website-design

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 »

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

I have a saying that goes something along the lines of ‘A penny saved is 1.22 pennies earned’ and while I’ll admit it’s not the catchiest of proverbs it certainly does hold More »

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 »

AVG 7.5

avg-75

I’m still genuinely amazed by the number of my readers who are still using paid for anti-virus programs after I have recommended time and time again a completely free solution.I’m assuming the reasoning is that the public believe that a free version of an application as important as a virus checker would be substandard and offer inadequate protection hence why I’m here today to try and change this perception.

I think there’s no better way to change this perception than to ask a home user to look at the typical anti-virus software of choice used by IT professionals.Rather than using the larger commercial applications these people often choose to use products such as AVG and this is for more reasons than simply cost.Many in the industry are very much under whelmed by the quality of many of the larger paid for solutions and without singling out individual products I can assume that this is because as a rule of thumb they are often intrusive, bloated and have the additional downside that you have to pay for them yearly.

For years I have recommended the anti-virus solution AVG and coincidentally they have just released a major new upgrade, version 7.5 which is completely free to download and use from https://free.grisoft.com.The software is fairly small in size (16mb) so shouldn’t take too long to download on even a modest connection and once installed it’ll just sit quietly down in the bottom right hand corner of your screen and will only pop up to bother you when it really needs to.

As you would expect the program continuously run in the background checking for viruses as you work but this isn’t a problem because it is such a small piece of software so doesn’t make a dent on the speed of your machine or resources available to other programs unlike many of the commercial products on the market.The majority of the day to day tasks of the program can be automated so that you don’t have to worry about updating the virus database of performing full system scans as this will all be done for you - In actual fact most of the time you’ll probably just forget it’s there.

A handy feature is that the software seamlessly integrates itself in to your e-mail client and rather than updating you on the progress of scanning each message it works completely transparently - if an infected message is found it is simply moved to the virus vault and you hear no more about it.

In terms of the security it is reassuring to know that the team at AVG release frequent updates to the virus definitions database so that you’re always protected against the latest threats.Recent certifications have been granted to the software by the likes VB100%, ICSA, and West Coast Labs Checkmark which provides additional piece of mind that you are dealing with a dependable product.

You may well be wondering why they go to all this effort to produce this product and then give it away for free especially since it isn’t supported in anyway by intrusive adverts.Alas, this isn’t just out of the kindness of their hearts but in fact there is a more comprehensive commercial version which includes features such as an anti-spam and anti-spyware filter along with an integrated firewall.These are all fairly minor problems as Microsoft provide a firewall in Windows XP by default and Windows Defender is a capable Spyware filter that can be freely downloaded from www.microsoft.com.With regards to anti-spam I did review the free ‘MailWasher’ package only four weeks ago and those that missed that particular week can view a copy at www.computerarticles.co.uk

 

 

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 IP4600 Printer.

Rockstar Classics

grand-theft-auto

Those that read Click will know how much I love free software although up until now very few of my articles have focused on gaming due to the fact that this series was intended to be educational and so concentrates more on applications and utilities.This week however I thought we’d take a break from the serious stuff as I’ve just discovered that several of my favourite old school games have been made available online as legal, free downloads.

All three games that I am going to look at today are available on the website www.rockstargames.com/classics/ and are manufactured by the games producer Rockstar.This particular company made it big and hit all the headlines back in 1998 when they released game Grand Theft Auto and this is the first game I’m going to look at today.

Grand Theft Auto

GTA allowed the player to take on the role of a criminal in a big city and due to the controversial nature of the game it was very quickly condemned by many politicians and other collectives.Of course, such condemnation usually means that a game achieves much higher sales than it would do ordinarily as people will buy the game to see what all the fuss is about.It is widely known that Rockstar hired publicist Max Clifford in order to build up this controversy in the media resulting in a large amount of free advertising for the publisher which turned it into an overnight blockbuster.

By modern standards the game is extremely tame and if it were re-released today I very much doubt that anybody would bat an eyelid.The object of the game was to complete various missions set to you by the game in order to gain points which allowed you to proceed to the next level.Typically you would achieve these missions by finding a weapon, stealing a car and then getting yourself to various checkpoints on the map whilst avoiding the local police force.

Grand Theft Auto II

GTA II was released towards the end of 1999 and whilst not radically different to the original it did look visually more appealing and the game play was also a little more structured.The missions were well thought out and were more complex than the originals simplistic targets and all the while you had the new addition of various gang factions to deal with.If you did something to annoy one of these factions, for example killing one of their members or helping a rival gang then you would find that they quickly turn against you.This would lead to you constantly watching where you stepped in order to not tick off the entire criminal underground.

Wild Metal

Unfortunately the third game in the compilation is ultimately disappointing.I had not played nor heard of this game until today and whilst I did install it for the purpose of this review it was quickly removed from my hard drive.The object of the game is to drive your tank around desolate areas of the map searching for energy capsules which you then drop back to your base.Whilst collecting this energy you will have to deal with a number of obstacles such as mines, tanks, force fields and sentries along the way.

I think that the inclusion of Wild Metal in this review helps to highlight that whilst games such as GTA will always be playable others do get very old, very quickly.I had just as much fun playing GTA today as I did when I first played it eight years ago and the reason isn’t graphics or sound effects but sheer playability.

As a word of warning I wouldn’t suggest anyone on dialup even attempt to download any of these games due to the sheer size of the files involved.Whilst the 350mb GTA2 took ten minutes to download on my broadband connection it would take literally days on dial-up – just because it’s an old game don’t expect to get away with using an old technology such as your 56k modem!

About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply low priced printer cartridges for a wide range of printers including the Canon IP90 Printer.

FireFox 2.0

firefox-2

Last week we discussed Internet Explorer 7, the latest browser offering from Microsoft, and decided that whilst long overdue did go some way to addressing the functionality gap between the rather dated IE 6 and newer alternatives such as Opera and Firefox.

Not wanting to be outdone Mozilla today released the latest version of its browser, rather imaginatively entitled ‘Firefox 2.0’ which once again ups the stakes in the long running browser wars.Since I have talked about features such as tabbed browsing many times in the past I will today focus purely on the differences between version 2 and version 1.5.For those of you that missed my review of 1.5 towards the beginning of this year please remember that it can be found on the free Click archives website at www.computerarticles.co.uk.

The most apparent change in the new version of Firefox is the interface which includes new shaped glossy icons, reorganised windows and a slightly clearer layout.Of course there is a limit to how much you can change the appearance of a browser but generally the interface is just that little bit more pleasant to use now.Tab browsing has been enhanced so it is now easier to manage open tabs and individually close down single tabs that you are currently using.Additionally, you are now able to reopen accidentally closed tabs from where you left off which is an extremely useful feature as I have discovered several times today.

Protection has been added to the browser by the way of advanced anti-phishing security which pops up whenever it detects that you are visiting a webpage trying to imitate official sites such as Barclays.com in an attempt to steal your personal details.This utility checks against the regularly updated Google black list to provide maximum protection.With technologies such as this becoming commonplace in new browsers hopefully it won’t be long before we put the scammers out of business.

Firefox now includes a spell checker which checks the text entered by a user in to any multiple line text boxes for any spelling mistakes.Whilst this won’t be popular with those who write in ‘text speak’ I personally welcome the new addition as not only will it hopefully encourage affected individuals to become more literate, it will also make life easier for the rest of us.

Further improvements include bundling the browser with JavaScript 1.7, enhancing the search bar, adding live titles to make organising your bookmarks easier, a session restore function and an improved RSS reader.Personally I feel the session restore feature designed to save whatever you were doing in the event of a crash may be redundant as despite my best efforts this afternoon I haven’t yet been able to fault the stability of this new browser.

For those of you still using Firefox 1.5 it is worthwhile noting that whilst support will be provided in the form of updates for the next 6 months that there really is no argument against upgrading immediately. Visit www.firefox.com and download the latest version this afternoon - It will take you literally a couple of minutes and the new features and enhancements will definitely make it worth your while.

 

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 MG5250 Printer.

Internet Explorer 7

Internet explorer 7

I’m writing this article on Thursday 19th October – A day that may be remembered as the day Internet Explorer finally caught up with the rest of the world as today Microsoft finally released the completed version of Internet Explorer 7 to the public.You have to excuse my cynicism but whilst the browser is undoubtedly an improvement on the bug ridden Internet Explorer 6, I am actually amazed it has taken so long to release a version which essentially brings them up to date with the likes of Firefox.

Whilst I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this new version, it does seem strange that Microsoft has taken so long to include features that have been freely available for years through alternative browsers.In the interests of a fair review however I will detail the new features this new browser will offer for users still using Internet Explorer 6.

The main emphasis on the new browser seems to revolve around four main features – Improved security, tabbed browsing, RSS feeds and simplicity.

With Internet Explorer 7 Microsoft has managed to close the numerous security vulnerabilities present in the previous version although how long it will be before numerous holes are found in the new browser is yet to be seen.The browser also benefits from a built in anti-phishing filter to protect users against fraudulent websites such as those that masquerade themselves as PayPal or an online banking service in an attempt to fool you in to giving them your personal information.The security issues present in the older version of Internet Explorer would explain why Microsoft will be making sure that this November anybody using automatic updates in Windows XP will have the new browser installed automatically.

Tabbed browsing which has been available for many years through the likes of Firefox and Opera allows users to have several different websites open in tabs using just one Internet Explorer window.The quickest way to open a new tab whilst browsing is to either hold <CTRL> whilst clicking a link or hit Alt & Enter if you wish to open up a new blank window.To navigate around the tabs simply click the relevant tab from the just below the address bar within Internet Explorer.

RSS feed support is present in the browser and rather than just matching the features present in the current version of Firefox Microsoft has actually improved on them.I have covered RSS feeds before in Click so won’t dwell too far but for those readers who are unaware, RSS feeds are an easy way to subscribe to news and articles websites and so this new addition is welcome.

In terms of simplicity the interface has been streamlined so that all the menus are hidden by default and instead have been logically replaced beneath several different icons - For example, the Page icons drops down a separate menu which lets you copy, paste, change the text size and so on.Personally I hate this new interface as it completely disregards the standardisation which makes most Windows applications so easy to navigate.Die hard users such as myself who prefer the old style can revert theinterface to something more familiar although I have kept the new interface running for the time being to see if I can be converted.

All in all this new version of Internet Explorer doesn’t really do enough to put Microsoft ahead of alternative browsers available and whilst I have installed it on my machine I will probably stick with my old, faithful Firefox for now.If you are still using Internet Explorer 6 you should without fail download the newer version now from www.microsoft.com as to not do so would be denying yourself of several years of progress.

About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply low priced printer cartridges for a wide range of printers including the Epson Stylus SX205 Printer.

Readers contributions

MailWasher

At the time of writing (Thursday 12th) I have just celebrated my 25th birthday and as sit in front of my laptop today I find it genuinely hard to believe that when Click started over 300 articles ago that I was a teenager - Where has the time gone?

To digress I plan on taking everything a little bit more easy today and as a couple of readers have recently contributed some interesting questions and comments I thought I would leave the article predominantly in their hands today!

With reference to your Herald Express article on copying DVD films I can tell you that last year I downloaded several free programs for backing up CDs and DVDs, although I am unfortunately still saving up for a suitable DVD writer!I thought the websites below would be of interest to your readers as there is a fair amount of information and guidance on the subject:

www.vso-software.fr/dvdvideo.htm ; www.daemon-tools.cc ; www.dvddecrypter.com ; www.dvdshrink.org ; www.doom9.net ; www.dvddemystified.com

I personally found all these websites of interest and hope that Click readers may be able to get something from them.

Michael Darby, via e-mail

Currently I have the Symantec Antivirus however this version doesn’t have a spam filter with it.Someone I spoke to suggested Spam Shield 3 but before I download it is there anything you could recommend?

Michele, via e-mail

Whilst I have very little experience of spam filters one thing that strikes me about Spam Shield is that you have to pay for it which is something that I always avoid whenever possible.A reliable free alternative would be a product called Mail Washer which can be downloaded for free by heading to www.mailwasher.net.The program works in the background checking your mail server directly so it doesn’t matter which mail program you use to read your e-mails.It has the ability to accept e-mails from recognised addresses only or to refuse e-mails from known `spammers´.By working slightly more intelligently it can also read the e-mail and attempt to assess whether it is junk or not and you can also view and delete e-mails on the main server before you download them in order to save wasting time downloading junk.Any mail that is deemed to be junk mail can be `bounced´ back to the sender to make it appear that your e-mail address was invalid which would hopefully mean they’ll remove you from their lists.

As an alternative would be to try using the Mozilla ThunderBird e-mail client which has spam protection built in – this can be downloaded free of charge by heading to www.mozilla.com/thunderbird. A more thorough review of this particular application can be found on my Click archive website at www.computerarticles.co.uk

It has been a while since you touched the subject of PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) or WAP phones but I still thought it would be worthwhile contributing that any readers with one of these devices may be interested to know that a number of internet pages are specially designed for them.The easiest way to find these sites would be to head to www.google.co.uk/pda orwap.google.com.Users will find using these search engines to find relevant pages a lot more productive trying to navigate conventional larger websites on a device boasting a small screen and typically slower Internet connection.

Ian MacMillan, via e-mail

That’s it for this week.Please do keep your suggestions and comments coming in as I would like to be able to continue keeping this article fresh and interesting well in to my thirties!

 

About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply low priced printer cartridges for a wide range of printers including the Epson Stylus SX205 Printer.

Nintendo Wii

nintendo-wii

I very rarely take the time to discuss gaming consoles in Click as this article tends to be more focused towards the serious side of computing such as applications, new technology and the Internet.However, once in a while something quite unique appears on the horizon and it would seem wrong not to give it some exposure.

Nintendo recently announced that their new Wii console would be released on December 8th, meaning it has a release date perfectly timed for the Christmas rush which is way ahead of the Sony PlayStation 3 release date of March 2007.Of course, the more powerful Microsoft Xbox 360 console has already been available for around three quarters of a year which means Nintendo will have to deliver something special to avoid being hopelessly outsold during the festive season.

Luckily what it lacks in hardware specifications it makes up for in ingenuity and cost.The Wii is set to be released at around £180 which makes it far cheaper than the Xbox 360 and the PS3, making it ideally priced for Christmas.This price will include the game ‘Wii Sports’ along with a rather unique controller which has been the main talking point of this new system.

This controller dubbed the ‘Wiimote’ isn’t designed in the traditional way as it works more on the principle of capturing the movements of the controller in three dimensions than simply pressing the traditional left, right, up and down buttons.This means that for tennis games the controller would actually act like a tennis racket which you swing around your living room, with the likes of Zelda you would use it as a fictitious sword, with your motions in real life being imitated in the game.The controller also includes a small speaker so that localised sounds can come directly from the controller rather than through your TV.Of course all these features could be considered gimmicky by many and additionally the 3D capture would be completely unsuitable for many games so there is also a classic style controller available.

In terms of backwards compatibility the Wii has been designed to work with old Nintendo Gamecube games and controllers.Retro gamers will also be pleased to know that an archive of old Nintendo games such as Super Mario Bros will be made available to download directly on to the console.Rather surprisingly Nintendo have also secured the rights to distribute many old Sega Megadrive games over their online service which is something I never thought I’d see.Unfortunately you do have to pay to download any of these games which is a disappointment when you consider that even now you could freely download them on your home PC and use one of the many emulators freely available.

As mentioned at the start of this article the price has to be an important factor especially when I Nintendo’s primary market for this console would probably be the younger end of the market.The release price of roughly £180 is way below the current Xbox 360 price of £270 and the anticipated PS3 release price of around £400.

For your money you get a unit measuring around 8.5” x 6” x 2” with a 730Mhz PowerPC processor with an ATI 240Mhz Graphics Processor and a built in wireless network card.The Wii comes with a rather paltry 512Mb of built in flash memory for internal storage but it does include an SD card slot to allow the storage to be upgraded.Another noteworthy feature is the parental controls function which can restrict youngsters from playing games clearly outside of their age range.

Whether I will buy one or not is still to be seen but since one of my colleagues at Refresh is a bit of a Nintendo fanatic you can be sure that I’ll have played one before the year is out and so I’ll be giving you an update then as to whether or not it’ll make an ideal gift for Christmas.

 

About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply low priced printer cartridges for a wide range of printers including the Epson Stylus RX585 Printer.

Backing up movies

anydvd

As you can imagine a company such as ours that sells blank media (CD’s, DVD’s etc) does get asked on a daily basis how to go about making a copy of a movie using a home PC.As this is something not yet covered in Click I thought this week I would write a definitive answer as to hopefully decrease the frequency that this question pops up.

I will of course point out where the law stands on this; you are legally allowed to make a single backup of any copyrighted video that you own for personal purposes only as long as that backup is then kept for your sole use and not rented, lent of given to a third party.To copy a movie for any purpose other than this is very much illegal and something that neither myself nor the Herald Express could condone.

To backup a movie DVD you will need essentially two pieces of software – one to unscramble the movie and then one to actually copy and compress the data on to a blank DVD.The first piece of software removes the encryption that prevents regular utilities from Nero and DVD Creator making the copy and then the second actually does the business of moving the data from disc to disc.

A good application I’ve found for removing the encryption goes by the name of AnyDVD and this can be downloaded by heading to www.slysoft.com.The program is free to try out although if you do like it then you will have to purchase the full version after a period of 21 days.Installation is simple and then the program just sits quietly in the taskbar, removing the copy protection from whatever disk is present in the DVD drive of your machine.AnyDVD also has the additional advantage of being able to remove region protection so that you can watch DVD’s from all around the world on your region locked DVD player.

To actually copy the DVD itself a program such as CloneDVD does the job perfectly.This is available from the same address and like AnyDVD, whilst it is free to download you will have to pay for the full version should you wish to use it outside of the 21 day evaluation period.

Whilst one would assume that once the encryption was removed that copying a DVD is an easy process which any software could accomplish there is one major stumbling block; most pre-recorded DVD’s you buy are Dual Layer and hence twice the capacity of standard Single Layer recordable discs.To get around this CloneDVD is able to strip out any special features of the DVD (such as actor interviews, foreign subtitles and directors’ commentary) and then compress the remaining data so it fits perfectly on to one disc.Like AnyDVD the software is easy to install and since it includes a couple of step by step copying wizards it literally couldn’t be any easier to use.

Whilst I do usually recommend free software in Click I haven’t been able to locate any free utilities that accomplish the above however if anyone out there knows differently then please do let me know.Once again I feel obliged to say that copying a movie for any purpose than making a single backup for your own use is illegal so please don’t even think about it!

 

About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply low priced printer cartridges for a wide range of printers including the Epson Stylus SX425 Printer.

Readers Questions

youripper

I’ve received a couple of e-mails in the last week which I thought I’d share with my Click readers.

It was interesting to read your article about YouTube last week although one of the disadvantages of this website is that it has not been possible to download the videos on YouTube for offline use.This means that you will not be able to view the videos away from an internet connection, and if one of the videos is removed for any reason you will not be able to see it again.

This problem is solved with YouRipper (free from www.snapfiles.com/get/youripper.html) which allows you to download any YouTube video as a Flash video in .flv format.YouRipper acts like a video recorder for YouTube, and allows archiving of your favourite material.

The .flv format that YouRipper will save the video as cannot be played in most of the common media players but it can be played in the freeware FLV player which is available as a separate download at https://www.softpedia.com/progDownload/FLV-Player-Download-27852.html.This is a useful piece of software as it is a nuisance to be permanently tied to what is available online at YouTube.

Ian MacMillan, via e-mail

Another good find there by Ian and another piece of software for me to add to my rapidly expanding collection.I see a particularly good use for this program would be downloading music videos then converting them to AVI format with a free program such as Riva (www.rivavx.com) with the intention of then compiling them to a CD or DVD.

Until recently I have been able to transmit & receive photographs in the format JPEG however, I find now that although photographs are received I cannot open them.I get a message to the effect that Outlook Express restricted the opening of the attachments due to unsafe content.

The sources are well known to me so I know that the images are no unsafe and moreover, messages that contain photographs that were previously openable have become unopenable.My AVG anti-virus reports on each e-mail ‘No virus present’ and AdAware reports no critical objects.

Keith Wheatley

This is an extremely common problem for many people hence I have chosen to feature it in Click this week.Microsoft in all their wisdom decided that in a recent update to Outlook Express that they would disable the opening of all files attached to e-mails.Whilst some would consider this prudent security I consider it to be over the top, especially when you consider the files you are discussing couldn’t possibly contain a virus as they are not executable.

There is an easy way around this fortunately so when in Outlook Express click on the ‘Tools’ tab, ‘Options’, then ‘Security’ and then make sure that there is no tick in the ‘Do not allow files to be saved or opened that could potentially be a virus’ box.

 

About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply low priced printer cartridges for a wide range of printers including the Epson Stylus Office BX935FWD Printer.

YouTube

YouTube

The popular video hosting site YouTube.com has hit the headlines several times recently for all the wrong reasons so I thought I’d draw focus back to the real reasons this website is always on my favourites list.YouTube was founded back in February 2005 by three early employees of PayPal and has already grown to become one of the most popular sites on the Internet.It provides users with a way to upload video content as well as being able to immediately view a huge number of video files completely free of charge.

As you would well imagine the variety of the content is huge – with 65,000 videos being uploaded every 24 hours you can type practically any word or phrase in to the search box and without fail a number of results will be returned.All videos are rated by users of the site and if you choose not to search by keyword you can also view videos by category, user rating, age and popularity.

Personally I predominately use YouTube to search for music online as the extensive range of content means that you can easily find not only quickly and easily find any song you choose but additionally the associated video.Using YouTube I have managed to locate a number of more obscure songs that even several different popular peer to peer file sharing programs couldn’t help me with.The website also sets itself apart in the fact that you don’t actually download the video to your machine but simply watch it on demand.

Of course many use YouTube as the modern day equivalent of public access TV and come up with original material which can be informative, funny or just completely weird.Whilst theoretically no copyrighted material is available on the site in reality the sheer number of videos uploaded on a daily basis coupled with a rather primitive detection system means that this really isn’t the case.As the popularity of YouTube soars this will have to be something they pay more attention too if they are to avoid heavy legal bills in the future.

YouTube has also suffered criticism caused by its open door policy which means any user can upload material without its content being checked by a member of admin staff.Despite the huge amount of activity online there are only around 50 staff working for the company which means that very few videos can be randomly checked to ensure they don’t breech the terms and conditions of the site.Users can of course flag up questionable material however due to a shortage of manpower such material is often online for short period before being removed.

There is no doubting that YouTube will have to become more efficient in banning violent, pornographic and illegal videos that may work their way in to the system if it is to continue.I do however think that it is worthwhile remembering despite the pitfalls the site does provide a very worthwhile way for users to share videos with the world.Such a facility is especially useful for amateur producers who may have previously had no other way of showcasing their work.

Those without a broadband connection will probably want to give this site a miss but everyone else should certainly check out www.youtube.com when they have a spare half an hour as there is certainly something for everyone on this site.

 

About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply low priced printer cartridges for a wide range of printers including the Dell 725 Printer.

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