* Posts by Ben Benson

5 posts • joined 13 Sep 2007

O2 goes flat on data

Ben Benson

Come on now....

Annoying as it might be that corporate marketing strategies are often just blatant lies, aren't we all used to it by now?

Yes this article has given rise to many irate and hilarious comments, which is great entertainment while at work. But cant you just look at it as the word "unlimited" when used in a marketing or sales context, no longer means "unlimited". What we can take from this is that fair usage policies (or this one at least) means you wont be charged for over usage, but receive a warning instead.

Forget the misuse of the term "unlimited" and look at the T's & C's. If it is a reasonable price for a reasonable quota, and the over usage charges (i'm sure there are some hiding somewhere) aren't excessive, then it might be a good deal. Simple as that!


My new laptop is sooo vvvveeeerrrryyyy sssslllloooowwww

Ben Benson

Few more details?

Its a bit difficult to diagnose a machine without knowing any of the details! If you could explain what software its running, what hardware specs it has, and other specific symptoms, you've got more chance of getting a useful answer.

One thing I would suggest is investigating how much software is installed and running in the background from startup. Not too sure about Asus, but lots of manufacturers insist on bundling endless software packages with the pre-installed OS. Most of this software is useless, or just not suitable for your needs, but it sits there and consumes system resources regardless.

I normally format any new computer that has preinstalled software, and install my OS of choice, with only the software that will actually be used. Also, it's wise to keep track of whats being installed day-to-day, and whats enabled at startup. regular clean ups of unused software, along with registry cleaners will help keep the system clean and responsive.

Finally, watch out for installer programs that sneak in 3rd party software trials when installing a legitimate application. Blindly clicking next next next is almost certain to end up in lots of unwanted toolbars, "optomisers" and other junk.


Webcam conundrum

Ben Benson

Where DOES it work?

You mention that it captures good quality images - what software are you using to see this? I have a logitech webcam myself, and it works flawlessly with MSN and Skype in Vista.

I assume you've installed the software that came with the webcam. This is not stricly necessary. What I normally do, is merely install the drivers for the device, and then rely on the application i'm using to interface with it. That way, you dont get any software running in the background, or controlling the webcams functions without you realising it.

I would suggest trying your webcam with MSN. If it works, then you know its a problem with Skype specifically. The webcam software itself is likely to make no difference, these typically control effects, brightness, and have some basic art packages or video editing facilities. So ignore the webcam software, focus on the IM.

Finally, as far as i know, webcams cant be used by two applications at once. So make sure that there is no software running that could have control of the cam. Check in the system tray for hiding icons that might be stealing the cams interupt.


PC superstore refuses to take sack in hand

Ben Benson

Another amusing story.....

While working at an independant computer shop some years ago, we had a regular customer of ours come in with a broken laptop. She hadnt bought it from us, she shamefully admitted to buying it from PC world.

So she apologised for bringing it to us for repair, but proceeded to explain why she wont take it back to PC World.

She had called them, and explained she had just spilt a glass of red wine on the keyboard, so turned it off, tried to dry it, but it still wont power up. PC Worlds suggested resolution was more than laughable. In all seriousness, they informed her that to fix the laptop, she needed to to pour a glass of clean water through the laptop at the same angle as the wine went in.

Unbelievable! Needless to say, she hung up and brought the laptop to us. Oh we laughed for days i tell ya......


Suggestions for a home IT strategy, please

Ben Benson

I'm a cheapie too......

I decided to setup my own home network solution about a year ago, and have been enhancing it ever since. Basically, I could afford a new gaming pc, and so reused my old desktop, along with several old carcasses I had hanging around.

I went for Ubuntu as the OS of choice, installed on my P4 2.6 with 1 gb DDR333. In there I have a SATA raid card with 2 x 400Gb drives, and an 80gb for the OS.

The server does the following:

Network storage (Samba)

VPN server

Web server

DHCP server

network firewall and router

Streaming media server

Mail server

SIP server

I have 3 client machines around the house and 2 laptops. All running windows of some sort. The samba server does its job dutifully and reliably. I have VPN access for when i'm on the road and need my files. Use SSH and webmin to administer the box.

I use a PHP script called "Kplaylist" which is excellent and lets me listen to my 80Gb+ of music wherever I am.

Throw a 5 quid modem in the box, and take your pick of SIP server software to route SIP calls through your low rate BT landline.

Currently, it does everything I need it to, and reliably too. ALL of the software running is open source or free, and the machine itself cant be worth more than a hundred quid. I generally use Kplaylist to stream music externally, or a media center of some sort on the local network. I cant decide on one, keep switching between the open source "Media Portal" and vista's media center. Media portal is excellent once set up, and has a myriad of options and plugins available. Vista's MC is a bit slicker and more polished, but with much less options. Personally, I hate the way it displays music, but its TV software is excellent. Personal preference on that one i think.

I have no issues streaming DVD rips from the server to the laptops wirelessly (802.11G), and so can plug my laptop into the nearest TV and have my films wherever I want in the house. I even have waterproof speakers in my showerroom with a 3.5mm socket outside for laptop / MP3 player to plug into.

Using Ubuntu as the firewall / router means I can monitor all network traffic on my circuit. This would be useful for parents, restricting what they can access etc. Personally, I find it amusing to browse my flatmates visited webpages occasionally!

I think the key to setting up a satisfying home server, is not the capabilities, but the execution. All of the services mine provides are relatively simple and easy to install (can do a complete re-install in a few hours). But if you have cables running messily around the house, or flakey hard drives, or even badly disorganised data, the usefullness and satisfaction of the server disappears. Focus on getting everything you need to make living with it a pleasure. For me, this meant having white plastic trunking to hide cables as i didnt fancy pulling my walls apart. Also, putting the server in my cloakroom eliminated the annoying fan noise. Lastly, I have recently installed a remote controlled power regulator. Meaning if (or when) it falls over, a simple access code in a webpage power cycles the system.

Hope to have been of help!

ps. Kplaylist is my most used service (beside mail server). It really is a nice script. Check out my implementation at:


"guest" and "password" ;-)



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