Computeractive UK - Issue 417

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ISSUE 417 ❘ 19 FEB - 4 MA

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HAS THE NHS GIVEN
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Welcome
EDITORIAL
Group Editor Daniel Booth
Reviews Editor Alan Lu
Technical Editor Sherwin Coelho
Deputy Features Editor James Temperton
Contributing Editor Scott Colvey
Senior Sub Editor Graham Brown
Senior Designer Emily Weller
Sorry, no technical or buying advice.
ADVERTISING
Advertisement sales & media pack
020 7907 6799
Advertising Director Andrea Mason
Account Manager Alexa Dracos
Senior Sales Executive Peter Smith
MARKETING AND CIRCULATION
Subscriptions Manager Sarah Aldridge
Marketing and Editorial Executive
Paul Goodhead
Marketing Production Manager Gemma Hills
For subscription enquiries ring 0844 815 0054
PRODUCTION
Group Production Manager
Stephen Catherall
Production Controller
Daniel Stark

From the Editor
Computers may not get backache, or develop a
strange clicking noise in their knees, but they
show their age in other ways. They can slow
down, take ages to boot and crash regularly,
leaving you yearning for the sprightly machine
you bought many years ago. There’s no wonder
drug to add life to your PC, but there are
changes you can make to your operating
system and new hardware you can buy to make
sure it survives for many years to come. We
explain what you should do in our cover
feature (page 50) if you have PCs and laptops
running Windows XP, Vista and 7. Follow our
advice and you’ll still be using the same
computer in 2019 – and beyond.

MANAGEMENT
Managing Director John Garewal
Deputy Managing Director Tim Danton
MD of Advertising Julian Lloyd-Evans
Commercial and Retail Director David Barker
Group Managing Director Ian Westwood
COO Brett Reynolds
Group Finance Director Ian Leggett
Chief Executive James Tye
Chairman Felix Dennis

If you have questions about the feature, or
anything else in this issue, please email me. I’ll
send a Computeractive mug to the first person
whose email is written in a font based on their
own handwriting - you’ll learn how to do this
on page 38.
Daniel Booth
[email protected]

p48
p14

p60

BRAND USAGE AND REPRINTS
Companies can obtain a licence to use approved
quotations from articles, the Computeractive
logo and Buy It! logo. Reprints of articles are
also available.
Please contact Wrights Media for more
information and rates:
UK: 877-652-5295 ext 164
International: 281-419-5725 ext 164
Email: [email protected]
Requests to use quotations from articles will
need to be approved by the editor. Please send
requests to: [email protected]

p50

OVERSEAS LICENSING
Computeractive is available for international
licensing. Contact Nicole Adams at nicole_
[email protected] or +44 (0)20 7907 6134
ONWARD RESALE
This publication may not be resold or otherwise
distributed, whether at, below or above face
value. Nor can this publication be advertised for
sale, transfer or distribution.
PERMISSIONS
Material may not be reproduced in any form
without the written consent of the publisher.
Please address such requests to John Garewal,
Dennis Publishing, 30 Cleveland Street,
London W1T 4JD
LIABILITY
While every care was taken preparing this
magazine, the publishers cannot be held
responsible for the accuracy of the information
or any consequence arising from it. All
judgments are based on equipment available
to Computeractive at the time of review.
Computeractive takes no responsibility for the
content of external websites whose addresses
are published in the magazine.
A DENNIS PUBLICATION
Computeractive is published
fortnightly by Dennis Publishing
Ltd, 30 Cleveland Street, London W1T 4JD.
Company registered in England. Material may
not be reproduced in whole or part without the
consent of the publishers. ISSN 1461-6211

p35

p7

THIS ISSUE IN NUMBERS

836

Number of pages on
the NHS Choices site
that redirected to a
malicious website –
page 7

9 ¼ hours £500,000 £73

Battery life of the Acer
Chromebook C720,
which scores four stars
in our test – page 19

Money the Government
will spend to train
teachers in software
coding – page 49

Price to buy the OEM
version of Windows
7 from Dabs.com –
page 60

Average sales, Jan-Dec 2012, 98,560
copies per issue.
© Copyright Dennis Publishing Limited

19 February - 4 March 2014 3

Contents
In this issue…
Make your PC last
50
five more years
Starting to think your PC is living on
borrowed time? Think again! We give
the lowdown on how you can breathe
new life into your old XP, Vista and
Windows PC or laptop
Browse the web faster
58
Make your browser work
quicker with tips and tweaks for

19 February – 4 March 2014 ❘ Issue 417

Make

CO
FEA VER
TU
P50 RE

Your PC Last
Five More
Years!

Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome
Windows XP
60
Survival Guide – Part 3
What to do if you’re replacing XP
with a later version of Windows

Windows XP

Speed up your
web browsing p58

In every issue…
6 News
9 Question of
the Fortnight
Can you trust Google
search results?
10 Letters
12 Consumeractive
14 Protect Your Tech
16 Best Free Software
Kingsoft Office Suite Free
30 Buy It!
4 19 February – 4 March 2014

49 What’s All the Fuss
About? Year of Code
64 Problems Solved
68 Readers to the Rescue
69 Fast Fixes
Outlook.com
72 Broadband Deals
73 Jargon Buster
74 The Final Straw
Stuart Andrews refuses to
take orders from nagware

SURVIVAL
GUIDE
Upgrade to Windows 7 or 8 p60
Are you annoyed
by nagware? p74

Subscribe

NOW!

See page 62
for our special
subs offer

Reviews
18 Dell XPS 11
A laptop with a unique keyboard
19 Acer Chromebook C720
Budget laptop that goes the extra mile
20 Sonos Play:1
The speaker that hits all the right notes
21 RescueTime
Software that improves your work rate

Dell XPS 11

22 BenQ GL2450
No-frills, low-cost monitor from Taiwan
Mrgan Blackbar
A thought-provoking game of suspense

p18

BT Home Hub 5

p23

Sony Movie Studio
Platinum 13 p27

BUY IT!

23 BT Home Hub 5
BT’s nifty new router is quick and easy
24 Sony Walkman NWZ-F886
MP3 player for serious music fans

★★★★★

25 Eye-Fi Mobi
The camera SD card with built-in Wi-Fi
26 Western Digital My Cloud 2TB
A NAS with very remote control
27 Sony Movie Studio Platinum 13
Video editor that cuts out complexity

Workshops & Tips

14 pages of brilliant workshops and expert tips
35 Control who does what
on your PC
38 Create a font from your
handwriting
40 Animate charts
in PowerPoint
42 Wirelessly sync music to
your Android device

43 Readers’ Tips
Read articles offline in
Windows 8.1
44 Phone and Tablet Tips
Speed up your Android device
46 Make Windows Better
Create more space on your
main hard drive
47 Make Office Better
Customise your AutoCorrect
options to catch your mistakes
48 Secret Tips For…
Avast Free

28 Livescribe 3
Convert handwritten notes to text
29 Dell M115HD
Entertain with this portable projector

Computeractive
offer of the fortnight
Kaspersky Internet
Security 2014
page 33

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19 February – 4 March 2014 5

News

The top stories in the world of technology

Documents reveal viruses
and tricks used by UK spies

B

ritish spies have released
computer viruses,
jammed phones and PCs,
spied on journalists and
diplomats, and even resorted
to the kind of crude
techniques teenage hackers
use to snare targets.
These are the latest
revelations from top-secret
documents leaked by
whistleblower Edward
Snowden. Obtained
exclusively by US
news broadcaster
NBC News, the
documents show
the methods used
by the UK’s
Joint Threat
Research and
Intelligence Group
(JTRIG) to pursue
targets ranging
from teenagers to
terrorists and
foreign diplomats.
In a presentation

in 2012, UK secret agents
outlined how they stop targets
from communicating by
bombarding their phones
with text messages and calls.
Notes attached to the
presentation explained how
JTRIG might also “delete a
target’s online presence”,
something that it said was
“Very annoying!!!”.
The next slide from the
presentation details
how to discredit a
target. Methods
listed include
changing
someone’s photos
on socialnetworking sites
and how to
“Email/text their
colleagues,
neighbours,
friends etc”.
Changing
someone’s
social-network

profile picture could “take
paranoia to a whole new
level”, the document says.
Later in the presentation a
slide revealed how to “discredit
a company” by leaking
“confidential information” or
posting “negative information
on appropriate forums”, and
even how to “stop deals/ruin
business relationships”.
In a slide titled “Stop
someone’s computer from
working”, JTRIG explained
that infecting computers with
a virus called Ambassadors
Reception had been “very
effective”. The virus could
“encrypt itself, delete all
emails, encrypt all files, make
[the] screen shake” and stop
someone from logging into
their computer.
Another leaked document
details how the UK’s
intelligence agency GCHQ
disrupted hacker group
Anonymous by launching a

COMMENT
This is the first time the public
has heard of JTRIG, another
layer in the UK’s complex
cyber-spying network.
Surveillance experts have
expressed surprise that
so-called hacker groups
such as Anonymous and
LulzSec, mostly made up
of teenagers, have been
targeted so aggressively.
GCHQ reiterated that all its
actions are “carried out in
accordance with a strict and
legal policy framework”. But
maybe it’s time to change this
framework to protect privacy.

“denial of service attack” – the
same technique often employed
by hackers themselves. UK
spies also infiltrated secret
chatrooms to identify hackers,
many of whom were teenagers.

Adventure through space to help beat cancer
A new game for phones and
tablets could help find a cure
for cancer as people unwittingly
help spot patterns in genetic
information by blowing up
lumps of space rock.
Scientists at Cancer
Research UK have been
working with game
developers to create what
looks like a space adventure

game, but is actually a massive
data-analysis project.
Gigabytes of genetic
information from thousands
of tumours are hidden within
Play to Cure: Genes in Space.
Scientists say that humans can
easily spot patterns missed by
computers. The game uses
‘microarray DNA’ data and
turns it into a romp through

You’ll like this… Tesco Mobile now offers
free 4G to new and existing customers
(www.snipca.com/11434)
6 19 February - 4 March 2014

space. Researchers will trawl
through the information
collected to look for
faults in DNA.
Cancer Research UK
explained how the
game works: “By
analysing this data
citizen scientists will
be helping to spot key
mutations in genes –

and these could provide new
targets for cancer drugs
that
th could lead to
breakthroughs
in
br
treating
the disease
tr
in future.”
The game is free and
available
for Android
av
(www.snipca.com/
(ww
11432)
1143 and iOS (www.
11
snipca.com/11433).
sn

… but not this There are now 10 million
malicious Android apps online according to
Kaspersky (www.snipca.com/11430)

NHS site infected PCs with malware
A major blunder on the NHS
Choices website inadvertently
directed people to other sites
laden with dodgy adverts
and malware.
In total 836 pages on the
NHS’s health advice service
were hijacked after a typing
error in a piece of code.
Anyone who visited www.
nhs.uk on the morning of
Monday 3 February may have
been affected by the security
flaw, which was fixed by
the afternoon.
“Last year, a developer
accidentally put ‘translate.
googleaspis.com’ rather than
‘translate.googleapis.com’
as the source for the
JavaScript file,” an
NHS Choices
spokesperson
explained.
The URL should have
linked to a Google translation

tool, but the error meant
the code linked to another
random website. The blunder
was spotted by someone from
the Czech Republic who took
control of the domain and
used it to redirect people
visiting NHS Choices to a
malicious third-party website.
The Health and Social Care
Information Centre (HSCIC),
which is responsible for the

development and security
of the NHS Choices website
explained that the coding
error wasn’t spotted at first
because the mistyped domain
name wasn’t owned by
anyone at the time. Once
the domain was registered it
started redirecting visitors
to the dubious site.
A security scan of the
NHS Choices website by
Google revealed the extent
of the damage. Of the 286
pages visited by Google’s
automated scanners 50
resulted in malicious
software being downloaded
without consent.
“We plan to undertake
a thorough and detailed
analysis to ensure that a full
code review is undertaken
and steps put in place to
ensure no recurrence,” said
an HSCIC spokesperson.

Leaked Windows 8.1 update
reveals a raft of improvements
Windows 8.1 is set to be
updated with a host of new
features as Microsoft continues
to struggle against criticism of
its latest operating system.
Windows 8.1 Update 1 isn’t
due until late March or April,
but a version has been leaked
online and reveals a number
of new features – most of
which make it more like
Windows 7. Hover your cursor
at the top of a Windows 8 tiled
app and a bar appears
showing the app’s
name and options to
minimise or close it.
Hovering the cursor at
the bottom reveals the
Desktop taskbar.
Windows 8 apps
can also be pinned to
the Desktop taskbar,
making it possible to
access regularly used
tiled apps without

having to use the Modern
interface.
The Modern tile interface
has been changed so it’s
easier to use on traditional,
non-touchscreen computers.
Right-clicking a tile reveals a
dropdown menu with options
to unpin the tile from the Start
screen, pin it to the Desktop
taskbar, uninstall it or resize
it (see screenshot below).
Shutting down your

computer from the Start
screen will also be more
straightforward. A power
button in the top-right corner
includes options to sleep,
restart or shutdown. Elsewhere,
a link to the traditional
Control Panel has been added
to the PC Settings screen.
These latest changes are
part of a series of incremental
updates Microsoft is making
to the operating system.
Despite having only
launched Windows 8
in October 2012, the
company is already
working on its next
operating system –
Windows 9. Codenamed
‘Threshold’, it’s
rumoured to be
launching in spring 2015.
For more details, see our
Windows 9 preview on
page 49 of Issue 416.

IN BRIEF
SONY QUITS PC MARKET
AFTER LOSSES

Sony has ditched its lossmaking PC business and sold
it to a Japanese private equity
firm. The technology giant’s
VAIO laptops will no longer
be available outside Japan,
with the company blaming
“drastic changes” in the PC
market for the sale. Sony said
it would now focus on tablets
and smartphones.
As well as selling off its PC
business, Sony is also cutting
5,000 jobs globally as it
braces itself for huge losses.

LIBRARY ACCESS TO
ACADEMIC JOURNALS

More than 1.5 million
articles from the world’s
best academic journals
are being made available
in libraries across the
UK. The initiative will see
8,400 journals added to
computers in an effort to
encourage people to visit local
libraries. Major publishers
including Bloomsbury and
the Cambridge and Oxford
University Press have signed
up to an initial two-year trial.
Over 50 per cent of UK
local authorities have also
applied to take part.

Tomorrow’s

world

Want a robotic pal to pour
your drink while you work?
It’s one of the tricks the
uArm can perform. Built
by Chinese inventors, it’s a
miniature version of robotic
arms used in assembly lines,
designed to fit on your desk
and perform tasks. You can
control it by moving your
mouse, as this video shows:
www.snipca.com/11339.
Perhaps you could even
train it to turn the pages of
Computeractive.

19 February - 4 March 2014 7

News
IN BRIEF
WORLD’S FIRST DIGITAL
COMPUTER TURNS 70
The 70th anniversary
of Colossus has been
celebrated at Bletchley Park.
The pioneering computer
was first used to crack codes
sent by Hitler’s generals in
February 1944. Thought to
be the world’s first electronic
computer, it played a vital
role in shortening the war
and saving countless lives. To
mark its anniversary a rebuilt
version of Colossus was
switched on to demonstrate
its code-breaking abilities.

ADOBE SCRAMBLES
TO FIX FLASH FLAW
People running the Flash
Player plug-in on their PC
are being urged to download
and install an emergency
upgrade or risk being
hacked. Adobe said a “critical
vulnerability” was
being exploited by
cybercriminals and
issued an update
for Windows, Mac and Linux
computers. To download the
Flash Player update go to
www.snipca.com/11423.

Facebook, Google and Microsoft
lift lid on US web surveillance
Information about tens of
thousands of people has been
handed to the US government
by major tech firms following
top-secret court orders.
A legal gag had prevented
tech companies from disclosing
the scale and nature of
requests by US spy agencies
for user data, but following an
agreement some information
can now be released.
Revelations about mass
online surveillance by
intelligence agencies in the
US and UK have put tech
companies under pressure
to be more open about the
requests they receive for user
data. But, despite being given
carte blanche to be more
transparent than ever before,
the data that’s being made
publicly available is still vague.
Figures are aggregated into
bands of thousands, making it
impossible to differentiate
between one and 999 requests
for people’s account data. On
top of that, certain details can
only be revealed after a
six-month delay.

In the period January to
June 2013, Google gave the
US government internet
metadata of up to 999
customer accounts,
and content from
communications
belonging to anywhere
between 9,000 and 9,999
customers. Facebook
said it handed over
communications metadata
from between 30,000 and
30,999 accounts, along with
metadata from less than
1,000 customer accounts.
Microsoft received fewer
than 1,000 requests for
communicated content during
the same six-month period,
with between 15,000 and
15,999 requests for “accounts
or individual identifiers”.
Yahoo gave the US
government content from
between 30,000 and 30,999
accounts, with fewer than
1,000 customer accounts
subject to orders for metadata.
Google expressed its dismay
at the limits of the new
agreement, saying the

Image: www.microsoft.com

Microsoft appoints new CEO in shake-up
Microsoft has announced
Satya Nadella as the third
chief executive in its history as
the company looks to regain
ground lost to rivals Apple,
Google and Facebook.
Hyderabad-born Nadella,
46, was formally head of
Microsoft’s cloud computing
and enterprise division,
having been at the company
since 1992. His appointment
to the top job concludes a
five-month search after
former CEO Steve Ballmer
announced his intention to
step down last August.
“Microsoft is one of those
rare companies to have truly
revolutionised the world

8 19 February - 4 March 2014

through technology, and I
couldn’t be more honoured to
have been chosen to lead the
company,” Nadella said.
Bill Gates has also stepped
down as chairman and taken
up a new role as a technology
adviser, while also keeping a
seat on the company’s
board. Gates, who
founded Microsoft
nearly 40 years ago,
said the new
position would
lead to him
spending
“substantially”
more time
working at
Microsoft.

He praised the appointment
of Nadella, saying there was
“no better person” to lead the
company during a “time
of transformation”.
While still hugely
successful, Microsoft has been
criticised by analysts and
investors for being slow to
react to the changes in the
way we use technology.
Windows 8 has been
widely panned, while
its Bing search
engine still lags
behind Google
and smartphones
from Apple and
Samsung
dominate.

numbers being made public
were too vague.
“We still believe more
transparency is needed.
Specifically, we want to
disclose the precise numbers
and types of requests we
receive, as well as the number
of users they affect in a timely
way,” said Richard Salgado,
Google’s legal director for
law enforcement and
information security.

What’s new from

Google

When malware hijacks a
browser, it modifies your
settings to change your
homepage or add adverts to
websites. Google now shows
a warning (www.snipca.
com/ 11422) if it suspects
your Chrome settings
have been hijacked. If this
message appears, click the
Reset button to return to your
default settings. This will
also disable your extensions.
Turn them back on by clicking
the top-right Chrome menu,
Settings, Extensions, then
ticking Enable.

?

Question
of the

Fortnight

Can you trust Google’s
search results?

Like millions of people you probably use Google to search the web. Now a
protracted scrap with rival companies has laid bare the bias in its search results

W

hen you type a query
into Google, you
probably expect it to return
the most useful, relevant
results. But that isn’t the
case. Having been threatened
with a multi-billion euro fine
for unfairly promoting its
own services, Google is
being forced to make some
major changes.
You might not know it, but
most of the results displayed
near the top of a Google
search are from other
Google-owned services. This,
according to rival companies,
is hugely unfair. They’ve been
lobbying the European
Commission since November
2010 to try to stop Google’s
search bias.
Google has a 75 per cent
share of Europe’s search
market, so being at the top of
Google listings is crucial for
most companies. But rather
than just being a means to
search the internet, Google

price. These results are all
from Google Shopping, which
other price-comparison
websites said was unfair.
The same is true for a
location-based search such as
‘cafés in Paris’. The list of
Parisian cafés displayed all
link to Google services such as
Google Maps and Google+.
By placing its own results so
prominently and including

When you click a Google
search result, you’re probably
clicking a service Google owns
also owns a plethora of
other services. This means
that when you search for
something on Google, your
eye might not be drawn to the
most relevant result – instead,
you’ll probably click on
another service Google owns.
Let’s take a search for ‘gas
grill’ as an example. At present
Google shows pictures of grills
available to buy at the top of
the page, along with their

eye-catching images Google
is distracting people from
clicking results from rival
companies and sucking up all
the money in the process.
After years of wrangling
Google has finally reached a
legally binding agreement
with the Commission which
will see it avoid a multi-billion
euro fine by making wholesale
changes to how it displays
search results in Europe.

Once the Commission
approves the changes – a
process that should be
complete in a few weeks - that
same search for ‘gas grill’ will
give equal prominence to
results from rival services
alongside Google Shopping
results (see above screenshot).
A search for ‘cafés in Paris’
will also clearly display
listings from rival services.
European Competition
Commissioner Joaquín
Almunia said he would not be
seeking feedback on the deal
from rival companies, saying
that the changes would allow
people to find “the best
alternative”.
“My mission is to protect
competition to the benefit of
consumers, not competitors,”
he added.
Rival companies are up in
arms that Google’s proposals
won’t be openly tested to see
how effective they are. ICOMP
– a lobbying group that counts
Microsoft as one of its
members – said that Almunia
risked having “the wool pulled
over his eyes”.

TIMELINE
• In November 2010
companies, including
Microsoft, complain to the
European Commission
about Google’s dominance
• In July 2012 the
Commission starts talks
with Google to try to make
its search results fairer
• Throughout 2013 a number
of Google’s proposals are
slammed as “deliberately
ludicrous” by rivals with the
Commission saying they are
“not acceptable”
• Finally, in February 2014 the
Commission announces an
agreement with Google –
despite protests from rivals

For many people Google is
the internet. Until these
changes are made, every
Google search helps to extend
its monopoly. But even after
the changes, it’s important
that you don’t blindly trust
Google to always show you
the best results.
19 February - 4 March 2014 9

Letters
XP dangers ‘a lot of
nonsense’
Generally, I believe there’s a lot
of nonsense talked about the
serious dangers of continuing to use XP.
I’ve been using it for many years on my
triple-boot PC (Windows 98 SE, XP Pro
and Windows 7), and on both my laptop
and my netbook. In each computer
and each operating system, I disabled
Windows updates, because they only
serve to fill up the hard drive and slow
down my computer.
I only use the latest version of Firefox,
with these add-ons: Web of Trust, Avast
WebRep, Bitdefender Scan and NoScript.
I also use DropMyRights, so all my
browsing and emailing is done as a
‘limited’ user.
I’ve been building, upgrading and
repairing computers since the early
1980s and have never had a malware
attack to date, so I plan to continue
using not only Windows 98 SE (of no
interest to hackers), but also XP for many
more years to come! I certainly won’t be
buying Windows 8, 9 or 10.
Colin Culpitt-Smith
On the cover of Issue 413 you said,
referring to Windows XP, “There’s
life in the old OS yet”. I believe this to
be true and I won’t be influenced
by the rumour frenzy that on 9 April
Windows XP will suddenly become
infected by all
manner of
Windows XP
viruses, worms
and malware.
It’s a bit like the
Millennium bug,
when we were all told that when 1999
turned to 2000, global computer systems
would crash, causing world armageddon.
Windows XP is the most patched
operating system of all time. Yes I do
realise that once Microsoft stops releasing
security patches things may change in
XP’s security. But I don’t think for one
minute it’s going to be the calamitous
event we are being sold. Microsoft is in
the business of making money, but
Microsoft’s plan of killing an OS in the
false belief that everyone will suddenly
buy the latest OS is naive to say the least.
However, in Issue 415 you changed
your tune dramatically: “How you can

2001-2014

10 19 February - 4 March 2014

Tell us what’s on your mind

Email: [email protected]
Facebook: www.facebook.com/computeractive
Twitter: @ComputerActive
www.twitter.com/computeractive

survive the death of Windows XP”.
Option 1: Windows 8? No thank you.
This is an operating system I wouldn’t
touch and hasn’t been the booming
success Microsoft hoped for.
Option 2: Windows 7? Microsoft
stopped selling that in October 2013, and
mainstream support ends in January 2015.
Option 3: Linux? I have yet to find a
really productive use for Linux.
Finally, does Microsoft realise the cost
of the downtime to companies if they
change OS? That’s why a significant
percentage of users won’t change –
that and the fact that XP works so well.
So to conclude – nobody knows the true
impact of all this, whether it’s real or
imaginary. We’ll have to wait and see.
Just don’t panic.
Jeremy Newman

Windows 8 has harmed
PC sales
While demand for tablets may
well have affected PC sales, I
suspect another factor is Windows 8,
which is forced upon you if you want to
buy a new PC or laptop that isn’t a Mac and Macs tend to be double the price.
Although I detest having to use Windows
7, like many others I’m fortunate that I
bought a new laptop before the even
more odious Windows 8 replaced it.

It’s amazing in this supposed era
of consumer choice that you cannot
choose which operating system you’d
like on your new PC. I was much happier
using XP, and wish Microsoft could have
kept its general appearance and features.
I think Bill Gates could better spend his
time sorting out the endless gremlins
which Windows is renowned for,
rather than taking philanthropic
trips around Africa.
Mike Davis

Windows 7 will ‘make a
comeback’
I was delighted to read in Issue 416
that HP is selling new Windows 7
PCs. It’s a shame they’re only available
in the US, but it’s a promising sign. I’ve
been plucking up the courage to upgrade
from Windows XP before the April
doomsday, but I’ve not been able to find
any Windows 7 PCs that do what I want.
I hope that will change when HP starts
selling these computers over here.
I predict that sales of Windows 7 will
soar when XP bites the dust. It will make
a dramatic comeback because it will
surely be the upgrade of choice for most
XP users. I want to get in early and buy
one before they sell out.
Watch this space!
Andrew Carney

Windows 9 ‘smacks of desperation’
I read your article on
Windows 9 in Issue 416
with a raised eyebrow and an
amused smile. Are Microsoft
seriously going to trot out another
operating system, barely a mouse
click after the last one arrived
with a whimper? Reading the
rumours about Windows 9 was
interesting, but at no point did
they make me want to abandon
Windows 7, which I’m very happy
with (having upgraded from XP a
few months ago). Microsoft’s
attempt to move on from the
Windows 8 debacle so soon simply
smacks of desperation. Rather than a
radical step forward, it will just be a

9
quick-fix job that pleases nobody.
Matthew Watkins

Replace PC parts, don’t buy
a new one

Falling sales of PCs are a myth.
I don’t own a laptop, iPad or
smartphone. I’ve owned my desktop PC
since January 2003 and haven’t bought a
new one since. Over the years, I’ve simply
taken it to the nearest computer shop and
had the motherboard, hard drive and CD
drive replaced. I now have Windows 8.1,
Internet Explorer 11 and a solid-state
drive (SSD), and they’re all working
perfectly, along with the latest version of
ESET. Millions of PC users have done the
same thing.
James Burrows

Avast ‘blocked safe games’

Your antivirus group test in Issue
415 was extremely interesting,
particularly the information on false
positives. I have an Avast subscription
ye
and for several years
have purchased and
do
downloaded
ga
games
from a
sa website. I
safe
pl
played
some of
the games several
time with no
times
prob
problems,
but then
suddenly Avast
decided they
were a threat.
The falsepositive pop-up
disappeared within seconds, not giving
me a chance to dispute it. Avast then
deleted the games and placed them in
the virus chest.
After trawling through numerous
online forums I found a way to reinstall
the games, but it was incredibly timeconsuming. I won’t be subscribing to
Avast again, although I do think generally
it’s a good program. Instead, when my
subscription is due for renewal I will
revert to the free version as it would
appear that it’s almost as good as the
paid-for software.
Sandra Payne

Fine people for ‘stupid
passwords’

Sometimes it’s hard to have
sympathy for people whose
misfortune is a result of their naivety or
carelessness. I refer to two snippets of
news in Issue 416 – the Facebook scams
and the popularity of ‘123456’ as a
password. Maybe I just have a particularly
sensitive built-in scam detector, but I’ve

STAR LETTER

BT ‘doesn’t care’ about slow
broadband in rural areas
In Issue 416 you said that we
would ‘like’ BT’s £50m
investment to bring super-fast
broadband to 30 more cities. If I lived in
one of those cities, I would probably
like BT’s decision. But I live in rural
Norfolk, in a village that in the past 10
years has lost its pub, post office and
bus service. As for super-fast broadband
– it has never had that to lose.
What I find annoying is that BT glibly
admits that cities don’t urgently need
faster speeds. The company said some
of these areas “already have access to
ultra-fast speeds” (often supplied by
BT’s rival Virgin). So why on earth are
BT investing millions of pounds to give
cities more of what they’ve already got?
It’s clearly getting blinded by the bright
lights, lapping up the positive publicity
from a media who, of course, are based
in the cities that will benefit.
Nobody I know in my village has
broadband fast enough to watch web
TV properly, or run a 21st-century
business from home. In the time it
takes to download a large video file I
could have caught a train to London,
streamed it over 4G, then caught the
train back. These are things that
people in cities take for granted.

It’s so different in other countries.
I recently visited relatives in Germany
who live in an area that’s even more
remote than my village, and the
broadband speeds were superb. I feel
embarrassed about inviting them to my
house because of our slowcoach speed.
So I have no interest in ‘liking’ BT’s
obsession with city speeds. Here’s what
I would like - a complete change of
policy. Instead of chasing ever-faster
speeds, we should first establish a
base-level speed that everyone in the
UK can get. Otherwise the broadband
divide between city and country will
just grow wider, and ultimately that
will be bad for everyone.
Donald Snow

The Star Letter writer wins a Computeractive mug!
always found web scams easy to spot.
And these Facebook videos are so
obviously absurd I can’t believe anyone
fell for them.
I suppose I have an ounce of sympathy
for anyone gullible enough to click these
videos - they might not know better.
But anyone who chooses the
password ‘123456’, or ‘password’, or
anything else moronically obvious
deserves to be hacked. I wouldn’t
mind so much if it was like leaving
their front door open, and thereby
only leaving their own home
vulnerable. Any burglar won’t melt
through the walls to my home next
door. But it’s different online, where
malware can spread so easily. The
authorities should create a blacklist

of passwords that should never be
used. If a PC is hacked as a result of
someone using one, the owner should be
fined. That would soon stop the use of
stupid passwords.
Charlie Read

19 February - 4 March 2014 11

Consumeractive
Why won’t HP
fix my laptop?
I bought a £389 HP laptop from
Ebuyer (www.ebuyer.com) in
June 2012, but in August 2013
it stopped powering up. A computer
engineer examined it and told me the
motherboard needed to be replaced. I’ve
contacted HP many times about this and
been told the manufacturer’s warranty is
no longer valid so it won’t do anything.
Can you help?
Alan Fradgley

Q

Alan is in a strong position to get
his laptop repaired or replaced
under the Sale of Goods Act
(SOGA) because the fault has been
identified. But he contacted the wrong
company. His contract is with Ebuyer, not
HP, so he needs to contact the website.
Under SOGA, Alan has protection for
up to six years in England, Wales and
Northern Ireland (five in Scotland). After
six months the buyer must prove the
fault is inherent. Alan’s already done this
by showing that the motherboard has
failed - which shouldn’t have happened
within 14 months of purchase.
Unless Ebuyer can prove the fault was
caused by accidental damage, it has to
repair the motherboard or replace it, or
replace the laptop. We’ve told Alan
to contact Ebuyer, but if he
hits a brick wall, we’ll take
up his case.

A

Do I have to refund postage
charges to an eBay buyer?
I sold an old Toshiba
laptop on eBay. The
buyer paid £22 plus
£12.50 postage by PayPal. The
courier tried to deliver it three
times without success, so it
was returned to me. The buyer
opened a dispute with eBay and
wanted a refund for £34.50, but the
site found in my favour because I
proved the item was sent. However,
I’m prepared to refund the £22. But
I’m not a business, so do I have to
refund the delivery charge as well?
Michael Potter

Q

No, Michael doesn’t have to
refund the delivery costs.
This is because he’s a private
individual, so consumer laws don’t
apply. But he does have to refund
the £22 cost of the laptop, which
he’s happy to do. As far as eBay is
concerned the case is closed, so the
pair have to sort it out themselves.
Although Michael is happy to make
the £22 refund, the buyer’s behaviour
has concerned him. He’s made
repeated requests for confirmation of
the buyer’s address after the laptop was
sent back, which were ignored. Now
the buyer is refusing to confirm his

A

PayPal account details (for the refund
to be processed) because he wants the
delivery costs refunded as well. Until
Michael is sure this PayPal account
is bona fide he’s reluctant to refund
any money. He told us he’s worried
the buyer will claim the money
went to the wrong account.
We told Michael to write another
email to the buyer reiterating his
original offer and explaining that he
doesn’t have to refund the postage
because he’s not a business or sole
trader. He’s also told the buyer to
respond within seven days, otherwise
he’ll consider the matter closed. The
buyer could take his complaint to the
small claims court, but a judge is
unlikely to rule in his favour
because Michael can
prove he posted the laptop
to the buyer three times.

Is it safe to buy a pug online?
I want to rescue a pug. Adverts
on Gumtree (www.gumtree.
com/uk) and Pets4homes
(www.pets4homes.co.uk) always give
valid reasons why people are giving up a
dog even if they charge high prices. But
while the adverts always claim the dog
is healthy and is registered with the
Kennel Club, I’m wary. Should I be?
Malene Traholm

Q

A

We agree with Malene’s ethos of
buying an unwanted dog rather
than one that’s been bred, so we

12 19 February - 4 March 2014

asked the Kennel Club (www.thekennel
club.org.uk) and The Pug Dog Welfare &
Rescue Association (http://pugwelfarerescue.org.uk) for advice. Both said
Malene is right to be sceptical about
online adverts. “We often hear of
fraudsters using photos of young adult
pugs or pups from a genuine breeder
to con people, but these pugs already
have homes”, explained Pug Welfare.
The Kennel Club warned that advertised
dogs may be stolen or have health issues.
“You should always visit the dog more
than once. Always have it examined by a

vet of your choice. If the seller refuses,
walk away. Claims that a dog is Kennel
Club registered can be checked with us,”
said a spokeswoman.
If you buy a dog from an online ad,
collect it in person, and if you
suspect a scam report it to the
Kennel Club and the RSPCA.

Contact us so we can investigate your case

Email: [email protected]
Write: Consumeractive, Computeractive, 30 Cleveland Street, London W1T 4JD
Please include both your phone number and address.
Unfortunately, we can’t reply to all your letters.

We stand
s
up for your legal rights

Can
C I gett a refund
f
from a Hong Kong eBay trader?

Q

I needed a battery for a
camcorder and found it on
eBay from a company I
thought was based in the UK but turned
out to be in Hong Kong. The battery
doesn’t fit the camcorder and the
promised replacement has never arrived.
Unfortunately, eBay won’t help because
my complaint lies outside their buyer
protection programmes (www.snipca.
com/11309). What can I do now?
Peter Holmes
Peter can try contacting the
Hong Kong company again,
but because it’s outside the
jurisdiction of the UK’s consumer laws,
they won’t protect him. He admits he

A

thought the company was based
in the UK. While most people do
try to find out where the seller
is based, some companies can
trick buyers into thinking they
are based in the UK.
So, although he may not get a
replacement battery or his money
back, he should leave feedback on
eBay about the problem. The seller
may see it and respond, but if not
Peter will at least have given other
would-be buyers a warning. When
these problem transactions occur you
should raise a dispute with eBay, even if a
replacement is offered. If they’ve fooled
you once they will again. You can always
close the dispute if the matter’s resolved.

You should also let eBay know
if an overseas seller is
claiming to be based in the
UK, as eBay told us it looks
into these complaints.

How can I get my missing game
from Game.co.uk?

Q

I bought an Xbox One package
from Game’s website (www.
game.co.uk). Unfortunately,
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes – one of the
two games that should’ve been included –
wasn’t delivered. I keep emailing Game
about this but constantly get fobbed off
with excuses. The website claims the
game is so popular it’s waiting for more
stock. What can I do?
Simon Robbs

Because Simon paid by credit
card and the bundle cost more
than £100, he can use section 75
of the Consumer Credit Act to seek
redress for “goods not as described”. This
is because his order is incomplete and he’s
been waiting weeks for it to be fulfilled.
The bank may refund the entire cost or
more likely the cost of the missing game.
We’ve also told Game that the missing
computer game should be sent to Simon

A

immediately. Failing this, he’s entitled to
cashback to the value of the game or a
voucher so he can buy it in a
Game store. We’ll let you
know how Game decides
to handle this complaint.

CASE UPDATES
Pro Rider replace
faulty charger

In Issue 414, we highlighted
a problem Steve Oakley
from Scotland was having
with a mobility scooter he’d bought
for his mother from Pro Rider (www.
proridermobility.com). The battery
wouldn’t charge, but the company initially
refused to help, insisting its warranty
didn’t apply to sales in Scotland.
Steve then asked rival company Mobility
Scotland (www.mobilityscotlandltd.co.uk)

to examine the charger, which it found
to be faulty. We told Steve to ignore Pro
Rider’s warranty because he still had rights
under the Sale of Goods Act. After he
contacted Pro Rider again, the company
insisted on checking the charger.

Pro Rider has now told us that the
charger is indeed faulty. Steve told us he’s
now been sent a replacement charger,
which is working fine.
He’s also been refunded the money
it cost him to send the charger back.
Although the matter’s resolved he’s still
angry about the company advertising its
warranty when he bought the scooter,
but failing to make clear that it’s not valid
in Scotland. We have suggested he make
a complaint about this to the Advertising
Standards Authority (www.asa.org.uk).

19 February - 4 March 2014 13

Protect Your Tech
Scams and threats to avoid, plus new security tools
WATCH OUT FOR…

Yahoo account hacks
What happened?
Yahoo announced that hackers tried to
gain access to Yahoo accounts using
stolen usernames and passwords. In the
announcement, posted online on 30
January (www.snipca.com/11394), the
company said it had taken “immediate
action” to protect affected users by
“prompting them to reset passwords”.
It has also implemented two-step
verification by asking users who have a
mobile phone number attached to their
account to change their password.
Yahoo said that the hackers were after
the names and email addresses from
messages that had been recently sent. The
company didn’t say how many accounts
had been affected, but did confirm that
the usernames and passwords were
stolen from a “database owned by a third
party”. This means Yahoo’s own security

wasn’t at fault. Yahoo Mail has 273
million accounts worldwide, second only
to Google’s Gmail.
For more tips on keeping your Yahoo
account safe visit the company’s help
page: www.snipca.com/11395

What should I do?
If you were targeted in the attack, Yahoo
will have asked you to reset your password.
If you’ve added a mobile phone number
to your account, Yahoo may have sent
you an email notification or a text

New tools
Currently our favourite
free antivirus software,
Avast also makes tools to
boost your privacy. The
SecureLine VPN service
– already available for
PCs and laptops (www.
snipca.com/11413) – has
now arrived as an app
for Android (www.
snipca.com/11399)
and iOS (www.snipca.
com/11401). It creates a
virtual private network
when you use public Wi-Fi,
encrypting your data so hackers
can’t steal it. This will also keep your
browsing anonymous, and let you
disguise your location so you can
access websites and watch videos
blocked in the UK.

14 19 February - 4 March 2014

Avast SecureLine VPN

www.snipca.com/11414

prompting you to do this. If you got this
message, it’s probably best to tell your
friends and family to look out for any
suspicious emails that appear to come
from you. Even if you haven’t received a
message from Yahoo, you should consider
changing your password, no matter what
Yahoo service you use (Flickr is owned
by Yahoo). To do this in Yahoo Mail,
click the top-right cog, then Settings,
Accounts and ‘Change your password’.
If you don’t have two-step verification
turned on, click the top-right cog, then
Settings, Accounts, ‘Edit your account
info’, and ‘Set up your second sign-in
verification’. Once you enter your phone
number, Yahoo will text you a five-digit
code every time you log in to Yahoo Mail
from a new device. Without this code,
your Yahoo Mail password will be of
little value to hackers.

ScamWatch
READERS WARN READERS

Almost fooled by ‘BT’ scam

It’s a great tool, though you’ll need
to pay a monthly or annual fee to use it,
once the seven-day free trial expires.
The annual fee works out cheapest,
costing $19.99 (about £12.20) for
Android and $29.99 (about £18.40) for
iOS. For more Avast tips turn to page 48.

In January I was bombarded by spam
email pretending to be from BT, each
with a subject line supposedly
containing “important information”
about my account. They looked
convincing, using logos and ‘signed’
by BT managers. I was almost fooled
by the email headed ‘Changes to your
BT account’, which said my “incoming
message was placed on pending due to
our recent upgrade”. But then I
checked the sender’s address. After
[email protected]’ there’s another
email address in brackets – a giveaway!
This BT page on phishing scams gives
useful advice: www.snipca.com/11335.
Frank Chester
Warn your fellow readers about scams at
[email protected]

Best Free Software
Brilliant new programs that won’t cost you anything
OFFICE SUITE

Kingsoft Office Suite Free 2013
www.snipca.com/11097
What you need: Windows XP, Vista, 7 or 8
No computer is complete without an office suite installed –
creating or viewing documents and spreadsheets is a
fundamental requirement for practically everyone, whether
you’re at home or at work. There’s no need to cough up for an
expensive copy of Microsoft Office either, with several highly
capable free suites available to download. But if you’ve been
using OpenOffice or LibreOffice up till now, then you may want
to consider checking out the lesser-known Kingsoft Office Suite
Free instead, as it offers some significant advantages.
It might not have the same wealth of applications as its free
competitors – Writer, Presentation and Spreadsheets are the
only three on offer – but Kingsoft’s interface is much more up
to date than, say, LibreOffice’s. It uses a tabbed Ribbon-like
toolbar at the top of the page, which will be instantly familiar

to those who’ve previously used Office 2003 onwards. Not
only that, but it provides a highly useful tabbed document
view, making it easy to work between multiple documents
at the same time – even Microsoft doesn’t offer this yet.
Another interesting feature is its Paragraph Layout tool; a
little floating icon on the page that, when clicked, provides
instant control over indents and line spacings above and
below the paragraph you’re working on.
Kingsoft Office is also available for mobile devices for
both Android (www.snipca.com/11129) and iOS (www.
snipca.com/11132). The latest Desktop version includes a
number of useful new additions, such as the ability to open
and save files in Microsoft’s ubiquitous DOCX and XLSX
formats, and improved PDF exporting.

1

2

3

1 Kingsoft’s interface works

just like the Ribbon found
in recent versions of
Microsoft Office. If you
prefer older-style menus,
you can switch to these by
clicking the T-shirt icon and
select Classic Style.

16 19 February – 4 March 2014

4

2 If you’re working on several

documents simultaneously,
each will appear in its own
tab, just like in a web browser.
Clicking the tab marked with
a plus (+) sign will open a
fresh blank document.

3 Click a paragraph, then click

the Paragraph Layout icon
and a box will appear around
your text. Drag the arrows to
set left or right indents or the
amount of space above or
below the paragraph.

4 The Task Pane on the

right offers shortcuts
to useful tools, such as
styles and formatting
options. Its contents can
be customised (via the cog
icon) or hidden altogether
by clicking the thin blue strip.

MEDIA CENTRE
TROUBLESHOOTING TOOL

Keyboard Test Utility
www.snipca.com/11101
What you need: Windows XP, Vista, 7 or 8

Having keyboard trouble? This simple utility can help diagnose
the problem. It’s small (1.9MB) and doesn’t even need to be
installed – double-click it and a virtual keyboard will appear
on-screen. Press any keys you’re having problems with to see if
your PC is registering their input. If they’re working okay, the
on-screen equivalent keys should turn yellow and show a VK
Code in the bottom left-hand corner. If any don’t, you may
need to clean underneath the keys in question with a can of
compressed air or a damp cotton bud.

MediaPortal 1.6.0

www.team-mediaportal.com
What you need: Windows XP, Vista, 7 or 8

If you have an old PC, one way to make good use of it is to install
a cheap TV tuner and turn it into an all-in-one media centre
system, to record and watch programmes, play DVDs or stream
photos and music. MediaPortal is a great free program with a
stylish, customisable look and a simple interface. The latest
version includes improved 3D support and new music visualisers.

WHAT SHOULD I DOWNLOAD?
We tell you what software to use

How can I convert multiple
image files to another format?
A friend very kindly scanned in some old photos for
me. Unfortunately, the files are large and they are all
in a strange format with the extension TGA. What
program can I use to open these
files and is there an easy way to
convert them to a more readily
accepted format?
Donald Campion

Q

MUSIC DOWNLOADER

SDownload

www.snipca.com/11102
What you need: Windows XP, Vista, 7 or 8; Google Chrome
SoundCloud (https://soundcloud.com) is a great way to discover
new music but, in most cases, you can only listen to songs while
you’re online. SDownload is a tool that lets you grab songs from
SoundCloud and add them automatically to your iTunes library
for offline listening or for inclusion in your playlists. Setup
involves installing the program itself as well as an extension for
Google Chrome (you’ll be prompted to install this during setup).
Next time you visit SoundCloud you’ll find a little SDownload
button (a down-pointing arrow) next to tracks you’re listening
to; click this to add a track to your PC’s library.

TGA files can be opened
in most image-editing
programs, including the
free Paint.net (www.getpaint.net), which will also convert
them to a smaller, more popular format, such as JPEG. Click
File, then ‘Save as’, select the format you require from the
‘Save as type’ menu and click Save. If you have lots of images
to convert, however, then a free batch converter, such as
XnConvert (www.xnview.com/en/xnconvert) might be more
suitable. To convert an entire folder full of images, click the
‘Add folder’ button, browse to your folder, then click Select
Folder. Click the Output tab and select an output folder by
clicking the button with three dots and browsing to the
location. Select JPG from the Format menu and click Convert.

A

Do you need our advice on what software to use?
Just email us at [email protected]

19 February – 4 March 2014 17

Reviews

New products tested by our experts

LAPTOP ❘ £1,029 from www.snipca.com/11308

Dell XPS 11
The most frustrating laptop
keyboard we’ve ever used
The Dell XPS 11 is the latest Windows 8
hybrid that attempts to combine a tablet
and laptop in one device. We’ve seen
plenty of quirkily designed hybrids,
but the XPS 11 is particularly bizarre.
Like the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro (see our
review, Issue 416), the XPS 11’s screen
has a double-jointed hinge, which lets
you bend the whole computer back on
itself until the lid lies flat against the base
so it can be used as a tablet. The keyboard
and touchpad, therefore, end up behind
the screen, but are automatically turned
off in this orientation.
As options, you can stand the computer
on its edge like a tent or orientate the
keyboard to be used as a stand. As the
XPS 11’s weight of 1.1kg makes it too
heavy to hold for any length of time, the
flexible touchscreen makes using it as a
tablet much more practical.
What sets the XPS 11 apart from the
Yoga is the keyboard design. Unlike every
other laptop keyboard we’ve seen, the
XPS 11’s keyboard doesn’t contain any
moving parts. Instead, all the keys are
actually just small touch-sensitive pads
– similar to those found on the Touch
Cover (designed for the Microsoft Surface
2, see our review, Issue 415). This ensures
the XPS 11 is one of the thinnest laptops
we’ve ever used.
However, the XPS 11’s keyboard isn’t
anywhere near as good as the Touch
Cover, never mind a standard keyboard,
because it is incredibly frustrating to type
on. We found it unresponsive, frequently
missing keystrokes entirely or only
responding after a slight delay. This
resulted in slow, error-strewn typing. At
SPECIFICATIONS

1.5GHz Intel Core i5 4210Y dual-core processor • 4GB
memory • 256GB SSD • Intel HD 4200 integrated
graphics • 11.6in screen 2560x1440 pixels •
802.11ac/a/b/g/n • Windows 8.1 • 1.1kg (1.3kg with
charger) • 15x120x201mm (HxWxD) • One-year
warranty www.snipca.com/11307

18 19 February – 4 March 2014

least the touchpad and touchscreen are
accurate, and we could type reasonably
well using the onscreen keyboard.
Battery life – at just under eight and a
half hours – is respectable, but we’ve seen
other 11in laptops last anything up to 14
hours. Although the XPS 11 isn’t the
fastest laptop we’ve seen at this price,
its 1.5GHz Intel Core i5-4210Y dual-core
processor and 4GB of memory means
it’s fast enough for use as your main

It’s unusable as a
laptop thanks to its
awful keyboard
computer. Disappointingly, there’s no
way to add more memory or fit an SSD
larger than 256GB – not even if you order
direct from Dell.
One way of adding extra storage is by
plugging in external drives and cards via
the two USB3 ports and full-size SD card
slot. The XPS 11 is one of the first laptops
to come with 802.11ac Wi-Fi built-in. If
you also have an 802.11ac router, you’ll be
able to wirelessly transfer files over your
local network in double-quick time. It
won’t make any difference to your
internet download and upload speeds,
however, unless you have a very fast cable
or fibre-broadband connection.

Dell has squeezed a massive 2560x
1440 pixels into the XPS 11’s 11.6in screen,
but text isn’t difficult to read, thanks
to Windows 8.1’s adjustable displays
settings. Unfortunately, there are very few
programs that have so far been optimised
to take advantage of such a super-high
resolution. Therefore, most programs are
unusable, appearing onscreen with tiny
text and controls. Colour accuracy is
merely okay, but the screen is at least
very bright.
The XPS 11 isn’t bad as a tablet due to
its flexible touchscreen, but it’s unusable
as a laptop due to its atrocious keyboard.
Even if you want a tablet with USB3 ports
and a full-sized SD card slot, the XPS 11
just isn’t a good buy.
VERDICT: A potentially good laptop
let down by its keyboard and
outclassed by its rivals

★★☆☆☆
ALTERNATIVE:
Apple MacBook
Air 11in (Mid-2013)
£1,029 Although
it has a lowerresolution
screen, its battery life and keyboard
are far, far superior

LAPTOP ❘ £199 from www.snipca.com/11349

Acer Chromebook C720
An affordable laptop with great battery life
Chromebooks are laptops that run
Google’s Chrome OS operating system,
not Windows. Chrome OS is perfect for
computing novices as it’s basically just a
web browser, making it a doddle to use.
Previous Chromebooks have suffered
from poor battery life, but that’s not
a problem with Acer’s latest
model the C720.
The C720 is equipped
with one of Intel’s latest
power-efficient Haswell processors, the
1.4GHz Celeron 2955U. This helped it
achieve a long battery life of nine hours
15 minutes when connected to a 802.11n
router while running simple web-based
programs such as Google Docs. This
actually exceeds Acer’s quoted battery life
of eight and a half hours. Although the
C720’s grey plastic build feels a little
creaky, it is light at 1.3kg so it’s easy to
carry around while you’re out and about.
The 2955U is one of Intel’s slowest
laptop processors, but it’s more than
powerful enough to run ChromeOS
smoothly. Plus, thanks to the 16GB SSD,
the C720 boots up and is ready to use
in under 10 seconds.
Besides a basic file manager and video
player, all programs run inside the Chrome
browser, while your files are saved by
default to Google Drive’s online storage
service, where you’ll get 100GB free storage
for two years. After that you’ll only get
15GB unless you subscribe – 100GB costs
$5 a month. A surprisingly wide range of
web-based programs are available. We
regularly use the Google Docs office suite
and the Photoshop Express image editor.
They don’t have as many features as
Microsoft Office and Photoshop
Elements, but are good enough for basic
tasks. Some – but by no means all – of
these web-based programs will continue
to work without an internet connection,
such as when you’re on a train or plane.
SPECIFICATIONS

1.4GHz Intel Celeron 2955U dual-core processor •
2GB memory • 16GB SSD • Intel integrated graphics
• 11.6in 1366x768-pixel screen • 802.11a/b/g/n
• ChromeOS • 1.3kg (1.5kg with charger) •
19x288x202mm (HxWxD) • One-year warranty •
Part code NX.SHEEK.001 www.snipca.com/11350

The web-based nature of Chrome OS
also means there are relatively few
settings and little need for maintenance.
Anti-virus software is unnecessary as
malware scanning is done on the servers
running your web-based programs.
The C720’s keyboard has large keys
with plenty of travel but a spongy feel,
so it isn’t as comfortable to use as other
keyboards we’ve typed on. We soon got
used to it, however, and managed to
type quickly and accurately. One oddity
that will trip up touch typists is that a
shortcut key for searching the web and
your apps takes the place of the caps lock
key. The touchpad is large and accurate.
You can swipe two fingers up and down
to scroll, but oddly you can’t pinch to
zoom in and out.
Acer has squeezed 1366x768 pixels into
the 11.6in screen. Packing so many pixels
into such a small screen can make text hard
to read. Also, the screen is not the brightest
we’ve seen. You’ll really notice how dark
it is if you turn the brightness down by
50 per cent to conserve battery life.
For such a thin and light laptop, the
C720 has a good number and range of
ports. There’s a full-size SD card slot,
USB2 and USB3 ports as well as an HDMI
socket. There’s no Ethernet port or 3G
though, so you’re entirely dependent
on Wi-Fi for internet access.
Although its screen and keyboard
aren’t perfect, the Acer Chromebook
C720 does have excellent battery life and
a low price making it perfect for use
while travelling or as a cheap computer
for the kids. If you don’t mind living
without Windows, it’s a great choice.

HOW WE TEST

Computeractive is owned by Dennis
Publishing, which owns a hi-tech facility
for testing the latest technology. You’ll
often read references to our benchmark
testing, which is a method of assessing
products using the same criteria. For
example, we would test the speed of
every PC and the battery life of every
tablet in exactly the same way. This
makes our reviews authoritative,
rigorous and accurate.
Dennis Publishing also owns the
magazines PC Pro, Computer Shopper,
Web User, Micro Mart and MacUser,
and the website Expert Reviews
(www.expertreviews.co.uk). This
means we can test thousands of
products before choosing the most
relevant for Computeractive.

FAIR AND IMPARTIAL

Our reviewers follow strict guidelines to
ensure the opinions expressed in the
magazine are fair and impartial. The
manufacturer has no involvement in
our tests and is never told the result
of a review before publication.

OUR BUY IT! AWARD

We award every product
that gets a five-star
BUY IT! review our Buy It! stamp
★★★★★ of approval. If you see
the Buy It! logo you know we were
extremely impressed by the product
and we think you will be too. Turn to the
Buy It! section after Reviews for our
guide to the best products you can buy.

PRICES

Our reviews contain a link to the best
price we have been able to find on the
web. Prices may change following
publication.

VERDICT: If you can live with the
spongy keyboard and so-so screen, this
is a good value ultra-portable laptop

★★★★☆
ALTERNATIVE: Asus Transformer Book
T100 £329 If you’d rather
use Windows, this budget
touchscreen hybrid tabletlaptop comes with Microsoft
Office, but its keyboard and
screen are also flawed

19 February - 4 March 2014 19

Reviews
SPEAKER ❘ £169 from www.snipca.com/11365

BUY IT!

Sonos Play:1

★★★★★

A superbly designed speaker with only one flaw
Listening to music these days is about so
much more than just CDs. Our music is
now scattered about all over the place –
on PCs, MP3 players and smartphones,
not to mention streaming services like
Spotify. As a result, you may end up
listening to your favourite songs on
cheap, shoddy earphones or your laptop’s
tinny built-in speakers, which won’t do
them justice. A far better way to enjoy
them is the Sonos Play:1 – a speaker that
can play music from a variety of devices
and services.
In order to work, the Play:1 must be
connected directly to your router using
an Ethernet cable. This means the speaker
has to be located close to your router,
which is limiting. Once you’ve connected
the Play:1 to your router, it acts like a
wireless adapter, letting you add more
Sonos speakers throughout your home.
These are connected wirelessly to your
router. Alternatively, you can buy a
Sonos Bridge (£39 from www.snipca.
com/11364), a small box that plugs into

More than capable
of filling a room with
rich, vibrant sound
your router and creates a wireless
network that the Play:1 and other Sonos
speakers can connect to.
Setup is a doddle. Once you download
the Sonos Controller app to your phone
(versions for iOS and Android, as well as
Mac and Windows, are available from
www.sonos.com/support) follow the
on-screen instructions to connect it to
the Play: 1 speaker. The process is
similarly straightforward on the Sonos
program for Windows.
With setup complete, you can stream
music wirelessly to the Play:1, which is
done entirely through the Sonos
Controller app. Music stored on Android
SPECIFICATIONS

1 x 10/100Mbps Ethernet port • 162x120x120mm
(HxWxD) • 2.4kg • supports MP3, WMA, AAC, Ogg
Vorbis, Audible 4, ALAC, FLAC, WAV and AIFF files
www.snipca.com/11365

20 19 February - 4 March 2014

phones is neatly organised so
you’ll easily find what you want
with minimum fuss. The app can
even stream music stored on a
NAS. The online radio feature
is also well designed, letting us
browse by category or by setting
our location and swiping through
a list of local stations (see
screenshot below). You can also
connect streaming services such
as Spotify, Last.fm, Amazon Cloud
Player and Rdio to the app and
then listen to music from these
sources through the Play:1. Bear in
mind, you’ll need to subscribe to the
paid-for versions of Spotify and Rdio
to stream music from these services.
The Play:1 is a small mono speaker so
it doesn’t sound as good as a quality set
of stereo speakers, but it still sounds far
better than our laptop’s built-in speakers
or the earphones that came with our
phone. Bass was surprisingly powerful in
our tests, while in general the music had
good definition and clarity, even when
turned up to maximum volume. It was
more than capable of filling a whole

room with rich, vibrant sound – a real
testament to this small speaker’s genuine
quality. If you want true stereo sound you
can add a second Play:1 speaker and
configure them to work in tandem.
If you decide to buy multiple Sonos
speakers, with units in your living
room, kitchen and study, for example,
you can have different music playing in
each room. This way, not everyone has to
listen to the same thing. This is a feature
that rival wireless speaker systems, such
as the Pure Jongo (see our review, Issue
398), don’t have.
It’s annoying that the Sonos Play:1 can’t
wirelessly connect to your router without
the additional purchase of the Sonos
Bridge, but this is its only flaw. The Play:1
is exceptionally easy to use and is
supported by great, well-designed apps
that work with music from a wide variety
of sources. In fact, it’s the best internetconnected speaker we’ve seen.
VERDICT: Easy to set up and
supported by great apps, the Sonos
Play:1 frees your music and makes
it sound vibrant

★★★★★
ALTERNATIVE:
Pure Jongo S3 £140
A cheaper wireless
speaker, but it’s fiddly
to set up and is more
restricted in what music
you can stream

TIME MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE ❘ £44 (per year) from www.snipca.com/11354

RescueTime
A program that stops you wasting time and helps you be more productive
If both your work and personal life
revolve around computers, it’s easy to let
the lines between the two get blurred.
Online shopping and social-media
activity can eat into your working hours,
which can leave you working late and
wondering where the day went. If you
often find yourself falling behind schedule,
you need RescueTime – software that can
help you optimise every hour of the day.
RescueTime uses a Desktop program to
track exactly what you’re doing with your
time. It lets you set goals and then classify
tasks based on how productive they were.
If, for example, you find that replying to
emails or attending certain meetings take
up more time than they should, then you
can mark those tasks as unproductive.
When you first sign up to RescueTime,
a ‘getting started’ guide introduces you to
the main dashboard and prompts you to
set goals. Here, you can block distracting
websites, access a full record of your
productivity over time and log any time
spent away from your computer.

One of the best
time-management
tools we’ve used
To test RescueTime, we set some basic
goals: to spend less than two and a half
hours being unproductive between 6am
and 8pm; and more than two and a half
hours hours being productive in both the
morning and afternoon, including our
lunch break.
Over the course of a day, RescueTime
monitors your activity and calculates
what it calls your ‘productivity pulse’,
which displays how efficient you’re being
in a handy at-a-glance percentage score.
Carrying out activities you’ve classified as
productive will raise the productivity
pulse, while spending time on wasteful
activities lowers it.
Over the first few days, you’ll probably
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS
Windows XP or later

BUY IT!

★★★★★

need to refine your initial settings and
goals. Based on our definition of what
constituted productive time, we almost
never met our morning goal, but exceeded
our afternoon goal. We used this data to
gauge how realistic our goals were and in
which periods of the day we were most
efficient. We found that Friday afternoons
were our least efficient period when
working in the office, but our most
productive time when working from home.
Those who tend to overwork – whether
at home or in the office – can take
advantage of the feature that lets you
configure alerts notifying you via email
or a pop-up message that you’ve hit a
certain goal for the day. You can also use
the alert system to give you a nudge if it
looks like you’re falling behind. Moreover,
RescueTime’s Advanced Filters settings
let you monitor different periods for
different days, handy if you work
different hours at the weekend, for
example. A free Android app lets you log
and track activities when you’re away
from your PC (www.snipca.com/11207).
If, like us, you work on multiple
computers in different locations over
the course of a day, you can install
RescueTime on each of your PCs.
Following five minutes of inactivity, the
software starts wondering what you’ve
been up to and asks via a dialogue box to
explain your absence. There’s a risk of

accidentally logging activities for the
same time period twice if you’re using
multiple PCs, but you can edit
RescueTime’s logs later to rectify this.
Although we like RescueTime, the
interface could be refined further. We’d
prefer all time-related settings to be on
one screen, for example, rather than
spread out across different screens.
Even so, RescueTime is one of the best
time-management tools we’ve used to
increase personal productivity and
analyse working patterns to highlight
where improvements can be made.
People who work from home and
freelancers, in particular, would benefit
from RescueTime, which is easily
worth its modest price.
VERDICT: The best method we’ve
found to show how we’re wasting time

★★★★★
ALTERNATIVE: StayFocusd Free
A free Chrome extension that lets you
block access to time-wasting websites

19 February - 4 March 2014 21

Reviews
MONITOR ❘ £104 from www.snipca.com/11317

BenQ GL2450
The cheapest 24in monitor we’ve ever seen
Despite the fact that the cost of monitor
technology has plummeted in recent
years, prices of 24in monitors have stayed
between £120-£150. However, Taiwanese
budget-monitor manufacturer BenQ has
now smashed through the lower end of
this range. Its GL2450 monitor costs just
£104 – making it the cheapest 24in
monitor we’ve seen.
We’ve seen plenty of cheap monitors
with shoddy, inflexible stands – but the
GL2450’s stand is sturdy and can be
tilted. Like most current monitors, the
GL2450 has a resolution of 1920x1080
pixels which is large enough for viewing
two webpages or a pair of documents
side by side.
As you might expect at this price, the
SPECIFICATIONS

24in • 1920x1080-pixel resolution • DVI and VGA
ports • 436 x 579 x 179 (HxWxD mm) • 4kg
www.snipca.com/11318

GL2450 has a no-frills set of
features. There’s no HDMI port, just
DVI and VGA connections, although the
DVI port can be converted to HDMI with
an inexpensive adapter (£2 from www.
snipca.com/11310). Only a VGA cable
is included in the box and there aren’t
any built-in speakers.
The GL2450 is extremely bright,
but in our tests out-of-the-box image
quality was poor. Colours were washed
out, while contrast and viewing angles
were below average. While we were able
to improve image quality dramatically
by fiddling with the controls (boosting
the contrast and tweaking the gamma
correction settings), it remained flawed,
with dark scenes in films suffering
from a lack of detail.
If you’re on a strict budget and not too
fussed about image quality, then the
BenQ GL2450 is a reasonably good

monitor. However, bear in mind the
Hanns-G HW246HBB costs only a few
pounds more and has slightly better
image quality as well as an HDMI port.
VERDICT: A very cheap monitor, but
image quality is average at best

★★★☆☆
ALTERNATIVE: Hanns-G
HW246HBB £108 A 24in
monitor with slightly
better image quality and
an HDMI port, but only
costs £4 more

GAME ❘ £1.99 (iOS) £1.22 (Android) from http://mrgan.com/blackbar

Mrgan Blackbar

An ingenious interactive story that makes you guess censored words
A lot of games tend to be very violent
or facile exercises in mindless button
bashing. Blackbar (available for iOS and
Android, with a Windows version in the
works) isn’t like that. This atmospheric
thriller consists of unusual word puzzles
that are simple but gripping.
Blackbar’s genius is in its simplicity.
It’s a text game where you follow
an intriguing story that’s played out
through letters exchanged between two
women who live in a dystopian world
in which communication is censored
and liberties removed.
In the game, this manifests itself
through redactions. Words are blacked
out, leaving you to fill in the blanks.
All you have to go on is the number of
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

iOS device running iOS 6 or later • Android device
running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich or later

22 19 February - 4 March 2014

characters in the redacted word and the
context provided by the other words.
Guessing the right word might take days,
but ultimately it feels very rewarding
when you finally beat the censors. That
said, there are no extra clues provided
when you can’t guess a redacted word.
The game comes to a standstill until
you work it out,
which can be
frustrating.
The story
is brilliantly
written, though,
and makes you
feel the anguish
of not being able
to communicate
effectively as you
struggle against
censorship.
Letters to your

pen pal are annotated with increasingly
threatening notes from the censors.
Other characters help to push the plot
along and there’s a constant feeling of
danger, suspense and intrigue.
Blackbar is less a game and more of an
interactive story. By solving the puzzles,
you enable the story to be told and in
doing so feel responsible for its outcome.
VERDICT: A striking story told in an
innovative way, but you’re sometimes
left guessing which can be frustrating

★★★★☆
ALTERNATIVE: Papers, Please £7
A more ambitious PC-based storytelling
game in which you play
a border control guard
in an oppressive eastern
European country

ROUTER ❘ £130 from www.snipca.com/11344

The best…

BT Home Hub 5

Earphones

BT’s cracking router with super-fast speeds
The BT Home Hub 5 is the
company’s first 802.11ac
router. Because it’s not
locked in to BT broadband
connections, you can use it
with any ISP. The Home
Hub’s long, narrow form
makes it one of the smallest
802.11ac routers we’ve seen.
Unfortunately, despite its
little swivel-out feet, this
design makes it somewhat
unstable when there are Ethernet cables
plugged into the back. We had to prop it
up to keep it from falling flat on its face.
The Home Hub 5 is a rarity, in that it
has both a built-in ADSL modem and
a port for connecting a cable modem.
There’s a USB port for connecting hard
drives and printers, as well as four Gigabit
Ethernet ports. By default, the Home Hub
5 is set up to work as a dual-band router
with the default password printed on a
plastic pull-out tab.
The first time you visit the administration
interface in your browser, a wizard
appears to help you get online. The Home
Hub 5’s interface is far cleaner and more
clearly worded than interfaces we’ve seen
with other routers, although this is due
in part to its lack of advanced features.
One very useful feature, however, is
the impressive parental controls, which
let you prevent specific devices from
going online during certain hours. This is
great if you want to keep the kids from
staying up all night on the internet.
Another feature – only available for BT
broadband customers – is Smart Setup.
Enabled by default, this detects when a
computer is connecting to the internet
for the first time and displays a webpage
providing information about any
available features and BT services, such
as the aforementioned parental controls.
This is useful for novices, but a little
annoying for more experienced users
– we found it prevented our Wi-FiSPECIFICATIONS

Dual-band 802.11ac and 802.11n • 802.11b/g • 4x
Gigabit Ethernet ports • built-in ADSL/VDSL modem •
1x cable modem port • 236x116x31 (WxHxD) • 300g •
One-year warranty www.snipca.com/11344

BUY IT!

★★★★★

Lindy Cromo IEM-75

£70 from www.snipca.com/9276
A chunky pair of earphones, but they
sound well-balanced with a bass that’s
not too overpowering. They don’t leak
too much sound either, so they won’t
annoy other people around you.

Maxwell Metallics
equipped printer from working properly,
until we turned it off.
BT was unable to send us its matching
802.11ac wireless adapter. Instead, we
used a Buffalo AC866 adapter (£34 from
www.snipca.com/11343). On 2.4GHz,
we got fast transfer speeds of 64.5Mbps
and 61.5Mbps at 1metre (m) and 10m
respectively, although we were unable
to get a stable connection at 20m in our
interference-hit test environment. At 5GHz,
we got a fantastic 158.5MMbps at 1m,
149.1Mbps at 10m and 58.1Mbps at 20m.
Performance on an 802.11n network
was also fast. At 2.4GHz it was very quick,
managing 87Mbit/s at 1m and 76.7Mbit/s
at 10m, but a more modest 11.8Mbit/s at
20m. At 5GHz, it achieved 83.9Mbit/s
(1m), 78.8Mbit/s (10m) and 14Mbit/s (20m).
With excellent overall performance
and a great interface that avoids jargon,
the BT Home Hub 5 is one of the best
802.11ac routers around. It‘s a worthy
Buy It! winner.
VERDICT: A fast, easy-to-use router

£15 from
www.snipca.com/11378
Not the loudest or most
detailed-sounding set of
earphones here, but they’re
comfortable with a well
balanced sound and plenty
of bass. All in all, a great set
of budget earphones.

SoundMagic E10

£35 from www.
snipca.com/11379
Although they
sound a little
harsh at very
high volumes,
these earphones
otherwise sound
great with a rich and
deep bass – and
they’re very loud
too. The E10 sound
almost as good as
other earphones that
cost twice as much.

★★★★★
ALTERNATIVE: Securifi Almond £65
If you’re not
ready to make
the jump to
802.11ac, this
802.11n router
is cheaper, yet
still very easy
to set up

RHA MA350

£30 from
www.snipca.com/11381
An especially sturdy pair of
earphones that sound warm
and detailed with a rich, vibrant
bass. Our only quibble is the
faint Left and Right markings
on the earplugs.

19 February - 4 March 2014 23

Reviews
MP3 PLAYER ❘ £238 from www.snipca.com/11199

Sony Walkman NWZ-F886
An Android media player for music buffs
Most Android media players we’ve seen
haven’t compared well to Apple’s iPod
Touch (see our review of the current fifth
generation version, Issue 385). They’ve
tended to be more expensive, had shorter
battery life and shoddier designs. At first
glance, Sony’s latest Walkman, the
NWZ-F886, looks very similar to its
predecessor the NWZ-F805 (see our
review, Issue 389), but it has a few new
features aimed at music enthusiasts while
remaining less expensive than the Touch.
The NWZ-F886 has built-in noise
cancelling which helps to reduce the
volume of background noise so you
don’t have to crank up your volume to
dangerously loud levels. In our tests, the
noise cancellation had a dampening
effect on bass sounds, but did effectively
block out distracting noises such as car
engines and the rattling of a train

If you enjoy highresolution music, then
this is a good option
carriage. Sadly, the built-in noise
cancellation only works with the
included earphones. While, the
earphones were great for most music
genres, we found the bulky earpieces
tended to drop out of our ears, no matter
how we wore them, rendering the
noise-cancellation feature next to useless.
There are playback control buttons on
the right-hand side which are useful if
you want to quickly skip or pause tracks
without having to fiddle with the screen.
The buttons require quite a lot of pressure
to operate them, so there’s little chance
you’ll accidentally activate them.
Unlike the vast majority of media
players, the NWZ-F886 can play
high-resolution music files. These files,
usually in the FLAC format, sound even
SPECIFICATIONS

4in 854x480 pixel screen • 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 250
T20 dual-core processor • 333MHz Nvidia GeForce
ULP graphics chip • 1GB memory • 32GB storage
• Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean • 103g • 116x59x8mm
(HxWxD) • One-year warranty www.snipca.com/11200

24 19 February - 4 March 2014

better than CDs. This is because
they’ve been mastered to more
accurately reproduce the original
studio recording. However,
high-resolution music files are
much larger than standard audio
files – a three-minute track takes
up around 100MB. Plus, they’re
currently only available from
specialist online music stores
such as qobuz.com and hdtracks.
com. Depending on the quality
of your hearing, you may not be
able to discern the difference
anyway. The Computeractive
team was divided between
those who could hear the
extra richness and clarity
of high-resolution music,
especially tracks with lots
of string instruments, and
those who couldn’t tell
any difference.
When playing standard
MP3 and AAC files, there is little
difference between the NWZ-F886 and
the iPod Touch in terms of sound quality.
There is a greater difference when it
comes to videos, however. Although both
devices have 4in screens, the NWZ-F886
only has a resolution of 854x480 pixels.
Videos are more detailed on the iPod
Touch’s 1136x640-pixel screen and also
has more accurate colours.
The cramped, lower-resolution screen
of the NWZ-F886 also makes it less
enjoyable to browse the web and check
email. Text looks fuzzy, especially when
compared to the iPod Touch. The slow
processor doesn’t help either and means
launching apps and scrolling through
long, complex webpages often feels
sluggish and juddery.
Battery life wasn’t bad, with 22 hours
of music playback and four hours 10
minutes of video. The iPod Touch lasted
even longer though, managing almost
54 hours playing music – which is
staggering – and just under six hours
when playing video.
Sony has modified the Android 4.1
operating system, mainly by replacing
Google’s media apps with its own.
They’re generally better designed with

less fussy interfaces. There’s also a
separate DLNA app, which is useful for
streaming music stored on a NAS. The
apps are pretty good, but not perfect. We
found that music unexpectedly stopped
playing when, for example, we added
cover art to an album or snapped a
screenshot and only resumed when
the other task completed.
At £238, the 32GB version of the Sony
Walkman NWZ-F886 is around the same
price as the 32GB iPod Touch. If you’re
an audiophile who likes their audio files
in high-resolution and can appreciate
the difference in quality, then the
NWZ-F886 is a good option, but only if
you can overlook the somewhat dated
specifications which make using apps
and browsing the web a bit of a chore.
For most the iPod Touch is better
designed and better value.
VERDICT: High-resolution audio on
the move, but you’ll need to be an
exceptionally keen music aficionado
to tolerate its faults

★★★★☆
ALTERNATIVE: Apple iPod Touch (5th
generation) £249 It doesn’t have built-in
noise-cancellation or high-resolution
audio support, but
its superior battery
life, performance and
screen make it better
for most people

SD CARD ❘ £47 (8GB), £58 (16GB), £78 (32GB) from www.snipca.com/11384

Eye-Fi Mobi
Transfer photos wirelessly from
your camera to your phone or tablet
Smartphone cameras are great because
you can instantly share your snaps with
your loved ones. However, their image
quality is no match for a good quality
dedicated camera. The Eye-Fi Mobi lets
you have the best of both worlds. This SD
card has built-in Wi-Fi so it can create its
own wireless network when plugged into
your camera. Connect to the network
from your smartphone or tablet and you
can download and share any photos.
Despite having built-in Wi-Fi, the
Eye-Fi Mobi’s dimensions are identical
to those of a standard SD card. It works
with a huge range of cameras – you
can check to see if your camera is
supported at http://support.eye.fi/
cameras. We tested the 8GB Mobi
with a Panasonic Lumix GX1. There
was no noticeable effect on the camera’s
battery life, because the Mobi is smart
enough to turn Wi-Fi on only when
transferring photos.
The Eye-Fi Mobi app is available for
iOS, Android and Kindle Fire (www.
snipca.com/11385). We had no trouble
connecting either an iPad Mini or a
SPECIFICATIONS

Camera with SD card slot • iOS 5 or later • Android 4.0
Ice Cream Sandwich or later • or Amazon Kindle Fire
HD or HDX www.snipca.com/11384

Kindle Fire HDX
to the Mobi. Once
connected, the app
automatically starts
downloading photos.
Copying 40 photos took us two minutes
and 15 seconds which is reasonably
quick. The app is smart enough to
skip any Raw images – which aren’t
viewable on most phones and tablets
– and copy just JPEGs which speeds
up copying times.
Disappointingly, there’s no way to
choose which photos you want to
transfer. This will be a problem if your
Mobi is larger than the available storage
on your device. If you connect more than
one mobile device to the Mobi – as we did
– the apps are smart enough, by default,
to ensure they will only download new
photos that haven’t been copied before.
There is a setting in the app that will let
you copy already downloaded photos if
you wish. Transferred photos can be
emailed, shared on Twitter or Facebook
or opened in other apps for editing and
sharing on other services.
A beta version of the app is available
for Windows and Mac, but it’s very
much a work in progress. Although we
successfully connected our Windows 7

WHAT SHOULD I BUY?

laptop to the Mobi, it wouldn’t transfer
any photos.
The Eye-Fi Mobi is expensive, costing
almost four times more than an
equivalent standard 8GB SD card. It’s
nonetheless a marvel of miniaturisation
that does its job very well. Even if you
have no interest in sharing your photos
online, it’s a handy way of backing
up your photos while out and about
without having to drag along a laptop.
VERDICT: Not perfect, but the Eye-Fi
Mobi is still a great accessory for keen
photographers

★★★★☆
ALTERNATIVE: AData Dash Drive Air
AE400 £33 A storage card
reader that lets you access
the contents of any SD card
wirelessly, although its
app is fiddly and you must
remember to charge
its battery

We solve your buying dilemmas

Which version of Microsoft Office should I buy?

Q

My new computer doesn’t
come with Microsoft Office.
I’d like to buy a copy, but I’m
very confused about the various editions
available. Which one should I buy?
Jeanette Singh
Microsoft Office 2013 is
available either as a one-off
purchase, or as a subscription
with an annual fee. Home and Student
2013 is the cheapest edition of the
former. It costs £95 from www.snipca.

A

com/11377 and includes Word, Excel,
PowerPoint and OneNote. The other
commonly available one-off purchase
editions include Home and Business 2013 –
which adds Outlook – and Professional,
which adds Publisher and Access. These
are more expensive (£178 and £315
respectively), though. Home and Student
is likely to be sufficient for your needs.
If you have more than one computer, the
Office 365 subscription service is worth
considering. For £60 a year (www.snipca.
com/11376), everyone in your household

can use Word,
Excel, PowerPoint,
OneNote, Outlook,
Publisher and
Access on up to
five computers (Windows and Macs) per
person. University 365 is the discounted
version for students and there are
more expensive 365 editions aimed at
businesses with many users.
Do you need advice on what you should buy?
Email us at [email protected]

19 February - 4 March 2014 25

Reviews
NETWORK ATTACHED STORAGE ❘ £114 from www.snipca.com/11324

Western Digital My Cloud 2TB
A NAS you can easily access – even when you’re away from home
Generally, NAS devices now have more
features than before. For example, our
favourite NAS, the Synology DiskStation
DS213j (see our review, Issue 404),
includes a BitTorrent server, securitycamera management, a web server, a blog
server, file-sharing capabilities and much
more besides. The My Cloud, on the other
hand, takes a much more streamlined
approach, focusing on file sharing and
remote access. Western Digital claims the
remote-access feature is so easy to set
up and use that it’s a viable alternative
to online storage services such as Dropbox
– one that you control completely.
Setting up the My Cloud is a doddle –
simply type its IP address into a web
browser, create a user name and password
and you’ll see a web-management interface
that’s clear and logically organised.
Unlike with other NAS enclosures we’ve
seen, you need to be connected to the
internet the first time you use it or you
won’t be able to set it up. But once it’s
configured, you’ll be able to use the My
Cloud for local file sharing and media

It’s simple to set
up and costs only
6p per gigabyte
streaming whether your internet
connection is working or not. Impressively,
you don’t need to configure the remoteaccess feature. Unlike most other NAS
devices with remote access we’ve tested,
it worked without the need to fiddle
around with our router’s settings. This
should be the same for you.
The web-management interface
consists of a series of tiles that bear a
passing resemblance to the live tiles in
Windows 8’s Modern interface. Each tile
shows basic information about your NAS,
such as the amount of used storage space
and how many user accounts you have.
Clicking a tile takes you through to
SPECIFICATIONS

2TB hard drive • 1x USB port • UPnP media, iTunes,
USB drive, FTP servers • 171x49x139 (HxWxD) • 1 kg
www.snipca.com/11325

26 19 February - 4 March 2014

the options for that feature.
We had no problems sharing files,
sharing the contents of a USB drive
plugged into the My Cloud’s sole
USB3 port, and streaming music and
high-definition video over our local
network. Remotely accessing files
proved to be more problematic,
however, as this works best on a
broadband connection with a fast
upload speed. Attempting to stream
both high- and standard-definition
videos via a home ADSL connection
with a 1Mbps upload speed resulted
in juddery video and long, frequent
pauses. Remotely accessing files that
take up less bandwidth – such as
documents, MP3s and photos – worked
better, though there were still minor
but noticeable delays when switching
between tracks or browsing from one
photo to another. Attempting the same
tasks on Dropbox wasn’t glitch-free
either, but was ultimately a much
smoother experience.
To access files remotely you need to
download apps. These are available for
iOS, Android, Mac and Windows
(XP SP3 or later), and while they work
well enough, they are basic. You can
only view files in a list, none of the apps
have a search feature and only the mobile
apps can connect to Dropbox, Google
Drive and SkyDrive. You can copy files
stored on the My Cloud to those services,
but not vice versa.
The My Cloud’s performance when
copying large files across our local
network wasn’t bad, with an overall
speed of 51MB/s. It copied small files
very slowly however at just 8MB/s.
Because there’s no cooling fan, it is at
least very quiet, but this means you’ll
need to keep it in a well-ventilated
area and make sure you don’t block
its cooling vents.
The WD My Cloud won’t be for you if
you want a NAS packed with loads of
features. But if you’re happy with a basic
set of features, or you have a broadband
connection with a very fast upload
speed and want the convenience of a
Dropbox-like feature, then it’s a good
choice, because it’s simple to set up and

use. Plus, it’s inexpensive for a 2TB NAS,
costing just 6p per gigabyte.
VERDICT: Not many features, but it’s
easy to set up and provides convenient
remote access to your files

★★★★☆
ALTERNATIVE: Synology DiskStation
DS213j £160 More expensive,
but if you want
remote access
plus loads of
features then
this welldesigned NAS
enclosure is a
good choice

VIDEO EDITING SOFTWARE ❘ £50 from www.snipca.com/11334

Sony Movie Studio Platinum 13
Sony makes its budget video-editing program easier for newcomers
Sony Movie Studio Platinum has always
been one of our favourite video-editing
programs. Its controls are efficient and
precise, particularly when it comes to
core tasks, such as trimming and
rearranging clips. Its creative effects
aren’t as flashy as other programs, but
its excellent colour-correction tools are
much more useful than a gimmicky
collection of effects.
Previous versions have had an austere
interface that was uninviting, cluttered
and confusing. Unlike other video-editing
programs, it still lacks any one-click
theme-based automatic editing facilities.
However, version 13 marks Sony’s most
significant effort to make the program
easier for video-editing novices. Its
buttons and tabs are bigger, which makes
the software easier to use on touchscreen
computers. However, this also means less
space for the preview window and
timeline, and the interface feels pretty
cramped on low-resolution screens.
The buttons have been rearranged. You
manage your video-clips library using
buttons at the top, while editing functions
are along the bottom – a sensible layout

Version 13 is more
approachable than
before for novices
that existing users will quickly warm to.
However, they’ll be less impressed by the
separate tools for trimming clips and for
fading them in and out. These functions
used to be available simultaneously via
handles that appeared on each video clip.
Separating these editing tools makes it
clearer for beginners but slows down
more experienced users.
There’s also a new Simple mode, which
hides various buttons to give a cleaner
interface. The Show Me How tutorials
SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

2GHz processor (multi-core processor recommended
for HD editing) • 2GB memory minimum • 500MB
available hard-drive space • Graphics card with at
least 512MB of memory • Windows 7, 8 or 8.1
www.snipca.com/11334

guide new users through the basics of the
software, while pop-up help bubbles
provide information on what the specific
controls do (see screenshot above). We’re
pleased to see new tutorials added, but
disappointed that export options still
aren’t covered in any detail. While
YouTube and Facebook uploads are
straightforward, exporting a project as a
new file saved to your hard drive can get
confusing unless you have a good
working knowledge of video formats.
On the whole, though, Simple mode is
a well-judged addition that makes the
most important features easier to find.
Movie Studio still looks a little sober and
cold, though, while the inability to resize
the various parts of the interface in
Simple mode meant there was a lot of
wasted space on our 1920x1080resolution monitor.
Previous versions of Movie Studio
Platinum could edit video with resolutions
up to 1920x1080 pixels (also known as
Full HD). Version 13 supports resolutions
up to 3840x2160 (known as Ultra HD or
4K). Some video cameras and even a few
smartphones can shoot in 4K, but they’re
still pretty expensive and therefore rare.
Nonetheless, it’s forward-thinking of
Sony to make Movie Studio 4K-ready.
4K editing requires a powerful computer,
but it can be done on slower computers,
thanks to the new proxy editing mode,
which automatically converts footage to a
lower resolution. When you’ve finished
editing, the footage is converted back to 4K.

The program’s already excellent
colour-correction tools are supplemented
by a new effect called Color Match, which
attempts to clone the colour palette from
one clip onto another. It’s a great help
when mixing footage from different
cameras, and also comes in handy for
fixing colour casts.
Compared to version 12, Movie Studio
Platinum 13 isn’t a dramatic overhaul,
so most existing users can safely skip it,
but it is more approachable than before
for novices. It can’t match Adobe
Premiere Elements for sheer breadth of
features, but if you simply want to
arrange, trim and colour-correct video
clips quickly and efficiently, then it’s a
great program.
VERDICT: Not much here for existing
users, but this video editor keeps things
simple and delivers great results

★★★★☆
ALTERNATIVE: Adobe Premiere
Elements 12 £63 A more welcoming
interface and powerful features, though
its editing and colour-correction tools
aren’t as precise as Movie Studio’s

19 February - 4 March 2014 27

Reviews
SMARTPEN ❘ £122 from www.snipca.com/11348

Livescribe 3
Transcribe handwritten notes quickly and easily, but only on iOS devices
The Livescribe 3 is a smartpen that lets
you take notes anywhere – in meetings
and lectures, for example – and transfer
them to your iPad or iPhone. You can
then turn the notes into text to be edited
and distributed to other people using
the free Livescribe+ iOS app.
The Livescribe 3 uses the same
technology as its predecessors to capture
every detail of what you write or draw. A
tiny built-in camera tracks the location of
the pen’s nib when used on special paper
that has a unique pattern, just visible to
the naked eye, printed on it. You can
either buy this paper in the form of
notebooks (two cost £18 from www.
snipca.com/11345) or you can print the
pattern using a laser printer. The pen
comes with a 50-page starter notebook.
Like previous Livescribe pens, the 3’s
internal storage keeps digital copies of
everything you scrawl on the paper.
But unlike its predecessors, which

A useful tool, but
incompatible with
Android devices
connect to a PC using USB or Wi-Fi,
Livescribe 3 only works with iOS 7 devices
equipped with a version of Bluetooth
called Bluetooth Low Energy or BLE.
Compatible models include the iPad 3 or
later, the iPhone 4S or later and the fifth
generation iPod Touch. This is why the
Livescribe 3 doesn’t currently work with
Android – comparatively few Android
devices have BLE built in.
The Livescribe 3 transmits whatever
you write on the paper pad to your
Livescribe+ app, virtually in real time.
Because BLE doesn’t consume much power
and the pen has a battery life of around 14
hours, it’s feasible to keep the device and
pen paired and active for long periods.
The Livescribe 3 is much lighter than
previous versions, so it looks and feels
REQUIREMENTS

Livescribe paper or notebook; Apple iPad 3, iPhone 4S
or iPod Touch (fifth generation) or later running iOS 7

28 19 February - 4 March 2014

more like a normal pen. It lacks the
built-in screen and voice recorder that
previous versions had, but you can record
audio using the Livescribe+ app instead.
The paper has special controls printed
onto it, and if you tap these with the pen
you can control the app. For example,
there are controls to record, pause and
stop audio recordings in the app.
The notes you take appear in the
Livescribe+ app’s Feeds screen in the
order they were created. When you
highlight a note using your finger or
the end of the pen, the app will try to
transcribe your handwritten notes into
digital text. In our tests it struggled to
transcribe hurriedly scribbled notes, but
coped well with numbers, block capitals
and neat joined-up handwriting. Any
transcribed text can then be copied
and pasted into other apps.
Transcribed numbers can be turned
into a phone contact or appointment in
your calendar. However, only dates
written in the format ‘29th October 2013’
were successfully sent to our calendar.
Dates using slashes were mistakenly
identified as phone numbers.
You can also create Pencasts (a
combination of audio recording and

notes) but, oddly, only on an iPhone.
This lets you jot down notes as you make
the recording and review both the notes
and audio in sync at a later time. You
can export and share pencasts with other
iOS 7 users via Apple’s AirDrop wireless
sharing feature, or by uploading them
to Evernote or Livescribe’s own online
pencast-sharing service.
Despite its imperfect transcription
technology and its current incompatibility
with Android, the Livescribe 3 is a
very useful tool. The ability to convert
handwritten notes into legible, editable
digital text quickly and easily is
invaluable, especially if you’re not a
particularly fast typist.
VERDICT: Great for turning handwritten
notes into text without the need for a
PC, but it’s currently only available for iOS

★★★★☆
ALTERNATIVE:
Livescribe Echo £125 An
older, chunkier and heavier
version of the Livescribe smartpen
that requires a USB connection to your
computer to transcribe notes

Dell M115HD
An easily portable projector, but don’t expect a great picture
Projectors are great for creating a
big-screen experience for your
films and photo slideshows, but
they’re often bulky, expensive and
create a lot of noise and heat. The
Dell M115HD is cheap for a
projector and very compact. With
the same footprint as a drinks coaster
and only 35mm thick, the M115HD
almost takes up less space than its power
brick. There’s no cap to protect the
off-centre lens, but you can use the
included carry case instead.
The M115HD can create a projected
image with a maximum resolution of
720p. Along with HDMI, there are
microSD and USB connections so you can
plug in a card or disk and enjoy photos
and videos without having to drag your
PC or laptop into the living room. A
proprietary VGA connector means you’ll
have to use the bundled adapter to
connect older devices without HDMI.
The 3.5mm audio output is crucial,
because the built-in speaker is too quiet
and tinny. It doesn’t even drown out the
projector’s internal fan, which did settle
down after a few minutes and is quieter
on power-saving mode, but even then we
could hear it from several feet away.
There’s an adjustable foot for raising
the height of the projector, but it isn’t
particularly firm so a slight tap is enough
to push the projected image out of focus.
Chunky cables spewing out the back can
make this even less stable, so we attached
a tripod to keep the M115HD in place.
The lens focus control is too sensitive,
while the edges of the image will be out
of focus unless the M115HD faces squarely
to the wall. These two flaws make it very
difficult to get a perfectly sharp image.
Plus, if your image looks slightly skewed,
there’s no digital keystone correction to
help compensate.
The M115HD is bright for such a small
projector, managing 450 lumens, whereas
comparable models only reach 300
SPECIFICATIONS

1280x720-pixel resolution • 10,000:1 contrast ratio
• 450 lumens • HDMI and proprietary VGA inputs •
37x105x104mm • 360g • One-year warranty
www.snipca.com/11338

lumens. It’s bright enough to use with the
lights on or during the day if you’re
watching football or showing off photos,
but to see the detail in films with dark
scenes, you’ll have to close the curtains.
The M115HD uses DLP technology
which is cheap to make, but often creates
an irritating rainbow effect in images,
particularly black-and-white pictures.
It wasn’t as bad as other DLP projectors
we’ve seen, but it was still distracting.
Colour accuracy was shoddy in our
tests, rising to merely okay with some
tweaking, but it was impossible to get
perfect colour accuracy with the limited
calibration settings available. Colours
always seemed too cold and blacks
appeared grey, while brightness, contrast,
colour temperature and other image
settings are all locked when using the
image-quality presets.
The Dell M115HD isn’t bad if you want a
projector that you’ll only use occasionally
or one that’s small enough to carry
around, but its image quality is far from
great. For regular home use, we’d
recommend the admittedly much larger
BenQ W750. It costs only slightly more,
yet has significantly better image quality.
VERDICT: A very small projector, but
image quality isn’t up to scratch

COMING SOON
LATE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2014
14
Fevered speculation is
mounting that Samsung
will launch the Galaxy
S5 smartphone with a
2560x1440-pixel screen
and a metal casing
instead of a plastic one (such as the one
shown here in an artist’s mock-up).

Image credit: openw3.com

PROJECTOR ❘ £366 from www.snipca.com/11337

MARCH 2014 Asus
has announced the
Chromebox, a mini PC
running Chrome OS and
costing just $179 in the US. It will
have an Intel Celeron 2955U processor,
a 16GB SSD, 2GB of memory, four USB3
ports and an SD card slot.

MARCH 2014 Asus’ Transformer
Book Duet is a 13in tablet that can
turn into a laptop by connecting
with a keyboard dock. It can
switch between Windows
and Android, whether in laptop or tablet
mode, making it four computers in one.

SPRING/SUMMER 2014 The
Asus Padfone Mini is a 4in
Android smartphone that slots
into the back of the included 7in
tablet to share its apps and web
connection. It’ll have two SIM card
slots and an eight-megapixel camera.

NEXT ISSUE

ON SALE

5 March

HP Slatebook X2
An Android tablet
that turns into a
laptop

★★★☆☆
ALTERNATIVE: BenQ W750 £429 A
larger projector, but with superior image
quality better suited for regular use

WD Black2
A laptop hard drive
and SSD in one

These and much more…
Subscribe to Computeractive at
www.getcomputeractive.co.uk

19 February - 4 March 2014 29

Buy It

Our pick of products that have won the Buy It award

LAPTOP

DESKTOP PC

TABLET

Apple MacBook
Air 13in Mid-2013

Wired2Fire Hal 1000

Asus Nexus 7

Apple’s latest MacBook Air isn’t cheap,
but it’s the best lightweight laptop
available. It has excellent battery life,
a comfortable keyboard, a sensibly
sized screen, a sturdy and classy build
and great bundled software.

A compact and colourful PC that’s also
fast, quiet and reasonably priced. Plus
you can order it with Windows 7 instead
of Windows 8 if don’t like Microsoft’s
latest operating system.

An excellent budget 7in Android tablet
with a high-resolution screen and good
battery life. It’s not quite as cheap as
the original Nexus 7 and Android still
needs more high-quality tablet apps,
but it’s still a fantastic bargain.

ALTERNATIVE: Samsung Series 5 Ultra
NP540U3C-A02UK Cheaper, more
storage, but inferior screen and battery.
£538 from www.snipca.com/11112

ALTERNATIVE: CCL Alpha XM-2 A tiny,
space-saving desktop PC that’s less
powerful, but also good value. £440
from www.snipca.com/9635

ALTERNATIVE: Apple iPad Air A
lightweight 10in tablet with an excellent
screen and peerless selection of apps.
£399 from www.snipca.com/10545

PHONE

DIGITAL CAMERA

SMART TV

Motorola Moto G

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF6

Panasonic Smart Viera LED
TV TX-L32E6B

£949 from www.snipca.com/10020
Tested: Issue 402

£130 without contract from
www.snipca.com/10815
Tested: Issue 413

Motorola’s budget Android smartphone
is a steal. It’s responsive, well-made,
fast and has a good screen. It’s better
than many phones at twice the price.
ALTERNATIVE: Apple iPhone 5s An
excellent smartphone with a fingerprint
scanner, a great-quality camera and
very fast performance. £549 without a
contract from www.snipca.com/10171

30 19 February - 4 March 2014

£650 from www.snipca.com/11113
Tested: Issue 412

£359 from www.snipca.com/11277
Tested: Issue 405

This compact interchangeable lens
camera is small and reasonably priced,
yet it has well-designed controls, a wide
range of available lenses and shoots
excellent quality photos. The GF6 really
is unbeatable value.
ALTERNATIVE: Fujifilm XF1 If you don’t
need the flexibility of removable lenses,
this slim compact is a great choice. £129
from www.snipca.com/11115

£199 from www.snipca.com/9993
Tested: Issue 407

P
DRRIC
OP E

£349 from www.snipca.com/11284
Tested: Issue 397

If image quality rather than TV catch-up
services is paramount, then this keenly
priced smart TV is the bee’s knees.
It’s also got lots of ports and a welldesigned, responsive user interface.
ALTERNATIVE: Samsung UE42F5500
Image quality isn’t as good as the
Viera’s, but this smart TV does have all
the terrestrial TV catch-up services.
£385 from www.snipca.com/11285

BUY IT!

★★★★★
E READER

SECURITY SOFTWARE

PHOTO EDITING

Kobo Aura

Kaspersky
Internet Security 2014

AdobePhotoshopLightroom5

A great e-reader with an easy-to-read
lit touchscreen that can be tweaked
extensively through its settings. There’s
no 3G version for downloading books on
the go, but, unlike the Amazon Kindle,
you can buy ebooks from independent
retailers that use the ePub format.

The best malware protection suite for
the second year running also has good
parental controls and the ability to create
a rescue disc for emergencies. Click the
link above for a 3-PC licence, or buy a
1-PC licence on our Software Store for
just £17.99 (www.snipca.com/11134).

Lightroom is a consistently elegant,
powerful and fast photo-management
program packed with sophisticated
features. If you want to keep on top of
your photos and make them look great,
there’s no better software to do it with.

ALTERNATIVE: Amazon Kindle
Paperwhite (2013) An e-reader with a
brilliant screen and some useful features.
£109 from www.snipca.com/10532

ALTERNATIVE: Norton Internet Security
Cheaper than Kaspersky, but sometimes
blocks legitimate software. £22 from
www.snipca.com/11279

£120 from www.snipca.com/11130
Tested: Issue 410

£30 from www.snipca.com/11278
Tested: Issue 415

PC MONITOR

SECURITY
CATEGORYCAMERA

Dell UltraSharp U2412M

Y-cam HomeMonitor

£215 from www.snipca.com/10867
Tested: Issue 378

An exquisite monitor with superb image
quality, an adjustable stand, a high
resolution and even a built-in USB hub.
It costs a little more than other monitors,
but it’s money well spent. It’s easily the
best value monitor we’ve seen and is
the one by which all others are judged.
ALTERNATIVE: Eizo Foris FS2333
Pricey, but this monitor has even better
image quality and can be extensively
tweaked too if you wish. £282 from
www.snipca.com/11292

P
DRRIC
OP E

£152 from www.snipca.com/11281
Tested: Issue 398

Although its apps are limited and it’s
a little expensive compared to other
security cameras, the Y-cam justifies
its price with its ease of use and goodquality footage stored conveniently
online. If you want peace of mind while
away from home, then it’s a great choice.
ALTERNATIVE: D-Link Wireless-N Day
& Night Camera A good-value security
camera with excellent night vision. £100
from www.snipca.com/10465

£100 from www.snipca.com/11386
Tested: Issue 402

ALTERNATIVE: Adobe Photoshop
Elements 12 A fast and polished
photo-editing program with excellent
advanced editing tools. £63 from
www.snipca.com/11119

ROUTER

BT Home Hub 5

ENNEW
TR
Y

£129 from www.snipca.com/11344
Tested: Issue 417

BT’s latest router is its first to support
802.11ac. It doesn’t have as many
features as competing models, but it’s
reasonably priced for a 802.11ac router,
has good parental controls and is fast.
ALTERNATIVE: Securifi Almond
A cheaper 802.11n router that’s dead
easy to set up thanks to its touchscreen,
which makes it a good choice for technical
novices. It’s reasonably fast too, so
you’re not giving up performance.
£65 from www.snipca.com/11387

19 February - 4 March 2014 31

BUY IT!

★★★★★

Buy It

NAS

WEB DESIGN

MULTIFUNCTION PRINTER

Synology DiskStation DS213J

Xara Web Designer 9
Premium

Canon Pixma MG4250

£160 from www.snipca.com/10575
Tested: Issue 404

£90 from www.snipca.com/10046
Tested: Issue 398

£70 from www.snipca.com/10499
Tested: Issue 382

This NAS enclosure has it all – fast,
easy configuration and plenty of extra
features. It’s not perfect – installation is
fiddly and it’s pricey – but there are few
other NAS devices we would rather buy.

There are lots of web-design programs,
but Xara’s is easy to use and affordable
yet packed with lots of features as well
as a good selection of high-quality
templates and graphics.

This budget multifunction printer (MFP)
isn’t the fastest available, but it’s cheap
to buy and inexpensive to run. Just as
importantly, both prints and scans look
great. Unless you need faster print
speeds, this MFP is the one to buy.

ALTERNATIVE: QNap TS-221 Disks are
easier to install and it has many features,
but it’s more expensive and not as fast.
£264 from www.snipca.com/11283

ALTERNATIVE: Jimdo Pro This browserbased program is packed with features,
but lacking in high-quality templates.
£60 a year from www.jimdo.com/pricing

ALTERNATIVE: Epson Workforce Pro
4015DN This standalone printer is an
excellent alternative to a laser printer.
£144 from www.snipca.com/11286

SOLID STATE DRIVE

EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE

HOMEPLUGS

Crucial M500 SSD

Western Digital My
Passport Ultra 1TB

TP-Link AV500 Nano
Powerline Adapter Starter Kit
(TL-PA4010KIT)

£213 from www.snipca.com/11287
Tested: Issue 402

£59 from www.snipca.com/11388
Tested: Issue 307, Computer Shopper

£35 from www.snipca.com/10742
Tested: Issue 395

A blindingly fast SSD that’s good value
and available in a variety of capacities
- 120GB, 240GB, 480GB and 960GB.
Apart from fitting more memory, it’s the
single best upgrade you can do on your
PC or laptop.

The My Passport Ultra 1TB is a very fast
USB3 portable hard disk that’s very
keenly priced. It comes bundled with
backup software, although it can be
clunky to use.

TP-Link’s tiny Homeplug adapters are a
great choice, especially if socket space
is at a premium or you don’t want to
block an adjacent socket. Despite their
low price, they’re also very fast making
them great value.

ALTERNATIVE: SanDisk Extreme
II 240GB This fast SSD was far too
expensive when we reviewed it
originally, but it’s now much cheaper.
£146 from www.snipca.com/11288

ALTERNATIVE: Toshiba StorE Canvio
500GB Not as good value or as fast,
but it does come with better bundled
software. £43 from www.snipca.
com/11289

ALTERNATIVE: Devolo dLAN 500
AVPlus Starter Kit These fast Homeplug
adapters can block adjacent sockets,
but they do have a passthrough socket.
£92 from www.snipca.com/11290

32 19 February - 4 March 2014

14 pages of easy-to-follow workshopss and expert tips
35 Control who does
what on your PC
38 Create a font from
your handwriting

40 Animate charts in
PowerPoint
42 Wirelessly sync music
to your Android device

PLUS
43 Readers’ Tips
44 Tablet & Phone Tips
46 Make Windows Better

47 Make Office Better
48 Secret Tips For...
Avast Free

Control who does
what on your PC
What you need: Windows 7 or 8 Time required: 40 minutes

W

indows lets you create
separate user accounts for
different people using your
computer. This stops people
accessing your files, but they
could still download software
that will change your PC’s
settings. To prevent this from

happening, use the free program
Windows Live Family Safety
(Windows 7 and 8 only) which
provides a useful set of tools that
lets you restrict and monitor
what other people can do when
they are logged in to a separate
user account on your PC.

STEP To check whether you have Windows Live Family

1

Safety on your PC, click the Start button and type
windows live family safety. If you can see Windows
Live Family Safety on your PC, skip to Step 2. If you don’t see it,
go to www.snipca.com/11424 and click Download Now to begin
downloading the Windows Live suite. Click the setup file in
your Downloads folder and click Yes in the prompt screen to
run the program. You’ll get a selection of Windows programs
to install. Untick the ones you don’t want to install 1 . Ensure
Family Safety is ticked 2 and click Install 3 . The software will
install on your PC. Click Continue and Close on the final
prompt screens.

STEP To create a new user account in Windows 7,

2

click the Start button, Control Panel and then
click ‘Add or remove user accounts’ in the
User Accounts and Family Safety section. You should
see your PC’s name with Administrator below it. If
you’re not an Administrator, restart your PC and sign
in using the Administrator account. Follow the steps
above and click ‘Create a new account’ to set up a
new user account. Name your account Guest User 1 ,
select ‘Standard user’ 2 and click Create Account 3 .
Restart your PC. You’ll see a new Guest User account
beside your Administrator account in your login
screen. Click Guest User.

1

2

2

3

1

3

19 February - 4 March 2014 35

STEP Always add a password to your Guest User account

STEP Click ‘Set up Parental Controls’. Enter your admin

to keep your PC secure. To do this, tap the Start
button, then Control Panel and then ‘Add or
remove user accounts’. You’ll be asked for the password of
your Admin account because the guest user can’t make
changes to this account. Enter your password and click Yes.
Now click Guest User and click ‘Create a password’. Enter
and re-enter a password 1 , type a password hint 2 and click
‘Create password’ 3 . In the ‘Change an Account’ section, you
can change the account name of the new user account,
change or disable its password and change the login picture
by clicking the relevant option.

password and click Yes. Ensure Windows Live Family
Safety is selected in the dropdown menu below.
Click Guest User and then click Yes. Sign in to Windows Live
Family Safety using your Hotmail ID and click ‘Sign in’. If you
don’t have a Hotmail ID, click ‘Sign up’ to create one. Tick the
box beside Guest User to monitor that account and click Next.
Ensure Guest User is selected in the dropdown menu and click
Save. By default, Windows will select Custom as your ‘Web
filtering’ option and turn on ‘Activity reporting’ 1 . To
customise these options and add more monitoring and
tracking options, click the familysafety.live.com link 2 and
sign in using your Hotmail ID.

4

3

1

1
3
2
2

STEP We’ll first set how you – the

Administrator – will receive
notifications you make to the Guest
User account. Click your name under Parents.
Now click ‘Request frequency’ 1 and select
either Immediately or ‘Daily per child’
depending on how often you wish to be
notified of what the person using the Guest
User account does on your PC. Do not select
Off. Click ‘Activity report frequency’ 2 and
ensure Weekly is ticked for Guest User. We’ll
now change the Family Safety settings for
the Guest User account. Click Family Safety
at the top 3 .

5

3
1
2

STEP Click Guest User to monitor their activity, then

2
1

3

36 19 February - 4 March 2014

click ‘Activity reporting’. Ensure the slider on the
top is switched to on. From here you can monitor
everything the Guest User has accessed on your account including programs, websites and games. Click Summary 1
to see how many pages they’ve visited on a particular
website, suspicious pages they’ve visited and even words
they’ve searched for online. You can also see how long
they’ve used the PC for and on which days. Click ‘Web
activity’ in the menu and select a date range from the
dropdown menus 2 . You’ll see a list of websites accessed on
those days. You can allow or block access to these websites
in the future by clicking the option beside it 3 .

6

Control who does what on your PC
STEP Click ‘PC activity’ in the Guest User menu to see

STEP To set how many hours the Guest User account can

7

8

the time the person using the Guest User account
has spent on your PC, the programs they’ve used,
when it was last accessed and how long it was used for.
You’ll also get a list of file downloads and Windows Store
downloads by the Guest User account. Now click ‘Web
filtering’ in the Guest User menu. To keep a strict watch over
what websites are accessed by your Guest User account,
slide the slider to ‘Allow list only’ and click ‘Allow list’. Type
the names of websites you wish to add 1 and click either
Allow or Block 2 to add it to that list. To delete a file from
any of these lists, click the Bin icon 3 beside it. Websites not
on either of these lists won’t be accessible.

use your PC each day, click ‘Time limits’ 1 in the Guest
User menu. Tap the slider at the top to switch it on. Set
a time limit for Weekdays and Weekends by selecting time slots
from the hour and minute dropdown menus. You can also set
certain times during which the Guest User account can’t access
your PC at all. To do this, click Curfew from the Guest User
menu and click the slider to turn it on. You’ll get a grid of days
and hours. Each hour is divided into two blocks. Click inside the
box 2 to select half-an-hour slots during which your PC won’t
be accessible to the Guest User account. Therefore, clicking the
first box in 9 will block access from 9-9.30 and clicking the
second box in 9 will block access from 9.30-10am.

1

2

3
1

STEP Tap ‘App restrictions’ to restrict guest

9

users using programs on your PC. Tap the
slider on the top to switch this on. Every
program on your PC will be listed here. Tap the
dropdown menu beside a program 1 to see the
various options it contains. Many of these will be
.exe files that perform different individual functions
within the program. Select Block 2 to block the
entire program and all its components. The rest of
the programs will be allowed. If you can’t find a
program you want to block, type the program’s
name in the search bar 3 to find and block it.

2

2

1
3

STEP If a Guest User tries to access a restricted

10

1

2

website or program, they can either send
you an email requesting access or ask you
for your password to grant them access. If they send
you an email, you’ll get a request in your inbox. Click
the link in your email to go to the Requests section 1
of the Guest User account. Allow or Ignore 2 their
request by clicking the relevant option. If they
choose the second option, you’ll need to enter your
Administrator password to give them access to the
restricted website or program. ●

19 February - 4 March 2014 37

Create a font from
your handwriting
What you need: Printer, scanner, PC Time required: 15 minutes

T

he free website MyScriptFont
lets you create an original
font from your handwriting that
you can use in any writing
program such as Notepad, Word
and PowerPoint on any Windows
PC. All you need to do is

download a template, fill it in,
scan it, upload it and install your
new font. Having a personalised
font lets you add a unique touch
to your letters, digital documents
and anything else you create
using your PC.

STEP Go to www.myscriptfont.com and click the

Template link to get a PDF of a file with alphabets
in lower and upper case, numbers, symbols and
special characters. Print the template by pressing Ctrl+P
on your keyboard and selecting your home printer. Once you
have printed the template, write on it using a thick black felt
pen (ideally more than 0.6mm). The letters on the template
are only an indication of what to write where. You don’t have
to trace over it. Stick within the boxes because anything
outside them doesn’t get registered.

1

1

2
1

STEP Fill out the template. On your Scanner, go to Options and
set your Scan dpi to 300x300 1 . Scanners automatically
save the file as a PDF file, but you need to save your
template as a JPEG file 2 . Each scanner will have a different way
of setting your dpi and file format. Scan the template. If your
scanner can’t save the file as a JPEG, go to Step 3. If you can
convert the template into a JPEG file using your scanner, copy
this scanned JPEG file to your Desktop and skip to Step 4.

2

38 19 February - 4 March 2014

2

3

STEP To convert your scanned template from PDF to JPEG, go

to Zamzar (www.snipca.com/11375) click Choose Files 1 ,
and select your scanned PDF template. In Step 2 (on the
website), select .jpg from the dropdown menu 2 , enter your email
address in Step 3 (on the website) and click Convert in Step 4 3
(on the website). Go to your email and click the download link. It
will take you to a website to download your link. Click Download
Now beside the .jpg link of your file. The file will download to
your default Downloads folder. Copy and paste it to your Desktop.

3

STEP Once you have a scanned copy of your

4

template in .jpg format on your Desktop,
go to www.myscriptfont.com and click
Choose File 1 . Upload your scanned .jpg template
by selecting it from your Desktop and clicking
Open. Give your font a name 2 . In the font format
dropdown menu, select True Type Font (TTF) and
click ‘Send file’ 3 . After a few minutes, your font
will be displayed. If you can’t see the words ‘The
quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’ clearly,
your font has not been saved properly. The problem
will either be because you used a black pen that
was not thick enough or you didn’t use the correct
scanner settings.

1

STEP Click the name of your file to download it. It will be the name

5

1
2
3

you’ve given it (without spaces) followed by .tiff. The file will
automatically download to your Downloads folder. Copy and paste
this file to your Desktop. In Windows Vista, 7 and 8, right-click the font
and choose Properties. Click the Unblock button, click Apply and then OK.
Now double-click the file to see your font in different font sizes and click
Install 1 . In Windows XP, click the Start Button, click Control Panel and
then Fonts. Copy and paste the .tiff file from your Desktop into this Font
folder. Your font can now be used with your word-based PC programs such
as Notepad, Word and PowerPoint.

STEP Open any word-based program. Click the

6

Font dropdown menu, select your font
name 1 and type whatever you want. You
may need to increase the font size 2 to see what
you’ve typed clearly, but that’s the only change you’ll
need to make. You can even apply formatting options
to your font 3 . These fonts are only limited to PC
programs and can’t be used in web services such as
Google Docs.

1

1

3

2

STEP At this point only you will be able to see

7

your font because it’s installed on your PC.
If you want to send a document using the
font you’ve created to friends and family who use
Microsoft Office, then in Office 2010 and 2013, click
the File tab, then Options. (In Office 2007, click the
Microsoft Office button, then click Word Options.)
Now click the Save tab 1 and tick ‘Embed fonts in the
file’ 2 and both the options below it 3 . Click OK.
Now re-save the file and email it to your family and
friends to show them your new handwriting font. ●

3
2

19 February - 4 March 2014 39

Animate charts in
PowerPoint
What you need: PowerPoint 2010 or 2013 Time required: 30 minutes

Y

ou can brighten up your
PowerPoint presentation by
animating charts and adding
effects to its sections. For
this Workshop, we recommend
you carry out the tutorial
exactly as we have presented it

because the choice of
animations and effects
depend on the options you
select. Once you learn the
various options and how to
use them, feel free to experiment
with your own charts.

STEP Open PowerPoint and add a title and subtitle to

your chart. In this Workshop we’re going to create a
chart showing the annual expenses of a leisure club.
Move your mouse to any border of the text box until you get
a sign with four arrows. Click and drag this to position your
text box around the screen 1 . Move your cursor to an edge
of the text box 2 to increase its size. Click the green circle 3
and move your mouse to the left or right to rotate your text
box in that direction.

1

1
2

1

2

3

3

1
2

3
STEP To insert a new slide, click the Home tab 1 , click the

dropdown menu below New Slide and click Blank. To
insert a chart, click the Insert tab and then click Chart
2 . Pick ‘3-D Clustered Column’ because this chart adds brilliant
effects to sections of your chart. Click OK to select your chart
and get an Excel sheet. Create a chart with four rows and three
columns. Drag the bottom-right corner of the blue line to D5 3 .
Close the Excel sheet to see a chart generated from your data.

2

40 19 February - 4 March 2014

STEP Click any blank space inside your chart and right-click it.

You’ll get options to edit the data in your chart, and
change the font and chart type. To animate sections
of a chart, you first have to animate the entire chart. Click the
Animations tab 1 , click the chart, then the dropdown menu to the
left of Effect Options 2 to see more Animation options. Select
Wheel in the Entrance section. Now click Effect Options to
customise. Select 2 Spokes 3 to see that effect applied to your chart.

3

STEP Click Effect Options again and this time

4

select By Category 1 from the Sequence
section. Each of your chart categories will
now appear in sequence with the 2 Spoke Wheel
animation. Now click Animation Pane 2 in the
Advanced Animation section and click the
dropdown menu below the first option 3 in the
animation pane to the right. This will show you
how many animation sequences your chart is
divided into. By default, the first animation will
always be your chart background, followed by
each of your chart categories (Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4) in
order. Click Play to see each of these animations play
in the order they appear. We’ll now add different
animation effects to each section of the chart.

3
2
1

STEP By default,

5

all the
1
options in
the Animation Pane
are selected. Click on
a blank space in the
animation pane to
deselect them. Now
click the first option
2
(Background), click
the dropdown menu
beside it 1 and then
click Effect Options.
You’ll get a window
of your selected
animation divided
3
into three tabs –
Effect, Timing and
Chart Animation 2 .
Select 3 Spokes from
the Spokes
dropdown menu,
Arrow from the
Sound dropdown
menu and blue as the ‘After animation’ 3 colour from the dropdown
menu. Click OK. The background of your chart will appear with a 3 Spokes
Animation and the ‘whoosh!’ sound of an arrow. It will be highlighted in
blue after the entire animation appears.

STEP Click on a black space inside the Animation Pane,

6

select the second option (Category 1, which refers to
Q1 in your chart), click the dropdown menu beside it
and click Hide Advanced Timeline to get rid of the timeline
bars. Click the dropdown menu again, click Effect Options,
click the Timing tab and change the Duration from the
dropdown menu to ‘5 seconds (Very Slow)’ 1 . Click the
Triggers button 2 and select ‘Start effect on click of’. Select
‘Chart 1’ 3 from the dropdown menu. Click OK. You’ll notice
that the Q1 section of your chart now takes five seconds to
appear. When you play your chart in a sequence, this option
won’t appear until you click your mouse. This is great if you
want to control how individual sections appear.

1

3
2

STEP Select the third option in your animation pane (Category 2 which

7

1
2

refers to Q2 in your chart), click the dropdown menu beside it,
select Effect Options and click the Chart Animation tab 1 . This tab
makes changes to the whole chart and not to individual sections. Click the
‘Group chart’ dropdown menu 2 to change how your animations appear – By
Series, By Category, ‘By Element in Series’ or ‘By Element in Category’. Untick
‘Start animation by drawing the chart background’ 3 if you don’t want the
chart background to appear as an animated option. This will ensure the
background is always present in your chart and you’ll have one less option in
your animation pane after clicking OK. Press F5 on your keyboard to start
your slideshow. Each section of your chart will appear with the effects and
controls you’ve assigned to it. ●

3

19 February - 4 March 2014 41

Wirelessly sync music
to your Android device
What you need: Android 2.2 or later, PC Time required: 15 minutes

A

ll apps that sync music wirelessly
from your PC to your Android
device do so for a fee. But SyncMe
Wireless is a free app that lets you
wirelessly log into your PC from your
device and access your PC’s folders and

files. You can then copy these files
from your PC to a virtual clipboard
and paste them on to your device. All
you need is for your PC to be switched
on and for your PC and Android device
to be on the same Wi-Fi network.

STEP Download SyncMe

STEP Tap the name of

2

1

Wireless on your
device from www.
snipca.com/11392. Launch
the app and click Add
Computer in the Startup
screen. Tap Computer
Name (top). The app will
scan for PCs on the same
Wi-Fi network. Tap the
down arrow 1 to close the
notification box. Select
your PC and return to
your previous screen. The
domain name of your PC
will be added. Tap User and
enter the username of your
PC. Tap the back button,
tap Password 2 and enter
the password you use to log
in to your PC. Tap OK 3 to
validate. You can now
access your PC over Wi-Fi.

2
1

3

your PC and tap
‘Add sync folder’.
‘Device folder’ displays
folders on your device and
‘Computer folder’ displays
the media folders and subfolders on your PC. Tap
‘Computer folder’ and
navigate to the folder you
want to copy your music
from. Tap the top-left Back
button 1 if you want to
go to the previous folder.
You’ll see all your music
files with a Google Play
icon on them. Tap a song
and select the app you
want to play it from (if you
have more than one music
app on your device). Tap
the track to preview it 2 .

1

2

STEP Tap the notepad sign at the top

1 to get tickboxes beside each track.
Tick the boxes next to the tracks you want to copy to your device 2 .
The tracks you select will become bold. Tap the copy icon 3 at the
top. It will turn into a clipboard icon. Tap this icon to copy your tracks to your
clipboard. This will take a while depending on how many songs you’ve copied.
Tap back, go to your Device folder, tap the Music folder and then tap the
Download button on top to copy your music from your clipboard to your
Android device. You can access these music files from any music app on your
device. You can now copy and paste videos and photos in the same way,
although there’s no preview option available for them.

3

3
2

1

NEXT ISSUE





ON SALE

5 March

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Control your PC from your Android tablet
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42 19 February - 4 March 2014

Readers’ Tips

Handy hints and tips from your fellow readers
Email us your tips: [email protected]

TIP
T OF THE FORTNIGHT

Read articles offline in Windows 8.1
My daughter, who lives in the US, gave
me a new laptop running Windows 8.1
as a gift. Previously, I’d had a Windows

XP PC but I really love Windows 8.1
even though it took me a few days to
get used to. One of the preinstalled apps
I’d recommend is Reading
List. This lets you save online
articles that you can
categorise and read later
when you’re offline. It’s
important to know that it
only works with Windows 8
apps on the Modern tile
interface, so you can only
save articles you visit
through apps like Internet
Explorer, Sport, News, and
Health & Fitness.
To save an article to your
Reading List, go to the article
(for example, in the News
app) you want to save. Go to

the top- or bottom-right corners of
your screen to bring up your Charms
menu, click Share, then Reading List.
Click the Category dropdown menu and
select a category you’d like to save your
article under. Click ‘New category’ if
you want to create a category of your
own, give it a name and click OK. This
new category will now be added to your
dropdown menu options. Click Add
in the top right to save your article to
that category in your Reading List.
Open the Reading List app by
clicking its tile in the Modern tile
interface and click the article you
want to read. You’ll see all the articles
in that category on the left of your
screen and the entire articlee
on the right.
Jeff Livermore

The winner of every Tip of the Fortnight wins this exclusive Computeractive mug!
IMAGE DATA

Make your online images
untraceable

I’m a graphic designer and I’m
worried about how my online data
is being used. Everything you store online
can be traced – even your images. Images
store information in the form of Exif
(Exchangeable image file format) data.
This reveals the
owner of the
image, the PC
it’s saved on,
the software
it’s been edited
in, when and
where your
photos were
taken and
the camera
settings
(shutter speed,
exposure, etc.)
used for taking
that image. This data is available to anyone
who downloads your images.
Thankfully, it’s easy to remove this data
from your images before uploading them.
Select an image (or a group of images),
right-click it, click the Details tab, then
‘Remove Properties and Personal
Information’ at the bottom. You’ll see an

option to create a copy with personal
details removed. This is ideal for when
you want to retain both versions of an
image (with and without your EXIF data).
Click OK to create a copy of it in the
same folder.
Select ‘Remove the following properties
from this file’ if you want to remove
certain data from that file. Tick the boxes
you don’t want to include, then click OK.
Bryan Wakehorn
INTERNET EXPLORER

Play retro Atari games online

The other day I came across
Microsoft’s RethinkIE (www.
rethinkie.com), which aims to show
the potential of Internet Explorer. Being
an avid gamer, I was most impressed
with Atari Arcade. Go to www.snipca.
com/11341 in IE and select one of the
eight games in the menu.
Next, select Single Player and click
Controls to get instructions. Games
like Super Breakout and Pong can be
controlled with either the arrow keys
or your mouse. Games like Missile
Command have a multi-player mode that
lets you invite others to play with you by
sending them a link. This is what PC
gaming on a browser should be like.
Leo Preston

CHROME

Build virtual things in Lego and
pin them on Google Maps

I bought my grandson a Batman
Lego set for Christmas, which
kept him busy for hours. The other
day he showed me a new site that lets
you build stuff online using Lego and
insert them anywhere in the world
on Google Maps.
In Chrome, go to www.buildwith
chrome.com. Click Explore All Builds
to see what others have built, or Build
Academy to learn the basics of Lego
construction. Click Start Building to
create your own build using virtual
blocks of different shapes and colours.
To publish what you’ve built, sign into
Google+ by clicking Sign In in the top
right of your screen, then click Publish,
tick the terms and conditions box and
click Publish again.
Click ‘See build’ to view your final
creation on a map. Zoom in and out of
Google Maps using the slider on the
left. Click Build and then Build Here
to place your creation at a particular
place anywhere in the world. My
grandson and I have already created
four builds that we’ve placed around
England and Ireland.
Shirley Vale
19 February - 4 March 2014 43

Phone and Tablet Tips
ANDROID

Disable animations to speed
up your device

There is a slight lag when you
open an app or switch from one
app to another on your Android
device. This is because of a built-in
animation that fades your screen in and
out when you open and close apps or
switch between them.
There’s a way of disabling this if you

Brilliant things to do on your device

want to make your device faster. Tap the
Settings app, scroll down to ‘Developer
options’ and switch it on by sliding the
slider besides the title. Click OK on the
prompt screen and you’ll see all your
developer options on your device. (On a
Nexus device, open your Settings app,
scroll down to ‘About phone/tablet’,
scroll down to ‘Build number’ and tap
it repeatedly until you get a message
saying ‘You are now a developer’. Go
back and tap Developer options.) Scroll
down to ‘Windows animation’ scale, tap
it and select ‘Animation off’. Restart
your device for your new settings to take
effect. You’ll notice that apps load much
faster on your device now.
ANDROID

Delete misspelt words from
your phone’s dictionary

Your Android device has a list
of words in its dictionary that
it suggests every time you type
certain letters on your keyboard. For
example, try typing ‘he’ and you’ll
automatically get suggestions such as
‘hello’, ‘he’ll’ and more. You can select
these words from the small menu
that appears above your keyboard to
speed up your typing.
If you type a word that’s not in your
Android dictionary, your device will
automatically add this word to its
dictionary. While this is handy for names
of people and places that you often use, it
can be frustrating when you misspell a

Best New Apps

44 19 February - 4 March 2014

iOS

Get word suggestions as
yo ty
you
type

Unlike Android, iOS keyboards
don’t give you word suggestions
in a menu above your keyboard as
you type. A new, free app called SwiftKey
Note brings this feature to iOS. Based on
words you select, it will understand what
you type and display the three most likely
words you’ll need as you type. You can’t
use this keyboard with other apps, but
you can copy and paste text from it to
speed up typing of long emails and notes.
Go to www.snipca.com/11402 and
install SwiftKey Note. When you open
the app for the first time, you’ll get a
run-through of its features. From the
main screen, tap the + in the top right to
start creating a note. As you type you’ll
get three words on a small menu at the
top. Tap a word to insert it into your note.
Swipe this menu to the left to get
formatting options. Tap B, i or u to
embolden, italicise or underline the next

What you should install this fortnight

Peek Calendar

69p iOS: www.snipca.com/11404
Peek is a colourful calendar app.
To add a new event, tap and hold a
desired day.
Simple gestures
like tapping
a day to see
your events as
a dropdown
menu and
swiping right
from an event
to bring up
its location
make Peek
very useful and
easy to use.

word once and your device suggests
the incorrectly spelt option every time
you start typing those letters on your
keyboard. Thankfully, there’s a way to
delete misspelt words that your device
has added to its dictionary. The next time
your phone suggests an incorrectly spelt
option when you type, long-press the
word from the menu above your device’s
keyboard. You’ll get a notification asking
you to remove it. Tap OK.

5by

Free Android: www.snipca.com/11406
Free iOS: www.snipca.com/11407
This app suggests videos you’ll like based
on how much spare time you have and
your mood. When you first launch the app,
it works out your interests by asking you
questions. Choose from useful channels
such as ‘True Story’ and ‘History Buff’.

Babbel

Free Android: www.snipca.com/11405
Babbel is a popular language-learning
website. While it has previously had apps
that help you learn individual languages, this
is the first Android app to let you learn all
12 languages within one app. You can learn
Spanish, French, German, Italian and more.

words you type. Once you’ve formatted
the words, swipe left to get the formatting
menu again and tap the option you
previously chose (B, i or u) to go back to
typing in normal text.

Any audio you bought
from iTunes containing
explicit lyrics – and
audio you will buy in the
future – will not play on
your device. To disable
this setting, repeat the
same process and tap
Disable Restrictions in
the Restrictions screen.
ANDROID

See all your
Android
notifications

How often have
you swiped
through all your
notifications without reading them only
to regret doing that later? If you’re using
a device running the latest version of

Android (KitKat – 4.0 and
higher), you can easily see
all your old notifications.
To do this, go to your
Android home screen,
long-press any blank
space and tap Widgets. Go
to the Settings shortcut
(1x1) widget, long-press
it and drag it to your
home screen. In the
Settings shortcut screen,
select Notifications to
convert this into your
Notifications widget. Tap
this and you’ll see a list of
your last 50 notifications.
This will include
weather updates, Wi-Fi networks you’ve
connected to, Google searches you’ve
performed and all your app updates.

Games With Kids

What to play together on your phone and tablet
AGES 0 5

Caribu

To add your notes to other apps,
long-press anywhere on the screen and
tap ‘Select all’, then tap Copy. To paste
this text into another app, go to the app,
long-press where you want to insert it
and tap paste. Formatting styles (bold,
italics and underline) will not appear in
your other apps.
iOS

Block explicit iTunes audio
from playing
p

All the music and podcasts you
buy from iTunes are screened for
harmful, abusive or sexual lyrics
and language. These are marked with a
red E (which stands for Explicit). You can
choose to block these tracks from playing
on your device.
Go to your Settings app, tap General,
Restrictions and then Enable Restrictions.
Enter and re-enter a four-digit passcode.
Scroll down to the Allowed Content
section. Tap the Ratings For section and
change it to United Kingdom (this is set
to United States by default). Tap Music &
Podcasts (this is set to Explicit by default)
and slide the slider to Off.

Free www.snipca.com/11408 (iOS)
Caribu is one of the best iPad apps we’ve
ever seen. It lets you read eBooks to your
kids on an iPad when you’re away and lets
your kids see you while you read to them.
It comes free with one eBook, but you can
purchase other titles in the app. A shared
pointer lets both users follow the story,
and either can turn pages.
AGES 6 10

MarcoPolo Ocean

£1.99 www.snipca.com/11410 (iOS)
This app educates your kid about aquatic
life. Drag and place elements in the right
location to create your own aquarium or
coral reef. Learn as you build your own
submarine and navigate it through the
ocean. Its beautiful graphics will keep
kids entertained for hours.
AGES 11 16

QuizUp

Free www.snipca.com/11409 (iOS)
QuizUp lets you challenge your friends
to quizzes online. It has more than 250
topics to choose from covering science,
popular culture and education. It’s a great
app to play with your kids and test their
knowledge of what they’ve learnt in
school. It also has chat options.

19 February - 4 March 2014 45

Make Windows Better

Clever tips for every version

WINDOWS 8.1

Boot straight to your Desktop

When you switch on your
Windows 8.1 PC, it boots directly
to the Modern tiled interface.
While this is useful if you’re using a
touchscreen, if you’re on a PC and are
more familiar with Windows 7, you
might prefer to boot straight to your
Desktop. Fortunately, with Windows 8.1
you can easily set your PC to do this
every time it switches on or wakes
from Sleep mode.
To do this, go to your Desktop,
right-click your Taskbar and click
Properties. Next, click the Navigation
tab in the ‘Taskbar and Navigation
properties’ window. In the ‘Start screen’
section, tick the ‘When I sign in or
close all applications on a screen, go
to the desktop instead of Start’ option.
Click Apply, then OK. The next time
your PC wakes up from Sleep mode
or switches on, it’ll boot straight to
your Desktop.
WINDOWS XP, VISTA, 7, 8, 8.1

Delete files permanently
without using the Recycle Bin

Any files you delete are
moved to your Recycle
Bin, but still take up
space on your PC. You can, of course,
recover this space by emptying your
Recycle Bin, which removes files from
your PC for good.
A quicker way to do this is to rightclick your Recycle Bin icon, click
Properties then tick ‘Do not move files
to the Recycle Bin. Remove files
immediately when deleted.’ Make sure
‘Display delete confirmation dialog’ is
ticked. Now, when you want to
permanently remove a file, you’ll get a
dialogue box asking you whether you
want to delete the file. Click Yes if you
want to delete it – which clears it from
your system, bypassing the Recycle Bin.
If you only want to use this setting as
and when you need it, select the file then
press Shift+Delete on your keyboard.
WINDOWS XP, VISTA, 7

Display Control Panel as a menu
You can access your Control
Panel by clicking the Start
button. By default, the Control
Panel listing in the Start menu is
effectively a clickable link that brings
up a window containing all your PC’s
various settings. However, you can

46 19 February - 4 March 2014

WINDOWS 7, 8, 8.1

Merge partitions to create more
space on your main drive
If your Windows 7
or 8.1 PC has been
partitioned, it’s easy
to delete a partition and merge it with
your main drive to create more space.
You can do this using Disk Management,
but first find out if your PC has been
partitioned, by checking My Computer
and making sure you don’t have
anything plugged into your USB ports.
If it shows more than one option under
Hard Disk Drives, then your PC has
been partitioned.
Next, copy and paste everything in
the partition you want to merge with
your main drive into another partition.

If you don’t have more than one
partition, then copy the contents of the
partition you want to merge, and paste
it in your main drive.
The fastest way to search for Disk
Management is to click the Start button
in Windows 7 and type disk partition.
Click ‘Create and format hard disk
partitions’. In Windows 8.1, go to the
Modern tiled interface by clicking the
Start button, and then type disk
partition. Click ‘Create and format
hard disk partitions’.
In Disk Management, right-click the
partition you want to merge and click
Delete Volume. Click Yes in the prompt
screen. The partition will
format and you’ll see a black
line above it saying ‘Unallocated’
with the space it contained.
Next, right-click your
main drive and click Extend
Volume. Click Next to see the
space you had on your old
partition with Add ticked
automatically. Click Next and
then click Finish. The space
from your Unallocated
partition will now be added
to your main drive.

change this so that when you
hover over Control Panel in your
Start menu it brings up a menu
next to it (in alphabetical order)
showing all the settings.
To do this, click the Start
button, Control Panel, then
click ‘Taskbar and Start Menu’.
Click the Start Menu tab, then
Customize. Under Control Panel,
select ‘Display as a menu’. (In
Windows XP, after clicking
Customize, click the Advanced tab,
then ‘Display as a menu’ under
Control Panel.) Click OK, Apply
and then OK again.
Now when you click your Start
menu and move your mouse over
the Control Panel, you’ll no longer
be able to click it, but you will see
all its settings listed in alphabetical
order as a menu, which is a
quicker way of accessing them.

Make Office Better

Expert tips for every program

OFFICE

Create your own AutoCorrect options
have to type the abbreviation and
Office will generate its full version.
To set up your own AutoCorrect
options in Office 2010 and 2013,
click File in the top left, Options,
then Proofing. In Office 2007,
click the Office button at the top
left, Word Options, then Proofing.
Next, click AutoCorrect Options.
You’ll see a list of all your
AutoCorrect options in the
boxes below. Add an abbreviated
word or a misspelt word that
AutoCorrect doesn’t pick up in
the Replace box and the word
you want to replace it with in the
With box. Click Add, then OK.
Office will automatically correct
the word the next time you type
it incorrectly or in its abbreviated
form, depending on what you
added in the boxes.

AutoCorrect lets you type
faster without worrying
about mistakes. Misspelt
words, missing spaces between
words and absent punctuation
marks are automatically corrected
as you type. Office comes with a
list of words commonly misspelt
and their correct spellings in
AutoCorrect, but did you know
that all versions of Office let you
add your own words to this list?
So if there’s a word you often
misspell that isn’t picked up by
AutoCorrect, add it as you usually
misspell it to AutoCorrect’s
replacement word database along
with its correct spelling, and Office
will automatically correct the word
whenever you mistype it. You can
also add an abbreviated word along
with its full form, so that you only

OUTLOOK

Include voting options in emails

All versions of Outlook let you
include voting options when you
send emails to other Outlook
users, who can then reply by simply
selecting one of the options. To add
voting options to an email, click New
E-mail in the top left, then the Options
tab on the Ribbon. In the Tracking
section, click Use Voting Buttons and
select one of the three voting options
(see screenshot below). Custom lets you
schedule when you send your email.
You’ll see a notification informing you
that voting buttons have been added to
your email. In the body of your email
type a question or statement to which
you want them to respond. Make sure
the Voting Button option you select is
relevant to the question you type. For

example, if you ask a question like ‘Should
I book tickets for you for the FA Cup Final
on May 17?’, make sure ‘Yes;No’ is chosen
as a voting option. Then send your email.
When they open your email, recipients
will see your option ‘Click here to vote’,
which will display your voting options.
Once they select an option, they’ll then
have a choice to send you the response
or edit the text in the body of the email
before replying to it.
ONENOTE

Perform basic calculations

All versions of OneNote let you
carry out basic calculations
from within the program. To do
this, simply type your mathematical
equation using the symbols (+, -, X and /)
followed by =. Press Enter to calculate the
answer. For example, if you type 25+25=
and press Enter, you’ll get the answer (50)
without you having to open your
Calculator or use complex Excel
formulas. You can also perform more
complex multiple calculations using
brackets. For example, type (25+25) X
(42/7)=, then press Enter to get your
answer (300). For a list of all mathematical
functions supported by OneNote, as well
as the shortcuts you can use for these,
go to www.snipca.com/11311.

EXCEL

Format multiple sheets at once

To add multiple sheets in Excel,
in Office 2007 and 2010, open
an Excel workbook and click
the Insert Worksheet icon at the bottom
beside the last sheet. In Office 2013, click
the New Sheet (+) symbol. You can apply
the same formatting to all the sheets in
your workbook at the same time, which
will save you time if they feature similar
data or formatting.
To do this, click any sheet (for example,
Sheet2) in the bottom left, then rightclick it and click Select All Sheets (see
screenshot below). All the sheets in your
workbook will now be selected even
though you will only see Sheet2. Any
formatting changes you make to Sheet2
will be repeated across all the sheets
in your workbook.

19 February - 4 March 2014 47

Secret Tips For…

Avast Free

Limit pop-ups, keep software updated and give help remotely
Make pop-up notifications
less annoying

Avast (www.avast.com) is our favourite
free antivirus (See our cover feature, Issue
415) but every time you launch it, a
pop-up will ask you to upgrade to the
paid-for version. You can adjust the
duration of this pop-up by changing
Avast’s settings. Click Settings,
Appearance and scroll down to Sounds.
Untick the box next to ‘Enable avast!
sounds’ then scroll down to pop-ups.
Under ‘Info popups’, change ‘Duration in

Limit the duration of pop-up notifications

seconds’ from 20 to 1. This will ensure the
pop-up will only be open on your screen
for a second. Next, scroll down even
further to Community Features and
untick ‘Show avast! recommendation
features’ and ‘Show social networking
features’. This will disable most messages
from Avast asking whether you want to
upgrade to its paid version.

Boot Windows from a CD or
USB stick

Avast lets you create a Rescue Disk so you
can boot your PC from a CD or USB stick.
This is useful when things go horribly
wrong and your PC fails to boot. To do
this, click Tools, Rescue Disk, then insert
a CD or connect an empty USB stick with
a minimum capacity of 500MB. We
recommend using a USB stick as it makes
the process easier. With the USB stick
inserted, click USB next to ‘Create on’,
select the USB stick you want to install
the Rescue Disk on and click ‘Install on
USB’. This process may take some time,
depending on the speed of your internet
connection and computer. For

instructions on how to boot your
computer from a disc or USB stick, visit
www.snipca.com/11346.

Keep all your software
up to date

Ensuring all the programs on your
computer are bang up to date can be a
nightmare. One great feature hidden
away in Avast lets you spot out-of-date
software and update it from legitimate
sources. Click Tools, Software Updater
and you’ll see a list of the software you
need to update. Click the grey Update
button to the right of any entry you want
to update and follow the instructions.

Use Remote Assistance to get help

Find and update software on your PC by using
Avast’s Software Updater

If you’ve got a PC problem
you can’t solve – or a friend
or family member needs
help with their computer
– then use a hidden feature
in Avast to receive or provide
help. Both computers will
need Avast installed for this
to work. Click Help, then
Remote Assistance. If you’re
helping someone else with
their computer, ask them to
click Get Assistance and give
Provide or receive PC help using Avast’s Remote
you the code that appears.
Assistance tool
Type this code in the box
and click Connect. If you’re the person needing help, get the code and tell the
other person what it is. Whichever person is providing the technical assistance
will be able to see and control the other user’s PC.

Get extra protection for
inexperienced PC users

48 19 February - 4 March 2014

If you have a friend or family member
who is a novice when it comes to
computers, then Hardened Mode in Avast
will ensure they stay fully protected
when they’re online. This mode works by
blocking any files from running unless
they’re on a special Avast whitelist of safe
software vetted by the company and its
users, or are otherwise trusted as being
safe. This mode also blocks unsafe
internet downloads and will prevent the
user from accessing dangerous programs.
To enable Hardened Mode in Avast 2014,
click Settings, Antivirus and tick the box
next to ‘Enable Hardened mode’. Select
Aggressive then click OK.

Next issue Secret Tips For… Google Drive

What’s All the Fuss About...

Year of Code

By the end of the year millions more of us will be coding, if a new campaign is
successful. We explain why 2014 is the Year of Code
What is it?

A new campaign that aims to get more
people learning to code. Backed by firms
and organisations including Google,
Raspberry Pi and the BBC, campaigners
think “everyone” could benefit from
learning to code, including “small
businesses, FTSE 100 companies, music
fans, job-hunters, mums and Lords”.
The message on the Year of Code website
(www.yearofcode.org) is coding “is easier
than you think” and something anyone
can do “not just rocket scientists”.

What is coding?

It’s the process of building software, apps
and websites - many people use the term
interchangeably with ‘programming’.
The team behind the Year of Code say
that learning to code is now a crucial
skill that will make school-leavers more
employable to companies, and the
Government agrees. Chancellor George
Osborne has backed the Year of Code,
saying that “the ability to code and
program a computer is no longer a
nice-to-have, it’s an essential”.

So what’s the Government
doing about it?

It’s introducing a new computing
curriculum (www.snipca.com/11431)
in schools, to start in September. The
curriculum – compulsory for all pupils
up to the age of 16 – has been developed
after talks with tech firms and organisations
including Google, Microsoft and the British
Computer Society. Education Secretary
Michael Gove slammed the previous IT
curriculum as “boring and obsolete”.

Is he right?

Most experts agree with Gove. It’s
generally accepted that IT lessons need to
be updated because they focus too much
on how to use computers, rather than
teaching skills to build websites, software
and apps. The Government hopes the
lessons will turn today’s young coders
into tomorrow’s web entrepreneurs.

Caption
The campaign to teach coding believes that anyone can learn it

Is the Government spending
any money on it?

Yes, it’s made a £500,000 fund available
to train teachers in programming. The
money will be given to IT firms, software
developers and university computing
departments who will match that
amount and use the money to train
teachers across the UK. The Government
has already spent over £3 million on
other projects to boost teacher-training
and computer use in schools. Google has
also invested money in this area, giving
£120,000 to help Code Club (www.
codeclubpro.org), a network of over 1,800
after-school coding clubs run by volunteers,
to train 20,000 primary school teachers.

Is the Year of Code just about
teaching pupils?

That’s certainly the main focus, but events
around the country will be aimed at
helping ordinary PC users to develop
skills. These will aim to teach people to
build and maintain websites, if they
think creating software and apps is too
advanced for them. Details of events
are sketchy, though. Check the website
and follow Year of Code on Twitter
(@ukcoding) for more information.

Learn basic coding skills by building a Moshi
Monsters Pong game

One thing you can already do with your
kids is create a Moshi Monsters Pong game
(http://moshi.kano.me) using basic coding.

How’s Year of Code going so far?
It didn’t start well. In early February
the scheme’s executive director Lottie
Dexter was widely ridiculed after
admitting in a Newsnight interview that
she couldn’t code. That led to many
experts doubting the campaign’s
credibility. But it’s being supported by
serious coding organisations, including
Code.org (http://uk.code.org) and
Codeacademy (www.codecademy.com).
Time will tell what impact it has.

19 February - 4 March 2014 49

Make

Your PC Last
Five More
Years!
Want to make sure you get full value for money for
your PC and laptop? Silly question – of course you do.
Barry Collins reveals how to make XP, Vista and
Windows 7 computers last five more years – at least

KEY POINTS
• Find out the system requirements for
upgrading an XP PC to Windows 7 or 8
• Upgrade your Vista laptop to Windows
7 quickly and safely
• Turn your Windows 7 netbook into a
pseudo-Chromebook
• Discover the best hard drives to provide
extra storage on a Windows 7 PC
• Avoid the hardware flaws that shorten
a computer’s life

50 19 February – 4 March 2014

e live in a disposable age,
where perfectly
functioning smartphones
are discarded as soon as
their contract expires and electronic
items are replaced, rather than repaired,
the minute something goes wrong. But
your PC or laptop doesn’t have to be
added to the recycling pile.
One of the best things about PCs – in
contrast to sealed-tight Macs – is their
upgradability. Even a 10-year-old
Windows XP system can easily be
upgraded without resorting to the repair
shop, giving your PC that new lease of life
it needs – even after its operating system
has been effectively retired by Microsoft.

W

Here, we show you how to future-proof
a variety of computers for the next five
years, providing free and affordable ways
to prolong the lifespan of your equipment.
We tackle desktop PCs, laptops and
netbooks, but many suggestions in one
section will also apply to another, so it’s
worth reading through the whole feature
to find out what’s possible, even if you
don’t own a particular item. For example,
you don’t need to own a Dell Dimension
E520 PC in order to find the advice
opposite useful.
We also reveal what to avoid when
buying a new PC or laptop, so that you
don’t end up with a dead duck a few
years from now.

Make your PC last five more years

MAKE YOUR XP DESKTOP PC LAST LONGER
be very tight on space by modern
standards, it’s also the component most
likely to fail, potentially taking all your
With Intel Pentium
data with it. Around 20 per cent of hard
D 805 dual-core
drives will fail by the time they’re four
processor, 1GB of
years old, according to research from
RAM and 160GB
cloud-computing company Backblaze.
hard drive
Replacing your desktop PC’s hard drive
is relatively simple, usually involving little
Windows XP users face something of a
more than removing a few screws,
dilemma in the coming months. Support
disconnecting a cable and inserting the
for XP is coming to an end in April,
new drive in its place. You’ll need to make
which means it won’t receive patches for
sure you have a drive with the correct
critical security flaws. Consequently,
connection: most Windows XP PCs will
connecting an XP PC to the internet after
use the older PATA interface. You can buy
the April deadline could be fraught with
a 320GB internal hard drive with the
risk. However, that doesn’t mean you
PATA interface for £65 at Misco.co.uk
need to throw that old XP computer out
(www.snipca.com/11332). If you’re
– you’ve still got a few options.
replacing your main hard drive, it’s
The first is to upgrade to Windows 7, or
usually best to install Windows and all
even Windows 8.1, as we explain in the
your applications afresh on the new
third part of our Windows XP Survival
drive, so make sure your old hard drive is
Guide on page 60. The system requirements properly backed up to an external drive
for Windows 7 aren’t too demanding, and first. Thankfully, most XP PCs were
many Windows XP-era PCs will cope.
supplied with CDs from which you
You’ll need at least a 1GHz processor, 1GB
can install the operating system.
of memory, 16GB of available hard-drive
It’s also comparatively simple to
space, and a DirectX 9 graphics device.
upgrade your PC’s memory, giving your
Windows 8.1 runs on broadly the same
computer the requisite power to cope
specifications, but has a couple of extra
with Windows 7 or your existing XP
requirements that may rule out older
installation a speed boost. You’ll first need
Pentium-class processors.
to work out what type of memory is
Microsoft’s free Upgrade Advisor
inside your PC. Crucial has an excellent
software will scrutinise your XP
scanner tool (www.snipca.com/11342)
computer to check its compatibility with
that will find out what type of memory
Windows 7. Download the Windows 7
your PC takes, how many free memory
version from www.snipca.com/11312.
slots you have available, and advise
Alas, the version for Windows 8.1
you on what type of RAM is compatible
doesn’t work with XP, which makes
with your system. But there’s no point
that upgrade a riskier proposition.
installing any more than 3.5GB of
Whether or not you’re planning to
memory in a Windows XP PC because
upgrade your operating system, you really the operating system simply won’t
should consider upgrading your hard
recognise it.
drive. Not only will an XP-era hard drive
If your PC doesn’t meet the
requirements or you don’t
want to bear the cost
of a Windows 7 or 8 upgrade,
there is a way to keep
Windows XP and still stay
relatively safe. You could
install a Linux operating
system, such as the superfriendly Ubuntu, alongside
your existing Windows XP
installation. That way you
can use the safe and regularly
updated Ubuntu to surf the
web, send email or for any
Use Microsoft’s free Upgrade Advisor to check if your XP PC other online activity, then
is compatible with Windows 7
go back to Windows XP

Typical example:

Dell Dimension
E520

whenever you want to play games or run
any of your regular Windows software,
keeping the PC disconnected from the
internet whenever possible.
You can install Ubuntu 12.04 as easily
as any regular Windows application
(follow the instructions at www.snipca.
com/11313). Also, it comes with the
Firefox web browser, an office suite, and
a number of media players. We recently
installed it on a 10-year-old PC and found
it to be a much more modern-looking
operating system than Windows XP, and
you’ll still be able to access all your
documents, photos and music. If you
prefer, you can make Ubuntu look like
Windows XP with this free utility (www.
snipca.com/11314), so that everything
feels familiar. For more advice on how to
upgrade from XP to Linux read Part 4 of
our XP Survival Guide in our next issue.
A thorough clean of Windows XP can

You can make Ubuntu look like Windows XP
using a free tool available online

also make an old PC feel like new. XP has
a nasty habit of accumulating digital cruft
over time, leading to slower startup times
and drops in performance. The most
effective way to revitalise XP is to back up
your data to an external drive, and
reinstall the operating system and all your
software, but that’s also a bit of a pain in
the rump. A less stressful, but also less
effective spruce-up can be achieved by
uninstalling any unwanted software, and
cutting down on the amount of software
that automatically loads when the
operating system first boots. You can do
this by clicking Start, Run, typing msconfig
into the box and clicking OK. Then click
the Startup tab and untick anything that
doesn’t need to run on startup, such as
Skype, Adobe Reader, or Google/Apple
updaters. Don’t remove anything you’re
unsure about, or your security software
(we recommend Kaspersky Internet
Security 2014, which you can buy for
£17.99 – £22 off the full price – from our
Software Store: www.snipca.com/11158).
19 February – 4 March 2014 51

MAKE YOUR XP LAPTOP LAST LONGER
Typical example:

Sony VAIO
PCG-V505DP

With Intel Pentium M
1.6 GHz processor,
512MB of RAM
and 60GB
hard drive

You might think that, by their very
nature, laptops are harder to upgrade
than desktop PCs. However, most laptops
– particularly those of Windows XP
vintage – offer easy access to the two
core, upgradeable components: the hard
drive and the memory.
You can find out if your laptop’s
memory has any scope for expansion by
using the Crucial tool mentioned on page
51. The RAM slots are usually lurking
under a screwed-down panel on the
base of the laptop.
The same usually applies to the hard
drive. As with its desktop counterpart, an
XP laptop is likely to use the older PATA
interface, rather than the SATA interface
used on more modern laptops, so make
sure any replacement drive is listed as
PATA or IDE. Alas, 2.5in PATA hard drives
are hard to find these days, with many of
the drives listed on sites such as Amazon

being refurbished or used. Don’t be
tempted to buy a used or refurbished
hard disks. They are incredibly sensitive
components with relatively high failure
rates, so you don’t want to risk acquiring
damaged goods. Also, capacities are
usually limited to around 120GB.
It might, therefore, make more sense
to bring your laptop bang up to date and
fit a solid-state drive (SSD) instead of a
conventional hard drive. Not only are
SSDs more reliable than hard drives,
they’re faster too, although their speeds
will be constrained by the ageing PATA
interface. We recommend the Crucial
M500, which earned a Buy It! award in
Issue 402. The 480GB model costs £229
from Dabs.com (www.snipca.com/11122).
You should also consider the 240GB
SanDisk Extreme II, which is £138.99
from Pixmania.com (www.snipca.
com/10871).
Be aware, however, that Windows XP
doesn’t run smoothly with solid-state
drives, so you may have to factor the cost
of an upgrade to Windows 7 into the
price. Before buying any drive, it’s also
worth checking the manufacturer’s
website to make sure it’s no taller than
the drive you’re replacing. It’s not usually
a problem, but some drives are taller than

others and space inside laptops is tight.
The other component you may wish to
upgrade on an ageing laptop is the
battery. Free utilities such as Smarter
Battery (www.snipca.com/11315) should
reveal if your battery is on its last legs,
and not recharging close to its stated
capacity. A quick Google search for
your laptop’s exact model name and
“battery” will deliver results from dozens
of online battery stores. Bear in mind,
many import from Asia and will
probably be compatibles rather than
batteries made by your laptop’s
manufacturer. Always pay by credit
card to give maximum buyer protection,
and avoid any batteries listed as
‘refurbished’ or ‘reconditioned’.

Use Smarter Battery to check whether your
laptop’s battery is about to die

MAKE YOUR VISTA LAPTOP LAST LONGER
Typical example:

Dell Inspiron 1525

With 2GHz Intel
Core 2 Duo T5800
processor, 2GB of
RAMand160GB
hard drive

Windows Vista was never as bad as its
critics made out, but if you want your
Vista laptop to last another five years,
it’s time to kiss goodbye to Microsoft’s
unloved operating system. Mainstream
Support for Vista has already ceased, and
Extended Support – meaning critical
security updates – will cease in November
2017. That gives you plenty of time, but
Windows 7 is already starting to disappear
from retailers, so it’s time to act if you
want to give your laptop a long-term
future and don’t fancy Windows 8.1.
Any laptop running Vista should be
able to run Windows 7. In fact, many
people report a slight performance boost
52 19 February – 4 March 2014

after upgrading. You can even perform
Hardware-wise, it’s the same memory,
an in-place upgrade where all your
hard drive and battery options that we
settings, files and software are preserved.
explored in the Windows XP laptop
However, we don’t advise it. PCs tend to
section, although the hard drive will
run more slowly after in-place upgrades
probably have the more modern SATA
because they carry the clutter with them, interface, which presents more options
and installation problems are more likely. for replacing your hard drive with a faster
It’s best to back up your data and start
solid-state drive. We’ll explore this further
afresh with a clean installation, provided
in the Windows 7 laptop section (page 54).
you’ve got all the necessary
discs and activation codes
for your software.
If you’re planning an
in-place upgrade, you need to
check which version of Vista
you’re running and match it
with Windows 7. Click
Start, Control Panel, ‘System
and Maintenance’, System
and check whether your
System type is 32-bit or
64-bit, and then buy the
relevant version of
Check whether your Vista machine is 32-bit or 64-bit in the
System section of the Control Panel
Windows 7.

Make your PC last five more years

MAKE YOUR WINDOWS 7 NETBOOK LAST LONGER
Typical example:

Samsung
N350 With

1.5GHz Intel Atom
N550 processor,
1GB of RAM and
250GB hard drive
The netbook craze came and went faster
than most X-Factor pop stars, but you
can still get plenty of life out of these
mini laptops.
The bad news is there’s usually little
scope to upgrade netbook hardware. You
might, if you’re lucky, be able to access
the memory slots and battery (in which
case follow the upgrade instructions in
the Windows XP laptop section), but
chances are you’re stuck with the limited
hardware the device shipped with.
Google’s Chromebooks – low-powered
laptops predominantly used for browsing
the internet, emailing and running web
apps (see our review on page 19) – are the

natural successors to netbooks. One of
the best ways to squeeze more life out
of your Windows 7 netbook is to turn it
into a pseudo-Chromebook.
It’s not possible to download the
Chromebook’s Chrome OS and install it
on your own netbook, but you can get
the next best thing. First, restore your
netbook to its factory settings because
Windows 7 picks up a lot of clutter
over time, and you want a nice, clean
installation to work with.
Next – because your PC is going to
be completely wiped – back up any
data stored on your netbook (photos,
documents, etc.) to an external drive.
Then click Start, Control Panel, ‘System
and Security’, ‘Backup and Restore’.
Click the link at the bottom of the screen
to ‘Recover system settings on your
computer’, then click ‘Advanced recovery
methods’ at the bottom of the screen
that appears. Next, click ‘Return your
computer to factory conditions’.

Use Control Panel to back up your existing files and restore your netbook to factory settings

Click the top-left Apps button in Chrome and
download the Chrome App Launcher

Windows 7 will give you another chance
to back up your data, but if you’ve done
that already click Skip then Restart.
Once the PC has been reset and you’ve
gone through the setup procedure,
download the Chrome browser (www.
google.com/chrome) and sign in if you
have a Google account. Click the Apps
button in the top-left corner, and you
should see the option to download the
Chrome App Launcher. If not, visit
www.snipca.com/11316.
Now you can take your pick from the
Chrome App store, including any new
desktop apps that even work without an
internet connection. We recommend the
Pixlr photo editor, Spotify for music,
Zoho Docs when you need to do some
work, and Cut the Rope for a spot of
gaming. Once you’ve added these, they
will be available from the Chrome App
Launcher on the desktop. And now
you’ve got a handy, lightweight
Chromebook equivalent without
spending a penny.

IS THE THINKPAD THE MOST ROBUST COMPUTER EVER?
Lenovo, which bought the ThinkPad
brand from IBM in 2005, has
maintained the laptop’s reputation
for reliability. The ThinkPad was
never flashy – the trademark blackand-red design was reassuringly stoic,
compared to Sony’s eye-catching, but
fragile VAIO. Last year, Computeractive
bought a six-year-old ThinkPad T61
from Gumtree for just £100, and
by the end of the week we all
wanted to take it home. The
print on the keyboard – still
excellent to this day – never rubs off, and if something goes wrong
with the trackpad or buttons, you’ve got a trackpoint for backup. In
other words, ThinkPads are proper laptops.
As for which particular current ThinkPad will keep going longest,

we’d suggest the ThinkPad T440 (pictured). It
isn’t the slimmest, most attractive laptop you’ll
ever see, but it’s robust and powerful. It’s got a
car-like roll cage and Lenovo claims it’s been
subject to military-grade testing for factors such
as shock, vibration and dust. The company’s
certainly putting its money where its mouth is:
it comes with an increasingly rare three-year
warranty. The combination of the latest Core
i3 processor, 16GB solid-state drive, and
500GB hard drive means you won’t
be left hanging around for the laptop
to boot or run software, either.
It’s not cheap. You can buy one on Amazon for £862
(www.snipca.com/11331), but it should save you money in the
long run. Remember, it’s often a false economy to buy cheaper,
but more fragile devices.

19 February – 4 March 2014 53

Make your PC last five more years

MAKE YOUR WINDOWS 7 LAPTOP LAST LONGER
Typical
example: HP

Pavilion dv6

With 2.26GHz
Core i5-430M
processor, 3GB
of RAM and
500GB hard drive
It’s likely your Windows 7 laptop came
with a standard hard drive. But if you
really want to future-proof your laptop,
and give it a meaningful short-term
speed boost, consider installing a
hybrid drive such as the WD Black² Dual
Drive, which costs £217 from Amazon
(www.snipca.com/11319).
This gives you the best of both worlds:
a 120GB solid-state drive on which
you can store Windows and all your
programs. This will ensure Windows
boots up much more quickly than it
would on a standard hard drive and that
software will open in a fraction of the
time. Also, you’ll be getting 1 terabyte
(1,000GB) of hard-drive space for your
photos, videos and documents. And all
this within a standard 2.5in laptop
hard drive.
The drive comes with free Acronis
software and a USB cable so that you can
clone your laptop’s old hard drive before
popping the new drive in. You’ll need to
make sure you can access your laptop’s
hard-drive bay – it’s usually behind a

compartment on the base or the side of a
laptop that’s often marked with a little
cylinder icon (see photo, below). You may
need to remove a couple of screws to
access it, but once you’re inside it’s
usually simply a case of sliding the old
drive out of the socket and putting the
new one in.
For a less expensive, less fiddly bit of
future-proofing, you might also consider
upgrading your laptop’s wireless internet
capability. If you bought your laptop in
the early days of Windows 7, it’s probably
only got an 802.11g wireless card,

whereas if you’ve changed your router in
the past two or three years it’s probably
running on the faster 802.11n standard.
That means copying files across your
home network, or even your broadband
connection speed if you’re on a fast fibre
connection, might be unnecessarily slow.
The solution is to buy a tiny USB adapter,
such as the Edimax EW-7811UN, which
only costs £8 from Amazon (www.snipca.
com/11320). It’s generally best to buy
adapters from the same manufacturer as
your router, to minimise any potential
incompatibility risks.

Look for the cylinder icon for your laptop’s hard-drive bay

MAKE YOUR WINDOWS 7 PC LAST LONGER
Typical
example:

CyberPower
Infinity i3
Odysseus

With 3.5GHz
Intel Core
i3-530 processor, 4GB of RAM and
1TB hard drive

Guaranteeing the health of a Windows 7
desktop PC for the next few years is all
about ensuring you’ll be able to access
your media. Digital photo-file sizes are
going to get bigger, videos are going to
reach ever-higher resolutions, and
software is going to take up more
hard-drive space.
The beauty of desktop PCs is that
54 19 February – 4 March 2014

storage costs a fraction of
what it does on laptops.
CCLOnline.com sells a 3TB
Toshiba DT01ACA300 hard
drive for £88 (www.snipca.
com/11321, pictured right)
which should be plenty for
the average user for some
time to come. Most PCs will
have empty hard-drive bays
waiting to be filled, although
you may need to order
another SATA cable with
your hard drive, to connect
it to the PC’s motherboard.
The process is reasonably
straightforward - follow this
instruction video on YouTube
(www.snipca.com/11322).

If you don’t like the idea of
fiddling inside your PC, external
drives aren’t much more
expensive. A 3TB
Seagate STBV3000200
USB drive costs £85 on
Amazon (www.snipca.
com/11323) – although
data-transfer speeds
won’t be as fast as with
an internal drive if
your PC only has USB2,
instead of USB3 ports.
If you need less storage,
consider Western
Digital’s My Passport
Ultra 1TB, which costs
£65 from Pixmania.com
(www.snipca.com/10580).

Discover amazing new things to try in your
favourite Google sites and services

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PA ES

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Buy it now from Amazon: www.snipca.com/11435

Make your PC last five more years
If your desktop
Boost your Wi-Fi
PC doesn’t have
signal with a
wireless internet,
wireless adapter
you can pop in a
little USB adapter,
such as the one we
mentioned in the
Windows 7 laptop
section on page 54.
Or if you’re happy
opening your PC’s
case, you can buy one with an external antenna, which
should improve your signal, such as the Asus PCE-N15 N300
Wireless Network Adapter (£15.99 from Currys.co.uk:
www.snipca.com/11327), which clips straight into the
computer’s PCI express slots.
Likewise, if you want to play back the music stored on
your PC through wireless Bluetooth speakers, or transfer
photos from your smartphone, you should buy a little USB
dongle, such as the Belkin USB 4 Bluetooth Adapter, for
only £13 from Amazon (www.snipca.com/11328).
Finally, there’s no point in having all these highresolution photos and HD videos stored on your new
hard drive if you’re viewing them on a low-res screen.
HD monitors have slumped in price in recent times,
so why not replace the screen that came with your PC with a
better one? The Dell UltraSharp U2412HM offers a Full HD
resolution and awesome image quality for only £215
(www.snipca.com/10867).

WHAT ABOUT WINDOWS 8 PCs?
You don’t need to worry too much yet about extending the
life of a Windows 8 PC or laptop, but you still need to buy a
machine that will last into the next decade. Here’s what we
currently recommend:
LAPTOP
Sony Vaio Fit 14E (reviewed in
Issue 409, ★★★★☆ ).
£449.95 from Amazon:
www.snipca.com/11329
DESKTOP PC
Braebo X-Calibre
(reviewed in Issue 408,
★★★★☆ )
£639.99 from www.
snipca.com/11330

THINGS THAT SHORTEN
THE LIFE OF A NEW PC
When you’re buying a new PC or laptop, there are several things
to watch out for that might impact the potential to upgrade your
system in the future. These include:

Sealed cases

Typically found on MacBooks and iMacs, but increasingly found
on Windows PC and laptops, sealed cases virtually write off any
prospect of user upgrades in the future. Look for removable panels
to access the computer’s hard drive/solid-state drive and memory,
at the very least. Don’t be too concerned about the processor,
especially on laptops: they’re almost always impossible to upgrade
in any meaningful way.

Irreplaceable batteries

Because laptop batteries are guaranteed to die within three or four
years, they have a finite number of recharge cycles. If you can’t
replace a laptop’s battery, you’re going to be chained to the mains
for the rest of its working life.

Lack of free bays/ports

Many of today’s all-in-one or smaller form-factor PCs don’t come
with any free hard-drive bays or memory slots. That means if you
want to add further storage in the future, you’re going to have to
replace the existing disk drive, which complicates matters. If you
want a PC that’s going to pass the test of time, a full tower with
spare bays and slots might not look as pretty, but it will provide
maximum upgrade potential.

Non-removable keyboards

It’s easy to spill a cup of tea or glass of wine over a laptop
keyboard. If the keyboard cannot be removed and replaced, then
the whole laptop is effectively ruined if the spillage damages a
selection of the keys. It’s easy to pick up a replacement keyboard
for a PC, such as this one (below) for the Dell Inspiron 15 (£9.74),
but a MacBook keyboard cannot be replaced.

Buy a replacement keyboard for a Dell Inspiron laptop on eBay

ON SALE

NEXT ISSUE On sale Wednesday 5 March

STOP HACKERS
LOCKING YOUR PC

How to protect your precious files from
the web’s deadliest ransomware

5 March

Plus

Free apps that speed up
your phone and tablet
Upgrade from
Windows XP FOR FREE!

Subscribe to Computeractive at www.getcomputeractive.co.uk
56 19 February – 4 March 2014

Browse
the web
FASTER
There are loads of clever ways you can
make Internet Explorer, Chrome and Firefox
easier to use and quicker off the mark.
Stuart Brown explains what you can do

F

irst things first, identify what
version of your browser you use.
Find this out at www.whatismy
browser.com, along with further
browser information such as whether
you have Flash, Java and JavaScript
installed. Usefully, the site will warn you
if your browser is out of date, and provide
a link to the current version. For
example, to get the latest version of
Internet Explorer (11), follow a link to
the Internet Explorer download page
(www.snipca.com/11347). Remember
to untick the small “I would also like
Bing and MSN defaults” box if you
don’t want these as defaults. You should
always use the latest version of a browser
– it’ll not only be faster, it will also be
safer and crash less.

Disabling add-ons in Internet Explorer should
significantly speed it up

58 19 February - 4 March 2014

Run your browser without
add-ons

Browser add-ons are guilty of eating
up your computer’s resources, so it’s
worth disabling them to see if things
speed up. To run Internet Explorer 11
without any add-ons, click Start, All
Programs, Accessories, System Tools,
and Internet Explorer (No Add-ons).
This isn’t a permanent setting and will
only work for the browsing session
you’re about to launch.
If you find that you like this leaner
browsing experience, but miss some of
the more useful add-ons, such as the
Google Toolbar (http://toolbar.google.
com), you can select which ones to
disable. In Internet Explorer, click
the top-right cog icon, then ‘Manage
add-ons’, ‘Toolbars and Extensions’.
Scroll down the list of add-ons and under
Status you’ll see which ones are enabled
or disabled. To change their status, click
the bottom-right button to bring up
options to Enable or Disable.
It’s also easy to turn off add-ons in
Chrome and Firefox. In Chrome, click the

top-right menu button (three horizontal
lines), Settings, then Extensions. Untick
the Enabled boxes next to each extension
you don’t want. In Firefox, click Tools,
Add-ons, Extensions, then Disable next
to the ones you want to turn off. In the
screenshot below we disable the
annoying Ask.com toolbar, for example.

Use add-ons for easier
searching

Generally, the more add-ons you have,
the slower your browser will be. But that
doesn’t necessarily mean your actual
browsing will be slower, because many
add-ons actually make it easier to explore
the web. For example, Internet Explorer’s
accelerator add-ons make it easier to
search online. Go to www.iegallery.com/
addons and type accelerator into the
search box, then click ‘add-ons’. You
should see the Wikipedia accelerator at
the top of the results list - if not, you may
be in the ‘united states (english)’ version.
Switch this at the top of the page to
‘uk & ireland (english)’.
Whether an accelerator is worth

Click Disable in Firefox’s Extensions section to turn off add-ons

Browse the web faster
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BURNING STUDIO
2014 FOR FREE!

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It lets you burn music,
video and data to CD, DVD and Blu-ray
discs. You can also rip audio discs and
back up files and folders. The 2014
version of the software is faster to use
and has a new interface. It works with
Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8.
Download Ashampoo Burning Studio
2014 for free at www.ashampoo.com/
computeractive. For technical help
email [email protected]

Add the Google accelerator to Internet Explorer to make it easier to search online

installing really depends on your
browsing habits and how often you visit
a particular website. The most useful
accelerator is probably the one for
Google because it effectively provides a
search shortcut when you’re browsing
the web. Once you add it to Internet
Explorer, simply highlight a section of
text on any webpage, right-click it, move
your cursor over All Accelerators in the
dropdown menu, and click ‘Search with
Google United Kingdom’. For example, in
our screenshot above we’ve highlighted
‘Windows XP’ on Wikipedia, which leads
to the Google accelerator shortcut.
Other accelerators work in the same
way, including one for Wikipedia itself,
and another for eBay, which lets you
quickly search for products being sold.
The best Firefox add-on to perform
this trick is InstaClick (www.snipca.
com/11368), which lets you open a link in
a new tab by right-clicking it. Install the
add-on by clicking the green ‘Add to
Firefox’ button. Clicking the blue
Contribute button – which asks you to
make a small donation to the add-on’s
developer – is optional.
You should also try FastestFox (www.
snipca.com/11357), which offers word
definitions along with search options
whenever you highlight a word. And if
you use a lot of tabs when using Firefox,
try Multiple Tab Handler (www.snipca.
com/11356), which adds loads of brilliant
options to control your tabs. You have to

restart Firefox after installing each add-on.
Browsing in Chrome is already so fast
and easy you may think you don’t need
any add-ons, but it’s worth trying a few
out anyway. Have a look through the
Search & Browsing Tools section on the
Chrome Web Store (www.snipca.com/
11390). You should definitely add Google’s
official Search extension (www.snipca.
com/11391), as well as the Personal
Blocklist (www.snipca.com/11393) which
lets you remove certain websites from
appearing in your search results.

Speed things up by tweaking
the cache

When Internet Explorer displays a
webpage, it automatically retrieves files
and images for that page from its own
cache. This should, in theory, make IE

Speed up Internet Explorer by turning off
automatic caching in Website Data Settings

faster. However, by default, the browser
regularly checks for the latest version of
cached websites, which can slow the
browser down, especially if you visit a
lot of sites. Try turning off automatic
caching. You can do this by clicking Tools
(the top-right cog icon) then ‘Internet
options’. Next, in the General tab, click
Settings to open the Website Data Settings
box and select Never, then OK.
You can achieve something similar
in Firefox by using the Click&Clean
extension (www.snipca.com/11370).
As well as emptying your cache, it
performs a lot of tasks that boost
your privacy, including deleting your
browsing history and removing cookies.
In Chrome, use the Clear Cache add-on
(www.snipca.com/11371). Once it’s
installed, you’ll notice a three-arrow icon
(like the recycling icon) appear to the
top-right of your browser bar. Right-click
it, then click Options to see what you
can remove from your cache, and over
what time period.

Use Clear Cache to remove the cache in
Chrome, making it faster

19 February - 4 March 2014 59

Windows XP

2001-2014

Windows XP

SURVIVAL
GUIDE
Part 3: Upgrade to Windows 7 or 8

In our continuing series helping you to survive the end of support for Windows XP,
we explain how to replace the operating system with a newer version of Windows
nstalling a new operating system (OS)
can be a daunting prospect at the best
of times, but it’s especially so in the
case of upgrading from XP to
Windows 7 or 8, since the process
involves completely wiping your hard
drive clean – deleting everything stored
on it before installing the new OS. The
flip side of this is that a ‘clean’ install is
just that – it removes all the junk on
your PC that builds up naturally over
time, effectively giving your computer
a welcome performance boost. And, if
you comprehensively back up all your
data first, as we described last issue,
you shouldn’t have to worry about
losing any important files.

I

Windows, you won’t be able to get any
free technical support from Microsoft and
the software will be tied to the first PC
you install it on. If you’re happy with this,
an OEM version can save you a lot of
money. Our advice, though, is to be
careful who or where you buy the OS
from – we’ve heard stories of people
buying Windows 7 through Amazon
Marketplace sellers, only to discover that
the product code is missing or fake.
Dabs.com is currently selling official
OEM versions of Windows 7 starting at
about £70 (www.snipca.com/11303).

After the upgrade

Installing your new OS

Whether you’re upgrading to Windows 7
or 8, you’ll need to buy a copy of the
operating system on a physical disc – the
downloadable versions of Windows 8
(or Windows 8.1) won’t work on XP PCs.
Last October, Microsoft officially
stopped selling Windows 7 to retailers,
but shop around and you can still find
both standard and OEM versions for sale.
OEM stands for ‘original equipment
manufacturer’, which basically means
the software is intended for PC
manufacturers rather than a private
individuals. In practice, it’s effectively the
same operating system – the only
differences are to do with the terms of the
licence. With an OEM version of
60 19 February - 4 March 2014

first, then upgrade to Windows 8.1 for
free through the Windows Store.
Before you spend any money, you’ll
need to make sure your computer is up
to the task of running a newer version
of Windows – if not you may have to
upgrade your hardware first. Check our
feature on page 50 for more information.
The actual process of carrying out the
upgrade to Windows 7 or 8 is largely
straightforward and involves running
through an installation wizard. We
won’t be providing detailed instructions
here – instead, download and print free
PDFs from our website (www.snipca.
com/11389) explaining how to upgrade.

You can buy Windows 8 for £72.99 at
Dabs.com, £27 cheaper than the official price

Windows 8 and 8.1 are much easier
to get hold of. The official price is £100,
but you can get it cheaper by shopping
around – again, OEM versions are
available with prices starting at £72.99
at Dabs.com (www.snipca.com/11304).
Windows 8.1 is much better than
Windows 8, but if you can find
Windows 8 cheaper, you can install this

Once your new operating system is
installed, you’ll need to take some time to
re-orientate yourself and restore your files.
If you used Windows Easy Transfer to back
up your data, as we suggested last issue,
connect the external drive that’s currently
housing your files. Next, press the
Windows key on your keyboard to type
windows easy and press Enter. Follow the
on-screen instructions, pointing the tool
towards your external hard drive when
prompted. At the end of the process, the
backed-up files will be copied into place.
You’ll need to reinstall programs
from disc or re-download them. The
temptation here is to put everything back
as it was under Windows XP but, before
you do so, you may want to ask yourself

Windows XP Survival Guide
whether you really need each program
first – after all you don’t want to clog up
your nice clean Windows installation
with software you rarely – or never –
use. It’s also worth remembering that
Windows 7 and 8 come with some
built-in features that XP lacked, such
as a decent backup program.

Get old programs to run

Some of the older programs may not
work properly in Windows 7 or 8. If a
program won’t launch, try right-clicking
the program’s shortcut or .exe file and
selecting ‘Run as administrator’. If that
doesn’t work, you could try installing
Microsoft .Net Framework 3.5 (www.
snipca.com/11299). Many older programs
require this to be installed in order to run.
Windows 7 and 8 have a useful
troubleshooting tool; press the Windows
key and type troubleshoot, click the

In the Troubleshooting section of Windows 7
and 8 you can try to run programs made for XP

Troubleshooter link, then click ‘Run
programs made for previous versions of
Windows’ and follow the remaining
prompts to try to resolve the problem
automatically. Failing that, right-click the
troublesome program’s shortcut or .exe
file and select Properties, then click the
Compatibility tab. Put a tick in the box
under ‘Compatibility mode’ and select a
version of Windows from the dropdown
menu – you’ll need to apply a little trial
and error here. You can also try ticking
some of the options listed under Settings.

For programs that still won’t work – or
refuse to even install in the first place –
there’s another way to get them going
again: by using virtualisation. We will be
explaining more about how to keep
Windows XP going as a virtual PC in a
future issue, but essentially this process
involves using free software, such as
VirtualBox (www.virtualbox.org) to
run Windows XP as a ‘PC within a PC’.
By installing incompatible programs
on your virtual XP PC instead of the
Windows 7 or 8 host PC, you can continue
to run them whenever you like.

Replace missing XP features

Windows 7 works in more or less the
same way as XP. If you previously used
Outlook Express in XP, however, then you
may be surprised to learn that Windows 7
doesn’t come with a built-in email
program at all. A replacement – Windows
Live Mail – is available for free as part of
Windows Essentials, which also includes
an updated version of XP’s Movie Maker.
Get it from www.snipca.com/11300.
Windows Essentials will also come in
handy for those who’ve upgraded to
Windows 8 (or 8.1), because the included
Mail app doesn’t work with all types of
email account. In fact, many things about
Windows 8 – its Start screen, Live tiles and
apps – may seem alien if you’re upgrading
from XP. With a little tweaking, however,
it’s possible to make the OS work more
like XP and restore missing features.
Updating to Windows 8.1 is essential if
you haven’t already done so. This will let
you boot directly to the Desktop instead of
the Start screen – right-click the Taskbar,
select the Navigation tab and put a tick

BUY A NEW PC
INSTEAD
Given the costs – not to mention the
hassle – involved in carrying out a
DIY upgrade to Windows 7 or 8, you
may well be tempted to call it quits
on your old XP machine and buy an
entirely new computer instead. Doing
so removes the stress of installing
Windows. Most new PCs come with
Windows 8 or 8.1 pre-installed, though
a few – notably the Computeractive
Buy It award-winning Wired2Fire Hal
1000 (£650 from www.wired2fire.
co.uk) – can be configured to come
with Windows 7 installed instead
should you so wish. Transferring
data from your old XP computer can
be carried out using Windows Easy
Transfer too.

Change the file type associated with a file
extension in Windows 8

next to ‘When I sign in or close all
applications on a screen, go to the desktop
instead of Start’. The Start button, which
was controversially absent from Windows
8, is back in Windows 8.1 but it still
doesn’t work like the one in XP. To put
this right you could install a free tool, such
as Classic Shell (www.classicshell.net).
You may also want to avoid Windows 8
apps and stick with Desktop programs.
For example, you might prefer to open
Windows Media Player by doubleclicking a music file, rather than the
unfamiliar Music app. To do this, press
the Windows key and type associate, then
click the ‘Change the file type associated
with a file extension’ option.

NEXT ISSUE
Use VirtualBox to run a ‘virtual’ version of XP
on your Windows 7 or 8 PC

Tick ‘When I sign in. . .’ in Windows 8.1 to boot
straight to the Desktop not the Start screen

ON SALE

5 March

How to upgrade from
XP to Linux

19 February - 4 March 2014 61

Problems Solved
PROBLEM OF THE FORTNIGHT

How do I transfer a
Windows XP database?
My wife currently
uses Windows XP to
run her search
database of 60,000 records,
using a program called Bekon
IdeaList 3. As XP is coming to
the end of its life, she wishes
to buy a new laptop suitable
for the same purpose. For
obvious reasons, she also
wishes to transfer her
database. I advised her to buy
an Apple MacBook Air but I
don’t know how, or what
program to use to transfer the
database. Can you offer some
direction?
Alan J Snarey

Q

I have received emails,
seemingly from residents of
my village, requesting money
urgently because they’ve been mugged
and robbed. The emails claim to have
come from Lithuania and Bosnia. I
telephoned the ‘victims’ at home and
they haven’t been to either of these
places. What should I (as the email
recipient) and they (as the supposed
email senders) do? One of the ‘senders’,
acting on advice, has lost all her
email contacts.
David Tanswell

Q

Transfer your databases from older programs into the
free OpenOffice Base

The company behind
the database program you’re
using went out of business
many years ago – and with it went any
future (or support) for IdeaList.
An independent support group
exists on Google Groups but, given the
age of the software, it probably won’t
surprise you to hear that it isn’t very
busy. There’s no indication as to
whether IdeaList 3 can be made
to run on Windows 8.1, though some
people have reported success getting
later versions to work on Windows 7.
You can read more at www.snipca.
com/11063.
However, for the long-term the best
solution is for your wife to transfer her
data out of IdeaList and into another
database program. Which one depends
largely on the type of data you have
and what needs to be done with it, but
OpenOffice Base (www.openoffice.org)
is a good free option for either Mac
OS X or Windows. Also download
OpenOffice Calc, as you’ll need
this to import the data.
Next, your wife needs to export the
data from IdeaList. Use the ‘Export to
CSV’ option to create a CSV file

A

64 19 February – 4 March 2014

What should I do
about email
requests for
money?

containing the data. Copy this CSV
file to a USB memory stick or external
hard drive and transfer it to your new
computer.
Next, import the data into OpenOffice
Base. Launch the program, choose
‘Create a new database’ and click Next,
then Finish. Type a name for the new
database, then click Save.
Next, launch OpenOffice Calc.
Choose Open from the File menu,
navigate to the CSV file, click to select it
then click Open. Next, press Ctrl+A to
select all the data and then press Ctrl+C
to copy it to the Windows Clipboard.
Return to OpenOffice Base, click
Tables in the left-hand navigation
pane, right-click in the Tables section
on the right and choose Paste from the
pop-up menu. Next, click ‘Definitions
and data’ in the ‘Copy table’ dialogue
box and click Next.
Finally, use the ‘Apply columns’
dialogue box to select which data
columns to copy to the new database:
just select the required columns from
the left-hand pane, click the rightfacing angled-bracket (‘>’) button,
then click Next.

What you have received is a
form of phishing email that
plays on recipients’ emotions by
pretending to be known contacts in need.
You’ve already done the right thing by
calling the supposed victims to check the
stories out. Beyond that, you can report
the scam via the ActionFraud website
(www.actionfraud.police.uk), but don’t
expect instant results – this kind of scam
is incredibly common and it’s generally
difficult to trace the perpetrators, let
alone bring them to justice.
The greater concern is your friend’s
lost email contacts. It’s possible that her
email account has been compromised in
some way, which might explain how the
criminals got your email address. You
didn’t tell us what she did or how or
when she lost her contacts but you should
certainly advise her to seek more help.

A

If you’ve been targeted by a phishing scam
report the incident to the ActionFraud website

Our experts solve all your tech problems
Email us your problem and we’ll try to help: [email protected]

How do I save
messages with
Windows 8.1 Mail?
I’ve had a new Windows 8.1 PC
built for me. On my old XP
computer I had no problem
saving incoming and outgoing emails
to folders in the My Documents folder,
but I can’t find any way to do this with
the Mail app in Windows 8.1. Saving
emails is important to me, so can you tell
me how to do this in 8.1, if it’s possible?
Ken Betts

Q

It is possible but the process is
nowhere near as straightforward
as it is in Windows XP’s Outlook
Express, which we’re guessing you were
using on your old PC.
In Outlook Express, any email or group
of emails can be saved simply by dragging
and dropping inbox items to a folder. As
you’ve already discovered, this isn’t
possible with the new-style Mail app for
Windows 8.1, one reason being the app

A

Save emails to a folder on your PC in
Windows 8.1 via File Explorer

only runs in full screen (so there’s no way
to drag and drop inbox items out of that
window). But there is a way round this.
First, press Win+E to launch File
Explorer (the new name for Windows
Explorer). Next, select the View tab, click
Options on the right, and choose ‘Change
folder and search options’. Select the
View tab in the Folder Options dialogue
box, then select the ‘Show hidden files,
folders, and drives’ button. Click OK
to close the dialogue box.
Next, navigate to the C:\Users\
[Username]\AppData\Local\Packages
folder. From here, you need to find the
folder names carrying a string of random
alphanumeric characters (they are keyed
to your personal account, so we can’t tell

you precisely what they are). The full
path is easy to follow because there
should be only one folder at each turn.
You’re looking for something like:
C:\Users\[Username]\AppData\Local\
Packages\microsoft.windows
communicationsapps_abc12345\
LocalState\Indexed\LiveComm\
abc12345\123456-7890\Mail.
In this Mail folder you may find further
subfolders, depending on how many
email accounts you’re syncing and the
folder structure you use. It’s in these
folders that you’ll find your email
messages. Each one is stored as a file
with an .eml file extension and has a
date and time stamp, which will tally
with the dates and times of emails in
your Mail inbox. To make a backup
copy of an email, hold down the Control
(Ctrl) key while dragging and dropping
to where you want to save it.

Can I get my old pocket scanner working?
I have an old Siemens Pocket
Reader pen scanner with a
serial interface connector
that was designed for Windows 95.
Although I can buy a serial-to-USB
adapter, I don’t have the original
software floppy disks – not that the
software works with Window 7 or 8.
Can you suggest any OCR software that
will let me re-use the scanner, as I’d
rather not throw it away?
Roy Tulkens

Older products – like the Siemens Pocket
Reader – need original software and drivers

We think you’ll be
exceptionally lucky to get a
product that’s nearly 20 years
old working with a modern Windows
PC, not least because you’re no longer
in possession of the original software
and because the scanner itself uses an
interface that is effectively obsolete.
No modern OCR software will work
with this very old device – the encoding

of the data is proprietary, which means
the original Siemens drivers will be
required to decode it.
If you’re determined to try then the
good news is there are still websites that
host original versions of the software
and drivers, such as www.snipca.
com/11143. We can’t vouch for these
programs as we have no way of testing
them, so try them at your own risk.

Q

A

Alternatively, scour eBay (www.ebay.
co.uk) to pick up an old set of disks
– we found a few for sale when we
looked.
Either way, you could safely install the
drivers and OCR software in a virtual
PC that’s running Windows XP and
then connect the scanner’s serial port
via a USB adapter. VirtualBox (www.
virtualbox.org) is a free tool for creating
virtual PCs. Conceivably, this mix-andmatch setup might just work.
Good luck with that!.

19 February – 4 March 2014 65

Problems Solved
What is this
clock interrupt
error?
Ever since I’ve had my
Windows 7 PC I’ve been
getting the occasional blue
screen of death – it happens a couple
of times a week. The error message
says that a “clock interrupt was not
received on a secondary processor”.
When it happens I restart and
everything seems fine, but it’s very
frustrating because I lose data and
have to start what I was doing all
over again. The blue screen messages
are just gobbledegook to me.
Ron Cushing

Q

This error is usually caused
by attempts to overclock
the PC’s processor – which
basically means making it run faster
than it was designed to do. We know
you’re not trying to do this, so it
suggests a fault with either the
processor or motherboard or a bug
in the motherboard’s Bios that’s
causing the processor to overclock
when it shouldn’t.
You sent us the full specifications
of your PC so we know that your
PC has an Asus P6T motherboard.
The P6T does have built-in
overclocking features and Asus
has also issued a number of BIOS
updates that “improve stability”.
It’s entirely possible that these factors
have a bearing on your problem.
Visit www.snipca.com/11144 and
follow the instructions to download
the latest version of the BIOS for
your motherboard and operatingsystem version.

A

How do I make this scheduled task
work on my PC?
I tried to set my PC to wake up
in the morning, as described in
Issue 412’s Workshop ‘Make
your PC start up in seconds’. However,
at the end of the process I received a
message telling me an error has
occurred, highlighting a ‘User account
restriction’. I’m running Windows 7 and
am using an administrator account, but
cannot get past this final hurdle. What
am I doing wrong?
Brian Willcocks

suggested in the Workshop – requires
the relevant user account to be passwordprotected. Our guess is that your
administrator account is the only one
on your PC, and that for convenience
you haven’t given it a password.
As this is a requirement for Task
Scheduler, you’ll have to decide whether
or not to proceed. If you do, click Start,
Control Panel, then User Accounts and
Family Safety. Next, click ‘Change your
Windows password’, under the User
Accounts heading. Click the ‘Create a
You’re not doing anything
password for your account’ link then type
wrong, but the Windows Task
and confirm your password (we’d also
Scheduler – which is the tool
recommend typing a reminder into the
‘password hint’
box below, just in
case you forget
the password).
Click the ‘Create
password’ button.
Finally, return
to Task Scheduler,
set up the task
(as explained in
Issue 412) and, if
prompted, type
the password
you’ve set up –
Password-protect your User Account in Control Panel to use Task Scheduler and you’re all set.

Q

A

How do I restore my Gmail shortcut?
I used to have a shortcut on my
Windows Desktop that would
take me straight to my Gmail
account, so there was no need to type the
address in my web browser (Chrome).
I’m not sure where it’s gone but I’d like it
back. How do I do this
in Windows XP? And
would the same work
in Windows 7?
Harry Craik

Q

Open Chrome
and log in to
Gmail as usual.
Next, click the address
bar at the top and
highlight the URL by
pressing Control+A.
Click this selection and,
holding down the

mouse button, drag to where you would
like to create the shortcut on your
Windows Desktop. Release the mouse
button to create the shortcut. And yes,
this method will work just as well in
Windows 7 as in XP.

A

Visit the Asus website to get help with
overclocking problems on your PC

66 19 February – 4 March 2014

Access your Gmail account by creating a shortcut on your Desktop

Should I convert my files to thwart CryptoLocker?
As you recommended in
Issue 412, I have installed
CryptoPrevent (www.snipca.
com/10690). Another article in that issue
suggests re-saving Microsoft Office files
as non-Office documents. Most of my
files are still in .doc or .rtf format, but
I also have Ability Office 6 installed.
Should I convert my files to the Ability
formats, or are these equally vulnerable?
Also, what about picture files, such as
.jpg or .tif? Finally, is there any way of
flushing out any vulnerable .rtf or .doc
files which may be lurking in places I
hadn’t thought of looking?
Brian Hillier

Q

CryptoLocker does not seek out
or encrypt Ability Office files, so
yes, re-saving your documents
with Ability Write (.aww file extension)
or Spreadsheet (.aws) would protect them
against CryptoLocker. JPEGs (.jpg) images
are targetted by CryptoLocker, while
TIFF (.tif) files are not.
However, CryptoLocker is not the first

A

Flush out
hidden
vulnerable
files on your
PC by using
Windows
Explorer

piece of ransomware and nor will it be
the last. Because of this, the best way to
stay protected is to employ multiple
strategies. Keep your security software up
to date and run regular scans. Also, make
regular backups of your important files
and keep the backup media seperate from
your computer – preferably at another

location entirely (like your office or a
relative’s house).
Finally, hidden files can be flushed out
using Windows Explorer. Press Win+E to
launch it, select the relevant drive in the
left-hand pane, type a search query at the
top right, then press Enter. For example,
to search for all .doc files you’d type *.doc.

How do I stop Facebook switching to Top Stories?
I’m an avid Facebooker, but
I’ve been driven mad by the
Top Stories view ever since the
site introduced it. I want the stuff in my
news feed to appear in the order people
posted their updates. I know I can
switch to Most Recent view by clicking
the Sort link at the top of my feed, but
it doesn’t seem to stay on that setting –
every few days Facebook switches me
back to Top Stories view. To be honest, I
don’t even understand the point of Top
Stories as many of the posts displayed
in this view seem old. What’s it for?
And is there any way to force Facebook
to use Most Recent mode all the time?
Helen Leath

Q

The order of posts displayed in
Top Stories view depends on
many factors, including how
often you interact with a particular
friend and the comment activity on
particular posts. The idea being that in
Top Stories view, posts of most relevance
or interest to you will always be at the

A

Display your Facebook news feed in Most Recent view every time by changing your URL

top of your news feed.
Facebook uses some unknown
algorithm to determine when you
should see Top Stories view and when
Most Recent will be displayed – and that
can indeed be very annoying. Just as
annoying is the fact that there’s no
simple option in Facebook to fix the
view one way or the other.
Fortunately, there is a workaround

that involves adding a tiny bit of code
to the end of the normal Facebook
website address. In your web browser’s
address bar, type www.facebook.
com/?sk=h_chr – the ‘/?sk=h_chr, the
bit at the end tells Facebook to always
display your news feed in chronological
order (meaning Most Recent view).
Bookmark this page and use it to
visit Facebook in future.

19 February – 4 March 2014 67

Problems Solved
Will my recovery partition work with Windows 8?
I’m thinking of installing
Windows 8.1 from a disc. I have
an Acer touchscreen computer
running the 64-bit edition of Windows 7.
My PC has a 2TB hard drive split into C
and D drives. Will my touchscreen work
with Windows 8.1? And if I don’t like
Windows 8.1, will I be able use the Acer
recovery system to restore my computer
to factory settings? I’m comfortable
fitting new hardware, but should I buy a
new hard drive to install Windows 8 to
be on the safe side?
Zolly Twin

Q

Yes, your touchscreen PC should
work with Windows 8.1. To
make sure, download and run
Microsoft’s free Windows 8.1 Upgrade
Assistant (www.snipca.com/11208),
as this will flag up any potential or
known problems.
The recovery system to which you refer
should be stored in a special partition on
your PC’s main hard drive. So long as you
don’t delete this, allow Windows 8 to

A

to expand Storage in
the left-hand pane
then choose Disk
Management. In the
bottom-middle pane
you should see a
Recovery Partition
and partitions for C
and D. You should
install Windows 8
on the ‘primary’
partition (which will
be C in this case).
If you’re still
worried then, of
Check your partitions in Disk Management before installing a new OS course, installing a
new hard drive will
install itself on it or otherwise change it,
provide ultimate safety, but we think it’s
you should have no problems installing
overkill here – just back up your PC
Windows 8. If it all goes horribly wrong,
before installing Windows 8.1. If all goes
you should be able to access the tools
wrong, or you simply hate the new
from the recovery partition to restore
operating system, then restart your PC
Windows 7 to its factory settings.
and look for the option to access the
To check your current partition
recovery tools – typically by pressing
situation, click Start, then right-click
one of the function (F) keys at the top
Computer and select Manage. Next, click
of the keyboard.

READER TO THE RESCUE

Answer readers’ problems at forums.computeractive.co.uk
co.uk
.uk

Why can’t I create a Windows 8.1 recovery disc?
I’ve been using Windows 8
Pro for a while, creating a
recovery DVD when I first
installed it. I have recently upgraded
to Windows 8.1 via the Windows Store
and I’d like to make another recovery
DVD for 8.1. I have the product key,
but unfortunately, I have a corrupt or
missing file, as revealed by running the
SFC /Scannow command. However,
I’m asked for the recovery media,
which I obviously haven’t yet made. I
tried the original Windows 8 recovery
disc but I’m told it’s the wrong media.
Is there a way of making a recovery
DVD or sorting my problem without
re-installing Windows 8 from scratch?
Ace66, Computeractive Forum

Q

The SFC command normally
repairs any problems it finds
when run in Administrator
mode. These problems are usually of
little consequence in themselves unless
you’re experiencing difficulties with

the operating system.
So, are you sure that you ran SFC in
Administrator mode? What message did
you see after running SFC? Did it say that
it couldn’t repair the file or files? If so,
instead of using SFC, first type DISM /
Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth.
At first, nothing may appear to happen. It
can take a good few minutes to complete
so go have a cup of tea. When it’s done,

run the SFC command again.
Then, to create a recovery drive go
to Control Panel, choose ‘Small icons’
from the Category dropdown menu,
then click Recovery, ‘Create a recovery
drive’ and follow the onscreen prompts.
Note that, to be able to boot from the
recovery disc, the relevant drive must
be set in the BIOS as first boot option.
Calimanco, Computeractive Forum

A

68 19 February – 4 March 2014

Create a recovery drive in Windows 8.1 via Control Panel

Fast Fixes

Outlook.com
Retrieve lost contacts, improve privacy and stop spam
Restore deleted contacts
If you’ve accidentally deleted a contact,
you can easily restore it. Sign into your
account and click the down arrow next
to the Outlook logo, then People. In the
menu bar click Manage, then ‘Restore
deleted contacts’. So long as you didn’t
delete your contact or contacts more than
30 days previously, you should now be
able to restore them. Tick the boxes
next to the contacts you want to
retrieve and click Restore.

Stop Outlook from leaking your
Facebook profile
If you’ve linked your Facebook or Twitter
accounts to your Outlook.com account,
then you’re likely to be sharing
information from these profiles every
time you send an email. By default,
Outlook.com shares any public content
within accounts linked to it, but you can
prevent this. Click the Settings cog, ‘More
email settings’ and, under ‘Reading
email’, click ‘Content from third-party
networks’. You’ll now see all the accounts
linked to your Outlook.com account.
Under ‘Showing public content’ select
‘Don’t show public content from thirdparty networks’ and then click Save.

Remove information on your Twitter and
Facebook profile from emails

Make sure emails are listed
individually in your inbox
By default Outlook.com groups emails
with the same subject line together into
‘conversations’, which can make finding

specific emails difficult. To stop this,
click the Settings cog, then ‘More mail
settings’. Under ‘Reading email’, click
‘Group conversations and pre-load
messages’, ‘Show messages individually’,
and then Save. Each email you receive
will now have its own entry in your
inbox, rather than being grouped with
others in the same subject thread.

Avoid errors when attaching files
Outlook.com can sometimes struggle to
attach files to your emails and will either
crash or refuse to do anything. This is
most likely caused by Microsoft’s
Silverlight browser add-on. Go to http://
microsoft.com/getsilverlight to see what
version of Silverlight you’re running.

Sliverlight to play video – but it should
enable you to attach files to emails in
Outlook.com.

Stop Skype incoming calls from
ringing in Outlook
If you have a Skype account and use
Outlook.com for your email then each
time you receive a Skype call it will ring
in both programs, which can be
annoying. To stop this, you must unlink
your Skype account from your Microsoft
account. Go to login.skype.com, click
‘Sign in with a Skype account’, enter your
details and click ‘Sign in’. Under ‘Account
details’ click ‘Account settings’ and next
to ‘Microsoft account’ click Unlink and
then Continue.

Prevent spam from reaching
your inbox

Removing Microsoft’s Silverlight can fix
problems you have attaching files to emails

If emails from specific websites or
services keep appearing in your inbox
when they should be going straight to
your junk folder, then this is probably
down to an error on your ‘Safe senders’
list. Click the Settings cog, ‘More email
settings’ and under ‘Preventing junk
mail’, click ‘Safe and blocked senders’,
then Safe Senders. Select any email
addresses or domains on the right-hand
side that shouldn’t be there and click
‘Remove from list’. Any future emails
from this sender will go straight to
your junk folder, rather than
cluttering up your inbox.

If your version number is below 5.1.2
then follow the instructions to update it.
If you continue having problems, then
disable Silverlight in your browser
settings. In Internet Explorer, click
settings in the top right, then
‘Manage add-ons’, select Microsoft
Silverlight and click Disable. In
Firefox, click the menu in the topleft corner, then Add-ons, scroll to
the Silverlight plug-in and select
Never Activate from the dropdown
menu. In Chrome, type chrome://
plugins/ in the address bar, then
click Disable next to Silverlight.
Disabling Silverlight might stop
some websites loading properly –
Remove any spamming email addresses from your
Sky Go, for example, requires
safe senders list in your settings

Next issue Fast Fixes For… iPad and iPhone

19 February - 4 March 2014 69

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72 19 February - 4 March 2014

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Jargon Buster
4K Video with a resolution of at
least 3840x2160 pixels.
32bit A measure of how much
data a PC can process at once.
64bit As above.
720p A common resolution of HD
video: 1280x720 pixels.
802.11ac A standard for wireless
networks that allows for much
higher transfer speeds.
802.11g A standard for wireless
networks that is common but has
been superseded by 802.11n.
802.11n As 802.11g but with higher
transfer speeds.
AAC Advanced Audio Coding. A
type of music file.
ADSL Asymmetric Digital
Subscriber Line. A technology that
converts a standard phone line into
a broadband internet connection.
Beta A version of software that’s
almost, but not yet finished.
Bios Basic Input-Output System.
Software built into every PC that
connects the vital components.
BitTorrent A technology for
downloading files.
CSV Comma Separated Value.
A standard file format, used for
storing tabulated information,
that can be opened by most
spreadsheet applications.
Digital keystone correction An
option in projectors that corrects
skewed or distorted images.
DLNA Digital Living Network
Alliance. A technology that enables
devices to communicate with each
other and display media files.
DLP Digital Light Processing.
A technology used in some
projectors that uses tiny mirrors.
DirectX 9 An older version of a
Microsoft technology required to
run many games in Windows.
dpi Dots per inch. A measure of
printed image quality, or the size
an object will be shown on screen.

Driver A file that tells Windows
how to work with a peripheral
device.

Lumen A measure of brightness.
MB/s Megabytes per second.

SFC/Scannow A command
in Windows that can fix some
corrupted files.

Dual band Wireless routers that
have two wireless radios working
on the 2.4 and 5GHz frequencies
or bands.

Mbps Megabits per second. A
measure of data transfer speed.

Solid-state drive (SSD) Storage
that uses no moving parts.

Metadata A set of data that gives
information about a file.

TGA A graphics file format, once
common in the 1980s, now rare.

MicroSD A small type of memory
card. Can be converted to SD size
using an adapter.

Timeline Part of a video-editing
program consisting of a line or bar
along the bottom of the screen.

Motherboard The main circuit
board inside every PC into which
all other parts connect.

.tiff Tagged Image File Format. A
standard file format used to store
graphics images.

NAS Network-attached storage. A
hard drive attached to a network.

Trackpad (or touchpad) A small,
touch-sensitive pad which acts as
an alternative to a mouse.

DVI Digital Visual Interface. A
common type of display connector
that can carry a digital signal.
Enclosures A case that allows
you to use an internal hard drive
as either an external hard drive or
as a NAS.
.exe The file extension for
executable program files designed
to run in Windows.

OCR Optical character recognition.

Exif Exchangable Image File
Format. A method for storing extra
information – date, time and camera
model – inside digital photo files.

Overclock When a CPU is made
to work faster at the cost of it
requiring more power.

False positive When an antivirus
program wrongly identifies safe
software as malicious.

Partition A large hard drive can
be split into two or more partitions
or ‘virtual’ drives.

File extension The part of a file
name after the full stop.

PATA Parallel ATA (see IDE). An
interface for connecting hard drives
and optical drives to a computer.

FLAC Free Lossless Audio Codec.
A type of digital audio file that can
be created from CD with no loss of
audio quality.
Gamma correction settings
Correcting the overall brightness
of an image.
GHz Gigahertz. A measure of
how many instructions a chip can
process per second. 1GHz is equal
to 1,000MHz.

PCI Express A faster version of PCI
used by modern graphics cards.
Processor The processor – or
central processing unit – is the
brain of a computer.
Ransomware Malware run by
hackers who take over your PC and
demand a payment to release it.
Raw A format for digital photos.

Gigabit Ethernet A very fast
networking standard that can
transfer data at up to 1,000Mbps.

Resolution The amount of detail
shown in an image, whether on
screen or printed.

HDMI High-definition media
interface. A type of connection that
transmits high-definition video
and audio signals.

.rtf Rich Text Format. A file format
used to transfer files between
word-processing programs.

IDE Integrated Drive Electronics.
An interface used to connect some
hard drives and optical disc drives.
Often called ATA.
IP address Internet Protocol
Address. A unique set of numbers
used to identify computers and
websites on the internet.

SATA Serial ATA (see IDE). An
interface for connecting modern
hard drives and optical discs to a PC.
SD card Secure Digital card. A
popular type of memory card.
Server A computer on a network,
such as the internet, that distributes
information to other PCs.

Trackpoint An alternative to a
mouse on notebook PCs, usually a
small rubberised ‘nipple’.
Travel The distance the keys of
a keyboard have to be pressed
before the keystroke is recognised.
Two-step verification (or twofactor authentication) A system
that uses two methods – device and
passwords – to identify the user.
USB Universal Serial Bus. A
standard that allows connection of
external peripherals to your PC.
USB2 Faster successor to USB.
USB3 As USB2, but even faster.
VGA Video Graphics Array. A
standard socket for connecting a
monitor to a computer.
Virtual PC A Windows tool that
enables you to run a second
‘virtual’ operating system on a PC.
Virtual private network (VPN)
A technology for keeping all
internet communication safe
and private.
VK code (or Virtual key
code) The way your computer
understands what key you’ve
pressed on your keyboard.
Whitelist A list of allowed sites,
email addresses or applications
used by security software to ensure
you only visit safe websites and
download safe programs.

19 February – 4 March 2014 73

The Final Straw
Stuart Andrews wags a disapproving finger at. . .

STUART ANDREWS is
Computeractive’s Mr Angry
@SATAndrews

Nagware
J

ust as every year ends with a flood of
pre-Christmas product launches, so
each begins with a wave of high-tech
hype. As I write we’ve just been through
this year’s CES – the glitzy, Las Vegas
show that sets the tech agenda for the
year to come – and, sure enough, it rolled
out the traditional display of pomp,
silliness and speculation, led as usual by
unlikely new advances in TV. A few years
ago it was 3D, now it’s curved TV, and
much as LG and Samsung try to push it,
nobody seems quite sure what the point
is. It’s not hard to see why even higherdefinition HDTVs might be a good thing
(assuming we actually get some Ultra HD
movies), but anyone betting the farm on
vast TVs with curving screens needs their
heads examined.
Meanwhile, phones keep getting bigger,
gadgets keep getting weirder, and Asus
keeps on coming up with bizarre
Windows/Android/phone/tablet/laptop
hybrids that simply boggle the mind.
Between Canon’s camera that takes a
selfie of you while you take a photo and
the Panono ball camera, which takes
360-degree photos when you throw it in
the air, you can’t help feeling that it’s all

74 19 February – 4 March 2014

getting a bit desperate. Now, I can see the
point of the new Pebble Steel – a sensible,
stripped-back smartwatch that gives you
at-a-glance updates from your mobile
phone. But do we really need smart slow
cookers and clamp-on smartphone
keyboards, or has everyone lost the plot?
The one 2014 tech trend that most
disturbs is a subset of wearable tech I’m
calling nagware. I have no beef with
wearable tech per se, but I can’t abide
all this stuff that’s watching what you’re
doing, talking to your smartphone
and reporting back, like a sneaky
sixth-form monitor.
Take Sony’s new SmartBand (www.
snipca.com/11226), for example. It’s a
motion-tracking sensor which, like most
fitness bands, tracks your physical
activity and logs its findings in an app.
However, the SmartBand and its app
aren’t just logging the steps you take or
how fast you’re getting from A to B, they
also know what calls and texts you make,
what you do on Facebook, and what
music you listen to. They then want to
splurge this information all over the web.
Now, I realise some people like to share
everything, and maybe if I’d jogged five
miles in 30 minutes to the latest cool
bands I’d be one of them. But when I’ve
spent half an hour mooching along
the seafront to Abba, I’m not
sure I want this data stored
for posterity, let alone
made public.
Nor is Sony alone.
Jaybird’s Reign fitness
tracker doesn’t simply
track your exercise but
also your sleep, letting you
know when it thinks you
need more naptime.
Netatmo’s June bracelet
monitors your exposure to
the sun and tells you what
suncream to apply. CSR’s
smart necklace flashes to
let you know your smartphone

has a new notification. Razer’s Nabu
band tracks your fitness, keeps you
updated on your online gaming activity
and can even give you an achievement
award when you have an early night.
Fancy a toothbrush that monitors and
analyses how you brush, before dishing
out pointers? Well, the Kolibree Internetenabled toothbrush is just the thing for
you. And then there’s the Sen.se Mother
- stick the sensors to your fridge door,
your mugs, your pill bottles and just

Do we need gadgets
to nanny us? We’ve
managed for years
using built-in sensors
called eyes and ears

about everything else, and the Russian
doll-like control unit tracks what you’re
drinking, how far you’re walking and
how warm your house is.
Do we really need gadgets to nanny
us like this? Most of us have managed
these things ourselves for years, using
built-in sensors called our eyes and ears,
but now it appears we need some help.
Not me. I’m willing to suffer the odd
spot of sunburn or a nasty shock at the
dentist if it saves me from this constant,
intrusive nagging noise. Nagware might
be someone’s future tech, but it’s
certainly not mine.
Do you agree with Stuart?
Let us know at [email protected]

Next issue Stuart is horrified by Google’s arrogance

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