My new PC arrived, however …

Cube247 Scorpius ST10 PC

This afternoon my new PC arrived. The company had said that it would be here before 4:00 pm, and sure enough at 3:56 pm the delivery van pulled up outside and delivered five boxes of shiny new technology.

This evening I unpacked the boxes only to discover that I can’t connect both monitors. Here are the connectors that I have:

Monitor input

  1. VGA (D-Sub)
  2. DVI-D Single Link

Graphics card output (Asus GeForce 8800GT)

  1. DVD-I Dual Link
  2. DVD-I Dual Link
  3. HDTV-out

Cables

  1. VGA (D-Sub) to VGA (D-Sub)
  2. VGA (D-Sub) to VGA (D-Sub)

Converter

  1. VGA (D-Sub) to DVI-I (Bundled with Asus graphics card)

In other words I only have two VGA-to-VGA cables but no VGA outputs on the PC to plug them into. At most I can connect one monitor using the converter but then it won’t be a digital-to-digital connection, which I’m sure will be a faster, sexier connection.

I’ll get on the phone tomorrow to Cube 247 and try to resolve this. A simple oversight, I’m sure. You’d think that if they were selling a dual-monitor system then you’d be able to connect both monitors straight out of the box. Especially if you’re paying over a grand for it.

Update

Friday 25 January 2008

I had a look in graphics card manual after I’d posted this last night and discovered that it reckoned that the graphics card had

  1. VGA (D-Sub)
  2. DVD-I Dual Link
  3. HDTV-out

as well as the VGA-to-DVI converter. That offers one explain why I’m one connector down: the graphics card hardware has been changed but perhaps the PC manufacturer hadn’t fully realised this.

Update #2

I called Cube247 — it was a simple omission, and a second VGA-to-DVI converter will be posted out to me today. That is after all what I’ve paid for.

I’ve also ordered myself two new Belkin Pro DVI-D to DVI-D cables so that I get a better image. (I think that’s how it works!)

Update #3

The second VGA-to-DVI converter arrived the following morning, on Saturday. Great service from Cube247.

I’ve just ordered a new PC

Cube 247 Scorpius ST10

I still can’t quite believe it: I’ve just ordered myself a new PC from Cube247.

My current PC has been slowly dying over the last few months. Even after a complete reinstall it falls over during the most mundane of tasks: watching video online, ripping CDs to MP3, erm … checking the time.

It did it again this morning. I complained (again!). Lovely Jane turned to me and said “Just order a new one!” So I did.

Having been pricing it for the last couple of months, and doing a bit of digging around for the right spec, I decided in the end that convenience would take precedence over adventure and I’d just order a complete system rather than build and tweak it myself.

I’d been impressed with the reviews that Cube247 were getting and it turned out to be cheaper too (to buy rather than build) for the kind of spec that I wanted.

I wanted at least an Intel Core 2 Duo E6750, and the recent CPU group review in Custom PC magazine this month helped me to choose. The Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 scored second in the “Bangs per buck” category (E6750 was first), and 13th in the “Overall” category (E6750 was 17th).

Here’s what I’ve ordered, it’s based on the Cube247 Scorpius ST10:

  • Microsoft Windows XP Professional
  • Intel Core 4 Quad Q6600 Processor
  • 4096MB Corsair DDR II 667 Memory
  • 1000GB SATA II Seagate Data Storage – RAID Stripe
  • NEC 7170 Multi Format DVD/CD ReWriter
  • nVidia GeForce 8800 GT 512MB PCI Express Graphics Card
  • Creative Labs XFi Xtreme Gamer Sound Card
  • Asus P5B-E SLI Motherboard
  • 600w Silent PSU
  • Sony Floppy Disk Drive
  • DVD/CD ROM Drive
  • 2 x 19″ TFT 8ms Flat Panel Screens
  • Logitech Multimedia Keyboard
  • Logitech Optical Mouse
  • Creative Inspire 6100 5.1 Speaker System
  • 10/100/1000 Ethernet LAN
  • 12 x USB2 Ports
  • Firewire

That should be just enough bang-for-buck raw power to allow me to write a couple of websites, surf the ‘net and use Microsoft Word. What do you reckon? 😉

I might even be able to get in a full game of Minesweeper quite comfortably on that setup.

Quite a step up from my current AMD Athlon XP 2800+, 1 GB RAM, ATi Radeon X700. But as you can see from the spec above I’m sticking with Windows XP Professional for now.

It’s worth pointing out too that this is the first time in my desktop PC-buying experience that I’m going for an Intel/Nvidia combination of CPU/graphics card rather than AMD/ATi. Just goes to show that Intel and Nvidia are clearly ahead of the game right now.

All being well, it arrives on Thursday.

Pure One vs Evoke-1XT Marshall

Pure Evoke-1XT Marshall DAB radio and Pure One (pink) DAB radio

For Christmas the lovely Jane™ bought me the Pure Evoke-1XT Marshall DAB radio. How cool is she!

As many of you will know I also own a pink (Jane picked the colour) Pure One DAB radio. So I thought it would be quite fun to write up a comparison of the two.

One

Pure One

I’ve had this radio for over a year now, and I wouldn’t want to be without it. It’s simplicity itself to use.

Aesthetics

I’m actually glad we got the pink version as it looks more cool than the white, black or talkSport versions. More than half of the front is dedicated to the 3″ speaker, with the other ‘half’ hosting a 3-row LCD display and a large control knob surrounded by seven small buttons. The standby button switches the unit on and off.

The rear of the One gives access to battery compartment which accepts 6 x C batteries or the optional (and expensive) ChargePAK rechargable battery. There is also a mains power socket on the rear.

The right-hand side of the radio houses two ports: USB (for firmware updates) and a stereo 3.5mm headphone socket.

It has a lovely rounded feel and is really easy to carry about the house, particularly if you’re using the ChargePAK or batteries.

Sound

I mostly listen to BBC Radio 4 and Planet Rock on my DAB radio, and both sound great.

The 3″ speaker gives a good full sound that doesn’t distort even at full volume. I don’t know how loud it gets (in dB) but it’s certainly loud enough.

My only real criticism is that the volume has only 16 indexed positions, and when listening to the radio in bed at night 3 can sound too loud and 2 too quiet. A more fluid un-indexed volume control would have been better.

Features

The One has the following features:

  • DAB or FM (87.5 – 108 MHz) radio offering 20 customizable presets
  • Intellitext and textSCAN offering pauseable broadcast text; RDS for FM stations
  • 3-row LCD display showing signal strength, time, battery and volume strength, as well as customizable information
  • Clock with kitchen and sleep timers (I use the sleep timer a lot)
  • USB port for future updates
  • Mains or battery power supply

The sleep timer is good, but an alarm feature would be equally as useful. Perhaps in a future update?

Conclusion

All in all this is a great portable radio, with an impressive sound that you can take anywhere. The FM option is great for areas where there is no DAB coverage, or for use with your iPod’s iTrip FM transmitter. With the ChargePAK you can install it and forget about it – it charges automatically when you plug the radio into the mains. The ChargePAK gives about 20 hours of use.

One annoying thing, that I’d love Pure to update in a firmware upgrade, is that the display backlight goes out too quickly. The options are timed, on or off, with no control over how long “timed” is. It’s about 7 seconds, which just isn’t long enough to read scrolling text.

Evoke-1XT Marshall

Pure Evoke-1XT Marshall DAB radio

I’ve now had this radio for 12 days and I love it. Love it so much in fact that I’ve already bought the XT-1 Marshall Edition speaker extension giving it both stereo output and a richer, deeper bass experience.

Aesthetics

There is no doubt that the Evoke-1XT Marshall is the epitome of cool, drawing its design from the classic Marshall amps: black, white and gold with the legendary Marshall signature slapped across the custom-made 3″ speaker.

The gold control panel is home to a two-row LCD display, two Marshall control knobs: Volume (it really does go up to 11) and Tune, and 11 other buttons (6 presets, Autotune, Info, Menu, Timer and the red Standby button).

When you switch on the radio for the first time it automatically searches for stations and sets Preset 1 to Planet Rock, the UK’s leading digital rock station. There is a Planet Rock logo in the bottom right-hand corner of the radio.

Round the back you’ll find the aerial, a USB connector for firmware updates, a stereo out socket (3.5mm), stereo headphone socket (3.5mm) and aux speaker socket (also 3.5mm). You’ll also find the power input here too (9V DC).

Sound

It’s a Marshall – it sounds great! And with the XT-1 auxiliary speaker it sounds even better in stereo, and with a slightly punchier bass.

The volume knob goes up to 11 (“but why not just make 10 louder?!”) and even at that trouser-flapping level it still sounds pretty clear (if not pretty!).

The volume control is smooth, none of the indexed-nonsense of the One. You can set the volume exactly where you want it.

Features

In many ways the Evoke-1XT Marshall has fewer features than the One. The power supply is mains-only, with no option to run it off batteries or a ChargePAK. It can store only 6 stations rather than 20 (but then how many stations do you actually listen to regularly?), and doesn’t support FM (so put your iTrips away folks), and the red LCD display shows less information at once than the One.

While there is no sleep timer (a serious omission in my book) there is a kitchen timer (for those metalheads getting their rock cakes out of the oven, no doubt) and a proper alarm so that you can wake up to the pounding sounds of Planet Rock in the morning.

Conclusion

The Evoke-1XT Marshall isn’t as versatile as the One, but then it’s not designed to be. It’s a rocker’s radio, plain and simple, and as such it does its job very, very well.

But which is better?

Having to choose between these two is like having to choose your favourite child! They’re both great, but both very different.

I love the versatility and portability of the One. It just comes along with me, no questions asked. But the Evoke 1-XT Marshall just looks and sounds so cool.

Each have features that I’d like to share with the other. But in my opinion, what would make both radios much more attractive is the ability to record from the radio to your PC via the USB port. That would be excellent.

iPod Touch

iPhone and iPod Touch side-by-side

On Saturday I got the chance to check out the Apple iPod Touch at my friend D’s house in Edinburgh, and I have to say that overall I was impressed.

D really wanted me to see if I could connect it to his wireless broadband connection and with no manual, or recent experience of the Apple-style OS after a couple of attempts and about ten minutes fiddling about I managed to do it. Safari was up and running and happily browsing the world wide web, and the built-in YouTube application was particularly impressive. As was the “pinch” method for zooming into page content.

One of the things that took me longest to work out — and D had to show me this — was the hardware button beneath the screen which is used to go back. I just didn’t find this intuitive, I kept looking for an onscreen option to return to the previous screen.

Compared with the Windows Mobile 6 I found the iPod Touch interface to be a much slicker and responsive experience. I’d now quite like to try the iPhone just to compare it.

Anapod – transfer files to your iPod via Explorer

Black iPod

UPDATE: I’ve just created a step-by-step guide on how to install Anapod Explorer Universal Edition version 9.0.3. I hope that’s helpful to some folks.

ORIGINAL POST: Jane has an Apple iPod — it’s a fifth generation 30GB Video iPod — and while it’s all lovely and usable in its all-black designer chic look we have one major criticism of it: if you want to transfer files to and from it you have to use iTunes.

It’s not just that I don’t like iTunes; I object to being forced to use a particular piece of software to do something as simple as transfer a file from a PC to a peripheral.

Most other mainstream MP3 players let you drag-and-drop from Explorer so why doesn’t the iPod?!

Anapod Explorer

After a little detective work I discovered Anapod Explorer from Red Chair Software:

Anapod is the most advanced Windows iPod software available, offering iPod management through full Windows Explorer integration under My Computer

  • easy drag and drop iPod copy
  • iPod transfer and iPod backup
  • PDA function support
  • photo and video transfer
  • web page interface access to your iPod through a built-in web server
  • powerful search and reporting capabilities using a built-in SQL database

and much more, all in one compact package.

A great backup tool or iTunes alternative.

It sounded perfect, so I bought a copy and tried to install it.

Installer Expired

I double-clicked the installation file for version 9.0.3 (anapod_903_un.exe) and was presented with this rather disappointing error message:

Installer expired

The text reads:

This installer file has expired. Please return to our website at http://www.redchairsoftware.com to download the latest release.

If you are sure this is the latest release available, please contact us at [email protected] for assistance and give the following install code: JTJSBYHTAZIRBRHQAS

Well, I was sure that this was the latest release available. So I emailed Red Chair Software for assistance.

I then did a Google search and discovered that it was unlikely that I’d ever get a reply from Red Chair Software. Disappointing.

Installation work-around

However, I did discover that there is a work-around, but for that I’d have to visit the Expired Installer Assistance page (which strangely doesn’t seem to appear anywhere on the Red Chair Software support pages).

Expired Installer Assistance

This page told me that the problem was that the date was not set correctly on my computer. It told me that (foolishly) the date on my computer was set to “November 2007”.

“IT IS NOVEMBER 2007!” I shouted at the computer, in exasperation. Then I noticed the date at the top of the Red Chair Software page: November 15, 2007. “EVEN YOU AGREE THAT IT’S NOVEMBER 2007!” I screamed again.

I read the instructions.

  1. Correct the date/time on your computer.
  2. Double-click the installer file to run it again, but this time, hold down the SHIFT key while double-clicking.
  3. This will display a dialog box where you need to enter the following code: 082808363640364448

The installer will then continue as normal.

So I started to play around with the date and see which month it thought we were currently in. The website thought it was November, my PC thought it was November … the installer seemed to think that we were in August!

Finally installed

I got it to work by rolling the current date back exactly three months to 15 August 2007. With shift pressed I double-clicked the installation file, entered the 18-digit numeric code and Anapod at last began to install.

What a faff … which is a real shame because the application is great. We managed to manually update Jane’s iPod by dragging and dropping MP3 files to it via Windows Explorer. The way it should be.