Welcome to the 488th issue of the PC Improvement News. PCIN consists mainly
of news highlights and tips. There is something for everyone, and if this is
your first issue, I'm sure there will be something for you. If you give me
two or three issues, I know that you will come back for more!
As I type this, my wife is doing Turbo Jam. She has tried all sorts of different "programs" over
the years and does a good job at staying in shape. If I tried anything like
that I'd would be flailing my arms all over the place. Not a pretty picture...
This crazy weather is continuing. We had snow and then rain. The slush froze,
and then it snowed again. January seemed so mild, but I guess February is making
up for it.
Some of the world's biggest computer firms have been accused of imposing
unfair contracts on customers who buy their software.
The National Consumer Council (NCC) has accused 17 firms, including Microsoft,
Adobe and Symantec, of using unfair "end user licence agreements" (EULAs).
The NCC has asked the Office of Fair Trading to launch an investigation.
The NCC said the firms' EULAs were misleading customers into "signing
away legal rights".
"Software rights-holders are shifting the legal burden on to consumers who
buy computer programmes, leaving them with less protection than when they buy
a cheap Biro," said Carl Belgrove of the NCC.
"Consumers can't have a clue what they're signing up to when some terms
and conditions run to 10 or more pages.
"There's a significant imbalance between the rights of the consumer and
the rights of the holder," he added.
Do you find yourself struggling to find the right words to fill the blank
Valentine's Day card that you just purchased? When the florists asks what
you'd like to say on the card with the bouquet, does an embarrassingly long
pause ensue? If you have ever found yourself facing writer's block, straining
to express your deepest, most romantic sentiments, Internet data indicates
that you are not alone.
While you're struggling to find the appropriate original inscription to convey
your feelings, however, Internet users across the U.S. are deciding not to
reinvent the wheel, searching instead for existing love poems, perhaps to
lift a few lines for expediency's sake. Starting the last week in January,
Internet searches for "love poems" begin their yearly climb toward
a spike in Valentine's Day week.
Toshiba said Tuesday it will no longer manufacture HD DVDs, effectively
ending the long-running battle with the rival Blu-ray for a dominant high-definition
Toshiba said it made the decision to cease developing, manufacturing, and
marketing HD DVDs after "recent major changes in the market." It
promised to continue offering support and service for all existing Toshiba
HD DVD products.
"We carefully assessed the long-term impact of continuing the so-called
'next-generation format war' and concluded that a swift decision will best help
the market develop," Toshiba President and Chief Executive Atsutoshi Nishida
said in a news release.
Magic hour is the first hour of sunlight after sunrise and the last hour of
sunlight before sunset. During this time the quality of light is softer, more
diffuse, producing more pleasing tonal transitions and shadows. The colour
of the light is much warmer during midday and the directional quality of the
light is a wonderful tool at enhancing texture. The soft light helps to prevent
the chance of blown out highlights as the typical tonal range from darks to
lights is smaller. The magic hour certainly does not always last one hour.
Depending on your location it could be much longer or much shorter.
Between the two options of shooting in the morning or shooting in the evening
magic hour periods, I believe that the morning provides better results. The
air is typically calmer. There is typically less particulate matter in the
air providing for clearer views. One of the other big factors in my preference
to photograph in the morning light as opposed to the evening light is there
are much fewer people around as sunrise to interfere with the photos. Most
people simply do not have a tendency to be up at 4:30 am to watch a sunrise.
I know I sure don't ...unless I am shooting!
Not to be overlooked either is the time before the sun rises and after the
sun sets. There continues to be wonderful light in the sky that is useful for
making beautiful images, so be sure not to put your camera away too early.
The digital photography tip of the week is written by
the PCIN Assistant Editor, Chris Empey. Chris is a long time photographer
and is currently the President of the Niagara
Falls Camera Club. You can see more of his photography at his Photo
of the Day website.
If you have a tip to send Chris, or a question about digital photography
he can address in the newsletter, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you've seen Vista in action, you know that it does have some pretty cool
looking icons. For the hard drives, it also has a nice bar graph showing
how much space is used/available. TechRepublic
has a tip on their Microsoft Windows Blog about how to get these icons
in Windows XP:
Vista Drive Icon is a free utility that will transform the drive icons
in Windows XP's My Computer into drive icons that resemble those in Vista's
Computer. Once installed, Vista Drive Icon will display a blue, glass-like
bar underneath the drive icon. If the drive is close to getting full, the
color changes to red.
This isn't very practical/important, but it is very cool. I was looking
for an ASCII version (all text) of a heart that I could use on Valentine's
Day and I came across Photo2Text.com.
It is a site that lets you upload a picture, and then it re-draws that picture
with ASCII characters. As a test, I uploaded a small version of this sunflower
that I use as my desktop wallpaper.
It then created this for me:
It looks great if you ask me. You have an option with the character set
to use. The sunflower was made using the maximum character set. As you reduce
the number of characters that can be used, the pictures don't look as good.
I had originally intended to do a comparison of several high-speed USB flash
drives. I contacted Apacer, SanDisk and Lexar,
but I only heard back from SanDisk.
This obviously makes it difficult to do a comparison. SanDisk sent
me a Cruzer® Contour™ 4GB USB
Flash Drive. As for a review, these sorts of things either work or they
don't. This one does. Here is a brief description of the drive, along with
a few pictures and test results.
The first thing you notice is that this is a very sharp looking drive. Everyone
I showed it too thought it was very cool and wanted to keep it. It has an
ingenious slider that pushes the USB connector out, and then tucks it away.
You pull back on the black side with your thumb. This exposes the USB connector.
You then push up and the connector comes up with it. When you are done using
the drive, you push up to cover the USB connector, and then when you pull
it back down, the USB connector gets tucked away again.
The drive is a U3-enabled drive, which means that you can run programs on
the drive that support this. The drive mounted without issue on several computers
that I tried it on. I also connected it to a computer that only had a USB
1.1 port, and the drive still worked fine. The transfer were just slower.
I performed a benchmark test with HD Tune 2.54. The minimum transfer rate
was 25.1 MB/sec; the maximum transfer rate was 27.9 MB/sec; the average transfer
rate was 25.7 MB/sec. The burst rate was 19.4 MB/sec. These number are all
in line with the speeds that SanDisk claims the drive achieves.
The drive is visually appealing. It doesn't look or feel like a cheap piece
of plastic. In fact the metal bottom of the drive gives it some weight that
some may appreciate, or some may dislike. The drive comes with some simple
instructions and a small cover/case for the drive. The drive is covered by
a lifetime warranty.
As I said in the beginning, the drive works, and it is fast. I didn't end
up with other devices to compare it to, but I would definitely say you can't
go wrong with this drive. I also appreciate the fact that SanDisk did
get back to me and was willing to send me the product to review. Others didn't
even respond, so the customer service at SanDisk should
be worth something as well.
PCIN is brought to you by Graham Wing. The opinions expressed are those of
the Editor, Graham Wing and the Assistant Editor, Chris Empey. Graham Wing
and Chris Empey accept no responsibility for the results obtained from trying
the tips in this newsletter.
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