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Nov 18 2011

Hands On: Graphite for Twitter

Adam Shear

For a while, the HP TouchPad has lacked a decent Twitter app.  Finally, one comes along in the form on Graphite for Twitter.  Check out the video above to see just how great this new app is and if you have an HP TouchPad and really use Twitter, I suggest paying the five dollars this app costs.


Mar 27 2011

Editing dual-screen wallpapers for bezel gap

Tim and Former TechFrom10 Team

When using a dual-screen setup, it’s hard to argue against the benefits and looks of a dual-screen wallpaper – panoramas of scenery or cities look particularly awesome. However there is always the issue that the bezel of your monitor presents: the wallpaper does not compensate for the gap between monitors.

Below we’ll show you how to create the illusion that there is part of the wallpaper behind the bezel gap, using Photoshop and the Hong Kong skyline.

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Feb 17 2011

Share your network via WiFi with Virtual Router

Tim and Former TechFrom10 Team

Sometimes there are times when you need a WiFi connection, when you don’t have a wireless router and you want to connect a mobile device or you simply want to extend the range of your router. If you have a wireless card in your computer and can run Virtual Router, you can very easily create one.

Virtual Router unfortunately is limited to Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 as it requires Windows 7′s Wireless Hosted Network technology, but nevertheless it is a very good piece of software if you have the required operating system. Below we will guide you through setting up and using the software to create some virtual WiFi access points.

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Dec 12 2009

Know the parts of your computer

Tim and Former TechFrom10 Team

When upgrading of building a new computer, it is essential that you know the what the critical parts of your computer are. We’ll go through each of the major components of a standard desktop computer and give you some info on what each part does and some tips for upgrading and buying.

Contents:

Motherboard
Memory
Processor
Graphics Card
Hard Drive
Optical Drive
Power Supply
Cases and Cooling

Motherboard

The motherboard is the main part of the computer; it joins every component together and runs the core software that enables the hardware to do tasks. The motherboard is also the largest part of the internals of the computer and come in many shapes and sizes; the most common being the ATX sized motherboard, like the Gigabyte GA-EX58-UD4P above.

On to the different parts of the motherboard:

1 – CPU Socket: This is the part of the motherboard where the processor (or CPU) goes. On Intel-based motherboards, the CPU socket contains pins for the CPU and a latch to keep it in place. On AMD motherboard, there are holes for the pins to go in, and again a latch-type arrangement keeps the CPU in place. On the Gigabyte motherboard above, there is an Intel LGA 1366 socket that fits Core i7 processors

2 – RAM Slots: These are the slots where you put the memory, or RAM. They feature a simple latch at each end to keep the RAM in place, and there are usually more than one on each motherboard. On the motherboard above, there are six DDR3 slots (see Memory below for more info).

3 – Northbridge: This is the place that contains the BIOS. BIOS (or Basic Input/Output System) is the core software of the motherboard that connects the main parts to each other and ensures that each part is working. How it works is complicated and there are different types of BIOS. This part of the motherboard plays a key part in overclocking as well.

4 – Southbridge: The southbridge controls storage devices on the motherboard, including the back IO ports, USB ports and hard drives/optical drives.

5 – PCIe 1x slot: Here is a slot where you can insert expansion cards such as WiFi cards and port expansion cards. Common on most new motherboards

6 – PCIe 4x slot: This is a less common PCI express port that is most commonly used for PCIe solid state drives. Generally PCIe 4x slots are found on high end motherboards and not on lower-end ones

7 – PCI slot: A very common port that accommodates a large range of expansion cards. Can be found on almost any motherboard made in the last 10 years

8 – PCIe 16x slot: Critical for graphics cards, the PCIe slot is found on most motherboards.

9 – SATA ports: These are the ports that you attach hard drives and optical drives too.

10 – IDE port: A port that is also used for hard and optical drives, however is less commonly used because it is old technology

11 – USB expansion ports: This is where you can attach your case’s front USB ports and other internal USB devices such as card readers

12 – Power port: Here is where you connect the power to your motherboard. On this motherboard there is a 24-pin main power connector as well as an 8 pin auxiliary power connector near the CPU socket

13 – Rear I/O ports: These are the rear ports found on the back of your case. Most commonly seen here are USB ports, Ethernet ports, 3.5mm jacks for audio, PS/2 ports for old keyboards and mice and occasionally FireWire, eSATA and others.

Memory

Memory, otherwise known as RAM (Random Access Memory) in the computing world, is one of the critical parts of the computer. RAM is different to flash memory because it is much faster in copying speeds and also always needs power to retain what it held in it. However, like flash memory, RAM has a storage amount which is usually measured in megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB).

RAM also have different specifications. These include the type of socket needed and speed. Generally used in current computers are DDR2 RAM and DDR3 RAM (for newer computers). The above RAM is some of Corsair’s XMS3 DDR3 RAM. Speeds are also measured in megahertz (MHz) like a processor and determine how fast you can copy to and from the RAM. The faster the better.

RAM is critical in applications as they copy parts of the application from the hard drive into the RAM when you load them to ensure that the application runs nice and smooth, as RAM is much faster than hard drives. Without RAM, your computer will not function. Be wary though: more RAM does not equate to a faster computer, it just means that applications can load more things into the RAM. More than around 8GB of RAM is pointless unless you run heaps of things at once; for upgrading you should focus more on getting high speed RAM rather than heaps of RAM.

Processor

The processor (sometimes called the CPU or Central Processing Unit) is the core computing part of the computer that handles most of the calculations of applications. The processor is most often the most complicated part of the computer, and the most expensive. Getting a good quality processor will make your computer overall faster, but there are different things you should look for.

CPU speeds are measured in different ways, the first being the speed, which is measured in megahertz (MHz) or gigahertz (GHz). This correlates to the amount of calculations the processor can do, per core, each second. Of course, the higher the better but there are other things as well to look for.

The second thing that determines speed is the amount of cores. Each core is essentially a different processor inside the processor. New processors come with more than one core, such as the Intel Core i5 above that comes with 4 cores. Each core has the same speed rating as mentioned above, eg it could be a quad-core at 2.66GHz – this means that each core can do calculations at 2.66GHz simultaneously. This can often confuse people; a 3GHz dual-core isn’t necessarily faster than a 2GHz quad-core even though each core on the dual-core can operate faster.

A processor also has a set on instructions embedded in them. This is how the processor handles calculations and differs from different ranges and different companies. An Intel Core i7 at 3GHz (4 cores) is faster than an AMD Phenom II X4 at 3GHz (4 cores) even though the have the same amount of cores and the same speeds; this is because the Core i7 handles calculations more efficiently than the Phenom II.

Of course there are other things that attribute to speed such as threads, cache, stepping, and others, but explaining how these things work is difficult and don’t mean as much as the cores, speed and instructions. It is advised that you look at reviews of processors to get an idea about which one is the best

Graphics Cards

Graphics cards, quite simply put, handle the graphics work in your computer including some parts of the user interface and 3D rendering for gaming and other applications. They have both a processor in them and memory (often called VRAM), however both operate differently to normal RAM and a CPU.

In your computer you will either have a dedicated graphics card (such as the ATI Radeon HD 5870 above) or onboard graphics. Onboard graphics is located on the motherboard (normally embedded in the northbridge) and tap into normal RAM instead of having their own VRAM. They are often slower than dedicated cards and are designed for basic graphics tasks such as rendering the user interface.

Dedicated graphics cards, however, are powerful and designed for 3D applications such as gaming, modelling and movie/photo editing. Different companies design their cards differently, however there are usually two main parts: the core and the memory. The memory is similar to RAM – it has a speed in MHz and a storage value in MB/GB and applications store 3D files ready to be rendered in there for quick access by the core.

The core is like a CPU and does all the calculations for rendering graphics. The speeds are measured in MHz usually and this refers to how many calculations they can do per second. However there are other things that help to make a graphics card faster, such as the bus interface, core config, fill rate and others, but these also are hard to explain and are best left to the experts.

Some graphics cards have two, completely separate GPUs (Graphics Processing Unit) and separate amounts of VRAM per GPU. You can achieve the same results from a multi-GPU card as putting two of the same graphics cards into your system. For more info on which cards are the best, check out our graphics card rankings list.

Hard Drive

The hard drive (or HDD for Hard Disk Drive) is the main storage component of your computer. All your files, operating system and applications are stored on here, and your computer won’t properly function without one. You can have multiple hard drives in your computer to store large amounts of files.

Hard drives aren’t the only form of storage – new to the computing scene recently are solid state drives (SSDs) which are much faster and more expensive than hard drives. Both HDDs and SSDs have storage measured in GB or TB; the more the better because the more files you can hold. HDDs and SSDs speeds are measured in MB/s and refers to how many MB you can copy to/from per second. Generally SSDs are much faster than HDDs because they have no moving parts.

You attach internal storage to your computer via SATA cables and to the SATA ports on both the hard drive and motherboard. There are different specifications for SATA that determine the max speeds the ports can transfer at, however most of the time the max speeds aren’t reached.

When looking for a hard drive the best thing to look for is how much they can hold, however you should take speeds into account too (which aren’t often stated on the box, so you’ll need to look at reviews for that).

Optical Drive

The optical drive is a non-critical part of the computer that reads optical media. Simply put: it’s your CD, DVD or Blu-ray drive. Optical drives go from the inside of your computer to the outside where you load the disc onto a tray. The optical drive then spins the disc and uses a laser to read the contents, or burn content to a blank disc. You don’t need one for your computer to work, but if you want to play your endless amounts of DVDs then it is advised you get one.

Power Supply

The power supply unit (PSU) powers everything in your computer. It has ports on it that plug into your motherboard, graphics card, hard drives, optical drives and fans. It is also arguably the most dangerous part because it converts power from the wall into proper amount for your computer, and has capacitors on the inside that store large amounts of charge.

PSUs are measure in watts (W), which determines the maximum amount of power they can push out. Obviously the more watts they can push out, the more things you can attach to your computer and the more powerful the parts can be.

When buying a PSU, be careful of dodgy, cheap brands. Cheap companies can make crappy PSUs that can overload components and fry them, or underload them causing your computer not to work. Buy a good quality, known brand that has a decent wattage and can push a large amount of amps (A) on the 12V rails (this will be specified on the box). This will ensure your computer will work for a long time and keep your components healthy

Cases and Cooling

The last parts we look at in our look into the parts of a computer is the most obvious: the case and cooling fans. There is more point to a case than just looking nice – your computer can function without a case but it would be a mess. Cases prevent the build up of dust and stop people from touching internal parts that might short circuit components or damage them.

However, you don’t really need such a flash looking case unless you want one. Most cases will do a fine job of protecting your parts and preventing dust. You might want to check out the ventilation though and make sure there are enough spots for fans and enough room for all your components.

Cooling, on the other hand, is important. Cheap fans are going to be loud and not very effective, and cheap heatsinks aren’t going to be the best at deferring heat. The stock fans that come with your case and components will probably do the job fine, however if you find them noisy or your components are running hot then it’s probably a good idea to look at aftermarket cooling.

Oh, and once in a while you should clean out your case to prevent dust build-up and to make sure everything is running in order.


Sep 10 2009

Using SpeedFan to monitor PC temperatures

Tim and Former TechFrom10 Team

This tutorial will show you how to monitor your computers temps using a great program called SpeedFan. I’ll also show you how to control your computer’s fans from SpeedFan and set them to change automatically. There are, of course, other programs that you can use to monitor temps, I just think that this one is easy to use.

For this tutorial you will need to download SpeedFan from HERE

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