Starting out as a Webdesigner

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Pidgin - Multiple Instant Messenger Service

If like me, you find yourself juggling multiple messenger applications to keep your friends, family and colleagues happy you will be glad to hear about Pidgin. Formally known as Gaim, Pidgin is More »

Spider Player - Free music only media player

Despite the fact there are an inordinate number of media players available, it is difficult to find one that is quite as well rounded as Windows Media Player; the application included as More »

Cashback Websites - Get money back on online purchases

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Windows 7 Hidden Gems - Additional functionality

I’ve been living with Windows 7 for a good few months now and in that time have discovered a couple of little ‘hidden gems’ which I wanted to share with you: Aero More »

Cheaper Cartridges


Every now and again I see it fit to do a little self promotion although today this shameless promotion isn’t necessarily because I want it but rather I’m getting worried by the number of people that come to our trade counter asking for cartridges for particularly expensive printers.This is genuinely surprising because I have mentioned in Click a number of times about checking out the ongoing running cost of your printer before buying but this seems to be falling on deaf ears.

The ongoing running costs are an extremely important consideration and the analogy I like to use is that I wouldn’t go out and buy a ridiculously cheap car if I then had to fill up with petrol at cost of £10 a litre.It seems strange to me that when buying a new printer that consumers still look primarily at the initial purchase price of the machine rather than the likely cost it will incur during its lifetime.

The perfect example is a Dell printer that I saw for sale a couple of months back for £9.99 including two cartridges but then replacement cartridges cost the user approximately £45 a pair and to make matters worse these cartridges weren’t particularly heavy duty.Over the life of the printer you would spend substantially more than if you’d had researched the on running costs and then spent possibly a little more on the actual printer itself.

Another good example that I’ve found in my line of work is the number of HP printers on the market at present which will only accept quarter filled cartridges. Take a look at a HP 21 cartridge and you’ll find it’s physically identical to a C6656A with the exception that a HP 21 contains 5ml of ink whereas the HP 56 takes 18ml.Some HP printers allow you to use either cartridge but a number of current models insist that you take the much smaller but similarly priced 5ml cartridges.In my mind you’d be better off spending a little more on a printer that can use the higher capacity HP 56 cartridges rather than the 5ml HP 21’s even if not for the savings but the environmental benefits.

At Refresh Cartridges we only ever sell our customers printers that will be cheap to run in the long run.Our current range of Epson printers that we have in store start from £39.99 and can take compatible cartridges that cost just £3.99 a piece.We don’t sell any printers for which cheap cartridges are not available as in good conscience I couldn’t sell a printer to someone if I knew they would regret it several months down the road.

You don’t even have to buy a printer from us to benefit from our buying advice; just phone us up or drop in store when you’re looking at buying a new printer and we can let you know how that machine will shape up in the long run.Things like the price of the original cartridges, whether compatibles or remanufactured units are available and the actual capacity of the cartridges are all important considerations which we can advise you on.

I’ll finish by reminding you all that we’re running an empty cartridge collection which in the last year has raised over £1,000 for the charity Age Concern Torbay.If you drop your empty cartridges back to us we’ll sell them back to the third party manufacturers so that they can continue to make cheaper alternatives to the manufacturers originals.Not only is this a great help to the environment and your pocket but every single penny that we get for doing this collection is given back to charity with absolutely nothing kept for ourselves.



About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges, a company that sells a wide range of inkjet and toner cartridges.



It’s been a while now since I’ve talked about a mobile phone in Click so with Apple unveiling the new iPhone I thought it was about time we looked at this eagerly awaited product.At last weeks MacWorld Expo many anticipated the announcement of this new phone along with a new version of the iPod but instead they saw a combination of the two devices in a single product.There is a large amount of extra technology thrown in for good measure which is why I feel this product deserves a mention in a predominately computer based article.

The iPhone looks very different to other mobile phones that we have become accustomed too as rather than using a keypad underneath a conventional screen the iPhone dispenses with buttons altogether.This has been achieved as happy have made the device essentially one big touch screen - The obvious advantage to this is that the device can remain the same size as existing models on the market whilst giving the user a larger screen and a larger user interface.

With regards to actually navigating around this phone you can move through the menu options by using a system called ‘multi-touch’ which doesn’t just sense you touching the screen but also in what way you are moving your fingers and how many of them you are using.The system is intelligent enough to detect accidental clicks and when you go to actually make a call the phone will sense that you have moved the phone to your ear to prevent you touching buttons on the touch screen with your face.

As one would expect from a modern day phone the iPhone supports Bluetooth, has a 2 megapixal digital camera and includes a host of applications but there are several extras that you’d be hard pressed to find on any over phone in the market at the moment which I’ve covered below.

First off we have the widescreen iPod function and whilst it is true that most modern handsets include an MP3 player these often lack in terms of the interface used and the screen employed by the phone.The iPhone benefits from a large 3.5 inch screen which means that not only can you easily navigate your favourite songs but you can also watch movies in widescreen on the unit.

Additionally the handset supports Wi-Fi and has a built in Safari browser.Existing handsets have typically stumbled at providing Internet access due to slow connection speeds, a limited display size and problems using a simple keypad to navigate your way around.With an iPhone however you could connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot and then browse the Internet at high speed on the large touch screen.

There are of course a number of downsides to this particular phone and unfortunately these are so serious that they could possibly constitute a death warrant.The iPhone itself will most likely not enter the UK market until the end of 2007 and as at present the US version is set for a costly $499 purchase price in addition to a 12 month contract.Additionally in the US the phone is only being made available to one selected network and if this is the case in the UK then coupled with the high release price Apple may find it very difficult making sales.

To allow these above factors to worry those wanting such an advanced handset would be a little bit premature.The reason for this in my mind is that the important consideration is that we’re looking at a product which will become available to us in the future and not something we could realistically go out and buy today.Technology has a habit of being copied very quickly and efficiently and now the iPhone has been announced you can be sure other manufacturers will be scrambling to create their own versions which will most likely be cheaper and available on all networks - excellent for the consumer.


About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply low priced printer cartridges for a wide range of printers including the Dell A920 Printer.

Blu-Ray and HD DVD


High Definition seems to be the current buzzword in the technology sector; we have had high definition ready TV’s on the market for some time now and now not only do we have a choice of one high definition playback format to choose from but two.To be honest the whole affair is very much like the old Betamax and VHS video war which repeats itself so often in the technology sector as two different formats struggle for supremacy.This war is particularly interesting for those in the computing industry because this technology isn’t only for the video industry but one of the formats will most likely become standard in the PC industry enabling software producers to fit huge amount of data on to a single disc.

Of course both formats have their advantages and disadvantages which is what we’ll be discussing today by looking at both formats individually.


First up we have the HD DVD standard which the DVD Forum decided in November 2003 would be the official HD successor to the established DVD format.This new standard was jointly developed by a group of consumer electronics companies spearheaded by Toshiba.

The technology is based on a blue-violet 405nm laser which is much thinner than the traditional red laser used in DVD technology meaning that as much as 15Gb can be stored on a single HD DVD layer rather than the traditional 4.7Gb.

All HD DVD players are backwards compatible meaning that you can play standard DVD’s on your new player and there are already plenty of players out there as the technology has been established for a relatively long time.A potential downside to this technology is that no games consoles support this standard straight out the box although Xbox 360 owners do have the option to purchase a HD DVD upgrade for their machines separately from the main console.


On the flipside we have Blu-Ray which was only released last year by the Blu-Ray Disc Association which was founded as a contrast to the DVD Forum back in 2002.The group was founded by nine leading electronic companies including Philips, Pioneer, LG, Hitachi and Sony.

The technology is very similar to the HD DVD format in that a blue-violet 405nm laser is used to read the discs however technical differences mean that the two versions are incompatible with one another and so far a system that can read both types of disc hasn’t been released.Blu-Ray does have an advantage over HD-DVD in that it can support 25Gb per layer rather than just 15Gb but this does unfortunately result in an increase in the manufacturing costs resulting in a higher cost player and a higher cost per disc.

Whilst it’s not compulsory that Blu-Ray drives will read standard DVD’s it should be noted that so far the manufacturers have made a point of ensuring that their drives do read the old DVD format.Since this format hasn’t been around for long there are relatively few devices that offer Blu-Ray support.As interesting development which should dramatically increase the chance of Blu-Ray succeeding is that the Playstation 3 includes a Blu-Ray drive as standard so all games designed for this console will be stored on Blu-Ray discs.

Of course technical superiority doesn’t guarantee the success of a format; Betamax was superior to VHS in many ways and yet it failed due to lack of public and corporate support.As to which of the above formats succeeds will primary depend on those two factors as the selection and availability of titles is much more important to the average user than technical specifications such as transfer speeds or disc capacity.


About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply low priced printer cartridges for a wide range of printers including the Dell V305 Printer.

Recap on the year


Last week we looked back at the applications that I featured in Click over the past year and I thought it would be worthwhile to follow that up with some of the biggest technology developments of 2006 as to get an idea as to how things have changed over the past twelve months.

I feel that the most fundamental change this year has been a fairly substantial mainstream shift to the use of modern day technology.A large amount of the population now use iPods, DVD Recorders, SatNav systems, camera phones and the such daily but additionally, as well as the Internet being the tool to purchase most this stuff it also dominates pub conversations across the country.Long gone are the days that such gadgets and such interests were the realms for geeks only, you could now almost say that technology was becoming ‘cool’.

The main growth area this year would unfortunately have to be spam which although now being legislated against is thriving due to an inability to enforce this legislation.I spend around ten minutes a day deleting spam messages so I would really hope that this is one area that will be properly addressed in 2007.Online banking fraud also rose 55 percent in the first half of the year primarily due to the large growth in phishing (passing off a fraudulent site as an official one in order to gain personal and security details) so the phishing filters built in to most new browsers are certainly a welcome addition.

This year saw the introduction of the UKs first Biometric passports but whether this does anything to kerb passport fraud will be seen.The Serious and Organised Crime (SOCA) was also launched in 2006 with the aim of tackling high tech crime.

Quite an interesting development for me and my business has been the move to close down the loophole in online shopping that resulted in many UK based companies setting up a base in one of the Channel Islands in order to be able to take advantage of a tax loophole.This loophole meant online companies such as Amazon posted goods from Jersey to the UK rather than keeping everything on the mainland to avoid paying VAT.Whilst this practise is still going on at present, Jersey and Guernsey are now clamping down on these companies.I personally welcome this move as it was insulting to have to fill in a VAT return every three months to pay thousands to the government whilst trying to compete with companies that were getting away with paying absolutely nothing due to geographic location.Thousands of genuine UK businesses have been hit hard by trying to be competitive with these offshore companies and the sooner it comes to an end the better.

The news that Vodafone, O2 and Orange were all promising to introduce lower prices for customers calling to or from Europe was welcomed but the European Union insists that regulation is needed to force the phone companies to offer roaming customers true value for money.

Broadband was also a big factor of 2006 with speeds rapidly increasing and prices coming down to truly affordable levels.As well as helping potentially copyright infringing services such as BitTorrent and YouTube this increase in speed has helped increase the popularity of more official websites such as which allows you to catch up with your favourite programs online.

Bill Gates, the worlds richest man also handed in his notice in June of this year and will step down as chairman of Microsoft in June 2008 to concentrate on this charitable work.This year also saw Google purchase YouTube for a cool $1.65 billion which is a large amount of money for any company to pay for an unprofitable start-up and the phrase ‘more money than sense’ comes to my mind….

There have been plenty of other worthwhile developments which we simply haven’t had time for but now it’s time to stop looking back and start looking forward to what 2007 will bring us.I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year.


About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply low priced printer cartridges for a wide range of printers including the Brother DCP-585CW Printer.

Recap on the year


I had every intention of writing an article this week somehow linking computers and Christmas however as the two really aren’t related in any way, shape or form I have once again given up on this idea and decided to do something completely different.Close to the end of the year I thought it might be handy to recap on some of the best links to free software that I have featured in Click in the past year.

Firefox – Fantastic web browser that is small, fast and secure – still beats Internet Explorer hands down in my opinion. - A powerful e-mail client from the same people that released Firefox.Offers advanced junk mail blocking, anti-phishing protection. – One of the most popular VOIP (Voice Over IP) programs, this application can be used to make free calls to other Skype users around the world.

Google SketchUp - – 3D modelling used to be difficult and expensive but now thanks to Google it’s easy and free. – This software allows you to communicate with friend over the Internet whether they use AIM, ICQ, MSN or Yahoo Messenger Instant Messaging (IM) software.

Picasa – Googles very own photo organiser is handy for those that have a large number of digital photos on their machines.Can also be used to correct red-eye and apply a number of special effects and correction options.

GIMP – I was very impressed earlier this year with this completely free image editing tool.

EditPad Lite - – Whilst applications like Microsoft Word are all well and good sometimes you just want something simple to make notes in and this alternative to Windows Notepad doesn’t disappoint.

AVG – This is my favourite virus checker and for those of you that keep sending me irate e-mails and letters saying that AVG is no longer free I can assure you it is – you’re just not reading the website carefully enough! – A handy program for removing unwanted junk files, problems with the Windows Registry and so on from your computer. – Although I do like Microsoft Office this version is completely free of charge whilst retaining most of its features.

Windows – An absolute essential for all Windows XP machines.This is the official spyware removal tool from Microsoft. – Great for downloading videos, albums and so on off the Internet.

Google Earth – Many hours have I wasted on this program which fantastically lets you manipulate a 3D model of the Earth to view absolutely any area of the planet as if you were looking from Space. - If like me you have ever accidentally deleted a file this program will give you a fighting chance of restoring it successfully.

Rockstar Classics - - The best things in life are free and the same applies for this site which kindly offers the classic Grand Theft Auto 1 & 2 games as well as Wild Metal for free.

DriveImage - – I have never been a fan of backing up my PC but this utility makes the whole process pretty painless.

Slax - – The perfect introduction to Linux; this program takes minutes to download and doesn’t even need to be installed on your PCs hard disk.

There is plenty more fantastic free software out there so keep reading as I already have plans for several reviews in the New Year.All that’s left for me to do now is wish you all a very Merry Christmas and I look forward to joining you next week for my last article of 2006.



About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply low priced printer cartridges for a wide range of printers including the Brother DCP-J315W Printer.

Speech Recognition


I am one of those fortunate enough to be able to touch type although having seen many people struggle with a keyboard I thought it was about time to discuss using Speech Recognition to ease the burden faced by the two finger typers left in this world.In addition to helping those not familiar with using a keyboard Speech Recognition can also be extremely useful to people that through disability physically have trouble typing.

Fortunately getting set up with Speech recognition is completely free for those that have the popular Office XP installed on their machine and to get started simply requires finding a suitable microphone.Although a standard desk microphone would be sufficient it would certainly be worthwhile investing on a dedicated headset.These can be purchased relatively cheaply through many computer stores or pop in to Refresh and I’d be happy to hook you up with one for next to nothing.

Once this has been sorted the next step is to get the software set up so open any of the Office XP applications then click on ‘Tools’ and ‘Speech’ which will then launch the speech configuration wizard.If this option isn’t available then you will need to install it by going to the Add/Remove Programs application and changing your Office configuration to ensure that Speech Recognition is present.

The first time you attempt to use Speech recognition you will be required to spend a short time not only setting up the microphone but also training the computer to recognise the sound of your voice and any background noises that may be present.This involve reading a number of passages of text so the computer can get familiar with your accent - as you can imagine it would be difficult to program an application that accurately understands both a Northerner and Southerner without a certain degree of training.

Once this step is completed the language bar will be present at the top of the screen so now when you’re ready to start talking click on the ‘dictation button’ and the computer will listen and translate anything you say into written words.If you want to have a conversation with someone else in the room without the computer taking notes just click the same button again to stop the computer from listening.

Whilst the speech engine is generally pretty accurate it does have a problem with words that sound alike such as ‘their’ and ‘there’ but these can easily be corrected by selecting the rather imaginatively titled ‘correction option’ from the language bar.Common grammar can also be easily inserted, for example simply say ‘comma’, ‘period’, ‘semi-colon’, ‘question mark’ and so on to have them translated in to your document.

A nice addition to configuring voice recognition is that you will also find that this language bar will be present in other compatible applications such as Internet Explorer.This allows not only easy dictation for online forms and the sound but also Voice Commands can be issued rather than using the mouse.

If you are a fast typist stick with what you know as voice recognition will certainly just slow you down but if you do find yourself struggling with a keyboard then taking advantage of this included feature is certainly worth a go.If you don’t have Office XP then do have a look on the Internet as there are dozens of extremely low priced and even free applications available for download.



About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply low priced printer cartridges for a wide range of printers including the Brother DCP-J525W Printer.

Playstation 3


Those who are looking for a new console this Christmas will be given the choice of either the Microsoft Xbox 360 console or the soon to be released Nintendo Wii.Things aren’t that simple however because there is also the Playstation 3 due to be released early next year raising the question as to whether it’s worth holding out for the Sony offering.

I haven’t had chance to play on this machine just yet as it is not currently released in the UK however it is available in the United States so this weeks article will focus more on talking about the technical details of the machine as reported by our overseas friends rather than my own personal experiences.There are also two versions of the Playstation 3 available in the US although at present I am unable to ascertain so to whether both versions of the console will be available in the UK.For the purposes of this review therefore we’ll be looking at the more powerful of the two which is already available to pre order in the UK from

From looking at the specification sheet it would appear that the PlayStation 3 is a touch more powerful than the Xbox 360 and vastly more powerful than the Wii.Of course raw computing power isn’t all that people look for in a console so it is worthwhile looking at other features that the console has to offer.Incidentally I have already reviewed both the Xbox 360 and the Wii so those wanting to read about these two systems should head to to view copies of these previous articles.

The most impressive factor of the PS3 development is the new ‘Cell’ processor which was developed as part of a joint venture between Sony, Toshiba and IBM.This processor comprises of a primary 64-bit PowerPC core and eight separate processing cores - this circumvents the levelling off of performance experienced by the more common single core processors.This particular processor runs at 3.2 GHz and is designed to work in conjunction with 256mb system memory and a powerful 256mb Nvidia RSX graphics chip.

Other impressive specifications include a recently developed Blu-ray drive which offers a fantastic 50Gb of storage on one single disc (dual layer) which compares to just 8.5Gb on the Xbox 360 or Nintendo Wii.Additionally 60Gb of Hard Drive space is provided for day to day running of the console, music, videos, downloads and saved game files.The system also includes support for 7 Bluetooth controllers, a wired and wireless network controller as well as support for several standards of removable media (Compact Flash, SD Slot, Memory Stick and Memory Stick Duo).

With regards to video the Sony PS3 has both AV and HD outputs, the latter of which will be necessary if you want get the most graphically out of your system including Blu-Ray movies on your new HD Ready TV.Those who are lucky enough to have a compatible sound system can also use the optional optical cable alongside a 7.1 channel audio system for a completely immersing game experience.

Of course, so far this system is sounds absolutely fantastic but to ruin it all I should probably mention the price.The unit that I have just been talking about above is £549.99 from which compares rather unfavourably £289.99 for the Xbox 360 Premium pack or £179.99 for the Nintendo Wii.Additionally you have the cost of games to consider which are currently available to pre-order at around the £49.99 compared to around £37.99 for other consoles currently on the market.Of course these prices will come down once the system has been released but it’s certainly food for thought for those that have plans of rushing out on the release date of the 7thof March with the intention of being one of the first UK PS3 owners.



About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply low priced printer cartridges for a wide range of printers including the Brother MFC-640CW Printer.

Plasma vs. LCD


Just recently I heard the news that the key makers of Plasma TV’s have banded together to fight the rising popularity of LCD TV’s.It is fairly unprecedented move but understandable when you consider that LCD has taken over the market for TV’s smaller than 40inches and are now starting to encroach on the market for larger screens.I thought with Christmas around the corner and a new TV being on many wish lists that it would be an idea to take an objective view as to which technology would be best to unwrap on the big day.

There isn’t enough space in this article to go in to the actual working of the technologies used in both types of TV so we’ll leave that for another week.For today though I thought it would be best to have simple bullet points simply explaining the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Screen Size – Plasma TV’s still currently have the advantage when it comes to the larger screens although as mentioned above this is quickly changing.It is possible that LCD’s will even surpass Plasma before too long due to the fact they use plastic screens as opposed to Plasmas which use glass -As you can imagine it becomes difficult to produce flat glass in sizes required by the largest of screens.

Contrast – Plasma TV does tend to offer better contrast due to an ability to display deeper blacks than LCD.With regards to the contrast changing when viewed at an angle Plasma traditionally has been able to claim a greater viewing angle however just recently the LCD technology has improved.This means that with either unit you will be able to view the screen at a large angle without losing picture quality.

Screen Refresh Rates – Plasma has the slight edge as they refresh about as well as the traditional CRT TV’s.LCD technology on the other hand was traditionally designed to display data on computer screens so only just recently have impressive refresh rates ideal for viewing fast moving video been achieved.

Burn-in effect – This used to be a real problem for Plasma displays as static images left on the screen would actually permanently burn in and leave a ghost image.With the latest technology manufacturers have addressed this issue so on this point neither LCD nor Plasma should suffer this effect.

Product Life Span – Even with fairly intensive use both Plasma and LCD screens should last over a decade before the lamp (Plasma) or backlight (LCD) fails so this really isn’t an issue in either case.

Physical Attributes – LCD TV’s are considerably lighter and slightly thinner than their Plasma counterparts – this isn’t really an issue to worry about though unless you’re thinking of wall mounting your TV.Plasma TV’s also tend to run a lot hotter than LCD and so again, when wall mounting they will require more planning as to suitable location and ventilation.As a side issue it is interesting to note that Plasma TV’s also use more power than their LCD counterparts.

That pretty much covers all the bases and so as a very broad conclusion we can say that if you’re looking for a large screen with high picture quality then Plasma TV might still be the way to go.The LCD technology is perfect for those that want a lighter, more cost effective TV especially when we talk about sizes under around the 40” mark.I would like to point out at this point that I am not a TV specialist so please do check the above for accuracy before making an expensive purchase!



About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply low priced printer cartridges for a wide range of printers including the Brother DCP-195C Printer.



Up until now I have put off talking about the popular friend network as the whole idea of what seemed to amount to nothing more than an online popularity contest didn’t really appeal to me.After being hassled by a couple of people to sign up I have now made the leap and created my own profile and so far have found the whole experience pretty rewarding!

Unless you have had your head well and truly buried in the sand it is unlikely you haven’t already heard of MySpace as Alexa are currently ranking it as the fifth most popular site on the Internet.You may well be like me however and be in need a little push to actually set up an account.

The idea behind MySpace is simple; you create a profile describing yourself and your interests and then go off in search of any of your other friends who also have MySpace profiles.Once you’ve found someone you know you simply request that they add you as a friend and they will then appear in your ‘my friend space’ on your MySpace profile.This has the knock on effect that by locating one friend you instantly have the ability to add any of their existing friends so you can quickly network by adding any mutual friends to your friend space.

To speed up the process of locating one another you can also specify schools and colleges that you attended as well as various employments that you have undertaken in your life along with the dates applicable.This makes the system very much like Friends Reunited in the way that it allows people to quickly network but has the added advantage that it is completely free of charge.I have already had a couple of old school friends and work colleagues locate me thanks to MySpace which has allowed me to catch up with people that I possibly wouldn’t have ever been in contact with otherwise.

Of course MySpace doesn’t have to be used just to locate existing friends, you can also specify a search based on location, interests, age or sex in order to locate new people although the whole idea of having a ‘friend’ you’ll probably never meet doesn’t really appeal to me.

User profiles generally consist of a combination of a text description, photos, music and videos but you may also wish to add a blog (essentially a diary) or various flash games and quizzes.The large range of elements that can be incorporated in to a profile has lead to them becoming popular with groups such as bands which find a MySpace profile is a good way of bringing fans together and allowing them to preview their songs and music videos.

I’ll admit that on paper MySpace doesn’t sound particularly exciting but you would be surprised at how addictive it can be and when you bear in mind that the site is completely free of charge then it may be worthwhile spending just a few minutes setting up a profile.The most benefit is derived from MySpace if you actively search for friends but otherwise you may well be surprised how many old friends will get in contact with next to no effort put in on your part.

About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply low priced printer cartridges for a wide range of printers including the Brother DCP-135C Printer.



Just over two years ago now I reviewed a piece of software called PC Anywhere as a solution for those that wanted to control any number of PC’s remotely.Rather naively I thought that when it came to remote control that this software was pretty much the best it got however just recently we’ve had computer repair company move in to a room in the Refresh building and they kindly introduced a piece of software called UltraVNC.They use this software for fixing customer problems without having to even leave the building and I thought this would be of interest to a number of my readers.

I personally have use for such a program as there are several computers in the office that all have different e-mail accounts and applications installed on them and it can sometimes be helpful to be able to control any computer from the one machine.Home users who have a couple of PC’s may have the same desire or alternatively it can be used to request from or give support to any of your PC owning, Internet connected friends.

UltraVNC relies on the open source Virtual Network Computing (VNC) system which was developed at the Olivetti & Oracle Research Lab which was then acquired by AT&T in 1999.AT&T closed down the research lab in 2002 but the software is open source so absolutely anyone is now free to develop and distribute it.This has lead to many different versions of the software becoming available as individuals and small companies try to add their own particular tweaks and improvements to the original standard.

Every program is common in that it relies on both a server and a client program.The server program is run on the machine that shares its screen and the client software is run on the machine used as the viewer and controller.

For the basis of this review I will be looking at one of the best versions of this system that I found which goes by the name of UltraVNC which can by found by heading to the software is a tiny 1.6mb in size downloading it takes literally seconds on a fast Internet connection and then all you have to do in order to get it running is load the server and client software on to the appropriate machines.On the server machine you will set up an access password and once this has been done hover your mouse above the UltraVNC icon in the taskbar down the bottom right hand side of the screen and make a note of the IP address.Then simply input this IP address and password in to the client machine and you should have a connection – it’s really as easy as that!

As well as viewing the screen of the server machine from the client machine you will also be able to control the mouse and keyboard as well as making use of a number of different features built in to the software.For example, the client machine can shut down and restart the server as well as opening up the task manager or transferring files between the two machines.If you are offering technical support to a friend then the chat function would be helpful as it will allow you to talk them through what you’re doing stage by stage.In terms of speed of use I found UltraVNC to be a great deal faster than my previous favourite, PC Anywhere and additionally like all the best things in life the software is completely free of charge.

About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply low priced printer cartridges for a wide range of printers including the Canon Pixma MP950 Printer.