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.


Feel free to email me at:
MGAdams1970@gmail.com
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Also check out my 10 Quick Facts for more sites I run.

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, 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!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Life With A Chromebook (2014)

Back in October 2013 I looked at Chromebooks, and how easy it was to live with them. Since that original article, Chromebooks have been becoming more and more popular as companies increase their hardware power and people get used to the idea of working from within a web browser all of the time.


Chromebooks are a form of PC that run on a Linux variant called Google OS. This is Google’s own Operating System, which is basically no more than a Chrome web browser. They usually come with around 16GB to 32GB of onboard storage, a low end mobile-based processor (which is all it needs to be as it’s just a web browser), either 2GB or 4GB of RAM and various USB ports and SD card slots. Remember, as Chromebooks are based on using web technology, you will get a minimum of 15GB Google Drive web space from Google to upload your documents and file, although some special promotions mean you will get 100GB.


Chromebooks do not run Windows, however Windows isn’t the must-have system that it once was, and for the average user, anything that can be done on a Windows PC can be done on a Chromebook, but usually faster and more efficiently.


For a lot of people, trying to get their heads around a PC that is almost entirely a web browser based Operating System compared to the full Windows environment is daunting. Because they are so used to using Windows, they assume nothing else is as good. However good for Microsoft that may be, the plain truth of the matter is that Google’s Chromebooks are ideal for most of the people, most of the time. Unless you’re a serious power-user who uses dedicated software for business or a hard-core gamer who needs the latest graphics cards, Chromebooks could just be for you.


To put this into context, think about how often you are in a browser, whether you are on you’re on your PC, tablet or mobile device. The answer is going to be a hell of a lot of the time. When the internet goes down and you can’t access the internet, most people turn off their PC’s, because they rely on it to do whatever they are doing.


Chromebooks for the most part need to be always connected to the internet for their apps, although as time goes by more and more things can be done in offline mode. These day’s however, it doesn’t matter, as if your home or work internet stops working, a lot of people will then just se the data on their mobile devices. We consume the internet at an unbelievable rate, so why would you be afraid of using a laptop which needs to be on the internet to work?


Life with a Chromebook is 2014 is easier than ever, and the change from a Windows machine to a Chromebook should be simple. Chromebooks take less than a second to wake up from sleep mode, and under 10 seconds to wake up and be completely usable from being totally shut down. Screen quality on Chromebooks is getting better, as is the sound quality, while the styling of them means that you’ll own one of the best looking machines available.


Below is a comprehensive list of applications that replace the equivalent WIndows versions. For anyone who has used Chrome or Google’s launcher (which now installs when using Googles products on Windows machines), the Chromebook environment should simple to use and intuitive.


Document Handling - Google Documents
Word, Excel, Powerpoint are all at your fingertips, these can be opened in Google Docs. If you don’t have access to Microsoft's Office then you can just go ahead and use Documents, Spreadsheet, Presentation and more (more can be found in this article). The software has come on leaps and bounds over the last few months, and compatibility is hardly an issue. For the everyday user this suite will be more than enough to get the job done, and indeed, this blog is written and put together using Google Documents, as well as all my other writings of reviews and other websites etc.


What’s more, the documents sync to all your devices so you can start where you last finished off from any machine. This is probably the best part of Google Docs, in the event of a power-cut, or accidentally switching off the document you are writing, everything is saved in real-time, so you just switch back on and you are in exactly the same place as you left off!


Playing Music - Google Music
Google Play Music offers storage of 20,000 music tracks on their service. You simply sign up to the service and upload your albums (more can be found in this article). For me, Google Music has replaced iTunes, simply load up the player and your entire collection is at your fingertips. Adding music couldn’t be easier, and as your music is stored on the cloud, you can delete your hard-copies on your PC and stream everything, anywhere on your Chromebook, or any other device that is attached to the internet!


Keeping Dates - Google Calendar
For many people, a calendar or schedule application is a necessity in  life. Thankfully, Google Calendar is simple and powerful and can be used for all your scheduling needs. Never miss a birthday, or appointment again as notifications can come straight to your Chromebook, or synced mobile device.


Note Writing - Google Keep
Need to write a note? Google Keep is the perfect notebook, as you store notes on your Chromebook, they will automatically be synced with your mobile devices, meaning while doing your work on your Chromebook you can write a shopping list on Google Keep as you remember what you need, and then it will sync to your mobile device for you to view while you are out shopping. As with all other Google applications, Google Keep works seamlessly, so you can just get on with what you're doing while Google shares it to your other devices.


Drawing Programs - Sumo Paint
For most people, Microsoft’s paint is not quite enough, while Photoshop is too much. For many, Paint.net is a middle-ground, and this is where Sumo Paint comes in. It’s the equivalent to Paint.net, and is actually fairly powerful. It offers everything a drawing program should have, plus there are more advanced featured such as layers, enabling you be ever more creative. Sumo Paint is a great program, and one which once used, you’ll go back to on a regular basis as it really is that good.


Photo Editing - Pixlr Editor
Again, many people find something like Photoshop a bit too daunting to edit photographs, and as a Chromebook doesn’t run Photoshop there’s a good reason to use the wonderful Pixlr Editor. Once again everything is run in the browser, you load up your image and in front of you is a powerful User Interface giving you a wealth of options to make your photographs look better than ever.


Pixlr Editor comes with all the usual tweaks for colour, saturation and contrast plus it comes with a whole host of useful filters that really do work just as well as any off-line photo software. For that professional touch you can add vignette, HDR, blur effects and so much more. Layers are catered for too, so you can do colour splash effects easily. It can’t be underestimated just how powerful Pixlr Editor is, so much so that once used, you’ll never need to use another photo editor program again.


Video Editing - Pixorial Video
Although video editing on the Chromebook won’t be as swish or exciting as on a PC, things are moving along fast, and thanks to Pixorial Video Editor simple video editing can be done. Again, most people just want to do simple things with their videos, and Pixorial allows this with a selection of options to make your video look better than ever.


Video Calls - Hangouts
Google’s very own Hangouts is an exceptional piece of software, with a wealth of functions and the ability to chat to a group of friends using video chat. Chromebooks don’t run Skype, as Microsoft owns that technology, however don’t worry, because Hangouts is far superior in every way, its reliable, video calls are good quality, and very simple to use.


Browsing The Internet - Chrome
Finally, all this would not be possible without the ability to browse the internet in the first place. This is where Google’s Chrome excels as a web browser. Compared to the others, it’s fast, secure, has a wealth of add-ons, customisable and syncs with all your other Google devices. There are people who have their favorite browsers, however, you can’t go far wrong with Chrome, it’s the best of all the browsers out there at the moment, and has never let this writer down at any time.



Each day the Chrome store is seeing more and more alternatives, while existing programs are getting better with each new update. If I’ve missed something, or you know of alternatives, then why not let me know in the comments box.

Chromebooks are here to stay, and as technology moves on, there’s no doubting that one day they will be as popular as cheap Android Tablets are now. Microsoft are scared, and so they should be, as Chromebooks offer a real alternative to machines running Windows. They’re cheaper, start in seconds, and offer the complete package in one intuitive package.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Google Music

[This article was updated on 29 March 2014]

The world is relying more and more on The Cloud. The cloud is of course a whole bunch of servers where data from your PC is held remotely. These last couple of years have seen Cloud related applications used more than ever, and personally I use Dropbox for backup of all my photographs and videos, and Google Docs for everything else.


Google has another service that, quite simply, is mind blowing when you consider what it achieved with my music collection. To put things into context, I have 11,654 songs, equating to 484 albums stored on my 80GB iPod, which in turn is obviously stored in my iTunes library on my computer.


Connecting to Google Music


The first thing you have to do is open a Google Music account which will be tied to your Google account. You need a credit or debit card, but no money is taken off this card, and it’s just to verify that you have the one account as Google’s Music service offers so much.


Once you’ve joined, you then have to download the uploading client which will be used at all times in the future for you to upload your music to Google Music. Once you run the up-loader, it will ask you where your music library is stored and begin it’s search of your tracks. This is a brand new feature of uploading via the web browser instead of a dedicated client can be turned on in the Labs section of your settings.


The clever thing is that Google Music doesn't upload all your music, but instead points any albums you have that are on the Google Music server, thus eliminating hours and hours of uploading. Within a few minutes, 95% of my 11,654 were showing as being uploaded, however the final 5% took a while to upload, however these were very obscure albums. For the majority of people who buy standard music available anywhere, Google Music should not need to upload hardly any music.


That’s all there is to it. Now which ever device you sign into with your Google Music account will have access to the songs. On your PC, your internet browser will be the music player, in a very nice layout.


You’ll have options to “Listen Now”, “My Library”, “Instant Mixes” and of course “Shop” plus a few other options depending on your device. Using a Mobile Phone or tablet (either iOS or Android) gets a more simplified version, however the Android is very slick, while the iOS version is very basic.


Performance


On a PC. Google Music could easily replace iTunes as a music player as it’s slick, intuitive and streams without any hiccups. Prolonged play has proven that the web-player is very capable and ultra-quick to use when choosing and playing songs.


On an Android phone the experience is just as good, and in use out in the “wild” it proved capable of playing back good quality music while on the move on foot and in transport. Even with low signal areas where the likes of Spotify struggled, Google Music keeps on pouring out your music with no stutter or errors of any kind. The Android experience is very nice, with a great app that looks awesome and is very easy to use while on the move. The iOS app does the same job, however doesn't look half as good.


The mobile apps give the choice of streaming quality, with Low, Normal and High settings. In my test’s on transport and foot, streaming was seamless using the High setting, and the songs sounded pretty amazing. I have recently gotten an even better experience with a new pair of Sony ZX600 headphones, these showed the sound quality to be exceptional while on the move using high sound settings, with the equaliser turned off.


Overall


Google Music is the kind of service that once you've tried, you cannot live without. As my iPod is a fixture in the house now due to the fact that my phone does everything, having Google Music on it means I have all the songs without taking up any of the valuable room that so much music would take up.


Google Music allows you to upload 20,000 tracks, which for most people is a substantial amount that they will probably never reach. The web-player allows editing of track and album details should there be any mistake, plus album artwork can be amended. Less than 1% of my uploaded albums had errors in track, album or album artwork., however Google Music displays a picture of the artist taken from it’s records, and this can sometimes be wrong! It’s no big deal, and only a small percentage of the 1% of errors, and I’ll find a way of fixing these errors one day!

If you like music, have access to the internet at all times via WiFi or mobile data, then Google Music is a no brainer. It’s simple to use, performs exceptionally and can be accessed anywhere on any device. Awesome.