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 »

4g Thumb

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

The sale of Britain’s 4G mobile spectrum just got a little bit more interesting today. Ofcom set out new proposals for making the airwaves available to the major network operators. They have More »


Mac Security Hype

The change in Apple’s security marketing message on Mac website has been the issue of debate in tech circles all around the world. The previously set “A Mac isn’t susceptible to the More »


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 »

Long term data storage

optical drive

I’ve had a few people ask me just recently what method I would recommend when planning a long term backup strategy. One elderly gentleman in particular was creating a family time capsule that he wanted his children and grandchildren to be able to view many decades from now.

The question isn’t as easy as you may think. You may imagine that the data could be burnt to CD, locked in a cupboard and that it would last forever however unfortunately this isn’t the case. There are literally hundreds of suitably stored but physically decayed CD’s from my teenage years which I could use as testament to that.

Therefore I’ve made a list of common formats one would usually consider for archiving a large amount of data so you can pick the most suitable one for your needs:

Hard Disk - When used on a regular basis a hard disk will typically last for around 5 years before it starts to decay and if it is being used as an infrequently accessed backup drive then we can assume that this can be at least doubled. Unfortunately degradation of the discs metallic surface, along with the inevitable seizing of parts would still occur over an extended period of disuse.

Optical - Standard optical media includes CD, DVD and BluRay. If choosing this media type ensure that you go for the highest grade money can buy you; a premium brand such as Taiyo Yuden may well last a decade but a more budget brand such as Memorex may only last half that time before the aluminium starts separating from the plastic.

Flash Media - Clearly you would expect that since Flash Media has no moving parts it would be ideal for a long term backup strategy. To an extent you would be right but the published data retention of a unused flash drive is only around 10 years and unfortunately once the device has reached the end of its life it is likely that it will go out in style, taking with it all of the information stored within.

Paper - Rather obvious this one - if left in a dark, dry place then paper will last for many decades; we recently recovered a number of newspapers from 1964 from below the flooring of a building we’re doing up and aside from being a little yellowed they’re in perfect condition. Primary problems do of course include having to find a safe place to store them along with the physical limitations relating to the amount and type of information that can be stored on sheets of paper.

Tape - This may come as a surprise, but Tape backup actually holds one of the best data retention rates hence its continued use in banking and government sectors. Typically a manufacturer will warranty a tape for 30 years with an expected life expectancy beyond that. Although the tapes themselves are affordable and the capacities typically high (between 72GB and 1TB compressed), the actual drives themselves are relatively expensive, starting at £250 for a basic model.


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



Cooliris is a free add-on for Firefox and Internet Explorer that enhances the way you view content on the hundreds of currently compatible sites. It is essentially a rather flash looking graphic user interface with a few nice features.

The main draw is the impressive way it presents you with an endless wall of images from your chosen page and allows you to browse them by dragging the page and then enlarging the picture/video of your choice. My description does not really do the effect justice, by comparison it is somewhere between Sci-Fi style smart boards found on CSI/Minority Report and the album selection method on iPod/iPhones. Although this may not seem particularly useful at first, once you begin to play around with the features including the add-on really begins to shine.

While hundreds of sites such as Facebook and Myspace are compatible, I would imagine most people would use Cooliris featured sites like Google image search or YouTube. Many other big sites are also featured in a handy drop down box towards the top right of the page such as Flickr, Deviant Art, Picasa and Bing. Additionally Cooliris can be used to search images in the same manner from designated folders on your PC but disappointing seems unable to do the same for video files.

Once installed Cooliris is never intrusive; the only sign of it being installed is a small logo that appears next to the search bar on your browser which acts as a shortcut to When visiting a Cooliris supported site this logo changes to a blue and green logo that once clicked takes all content on the page and displays it in the dynamic endless wall format mentioned earlier.

Along with the browsing of images and videos, the add-on has the additional shopping feature that is fully integrated with the for the browsing of their products. I would imagine this is where the revenue for the add-on comes from as there are no adverts to speak of apart from the featured videos which are simply an option available in the many categories available for browsing.

The program itself is extremely polished in appearance and really is a pleasure to use; my only real grumble is that some images do look a little grainy due to the resizing. When I consider that it was trying to display 104,000,000 image results for my search term ‘fish’ however, I find it impossible to hold a grudge.

I would hope more features will be added in the future as there would seem to be quite a lot of scope for expansion especially as I notice certain flash games also seem to be compatible with the add-on. While not an essential download or particularly revolutionary Cooliris is certainly worth the 2.9mb download to enhance your image/video browsing or even to get a bit of shopping done.


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

Media Player Classic Home Cinema


One of the most common problems I experience when playing movies and videos on my home PC is poor lip syncing caused by the sound and video not marrying up perfectly. Rather than performing any degree of troubleshooting I always fall back to the trusty player ‘Media Player Classic Home Theatre’ which despite a complete lack of both bells and whistles always performs admirably.

The user interface for Media Player Classic looks just like the old Windows Media Player 6.4 which was bundled with Windows ME and early versions of Windows XP. I expect few users to know this specific version off the top of their heads so simply refer back to the version in your memory that could be described as looking ‘particularly primitive and dated’.

There are no fancy skins, no modern looking icons and no ribbon style interface; what you simply get is a blank screen along with play, stop, pause, rewind and fast forward buttons, a volume control and a series of options running along the top of the application in an old school grey drop-down menu.

The compensation for the primitive looking interface is that the 3mb application is capable of playing a huge number of audio and video files without the need for any additional software or codecs. Out of the box Media Player Classic Home Theatre includes support for MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and MPEG-4, VCD, SVCD and DVD playback. It also has built-in codecs for LPCM, MP2, AC3 and DTS audio along with H.264 and VC-1 with DXVA support, DivX, Xvid, and Flash Video formats. Media Player Classic Home Theatre can also support Quicktime and Realtime formats with the use of additional software.

The player is based on the old Media Player Classic application which was being developed up until the original author ceased development back in 2006. In the last few years, asides from the name change, a number of new features have been integrated in to this new release including additional video decoders, several bug and vulnerability fixes and a 64-bit version for those with compatible versions of Windows Vista and Windows 7.

The main appeal to me has to be the sheer simplicity of the application; it will load in literally a second and rarely skips a frame or misses a beat. If I ever find myself in a situation where a more ‘advanced’ player is struggling then immediately I’ll load up MPC Home Cinema and on the same PC with the same video file the problems cease. The low resource requirement means that it’s suitable for use on low specification machines making it especially tempting for those that can’t run the latest version of Windows Media Player.

Downloading a copy will take literally a few seconds from and as with all good software it is free of charge and doesn’t include any advertising.


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

Microsoft Office 2010


Despite it being the second most used application on my work computer (behind the Mozilla Firefox browser), it’s still impossible for me to get excited about a new edition of the Microsoft Office suite.

With the final release due in a couple of months, Microsoft have provided a beta test version of Office 2010 that’s free for members of the public to download. The beta test version will run unhindered until October 2010 at which point users must decide whether they wish to purchase the final release or have it removed from their hard drive.

For the costs involved the majority of home users may still be better off with the free OpenOffice Suite ( as it should provide all the features you are likely to need at no cost. This having been said, the Office Suite has remained a popular flagship product over the years due to business users often requiring a specific function or application only present in the Microsoft offering. I, for example, use Outlook on a regular basis and haven’t yet found an alternative that suits my needs.

Having not been the biggest fan of Office 2007 (especially the ‘ribbon’ interface discussed in the past) I wasted no time downloading the 64-bit professional version of the beta to put it through its paces. I have now been using it for a couple of days it does appear notably faster than Office 2007 and certainty incredibly stable. The speed increase could easily be attributed to the fact that a 64-bit version of the application is now available to run on modern 64-bit computers.

Office Professional 2010 includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, InfoPath, OneNote, Outlook, Access and Publisher. The home edition (also currently available in beta) includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and OneNote. After the official release, computer manufacturers may choose to bundle new machines with a starter edition of Office which includes just Excel and Word; this version of Office will replace the aging Microsoft Works Suite.

Although the ribbon interface remains, it is certainly a lot clearer than that provided with Office 2007; the confusing Office orb has been replaced with the familiar file menu, there are fewer distracting borders, a neutral colour scheme and most importantly it is customisable to the users individual tastes. The applications look and behave like a ‘family’ now and have become more intuitive to use as a result of the more refined user interface.

An important new feature due for release in the final version but missing from the beta is the ‘Web Apps’ which will extend the Office functionality to a compatible web browser. Very similar in form to Google Docs, Office Web Apps allows users to collaborate, edit and share Office documents online. This is an incredibly important new feature that has no doubt come about due to the success of Google Docs and one that I would like to field test when complete.

This article isn’t long enough to go in to details about minor new features so I will summarise by observing that the changes made from Office 2007 to Office 2010 are evolutionary rather than revolutionary; very much in the same way that Windows 7 was an evolutionary change compared with Vista. Excluding the Web Apps there is nothing substantially new however the minor improvements are certainly welcome as is the chance to road test a new piece of software completely free of charge for a year.

Users interested in downloading the beta version of Office 2010 should visit to get their hands on a copy.


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

Aviary Online Design Suite


This week we’ve been making paper penguins. Our reasoning isn’t quite as tenuous as you would imagine; our company mascot is a penguin, we had an hour to kill, and we needed something to put on the Refresh Cartridges blog.

Of course, you never know where a journey to create a penguin template will take you and while looking for a free vector image editing program, Matt fortunately stumbled across the website Aviary is essentially a free online design suite which consists of many powerful tools ranging from a simple audio editor to a variety of fairly sophisticated image/vector editing software.

The applications are all used online rather than being downloaded and installed on to your hard drive. This offers a number of advantages, most notably the ability to ‘dip in’ quickly and easily, without having to install, and the fact that everything is stored on a central server means you will always be using the most up to date version of the software.

The list of applications currently includes:

Phoenix - A free image editor that handles pretty much anything from basic image retouching to complex effects. Features include a wide selection of tools, support of layers and 72 helpful tutorials to get you up and running.

Toucan - A colour editor which is ideally used in conjunction with other creations tools in the suite. Toucan can be used to pick and analyse colour by either colour association rules or by grabbing colours from within existing images.

Peacock - Described by its creators as a ‘visual laboratory’, Peacock is used to generate a whole host of effects and image manipulation tools to make some quite stunning and abstract artwork.

Raven - This tool is used for generating vector artwork, which is used by artists to create images that are fully scalable and suitable for applications such as logos and t-shirt designs. The intricacies of vector artwork are too deep to explain in one sentence but the bottom line is that rather than every pixel of an image being assigned a colour value, a vector image is saved using descriptions of the lines, curves and shapes making up the image. This means that if the image has to be radically resized the descriptions of those shapes are just changed proportionally resulting in no loss of image quality. Due to the restrictions of creating drawings using just shapes and lines, vector images are typically quite simple.

Falcon - This utility is used to capture images and web pages quickly and easily in order to crop, resize and ultimately save them for use in another package. A similar utility ‘Talon’ on the site allows you to do the same with an complete computer screenshot.

Myna - Use Myna to edit and remix music tracks and audio clips. The application can be used to trim, loop, stretch and reverse audio clips along with adding fade ins, fade outs and other effects such as pitch change, delay and reverb.
Each of these tools is free to use and comes with at least one tutorial to help newcomers get to grips with how to use the software and what to use each program for. Each program is free to use and advertising is nonexistent, however users do have the option for upgrading for just over £15 a year. By paying for a subscription you are given a number of additional features such as unlimited storage of your creations online, the ability to add personalised watermarks to your creations and access to the advanced premium tutorials and forums.


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

World of Warcraft


The below article has been written by our very own Becky Brand who works in our Torquay Store and has long been a diehard fan of the World of Warcraft series of games. As an avid gamer; I thought she would be better equipped to talk about this subject with you this week.

World of Warcraft (or WoW) is the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) from Blizzard Entertainment. Warcraft initially started out as a series of three games ending in Warcraft 3 with World of Warcraft being set after these games.

When you start the game you need to create an avatar which you will control as you explore the fictional world of Azeroth. You have a choice of two sides; either the Alliance or the Horde with each side having a number of different races that you can play as including Trolls, Dwarfs, Humans, Gnomes and Orcs.

Depending on your gaming style you may choose to be a Warrior, who charges in and takes the full wrath of the enemies, or maybe a mage who blasts your enemies with spells from a distance. There are also many different classes including Priests, Rogues, Paladins, and Shamans, so there is almost always a way of playing to suit most people. Once you have your character you will need to quest to earn level ups, armour upgrades and new skills to improve your ability to tackle stronger enemies and bosses.

With approximately 12 million subscribers worldwide, World of Warcraft is one of the biggest online role playing games. Contrary to popular belief; it’s not just teenage boys lacking in social ability who play World of Warcraft as it genuinely does appeal to many.

Whilst travelling around you will bump into parents sneaking a quick hour in whilst their kids sleep, men and women who use Warcraft to relax after a hard days work, much in the same way many people will watch their soaps of an evening. The folklore in World of Warcraft is so deep and vast it’s almost like an interactive Lord of the Rings.

Admittedly you rarely actually meet the people you play with in Warcraft, but when you keep bumping into the same characters in game, or join a guild with a good group of players, you start to form acquaintances and friendships with the other players. There has even been a few couples who met in the World of Warcraft and ended up being happily married - you are able to make the game as social an experience as you want.

You have the option to group up with other characters, where your character will take on a particular role in the group; for example Priests heal, warriors tank and mages deal the damage. There is even the option of forming a raid group of up to 40 characters to try and overcome the extra strong bosses that are scattered across the lands.

You would think that all games must come to an end, however World of Warcraft is different in that you can always strive to earn better armour so you can defeat the strongest bosses in the game, or try and earn the in game achievements for different titles and rewards. Blizzard also periodically introduce expansions, which raise the maximum level, and introduce new content and areas to the game.

Like any good franchise the game has a plethora of accessories, merchandise and books to go along with it and along with millions of subscriptions across the world, Warcraft is clearly a highly lucrative business which will be around for a long time to come.
About the Author - Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.

iPhone Games

iphone game

I declared quite publically around a year ago that I was refusing to select an iPhone as my next contract phone, not due to the fact that I consider it a poor piece of technology but rather that it would have immediately made me ‘one of those’ people.

You know the type; you’re busy minding your own business but they’ll sit next to you and force you to endure a daily demonstration of the latest app that they’ve downloaded. They do this with such a self assured smugness that you’d swear that they’d invented the iPhone, not had it handed to them by their mobile phone provider.

I am starting to get a little envious however…..

It seems there are more to these apps than initially meet the eye; after years of dominance, both the Sony PSP and the Nintendo DS portable games consoles are starting to lose ground to, bizarrely enough, a phone.

After just a few years in the industry, the Apple iPhone boasts over 21,000 game apps compared to the Nintendo DS which has over 3,500 titles or the Sony PSP which has just over 600. In defence of the Sony PSP, the majority of those 600 titles are large games created by recognised software houses whereas the majority of the 21,000 iPhone games are ‘bite-sized’ two quid offerings.

Personally I have always been of the disposition that if you are going to play a game on a mobile device then you probably want it bite sized anyway as you’re unlikely to get enough uninterrupted time to get immersed in a monster sized game. That having been said, with the latest iPhone boasting a faster processor and third generation Operating System there are already some fairly staggering games coming to market and some serious money is being pumped in to future game development.

The method of game distribution is also one of the primary advantages the iPhone has over the competition. The Sony PSP for example uses mini optical discs that not only do users have to carry around with them but additionally distributors have to worry about the costs involved in producing and distributing the software to the gamer. The iPhone by comparison stores games in the internal memory of the phone and users simply download games directly from the Apple website rather than buying them in a more cumbersome physical format.

It will be interesting to see how the turning fortunes of Sony and Nintendo will affect any planned successors to the DS or PSP and it is becoming apparent that dedicated portable gaming systems may have their days numbered. Unfortunately for Nintendo this is a market that they have relied on heavily since they released the GameBoy back in 1989 and they are ill positioned to launch a competing product to the iPhone. Sony Ericsson however remains a formidable force in the mobile phone market it can surely only be a matter of time before they retaliate with their own hybrid device.


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

AC Networking

ac networking

One of the biggest growth areas for home computing this decade has been the humble network.

At the turn of the century it was most often the case that we used a single machine connected directly to a phone line whereas now it would be rare to find a home that hasn’t been networked to some extent. Applications range from wireless Internet on a laptop, file sharing between two machines, a hard drive set up to distribute media around the home, a wireless printer which all the family can access or a games console piggybacking the main Internet connection.

The conventional methods of deploying a network around your home are well known; you can either connect via a network cable or connect wirelessly over the airwaves and while usually suitable, both methods have potential disadvantages. A wired network is of course limited by a physical connection being needed between your devices whereas a wireless network can fall down if installed in to a house that doesn’t have favourable conditions; a particularly large house or one with particularly thick walls for example.

A route that few people are familiar with is that of AC Networking. Although not the ideal solution for many, it does have some quite distinct advantages if you find that a conventional wired or wireless network lets you down. To get started you simply need a minimum of two power line access points which can then be plugged in to any of the existing plug sockets in your home for the two to begin talking to one another. The technology works by modulating a carrier wave along the existing power cables in your home therefore your entire home wiring essentially becomes a network cable that can be tapped in to at will.

Because you are using the mains cabling that runs all throughout your house the distance or objects between the two points are irrespective while at the same time removing the need to lay dedicated network cabling. Plug your broadband router in to an power line adaptor downstairs and your computer in to one upstairs and with the minimum of fuss you’ll have a physical connection between the two.

You can restrict access to the network by implementing a number of security procedures similar to those present on a wireless network but owing to the fact your neighbours will be on a different wiring ring, these features are potentially redundant.

What makes the technology more useful is that you can combine elements of power line, wireless and conventional wired networking together in the one location by building on the strengths of all three technologies. You could for example have a wireless router plugged in to both your broadband connection and a power line adaptor with a second router plugged in to a power line adaptor upstairs; by having two wireless routers in opposite ends of the same building the chance of being without wireless signal would be slim.

Alternatively, have the wireless router plugged in to both your broadband connection and a power line adaptor downstairs but upstairs plug a power line adaptor straight in to a conventional wired network switch in a kids game room upstairs. They could then connect a PlayStation 3, Xbox and PC directly in to this switch therefore benefiting from a physical connection straight in to the router downstairs without having to worry about issues such as wireless signal strength.

Most modern day power line adaptors support 200Mbps which compares favourably to a standard wired network which would run at 100Mbps and a standard ‘g’ rated wireless network running at 54Mbps. Prices start at around £60 for a pair of power line access points.


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

WordPress 2.8.5 – Part 2


Last week we were looking in to the powerful WordPress editor. Those that missed my last article can view a copy either at the Herald Express’s website ( or on my own online blog (

To recap, WordPress ( is an open source application which gives home users the ability to quickly and easily create an online blog, a term used to describe a website which provides an ongoing chronicle of information. After covering the basics last week we’ll now start to uncover the more advanced features that really make WordPress stand out from the crowd.

The term ‘plug-in’ is used to describe a small piece of software written by either the WordPress authors or a third party which provide additional features not found on a standard installation. If a blogger finds that WordPress doesn’t cater for a particular requirement of his then in many cases a plug-in can be used to extend the functionality of the software quickly and easily.

To give you an idea, I’ve listed a couple of plug-ins that I find particularly useful:

Akismet – You will soon find that your blog gets a lot of spam comments, usually by automated systems trying to advertise male medical products. Akismet checks comments in your blog against an online database in order to automatically remove any that it deems as looking like spam.

All in One SEO Pack – This provides a number of Search Engine Optimisations in order to make your blog more appealing to search engines such as Google. Although Search Engine Optimisation is an entire science in itself, this simple plug-in will hopefully help to push you further up the results table.

Google XML Sitemaps – Creates a single file detailing every page on your site. You can then request that Google download and analyse this file on a regular basis thereby helping them to improve the freshness and visibility of your pages in their search engine.

Sociable – Allows users to automatically add a link to a specific post on their favourite social bookmarking site, for example Facebook, Digg or Twitter.

Statpress – Analyses visitors to your site and allows you to see a number of reports including daily views, pages most visited and search terms used to find your site. You can even use it to find out more detailed information about your readers such as the Operating Systems they use and their geographic location.

The ability to keep the software up to date it one of the things I admire most about WordPress; once you have performed the initial installation you will be informed whenever you log in to the control panel if a particular plug-in or indeed the entire installation needs updating. Should you find that any component is out of date then it only takes one click for the appropriate files to be downloaded and installed on your web server automatically.

Such ease of use means that it doesn’t take a lot to ensure that you always have the most up to date version of the software installed as well as providing protection by allowing you to easily install any security patches as and when they are released.


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

WordPress 2.8.5


It’s been a year now since I was first properly introduced to WordPress and started using it to create an online archive of my work. Over the last 12 months I have grown to appreciate the power and flexibility of this piece of online blogging software and feel the need today to go in to a little more detail.

WordPress is a free and open source publishing application which gives home users the ability to quickly and easily create an online blog using their own domain name. Blogging, the term used to describe the maintenance of a website used to chronicle information has become incredibly popular in recent years as more users realise that the Internet provides a global platform which can be used to broadcast their ideas or opinions.

For most, the prospect of coding a website from scratch is not just a daunting but potentially impossible task, and so it is down to worthy applications such as WordPress to make blogging accessible to the masses. Undeniably a small amount of technical knowhow is required however the process of the initial installation couldn’t really have been made any simpler.

Begin by registering your domain name (for example, I chose and sort out a hosting package. The hosting of your blog shouldn’t cost more than around £25 a year and you may want to use the same company for this that you used to register the domain.

With this process complete, download the WordPress application from and upload it to your web space before running a single installation file which will configure the software to work with your web host and allow you to set up initial settings such as a user name and password. Someone with a basic knowledge of setting up a website should be able to complete the process in a couple of minutes however even basic users should find they are able to complete the installation in around 20 minutes by following the step by step guide online.

Once installed you can begin adding content by way of a WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) text editor which allows you to quickly and easily knock out an article using features such as bullet pointing, text alignment and text effects without having to worry about getting your hands dirty by doing any coding.

So far this is all fairly basic stuff however WordPress comes in to its own when you start to play around with some of the settings relating to the look and feel of your new blog. The theme selector for example is an incredibly powerful element of the software which allows you to automatically style your site in a set fashion by choosing one of over one thousand themes. Don’t assume that these are all incredibly similar and that every WordPress site will look the same. The theme you use will radically change not only how your blog looks but also how it feels; for example, the entire navigational layout of the site can be changed simply by selecting a new theme.

Updating the blog and providing additional functionality for both you and your users is also easily achieved but unfortunately I’ve reached my word limit so this will be continued next week.



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