Acer c20 Pico Projector

The Acer c20 Pico Projector is about the same size as a modern SmartPhone but slighter thicker. It has a built-in battery so you can, in theory, use it without mains power. It comes with a charger and several cables/adapters to connect to various devices such as your laptop.

My initial idea was that it would be good to carry in place of a larger projector when doing small venue presentations, demonstrations or training. However I found that the connector to connect to a SmartPhone was an optional extra and when connected to a laptop the native resolution was less than the standard laptop screen so although the effective screen size was larger, the amount you could get on was less. I later found that better results were achievable if your laptop has an HDMI output in addition to the standard VGA output. However, in a normally lit office environment the image was also difficult to see clearly unless you beamed the image onto a screen close to the projector but this defeats the object and you may as well use a normal laptop screen or 19-21” TFT monitor.

Connecting the Acer c20 to a Freeview Recorder using a HDMI cable and mini-to-standard HDMI convertor (not included but not expensive) and dimming the room light levels and the c20 appears to have found a possible use. Probably not in an office but in a living room or more realistically a bedroom as a replacement for a flat panel TV.

With a flat, light coloured wall the images are clear and watchable without having to also acquire a projector screen. The HDMI feed from a HD device will give High Definition video quality up to 1080i. In my tests I mounted the projector onto a standard inexpensive camera tripod stand (<£10 from Lidl), fed a freeview HD signal from an AC-Ryan PVR and projected onto a flat wall 8ft away and achieved a watchable image with a diagonal image size of about 60”. The projector also comes with a built-in speaker and headphone/audio out socket.

The advantage of this over a TV or conventional protector is that is uses very little power (<10w), runs silently and gives you a 60” image for the same price as some much smaller TVs but takes up virtually no room.

On the down side I found that the projector did not run very long on battery so best to keep it on mains and you need to have a device such as a laptop or freeview/sky HD/DVD unit to feed it a signal as it has no built-in tuner.

I found the Acer c20 pico projector to be good, but maybe not for the original purpose intended. It takes very little time to setup, can be quickly focused using a manual focus wheel on the side although I did find that after the projector had been running for a while you had to refocus the image and the full image edge to edge/corner to corner – was not in full focus but to be fair I was probably pushing it at 8ft away and wasn’t too bothered that I was aiming exactly perpendicular to the wall.

Typical price is £160-180 online

Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300 Mobile Scanner

For a number of years I have used HP LaserJet All-in-Ones as my preferred office printer and for a similar number of years I have been saying to myself that I must scan all of my personal and business paperwork into an electronic form. One of the reasons the piles of paper got higher and less organised was that the HP scanner feature was single sided and slow. That’s ok if you have only written on one side of a 10 page document but, call me a Yorkshireman, there’s another side to write on.

One of my customers asked if I could get them a ScanSnap as it had been recommended to them. After unpacking and installing the ScanSnap and its software I was a fan and had to have one for my office too.  As the title says, the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300 is a mobile scanner. It’s small but not too small to compromise the task it is asked to do. The combination of the scanner and software allow you to scan both sides of the page with a single scan then save the pages as PDF, searchable PDF, JPG, load into Microsoft Word and numerous other formats.

I am now happily scanning as fast as I can to convert the mountain of paper and shelves of files into an electronic format which I can more easily access whenever and wherever I need along with ensuring it is backed up along with all of my other data.

The Fujitsu ScanSnap is fast, accurate and compact. If you are out and about on the road with your laptop then it can be powered from the USB port if you can’t find a mains point. The only hesitation to getting one of these for some people may be the price which is £200-250 which could make it more viable for business users who would quickly recoup the cost with the time saved scanning and accessing documentation.

HUMAX HDR-Fox T2 Freeview PVR

After a few years using a Topfield TF5810PVRt I have had to move on. I was going to say ‘sadly’ as the Topfield was great. It recorded two freeview channels at the same time, had excellent video quality and, importantly, a series link feature. Series link is brilliant as you can record a series and then sit down when you have time and run through the entire series and fast forward the advert breaks (and any boring bits). Unfortuantely the Topfield let me down when the hard drive failed with over 100 hours of unwatched programming. I replaced the hard drive but 6 months later and it’s gone again.

When it failed the first time I started to investigate the alternatives and the Humax caught my eye. Now the Topfield has gone again I decided to retire it and go for the Humax.

Quickly unboxed it, glanced at the Quick Start guide, then plugged it in to all the connections that the Topfield had previously used but with one difference, the HUMAX has a network port. Powered up and 10 minutes later it’s automatically found the network (and internet) and tuned in all the Freeview channels.

First impressions – remote control & menu system easy to use and the image quality looks as good as the Topfield so far. Easy to add programmes to the recording schedule and also a nice ‘find’ feature to scan for programmes that are on later in the week.

As I’d missed a programme at the weekend that was on the BBC I pressed the ‘PC Portal’ button on the remote and then chose the BBC iPlayer icon. A few seconds later and the programme I was after started playing. I had to check twice though as the image quality was better than I’d expected.

Now I just have to wait for a few programmes to record and hope the HUMAX plays them back when I need them.

First major update for windows phone 7

From late 2010 there was talk of a pending update for the windows phone 7 that would give it features like copy and paste. Microsoft themselves did not start talking about it officially until around february 2011.

I can’t really say that I missed the lack of a copy and paste feature and had several other things on my priority list.

First reports of the update turned out to be a minor update to prepare windows phone 7 (WP7) devices for future updates. Some phones ‘bricked’ when this minor update was installed. Worryingly for me it appeared to be mainly Samsung Omnia 7 models that were affected and that’s my phone. I am not totally clear on the process but I believe that updates are passed from microsoft to the phone makers and phone service providers who then test them and the service provider tweaks it and releases it to their users. Orange , my provider, held back until a couple of weeks ago when the minor update appeared. of course I got all excited thinking it was the major update but anyway my phone updated ok.

Today the major update appeared and I applied that to my phone. It went on without any problems and I now have a feature that lets me select, copy and paste.

A quick look through the menus does not appear to show anything else new but maybe they are for later.

I am hoping for customised ring-tones as the default ones are driving me mad.
I am also hoping for the sync feature to include synchronising of Internet Explorer favourites. This is something I found the Apple iPhone 3G managed quite well.

I’ll post more in the coming days if I find anything as I use the WP7 with the update.

New website for tKnowIT at

Welcome to one of our new look websites. Over time the word ‘new’ will become pointless but until there is more content and structure to the site then it’s relevant.

The site uses WordPress. At the time of writing the main tKnowIT website uses a Joomla based Content Management System (CMS). After a great deal of thought I decided that the tKnowIT site should use Joomla rather than WordPress. Both have their advantages and disadvantages but I decided that Joomla would allow me to produce a website that met my requirements for appearance and structure and allowed me to upload new content easily. WordPress can do the same but it did not have the full structure and feature set I got from Joomla.

Both Joomla and WordPress do make life simpler than it used to be though. With a static website I needed to sit down at a specific machine with my web design software, Dreamweaver, and create new pages, menus and revisions and then republish the design. For a site with as much content as the website this became difficult to manage – and it became to easy to ‘put off’ updates. The site design was also redone at least once during its life as a static html based website. although CSS stylesheets, etc can make this process easier it consumes too much time for a large site.

I still think that static html based websites can work though. Search engines can easily read the page content and for start-ups and businesses with a need for only a few pages they’re a good starting point. I have noticed that dynamic websites can take a while to display the content if the platform or database server is not performing to a decent standard – resulting in slow page load times – which the search engines are not going to look favourably on.

So why a seperate site using WordPress for tKnowIT information. Well partly to see how new information can be delivered to search engines, social networking systems, etc but also to see how search engines feed on the information compared to something like Joomla. As WordPress is also more of a blogging tool then I am more inclined to enter random comments, opinions, mini-reviews of things I am trying out, etc.

Why so plain?

This entry is posted before I start to make changes to the default WordPress Appearance template.

In time this will be replaced by a new design that looks more like the other tKnowIT sites and materials.

Choosing your next laptop

Should you go for a PC or a laptop? Or even a netbook, tablet or all-in-one? This month I am going to cover laptops.

Many people are now choosing a laptop for home or work use rather than a conventional desktop or tower personal computer (PC). Laptops or notebooks are the more common names given to portable computers. Some vendors will call them laptops whilst others will call them notebooks.

In recent years their prices have fallen as manufacturing costs have fallen whilst at the same time their power and speed have risen. This means that laptops are now a sensible alternative to a PC in many cases.

With a laptop you have everything in one compact and portable box. Simply open the lid, turn it on and start typing and clicking away. For £400 – £500 you should get a good laptop running windows 7 and capable of surfing the internet, communicating your emails and performing typical office application tasks – and with enough horse-power to run the dreaded internet security software too. There are machines at lower prices but in my experience they tend to get exhausted more quickly and you start looking for that open window to throw it out of in a shorter time than something with a better specification.

In addition to the laptop itself you will need to add an Internet Security Suite and I recommend you choose a 12 month subscription service rather than one of the free anti-virus only alternatives. You may also need to purchase some Office software such as Microsoft Office, although you may decide to go with a decent free alternative such as OpenOffice. Some people prefer to also use a conventional mouse rather than the touch pad. If you already have a USB printer then you will more than like find this will be compatible with the laptop.

laptopSo why are some laptops much more expensive than £500? Well, as with cars, size, speed and features make a difference.

To help narrow down your search there are a few things to consider.
First narrow down your search to either Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows Professional. You only need the latter if you plan to connect the laptop to a network which provides server based services. Then you need to decide if 32-bit or 64-bit is important. 64-bit windows 7 will allow you to have more than 3GB RAM memory but if you have a lot of existing software you wish to reuse on the new machine then it may not run on the 64-bit version.

RAM? 2GB as a minimum and 3GB if you choose the 32 bit edition of windows 7. 3GB or more if you go for windows 7 64-bit and can afford it.

Do you need a keyboard that includes a number keypad. If so then that’s another narrowing of the choices.

The next decision is about screen size. Laptops range in size from about 11” to 21”. Below 11” and it’s technically a NetBook, above 19” – I’d say you need to think again or buy a suitcase with wheels on. The decision is typically between 15” or 17”. You should also consider the screen resolution – in addition to size there is a resolution to each screen; the higher the resolution the more you can fit on the screen without having to scroll up/down-left/right – but you may have to squint to see it.

If you plan to play fast moving games, work in CAD or publishing packages then a machine with dedicated graphics is preferred and in some case essential. Typically a laptop (and even PC) will utilise a part of the ‘shared’ memory of your system. i.e. it will eat into the 3GB of system RAM if you have 3GB RAM. If you choose one with a dedicated graphics capability it will indicate this and quote how much dedicated RAM it has. It is also likely to have a more powerful graphics processor in additional to the system processor.

Narrowing down the machines based on main processor is more difficult. Selecting from the Intel range only there are numerous models. The new ranges are identified as core i3, i5 or i7. Each offers more performance at greater cost. At the moment I’d say a core i3 will suit most common users and a core i5 for those who need lots of windows and programs all running at the same time all day long.
There are also older processors such as the core2duo which will do a great job and the Pentium DualCore which will suffice for general internet/email users with a little word processing and spreadsheeting to do.

Battery life may also be important to you. How long do you need it to run when away from a mains supply? The newer processors improve battery use times but manufacturers may then fit a smaller cheaper battery with less run time to keep costs down. 3 hours+ should be appropriate for most.

Which brand is best? Difficult to answer. Many people will only comment on their dissatisfaction with a particular machine rather than sing it’s praises and recommend it to others. Over the years I have sold and/or setup numerous brands for home and business purposes and I tend to find that specification helps a great deal. In no particular order HP/Compaq, Lenovo, Samsung, Acer, Sony and Dell have all proved to run well for several years with the odd glitch here and there.

And what about Apple? The Macbooks run a different operating system. Some say this is a good thing. People who use Macs and Macbooks tend to have more affection for them than a windows based machine user – in my experience.
In business circles those in the publishing and design industries tend to swear by them. On the other hand it may be more difficult to find the range of programs and games you are familiar with on your windows machine. However a Mac is ‘currently’ less likely to be infected with Malware and you can surf the web, communicate emails, play games and write documents. You are limited to one brand, Apple, and the prices tend to be high but the specifications reflect this.

Internet attacks: Reducing the risks

Sadly the war against computer infections is not showing any sign of an end – if anything attacks are increasing in both volume and complexity. Malicious software, more commonly termed Malware, comes in many guises and is no longer simply a ‘virus’ which most people term the infection on their computers. Trojans, worms, bots and various other names describe more accurately how the infection gets into the computer and what it then does once it has made itself comfortable. The latest ‘breed’ of infections tends to be a mix of several elements to maximise their effectiveness to spread, do damage to systems, and elude detection & removal.

Most people who use computers for work and pleasure don’t care what they are called, how they work and just want rid of them. The two big questions I get asked ask are ‘Why do they do it?’ and ‘How do we stop them infecting my computer?’

The answer to the first question is money. In the past it could be said that it was down to kids competing to hack into a company for ‘bragging rights’ or to find free stuff (checkout Hollywood films ‘Hackers’ and ‘War Games’). Now it is generally criminal enterprises and, if the media is to be believed, state sponsored.

The second question is more difficult to answer. In the past an anti-virus program with a monthly update was enough but now full-blown internet security suites with, in some cases, hourly updates are recommended. Certainly I recommend you ensure you have an internet security suite, preferably a paid-for rather than free edition, and it should include anti-virus, firewall, anti-spyware and hopefully features to block spam and phishing attacks.

Some of the newer techniques do reduce your risks of getting your computer infected and do minimise the number of ‘pop-up’ screens asking for your advice about what to do about a file attempting to access the internet which has a cryptic name and no further information to help you decide. But that’s the problem it’s asking for your help and if the kids are driving the computer then they just click yes to anything because they know it reduces the risk of things getting blocked that they are trying to download, install or run.

So, what else can you do?

  1. Make sure your internet security suite features are running and up-to-date.
    (some products now give a traffic light style status with green as good)
  2. Make sure your operating system, is up-to-date, the auto-update system is running and is updating without errors.
  3. Apply updates to any programs you have installed such as MS Office, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Adobe Flash Player and Java.
    (Many people ignore the messages indicating there are java updates or adobe updates. If they come from an icon in the bottom right of your taskbar (MS windows) then they can generally be trusted. If you receive an email suggestion there are updates and to click a link then steer clear. Applying updates to Java and Adobe products is particularly important at the moment as many attacks are now exploiting ‘vulnerabilities’ or security weaknesses in these products to launch an attack on your system.)
  4. Don’t open emails from unknown senders. If you have to then try to determine if any links look safe –they could be phishing attacks. Hovering over a link in the email that promises to take you to your bank login site will typically display the real ‘URL’ for that link which will have no association with your banks normal website. The other thing to remember is that most banks never send you a link that will ask you to click it to update your details. If they suggest you have to check your details then go directly to the normal login site with your browser instead.
  5. Use caution when using social websites like Facebook and MySpace. Numerous attacks are now exploiting these sites to publish false links on your friend’s wall, page, etc. It may claim to be from a friend with the promise of a funny photo or video clip when you click it. Suspect it if your security software starts alarming you, suspect it if it takes longer than expected before anything happens and immediately run a security scan if it claims to need to download a new program or codec to be able to display or play the file.

If you are an Apple Mac or Linux user then sadly the time when you could say you weren’t a PC so they couldn’t infect you is coming to an end. The security firms are increasing the chatter related to attacks that can affect these systems too.

SmartPhone users – watch out for the ‘dodgy dialers’ that plagued computer users in the bad old days of dial-up internet. Some SmartPhone operating systems have been hacked allowing the attacker to make the phone dial premium rate numbers. 

The important thing is not to panic though. Make sure you have done all you can but if your system does get infected then take action to have it cleaned as soon as possible and quarantine any emailing, memory sticks, external hard drives, etc. until you have the green light.


E-Mail Tips: keeping your mailbox safe and tidy

Last month I discussed changing your email address to one that was independent of your ISP. This month I will hopefully give you some useful tips on how to keep your mailbox clean and free of spam.

Create folders to store emails from the same category. Read an email and then either delete it or move it to the appropriate folder.
Depending upon the email program you are using you may also be able to set rules or filters which will automatically move emails from certain people or organisations into a specific folder.

Regularly empty your Bin and never use it as a folder to store files that you’ve read but may wish to refer to later – some people do this and wonder where their emails went if they run a PC clean-up utility.

Think twice before opening an email from an address you do not recognise. Look at the address and also the summary/subject field to help you decide if it looks like a legitimate email. E-mails offering free gifts are generally not genuine. If in doubt – delete!

If you have a junk folder or spam filtering service then use caution when checking the contents of these folders – but do check them as genuine emails may fail some of the tests and get deposited there. Use whitelists to make your filtering service bypass the normal checks for people you know well and, more importantly, trust.

Be careful when trying to remove yourself from a mailing list. Lawful mailing lists will have simple instructions that will remove you from their systems but the dodgy ones may take this as a confirmation that your address is live and start sending you more unsolicited email and share (or even sell) your address with others. The easiest way to avoid problems is to use a mailbox rule or add the address to the spam filtering services blacklist so they always disappear from your main inbox view.

Turn off the reading pane or preview pane. Just like opening an infected email can lead to an infected machine, so can having these turned on make it easier for an infection to enter your computer.

Create a disposable email address. Even if you have a web-based email address with google, yahoo or Hotmail it can be useful to have a second address that you can enter on websites that are likely to then deluge you with emails that you don’t really want to receive. Keeping it as a web-based address also reduces the risk of downloading an infected or boobie-trapped email to your computer.

Never reply to unsolicited emails. Simply delete them. They are generally from automated systems and if you reply then you are only confirming that your email address is live and they can send you more rubbish and pass on your details to others.

Moving away from your reliance on ISP Email services

A fair number of people I encounter feel that they are unable to move to an alternative Internet Service Provider (ISP) because they will lose their e-mail address. You may want to move to another ISP for better service, a better price, a better package including phone calls, along with numerous other reasons.

The best way to minimise your dependence on a specific ISP is to create an independent email account (or accounts). This could be a Google, yahoo or hotmail address which you can create and use for free and can be accessed through webmail or through your computer’s email client program. The other way to obtain an independent email account is to register your own domain name. For example, or These can cost you less than 20GBP a year with email accounts included.

Once you have created your new email address you should send everyone (you wish to keep in touch with) an email from this account asking them to use this address in future. You will also need to go through all your mailing list subscriptions to ensure you still get your special offers from the supermarkets and money saving tips from the likes of

Within a month or so you should find that everyone you want to keep in touch with have got the message and are corresponding via your new email address. The only things arriving in your ISP provided mail box will be spam emails, phishing attacks from your bank -that you have never had an account with, and your ISPs bill.

At this point you should feel more independent and more confident to move to another ISP offering you a service that meets your needs and pocket.