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AVG Internet Security 8.5


Regular readers will no doubt be aware of the fact that I recommend AVG Anti-Virus Free Edition over popular paid for rivals time and time again.Ignoring the obvious “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” scepticism that I usually encounter whenever I mention this application I’m usually also asked about the features absent; most notably a firewall.

Fortunately AVG are aware that their free anti-virus package doesn’t cover the needs of all users so they have also produced a security suite going by the name of AVG Internet Security. To save recapping I am simply going to focus on the differences between the two applications so if you’ve missed my review of the free edition it can be located at

Potentially the most important issue, it’s worth noting that the free edition of AVG Anti-Virus is not licensed for business use or for use on multiple machines; if you were planning to use the product at work or on more than one computer then upgrading is the only legal option.

Other than this, AVG Internet Security offers the following additional features:

Firewall – A firewall inspects all network traffic between your computer and the Internet in order to block unauthorised access to your machine.The firewall in AVG Internet Security is designed to be a more secure alternative to the solution bundled with Windows.

Spam Filter – The integrated Anti-Spam filter prevents unwanted e-mails from reaching your inbox while also protecting you against phishing attacks.The anti-spam feature in itself will be invaluable to most users; especially those that have no use for certain male oriented medical products.

Anti-Rootkit Scanner – A rootkit is a piece of software designed to obscure the fact that a computer system has been compromised from both the user and anti-virus software.The intention is that files can be altered and processes executed without triggering a conventional anti-virus scanner, including AVG free edition.

Identity Theft Protection – Following their takeover of Sana Security at the beginning of this year, AVG have started integrating their software algorithms designed to detect unusual malware prompted behaviour designed to siphon off passwords, bank account details, credit card numbers and so on.

There are also a few other bits and pieces chucked in, including Instant Messaging protection, free technical support and a safe download manager making it a pretty comprehensive package.

There are however a couple of drawbacks.First and foremost it is larger, and therefore more resource hungry than the free edition which is unfortunate as one of the things I loved most about the free edition was how it was substantially smaller and faster than the biggest players on the market such as Norton and McAfee.While it is still ahead of these alternatives it is still a shame to see it lose any ground on this front.

Secondly, and most obviously, Internet Security is not free. You can buy the two year, three user license on the AVG website for £83.18 or alternatively (if the Herald Express will allow me a shameless plug) we are selling it retail boxed in our Torquay Road and new Newton Abbot store for £32.99.

Whether Internet Security is the right solution for you depends on your particular needs; I will reiterate that the free edition ( is a more than capable anti-virus checker but if you desire the extra features and don’t mind the slight sacrificing of speed then the paid for suite may represent a better option.


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

Vista SP2 and Cheap Broadband


We have two things to discuss today; Vista Service Pack 2 and cheap broadband.

Starting off with Vista; those of you with this Operating System would be advised to download the Service Pack from or via Windows Update as along with fixing hundreds of little bugs and glitches it also adds a number of new features.Most notable changes include support for Via Technologies new Nano 64-Bit CPU, support for Bluetooth 2.1, BluRay writing directly from the Operating System and improved performance for WiFi connections.

This update is 348mb in size meaning that you would really need to be on a broadband connection to consider the download; this leads me neatly on to my next point.

I was contacted this week by a reader who was still using a dial up connection.I had assumed that this hardcore group of users had disbanded and joined the 21st century but it appears that I was mistaken.Try as I might, I cannot rationalise in my own head why someone would still be using dial-up; it’s slow, temperamental, ties up your phone line, and if you use it for more than a handful of minutes a week it can actually work out quite costly.

In order to reach out to these users (and indeed anyone currently on an overpriced broadband package) I thought it prudent to overview the cheapest broadband packages on the market; these represent a perfect stepping stone from dial-up.The following recommendations are suited primarily to light Internet users and as such I would not recommend them for intensive use such as gaming or heavy downloading.

Sky TV – Sky TV customers can get free 2Mbps Broadband with a 2GB usage limit when they also subscribe to Sky Talk (the most basic of which is free) for the phone calls.Of course you still have to pay your line rental to BT, as you would with dial up.While 2GB isn’t a particularly large bandwidth limit it will satisfy most home users and is in excess of what could be feasibly downloaded via dial-up in a month.

Talk Talk – Talk Talk is £6.49 a month in addition to your usual line rental and includes 8GB Broadband, a 40GB usage limit, free local calls and free national weekend and evening calls.The company has had a fair amount of bad press over the last couple of years mainly due to its unprecedented growth since its incorporation in 2003 but things seemed to have improved of late.If the planned merger with Tiscali goes ahead, Talk Talk will have become the largest residential broadband provider in the UK.

Tiscali – For £14.99 a month including your monthly line rental you can get up to 8GB broadband and unlimited free weekend calls.As BT would usually charge you around £12 for your line rental you are essentially getting a capable broadband package for less than £3 a month.

PlusNet – If you don’t fancy the idea of having your telephone calls handled by your broadband provider, the PlusNet Value package at £5.99 a month is an extremely competitive standalone package.With speeds up to 8Mbps, a 10GB daily download limit and an unlimited evening download limit the PlusNet deal is also surprisingly fully featured.

Before committing to a broadband package it might be an idea to first check out to compare a number of other deals on the market.Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) don’t levy a set of charge all of them will provide the equipment you require and many of them will even chuck in a free wireless router; there really is no reason to stick with dial-up.


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

BluRay, AACS and HDCP


Being a self confessed geek, not to mention the author of a weekly technology column, it might surprise you to learn that until this week I was still watching my movies in standard DVD format rather than in high definition [collective gasp].This was all set to change this week, however, as realising that I needed a new laptop I plumped for a shiny Sony Vaio with an inbuilt BluRay writer.

I swiped a HDMI lead from work, rented a BluRay film from Blockbuster, connected the laptop to my TV and at around 9pm the missus and I sat down ready to be left in awe at the improvement in picture quality.All was going well until after approximately 15 seconds of footage we were greeted with a message telling us that the ‘display configuration that we were using was not supported by this film’.

Somewhat bemused I started trawling Google and discovered that the problem was actually caused by the Digital Rights Management (DRM) built in to the disc.It employs a system called Advanced Access Content System (AACS) which prevents the signal being broadcast to a non High-Bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) complaint device.Basically, the film wouldn’t let me play the movie back on my TV as it was worried that I might use the signal to create a high definition copy of the original.

I eventually discovered a solution by way of a free trial edition of the (completely legal) AnyDVD HD software ( which immediately removed not only the AACS protection that was bugging me but also the region protection and the BD+ copy protection.As a side effect of installing this software and removing the over militant DRM I could have also at this point made a backup copy for my own personal use.By the time I had reached this point however it was almost midnight and so not only was Hayley bored to tears but we were both ready for bed.

It should be mentioned at this point that my laptop did suggest at the very beginning that I could play back through the standard SVGA port rather than using a HDMI lead but if you hire a high definition movie you expect to be able to play it in high definition.I suppose the logic is that if I were to have used this method to create a copy then at least it wouldn’t be in high definition.

There are instances where I can’t help but feel that Digital Rights Management on all forms of digital content is starting to infringe upon the rights of the law abiding users while also pushing people away from the legitimate route.In this particular instance I just wanted to play the movie on my two year old non HDCP compliant TV set and it actually ended up actively pushing me towards a piece of software that while perfectly legal, would have also potentially given me the tools to create my own copies. Surely that doesn’t make sense?


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

EASUS Partition Master - Home Edition 3.5


Modern day hard drives are continuing to leap forwards in terms of their storage capacity and, as a result, the prospect of dividing a large drive in to several partitions becomes increasingly tempting.

Partitioning a drive up in to several smaller segments allows you to easily create completely separate drive letters that can be used for specific purposes.For example, rather than just having your ‘C:’ drive which is used to hold your Windows installation and program files you could also create alterative drive letters such as a ‘D:’ drive to store all your documents and an ‘E:’ drive that is used solely for media such as pictures, music and video files.

In particular, one thing that frustrates me is that whenever you purchase a new computer, the system manufacturers often decide that you should use sizable chunk of the drive to hold your Windows backup files in case you need to do a repair installation.In some instances, I’ve seen this ‘backup’ drive practically empty but irrespective it has been allocated a large amount of the overall size of the drive resulting in a severe amount of wastage.Many users, especially those with backup discs would benefit from reclaiming this space for their own use.

Suffice to say, whichever way your hard drive is segmented at the moment probably isn’t how you would like to have it in an ideal world.Unfortunately deleting partitions, creating new ones and altering the space allocated to existing partitions using the tools build in to Windows isn’t particularly easy, if not impossible and as such we have to rely on a specialist piece of software.

EASUS Partition Master ( is a completely free application that has a tiny 8.9mb footprint that allows you to achieve all the above without having to worry about potentially formatting the drive to create the partition or reformatting whenever you wish to change a partition size.The interface is easy to use and well organised so even those that have never played around with the structure of their drive will feel confident enough to give it a go.This having been said there is of course documentation to guide you through the process if needed.

Partition Maser supports up to thirty two simultaneous hard drives, each between 2GB and 1.5TB in size so despite being the free ‘Home Edition’ version it is unlikely to cause problems on even the highest specification machines.The only absence is the lack of support for 64-bit versions of Windows and unfortunately these users will have to purchase the professional edition at a cost of just over £20.

Along with the basic operations such as create, resize/move, delete, change label and format there are the more advanced wizards ‘Copy Disk’ and ‘Copy Partition’.These allow you to copy an entire disk or partition to another drive – this is perfect if you have two drives in your system and want to quickly and easily back up one to another.

I will stress that if using the application on a one disk machine then dividing the one drive in to two sections with the intention of backing up from your ‘C:’ drive to your ‘D:’ drive isn’t a sufficient backup strategy; if the hard drive goes down you would lose both partitions.Always backup from one physical drive to another and ideally store the backup in a separate location.

If you want a little more control over how your hard disk is divided rather than just taking what was given to you when you first purchased your machine then Partition Master represents a fantastic free tool.


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

YouTube and the PRS


YouTube has always been one of my favourite sites on the Internet and so I’m extremely disappointed that a row between the site owners, Google, and the Performing Rights Society has culminated in them prohibiting UK users access to thousands of music videos.Apparently the two groups were unable to find “mutually acceptable terms for a new licence” as PRS had proposed new payment terms resulting in YouTube paying a greater figure to show the video than it makes from the advertising displayed on the same page.The sad fact is that until terms are settled, UK viewers will simply reach a message saying ‘the video you have chosen isn’t available in your country’ whenever they try to play a music video.

The PRS, along with TV licensing, is one of those groups that I’m surprised are allowed to exist in their current guise within the modern day world.If we can focus on the subject of TV licensing briefly, I have a television which I use for watching DVD movies and Sky channels only.Unfortunately as it is physically capable of receiving BBC channels I am obliged to pay a yearly fee that goes directly to the BBC.It does however seem absurd that a company can choose to broadcast an unencrypted signal to my house without my permission and then have the audacity to bill me for it.

My bitterness in the YouTube issue is increased as, although I see the need for a group such as the PRS in certain instances, it appears that they have let their power go to their heads a little lately.There are stories of them charging community centres that allow children to sing carols in public and requiring that football clubs pay royalties for chants made by spectators, including traditional songs recently covered by modern performers.Their argument that all workplaces with a radio should hold a public entertainment license doesn’t stack up; the BBC is funded through the TV license fee so everybody has the right to listen to it free of charge.The PRS are also potentially endangering commercial radio as the income generated by advertising revenue is closely related to viewing figures which will certainly drop as people are forced to turn off during the working day to avoid fees.

In the past I have reviewed a site called Vimeo ( which offers an extremely high quality sound and video quality with more than 13,000 videos updated daily.I have tended to find the emphasis on Vimeo being unique and creative content and while there are some truly fantastic videos to be found on their site the fact that commercial videos aren’t allowed means it cannot be considered a viable replacement for YouTube.

A site called Daily Motion ( is certainly a viable alternative.Although both sites were registered at approximately the same time, Daily Motion is currently ranked by Alexa as the 69th most popular site on the Internet compared with YouTube which is 3rd.Also, the extent of content available isn’t quite as impressive but with approximately 20,000 new videos (including plenty of high definition and official content) being uploaded daily the gap is narrowing.


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

The Pirate Bay


This week the verdicts of the four men accused of ‘assisting in making copyright content available’ via the popular torrent site ‘The Pirate Bay’ were announced.The four received sentences amounting to one year in jail each along with fines totalling $3,620,000.With such a harsh penalty I thought it might be worth delving deeper in to the case that one of the defendants has called ‘a theatre trail’ which was acted out with the intention of gaining media exposure which would focus on the power of the large film companies and the dangers of file sharing

The Pirate Bay was established in 2003 by the Swedish anti-copyright organization Piratbyrån (The Piracy Bureau) and has been acting as a separate organisation since October 2004.In total the site has 3,500,000 registered users and its purpose is to allow users to easily locate torrent files which are used by peer to peer file sharing programs to locate and download a whole host of information.

A peer to peer network is one with no central server where users share information with each other directly but in order to download from it you require a torrent file to point you in the right direction.The important thing to remember about these torrent files is that they don’t actually contain the data the user is primarily interested in downloading but rather simply a pointer in the right direction.It is the modern day equivalent to you asking me whether I know of anyone who owns the latest Kings of Leon album, me giving you their address and you then going over and making a copy of it yourself; strictly speaking I have done nothing wrong in the transaction.

These files tend to be created primarily by individuals rather than sites such as The Pirate Bay and as they contain nothing that is actually copyrighted there is theoretically nothing wrong with owning or indeed distributing them.This is where the case begins to lose credibility; the four men are accused of breaking Swedish copyright law but in reality they didn’t actually transfer any of the information themselves; they simply hosted files which allowed likeminded individuals to share information with one another directly.

Of course, I’m not trying to justify the existence of The Pirate Bay; clearly the site was allowing users an easy way to exchange data directly with one another but this doesn’t form the basis of a conviction.The court chose not to take any of the technical details into account and only judged based on intent.Unfortunately in overlooking the technical details it appears the fact that by the letter of the law nothing no illegal activities were actually performed by these individuals has also been glazed over.

While it would appear that Hollywood has won a battle, I can’t help but think in the scheme of things this victory may be short lived and indeed may have a detrimental effect.The Pirate Bay have moved most of their servers out of Sweden and in to the Netherlands and their site is still running with a renewed user base attracted after the immense media publicity.The accused state that they physically don’t have the money to pay the huge fine and as the decision is now being appealed it is possible none of them will ever see the inside of a jail cell.

Sites such as iTunes have proven that despite the huge number of pirate sites that people are still happy to pay to legally download music over the Internet.To this end I feel the film industry should be using these huge resources to tap in to a new and potentially incredibly lucrative area of film distribution over the Internet through a similar system to iTunes rather than purposefully bringing media attention to the very sites which they wish would disappear.


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



Just recently I’ve decided that the walls of our house are looking a little bare and rather than spending a small fortune on pictures and paintings I’ve started searching the Internet for images of the place in which I live.The idea is to find a number of extremely high quality and dramatic images of Torbay which I’ll then blow up on to huge canvases to be hung on the wall.

My search has been hindered by the fact that while there are many sites which offer fantastic photographs of Torbay, most the images lack a certain artistic quality and are unavailable in the kind of resolutions that would allow them to be blown up.Eventually I came across Flickr; one of the most popular photo storage and sharing sites on the Internet.

The site is free, easy to use and features various methods for sorting, categorizing and tagging along with features allowing users to comment and rate pictures.You can choose to make your photos either private or public and as such it would be useful even if just as a private gallery to store images more securely than on your own hard drive.Should you decide to make your photos public you can easily apply a Creative Commons copyright license to inform users ofhow you license the photo to be used (for example, non commercial use only).It is worth pointing out that while users should respect your copyright, Flickr cannot enforce or take action if they do not.

The free account provides you with a 100MB picture and two video monthly upload limit but if you find yourself exceeding this then for $24.95 (around £17) you can upgrade to the pro account which will allow you an unlimited monthly upload limit and an unlimited amount of online storage.

The Flickr ( interface is attractive and easy to use and when searching you can choose to either perform a simple text search across the entire site, just your Flickr friends libraries, your own uploads or by a geographical place.The results of your search are displayed in order of what others have found interesting along with small thumbnails which you can then click on to reveal a larger image, comments and a full tag list.Impressively, if the user has uploaded the photo in a high resolution you can also see the original, full size image which is perfect for when quality is paramount; especially if you are looking to enlarge or print the image.

When you upload a photo by either the web, e-mail or via your mobile phone you can keep them grouped together using a number of different options such as predefined group names, keyword tags or even the location in which the photo was shot.

The quality of the material online is quite staggering; there are very few crude camera phone pictures present and instead the public galleries tend to attract a high class of amateur and professional photographer using SLR digital cameras.The real geeks can even restrict their search to specific camera make and models; it is interesting to see what others have achieved using the same equipment as you. An important issue for any Internet site containing pictures on the Internet is of course a content filter which can be set to differing levels depending on the user.


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



I think I have resisted talking about Twitter ( for long enough - up until now I have sidelined this popular social networking service as I never quite understood its value and considered it to just be a passing fad.

That was until this week when I was listening to the Chris Moyles show on Radio One.Despite paying a yearly TV licence fee which is designed to promote independence within the BBC and remove the financial need for advertising, they flipped to an advertisement for one of their own shows which kind of missed the point, I felt.

The ridiculous voice of Tim Westwood followed; a 51 year old Caucasian man who attempts to sound like a 20 something year old living a black rapper lifestyle.He boomed in to the mic ‘it’s ya boy, Westwood’, ‘I’m walking with the big dogs’, ‘I’m going to elevate my game’ before completely contrasting the persona by dropping his Twitter user name in to the advert and asking me to ‘tweet’ him.At this point I realised that perhaps the service was a little more established than I realised and perhaps it would be around for a while.

So what exactly is Twitter?The service is so simple that I think their own website sums it up best ‘Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?’.

In essence, once signed up you can follow other users so that you get a constant feed of information relating to what other people are doing or what is on their mind.You are able to follow anyone you wish and likewise others are also free to follow your musings – as such you can easily get in contact with, and follow, a large number of people that may have viewpoints or lives that interest you.

The remarkable thing about Twitter is the sheer popularity that it has amassed in its three year lifespan.Twitter is now the 82nd most popular website on the Internet with almost two million daily visits.Part of the popularity of the service may well be the number of prominent users that the service has attracted – For example, 400,000 people currently follow the daily ramblings of Stephen Fry.

Messages of up to 140 characters in length can be posted via your mobile phone, an instant messaging account of directly on the Twitter website.Once broadcast those that are following you will see your update on their own twitter homepage.

Another possible explanation to the popularity can probably be found by looking at the history the service appears to be making.On December 2008 it was announced that Israel would be the first government to hold a worldwide press conference on Twitter to take questions from the public on the war against Hamas.During the November 2008 Mumbai siege the use of Twitter by victims, bystanders and the public to gather news and coordinate responses lead to CNN calling it ‘the day that social media appeared to come of age’.Twitter usage increased 43% on US Election Day.

The value placed on such a simple idea is also staggering.Tens of millions have been ploughed in to the service by venture capitalist firms and despite having no real discernable income several financial reports value the company at $150 million.Time will tell where Twitter goes from here but not wanting to be left behind, you can now follow me at


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

Operating System History


I think the mark of a true geek is someone who can actually partake in a meaningful conversation relating to a technology which was pioneered half a decade before they were even born.This realisation comes after yours truly found himself today discussing the old CP/M Operating System with our web guy and the PC techie.

The trip down memory lane got me thinking that perhaps it would be nice to remind ourselves of the path we have walked to have become unfortunate enough to end up with Windows as the most popular choice of Operating System.

CP/M – Created back in 1976, this command line based Operating System was developed to provide 8-bit computer users with an easier way of managing the most basic of computer functions, as well as installing and programming applications.It would be fair to say that the younger MS-DOS was very closely based on CP/M and indeed many of the Operating System structures and commands were retained.

DOS – Of course, there were in fact several different flavours of DOS available from various vendors but MS-DOS was the one that was used by most.Released in 1981, Microsoft continued to develop this Operating System right up until the release of Windows 95, at which point it was phased out.DOS was a command based Operating System without any form of graphical interface which remained popular even after the introduction of Windows due to the fact that not only was it faster and less hardware intensive but also that it was actually required as a base for Windows to run on top of.Up until Windows 95, your computer would load itself in to DOS by default and those that wanted to use Windows would actually have to load it on top of MS-DOS as a secondary Operating System.

GEOS – This remarkably compact Graphical Operating System was originally designed for the Commodore 64; a machine with just 64k of RAM and a 1 MHz processor.Released in 1986 by a company called Berkeley Softworks, GEOS went on to become the third fastest selling Operating System in the world at one stage. Despite the ridiculously miniscule system requirements, GEOS was a nippy Operating System which looked very similar to MacOS which ran on a machine costing ten times the price.

OS/2 - Originally a joint venture between IBM and Microsoft in 1987, at one point Microsoft publically insisted that OS/2 was the future and technically speaking, it was superior.Microsoft however managed to bundle Windows 3.0 with many new PC’s (a tactic they have been able to continue up through the years) and as such OS/2 become considered an expensive alternative.Unsurprisingly, the marriage between the two companies hit the rocks and despite IBM soldering on until 2001, OS/2 never managed to enjoy the success that Windows had.

AmigaOS– I truly think that the Amiga OS deserves to be remembered as one of the most revolutionary Operating Systems in history and to me it represents a remarkable technology that it took years for Windows to catch up with.The AmigaOS which was initially introduced back in 1985 for the Commodore Amiga line of machines and not only was it nippy, stable and incredibly fully featured but it also included support for multitasking; something that we take for granted nowadays but was the holy grail of computing back then.Unfortunately financial issues at Commodore led to bankruptcy which largely resulted in development on the Amiga platform being abandoned.


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