Category Archives: Hardware

BT iPlate


I’ve been writing just recently about slow broadband connections and discussing common methods used to improve line speeds. This week I was pointed in the direction of a little device which claims to potentially increase the speed of your broadband connection for just under £7.

The BT iPlate is of potential use to broadband customers that have more than one telephone socket in their home. It consists of a small plate which is installed in to the master socket and works by attempting to reduce interference picked up by any extension wiring in your home.

It works by cutting out the ‘bell wire’ cable on your line; originally this would have been used by older telephones to allow a physical bell to ring however modern day handsets have a ring feature built in and, as such, it is now redundant. Ideally, (but somewhat impractically) the bell wire would be removed … Read the rest

Hard Drive Enclosures


I was speaking to a young chap last week who had been saving up for an external hard drive. He’d filled up his Dads laptop with an entire library of music and desperately didn’t want to delete it but at the same time the machine was unusable due to a lack of space. Rather than pushing him down the route of a £70 external hard drive we suggested opting for a hard drive enclosure for £6.50 then reusing the drive from his old computer which was about to be consigned to the scrap heap.

External hard drives are a big market but in many situations they are redundant; most users will have purchased more than one computer and chances are that when it has come to the end of its useful life it would be considered close to worthless. Most charity shops won’t even take old machines anymore as health … Read the rest

Solid State Drives (SSDs)


Of all the technologies found in a modern computer, I would have to say that over the past decade the device that has done the least to raise its game is the humble hard drive. It could be argued that over the years they have enjoyed significant increases in capacity, have become a great deal faster and a fair bit smaller, but for some time now it has been clear that the main storage device for your computer is also its biggest bottleneck.

My first hard drive held 20MB and I’m currently using one which holds 1TB so although I can admit that a 50,000 times increase in capacity is a substantial development, this doesn’t deter from the fact that the technology involved has remained very much unchanged.A hard disk relies on a number of spinning discs, referred to as platters which are then read by a read-and-write head; the Read the rest

Connecting your Computer to a TV #2


Last week I discussed potential methods of connecting your PC or laptop to your television.Such an easy project has many potential rewards such as being able to play your games on a massive screen or avoiding the need to burn your downloaded movies to disc before playing them.While we covered the potential methods of connecting the video output (if you missed last week you can catch up at, you do of course also need to connect the sound.

Unless you are lucky enough to have a HDMI port on your computer (which carries sound as well as video), you will need a separate cable and as with the video, the method you choose depends on your existing hardware:

Analog RCA (Radio Corporation of America) Connection

This is the most common audio input present on a TV or any other Read the rest

Connecting your Computer to a TV #1


Connecting a computer to your TV is an extremely simple process, it is therefore surprising that so few people have taken the plunge.The most obvious use in my mind would be if you downloaded a film off of the Internet then rather than having to burn it to disc to play in your DVD player, you could play it directly from the computer however.There is also the added advantage that now most TV’s support high resolutions (a measure of how many pixels the screen can display) you could use it in place of a conventional monitor; your favourite game and even the Internet would look much better on a 42” widescreen!

There are a number of ways to connect a TV and computer and below are the three most popular:

S-Video (Separate Video)
This standard is supported primarily by older, non HD compliant TV’s which don’t display the kind of Read the rest

Stuck Pixels


One of the most annoying problems that you can encounter whilst using a computer is a stuck or dead pixel on your monitor.In the case of the former you will be left with one pixel of your screen being a completely different colour and if you suffer from the latter the pixel will be always off, hence appearing black.

I bought a TV last year that arrived with one of the pixels constantly stuck as a bright green.You would imagine that with 2,073,600 pixels having one of them a different colour wouldn’t be a problem but unfortunately it was - I found myself constantly staring at this one pixel whilst ignoring the 2,073,599 ones which were functioning perfectly.I sent it back for a replacement as fortunately the law states that if you purchase a product by mail order that you automatically Read the rest

Intel Atom


While looking for a new laptop a couple of weeks back I was quite surprised by the sheer number that utilise the relatively new Intel Atom CPU.As I haven’t yet covered this particular processor, today seemed a good day to play catch-up.

The Intel Atom has been designed to compete primarily with the ARM Processor; due to its power saving features this processor is particular popular in mobile devices such as PDA’s (Personal Digital Assistant), GPS (Global Positioning System) and Mobile Phones.Power consumption has often been a struggle for Intel who typically tows the line of creating a processor then providing a lower power version that relies on practically the same architecture; this tactic often results in a slower processor which only offers a slight power saving.By comparison, Atom uses a completely different architecture, one that has been designed from the ground up to consume very little power.

There are Read the rest

CD and DVD Formats


On a daily basis I’m still asked about the different forms of blank disc available on the market and the differences between them.For this reason I thought this week we would look back at all the commonly available disc based media formats and the differences between them; from the humble CD to the more recent BluRay and HD-DVD.

CD-R – Whilst the CD format has been available since the early 1980’s, the specification for the writable version (CD-R) was published further down the line, in 1988.Whilst available in a number of different variants, the most commonly available is the 700mb version with a write speed of typically 52x (52 times the speed of the original CD-R standard).Whilst they don’t offer the storage capacity of newer alternatives such as DVD, they are still ideal for storing smaller amounts of data, for example a music album.CD-RW is a rewritable variant of the Read the rest

64 Bit Computing #2


Last week I started talking about 64-bit computing and the possible advantages that it could offer.For those of you that missed my last article, you’re probably best off downloading a copy at as otherwise this one article by itself may seem incomplete.

I focused specifically on the speed increase that could potentially be realised by installing a 64-bit Operating System if you’re lucky enough to have a 64-bit processor inside your machine.This is because such an OS would allow the processor to address more memory and handle more data per clock cycle than a 32-bit equivalent.

It is true that there have been 64-bit versions of Linux around for a while now along with a fairly unsuccessful 64-bit version of Windows XP.It is most likely however that you will be considering Windows Vista as your next Operating System we’ll focus on the 64-bit version of this OS today.

Along Read the rest

64 Bit Computing


There is a lot being said about Windows Vista at the moment along with the normal paranoia keeping users away that usually occurs when Microsoft release a new Operating System.I’m surprised by the number of people I know who have bought a new computer in the last couple of months and paid more to have Windows XP installed on it because of the horror stories they have heard, usually through a chain of half a dozen people.

If I can just clarify to my readership that Windows Vista is a good Operating System and in terms of bugs and security vulnerabilities it’s light years ahead of how Windows XP was this far into its distribution cycle.I’m not saying that you should rush out and buy it tomorrow if you’re happy with XP, but all I am saying is that if buying a new machine and you’re given the choice then Read the rest