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Fast Tips On How To Grow The Numbers Of Your Instagram Followers

f you don’t already know what Instagram is all about, you are in luck. This article is written with people like you in mind. In a nutshell, Instagram is a mobile application More »

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No 4G for the Moment, but 2013 Promises Great Things for British Consumers

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Mac Security Hype

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Starting out as a Webdesigner

This article is aimed at giving some rudimentary tips and guidelines which help in making a website designing business a successful one. Starting off a new business is as critical as it More »

Google Street View

google-car

I’m not sure what it is that they put in the water over at Google HQ but whatever it is, I want some. Such a large percentage of my articles have been devoted to the material that Google relentlessly produces that, without them, I genuinely doubt I would have found sufficient interesting content to keep this article going over the last eight years. To top it all they go and release “Google Street View”.

I can practically imagine the meeting in which an employee stood up and proclaimed “let’s drive specially modified cars down every street in the entire world and create a three dimensional virtual representation that anybody can then browse at home for free”. In any other company you would undoubtedly be ridiculed but at Google this idea was taken on board and followed through so over a period of two years practically every major city in the developed world has been captured.

At some point most of us would have undoubtedly used Google Maps which allows you to view a top down map or satellite image of anywhere on the planet. With Street View this is enhanced as you are able to then drop down to street level where you can then look around as if you were actually there.

The system works as modified cars were fitted with cameras which captured their surroundings at 10 to 20 metre intervals along the stretch of road on which they were driving. The finished images allow you to view the world 360 degrees horizontally and 270 degrees vertically and you can navigate down the streets by simply clicking the direction in which you wish to travel. When you reach a junction you will be given the choice of which route you wish to take so you have complete freedom of the areas you wish to explore.

The UK maps only came online last week and as such the coverage is still a little limited, there isn’t any coverage of the South West. Cities that have been covered in the UK however include London, Oxford, Cambridge, Nottingham, Derby, Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester, Bradford, Scunthorpe, Bristol, Norwich, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Birmingham, Coventry, Liverpool, Southampton, ,Belfast, Cardiff, Swansea, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen.

Despite automatically blurring number plates and faces as well as giving users the opportunity to remove any views that are deemed inappropriate, Street Views has given the campaigners new fodder to reopen the whole privacy debate. Privacy International in the UK has already sent a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) asking for the service to be switched off until a complete investigation can be completed. This is following complaints from 200 members of the pubic who claim that they were identifiable on the service despite the automatic blurring.

It seems odd to me that these two hundred individuals didn’t simply click the ‘report an image’ button to have their image removed permanently but instead choose to locate the address for Privacy International to compose a strongly worded letter of protest. For the sake of the other 60,954,800 people in the UK who haven’t felt the need to complain I hope that the service remains online as provided the privacy of the individual continues to be respected via face blurring and manual image removal tools I don’t see there being any real cause for concern.

To get started simply visit https://maps.google.com or alternative the feature is also accessible directly from the fantastic Google Earth which can be downloaded for free from https://earth.google.com

 

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

Google Docs

google-docs

Google Docs has been around for some time now but until recently I’d never managed to find a use for it in my life and my lack of experience with the service means I’ve not felt confident enough to recommend it to readers.We are currently going through the process of getting another shop up and running in Newton Abbot which has necessitated several people working on the same few spreadsheets (costing exercises, proposed time sheets and so on) from several different locations.Google Docs has worked out perfectly for this task.

To get started, set up a free Google Account (if you don’t already have one) at https://docs.google.com.From there you will now be able to create an online Document, Spreadsheet or Presentation.As well as then giving you access to these documents from wherever you are in the world, you also have the added advantage that you can choose to share them with any number of different people.Those that you trust to make their own changes can then also edit the document, even at the same time as another user.

There are three primary types of file that you can work with:

Word Processed Documents

  • Either create a document from scratch or upload an existing Word, OpenOffice, RTF, HTML or plain text file.Files can also be saved back in to these formats for distribution in more conventional formats.
  • Files are created using a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor.Those familiar with Word should have no problems using this and similar formatting and insert tools are provided.
  • Each document can have a maximum size of 500kb plus up to 2mb per embedded image.

Spreadsheets

  • Documents can be created from scratch or imported from Excel, OpenOffice, CSV or a plain text file.In the same way as with documents, work created in the Spreadsheet can also be saved back in to those formats.
  • The layout and navigation is extremely similar to Word and formatting and formula editing tools are provided.
  • Each spreadsheet can be up to 256 columns, 200,000 cells or 100 sheets; whichever is reached first.

Presentations

  • Work can be imported and exported in PowerPoint format along with the facility to save as a PDF file.
  • A familiar looking WYSIWYG editor is provided to allow you to easily format your slides as well as inserting images and videos.Those used to using Word or PowerPoint shouldn’t have any issues.
  • Presentations can be a maximum of 2mb in size when uploaded.

The remarkable thing you’ll notice about Google Docs is how fully featured the applications are, despite the fact that you don’t need to download or install any software.The service comes in to its own with the share functionality which is incredible; it’s quite surreal to be working on the same document as another and seeing the changes they are making in real time.Any changes are stored in a revision history so you can track any work that has been done on a document as well as rolling it back if required.

Since all the work you create is saved online there are potential issues with regards to privacy and security however I don’t believe that most would have any real cause for concern.Members of MI5 may want to consider sticking to conventional offline storage methods for the time being, although that having been said, it is much harder to leave an online document on the train.

 

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

Solid State Drives (SSDs)

ssd

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 closest and rather crude approximation would be to think of a vinyl record being read by a stylus.Clearly the disadvantage of this technology is that it relies on moving parts and hence is limited in speed by the physical restrictions on the device, along with suffering potential reliability problems caused by having several magnetic discs each haphazardly spinning at 7,200 times a minute inside your machine.

A technology that has been threatening to break in to the mainstream consumer market for some time now is the Solid State Disk (SSD) which stores its data on flash memory chips rather than magnetic platters; much in the same way as a little USB memory key, otherwise known as a flash drive. Since the SSD is physically larger than a flash drive there is room to fit a greater number of chips and hence the capacity can be increased accordingly.The speed of the memory used and the actual interface between the SSD and the computer is significantly faster than utilised by a flash drive and hence more suitable for the intensive access required when using it as your main storage device.

With the physical restraints of the hard disk banished, defragmentation is no longer required.Unlike a hard drive which would have to physically move to several positions on the disc to read a file that was split in to several pieces across the platter, it takes no longer to read data from several positions on a memory chip rather than just the one.The lack of movement also results in the drive being completely silent and slightly more energy efficient than a conventional drive.

One might wonder why we are still using the old cumbersome hard drives if such a technology is currently available and unfortunately there is one real sticking point. The price of flash memory is relatively high compared with the production cost of a hard drive platter so while you may be able to pick up a 64GB SSD for around £120 you could pick up a 750GB Hard Drive for half that amount.For this reason you are more likely to find Solid State Drives in relatively high end mini laptops where storage capacity and price aren’t such issues however only a fool would come to the conclusion that the capacity and price difference between the two technologies will remain for long.

 

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

Bundled Software #2

tuxpaint

This week I received the following e-mail in response to my article last week regarding useless software which is ordinarily bundled with any new computer.

“Hi Chris, I’ve got a couple more suggestions for you…

Avoid: Microsoft Office 2007

Why?: Its annoying interface is a step backwards in usability and as usual Microsoft have put even more bloated junk in thereWorse still, they attempt to up sell features like SharePoint to get the customer into expensive server software.

Superior Alternative: OpenOffice.org 3 (www.openoffice.org) which is available for Windows and now natively for MacOS X and Linux. It’s free and does the job perfectly well and it’s compatible with all current and previous Microsoft Office formats.

Avoid: Microsoft Outlook Express

Why?: Like Internet Explorer, it’s prone to security vulnerabilities and it wouldn’t think twice about e-mailing everyone in your address book if the user were to open a dodgy attachment.

Superior Alternative: Mozilla Thunderbird (www.getthunderbird.com) - Like Firefox it’s much more secure by default, it has a more intelligent spam filter and can be expanded with add-ons (such as the really handy Lightning Calendar add-on).

I wonder if you might be worth pointing your article readers in the direction of www.theopendisc.com where they can find a whole load of other great free software including things like The Gimp, OpenOffice, Inkscape and my kid’s favourite, Tuxpaint.

Rob Beard, Devon and Cornwall GNU / Linux Users Group”

I did intentionally stay away from including Office 2007 from my original list because as an incredibly expensive application it is rare to find it located as a default program on a new computer.This doesn’t detract however from the fact that I do believe that Open Office is a worthy alternative and that the new Office interface does appear to be a step backwards in regards to usability.In the past Windows applications always had a universal look and feel which made a new application incredibly easy to pick up but recently Microsoft applications have moved away from this predictable interface which results in a much steeper learning curve.

With regards to Outlook Express I certainly agree; it is a horrid application and I find it interesting that Microsoft will not be bundling Windows Mail (the successor to Outlook Express) with their forthcoming Windows 7 Operating System.Users will be given access to Windows Mail by way of a separate download but without the software being pushed on them, Thunderbird will almost certainly increase in popularity.

I also enjoyed the mention of the free painting application Tuxpaint (www.tuxpaint.org) which is a worthy download for anyone with a child between the ages of around 3 and 12.The program has been designed to not only be incredibly easy and fun for younger children to use but also give parents the confidence to leave them unoccupied with the computer.As an example, the application runs in a full screen mode so that the child doesn’t have access to the start menu or any other computer functions; there is also no obvious ‘quit’ button that would land them back in the Operating System.Saving and loading files doesn’t rely on any knowledge of the computers file system but instead a saved file will appear as a thumbnail which can then be clicked on to open it back up again.A range of fun drawing tools (which all have their own sound effects) are provided including a range of paintbrushes, shape tools, rubber stamps and even ‘magic tools’ which provide basic image manipulation and distortion effects.

 

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

Useless Bundled Software

recyclebin

I was setting up a new laptop this week and, half way through, got thinking to myself what a peculiar state of affairs we have got ourselves in to.The machine was set up and ready to use straight out the box but then I was required to spend half an hour removing all the crummy software that had been loaded by the manufacturer.Bundling software has become big business for the computer manufacturers as they are paid by the software developers themselves for every copy they distribute so below I have made a handy list of items that you should remove immediately:

Avoid: Adobe Acrobat Reader
Why?
Acrobat Reader is widely considered to be overly boated and unstable.
Superior Alternative
: FoxIt Reader (www.foxitsoftware.com) represents a small, capable, stable and free alternative.

Avoid: Trial Internet Service Provider Offer
Why?
Not only is it unlikely to be the best deal for you but as they are obsessed with bundled installations, the free trial software you receive is liable to be the incredibly bloated, unstable and possessive AOL Online.If anyone would listen, I would actually lobby to have this application legally banned on the grounds that it’s completely useless.
Superior Alternative
: Remove all traces of any free trial applications and instead find the provider that is best for you at a comparison website such as www.moneysupermarket.com

Avoid: Browser Toolbars
Why?
Unless you have specifically searched these out yourself they are unlikely to offer you features you really want while taking up space in your browser and potentially monitoring your usage habits.
Superior Alternative
: I personally question the need for any toolbars whatsoever but of course, if you do have a favourite, then simply install just that one and remove all others.

Avoid: Internet Explorer
Why
?Prone to security vulnerabilities, bloated and in most circumstances feels outdated.
Superior Alternative
: You won’t be surprised to hear that I would recommend giving Firefox (www.mozilla.com/firefox) a spin.

Avoid: Nero Essentials
Why?
Although I am not averse to the full edition of Nero, which may be bloated but is certainly feature rich, I’m a little less impressed by the free, limited versions that are shipped with many PC’s.
Superior Alternative
: For a very capable, much smaller, faster, free alternative try using CDBurnerXP (www.cdburnerxp.se).

Avoid: Bundled AntiVirus software
Why
?Any AntiVirus application bundled with your machine will almost certainly be either Norton or McAfee which are both incredibly large applications.After your 30 day grace period they will begin nagging you on a daily basis to continue your subscription for a yearly fee.
Superior Alternative
: I am still very much in love with the free AVG (https://free.avg.com) Anti-Virus checker which represents a small but incredibly powerful alternative.

Avoid: Both Quicktime and Realplayer
Why
?They load at startup, are incredibly slow and worst of all continuously gobble up system resources.The only functionality that they add is the ability to play files in either the Quicktime or Realplayer format which personally I’ve never seen the need for.
Superior Alternatives
: As much as it pains me to ratify their existence, it is likely that a website will try to force one of these formats on you at some stage so keep copies of the substantially smaller Quicktime Alternative (https://codecguide.com/download_qt.htm) and Real Alternative (https://codecguide.com/download_real.htm) to hand.

 

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

Microsoft Simple Basic

simple basic

Something I believe should be missed most about the 8-Bit Computer era (think Commodore 64’s, Sinclair Spectrums and Amstrad CPC 464’s) is the BASIC programming language which was built in to pretty much every one of these machines.BASIC not only allowed users to make their own programs, but also acted as the primary computer Operating System and since a rudimentary grasp of it was required to use even the simplest of functions, most users would have at some point also got around to writing their own simplistic computer programs.At the age of about six, I think my first program went something along the following lines:

10Print “Chris is Ace”

20Goto 10

The language was so simple that even those that had never used a computer before shouldn’t have had any real difficulty picking it up.Indeed, even those who have never seen a piece of BASIC code should be ashamed at themselves if they can’t establish that the above two lines would simply print the rather inaccurate phrase “Chris is Ace” on the screen over and over again in a never ending loop.

An overwhelming number of people were encouraged by this language to spend evenings reading up in books and magazines to improve their knowledge; popular magazines of the time actually printed entire programs over several pages which you then sat at home and entered yourself.Little boys like me genuinely dreamed that one day we would be computer programmers and would make games that thousands would get to play; back then the popular games weren’t made in elaborate studios by hundreds of highly paid university graduates but by individuals or very small groups.Of course, BASIC was far too (excuse the pun) basic for commercial games to be written in but for many it was a springboard for greater things.

Of course, little girls and boys still often want to become games designers but it is a shame that most won’t have any real inspiration to learn from day one.The average child, and indeed adult, will have a games console which will jump straight in to a game and a PC which boots in to a graphical Operating System which requires no programming knowledge whatsoever.This is progress and I certainly don’t believe that there should be any backtracking, but it’s hard not to get nostalgic at times.

I was recently intrigued to learn that Microsoft have created a free application called Small BASIC (https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/devlabs/cc950524.aspx), which has been designed as an easy way for kids and adults to learn a new language.The emphasis is on simplicity and Microsoft have certainly succeeded in creating something that is extremely lightweight and easy to learn with the added advantage that users can easily publish and share their work to pick up tricks and tips from others.There are certainly limits to what you will be able to produce in this application but as it employs a much more modern and structured fashion to programming than the BASIC it has been loosely based on, you could certainly use it as stepping stone to a more complex language.

 

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

Connecting your Computer to a TV #2

rca-cable

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 www.computerarticles.co.uk), 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 piece of sound equipment.Signals are sent over two cables (stereo) and although the sound quality won’t impress most sound aficionados, it would be sufficient for most home users.Ordinarily when connecting in this fashion you would require a 3.5mm headphone jack to plug in to your PC (usually this is a green coloured port) which would then link to the phono sockets (red and white) on the back of your TV.These usually cost only a couple of pounds and of course, do get in contact if you need one.

Digital Coax Connection

All PC’s have the aforementioned analog output but for true sound quality as well as the potential for surround sound you really should be connecting digitally.A Coaxial Digital Output uses a female RCA connector which is ordinarily either yellow or orange in appearance and usually marked ‘SPDIF Out’ or ‘Digital Out’.If connecting by this method you would be more likely to be connecting to a surround sound system so check for a similar connection and if present then you need to purchase a RCA SPDIF Coaxial cable which usually retail for around a fiver.

Optical (TOSLINK) Connection

Currently considered to be the holy grail of audio connectivity, the unfortunately named ‘TOSLINK’ standard transfers the audio digitally using pulses of light sent down a fibre optic cable.Originally designed by Toshiba (TOShiba-LINK) way back in 1983 the standard has become increasingly popular and you should find the connection on even relatively low end PC sound cards.Identifying whether your equipment can support an optical connection is incredibly easy as the sockets ordinarily have a protective plastic plug covering them which when removed reveals a beam of red light.Asides from the obvious step of confirming your PC is compatible, remember to look for the reciprocating input on your hi-fi or surround sound system rather than your TV as any connection found on the television is likely to be output only.The cables are in most cases incredibly cheap and you should be able to pick one up for around a fiver however do take care of them because the optical fibre can be damaged if bent too tightly.

 

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

Connecting your Computer to a TV #1

hdmi

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 resolutions required of a conventional computer screen; whilst a low resolution screen is fine for TV and film pictures it is unable to provide the kind of clarity needed for operating a computer.As such, this option should only be used if you have an older TV and certainly only for watching movies.

You need to look out for a small, round, yellow socket on the back of your TV and computer.Providing you have both it’s simply a case of purchasing a standard S-Video cable (which we sell at Refresh Cartridges for £2.99) although if the socket is absent from your machine you will require an expensive signal converter box.

SVGA (Super Video Graphics Array)

Practically every computer has a standard monitor connection, as does practically every LCD or Plasma screen so this method is certainly the most popular.An SVGA socket is 15-pin, ‘D’ shaped and blue in colour and once you have confirmed they are present on both your PC and TV it is simply a case of buying a standard monitor cable which again, is available through us for £2.99.

The ease of use of this connection type varies depending on your computer; if you have a laptop then you will be able to display an image on your TV at the same time as using the inbuilt screen but unless your conventional PC includes two SVGA connectors then for the period it is connected you will be using the TV as your main monitor.

DVI (Digital Visual Interface)

This would be your ideal method of connected your PC to the TV as the DVI standard relies on a digital signal rather than the older SVGA which is an analogue system. This should result in an increase in quality as you remove the need for the PC to convert its digital signal to analogue before transmitting down the cable, just to have the TV switch it back to digital again on receipt.

As this is a fairly new standard, whether your PC will be equipped or not is dubious; you are looking for a long, white connection with 24-pins (3 up and 8 across).Provided this is present then your choice of cable will be influenced by your TV set; you will need either a DVI to DVI cable or DVI to HDMI (a small ‘D’ shaped, colourless socket approximately 14mm x 4.5mm) cable.If the Herald Express will allow me another shameless plug then I will mention that we sell either for £6.99.

Today we have only covered connecting the video signal so next week we will introduce connecting the sound output from your computer and will hopefully have time to touch on how best to set up your graphics card for displaying on a television screen.

 

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

Stuck Pixels

stuck-pixel

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 get 14 days in which you can return it for any reason whatsoever, even if you simply decide that you don’t want it. Once outside this period you start to enter a grey area; many manufacturers won’t consider a stuck or dead pixel to qualify as a warranty issue unless you are suffering from a number of them.

As LCD TV’s and LCD Monitors are now regular household items, this problem is likely to affect many readers at some stage.Dead pixels are irrecoverable as they are caused by a complete lack of power going to that particular section of the screen however stuck pixels are often a different matter.Many people have reported success using these methods on screens where a given pixel is permanently stuck on one particular colour although it is worth noting that they are not guaranteed cures.

Software method – Download Undead Pixel 2.2 from www.freewarefiles.com and set it up to run a very small, rapidly changing window over the immediate area surrounding the stuck pixel.The application will rapidly change the colour of this section of the screen to hopefully unstick the offending dot.

Pressure method – Turn off your computer monitor and grab a damp cloth which has been folded once.Take a ballpoint pen (or any other instrument with a focused but dull point) then apply pressure through the washcloth on the exact point of the stuck pixel.While still applying pressure turn the monitor back on and with any luck this method would have cured the problem.Clearly care should be taken not to apply too much pressure.

Tapping method – Turn the monitor on and display a static colour image that contrasts well with the stuck pixel so that you can accurately locate it on your screen.Using the other end of the pen used in the pressure method start gently tapping where the stuck pixel is – you want to be tapping just hard enough that a small white glow can be seen under the point of contact.Gradually increase the pressure over 5-10 taps and repeat if necessary.

Of course, it goes without saying that whilst you are unlikely to cause any damage to the screen using the software method that the two suggestions that involve physical contact do carry an element of risk if not performed carefully and correctly.If the pixel remains stuck and your warranty doesn’t cover a replacement then the fault may be something you may have to live whilst maintaining hope that the incredibly unlikely will occur and the pixel will eventually unstick itself.

 

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

Flightgear

flightgear

I have always been astonished, confused and secretly impressed by the amount of time that people voluntarily spend creating or helping others online.As an example, there are hundreds of thousands of forums online with specific themes that anyone can use; Hayley is taking her first steps to opening a salon and the advice given by a whole community of holistic therapists has been invaluable.They spend their evenings answering the questions of others without any incentive other than that warm feeling of having done something nice.

Open Source software is another interesting topic.If you’re not aware of the term, ‘open source’ refers to a piece of software which can not only be downloaded free of charge but the source code is also available meaning that anyone with the right knowledge can alter or add to the code.Google has produced a fair amount of Open Source software but there is always the clear vested interest of publicity however I don’t think it would be fair to attribute the same motives to a game that I’m going to feature today.

Flightgear (www.flightgear.org) is an Open Source Flight Simulator which was first released back in July of 1997.It is the combination of work from hundreds of talented programmers from around the world who don’t get paid, nor do they receive any real credit for the work they do but still choose to participate.The result is a very capable flight simulator that anyone can download and enjoy completely free of charge.

The attention to detail is impressive:

Scenery – Over 20,000 real world airports have been included, complete with accurate markings, lighting and taxiways.The worldwide terrain is geographically accurate and includes lakes, rivers, roads, cities and towns.

Sky accuracy – By checking your computers clock and geographic location the game can change the skyline accordingly.At the time of writing it is 15:00 in New York City so if I were to choose to land in John F Kennedy airport then the weather and lighting conditions would reflect a winter afternoon in that part of the world.The game even goes as far as placing the sun, moon and stars in their correct placed based on the date and geographic location.

Aircraft – As well as including a number of commercial, light aircraft and military jets there is also the opportunity to model your own.Of course, the Wright brothers ‘flying machine’ is also included for good measure.

Although the graphics aren’t up to the standard that you would from the retail game Microsoft Flight Simulator, they still convey an impressive sense of realism.I think it is important to remember that the fun in a game like this comes primarily from the feel of controlling and manoeuvring the aircraft rather the just taking in the scenery.

The relatively non-intensive graphics also give the game the advantage of being able to run on most modern entry level systems and rather than being a Windows only application support has also been provided for Mac OS X, Linux, IRIX and Solaris.Worryingly I’ve been booked in for a real life flying lesson at Exeter airport this summer so think I might have to get some practice in…..

 

About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

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