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

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.

Characteristics
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.

Overall
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!

SpywareBlaster
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.