Archive for the ‘how to’ Category

Get Going on VOIP for Home Use

February 5, 2010

VOIP was, for a very long time, something that we couldn’t get away from in tech media. It’s convenient, it can save you money, it’s not a total pain in the face to set up (something that can be true of traditional phone options), and it’s something that, for most people, hasn’t quite caught on as much as expected.

While a vast number of people have a Skype account and indeed, at any given time there seems to be anywhere between 15 and 25 million people actually logged in to the service, the fact is that there just doesn’t seem to be too much drive towards VOIP for general home use. Still, it’s worth considering, given the potential savings to be had, and especially with the existence of services like SkypeIn, which mean you’re still contactable at the same phone by others.

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How to: Games in 3D

January 27, 2010

Now that Avatar has pushed us into a world where 3D cinema is suddenly something we’re not only hearing about, but apparently going to see in droves, it seems like it might be a good time to talk about the options for anyone who wants to give gaming in 3D a go.

Left 4 Dead is just one of a surprising number of 3D capable games 🙂

It’s a relatively simple setup, but it does take a little trying to get there. Of course, there is a bit of getting your hands dirty with your registry, and you could do any amount of damage while you’re in there (and we can’t take any responsibility for that) but the payoff is that there are plenty of games out there already that you can play in 3D.

For those who might want to try it out, there are a couple of options. The first is to go for Nvidia’s 3D vision arrangement, which weighs in at €150.

The other is a little cheaper, but we’ll say right now that this one only works for Nvidia, so if you’re using an ATI card you’re a little out of luck, sadly. You could also have trouble is you’re using a 64-bit OS; we’ve only tested it on Vista 32bit, but there are plenty of people out there who claim to have it all running well under 64-bit.

This is a surprisingly old one, and it’s been floating around since early last year, but it’s a hack that people aren’t entirely aware of. The games that we’ve tried it for are just Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress 2, since those are the ones that we had access to while we were playing with our software that support it, but there are plenty of games that support 3D viewing, including Assassin’s Creed, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Resident Evil 5, and a bundle of others – including just about any game that runs on the source engine since Episode 2.

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Sub-€500 PC Competition Build

January 20, 2010

In December, we ran a competition on Boards.ie to see who could build us the most impressive PC without going over a budget of €500. When I asked if we could do an example post, Ryan had boasted before his first attempt that he could “easily” fit in a copy of Windows, but after several builds not quite affording a hard drive, he gave up on it.

Still, that wasn’t enough to deter Boards.ie member, and eventual competition winner, Orcrist666. As we’ve said above, the whole point of the competition was to build a PC for under €500, but this one goes a bit above and beyond…

We’ll take it from the top…

Power Supply:

Since this is a build that’s being put together on an absolutely minimal budget, it’s not going to be using a phenomenal amount of power.

Click through to see our page for the AXP power supply 🙂

Not using too much power means not having to spend a tremendous amount on a high wattage power supply. Orcrist666’s build uses a fairly simple 500W AXP power supply, which has been well reviewed by just about everyone who has bought it. It’s a little noisy at times, but overall it’s a solid piece of kit.

Considering the fact that the AXP Power Supply ATX weighs in at just €34.86, it’s not a bad old deal at all. A solid base for a budget machine.

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The sub-€1000 Core i3 Build

January 14, 2010

So, with the recent release of Intel’s latest line of processors, the Core i3 line, we’ve had an awful lot of requests from people hoping we’d put together a solid Core i3 build on a reasonable budget. I was going to ask Ryan from our RMA department about this, but then I remembered that every time I say the word “budget” he tries to fit as much as humanly possible into the build.

Instead, myself and the entirely more reasonably minded and generally stable Shelton sat down and went over the various bits and pieces we’d like to see in a Core i3 build with a vague budget of €1,000. We initially agreed to be a little loose with the budget, but Shelton decided to get strict when we were over by three cent…

Anyway, without any further delay, here’s the build we’ve come up with 🙂

CPU:

The CPU is what’s prompted this whole build, so we figured it might be best to make sure we got it out of the way as early as possible. It’s an Intel Core i3-540, which will probably say enough to those of you who’ve been keeping a close eye on it, but for those who haven’t bear with us.

Click through to check out our page on Intel's Core i3 🙂

The Core i3-540 is a dual core, socket 1156 processor with a 4MB L3 cache. It’s a solid arrangement, but for those who are interested in getting as much detail as possible, you’d do well to check out this (quite long winded) but very in-depth piece from XbitLabs, which goes into a tremendous amount of detail about Intel’s current processor line up.

Aside from all that, the Core i3-540 weighs in at €135.

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Windows 7 “Godmode” Only the Beginning

January 7, 2010

It seems that word that people are using the Windows 7 “GodMode” settings panel trick has reached right back to Microsoft, with the revelation that there are plenty of other similar shortcuts.

Cnet managed to score an interview with Microsoft’s Windows division president, Steven Sinofsky, who was fairly happy to talk about the recently uncovered GodMode tweak in some detail. According to Sinofsky, the aim with tweaks like GodMode is to provide easy access to a plethora of settings for developers who might conceivably need to test everything in as little time as possible.

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Installing Windows 7 an SSD

December 16, 2009

A while back, we wrote up a piece on installing Windows to a solid-state drive and the reasons why everyone should at least consider doing it for the speed boost you’ll get from it.

Windows Vista:

Back then, we went through a list of reasons why Windows users might be better off using Windows XP than Windows Vista when it came to installing to an SSD, not least of which the fact that Vista, well apart from the fact that a lot of people just didn’t enjoy using it, wasn’t really built for use with SSDs.

Thanks to the fact that Vista wasn’t really made for use with SSDs, users who did opt to throw an install of it onto an SSD ended up seeing less of a performance boost than they might otherwise have. Moreover, because of the way that Vista uses the disk (which seems always assumed to be a standard hard drive) the OS itself can decrease the lifetime of the drive. It’s not a dramatic difference, but it’s something that most should be aware of.

So, in short, installing Windows Vista to an SSD probably isn’t the best idea.

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Build Your Own – Gaming PC

December 2, 2009

Good afternoon all, hopefully everyone’s doing well now that we’re passed the halfway mark and now hurdling towards the weekend. Some of you might remember the piece we posted last week where we told Ryan to put together a PC build weighing in at under the €1,200 mark. We always get feedback on PC builds, so we’ve decided to run with it.

Ryan's gaming rig came in today - note the SSD & HDD combo 😉

When Ryan’s build went up, we asked the folks over at our Boards.ie Talk To Komplett forum to take a look at the build and see what they thought of it. After all, Ryan’s only Welsh, so surely we could get a decent home grown machine out of the charming Boards.ie constituents. Indeed, we got a few interesting builds, but we’ve decided to post the best of them here.

We won’t keep you waiting, so the without any delay we’ll tell you that the very impressive build we have here come from a man known to us only as Messerschmitt, and it turns out he’s a bit of a hero.

The Messerschmitt:

Messerschmitt’s build boasts some similarity to Ryan’s, at the very least, they both boast the same case. The Cooler Master HAF 922 is a relatively low-cost case with lots of space for cables, good airflow and it only looks a touch ungodly. Not much more to say about it than that really.

You can find the Cooler Master HAF 922 here, for the princely sum of €92. You can also check out the absolute raft of awards its won on the same page.

CPU:

Where Ryan went for an Intel Core i5 processor to keep costs down, Messerschmitt has instead opted to splash out, going for a Core i7 Quad. Ryan was of the opinion that if you were building on a budget Core i5 might suit your needs better, but clearly that’s not the way everyone flies.

Click through to see our page for the Core i7 Quad 🙂

Moreover, the addition of a Core i7 processor offers a nice bit of future-proofing, for those who are building a machine they’d like to see last a while, rather than one they’ll be upgrading continuously to pull more and more performance from. It’s also excellent to see that all of its reviews rate it at 5/5 with everyone seeming very pleased indeed.

At the moment, the Intel Core i7 Quad (i7-920) is €242, which is pretty hefty compared to Ryan’s Core i5, but fits very well into this build.

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Windows Apps on Apple Machines:

October 21, 2009

One of the things we tend to get a lot of questions about is from business/office users who are considering buying a MacBook or a MacBook Pro is just how easy or difficult it’s going to be to set up Windows on a Mac.

Apple's MacBook range is a popular choice for students and business users.

Apple's MacBook range is a popular choice for students and business users.

While Apple’s latest OS, Snow Leopard, does boast support for Microsoft Exchange, there are plenty of other reasons for Mac owners to want to have a working Windows install. For business users there is a practically limitless number of applications that you’ll want to have a Windows install handy for. While you could opt to run those in a VM, anything that’s going to be performance dependent would do better in a BootCamped Windows install.

Of course, for those who’ve opted to pick up a Mac and want to get some gaming done, there are options like Crossover Games, but they tend to be significantly less efficient than BootCamping it as well. From pretty much any angle where performance is involved you’ll find that people recommend you to go with BootCamp over a virtual machine, sensibly enough.

Boot Camp:

When BootCamp was first offered as a free download, Mac users desperate for some Windows action flocked to it. There were significant worries that BootCamp would be made a for-pay application with the launch of further OS updates, but fortunately that’s not been the case.

BootCamp is relatively easy to use, but it can certainly stand a bit of a walkthrough for the uninitiated, if only to point out that it’s not nearly as difficult as many imagine it might be, nor as risky. Essentially, when you open the Boot Camp Assistant you’ll be presented with a window that looks something like this:

The Boot Camp Assistant is fairly self-explanatory.

The Boot Camp Assistant is fairly self-explanatory.

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First Timers: Build Your Own PC

October 14, 2009

This is a guide specifically for those of you who’ve always wanted to put together your own PC, but never quite had the guts to get moving on it. This is basically a twelve-step guide that should cover just about everything you’ll encounter when you go to put together your own machine.

For the absolute beginner, the reasoning behind building your own machine is the wide range of customisation and upgrade options. You can pick and choose your own parts to ensure that your machine will do exactly what you need it to, without overspending.

We do offer kits, for those who like to go with bundles.

We do offer kits, for those who like to go with bundles.

Everyone wants something a bit different from their PC; big downloaders are going to want as much space as possible, gamers will want heavy-duty video cards. There are people for whom one or the other is enough, and some who’ll want both. You don’t need to go out and buy a “high performance” machine when you could just build a machine that performs where you need it to.

In the long run, you could save yourself a lot of money (unless you end up like those of us who get a bit obsessive about upgrading your machine). This is a simple enough twelve step program, like dealing with addiction, only you end up with a new machine out of the deal. Each step is described in detail, so you shouldn’t need too much else.

You can also read this article on the main page, with some instructive images, here 🙂

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Build Your Own – Gaming PC

August 12, 2009

When we asked people what they wanted to see next in our Build Your Own series, one of the responses we got from a surprising number of people was that they’d like to see a Build Your Own Gaming PC article that kept to a reasonable budget.

Building Your Own - Because not all gaming machines need to look like this...

Building Your Own - Because not all gaming machines need to look like this...

With that in mind, I asked Denis from our RMA department what he’d use to build a gaming machine that stayed as close as possible to a €1000 price limit. Actually, I first asked for a €100 limit, which was just confusing, but once we’d hashed out the typos we were ready to go. This is going to be a fairly straightforward article; we’ll list the parts we recommend and give some impression, where necessary, of why we’ve chosen them.

Asus P5Q Deluxe, P45, Socket-775:
Seeing as a system is always built around the mainboard, it’s where I tend to start when I outline a build. Naturally, if you want to deviate from our recommendations (which is where the fun of a DIY machine generally comes from) then you’ll have to make sure it’s compatible with all of the other bits and pieces.

Motherboard

There’s not too much to say about a board on its own, apart from the fact that it’s got support for Crossfire, should you decide to go that route. It can be a bit of a headache to get everything set up and working correctly, but once you have it up and running nicely, a decent Crossfire setup is something you can really take pride in.

You can check out the Asus P5Q Deluxe here. If you hit the page you can see that it’s won a raft of awards and Editor’s Choice picks, which is always good to see 🙂 It’ll set you back €137.50.

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