and performance is among the best here. We have no hesitation in recommending it, especially as its completely free.
FILTERING FEATURES EASE OF USE VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL


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LABS Parental controls

F-Secure Internet Security 2013


A simple package thats sharp enough to protect children and it stops viruses, too
PRICE 1 PC, 22/yr SUPPLIER www.ebuyer.com
In terms of effectiveness, F-Secures web lters were unexceptional. The commercial porn sites we tried to visit were all blocked, but we could access a blog laden with erotic photos which was rightly intercepted by most other systems. A handful of pro-suicide and pro-anorexia sites were allowed through, as was the ofcial website of the Ku Klux Klan. Most worryingly, even though access to anonymisers and uncategorised sites was supposedly blocked, the proxy site inCloak.com was fully accessible allowing us to view pornography and violence sites that we couldnt access directly. In fairness, only technically savvy kids are likely to nd this loophole, so if youre seeking a basic lter to protect kids from accidentally coming across disturbing images, F-Secure will do the job and it includes a virus scanner with an excellent track record for malware protection (web ID: 379939). However, there are more versatile packages out there, such as Kasperskys suite, and more effective ones, such as K9 and Norton.
FILTERING FEATURES EASE OF USE VALUE FOR MONEY

-Secures parental controls are built into the companys internet security suite, so you need to buy into a much larger package to get them. If you have three PCs to protect, that will set you back 40 per year via the F-Secure online store; a single-PC package can be bought elsewhere for a more palatable 22. Indeed, its a system that works best on a single PC, since theres no way to manage users centrally across multiple computers: setting up per-account restrictions is done locally, via the Online Safety portion of the security suite. Protection settings are applied by stepping through a straightforward three-stage process, which invites you to choose a blacklisting or whitelisting approach; to pick how to handle 13 different categories of web content; and to decide whether or not to enforce Safe Search mode on search engines. You can also apply time limits to browsing, and see a breakdown of visited websites over various time periods, from a day to a year. There arent any more advanced monitoring tools, however: you get the feeling that parental controls arent a major focus of the overall F-Secure package.

Kaspersky Internet Security 2013


Friendly and feature-packed, but let down by a few holes in web protection

OVERALL

asperskys parental controls come as part of a full internet security suite, but features arent limited in any way. In addition to web-ltering and internet-time-limiting options, you can prevent kids from logging on, or using specied applications, outside of approved times. Downloads can be permitted or blocked by category, so, for example, you can allow your kids to download MP3s but not executable les. On social networks and IM services, messages can be logged and a whitelist of contacts can be enforced, to ensure only bona de friends and family members are making contact. As with Norton Family, communications are also scanned for personal data to ensure your child isnt naively giving sensitive information away. Its all administered through an admirably clear tabbed interface, and we had no problem nding and tweaking settings. The only potentially important things we found missing were age-based restrictions for games and videos, and any sort of remote administration: the full suite must be locally installed and congured on each computer you want to monitor, so youll need to pay for a multi-PC licence if you want to cover a whole household.

PRICE 1 PC, 22/yr SUPPLIER www.amazon.co.uk


Although Kaspersky Internet Security is a very likeable package, its performance in our tests was a little disappointing. Its webltering system relies partly on keyword matching, so a blog of uncaptioned erotic photos wasnt blocked and while none of the commercial porn sites we tried to visit were fully accessible, a few got as far as displaying explicit welcome pages. Kaspersky also allowed through two gambling sites, three pages of gory images and numerous pro-anorexia sites. For this reason, if youre primarily seeking protection against inappropriate web content, Kaspersky wouldnt be our rst recommendation. If youre looking for parental controls that are integrated into a security system, however, Kaspersky remains a respectable all-round contender, offering great virus protection (web ID: 379918), a strong spread of ancillary features and a highly accessible interface.

OVERALL

FILTERING FEATURES EASE OF USE VALUE FOR MONEY

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Parental controls

LABS

McAfee Family Protection


A well-specified choice that suffers from a clunky interface and indifferent web filtering
PRICE 3 PCs, 7/yr SUPPLIER www.amazon.co.uk
more like Hotmail addresses than proper names and yet, despite this, you cant fully manage your family settings via McAfees web portal. You can monitor activity, though. We could perhaps forgive such irritations if McAfee delivered perfect protection. Sadly, in our tests it allowed partial access to three commercial porn sites: videos were successfully blocked, but we could still access plenty of lurid descriptions and images. In our false-positive test, McAfee beat all but a handful of rivals, correctly allowing us to visit almost all the health and information sites we wished. However, pro-suicide and pro-anorexia sites were also allowed through the lter more often than not, along with a handful of pages promoting violence and racism. On paper, McAfee Family Protection ticks a lot of boxes, but in practice its a pain to use, and it does a barely satisfactory job of blocking unsavoury websites. Even if you get it cheaply or free, thats hardly a ringing endorsement.
FILTERING FEATURES EASE OF USE VALUE FOR MONEY

cAfees commercial parental-control package can be had online quite cheaply and BT and Sky broadband customers can download a free version from their broadband provider (see p141). It provides customisable web ltering across 35 categories, including the ability to selectively block gaming, messaging, social networking and download sites. Web browsing can be restricted to a set schedule, and age ratings can be enforced (where possible) for online videos, and for music with explicit lyrics. Specic applications can be blocked, and you can set up alerts to be notied when private information is shared. In short, all the major bases are covered. The applications chunky grey-on-white design is ugly to our eyes, however, and is poorly laid out, with its controls distributed across an unwieldy 12 panes. Setting up users is a pain, too. Rather than integrating with Windows user accounts, McAfee requires each child to create a new McAfee ID, which must be unique across the companys entire system. Your nearest and dearest thus end up with obscure identities that sound

OpenDNS Basic
Patchy ltering performance puts this popular DNS service out of the running

OVERALL

penDNS works at the network level, so every URL request made from any device on your home network is ltered be that a laptop, tablet, smartphone or games console. This means you dont have to worry about cross-platform support. It also means the system cant be bypassed by connecting with an obscure device. To use it, you enter the OpenDNS server addresses into the DNS server elds on your router, create an account at the OpenDNS website, and link the two together. Once youve done that, youll nd plenty of controls to tinker with. The free OpenDNS Basic service offers website ltering at three levels high, moderate and low, each of which can be tailored to your own preferences plus a custom mode that lets you take full control of what is and isnt blocked, with 59 categories of website to choose from. The Basic service also includes anti-fraud and anti-phishing (via the PhishTank service), and theres basic botnet/malware protection, too. Paying $20 per year delivers more advanced web-use statistics, lets you manage more than one network, removes ads from block pages and adds a whitelist-only mode to your ltering options. Theres plenty here to get your teeth into, but there are niggles. As the service works at the router level, those with dynamic IP

PRICE One network, free; Home VIP, $20/yr SUPPLIER www.opendns.com


network addresses will need to install the OpenDNS agent on a regularly used PC, to keep the OpenDNS record of your IP address up to date. This adds complexity, and a potential point of weakness. In our tests, on its high lter setting, we found OpenDNS remarkably lax. Of the 70 pornographic test sites, it failed to block 22. It failed to block the explicit searches we carried out in Google and Bing, which resulted in wall-to-wall hardcore images being displayed in the browser. And we found it childs play to circumvent: four of the 11 test VPN and proxy pages allowed access to previously blocked pornographic content. In total, OpenDNS blocked only 61% of all our test sites. OpenDNS is a streamlined system, and it offers an impressively comprehensive feature set for nothing. But with performance results like these, we cant recommend it over the more effective tools on test.

OVERALL

FILTERING FEATURES EASE OF USE VALUE FOR MONEY


139

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LABS Parental controls

TalkTalk HomeSafe
Poor performance all round, with no defence at all against simple circumvention techniques
PRICE Free for TalkTalk customers SUPPLIER www.talktalk.co.uk
on Monday to Friday, or all week. And theres basic virus protection, which blocks websites infected with viruses. Thats it for features. Theres no whitelist for URLs you want to let through, and no way on the block page of requesting that a sites status be reviewed, or that it be temporarily allowed through the lter. There are no reporting or statistical tools you can use to keep tabs on browsing activity. We might be able to forgive all this if performance were good, but in our tests TalkTalks block rate for pornographic websites was a only 91%. It also allowed us to switch off Safe Search and view lewd images in Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.com image searches. Most concerning is the fact that the lter doesnt block proxy sites at all, allowing kids to employ the most straightforward of circumvention techniques to access illicit content. As a rst means of defence, HomeSafe is certainly worth switching on, but dont imagine for one moment that you can rely on it. Our award-winners this month offer more features, more exibility, and, most importantly, far better ltering performance.
FILTERING FEATURES EASE OF USE VALUE FOR MONEY

here most ISPs currently offer client software for download (see opposite), TalkTalk applies ltering at the network level. Currently, the lter is disabled by default; when the governments porn-lter law comes into effect, youll be forced to decide whether to turn it on or off. A network-level lter has its advantages. It protects all trafc on your network, from PCs to phones, laptops and tablets. Unlike DNS services, theres no need to ddle with client software, or worry about IP addresses. However, this is a very basic offering. Sign into your account, click the HomeSafe Edit Settings option and youll see three options. The rst is a simple on/off switch for the Kids Safe webltering feature. Select On and youre presented with a pop-up box giving you the choice of nine different categories of sites to block, all pre-selected by default. To the right are nine boxes, where you can enter additional URLs you want to blacklist. On the same pane, youll nd an option to block gaming and social networking sites during Homework Time a single, user-dened time slot applicable

Trend Micro Online Guardian


A decent set of web-administered protection tools but you have to buy it as a bundle

OVERALL

rend Micro Online Guardian comes bundled with the companys Maximum and Premium security suites, and offers a solid range of features. This includes support for up to ve children, monitoring of social networks and instant messaging, and a media log that lets you review the images and videos your kids have watched. Theres no mobile integration: Trends Mobile Security & Antivirus Android app offers web- and contact-ltering options, but its a separate 20 purchase. Online Guardian is set up through a colourful online interface. From here you can see biweekly usage summaries, adjust settings for individual family members and manage exceptions, keywords and email alerts. The web-based approach means you can congure settings and view reports from any computer in the world, but the heavy use of tabs makes navigation ddly. In our tests, Online Guardians web lter did a respectable job: it wasnt tricked by any of our porn sites, even the obscure ones, and achieved perfect results against proxies and gambling sites, too. It also did well in our false-positives test, blocking only one site on sexual health that, in our view, deserved to be let through.

PRICE 3 PCs, 38/yr SUPPLIER www.trendmicro.co.uk


Trend Micro didnt fare quite so solidly against hate sites, nor those promoting anorexia or suicide, but these pages arent the sort of thing youd stumble upon innocently. Overall, wed have to say Online Guardian does a good job of protecting well-meaning kids from in the most literal sense graphic content. If you dont want to buy into a whole security package, you can download Online Guardian on its own from Trend Micros US website (www. trendmicro.com) but at $50 per year, the saving is barely worth it. If youre looking for a comprehensive security and parental-control solution, however, Trend Micro has good all-round form: its Titanium Internet Security package received a solid six-star review in our last security Labs (web ID: 379924). That makes one of its Online Guardian bundles a viable alternative to Bitdefender and Kaspersky.

OVERALL

FILTERING FEATURES EASE OF USE VALUE FOR MONEY

140

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Parental controls

LABS

Windows Live Family Safety


Remote management and OS integration are valuable, but Family Safety doesnt oer enough control
PRICE Free SUPPLIER www.microsoft.com
which is where lter settings are managed. Theres no desktop UI beyond a link to the website. Its unnecessarily complicated and badly implemented. Try to change the level of web ltering, for example, and youre presented with a list of options that turn blue when you click on them. It isnt clear if this means theyre activated or not. When we tried to remove a website from our whitelist, Family Safety simply refused. Theres also no way of customising which categories you want blocked and unblocked, so you have to choose between preset proles that have huge gaps between them. Family Safetys Designed For Children mode, for instance, is a strict whitelist of child-friendly sites; the next option on the list General Interest allowed 53 questionable sites through its net. We like the fact that Family Safety is integrated into the OS. We like its application- and game-blocking tools, and the remote control facility. However, a maddening UI and split-level performance mean its far from our favourite solution.
FILTERING FEATURES EASE OF USE VALUE FOR MONEY

icrosofts parentalcontrol system is part of the Windows Live collection a range of free software that can be downloaded from the Microsoft website. Considering its free, Windows Live Family Safety is well stocked with features. It offers website ltering and lets you specify when kids can use the PC and when they cant. Theres application and download blocking, plus games ltering based on ratings, and, through the web-based control centre, its possible to manage all monitored accounts remotely. Once set up, it works sensibly. Blocked websites produce an explainer page with a pair of large buttons one for emailing an unblock request, another to Ask in person. The latter opens a password requester; entering the parental password adds the site to your whitelist. Anyone setting up the system is going to have a tougher time, however. Before you can get going, you must add Windows accounts for each child, then create Family Safety names for each one and link them together. Once thats done, you must brave the horrors of the Family Safety website UI,

ISP filters
ost UK households get their broadband from BT, Sky, Virgin, TalkTalk or EE. Four of these provide a complimentary parental-control system to their customers so if youre in the market, its worth checking what youre entitled to for free. For BT Broadband customers, thats a BT-branded edition of McAfee Family Protection (as reviewed on p139), which can be installed on up to seven PCs or Macs. As weve noted, McAfees suite has a decent spread of features, but does a mediocre job of web ltering. Wed incline towards Nortons free offering instead. Sky Broadband also uses McAfee software, but the current Sky-branded download is based on an older, more basic version of McAfees software. It still offers web-ltering and time-limiting features, but theres no social networking integration, and it doesnt support OS X: your subscription covers up to three Windows PCs. Again, it isnt a compelling offering. Virgin Media takes a different tack, basing its own-brand parental-control software on Trend Micros technology. The software doesnt support the full range of features found in Trends Online Guardian package its limited to web ltering and time limiting but it does include malware protection, powered by Trend Micros excellent antivirus engine (web ID: 379924). Up to three Windows PCs are supported, so for Virgin customers its a decent deal. For TalkTalk customers, theres nothing to install: TalkTalks own network-level lter system does the honours. In theory, this should protect every system that connects through your router, but in our tests it didnt impress us: see opposite for our full review of TalkTalks offering. That leaves EE as the sole major UK ISP not to offer any kind of parental-control service. That may sound like a shortcoming, but with several free systems available, including Microsofts own Family Safety built into Windows, you can see the logic. All of these provisions are subject to change, of course not least because the government has recently announced plans to require all ISPs to implement networklevel lters. It remains to be seen how effective such lters might be, however, and it seems unlikely theyll be able to match all the features of client-based systems. We suspect that locally installed parental-control software will be with us for a long time to come.

OVERALL

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LABS Parental controls

AVG Family Safety


PRICE 3 PCs, 30/yr SUPPLIER www.avg.com
AVG is known for its free security software, but Family Safety is a standalone package thats licensed yearly. It offers web ltering, time limiting, application blocking and ratings management for games, lms and TV shows, as well as monitoring whats shared on social networking sites. The suite has a few distinctive features: it supports live notications by SMS as well as email, so you can have a message sent directly to your phone if a blocked site is accessed, or if private information is shared online. Optional router-level ltering, using AVGs own DNS servers, lets you restrict Wi-Fi devices such as iPads. In our tests, AVG successfully intercepted every porn site we tried to visit, with the single exception of a site hosting Japanese adult cartoons. However, it stopped a very low proportion of sites promoting suicide, anorexia and racism. Shockingly, it also allowed us to access every one of the gambling sites we tried, even though we explicitly specied that such content should be blocked. All of this makes AVG a fair choice for managing your familys overall internet usage and restricting access to pornography; if youre looking for broader web protection, look elsewhere.

Bitdefender Parental Control


PRICE Unlimited, 20/yr SUPPLIER www.bit defender.co.uk
Like Norton, Bitdefender offers parental-control software in both free and paid-for editions. The free version doesnt block objectionable web pages, however; it merely tracks the sites your child visits. The paid-for package adds proper web ltering, Facebook monitoring, contact management and location tracking, via the companion Android app. Its all administered from the MyBitdefender website, which also supports the companys Anti-Theft and Safebox backup services. Bitdefenders web lter was tricked in our tests by a handful of porn pages that didnt contain obvious keywords; videos were correctly blocked, but explicit images were visible on more than one site. Betting sites and gory images were shut out completely, however, as were proxies and hate sites. Bitdefender Parental Control is also available as part of the A-Listed Internet Security 2013 package (web ID: 379732), but as a standalone package, its overshadowed by Norton, which provides better web ltering, and doesnt charge you for it.

OVERALL

FILTERING FEATURES EASE OF USE VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL

FILTERING FEATURES EASE OF USE VALUE FOR MONEY

G Data InternetSecurity 2014


PRICE 1 PC, 31/yr SUPPLIER www.play.com
This internet security suite includes a parental-control module, but its limited by the standards of client-based systems. It divides sites into ve broad categories, which you can block or allow for individual users, and lets you specify time limits and URLs to blacklist and whitelist. If a package only does a few things, it needs to do them well. Alas, G Data isnt very good, failing to prevent access to 90% of gambling sites, as well as numerous gore, pro-suicide and pro-anorexia pages. It also didnt directly block any of the proxy sites we tried, although it did successfully prevent them from serving up any objectionable content. Arguably, G Datas biggest failure was with porn sites: mainstream sites were fully cut off, but several of the lesser-known sites on our list remained partially accessible and once we were in, it took us only a few clicks to nd and view explicit videos. Thats a serious failing for any parentalcontrol system. G Datas high price may be partly excused by the inclusion of antivirus and rewall capabilities. But if parental controls are a major concern, its too compromised to recommend at any price.

FILTERING FEATURES EASE OF USE VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL

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Parental controls

LABS

MetaCert
PRICE Free SUPPLIER https://metacert.com
MetaCert is a DNS-based service that, like OpenDNS, can protect your entire home network. Its simple to set up: add the DNS server IP addresses into the appropriate elds on your routers setup pages, and youre ready to go. MetaCert has the same advantages of OpenDNS, in that all web trafc, regardless of the originating device, is ltered at the edge of your home network, rather than on a device-by-device basis. MetaCert doesnt have OpenDNSs problem of requiring static DNS, though, since there are no options to speak of. Its an on/ off service, aimed primarily at ltering out pornographic content. Its perhaps forgivable, then, that in our tests it failed to block most of the non-pornographic content on our list. Whats less forgivable is its record with the porn websites themselves: its 88% block rate is the second-worst performance in this Labs. Worse still was the ease with which the lter can be circumvented entirely. It blocked none of our proxy sites, and did nothing to intercept explicit image searches across the four major search engines. MetaCert is free and simple to use, but theres no escaping the fact that most rival products do a far better job.

Net Nanny 6.5


PRICE 1 PC, 30/yr SUPPLIER www.netnanny.co.uk
Net Nanny is a dedicated parental-control system, offering a broad set of features. It can monitor or block web access, social networking and games, and automatically analyse instant messaging for certain types of worrying conversation, logging details for later review. A clever masking feature gives you the option of removing expletives from web pages while allowing the rest of the content through a thoughtful approach that opens up access to all sorts of content that might otherwise be blocked. With its strictest lter settings applied, Net Nanny delivers an extremely conservative web experience. In our tests, it intercepted almost every one of our dodgy sites, and also blocked the majority of sites we considered legitimate. This isnt the end of the world children can easily click a link to request that a blocked site be permitted but it suggests you might have to manually approve or deny sites with a greater frequency than other software requires. At 30 per PC per year, Net Nanny is one of the most expensive options here, but if your priority is to give your child the best possible protection from unsavoury images and content, its arguably a price worth paying.

OVERALL

FILTERING FEATURES EASE OF USE VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL

FILTERING FEATURES EASE OF USE VALUE FOR MONEY

SafeDNS
PRICE Free SUPPLIER www.safedns.com
SafeDNS is a free cloud-based service. The best way to use it is to set up an account, then tap the DNS server details into your router this way, all URL requests are ltered, not only those from your local PC. If you dont have a static IP address, youll also need to download the SafeDNS Agent, which applies DNS settings locally. Since SafeDNS is a network service it can be managed remotely via the website. Here, you can view reports of browsing activity, blocked domains and categories for customisable date ranges. Its a simple and attractive tool, and performance isnt bad overall. With all categories set to blocked, only a small proportion of the nasty sites we tested got through. Disappointingly though, its worst showing was with pornographic sites, with a 93% block rate. It also produced more than its fair share of false positives, blocking pages on Wikipedia and the BBC homepage. Clearly, youll need to tinker with the categories to get the balance right. Overall, SafeDNS is a decent free solution the best of the DNS services weve tested, in fact, with good stats and analysis tools. Sadly, performance is a little too uneven for our liking.

FILTERING FEATURES EASE OF USE VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL


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Parental controls

LABS

VIEW FROM THE LABS

T
By their nature, mobile devices are hard to supervise

Mobile monitoring
n this Labs weve focused on PC-based protection, but todays kids use tablets and smartphones too. A network-level ltering service can keep unwanted content off these devices at home, but as soon as your child takes their device to a friends house, or switches to a mobile data network, that protection is lost. Happily, almost all such devices can be equipped with some sort of parental controls. In iOS, basic controls are baked into the operating system to congure them, open the Settings view, then go to General | Restrictions. iOS doesnt have a built-in web lter, but you can disable Safari and install a third-party browser that does: K9 Web Protection Browser is one option, using the same ltering database as its desktop offering (see p137). Another option is the Mobicip Safe Browser, which offers basic ltering for free, or customisable ltering for 10 per year. Android devices dont usually offer integrated parental controls, but Google Play is well stocked with third-party apps offering mobile-specic features. For example, Norton Premier customers can download an app that monitors text messaging and app usage as well as providing web-ltering services, while Bitdefender offers location tracking, so you can keep an eye on your kids whereabouts. In several cases, an Android app is offered as a free companion to a desktop product, but it may make sense to choose a different brand of mobile protection in order to get the features you need. For Windows Phone devices, the My Family online service (accessible via www. windowsphone.com) can restrict app downloads, and prevent children from installing software with inappropriate age ratings. Microsofts Family Safety service doesnt extend to smartphones, but AVGs Family Safety browser aims to provide a similar service for free. Alternatively, you might prefer the SmyleSafe browser (www.smylesafe.com), which offers tracking and monitoring features for around 8 per year. The situation is similar for BlackBerry users: under Options | Security | Parental Controls youll nd options to disable location services, the BlackBerry Messenger, Facebook, and the default browser which can again be replaced by SmyleSafe. Some users have found the software slow and glitchy on BlackBerry, but for this platform its your only choice.

he results of this months web-lter tests arent exactly reassuring. Time and again we saw graphic pornography sail through supposedly strict lters, while harmless news and reference pages were blocked. Such failures shouldnt be a surprise. No doubt some human intelligence feeds into the ltering process, but with more than 600 million websites in existence, and an estimated 100,000 new ones springing up every day, it simply isnt possible to inspect every site manually. Much of the work of categorising websites must inevitably be handled by computer heuristics. And this, unfortunately, isnt a task for which computers are well equipped. A pair of human eyes can identify a pornographic image in a fraction of a second, but its extremely difcult to do the same in software. Similarly, a person can skim a discussion forum and quickly discern whether the content is child-appropriate or not; training a computer to achieve the same feat would represent a tremendous AI challenge. So, ltering software typically relies on cruder approaches, such as examining a URLs reputation or scanning for suggestive keywords. As our results show, these techniques arent foolproof. In several cases, pages containing explicit images but minimal text slipped through the net, and when it came to text-heavy sites such

No matter which product you use, something is likely to get through


as pro-suicide and pro-anorexia blogs, the overall success rate was entirely mediocre. The upshot is that you cant rely on any computer-based system to completely exclude obscene or upsetting online content not unless you use whitelisting to lock your child inside a walled garden of approved sites. Otherwise, no matter which product you use, sooner or later something inappropriate will get through. Its important, therefore, to approach web ltering as only one aspect of a home internet strategy, which should also involve communicating with your children, to set out personal expectations and warn them in advance of what to do if they come across something theyre not mature enough to handle. Its a good idea to have this conversation even if you do enforce a whitelist: kids are inquisitive, and while they may not run into transgressive material at home, they will experience it through friends and via personal mobile devices. As an aside, this months deeply imperfect results give a strong hint of what we can expect from the governments proposed nationwide porn lters. It seems extremely unlikely that these lters will actually banish porn from family homes. More likely, theyll simply lull parents into a false sense of security, leading them to imagine their childrens laptops have been secured with no involvement required from them, when the reality, based on what weve seen this month, is far less reassuring.

DARIEN GRAHAM-SMITH darien@pcpro.co.uk

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THE A-LIST
LAPTOPS, PCs & TABLETS
COMPACT TABLET Nexus 7 (2013)
16GB, 199; 32GB, 239 http://play.google.com WEB ID N/A ISSUE 229
Slimmer, lighter and faster than the previous model, with a stunning 1,200 x 1,920 screen and a rear-facing camera; it isnt the cheapest 7in Android tablet out there, but its the best.

NEW ENTRY

FULL-SIZE TABLET Apple iPad (4th gen)


32GB, 479 (3G, 579) www.apple.com/uk WEB ID 378337 ISSUE 220
The Retina display is as stunning as ever, and Apple pushes the iPad to new heights of performance with an upgraded ARM processor. Wed still opt for the 32GB version, though.

KEY SPECS 7in 1,200 x 1,920 IPS LCD; Android 4.3; quad-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU; 2GB
RAM; 16/32GB storage; dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi; 5MP rear/1.2MP front camera; 114 x 8.6 x 200mm; 290g ALTERNATIVE

KEY SPECS 9.7in 1,536 x 2,048 IPS LCD; iOS 6; dual-core 1.2GHz Apple A6X; 1GB RAM; 32GB storage; dual-band
802.11n Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4; 5MP rear/1.2MP front camera; 186 x 9.7 x 241mm; 662g ALTERNATIVE

Barnes & Noble Nook HD


The Nook HD has always been a ne compact tablet with a fabulous screen, but now its only 79, its simply stunning value for money. 66 (79); http://uk.nook.com WEB ID 378385

Nexus 10
The Nexus 10 harnesses Samsungs tablet expertise to create the nest Android slate money can buy. A stunning 2,560 x 1,600 display is matched by nippy performance and its affordable, too. 16GB Wi-Fi, 266 (319); http://play.google.com WEB ID 378280

BUDGET LAPTOP Acer Aspire S3


325 (390) www.saveonlaptops.co.uk WEB ID N/A ISSUE 228
If youve been hankering after an Ultrabook, Acers Aspire S3 is a bona de bargain. It isnt strictly new it has an old Sandy Bridge processor but with solid performance, its cracking value.

MID-RANGE LAPTOP Asus VivoBook S400CA


517 (620) www.ebuyer.com WEB ID 379618 ISSUE 222
Formerly known as the S400E, Asus VivoBook S400CA crams a 14in touchscreen and Core i7 processor into a stylish metal chassis, and manages to keep the price down, too.

KEY SPECS 1.4GHz Intel Core i3-2377M; 4GB RAM; 500GB HDD; Intel HD Graphics 3000; 13.3in 1,366 x 768 TFT;
Windows 8 64-bit; 1yr C&R warranty; 323 x 219 x 18mm; 1.38kg ALTERNATIVE

KEY SPECS 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U; 4GB RAM; 500GB HDD; Intel HD Graphics 4000; 14in 1,366 x 768 TFT;
Windows 8 64-bit; 339 x 239 x 24mm; 1.82kg ALTERNATIVE

Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite


Samsung works some penny-pinching magic to produce a serviceable Ultrabook-style laptop for an amazing price although not without making a few compromises. 500 (600); www.johnlewis.com WEB ID 383779

MSI CX61

NEW

MSIs 15.6in laptop is as plasticky as laptops get, but with the great Full HD screen now accompanied by a modern Haswell processor, its a bargain. 583 (700); www.saveonlaptops.co.uk WEB ID 380749

ULTRABOOK Samsung Series 7 Ultra


833 (1,000) www.pcworld.co.uk WEB ID 382597 ISSUE 227
A high-quality touchscreen, stunning chassis and discrete AMD graphics make for a multitalented Ultrabook. The lack of Haswell is disappointing, but the superior gaming performance makes up for it.

ENTHUSIAST LAPTOP Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display


1,499 (1,799) www.apple.com/uk WEB ID 375337 ISSUE 215
Its ditched the DVD drive and slimmed down, but the MacBook Pros incredible 2,880 x 1,800 screen is a stunning technological tour de force.

KEY SPECS 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3337U; 6GB RAM; 128GB SSD; AMD Radeon HD 8570M graphics; 13.3in 1,920 x 1,080 TFT; Windows 8 64-bit; 1yr RTB warranty; 324 x 224 x 22mm; 1.6kg
ALTERNATIVE

KEY SPECS 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-3630QM; 8GB RAM; 256GB SSD; Intel HD Graphics 4000; Nvidia GeForce GT
650M; 15.4in 2,880 x 1,800 TFT; OS X; 1yr C&R warranty; 359 x 247 x 18mm; 2.02kg ALTERNATIVE

Apple MacBook Air 13in


Theres no Retina display, but improved battery life and gaming performance make the MacBook Air better value than ever. 791 (949); www.apple.com/uk WEB ID 382534

Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1


The price is high, but the ruggedised build and thoughtful design allow this 10.1in Windows 8 tablet to survive the kind of abuse that would destroy lesser devices. 1,496 (1,795); www.laptopsdirect.co.uk WEB ID 381940

146

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Our hand-picked selection of 102 best buys, chosen from the dozens of products tested each month in the PC Pro labs

MEDIA PC Chillblast Fusion Vacuum Mini


832 (999) www.chillblast.com WEB ID 376774 ISSUE 218
A silent and well-specied living room PC that delivers dual TV tuners and promising performance but it doesnt come cheap.

ALL-IN-ONE PC Apple iMac 27in


1,816 (2,179) www.apple.com/uk WEB ID 379831 ISSUE 223
Apples redesigned iMac is a force to be reckoned with. Superb design is married with great all-round performance, and the high-resolution 27in display is by far the best weve seen on any all-in-one.

KEY SPECS 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-3770S; 16GB RAM; 240GB Intel 330 SSD; Blu-ray reader; 2 x USB 3; 6 x USB 2; Windows 7 Home Premium; 2yr C&R warranty; 240 x 250 x 100mm
ALTERNATIVE

KEY SPECS 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-3770; 8GB RAM; 1TB Fusion Drive; Nvidia GeForce GTX 680MX; 27in 2,560 x 1,440 IPS TFT; OS X Mountain Lion; 1yr RTB warranty; 650 x 203 x 516mm
ALTERNATIVE

Apple Mac mini


Apples hardware is as enticing as ever, and forgoing some of the Mac minis expensive upgrades makes this system good value, too. 799 (959); www.apple.com/uk WEB ID 379153

Asus ET2300
A versatile double-hinged design and high-quality screen make an all-in-one that works well with Windows 8. The price is right, too. 626 (751); www.cclonline.com WEB ID 380698

BUDGET PC Chillblast Fusion Templar


612 (734) www.chillblast.com WEB ID 380104 ISSUE 223
Good performance goes hand in hand with an excellent Iiyama monitor, and theres plenty of upgrade potential as well. At this price, the Fusion Templar is a superb choice for buyers on a budget.

HIGH-END PC Wired2Fire HAL 4000


1,136 (1,363) www.wired2re.co.uk WEB ID 380227 ISSUE 223
The Fractal Design Node 304 case makes for a highly compact base unit, but thanks to judicious overclocking and a lightning-fast SSD RAID array, the HAL 4000 packs in serious performance.

KEY SPECS 3.3GHz Intel Core i5-3570K @ 4.5GHz; 8GB RAM; 1TB hard disk; DVD writer; AMD Radeon HD 7770 graphics; 23in 1,920 x 1,080 TFT; Windows 8 64-bit; 1yr RTB warranty
ALTERNATIVE

KEY SPECS 3.4GHz Intel Core i5-3570K @ 4.4GHz; 8GB RAM; 2 x 120GB SSDs; 1TB HDD; Nvidia GeForce GTX
680 graphics; Windows 8 64-bit; 2yr RTB warranty; 250 x 374 x 210mm ALTERNATIVE

Palicomp Phoenix i5 Destiny


A Blu-ray drive, a solid 22in Full HD monitor, and now an updated graphics card and a new, overclocked Ivy Bridge processor. At this price, its a great low-end deal. 583 (700); www.palicomp.co.uk WEB ID 366679

Dino PC Green Reaper


A monstrously quick base unit with the latest Haswell CPU tech and a high-end graphics card. It isnt cheap, though. 1,333 (1,599); www.dinopc.com WEB ID 383329

BUSINESS/EXECUTIVE LAPTOP Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon


1,188 (1,426) www.lenovo.co.uk WEB ID 377827 ISSUE 220
Lenovo revisits its X1 and produces the business-class Ultrabook weve been waiting for. Were not as keen on the touchscreen version (web ID: 381046).

BUSINESS PC Lenovo ThinkStation E31


785 (942) www.ebuyer.com WEB ID 376852 ISSUE N/A
This small-form-factor workstation is tiny, but it still includes an Intel Xeon processor and Nvidia Quadro graphics for a reasonable price.

KEY SPECS 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3427U; 4GB RAM; 240GB SSD; 14in 1,600 x 900 TFT; dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4; 3G; 3yr RTB warranty; 331 x 226 x 19mm; 1.36kg
ALTERNATIVE

KEY SPECS 3.3GHz Intel Xeon E3-1230 v2; 4GB RAM; 1TB HDD; DVD-RW; Nvidia Quadro 600 graphics; Windows 7
Professional; 3yr RTB warranty ALTERNATIVE

Dell Latitude 10
The rst Windows 8 business tablet excels with class-leading battery life, solid peripherals and practical hardware. For sheer exibility, nothing comes close. 543 (652); www.dell.co.uk WEB ID 380869

Fujitsu Esprimo Q510


Fujitsus compact PC base unit takes up barely any space on a desk, delivers plenty of power and has ample connectivity. From 366 (439); www.morecomputers.com WEB ID 378769

147

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A-LIST Best buys

MOBILE
SMARTPHONE HTC One
Free, 27/mth, 24mths www.mobilephonesdirect.co.uk WEB ID 380644 ISSUE 224
HTC reclaims the top spot with the HTC One. A benchmarkbench kbusting handset that marries stunning design with all-round panache, this is the nest smartphone money can buy.

MONITORS
BUDGET TFT Dell UltraSharp U2312HM
129 (155) www.amazon.co.uk WEB ID 375760 ISSUE 214
With falling prices placing it among the cheapest monitors on the market, Dells UltraSharp U2312HM delivers an unusually rened, high-end performance for sensible money.

CAMERAS
DIGITAL COMPACT/CSC Sony Alpha NEX-6
488 (585) www.amazon.co.uk WEB ID 378553 ISSUE 221
With a small, sharp kit lens, fast autofocus, intuitive controls and integrated ash, the NEX-6 is the rst compromise-free CSC: a delight to use, with rst-class image quality.

KEY SPECS 1.7GHz CPU; 2GB RAM; 32GB storage; 4.7in 1,080 x 1,920
ALTERNATIVE

TFT; 802.11ac Wi-Fi; 8MP camera; Android 4.1.2; 68 x 137 x 9.3mm; 143g

KEY SPECS 23in 1,920 x 1,080 IPS matte TFT; DVI; D-SUB; DisplayPort;
300cd/m2 brightness; 547 x 186 x 493mm ALTERNATIVE

KEY SPECS 16MP APS-C sensor; 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens; 10fps burst
mode; SDXC/MS Pro Duo slot; 1yr RTB warranty; 120 x 43 x 67mm; 470g ALTERNATIVE

Samsung Galaxy S4
A brilliant smartphone with a 5in screen, a 13-megapixel camera and storming performance. Only just falls short of the top spot. 49, 26/mth, 24mths; www.dialaphone.co.uk WEB ID 381229

Dell UltraSharp U2412M


Not the cheapest 24in monitor, but the increasingly rare 1,920 x 1,200 resolution IPS panel is superb. 171 (205); www.amazon.co.uk WEB ID 375823

Canon PowerShot S110


With top-quality stills and video, and a comprehensive set of features, Canons S110 is the ultimate pocket-sized compact. 167 (200); www.simplyelectronics.net WEB ID 378604

SATNAV TomTom
From 33 (40) Apple App Store WEB ID 375418 ISSUE 213
The TomTom app for iPhone and iPad is undoubtedly the best of the bunch. The Android version is inferior and works with only certain screen resolutions: opt for CoPilot instead.

PREMIUM TFT ViewSonic VP2770-LED


439 (527) www.scan.co.uk WEB ID 377770 ISSUE 220
The ViewSonics 27in, 2,560 x 1,440 IPS panel delivers ample brightness and fantastic colour accuracy straight out of the box, and the USB 3 hub is a boon. At this price, its a bargain.

DSLR Nikon D600


1,163 (1,369) www.parkcameras.com WEB ID 378103 ISSUE 220
Nikon makes a full-frame DSLR affordable. With high-end features and sublime image quality, the D600 should be the choice of amateur enthusiasts and semi-professionals alike.

KEY SPECS Requires iPhone/iPad (or iPod Touch with GPS add-on); UK/
ALTERNATIVE

ROI maps; HD Trafc, 27/yr or 4/mth; speed cameras, 27/yr or 4/mth

KEY SPECS 27in 2,560 x 1,440 IPS semi-glossy TFT; DisplayPort, HDMI,
DVI-D, D-SUB; 2 x USB 3; 2 x USB 2; 642 x 348 x 514mm ALTERNATIVE

KEY SPECS 24.3MP full-frame sensor; 39-point autofocus (9 cross-type);


5.5fps burst mode; dual SDXC slots; 141 x 82 x 113mm; 850g ALTERNATIVE

TomTom Go 500
TomTom strikes back with a slick, capable GPS device. With a lifetime trafc subscription bundled for free, its top value. 143 (172); www.currys.co.uk WEB ID 383008

Dell UltraSharp U2913WM


Great image quality and features are supported by a three-year warranty this is ideal for games and movie buffs. 333 (400); www.overclockers.co.uk WEB ID 380038

Canon EOS 70D


899 (1,079); www.currys.co.uk WEB ID N/A

NEW

Blisteringly fast and accurate autofocus, combined with stro strong performance, makes the 70D a mid-range bargain.

EBOOK READER Amazon Kindle Paperwhite


Wi-Fi, 91 (109); Wi-Fi and 3G, 141 (169) www.amazon.co.uk WEB ID 377665 ISSUE 219

SPECIALIST TFT Eizo ColorEdge CG276


1,278 (1,534) www.nativedigital.com WEB ID 381835 ISSUE 225
The Eizo ColorEdge CG276 is one of the nest TFTs ever made. Image quality is superb, and the ingenious integrated colorimeter takes the hassle out of regular colour calibration.

DIGITAL VIDEO CAMERA Panasonic HC-X800


373 (447) www.amazon.co.uk WEB ID 372862 ISSUE 211
Now that the HDC-TM900 has disappeared from stores, this is the video camera to buy. It shoots fantastic footage in all conditions and the image stabilisation system is superb.

Amazon adds a front light and a capacitive touchscreen to its already excellent Kindle, and the result is the best ebook reader money can buy.

KEY SPECS 6in 758 x 1,024 Pearl E Ink screen; 2GB storage; 1yr RTB
warranty; 117 x 9 x 169mm; 213g ALTERNATIVE

KEY SPECS 27in 2,560 x 1,440 IPS TFT; 350cd/m2; 1,000:1 contrast;
DisplayPort; HDMI; DVI; 646 x 282 x 577mm; 1 ALTERNATIVE

KEY SPECS 1080/50p AVCHD; 3 x 1/4.1in CMOS sensors; 12x optical


zoom; 9.15MP; 3in LCD; 63 x 68 x 134mm; 345g ALTERNATIVE

Kobo Glo
Kobos answer to the Kindle Paperwhite partners front lighting with an optical touchscreen. 82 (99); www.morecomputers.com WEB ID 377821

Eizo ColorEdge CX240


Hugely expensive for a 24in monitor, but image quality is amazing thanks to RGB LED backlighting. 727 (872); www.nativedigital.com WEB ID 377272

GoPro Hero3 Black Edition


Supreme exibility and cracking HD video quality make this the best action sports camera weve seen. Well worth the cash. 299 (359); www.parkcameras.com WEB ID 381793

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Best buys
Create your own reviews comparison shor tlist www.pcpro.co.uk/reviews

A-LIST

PRINTERS
CONSUMER ALL-IN-ONE Canon Pixma MG5450
82 (98) www.printerbase.co.uk WEB ID 381991 ISSUE 224
The Pixma MG5450 works wonders with its ve-ink print engine, serving up high-quality prints and copies, and crystal-clear scans. Long-term running costs are reasonable.

SOFTWARE
INTERNET SECURITY Bitdefender Internet Security 2013
25 (30), 3 PCs, 1yr www.amazon.co.uk WEB ID N/A ISSUE 221
Bitdefender partners a comprehensive set of features with exceptional malware detection and for a bargain price. ALTERNATIVE

BACKUP/STORAGE Livedrive
3/mth (unlimited GB), 1 PC www.livedrive.com WEB ID 373558 ISSUE 210
Easy to use, cheap and packed with features, Livedrive is the best all-in cloud backup service. ALTERNATIVE

ACCOUNTING FreeAgent
From 15/mth, unlimited users www.freeagent.com WEB ID 367126 ISSUE 201
Small-business owners, freelancers and traders lacking accounting experience will love the online FreeAgent. ALTERNATIVE

KEY SPECS 5-ink engine; 7.5cm screen; 125-sheet input tray; duplex;
802.11n Wi-Fi; 455 x 369 x 148mm ALTERNATIVE

Avast Free Antivirus


The best free antivirus, with great protection and oodles of features. Free; www.avast.com WEB ID N/A

Dropbox
Dropbox makes sharing and syncing les easy across most devices. 2GB, free; www.dropbox.com WEB ID 373561

Xero
Multiuser and payroll features make this tempting for large businesses. From 12 (14); www.xero.com WEB ID 367120

HP Photosmart 5520
HPs Photosmart 5520 conjures up good-quality photos and great performance. Running costs are relatively low, too. 48 (57); www.johnlewis.co.uk WEB ID 382528

OFFICE ALL-IN-ONE Epson WorkForce WF-3530DTWF


104 (125) www.printerland.co.uk WEB ID 382294 ISSUE 224
Epsons inkjet MFD packs in plenty of features for relatively little cash. While print quality isnt stunning, its speedy at everything bar photo printing; and running costs are low.

PRODUCTIVITY Microsoft Oice 2013


From 92 (110) http://ofce.microsoft.com WEB ID 379510 ISSUE 220
Remains the ultimate ofce suite, but despite new touch-friendly features, existing users neednt rush to upgrade. ALTERNATIVE

WEB DEVELOPMENT Drupal 7


Free www.drupal.org WEB ID 364549 ISSUE 198
It isnt a simple turn-key CMS, but the exibility of its add-on modules puts it a step ahead of the competition. ALTERNATIVE

GRAPHICS/DESIGN Adobe CS6 Design Standard


963 (1,155) www.morecomputers.com WEB ID 374218 ISSUE 213
Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator are a potent trio wed still take this package over a Creative Cloud subscription. ALTERNATIVE

KEY SPECS 4-ink print engine; 6.3cm screen; 2 x 250-sheet input trays;
3-sheet ADF; duplex; fax; Ethernet; 802.11n Wi-Fi; 449 x 427 x 308mm ALTERNATIVE

Scrivener for Windows


A powerful document creation and organisation tool for serious writers. 24 (29); www.literatureandlatte.com WEB ID 371680

Adobe Dreamweaver CS6


Improved for mobiles, although no longer the dominant web standard it once was. 301 (361); www.amazon.co.uk WEB ID 374221

Xara Designer Pro X9 NEW


With Creative Cloud now subscriptioniption only, Xara has never looked so tempting. 195 (234); www.xara.com/uk WEB ID N/A

HP Ocejet 6700 Premium


It cant match the Epson for speed or features, but with solid quality and low running costs, HP should be on your shortlist. 83 (100); www.printerland.co.uk WEB ID 382393

PERSONAL LASER Lexmark C540n


99 (119) www.printerland.co.uk WEB ID 353659 ISSUE 199
A well-built, network-capable colour laser with reasonable running costs, a huge 250-sheet paper tray and fast, top-quality document and image output all at a competitive price.

PHOTO EDITING Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5


82 (98) www.morecomputers.com WEB ID 382342 ISSUE 225
Substantial new features and editing tools make Lightroom 5 better than ever, and its still affordable, too. ALTERNATIVE

VIDEO EDITING Adobe Premiere Pro CS6


625 (750) www.amazon.co.uk WEB ID 374092 ISSUE 213
Premiere Pro CS6s slick interface and powerful tools are a perfect t for professional video production. ALTERNATIVE

AUDIO PRODUCTION Steinberg Cubase 7


318 (382) www.dv247.com WEB ID 378724 ISSUE 221
An overhaul of a heavyweight package, Cubase provides experienced users with the most precise and exible tools yet. ALTERNATIVE

KEY SPECS A4 colour laser; 21ppm speed; USB; Ethernet; 250-sheet


input tray; 100-sheet output tray; 595 x 495 x 402mm ALTERNATIVE

Adobe Photoshop CS6


Hugely expensive, but for professionals nothing else comes close. 520 (624); www.amazon.co.uk WEB ID 373714

Brother HL-2270DW
A mono laser with all the features a home ofce needs, plus good print speed and quality as well. 121 (145); www.printerland.co.uk WEB ID 362242

Sony Movie Studio Platinum 12


64-bit support and powerful editing tools unite in an affordable package. 33 (39); www.amazon.co.uk WEB ID 376474

Ableton Live 9
Adds audio-to-MIDI conversion to an already rounded and mature product. 282 (339); www.dv247.com WEB ID 381541

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A-LIST Best buys

NETWORKING
EXTERNAL HARD DISK Western Digital My Passport
2TB, 89 (107) www.amazon.co.uk WEB ID 380806 ISSUE 224
The My Passport matches huge capacity with superb value. It has no gimmicks, but its the drive of choice when it comes to space and price. 15mm; 230g

COMPONENTS
PROCESSOR Intel Core i5-3570K
146 (175) www.amazon.co.uk WEB ID 374158 ISSUE 213
Its a little slower than the Core i7s, but Intels i5-3570K is our chip of choice thanks to its combination of excellent performance and a reasonable price.

MAINSTREAM GRAPHICS CARD Nvidia GeForce GTX 650 Ti Boost


Typically, 140 Depends on brand WEB ID 382297 ISSUE 225
Nvidia conjures up a solid mid-range card. If you cant stretch to the GTX 660 Ti, the GTX 650 Ti Boost delivers smooth, Full HD gaming performance for sensible money.

KEY SPECS 2TB HDD; USB 3; 2yr RTB warranty; 82 x 111 x

KEY SPECS 3.4GHz (3.8GHz Turbo Boost); LGA 1155 quad-core CPU; Intel HD Graphics 4000; 6MB L3 cache; 77W TDP; 22nm
ALTERNATIVE

KEY SPECS 768 stream processors; 980MHz core; 2GB GDDR5 RAM;
28nm; 1 x 6-pin connector; 240mm long ALTERNATIVE

ALTERNATIVE

Bualo HDW-PU3 MiniStation Air


Wireless access makes this a versatile alternative, although the price is inevitably driven up by this feature. 500GB, 83 (100); www.scan.co.uk WEB ID 380806

AMD A10-6800K
AMDs Richland update improves on last years Trinity chips, and the A10-6800K delivers better performance across the board. 93 (111); www.scan.co.uk WEB ID 382510

AMD Radeon HD 6450


The HD 6450 is ne for playing HD video on an old PC without modern integrated graphics. Typically, 30 WEB ID N/A

NETWORK STORAGE Synology DS213air


Diskless, 190 (228) www.ballicom.co.uk WEB ID 381970 ISSUE 225
Synology adds Wi-Fi, a faster processor and USB 3 ports to its award-winning DS212j, and comes up with a real winner. Its fast, exible and fantastically easy to use.

MOTHERBOARD Asus P8Z77-V Pro


137 (165) www.amazon.co.uk WEB ID 376573 ISSUE 215
The latest Asus includes 802.11n Wi-Fi, as well as almost every feature a PC builder needs, with plenty of sockets and ports, plus a UEFI BIOS. Its the ideal partner for Ivy Bridge.

ENTHUSIAST GRAPHICS CARD Nvidia GeForce GTX 680


Typically, 350 Depends on brand WEB ID 373696 ISSUE 212
If you have enough cash, Nvidias 28nm debut blows AMD away: quicker in practically every test, with impressive new features and its more efcient, too.

KEY SPECS 2 x 3.5in drive bays; 802.11bgn Wi-Fi; Synology Hybrid


ALTERNATIVE

RAID, JBOD, RAID0, 1; 2 x USB 3; 2yr RTB warranty; 100 x 225 x 164mm

KEY SPECS Socket LGA 1155; Intel Z77 chipset; 3 x PCI-E x16;
ALTERNATIVE

2 x PCI-E x1; 2 x PCI; 4 x USB 3; 4 x DDR3 DIMM sockets; 802.11n Wi-Fi

KEY SPECS 1,536 stream processors; 1,006MHz core; 2GB/4GB GDDR5


RAM; 28nm; 2 x 6-pin connectors; 257mm long ALTERNATIVE

Qnap TS-412 Turbo NAS


This four-bay NAS device doesnt major in speed, but good design and a range of features make it the high-end choice. Diskless, 218 (262); www.amazon.co.uk WEB ID 374695

MSI Z77A-G43
MSIs board offers a rich, rounded specication, Intels Z77 chipset and Ivy Bridge support for a reasonable price. 65 (78); www.box.co.uk WEB ID 376576

Nvidia GeForce GTX 660 Ti


For awless single-screen gaming, the GeForce GTX 660 Ti provides a serious amount of bang for your buck. Typically, 140 WEB ID 376438

WIRELESS ROUTER Asus DSL-N55U


87 (104) www.broadbandbuyer.co.uk WEB ID N/A ISSUE 225
The Asus DSL-N55U is a superb all-rounder. It combines a great range of features with a clear, accessible user interface, and wireless performance is right up there with the best.

SOLID-STATE DISK Samsung 840 Pro


256GB, 147 (176) www.ebuyer.com WEB ID 380455 ISSUE 223
Samsungs update to its high-end SSD pushes performance into the stratosphere. Thanks to the proprietary MDX controller and 22nm NAND, the 840 Pro is the fastest SSD weve ever tested.

HARD DISK Seagate Barracuda 7200.14


2TB, 54 (65) www.cclonline.com WEB ID N/A ISSUE 226
With its combination of a 7,200rpm spindle speed and a cache of 64MB, this drive delivered a decent all-round performance in the benchmarks.

KEY SPECS Concurrent dual-band 802.11n ADSL2/2+ router;


4 x Gigabit Ethernet; 2 x USB 2; 207 x 149 x 36mm ALTERNATIVE

KEY SPECS 2.5in SATA 6Gbits/sec solid-state drive; Samsung MDX controller. Part code: MZ-7PD256BW
ALTERNATIVE

KEY SPECS 3.5in SATA 6Gbits/sec HDD; 7,200rpm spindle speed; 64MB cache; 2yr RTB warranty. Part code: ST2000DM001
ALTERNATIVE

Netgear DGND4000
A huge range of features including ADSL and cable support, good future-proong and quick performance. A worthy choice. 96 (115); www.broadbandbuyer.co.uk WEB ID 382000

SanDisk Ultra Plus


It cant match the top-tier SSDs for performance, but this budget unit delivers good all-round performance at a bargain price. 256GB, 104 (125); www.ebuyer.com WEB ID 380818

Toshiba DT
A quick performer in our sequential le benchmarks, this drive is also good value. 2TB, 50 (60); www.ebuyer.com WEB ID N/A

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Best buys
For the latest Enterprise news and reviews visit www.pcpro.co.uk/enterprise

A-LIST

ENTERPRISE
RACK SERVER Broadberry CyberServe XE5-R224
3,919 exc VAT www.broadberry.co.uk WEB ID 378319 ISSUE 219
With storage space galore, plenty of room for expansion and low power consumption, the CyberServe XE5-R224 lacks only a little on the features front. At this price, its superb value.

PEDESTAL SERVER Fujitsu Primergy TX100 S3p


442 exc VAT www.ebuyer.com WEB ID 377572 ISSUE 218
The Primergy TX100 S3p combines all-round quality with an unbeatable price, making it a top choice as a small-business server.

SECURITY APPLIANCE Netgear ProSecure UTM25S


3yr subscription, 736 exc VAT www.ballicom.co.uk WEB ID 380524 ISSUE 223
Netgears ProSecure UTM25S provides good performance and a comprehensive set of security features for considerably less than the opposition. Its an excellent choice for SMBs on a budget.

KEY SPECS 2U rack chassis; 2.4GHz Xeon E5-2665; 32GB DDR3 RAM;
ALTERNATIVE

2 x 300GB SAS HDD; 4 x Gigabit Ethernet; 2 x 750W PSU; 3yr on-site NBD

KEY SPECS 3.1GHz Xeon E3-1220V2; 8GB DDR3; 2 x 500GB HDD;


4 x PCI-E Gen3; 9 x USB 2; 2 x Gigabit Ethernet; 1yr on-site warranty ALTERNATIVE

KEY SPECS Desktop chassis; 6 x Gigabit (4 x LAN, 2 x WAN); 2


ALTERNATIVE

expansion slots; web browser management; limited lifetime warranty

HP ProLiant DL360p Gen8


An extremely well-designed server that squeezes lots into its 1U rack chassis, and presents plenty of room to grow. 5,159 exc VAT; www.hp.co.uk WEB ID 377143

HP ProLiant ML350p Gen8


A whisper-quiet pedestal server that combines good value, huge expansion potential and class-leading remote management. 3,795 exc VAT; www.hp.co.uk WEB ID 377701

Cyberoam CR35iNG
With an excellent range of security measures and a tempting price, Cyberoams CR35iNG raises the bar for performance. 3yr, 1,415 exc VAT; www.vcwsecurity.com WEB ID 380047

STORAGE APPLIANCE Synology DiskStation DS1513+


Diskless, 524 exc VAT www.lambda-tek.com WEB ID N/A ISSUE 227
Synologys DS1513+ snatches the desktop storage crown with a potent combination of breakneck speed, oodles of features, generous expansion potential and persuasive value.

BACKUP DEVICE Tandberg Data LTO-6 HH


1,343 exc VAT www.kikatek.com WEB ID 380599 ISSUE 223
The LTO-6 HH demonstrates the strengths of the Ultrium LTO-6 tape format. Top performance combines with low storage costs, making it an ideal choice for backup and archiving purposes.

BUSINESS LASER HP LaserJet Pro 200 Colour MFP M276n


211 exc VAT www.printerland.co.uk WEB ID 379879 ISSUE 221
A ne choice for small businesses that want a versatile, low-cost colour laser MFP. The low price belies the output quality, and HPs web printing features are a cut above the rest.

KEY SPECS Desktop chassis; 2.13GHz CPU; ve hot-swap SATA drive


bays; 2 x USB 3; 4 x USB 2; 4 x Gigabit Ethernet; 3yr RTB warranty ALTERNATIVE

KEY SPECS External Ultrium LTO-6 tape drive; native capacity 2.5TB;
native transfer rate 160MB/sec; 6GB/sec SAS interface; 3yr warranty ALTERNATIVE

KEY SPECS 600dpi A4 colour laser; 14ppm colour/mono; 1,200dpi


ALTERNATIVE

colour scanner; 150-sheet input tray; 30-sheet ADF; 1yr on-site warranty

HP StoreEasy 1430 8TB


HPs ProLiant Gen8 hardware meets Windows Storage Server 2012, and delivers great performance and expansion potential. B7D89A, 3,034 exc VAT; www.lambda-tek.com WEB ID N/A

HP StorageWorks Ultrium 3000 SAS


Many pundits said tape was dead. They also said that LTO was at the end of its roadmap. HPs 3000 SAS proves them wrong. 2,121 exc VAT; www.ebuyer.com WEB ID 357982

Xerox Phaser 7100N


A fast, affordable A3 colour laser with reasonable running costs and exceptional colour quality. 736 exc VAT; www.printerland.co.uk WEB ID 379606

BUSINESS SCANNER Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500


329 exc VAT www.kikatek.com WEB ID 382927 ISSUE 225
Fujitsus ScanSnap iX500 delivers 25ppm scan speeds, and is capable of scanning wirelessly to iOS and Android devices. It also offers great support for the cloud, and is easy to use.

NETWORK BACKUP DataFort Hi-5


Unlimited data per server, from 500/mth exc VAT WEB ID 380548 ISSUE 223
DataForts Hi-5 combines on- and off-site protection with a per-server pricing structure that helps keep costs low. With robust performance, optional Exchange server protection and hassle-free data recovery, Hi-5 is an attractive package especially for SMBs that cant afford to run a contingency site. ALTERNATIVE

NETWORK MONITORING Paessler PRTG Network Monitor 12.4


500 sensors, 839 exc VAT www.paessler.com WEB ID 380152 ISSUE 222
Licensed by the number of sensors, and with a proprietary database included, PRTG offers great value with no hidden costs. It provides an impressive range of network-monitoring tools and combines them with quality reporting and alerting facilities, making it our favourite network-monitoring tool. ALTERNATIVE

KEY SPECS 25ppm colour duplex @ 300dpi, mono @ 600dpi; 50-sheet


ADF; USB 3; 802.11bgn Wi-Fi (mobile devices only); 2yr warranty ALTERNATIVE

Brother ADS-2600W
With speedy, good-quality scans, plus a huge range of scanning features, Brothers ADS-2600W is a ne business scanner. 366 exc VAT; www.ballicom.co.uk WEB ID 380473

Securstore Cloud Backup


A feature-packed choice for SMBs requiring off-site backup for critical systems. The sensible pricing structure is a boon, too. 100GB, 200/mth exc VAT; www.securstore.com WEB ID 380098

Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold v16 Premium


This update bolsters its appeal to larger businesses, with slick new network- and wireless-monitoring tools. 100 devices, 2,400 exc VAT; www.ipswitch.com WEB ID 380107

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Back up your life
We reveal the best ways to keep your data safely backed up, whether its stored on your hard drive, in the cloud or locked into a web service. Keep your data under control wherever it is with our top tips and real-world advice.

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The Science Museum has shut its huge shipping gallery, but before locking it away in storage, it scanned the entire collection, creating a massive 3D archive for visitors to see all 1,800 objects. We reveal the technology behind the project, and nd out if 3D archives are the future of museums.

The Science Museum: scanned in 3D

Closer to reality

Advances in graphics rendering and processing mean its now possible to create photorealistic animation almost in real-time, changing how lms and games are produced. We reveal the technology behind the innovations, and reveal what to expect at the cinema in the future.

IN LABS
The tablet market is maturing rapidly, with a host of Windows, iOS and Android devices now providing more choice then ever, and at tempting prices. In next months Labs, well be looking at 12 tablets, all 9in in size or larger, to see if anything can challenge the fourthgeneration Apple iPad for supremacy.
Please note that Labs and features are subject to change.

Tablets

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GROUP MANAGING DIRECTOR Ian Westwood MANAGING DIRECTOR John Garewal EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Tim Danton DIRECTOR OF ADVERTISING Julian Lloyd-Evans FINANCE DIRECTOR Brett Reynolds GROUP FINANCE DIRECTOR Ian Leggett CHIEF EXECUTIVE James Tye CHAIRMAN Felix Dennis PRODUCTION & DISTRIBUTION Printed by BGP. Distributed by Seymour Distribution, 2 East Poultry Avenue, London EC1A 9PT. Tel: 020 7429 4000. PC Pro is published monthly by Dennis Publishing Limited. Company registered in England, number 1138891. COPYRIGHT Dennis Publishing Limited. PC Pro is a trademark of Felix Dennis. This publication may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form in whole or in part without the written permission of the publishers.

SUBSCRIPTIONS Price: UK 49.99; Europe 70; Rest of World 90 To renew a subscription, change an address or report any problems, visit www.subsinfo.co.uk LIABILITY While every care has been taken in the preparation of this magazine, the publishers cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of the information herein, or any consequence arising from it. Please note that all judgements have been made in the context of equipment available to PC Pro at time of review, and that value for money comments are based on UK prices at the time of review, which are subject to uctuation and are only applicable to the UK market. SYNDICATION & INTERNATIONAL LICENSING PC Pro is available for licensing overseas. Licensing contact: Nicole Adams, nicole_adams@dennis.co.uk +44 20 7907 6134; Reprints and syndication contact: Wrights Media 0800 051 8327 (toll free) Certied distribution 42,115 (Jan-Dec 2012)

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OPINION Epilog

Dozens of Davids could bring down Goliath Google, argues JON HONEYBALL

hat will it take to topple Google? Its an interesting question that has been running through my mind since the whole Prism scandal broke some months ago. I dont dislike Google, any more than I dislike Microsoft, Apple or Tesco. Theyre service providers, and you either use them or you dont, on whatever logical, philosophical, nancial, moral or religious basis that takes your fancy. I dont see any of them as more or less evil than any other global corporation, although Oracle CEO, Larry Ellison, has apparently labelled Google as being absolutely evil. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to ponder on the magnicence of Ellison claiming another global rm to be absolutely evil. The glass house involved for such stonethrowing goes way beyond anything found at The Great Exhibition. There are Google pretenders out there. Im constantly bombarded by Microsofties, both internal staffers and external shills, who insist I really should be using Bing. So I trundle over to

With a search engine based around topic areas, it would be possible to have a higher-quality answer
Bing, do a query, sigh, and then walk away. The problem is that I regularly rely on date-based searching. Im not interested in looking for stuff over the past decade; I really only want to know about things that have happened recently. When I search for an error message do I really want six-year-old results from MSDN? No thanks. This week or last week is just ne. More than that is mostly irrelevant noise. Ah, you say, but Bing supports date-based search. Yes, it does, but only if youre in the US. Here, in the UK, we arent allowed to have date-based search. No, please dont ask me how this has come about or what particularly convoluted, Redmondian, product-manager PowerPoint slide deck contributed to this decision. But there it is Americans can have dates, we cant. Maybe theyre afraid of us, because we have real history? Maybe they fear we might do a query for information about Exchange Server posted between 1825 and 1900? (The years, not pub drinking time.)

JON HONEYBALL was contributing to PC Pro well before Sergey and Larry ever committed their search algorithm to the back of the cigarette packet. Blog: www.pcpro.co.uk/links/jonh Email: jhoneyball@woodleyside.co.uk

Who can tell? Who cares? Its useless, so lets move on. Building a replacement for Google isnt impossible. After all, its been done before by university students. What we need, though, is not one query engine. We need multiples, each focused on various areas of the market. One monolithic search engine is a bad idea, because it becomes the one place for everything. This includes storing information about you, advertising to you, and handing over information about you to various government departments. With a solution based around topic areas, it would be possible to have a higher-quality answer, since the search engine would understand the topic better than a generic engine such as Google. For example, lets say Im interested in recipes for new blends of olive oil. A search engine specialising in food might well be a better place to nd the answer. For sure, I might miss out on such groundbreaking information as how olive oil can be used to grease the nipples on a 1954 Harley Davidson Hydra-Glide, but I suspect Ill get by. I could even have accounts on each of these search engines, with some of them offering paid subscriptions for better or more detailed searches. A paid-for account might allow me to aggregate upstream to my own super search engine that reaches out to a web of search engines and aggregates the answer for me. That way I could have a search experience that truly followed my interests and needs, rather than a generic monster spewing out stuff thats of interest to almost nobody. Even better if these engines were owned, hosted and run within the EU, so I could then try to ensure that the data was adequately protected from the grasping ngers of the NSA. Yes, it isnt hard to see how Google could be toppled. At the end of the day, a specialist is always going to provide a better, more coherent answer than a generalist. And the generalist will want too much from you in order to feed its insatiable need for information. Joining together such answers from the specialists will allow for a much more closely targeted means of searching the web. As my late father used to say: dont come up with a better answer, redene the question. This is Googles Achilles heel, and everything unravels when its a clearly visible crack in their armour. So, who will rise to the challenge?

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