June 15, 2013

History of Cellular Telephony

History of Cellular Telephony

1947 Bell Laboratories introduced the idea of cellular communications with the police car technology.
1947 The basic concept of cellular phones began, when researchers looked at crude mobile (car) phones and realized that by using small cells (range of service area) with frequency reuse they could increase the traffic capacity of mobile phones substantially. However at that time, the technology to do so was nonexistent.
1947 AT&T  proposed that the FCC allocate a large number of radio-spectrum frequencies so that widespread mobile telephone service would become feasible.
1947 The FCC decided to limit the amount of frequencies available, the limits made only twenty-three phone conversations possible simultaneously in the same service area.
1968 AT&T and Bell Labs proposed a cellular system to the FCC of many small, low-powered, broadcast towers, each covering a 'cell' a few miles in radius and collectively covering a larger area. Each tower would use only a few of the total frequencies allocated to the system. As the phones traveled across the area, calls would be passed from tower to tower.
1968 The FCC reconsidered its position by stating "if the technology to build a better mobile service works, we will increase the frequencies allocation, freeing the airwaves for more mobile phones."
1973 (April) The first call on a portable cell phone is made by Dr Martin Cooper, a former general manager for the systems division at Motorola, who is also considered the inventor of the first modern portable handset.
1977 AT&T and Bell Labs had constructed a prototype cellular system. A year later, public trials of the new system were started in Chicago with over 2000 trial customers.
1979 The first commercial cellular telephone system began operation in Tokyo.
1980 Analog cellular telephone systems were experiencing rapid growth in Europe, particularly in Scandinavia, United Kingdom, France and Germany. Each country developed its own system, which was incompatible with everyone else's in equipment and operation
1981 Motorola and American Radio telephone started a second U.S. cellular radio-telephone system test in the Washington/Baltimore area.
1982 FCC authorizes commercial cellular service for the USA.
1982 The Conference of European Posts and Telegraphs (CEPT) formed a study group called the Groupe Sp├ęcial Mobile (GSM) to study and develop a pan-European public land mobile system.  The proposed system had to meet certain criteria:
  • Good subjective speech quality
  • Low terminal and service cost
  • Support for international roaming
  • Ability to support handheld terminals
  • Support for range of new services and facilities
  • Spectral efficiency
  • ISDN compatibility
1983 The first American commercial analog cellular service or AMPS (Advanced Mobile Phone Service) was made available in Chicago by Ameritech.
1987 Cellular telephone subscribers exceeded one million and the airways were crowded.
1989 GSM responsibility was transferred to the European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI),
1990 Phase I of the GSM specifications were published.
1991 Commercial launch of cellular service based on GSM standard in Finland.

Best Mobile Phones

HTC One rocket to the top spot, ahead of the ageing Samsung Galaxy S3. But now we've got the Samsung Galaxy S4 to shake things up, trying to claw its way to the top ahead of the likes of the supercheap but powerful Google Nexus 4 by LG? Or you could just sack off the new phones and plump for last year's Samsung Galaxy S3 - it's still good, you know.
But we probably shouldn't forget the Apple iPhone 5 as a viable option, and while the Nokia Lumia 900 used to be top dog in the Windows Phone 7 game, it's the Nokia Lumia 920 that's flying the flag for Windows Phone 8.
If that still doesn't help, well, there's always our extensive mobile phone reviews pages as well - or check out our personally crafted smartphone buyer's guide:
And when you've decided which new phone to buy (and checked out the best mobile phone deal), why not cash in your old one with our phone recycling price comparison service?
Here are our rankings for the best mobile phones around, currently available in the UK.

Most Anticipated PC Games

It's an exciting year for gamers -- not just because the industry has whipped up an appetizing menu of fresh releases, but because we're approaching the next console generation, which will inevitably come with interesting new software projects, and many of them are bound to hit PC. Assuming Microsoft and/or Sony ship their updated hardware by the holidays, we could see some major launch titles shown at E3 in June, which might render our collection of 35 games (and 10 bonus mentions we're lukewarm about) incomplete.
And with that, we need to smack you with this obvious disclaimer: many interesting upcoming titles were excluded from our list, which is admittedly subjective and impossible to complete without adding everything due in 2013, but that would totally defeat the purpose of a "most anticipated" compilation. As always, you're more than welcome (encouraged, even) to hit the comments and tell us what we've missed and why you think it's important -- just make sure it's a PC game coming out in 2013 or be ready to take your lumps.
Title Genre Release
Aliens: Colonial Marines Sci-fi/horror first-person shooter February 12, 2013
Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs Survival horror Early 2013
Arma III Tactical shooter, military simulator TBA 2013
Battlefield 4 Military first-person shooter TBA 2013
BioShock Infinite Sci-fi first-person shooter March 26, 2013

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger Western first-person shooter TBA 2013
Company of Heroes 2 WWII real-time strategy Early 2013
Crysis 3 Sci-fi first-person shooter February 19, 2013
Dark Souls II Fantasy action role-playing TBA 2013/2014
DayZ Standalone Open world survival TBA 2013

Dead Island: Riptide Survival horror, action role-playing April 23, 2013
Dead Space 3 Survival horror, sci-fi third-person shooter February 5, 2013
DmC Devil May Cry Hack and slash January 25, 2013
Double Fine Adventure Point and click adventure Q2 2013
Dragon Age III: Inquisition Fantasy action role-playing Late 2013

Fables Point and click adventure TBA 2013
Furious 4 WWII first-person shooter TBA 2013
Fortnite Survival sandbox TBA 2013
Grand Theft Auto V Open world crime-based action-adventure TBA 2013
Grid 2 Racing Mid 2013

Lost Planet 3 Sci-fi third-person shooter Early 2013
Metro: Last Light Survival horror first-person shooter March 2013
Rainbow 6: Patriots Tactical first-person shooter TBA 2013
Rise of the Triad First person shooter Early 2013
SimCity City construction and management March 5, 2013

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 First-person shooter with stealth elements March 12, 2013
Splinter Cell: Blacklist Stealth action-adventure Early 2013
Star Wars 1313 Sci-fi action-adventure, third-person shooter Late 2013
StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm Sci-fi real-time strategy March 12, 2013
Survarium Free-to-play post-apocalyptic MMORPG shooter Late 2013

Tomb Raider Action-adventure, platform March 5, 2013
Total War: Rome II Turn-based strategy, real-time tactics October 2013
Warface Free-to-play military first-person shooter TBA 2013
Wasteland 2 Post-apocalyptic, turn-based role-playing Late 2013
Watch Dogs Open world action-adventure TBA 2013

General Tricks

Windows hidden "god mode" folder Windows offers a centralized Control Panel for all of the OS settings, which makes it easy for users to tweak everything from desktop background to setting up a VPN. To enter this mode, create a new folder with this exact name (copy and paste it): God Mode.{ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}. The folder icon will change to a Control Panel-style icon, and you will be able to jump in and change all kinds of settings. Note: Don't try this on Windows Vista 64-bit as it's known to cause a reboot loop.

Use Problem Steps Recorder This handy tool automatically records any mouse clicks and takes screenshots for you. If you need tech assistance with your computer, go to Run by typing Windows + R, and then type "psr." Use the tool and by the time you are finished, you can send this information, neatly compiled automatically, to the person helping you with the issue. It will make the process of finding the problem much easier for them, which means you will be able to get your system up and running faster.
Find/Delete large files wasting space A handy tool called WinDirStat (Windows Directory Statistics) can be used to easily find which files and folders are taking up the most space on your drive. From there, you can delete them and open up a ton of storage space.

Reduce the number of programs running at startup If your PC is taking too long to boot, it’s probably because you have far too many programs running at startup. Reducing this is easy, it will make your PC launch noticeably faster and lighter upon first load. To change the items running at startup, go to Run using the hotkey Windows key + R, and type "msconfig." A small window will appear (see the screenshot below), select the Startup tab. From here you will be able to turn off many startup programs, which can shave several seconds (or minutes) off your boot time. (Note Windows 8 has moved this functionality to the Task Manager). Try to make sure you research what you are turning off as some processes might be needed by third party programs or drivers you have installed.

Cloud backup important files If you’re working on a critical paper for school, work, or any other major project, make sure you are backing up the file not just locally. You can use services like Dropbox, Google Drive, or any of the other popular cloud storage solution which will do the legwork for you on the background. Of course, you can also throw the files on a thumb drive or external HDD just to be safe but backing up to the cloud can be done seamlessly which is twice the advantage.

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Typing Tricks

Delete an entire word Instead of deleting a single letter, pressing CTRL + BKSP will delete the entire word behind the cursor. This makes deleting text quicker if you screw up a whole word.
Move Cursor to beginning of the next or previous word Moving the cursor around manually while typing is a great way to make your work take longer than it needs to. To speed of the process, move the cursor around with keyboard shortcuts. To move it to the beginning of the previous word, use CTRL + Left Arrow. To move it to the beginning of the next word, use CTRL + Right Arrow. In OS X you can accomplish the same using the Option key.
Making sub and superscript text If you need to make sub or superscript text (think exponents for superscript), press CTRL + = for subscript and CTRL + SHIFT + = for superscript.
Paste plain text of what was copied When you copy text from any source, programs will usually copy any formatting that comes with it. To paste this as plain text, press CTRL + Shift + V instead of the standard CTRL + V, and the system will paste unformatted text.
Note that many programs follow this parameter (Chrome, Firefox, etc.) but not all, particularly Microsoft programs like Word or Outlook. For those there's a few alternatives that go beyond copying and pasting in Notepad: 1) CTRL + ALT + V will show a 'paste special' dialog box. 2) CTRL + Spacebar will remove formatting in already pasted text. 3) Download Puretext and choose a hotkey to always paste plain text with it.

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Keyboard Shortcuts

Copy only active window to clipboard Normally, the Print Screen key copies the entire display (or two displays if you got them), ALT + Print Screen only copies the currently active window to the clipboard. Whether taking a screenshot to diagnose a problem, or just because you want to show something to a friend, this will come in handy.
Fix those little mistakes Did you know you can undo almost any action? CTRL + Z is the ultimate hot key, and for sure you knew about it already, however note that undo doesn’t just apply to typing. If you accidentally delete or move a file, you can hit CTRL + Z to bring it right back to where it was. In Chrome and Firefox you can also undo closing a tab using CTRL + SHIFT + T.
Cycle through open windows Pressing ALT+TAB allows you to cycle through currently open windows. This makes switching back and forth between running processes quick and painless. If you want a more stylish method of cycling through open programs, Windows + TAB will do the job for you.
Interrupt all processes CTRL + ALT + Delete is one of the most common PC shortcuts, and one almost everyone is familiar with. The important thing to note is that it interrupts all processes, including the one that is bogging down your system, which can mean the difference between needing to restart or not.

Close the current program Typing ALT + F4 will close the program that is running. This is useful as it saves you time mousing over the "X" and clicking. People will often use this as a joke, telling you to press ALT + F4 to fix a problem. Don’t fall for it unless you want to close what you are doing.
Minimize all windows Sometimes you have a bunch of stuff running, and you want it all to go away so you can get to the desktop. Simply pressing Windows + D will minimize everything you have up, which will save you some time pressing the minimize button for each window. It should be noted that Windows + M offers similar functionality, but there is no undoing, so Windows + D is the more favorable approach.
Open the task manager directly If you want to bypass the interrupt that happens when pressing CTRL + ALT + DEL and jump right to the task manager, typing CTRL + Shift + ESC launches it directly.
Close the current window/tab Stick of moving all the way to that X button? Press CTRL + W and the current window will close. (Don’t do it now, or you will miss the rest of the tricks!)
Bring up the system information window This is so much quicker than digging this out the traditional way... Just press Windows + Pause/Break and the System Information panel will be ready to go. This might be the only use for the Pause/Break key you will ever find, so enjoy it!

Better multiple monitor control There are several useful keyboard shortcuts for controlling open windows on multiple monitors. Pressing the Windows Key + Arrow Keys will cause a window to quickly snap to each side of either monitor. Alternatively, hitting Shift + Windows Key + Arrows will cause the window to jump to the other monitor. Lastly, pressing Windows + P will allow you to quickly set up a second display or projector.

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Web Browsing Tricks & File Management Tricks

Web Browsing Tricks

Automatically add www. and .com to a URL You can shave off a couple of seconds typing in a URL by simply click CTRL + Enter after you type the name of the site. Need .net instead of .com, press CTRL + Shift + Enter instead.

Jump to address bar There are a number of ways to jump right to the address bar from anywhere in browser. Pressing CTRL + L, F6, and ALT + D all accomplish this goal.
Bring back a closed tab We covered this already, but it's super useful. Accidentally closed a tab? Simply press CTRL + Shift + T to reopen the most recently closed tab and get back to what you were doing.
Use private browsing The uses for not having cookies and history saved are obvious for certain activities, you know, like shopping for gifts on a shared computer (of course!). Pressing CTRL + Shift + N will launch a new private in Chrome, CTRL + Shift + P will do it in Firefox and Internet Explorer.

Cycle through open tabs Pressing CTRL + TAB while in a browser will flip between each one. This can be much faster than moving the mouse and clicking on a tab. CTRL + NUM (1, 2, 3, 4, n..) will also take you to certain tab in that numeric order.

File Management Tricks

Rename a file quickly Right-clicking and selecting rename is not very efficient. Instead, simply press F2 while a file is selected to change its name. To alter the name of another file, type TAB without deselecting the current file.
Rename files sequentially in Windows You actually don’t need to download any programs to perform a batch file rename in Windows. Instead, you can select all the files you want to change, right-click the first one in the list, select rename (or use F2), and type in the name. This will automatically change all the other files with the same root name with a suffix: (1), (2), and so on.

Select multiple files using the keyboard To select a bunch of files using your keyboard, you can press Shift + down arrow to select a single file or Shift + Page Down to select a large group of files at one time.

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Security Tips

Run programs on an infected PC Often times, malware will prevent a computer from running certain programs. Changing the name of the .exe file can often override this. If that doesn’t work, changing the extension to .com is another useful alternative, and the program will still be able to run in spite of the extension change.
Read installers Even major programs can install toolbars and other unwanted pieces of software during installation. Take a few seconds to read each step to make sure you are not agreeing to install something other than the program you were actually seeking. Far too often people just push next over and over, and end up with a browser covered in various search bars that just aren't needed. In the worst of scenarios, these can have nefarious intentions.
Lock your computer if you get up Sick of your "friends" going onto your computer at work or home and posting things on your Facebook/Twitter page on your behalf? It’s certainly an annoyance, but an easy one to prevent. Windows + L will lock your system right away, requiring a password (if you've set one) to log in again.

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Program-Specific Tricks

Photoshop: Drag the marquee without losing the ability to size it The marquee tool is, at its most basic level, designed for selecting a part of an image. It’s used constantly in Photoshop, and there is a handy trick many users miss. While dragging it around, you can press space, which will allow you to size it while moving it. This saves time by letting your perform two key functions at the same time.
Steam: Move games to another drive or partition By default, Steam installs all games to the same HDD or partition, but what happens if that fills up? The solution: download Steamtool Library Manager. It makes it easy to move games to another hard drive without messing with the functionality of Steam.

VLC: Fix unsynced audio and subtitles In the popular media player VLC, if your audio loses sync with the video or subtitles, there is an easy way to fix this. Simply pressing J or K will move the audio forward or backwards. Similarly, to sync the subtitles you can press H or G.

The combination of using these tips and tricks on a daily basis will most certainly make your computer life much more enjoyable, or at least more practical. And so, did you learn a thing or two that you didn't know before?

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June 14, 2013

Building a Thin Mini-ITX PC: Small and Silent Performance

While many of us are content with traditional desktop tower PCs, there are those who have been pushing for a more compact and quieter alternative.
One of the pioneers of small computing, VIA Technologies, developed the Mini-ITX form factor over a decade ago in 2001. Although VIA’s solutions were too underpowered for daily usage, over the next few years motherboard manufacturers were able to adapt more powerful AMD and Intel platforms to use along the tiny 170 × 170 mm (6.7 × 6.7 in) Mini-ITX motherboards.
Subsequently case manufacturers provided support with a range of creative Mini-ITX solutions such as the Lian Li PC-Q25, which we reviewed and awarded a couple of years ago. Considerably smaller than traditional ATX and Micro ATX computer cases, the PC-Q25 not only supported the latest Intel Core i7 processors, but it also allowed for a PCI Express x16 dual-slot graphics card. An impressive feat no matter how you measure it.
Canon EOS 550D size comparison
But what if you want to go even smaller? That's where Thin Mini-ITX motherboards come in.
Thin Mini-ITX motherboards are similar to standard Mini-ITX as they still measure 170 × 170 mm, except they are not as tall. Whereas standard Mini-ITX boards measure 35mm tall and are designed to be used with standard coolers and memory modules which can take the total height to over 50mm, the Thin Mini-ITX format dictates that no board should be taller than 20mm (25mm with I/O shield).
Yet the Thin Mini-ITX format is more than ultra-low-profile motherboards, it’s an entire ecosystem that requires new cases and memory, favoring laptop SO-DIMM modules over the standard desktop DIMMs.
The Akasa Euler case alongside HIS' Radeon HD 7970. That won't fit, of course
The idea behind the Thin Mini-ITX format, besides the obvious which is to create seriously compact computers, is also to allow for DIY all-in-ones (think of little PCs you can attach to the back of your monitor). Having that said, we don't fully intend to go the all-in-one route in this article, but are aiming to build a powerful Thin Mini-ITX system that can be used in the office or at home as a media PC.
So, to recap, this is our goal: extremely compact, powerful, and near silent operation, as in no-moving-parts silent. For less than $700 including a 256GB SSD, we believe you'll love what the final product will look like.

Akasa Euler Case: Look Ma' No Fans!

The first ingredient and perhaps one of the most important for achieving a completely silent Thin Mini-ITX PC is the chassis choice. We picked the very compact Akasa Euler, which measures 228mm wide x 187mm long and just 61.5mm tall.
Despite the small footprint, the Euler tips the scales at 2.2kg, which is surprisingly heavy for a 100% aluminium design. This is better explained when you learn that the Euler acts as one big passively cooled heatsink. In fact it looks very much like one. Rather than featuring a flat outer shell the Euler is ribbed, featuring a series of 15mm tall fins.
But before we get inside the Euler let’s just have a quick look at its external design. Although the front plate is flat it is still constructed from aluminium which has been anodized black. The Akasa logo is featured in the bottom right hand corner, while a round silver power button can be found to the left along with a blue power LED and red activity LED.
The top of the case features 28 fins which measure 3mm wide and 183mm long. The left and right sides feature another 5 fins along with an open gap behind them to allow air to circulate through the case. Around the back we have a slot for the Thin Mini-ITX I/O shield which measures 25mm high and 159mm long.
Underneath, there's a VESA mounting system which allows the Akasa to be hung on the back of supporting monitors.
Four screws need to be removed in order to get inside the Akasa Euler, two from each side and the bottom panel will pop out. The only object inside the case is a mounting plate for the CPU socket which transfers heat from the heat spreader to the case's surface.
Because all Thin Mini-ITX motherboards have the CPU socket in exactly the same position it is possible for case manufacturers to implement these fixed cooler designs.
Traditionally when building a PC we'd install the motherboard first, but this is actually the very last step before replacing the case cover with the Euler.
Thus we installed the 2.5” drive first, in this particular case the OCZ Agility 4 256GB using two mounting plates. With the SSD installed we found it easiest to stand the Euler case on its side and lay the motherboard flat next to it. This made connecting the front panel connectors and SATA data/power cables much easier, before turning the motherboard upside down and aligning it with the I/O panel and CPU mounting brackets.
With the motherboard in place we secured the back cover of the case. From the front it was impossible to tell if there was anything in there at all. From the back we had a view of the I/O panel which showed off all the available connections, and on that note let’s move on to see what the Asrock Z77TM-ITX has to offer.

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