The next best thing to an iPhone?

December 19, 2007

Samsung F700 open keyboard

For sometime I’ve been thinking about getting a smart phone. Mainly so I can read emails while out of the office, record my time spent at clients, get my todo list in order and then synchronise it all back with Outlook.

I was very tempted by the iPhone, but we use Vodafone network and the iPhone is only available on the O2 network in the UK. Another issue was the £269 price that I can’t really justify when other smart phones meet my requirements and are free with a contract.

Samsung F700 and its bits

Samsung F700

So I was very pleased when I first heard about the Samsung F700 back in October. It compares very well to other smart phones and some of the hype was dubbing it as iPhone killer. I consider a Blackberry, but lack of camera on some models just put me off. So I decided that my next phone would be Samsung when its released in December.


Before we go any further, here are other smart phones you might want to consider. I’ve order them based on a recent review in PC Pro magazine, top phone getting the best rating.

  1. Oranage HTC TyTN II
  2. RIM Blackberry 8820 & Oranage SPV E650
  3. RIM Blackberry Pearl 8120 & Samsung SGH-i600
  4. Palm Treo 500v, Nokia E61i and Toshiba Portege G900
  5. Nokia E90, Palm Treo 680 & Sony Ericsson P1i

Jason has a quick review on some of these phones.

Samsung F700

So December has come and I now have my Samsung. Here is my comparisons of the two phones, Apple iPhone and Samsung F700 (Samsung SCH-U940 in the USA, when released).

Advantages overs the iPhone

  • Faster to type – Pull out QWERTY keyboard
  • High speed internet via 3G network
  • Video capture, which is not available on the iPhone. Something that really hit home when I went to see Chemical Brothers last weekend and I wanted to record some of it.
  • 3 Megapixel camera with LED flash over the iPhone 2 Megapixel.
  • Java enabled
  • Video calling made possible with the additional front facing camera
  • Changeable battery
  • Expandable memory via microSD (1GB included with a regular SD converter)
  • Price, nothing with most contracts.

Disadvantages over the iPhone

  • User Interface is simply not as quick or easy to use as the iPhone, although after a week you get use to it. When you learn the shortcut keys via the keyboard, things do speed up.
  • Doesn’t have WiFi capabilities, real shame.
  • Slightly smaller screen, but only just
  • Smaller memory capacity, although you can now get 8GB microSD card, amazing!
  • Although you get a data lead cable, you don’t get a docking station, which would of been nice.
  • Email setup hasn’t been straight forward.

General Observations

  • The web browser is very good, resizing website’s like the iPhone does.
  • YouTube & Google Map apps pre-installed
  • MusicStation – £1.99 per week for unlimited music downloads
  • Haptic Feedback – Every time you tap on a button, the Samsung vibrates slightly. You can turn it off, but actually I missed it after a day and turned it back on.
  • Syncs with Outlook
  • Could do with two hard buttons to answer calls quicker and the ability to activate the camera from any menu would also be nice.
  • Can’t re-program the quick soft buttons.

samsung soft keypad

iPhone Killer?

So is it an iPhone Killer? No, the iPhone user interface is just too good. Which makes up for any downfalls in the specification department. I’m looking forward to seeing the specification of the iPhone 2, which is rumoured for next year along with a cut down version iPhone. On the subject of the iPhone, came across this interesting article below, which I certainly agree with for large businesses, but for small businesses the iPhone is fine.

10 Reasons Your IT Department Won’t Support the iPhone

Okay back to the Samsung, would I recommend it? Really depends on what you want it for. Just a phone, probably not. As a pure business phone, Blackberry still does it best. Music and camera, then Sony Ericsson range looks great. Next best thing to an iPhone, probably.

More pictures at our company flickr account…

Author: Support @ 9:00 am
Category: Hardware

Printers of the future

September 12, 2007


Some 25 years ago the first commercial laser printer cost $17,000. Today you can pick up a laser printer for as little as $200. So what would the same money today buy you?

Do you you remember the first computer printer you used? More than likely it was black and white dot matrix printer that deafened you as it printed. Then colour dot matrix printers appeared on the scene, followed shortly by inkjet printers, and If your business could afford one you had a laser printer.


Today we expect our printers to produce our documents in seconds and our photos to be of the highest quality. We’ve come along way from the days of slow, large and noisy monochrome printers of the 1980 and early 1990s. So what type of printer should we expect to be sitting in your office, school or at home in 5 to 10 years time? Here are a number of interesting technologies that show promise.

Inkless Printers and Reusable Paper


Back in the 1980’s the introduction of computers into mainstream business was herald the start of the paperless office. Today we couldn’t be further away from that concept, with businesses using more paper than ever. Companies such as Xerox have realised we are very unlikely to change our obsession for printing everything out and are investigating in more environmental and cheaper ways for use to print out information that is often binned at the end of the day.

Xerox is developing a new printing technology which does not require ink of any kind. The new technology includes reusable paper which can be printed and erased dozens of times and has the potential to revolutionize printing. Although the technology is still in the early stages of development, it has the potential to cut printing costs and reduce office paper usage dramatically.


Other companies such as Zink are looking at ways of integrating inkless printers into digital camera’s and mobile devices.

The company, a spin-off of Polaroid, says it will use the technology to make hand-held printers that can be integrated into mobile phones and digital cameras, with the first products available at the end of 2007. The key to creating the devices is doing away with ink, using a new type of digital printing that changes colour of paper when heat is applied.

3D Printers (rapid prototyping)


In the early 1980’s £20,000 would buy you a laser printer. Today you could buy a 3D colour printer that can print out physical objects. Yes physical objects! See Z Corp 3D colour printer in action in this short 3 minute video or clip from the popular CSI: New York using 3D printer to investigate a crime.

It is unlikely your business will purchase a professional 3D printer anytime soon. Although Fab at home is hoping to kick start a revolution in 3D printing at home by producing cheap self assembled printers for as little as a £1000. For more information check out video at YouTube.

Unlike commercial equipment, the Fab@Home machine is also designed to be used with more than one material. So far it has been tested with silicone, plaster, play-doh and even chocolate and icing. Different materials can also be used to make a single object – the control software prompts the user when to load new material into the machine.

 RepRap 3D Printer

Another company, RepRap wants to produce a 3D printer that replicate itself.  The idea being you can purchase the printer and then produce copies which you can sell on to drive down development and production costs.

Fad or the Future

So do you think these printers are just a fad, or will these printers become common place in businesses and homes within the next five years?

I’ll leave you with a quote in lasts month PC Plus magazine regarding 3D printers.

“If the Music industry think they had a problem with illegal downloads, wait until people start copying cars”

Author: Support @ 8:00 am

12 Ways to backup your data

August 8, 2007


Everyone knows backing up your documents and files is something we should do on a regular basis, but quite often this task gets pushed to the bottom of the todo list. You might already have a system in place but would it fail if your office was in a fire? When was the last time you checked your backup’s actually work?

Over the coming weeks I will cover a range of topics on backup solutions to make your life easier. This weeks post is about the various types of backup solutions currently available. 

Still not convinced you need to read this post? Check out the story behind the picture above!

  1. Online
    Online backup is quickly becoming the most popular form of backup for individuals and small businesses. A backup program constantly monitors your document and files. Any changes to these files are copied, compressed, encrypted and then uploaded to the backup solution provider via your internet connection. 
    Example :
  2. Local and Online
    One of the draw backs to online backup is what happens when you need to recovery all your data quickly. Even with 8MB broadband connection it can take well over an hour to download one gigabyte of data. Some companies provide you with a small backup machine that takes a local backup and then uploads. If your data is lost you can restore it from the backup box. If your server and the backup box are destroyed the service provider will send an engineer on site with a replacement box with a copy of your data that was last updated.
    Example :
  3. Backup Media

    Tape technology has been around for over 50 years and is still widest used form of backup for businesses. Although the initial outlay can be expensive, tape drives still offers the quickest and cheapest way to backup large amounts of data. Currently the largest capacity tape is around 800 GB, but if you need something bigger, a tape library system can combine a series of tapes to provide a massive 80TB (80,000 GB’s) of data. Tape backup solution also provides an easy and cheap way to archive large amounts data for legal requirements that many businesses face. A typical tape solution will start from £300 ($600) and with tapes cost anything from £5 ($10) upwards depending on the capacity.

    CD/DVD media are generally quicker and cheaper than tape technology. Although the average business will backup well over 8.5 GB capacity of DVD media can currently handle. Yeah you can span data over multiple CD/DVD’s but as I will mention next week, Keep it simple. You might want to consider DVD media for monthly archiving for a companies that utilise an online backup system.

    HD-DVD and Blu-Ray media is another option that offers up to 50 GB of storage, but until the technology matures I wouldn’t consider this viable backup solution just yet. |

  4. Peer to Peer, online backup 
    Another online backup solution is Peer to Peer or P2P technology. Your data is encrypted, compressed, split into many bits and then uploaded to multiple locations all over the world. You can backup as much data as you’d like, but for every megabyte you want to save you need to provide another ten megabytes of space on your local PC for other people’s backups. In principle your data is backed up ten times!
    Academic Paper :
  5. Peer to Peer, local backup
    Instead of your data being distributed all over the internet the same concept can be applied by using spare hard drive space available on your desktop machines within your business network. 
    Example :
  6. Backup Buddies 
    Similar concept to P2P backup, but instead of backing up to multiple anonymous locations, you and a friend backup each others data over the internet. Again your data is secured through encryption, compressed and transferred via your broadband connection. You can have more than one backup destination which can be a local PC, another PC over the internet or you can use solution providers servers.
    Example :
  7. Portable Storage 
    USB hard drives and keys are one of the most common forms of backup for individuals and small businesses. Most operating systems come with some type of backup software that allows you to automate the process.
  8. Internal Hard Disk
    Exactly the same as the portable storage but the hard drive is inside the computer. Such a solution can often be cheaper, offer greater speeds and can configured for disk mirroring (RAID technology).
  9. Network Attached Disk (NAS)
    NAS drive are very similar to your USB drive with the added advantage that they don’t require USB connection to your machine. Instead, you connect them to your network and set them up as a mapped network drive on your machine. All users of the network (Linux, Mac, Windows) can place data on this storage space. This type of storage offers small businesses an excellent backup solution. Prices start from as little £100 ($200) for 200GB capacity NAS drive.
  10. Storage Area Network (SAN)
    Similar system to to NAS drives aimed at backup Terabytes (1000’s GB) of data for large enterprises.
  11. Shadow Copy
    Some operating systems such as Windows Vista allow you to enable a feature called Shadow Copying. The system takes snapshots of your files when changes are made to them. This allows you can roll back to pervious version of a documents and files without the need to implement the recovery process from your backup solution. This should be in addition to your backup solution, not the backup solution!
  12. Offline Synchronisation
    The operating system takes a complete copy of all the files available on your shared network drive. When your away from the office or your file server is unavailable you can continue to working on your documents and files. When your network drive becomes available again your files are synchronise back to the file server. Again like the Shadow Copying this should be in addition to your backup solution.


Author: Support @ 8:00 am

Bootable CD to the rescue!

July 9, 2007


A couple of weeks ago I had some hard drive issues with a clients PC which stored the majority of their business data. Although backup was performed the night before, the hard drive failure occurred later on the next day. So it was essential to recover the days work from the failing hard drive. In this post I will mention a couple of strategies and tools that could aid the recovery of the data from the failing hard drive. It is also worth noting that a couple of these tools can help with lost passwords, boot up issues, spyware and viruses.

Don’t boot up!

Whenever face with a problem like this, you must avoid booting up your operating system (Windows, OSX etc) as extra disk activity will more than likely cause more damage to the hard drive. A bootable recovery CD will run a mini operating system which

Decision Time

You have two choices when it comes to recovering your data and fixing the machine. If your machine still manages to boot into the operating system you should try taking a complete snap shot of the failing hard drive onto a new hard drive. Swap the failing drive with the drive you just copied the files too and fingers crossed the Operating System will automatically repair itself, backup!

If your machine isn’t booting then you need to copy the files to a secondary drive (internal or external USB drive), insert a new hard drive, re-install the operating system, applications and data from fresh.

Shopping List

  • External USB Hard Drive
  • New hard drive
  • Operating System CD/DVD
  • Driver Disks
  • Applications
  • Recovery software
  • Blank CD’s
  • Time, luck and patience!



The important bit, Recovery Software

One CD all Windows/Linux people should have handy is the Ultimate Boot CD. This CD is packed with tools that can save your bacon and it’s free! The website has an extensive list on all these tools, but here are my recommendations…

  • HDClone – For copying the entire contents of the drive to a new hard drive, HDClone has a fairly easy interface and will continue to work even if there are errors existing on the hard drive.
  • G4U – Command line interface with options to recover data to a network resource such as FTP server, G4U can also be downloaded separately onto a floppy disk
  • Ranish Partition Manager – Copy, resize and edit disk partitions
  • Cute Partition Manager – Same as above
  • NDN – File recovery and editor

You can also check out UBCD which has a handful of useful tools such as…

  • Spyware
    • Ad Aware
    • Spy Bot
    • CWShredder
    • Hijack This
  • Virus removal
    • McAfee Stinger
    • ClamWin
  • Firefox, Notepage, PDF Viewer, Zip etc

Another windows recovery CD is BartPE which I’ve used successfully in the past to recover a Window Server machine. Both disks do require a copy of Windows CD and little bit of configuring, but if you have a spare hour, get one built ready for an emergency.

Apple People

The Ultimate Bootable CD might work with latest Intel Apple Macs, other wise check out the websites below…

Bootable Mac CD

How to create a bootable CD in Mac OS X 

How to Make a Bootable Emergency CD

Carbon Copy Clone

Professional Data Recovery Mac Utility

Remember, always Backup, Backup, Backup and Backup!


Author: Support @ 6:10 am

Trouble Shooting The Blue Screen of Death

June 27, 2007


There are crashes and then there’s The Blue Screen of Death. You may of experienced your PC running slow or a program crashing, but in the Windows 95/98 days the system suddenly halting and restart was a regular occurrence.

Fortunately since Windows 2000 this has become less of a common occurrence, or so it seemed. Working late last night at a client’s office on a handful of problems already, Windows Vista (Brand new machine, only a week old) decided to show me otherwise. While copying some vital files to the machine, it restarted windows. After a rebooting to the login screen, it then repeated the process of halting and restarted, nice!

So without having access to Windows how did I go about fixing this problem? Well here are the steps I tried…


1. Restart the machine and hope it was just one of those things, check out the event logs for more information. Make sure you backup just in case!

2. Write down as much information about the problem and do some research on the internet, of course on another PC! Things to write down and search for are Locale ID, filenames (ending in .SYS, .DLL, .VXD etc). Don’t waste time writing down Memory Address locations, your IT support won’t have a clue either.

image yes

image no

3. If you can get access to Windows, schedule a full disk scan on the hard drive. I have been successful with this in the past. If you cannot get access to Windows, try hitting the F8 key at system start up and select Windows Safe Mode. This runs the system with minimal resources, the screen may look smaller with less colour depth etc.


4. If you are running Windows Vista, try the repair mode under the F8 menu.


5. Still no luck, try removing any external devices such as printers and hard drives plugged into the PC. Reboot the machine and see if that works. If it did re-enable each device in turn until it stops working again. Find a new device driver for the hardware.


6. Along the same lines as above, while in safe mode disable the sound card, video card, modem etc in Device Manager. Reboot the machine and see if that works. If it did re-enable each device in turn until it stops working again. Find a new device driver for the hardware.

My Error

In my case, the error was mrxsmb20.sys file with locale id 2057, and the cause was the Realtek soundcard. Updating to the latest driver fixed the problem.


BSOD Humour

Author: Support @ 6:13 pm

10 Resources To Improve Your Wireless Network

June 7, 2007

Image from The IT Managers Journal – Check out Jason’s blog

If you live in a city with similar architecture that of Edinburgh, i.e. walls thick enough to stop cannon balls (and wireless signals), offices split between two floors. Then you may of had issues with your wireless network. What’s more old buildings where never designed with network cable in mind, so it’s more than likely your business will rely on wireless as the primary connection between your computers, servers and printers. 

Now I can’t write up a post on wireless networks without mentioning security. It still surprises me on the number of wireless networks that are open. I recently moved into a new flat where one of the neighbours named his open network after his business, left the default admin password for the wireless box and had his Windows XP firewall turned off! I called round secure it for him.

So from this post you should find tips on how to…

  • Increase the strength/range of your wireless network
  • How setup your wireless network
  • Add additional layers of security

Now you can throw money at the problem, wireless repeaters (repeats the signal), hi-gain antennas (bigger antennas), IT people and n-draft wireless routers (latest wireless technology) can solve most issues. Although, before you go down this route try out some of the tips below. I recommend trying out one tip at a time, test it with a program like Netstumbler (Mac macstumbler and Linux kismetwireless) which will give the strength of the signal (Signal to Noise Ratio) rather than guessing if it’s stronger!

1) Use a wired network

Easier said that done, but three reasons still use wired cable over wireless network. Security – You usually need physical access to your office, wireless you can stand outside the office and pick up the network. Speed –  Typically your wired network will always be faster, specially as Gigabyte equipment is more or less standard. Reliability – Your much less like to have networking issues in terms of strength, bandwidth and connectivity.

Three problems I’ve had with wireless networks…

1) Wireless network disappears causing the client to lose connectivity and then network reappears. ADSL router was randomly disconnecting from the local exchange and for some reason also affected the wireless network. I replace the filter and upgraded the firmware on the router.

2) Windows Domain and Wireless networks. We bought a batch of Toshiba laptops for client which would lose sight of the Domain Controller (Windows Server) during login and therefore default to local profile login. We fixed the problem with a tool from Intel called Intel® PROSet/Wireless, which made sure the laptop was connected to the wireless network before contacting the domain controller.

3) Another connectivity problem, this time Windows Vista client would connect for an hour or so and then drop off if there was no traffic between the network and PC. Upgraded the Windows driver for the network adapter, but eventually replace it with a new card. A temporary work around was to constantly ping the router, ping -t


2) 10 Tips for Extend the range and the strength of your wireless network 

Position your wireless router (or wireless access point) in a central location. When possible, place your wireless router in a central location in your home. If your wireless router is against an outside wall of your home, the signal will be weak on the other side of your home. Don’t worry if you can’t move your wireless router, because there are many other ways to improve your connection. Microsoft

3) Step-by-Step: Creating a Wireless Network

A business. You may need it all – speed for moving large documents around your network quickly, good range for providing access to users spread throughout several rooms or floors, and strong security to lock down your communications and prevent sensitive information from being compromised. Practically Networked

4) Five Steps to Better Security and Compatibility 

Do a Site Survey Potts likes to ask his customers this question, “Do you know where your wireless signal is?” Unless you know exactly how far your wireless network reaches, and in what directions it travels, chances are you’re leaking a Wi-Fi signal that anyone with a laptop and a Wi-Fi card – including hackers – can use for free. CWS Internet

5) 10 tips to increase wireless range 

Reduce wireless interference. Cordless phones, microwave ovens, and other wireless electronics in your home or office can interfere with your wireless network. To improve reception, look for cordless phones and other electronics that use the 5.8GHz or 900MHz frequencies. They won’t interfere. Daily Wireless

6) Securing Your Wireless Network 

Passwords on Your Router. You configure most routers using a Web browser. When connect to the router, you need to log in. Every router has a default password, like admin. As this article points out, most people don’t bother to change that password. Doing that is simple,

7) Optimize your wireless network give a complete guide from choosing the right gear to securing the network, all via short video’s. Cnet

8 ) 5 Minute Wireless Network Security for your Home

  1. Change the default password
  2. Disable unnecessary remote administration options
  3. Change the default SSID
  4. Disable SSID broadcast. The SSID is the name of your wireless network.
  5. Disable unnecessary remote administration options

9) Set up a home wireless network

As ever Life Hack provide a wealth of useful resources on this subject matter.

10) How To Secure A Wireless LAN (WLAN)

The old encryption standard Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) can be hacked within 30 seconds, no matter the complexity of the passphrase you use to protect it. Unfortunately, millions of Wifi users are still using WEP encryption technology to encrypt their information, despite the availability of the vastly superior WPA2 encryption standard. Daily Wireless

Author: Support @ 1:03 pm

Windows Coffee Table 1.0

May 30, 2007

I don’t often report on new hardware technologies because I leave this to the big boy such as Engadget and Gizmodo, plus fancy new toys are very unlikely to help the average small business.

Having said that, this new toy looks rather good. Although it will probably be another eBook or Tablet PC, simply far to expensive.

Credit to Zeus Jones

On completetly different note, I think YouTube needs to pull it’s finger out. Recently I’ve seen some fantastic flash based video players, like this one from Brightcove. Another one I’ve seen (forgotten it’s name!) allows you tag different stages of the video with comments etc, a bit like chapters on a DVD.


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Author: Support @ 8:29 pm