Welcome to my blog - Read and enjoy

Thank you for visiting my Scooby1970 blogspot. I update whenever I can and when I have something interesting to share. You will also find published work of mine at Gaming Illustrated. Gaming Illustrated is where most of my work now takes place, but I will transfer some of my more popular articles from there over to this blog, in extended format.

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Enjoy the blogs, and relive my ups and downs in life, view some interesting reviews and just enjoy the site. If you are interested in learning something about some of my favourite music then click here it's the official Jan & Dean Site that has taken me and my friend from across the sea, June many years to keep updated.

:) Mark

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Streaming Movies In Chromecast

Google’s Chromecast -  An Introduction
Google’s Chromecast is an awesome piece of technology. It’s a simple streaming box that can be used to stream audio and video to your TV from your PC or mobile device. What this article looks at is streaming video from your Android Phone to your Chromecast with perfect results.

There are a lot of movies apps that work with the Google Chromecast such as Netflix, Now TV, Wuaki, Amazon Prime etc. All of these work perfectly fine, but many people want to stream movies and TV shows for free. A lot of people use XBMC, but there’s a better alternative for your movies when it comes to streaming quality.

It Can Stream
Chromecast has the ability to mirror your Android’s device to your TV, meaning that anything it plays is also on your TV. While this sounds good in practise, applications that are not specifically made to work with Chromecast can sometimes play with some annoyances such as the odd flicker, out of sync audio or minor defects.

Ideally, an app such as XBMC (or Kobi as it is now known) should be able to play on your phone or tablet and be able to stream to your TV. Sadly, the authors of XBMC have not tweaked the program to work with Chromecast, and you cannot change the default XBMC video player, so it is not always a complete success when streaming.

Watch Movies & TV Shows With Show Box
Along comes Show Box, a simplified version in the spirit of XMBC. No complicated add-on’s to get it to work, simply download the app and click on the film or tv show you want to watch and it works! Getting it to stream to your Chromecast you’ll need to download BubbleUPnP, which when set to Chromecast allows perfectly smooth streaming.

It really is as simple as these 3 following steps:

  • Click on “Show Box” App
  • Click on the fim or TV show you want to watch
  • Click “Watch Now”

As easy as 1,2,3! Now you can watch the shows you want, on your big screen using your mobile device. Show Box has been taken off Google’s Store, although a quick Google search will take you to the site where it can be downloaded from. BubbleUPnP is a free download on the Google store, and as well as being used with Show Box, you can load up videos stored on your device into it and stream them in perfect quality.

Buying A Chromecast
The great  thing about Google’s Chromecast is the fact that it is very cheap. At full price it’s just £30 from Google and other retailers. I bought it from Wuaki.TV for the price of the Game Of Thrones box-set which was £23.99 and a free Chromecast. At present, some retailers such as Tesco are selling the Chromecast for just £18! It’s the bargain of the century, and in this world where everyone owns a mobile device or tablet, it’s the perfect combination for your TV.

As well as casting from your mobile device, it can also receive casts from your PC’s Google Chrome browser. This means on your TV you can view websites, listen to music and video and more, all with the touch of the cast button!

Friday, 20 June 2014

Z Launcher By Nokia - A Preview

Nokia’s Z Launcher
Nokia are not well known for their Android software or applications, so when they announced to the World their new launcher, titled Z Launcher, the entire Android world were taken aback for a second.

Z Launcher is a stand alone third-party replacement launcher for your Android device, and as long as you are running Android 4.1+ and have a Google+ account, you can try out this app before it’s final release.

Unlike other launcher’s, Z Launcher is a single screen, simple launcher with ease of use being the main selling point. The screen consists of the time on the top left of the screen, calendar appointments  on the top right and a selection of the six most used apps laid out down the centre of the screen. Under this you get the usual system tray with access to calls, texts and photo’s etc.

The unique selling point of this launcher is your ability to swipe a letter to instantly bring up lists of apps, contacts and other items starting with this letter. You can swipe up-to the first four letters, making sure you always get the application that you want. If you swipe your finger backwards, this will delete your last letter. Another option is to hit the Apps launcher icon, and this will display a list of all your applications.

As mentioned, the screen lays out the six most used applications. This is a dynamic list, that will change by the hour depending on your usage of your phone. Nokia says that the launcher will learn how you use your phone, so the six applications will always be relevant no matter what time of day it is.

Who Will Use Z Launcher?
Z Launcher is amazingly simple to use. It has the most simplistic interface, and is quick and powerful at what it does. As a replacement for TouchWiz and other overlays, it’s a giant leap in a different direction.

Most people fall into one of two categories, either you’re a geek who will want to tinker with your phone and try out all sorts of launchers and applications, or you’re just a normal user who downloads the odd application and leave the phone mostly as it is. Because of this it is hard to imagine who would want to use Z Launcher, as it’s too simple for the geek, and won’t really interest someone already used to using their phones interface.

Z Launcher is unique, and perhaps installed in a phone as standard may be the only way to get it’s simplistic power out to the masses. For further information, visit https://www.zlauncher.com/ and give the launcher a test run!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Review

Decisions Decisions!!!
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is not a brand new handset, it was released on September 25th 2013, however it was my mobile phone of choice when I upgraded the phone in the middle of June 2014. Rather than focus on a full review, this looks at the reason why I chose this phone over the Samsung S5, the Sony Z2, the HTC One (M8) and the Oppo Find 7a, all worthy contenders but in the end they lost out to my choice of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

I spent many months researching my next mobile phone handset, and not only looked endlessly at the specs, but also spent a lot of time on the handsets on the various stores. Many hours were spent deciding what I wanted, what was the best handset available, and the best tariff to make the most out of the phone.

The Specs
The Galaxy Note 3 is no slouch when it comes to specifications, sporting 4G capabilities, removable battery and micro-sd cards, Gorilla Glass 3, 1080x1920 pixels on a 5.7inch screen giving 388dpi, 32GB storage, 3GB RAM, 13MP camera, Android 4.4.2 and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor clocked at 2.3ghz with Adreno 330 graphics.

Yes, the newer phones have the Snapdragon 801 processor, but the Note 3 has the 3GB RAM which makes a huge difference. Looking through the internet, the Galaxy Note 3 bench tests are very impressive, and are on a par with the latest released phones. In real-term tests, where benchmarks mean less, the Note 3 is a stellar performer thanks to that extra RAM. Since having the phone, it has never skipped a beat, and compared to my old Samsung S3, it’s like chalk and cheese.

The screen resolution means that the text is crisp, and you cannot see individual pixels, while the screen is nice and bright without being over-saturated like other Samsung phones. The main reason I picked the Galaxy Note 3 over the Samsung S5 is the screen size. It’s a huge 5.7inch of screen, which contrary to popular belief, is still perfectly usable with one hand! It’s gorgeous, and combined with the S-Pen, makes an ideal screen for work and play!

Of course, I tend to stream all my content these days, however the phone comes with 32GB of storage, plus I have added my old 8GB card meaning I have 40GB of storage, more than enough for keeping loads of films, music and photos on my phone at all times and for taking content on holidays on on my travels.

The camera is 13MP, and gives some amazing results. The camera is quite important to me, as although I use a Nikon D3200 as my main camera, having a camera on me at all times is something I need. The results of the photos are impressive, and to be fair, even the camera on the Samsung S3 was great. These added megapixels mean the choice of a wide-screen photos or the usual square photos, plus Samsung has added extra features such as live-filters, surround-shot, panorama, erase (takes out moving objects from background), HDR and much more.

Graphics and graphic handling are once again fantastic, due to the extra RAM, and the latest games load quickly and play fast. The same can be said for the software in general, with everything opening instantly and running as smooth as silk.

Other Features
The Samsung Note 3 comes with something called an S-Pen. The phone can work perfectly without it, but using it opens up more options. Taking the pen out of the holder instantly opens a menu with various options. The most useful option is Action Menu, which brings up a box in which you can write.

Whatever you write can be manipulated in a number of ways, you can write numbers and then dial, add contacts, send text or email, open webpages, find places or simply add a note. Word recognition is accurate, and even in my scrawl it will open the right web page or convert my writing to text with hardly any mistakes (mistakes are because my writing is so bad).

You can cut parts of the screen and save the content to a scrapbook, draw a square and open applications within it, take screenshots and much more. The S-Pen is ideal for artists, as using the latest technology it can sense everything from hovering over the screen to pressing at infinite different pressures. Using the included Sketchbook Pro, you get a sense of how powerful this pen is, as you can draw as if using a real pencil, with thick and thin strokes depending on how hard you press.

Hovering over parts of the screen while using different apps on your phone will open up little windows with summaries of it’s contents, while of course swiping to text is even easier than when using your fingers. The pen really is that good that once you find a use for it, it’s hard to live without it.

S Health is also inbuilt to the phone, and your phone will look after everything from your diet to how many steps you’ve walked in the day. The step-counter is especially useful, and seems to be extremely accurate in counting steps. The app also tells you the temperature and the humidity of the air, plus a whole lot more that I’ve yet to discover.

In Real Use
A lot of people are worried about the size of the phone. At 5.95 x 3.12 x .33 inches the phone looks huge compared to others on the market. That said, because of the software, one thumb operation while typing is easy and feels no difference to any other phone once you’re used to it. I do not have huge hands by any means, but feel the phone fits nicely into the hand. Any bigger though, and it would be a struggle, and in the smaller hands of a woman, I can see two handed operation being the norm.

Battery lasts a full two days of moderate to high use if switched off overnight. The screen is bright, so can be turned down to half to conserve battery. The sound volume is nice and loud so you will never miss a call or text, while the vibration is very noticeable on even the lowest setting.

The phone comes with a lot of Samsungs own software built in, and although some may see it as bloatware, if used properly it’s all good stuff. Of course TouchWiz UI is installed by default, however it is simple to replace with stock Android launcher should you feel the need to. I did for a short while, but soon realised with all this power, TouchWiz works so much better and works without fault at all times.

As far as my contract, I get 2600 minutes of calls, unlimited texts and internet plus I can use my phone abroad in a host of countries as if still in the UK as part of Threes “Feel At Home”. 0800 numbers are free and 084 numbers are just 5p a minute, better than any other network, and all for just £38 a month.

The Galaxy Note 3 is an exceptional piece of kit, and combined with Three’s unrivaled coverage and data-plans, it means the phone kicks some serious butt. Not restrained to watching my data or talk and texts, the phone excels in every area thrown at it. 3G is fast, and 4G is super-fast, meaning tasks are always done quickly and efficiently.

Call quality is great, with people sounding loud when you are talking to them, while they can hear you perfectly too. Due to Samsung’s keyboard designed for the Note 3, texting is fast and accurate, while the swipe-to-type feature seems to be even more reliable than Google’s own keyboard.

Running Android 4.4.2, the phone can install all software on the Android store written for it, while being simple to run other launcher’s if you are not happy with TouchWiz. The phone is fast, and the battery lasts. The screen is beautiful and the S-Pen works. Overall, the Samsung Note 3 is an amazing phone if you are after something larger and with unique features and are a technology-geek who likes the best that technology has to offer.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Keeping Your PC Free From Virus & Malware

Virus & Malware
Computers are a part of everyday life. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you do, it’s likely that you will use a computer on a daily basis. Indeed, if you are reading this blog, then you are savvy enough to use a computer at it’s most simplest level.

Many people will talk about antivirus software, and most PC’s get bundled with a free 12 month free trial or less of some sort of antivirus software. However, a lot of people are scared into buying their antivirus at great cost, when (as with other software) there are free alternatives out there that will protect you.

New computers with Windows 8 and above on them have Microsoft Security Essentials on board, which antivirus developers regard as baseline protection. That is to say, it will give you basic protection against threats, but it is not as good as having a dedicated antivirus program by a third-party company.

What’s the difference between paid for and free antivirus? - Avast!
Usually there is very little difference between the paid for versions and the free versions of antivirus software. As the name suggests, the antivirus part of the program will protect you against virus definitions that are being released daily and is included as standard in free versions.

As an example for this guide, we will look at Avast! Antivirus and Spywareblaster. Avast! is available in a free version, plus various variants of paid-for versions. But what extra’s do the paid-for versions include?

Well, the free version has Intelligent Antivirus, Anti-malware protection plus the excellent web-reputation as standard, while the paid for versions have a SafeZone for payments, a Firewall, anti-spam for emails, plus options for having the software keep your computer programs up-to-date and enhanced data-shredding software. The last couple of items are not needed by the average person, but we will look at the paid for item that are not included with Avast! Antivirus Free.

SafeZone. This basically runs a web page in a safe place that acts like a virtual machine. This means that access to the secure web page is totally prevented from outside programs. It is in effect a walled garden that ensures safety when making secure payments and banking. For all intents and purposes, as long as you only visit a trusted website, have Avast! Free running and have the web-reputation plug-in enabled, you should be perfectly safe.

Firewall. Again, the paid for version of Avast! has a program that already exists on your PC. Windows firewall is perfectly sufficient in protecting outside programs reaching your PC. Make sure it is enabled (it is by default), and you will be safe.

Anti-Spam. Avast! offers a program to try and stop you receiving emails with potential phishing programs attached to them. Phishing is the art of obtaining information from the user by pretending to be someone they are not. For example, you could have an email that say’s it’s from your bank, and it is asking you to confirm your bank details. Never do this! Anti-Spam software stops these emails, however, email providers these days usually supply some kind of safeguard against phishing.

Of course, no amount of antivirus or malware protection will be 100% effective if the user is not also careful. There are some guidelines that I personally follow, and have always followed, that have ensured that I have not been hit by a virus in many years (yes! I learned in my naive early days the hard way!).

  1. Only visit websites that are tried and tested (rely on you web-reputation plug-in’s and your common sense!)
  2. Do not download programs off sites that are not the original source of the item you are downloading.
  3. Remember to uncheck any boxes that ask if you want to install any extra software when installing a program from the internet.
  4. Never turn your antivirus off!
  5. Most importantly, use common sense and don’t give any information to anyone that just asks for it!

In addition to Avast! Antivirus Free, the other recommended program to run alongside to add to your protection is SpywareBlaster. SpywareBlaster is a simple program that helps prevent software doing nasty things to your computer.

First of all, SpywareBlaster will prevent the installation of ActiveX-based Spyware and other potentially unwanted programs. Secondly it will block spying and tracking cookies from being used on your computer, while last but not least it will restrict the actions of potentially unwanted or dangerous websites.

While this sounds complicated, SpywareBlaster is a passive program that just works alongside your antivirus. It basically updates your web browser so that it blocks thousands of unwanted sites from installing ActiveX instructions and cookies onto your PC. It’s simple and effective!

Final Thoughts
There are numerous free antivirus software programs available, and I recommend Avast! Antivirus Free as the program of choice because not only is it effective against virus infections, but it is simple to setup and use, and has low demands on system resources.

SpywareBlaster is something that you must remember to update manually once a week or so, but again is simple to use and very effective. Again, this has been used for many years and as a result my PC’s have stayed virus and spyware free.

The most important thing to remember when trying to be safe on the internet is common sense. Make secure passwords, don’t give out information, don’t click on links simply because they ask you to, and stick to the websites that are tried and tested. Using the programs I have mentioned, and making sure Avast! Web-Reputation is available (this will tell you if a website is trustworthy in your search results), you should have years of safe surfing.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Making Google+ Work For You

It wasn’t too long ago that I wrote an article called “Where Google+ Is Going Wrong”, after a while on Google+ I was struggling to get followers and people interested in joining me on Google+, so I decided to take a different approach and see if that made a difference in my Google+ experience.

First of all, I have to tell you that I am heavily into Social Network sites, and I have been prolific on both Facebook and Twitter over the years. Twitter in particular was fun for a long time, until it just became a news-feed of people talking about themselves. Of course, with Facebook, that is made of of family and friends, and people who do not generally share the same interests as myself.

Google+ looked like something different, and after a bit of research, and studying how Google+ worked, the formula for success in getting friends and having interaction was very simple with these three simple steps;

  1. Interact with other peoples posts.
    1. It’s simple to click on +1 and show your appreciation
    2. A quick comment in the “Add a comment…” box is fun and rewarding.
    3. Share things you like by clicking the “Share” arrow, people like discovering new things.
  2. Add people who have similar interests.
    1. If people +1 a comment or photo, add them to your circles.
    2. If people comment on your post, reply to them and +1 them and then add them to your circles.
    3. If people share your posts, add them, because they are interested in what you do!
  3. Join “Communities” and repeat 1 & 2.
    1. Google+ has one big advantage over other Social Network sites, “Communities”, search for a subject you like, join the community, and share with people a subject you all have in common.
    2. Take all you’ve learned from all these steps and re-apply each time you visit Google+ and watch your followers grow.
    3. Go to step 1 and repeat adnauseum.

Google+ really is that simple to use, and the rewards are that you actually feel as if you are part of one huge, sometimes helpful, sometimes funny, but always relevant community of fellow Social Media fans who genuinely enjoy reading what you post on a day to day basis.

Google+ has everything going for it, it look stunning, is simple to use, has a load of different aspects to it such as Communities and excellent easy to use features. Google+ when used right is a powerful tool that can really help you stay in touch with friends, families and collegues.

Of course, for even more interaction, Google+ is connected directly to Google Hangouts, where you can have video calls with anyone you wish, or you can simply use Hangouts as a messenger service. The possibilities are endless, and the experience is priceless.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Sony ZX600 Headphone's Review

For the love of music
I love music, and everywhere I go I have music playing on my portable iPod or Mobile Device. Although I’d had a decent pair of headphones for a few years for home use, I’d only used good quality in-the-ear headphones for travelling. A time came when I needed over-the-ear headphones that would match my needs. The boxes that had to be ticked were first and foremost good sound, with a punchy bass, and clear mid and top ranges, plus good looks and a price that was affordable.

So over a few weeks, I spent much time doing numerous side-by-side sound test’s of different headphones. Thankfully, the local HMV has a gangway of 20 pairs of headphones all lined up, and with 3.5mm connections to attach your listening device (in my case this was a Samsung S3 with MP3 files ripped at 320kbps, and a wide variety of headphones from the very cheap (£15 Sony’s and Skullcandy’s) to the very expensive (£350 Beat’s Audio).

I listened to a variety of styles of music, from pop to rock, and even a bit of classical. I also listened at different volumes, and with my graphic equaliser on and off at various settings. My ideal headphones though would have sounded perfect with the equaliser turned off, giving off the qualities I wanted.

Specifications & Quality
There was one pair of headphones I kept coming back to, the Sony ZX600’s. With their 40mm neodymium drivers and 6Hz-25kHz frequency range, along with their stylishly good looks, these headphones sounded simply stunning with everything I threw at them.
The cheaper headphones, and even some of the more expensive models sometimes had not enough bass and way too much treble, while some of the more expensive headphones (and I’m pointing at you Dr Dre!) had way too much bass and an average mid and top end. The £60 Sony ZX600’s stood out because they had excellent sound at all range’s no matter what they played.
As can be seen in the photograph, the ZX600’s are good looking headphones, they are not too heavy, but have a good weight, while the ear-pads fit over the ears perfectly. The cable is of a thin and flat type, meaning that it does not get tangled when stored. The headphones themselves do not fold, although the ear-pieces can be turned to make the headphones fairly flat.

The Sony ZX600 headphones were put through some strict tests before buying, competing with headphones from all manufacturers, and all costs. Each time I kept going back to them, because on a price-per-performance level they outshone every other pair of headphones that I tried. Without telling a few people who I looked around the store with, I asked them to try the headphones, and they came up with the same conclusion.

Listening to the headphones in the home environment, especially when the room is dark, the headphones shine like no other headphones I’ve tried. They have great stereo-separation  with the music literally filling your brain, and the bass is thumpy without giving you a headache. As for the mid and high ends, you can hear every cymbal splash, every cow-bell and every guitar note plucked clean and crisp. Even on the go, they sound amazing, and when played at high volume, they do not let any sound escape, so you don’t annoy anyone around you.

Overall they’re an amazing buy, and are available from time to time on special offer, which ,ake them even better value!

Monday, 21 April 2014

The 5 Best Photo Editing Software Programs

People are taking photographs more and more these days, in no small part to the fact that their mobile devices such as phones and tablets now have very good quality camera’s built into them. For a lot of people though, there is a need to edit photographs, allowing you to perform things such as layers, or take objects out of the picture or simply change the colours to make them more vibrant, or even just black and white.

There are a wealth of options out there today, but this article looks at the five best free photo editing software programs that are out there today. Each one has been used extensively by myself, and each one has a reason why it has been used more or less than the other programs.

For many people, the holy-ground of photo editing and manipulation is the PhotoShop program. An expensive and complete package that many professionals use. However, there are other programs that professionals and nonprofessionals alike use which do the job without the overkill of PhotoShop. Some are simple to use, others very similar to PhotoShop, but all are free to use and do the job more than adequately.

GIMP 2.8
No photo editing list would be complete without GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) on the list, and for a good reason too. GIMP 2,8 is used by professional photographers more and more because of it’s free nature, it’s feature-packed options and the fact that it does things that PhotoShop doesn’t do, and with the addition of free-add-on’s, it forever getting better and more customisable.

To a lot of people the idea of a free program that is as good as PhotoShop is quite absurd, however GIMP is that program. As of GIMP 2.8, it now features a single-window mode, which means that it’s even more accessible to people without much knowledge of such packages, and it looks great too!

Feature-wise we’re talking major league programming here, with an infinitely customisable interface, rich photo-enhancing capabilities, multiple layers, advanced digital retouching, hardware-support for almost any device imaginable, a huge range of file formats that it can deal with and it’s available across Windows, Linux, Mac Operating Systems and more.

It’s a great program, with a lot to offer, although for many it has a lot of features that the average person will just never use (just like PhotoShop). GIMP has a high learning curve, and is ideal for people with a bit of a background in photo manipulation programs. It can’t be faulted, and it is updated on a regular basis meaning it always has the newest features fast.

PhotoFiltre 6
Although a little known program, PhotoFiltre is the go-to photo manipulation program for myself. It is available in a number of versions, catering for all levels of ability. Even the most basic version of PhotoFiltre though (version 6) is an absolute beast when it comes to helping you with your photo editing.

PhotoFiltre can be thought of as PhotoShop without all the crap that you don’t need, put nicely into a well designed package that allows you to edit photos quickly and effectively. It’s fast, well supported and will have your photo’s looking better after just a few minutes of use.

As for it’s features, PhotoFiltre is now slouch, as it has all that you need to edit your photos, with a great range of filters, selection tools, retouching tools, various brushes and paints to edit photos and the ability to add additional plug-in’s to the program to the things that you need. The more advanced versions also have layer support.

PhotoFiltre really is a great program, and one which deserves to be used a lot more by people. It’s available for Windows in various versions from the basic free-version, a more advanced free version and a paid versions, and there is also a Linux version which is currently in the works. Each of them is ideal for anyone interested in working with photographs and making them look even better.

Pixlr Editor
Unlike GIMP and PhotoFiltre, Pixlr Editor is a browser based photo editor that runs quite happily on any machine as long as your browser supports it. Pixlr Editor is quickly becoming my second-most go-to photo editor, as being in a browser, it’s quick to access and simple to use.

Compared to the previous offerings, Pixlr Editor is on a similar standing on what you can achieve with it, and as it’s browser based, it keeps getting updated itself, and you can edit your photos no matter what machine you are on, even if it normally struggles with photo editing software.

Pixlr Editor features a host of great editing features, with a great array of filters (including Vignette without having to add a plugin or add-on as you have to in some other programs), colour adjustments, layers and a wide selection of touch-up tools. There are not as many file options as in other editing programs, however the most common file formats are supported.

Pixlr Editor is quick and easy to use, and has some good quality features that are simple to use and give a good result. While it may not be as customisable as the others, it’s great to use when you want something done quickly and want a good result.

Where Paint.Net excels is it’s ability to be a middle ground for all of the above programs that have been mentioned. Paint.Net is like a combination of everything you love about GIMP, PhotoShop, Paint, PhotoFiltre and Pixlr Editor, lovingly packaged and quite simple to use.

Paint.Net has a great selection of tools to enable your photo’s to be edited quickly and simply. The designers of Paint.Net have tried to make the fasted photo editing software available, and to some extent, Paint.Net does feel fast, however, it’s all about preference, and for some reason I’ve never really got-on with Paint.Net as much as other software, that said, it’s a great program with a lot to offer.

Picasa 3.9
Google has this wonderful offering, a simple yet powerful photo editing software program that has some great results. Although it doesn’t have all the features of a GIMP 2.8 or PhotoFiltre 6, it does have some nice filters and simple cropping effects that allow you to make an effective looking picture very quickly.

Picasa 3.9 concentrates on the most popular filters, such as fading or colourising photo’s and adding vignette effects to them. As a stand alone program, Picasa will load in all the photos on your PC, thankfully there is the ability to hide any photo’s or albums that you do not wish to have in your editing list.

As mentioned, this is meant to be a quick fix for photographs, with minimal cropping tools, you won’t be able to copy and paste or crop to your hearts content, or even resize your photograph easily, however you will be able to get good results and send them quickly to a new folder or to Google+.

Picasa 3.9 is a good alternative program to have on your PC, and although not used as the main photo editing software on my PC, it is there for times when I want something done quickly and differently.

There is no one piece of photo editing software that everyone is going to like. Some people have different preferences for different programs mentioned in this list, while others will only ever use one piece of software.

If I was to recommend one of these photo editing programs, it would be PhotoFiltre. It is the easiest to use, and gives the best results, and once you’ve added all the plugin’s, it becomes a very powerful piece of software that you’ll find yourself using daily.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Installing Linux To Make An Old PC Better

You have an old PC or corrupt version of Windows...
Many people use their PCs and Laptops until the machine slows down to a halt and dies. This slow-down of machines is caused by many things, usually because the hardware can no longer keep up with the demands of modern software, plus a full hard-drive full of unused programs, viruses, Trojans and general age of the Operating System meaning it’s no longer a viable option.

You can of course go out and buy a new laptop (we’ll stick to laptop’s, as this is what the majority of people buy now, and everything applies to both them and PCs), although that will cost you a lot of money. There is another option which can bring even the oldest netbook (low-powered mini-laptop) back to life and alive and kicking. It’s a simple process, but one which many people are afraid of, because it involves that scary word “Linux”.

Do not be afraid of “Linux” though, as these days there are many versions around, and it is now a fully-fledged and tried-and-tested Operating System that is on the same level as the new Windows versions that are currently in use. The reality is, once the hard part has been done, and your old PC has a shiny new Operating System on it, you won’t even realise it’s not Windows! New versions of Linux are simple to use, intuitive, and run straight out of the box, usually bundled with a host of software, meaning that you don’t even have to download anything!

What are the best versions of Linux out there?
To make things as simple as possible, I will only look at three versions of Linux, each of them based on one particular type of Linux, but all very different. Don’t be afraid of the term “Linux”, it’s just the same as “Windows”, in that it’s just a shell that runs the programs you need.

My first choice is Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon Edition, the most complete and user-friendly version of Linux. Once installed, Windows users will be instantly familiar with the interface, it’s slick and modern, and looks very similar to Windows 7. It’s requirements for running  very low, at only 512MB of RAM, 5GB of hard-drive space, a graphics card capable of 800x600 resolution, and a CD or USB drive. Once installed, Mint runs smoothly, and really does have everything you need readily installed.

Secondly, for those wanting to experiment a bit more to play with, and a different experience, there’s Ubuntu 13.10 with it’s Unity interface. This Operating System looks a little different to a normal Windows set-up, but is again intuitive, and super-fast compared to Windows. Minimum requirements are a 700mhz processor, 512MB of RAM, 5GB hard-drive space, a graphics card capable of 1024x768 screen resolution and a CD or USB drive. Ubuntu is more for the power-user, but is a great replacement for those who want more.

My third option is Puppy Linux, which is ideal for those with a really old and low powered laptop or PC. System requirements for Puppy are only a 333mhz CPU, 64MB of RAM, minimal disk space and a graphics card that works! Puppy Linux looks like Windows, but is much faster and although basic compared to the other versions mentioned, it will resurrect your old netbook or Laptop and make it work in ways you never thought possible.

How do I install Linux onto my old machine?
The first thing you need to do is go to the downloads page of your select Linux and download the correct version of Linux for your machine. All this means is either the 32-bit or 64-bit version, which will usually be a .iso disk image file.

Once you've downloaded the .iso file, you need to burn it to a CD/DVD (you can use USB drives, Google for how to create an image with a USB drive). Simply click on the downloaded .iso file and the computer will burn the image of the Linux distribution that you want to CD or DVD.

Insert the newly burned CD/DVD into the machine you want to install Linux on, and for best results turn the off and then back on again. The CD/DVD will then begin to load, however, do not worry, as this will not usually install Linux on the machine, but give you a Live CD that let’s you use the machine as if Linux was installed onto it.

If you’re happy with the way your computer is working, simply click “Install” from the desktop, and follow the on-screen instructions. It’s that simple! After a short while, your old laptop or PC will be as good as new with your chosen version of Linux on it.

What next?
Have fun! If you've chosen Mint as an Operating System it’ll be instantly familiar to you, as will Puppy Linux. If you've installed Ubuntu, then don’t be afraid to experiment! Which ever Linux you have installed, visit the Store which can be found in the options, and start downloading programs! For the most part they are free, and depending on which version of Linux you installed, there will already be a selection of programs installed ready for you to run, such as Libre Office (to replace MS Office), Chrome or Firefox browser (to replace Internet Explorer), Gimp (to replace Photoshop) and so much more! They may have different names, but these programs do the same thing!

You’re machine with Linux freshly installed will be like a new machine. If you don’t like the version of Linux you have installed, simply put another version on there, although if you stick with Linux Mint 16 Cinnamon you shouldn't go far wrong to having the perfect computer, as it’s a stunning OS that’s leaps and bounds better than Windows. If you want to download your favourite WIndows program, there are many alternative in the Store on your new Linux. For most people though, just using the internet is all that a laptop or PC is needed for, so go ahead and surf!