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Tip of the Week

You Can Bank On It

ot so long ago home computer users were spoilt for choice when it came to home accounts packages, but one by one they disappeared until the even the two most popular ones, Microsoft Money and Quicken, threw in the towel. Many users, myself included, continue to use old and long obsolete versions of Quicken but without support many web-dependent functions have stopped working. To date nothing has come close to replacing it, but there have been some very decent alternatives, and here’s a new one, called HomeBank, and it’s free and available for Mac and Linux as well. The first feature that caught my eye was the facility to import data from Quicken, as well as other accounts packages, so you can try it in tandem with your existing software, but that’s just for starters. In no particular order it can handle any number of account types, log credit card and cheque payments, process scheduled and split transactions, carry out internal transfers, set monthly or annual budgets, produce a very wide range of eye-catching and easy to understand reports, graphs and charts, set reminders, and the lost goes on. If you are looking for capable home accounts package it has to be worth a try and the only downside is that it lacks a few critical features that would make it useful for small business users.


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On The Cards

Thirty or so years ago I spent what was probably several month’s wages on a 10 megabyte hard disc drive and recall thinking what a great investment it was. There was no way I would ever manage to fill it up in my lifetime and I would probably be able to pass it on to children. I also believed that one day I would take holidays on the Moon and commute to the office in my flying car… That sort of thing seemed quite plausible back in the 70s and 80s but if you had told me that one day someone would come up with a memory device that packs 512 gigabytes into a little piece of plastic, no larger than a postage stamp, I would have thought you insane. Not only has it happened, this SDXC memory card from Sandisk has a data transfer rate of a whopping 95 MB/sec, and that’s what makes it really significant. Forget the capacity, no doubt terabyte cards are just around the corner, but up until now data transfer rates have been the high capacity memory card’s Achilles heel, and ruled them out for one of the most demanding applications, namely 4K video recording. Well, now it’s possible and with that sort of capacity you can do a day’s shooting, not to mention solving all sorts of space problems on laptops and cameras. Needless to say it comes at a price and if you want one right now (or when they become available) it is going to set you back the thick end of £500. Oh well, wait a few months and they’ll be giving them away in packs of Cornflakes!


Graphene Screen Flexible Solution

Back in the 1960s lasers were famously described as a solution looking for a problem, and we all know how that turned out… Well, the new wonder material Graphene has been suffering form the same problem. This remarkable two-dimensional carbon-based crystalline material has many wondrous properties and a lot of people are working on ways to do amazing things with the stuff, but so far there’s been little that you can put your fingers, let alone spend your money on but here’s another future use that looks quite promising, this time from the University of Cambridge Graphene Centre. It’s a flat and flexible display, with Graphene replacing the normally inflexible metal and ceramic electrodes, which are deposited on the screen’s backpane layer. As an added bonus the screens can also be manufactured, or rather printed, on a roll, at relatively low temperatures, which in theory reduces cost and complexity. The prototype screen has a relatively modest 150dip resolution but the developers are working towards flexible LCD and OLED displays with improved performance for colour video displays that could be incorporated in various forms of wearable technology. We will be keeping our eyes on this one, probably...



One’s Hot, The Other’s Not, Probably…

First some hot news for owners of Compaq and HP laptops, notebooks and charging stations sold between September 2010 and June 2012, buy a fire extinguisher! It appears that there have been upwards of 29 incidents (overheating and small fires) in or around the power cords. Thankfully it only concerns the cable and it’s easily identified, and HP will replace it free of charge. The code to look out for is LS-15 and this can be found moulded into the connector at the adaptor end of the cord.


What’s not hot, apparently, is the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, and this is in spite of some models displaying a thermometer overheating icon on the screen. MS maintains that only a small number of units are affected, and the appearance of the Thermometer Gauge icon is down to a software glitch, which is begin addressed by a soon to be released update. Some users disagree and claim that their tablets really do become too hot to handle, and it’s quite possible they are right with so much powerful technology shoehorned into such a thin and poorly ventilated case, but we’ll have to wait and see until after the update is released, which will probably be in amongst the scheduled Surface updates on September 9th.