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Review of DabsValue COLORSit 480W PC PSU

September 6, 2007
DabsValue COLORSit 480W PC PSU

A DabsValue branded PSU. Dirt cheap. Ultra quiet but a pig to install due to cheap connectors.

I tend to go for DabsValue products from Dabs.com when I just need the bare basics. So far most of the things I have bought have far exceeded expectations.

I was wary about taking the same approach with a PSU on an important PC but the reviews on the site said I’d be pleasantly surprised.

It’s a 480W “Gold” PSU with a massive fan for quietness. Lots of connectors but only one SATA one.

It came with no instructions and I ran into trouble with the two main motherboard connectors being too big. Eventually I realised the the large connector could be split in two and the smaller one could be “offset-inserted”.

Unfortunately the problems didn’t end there, that main connector took 15 minutes of wiggling and jiggling before it would finally slot fully into the motherboard connector. It just looks like they used a very cheap header. Also, that cable is very short and it was a real stretch to get to the motherboard connector.

Finally the motherboard powered up and all is well. I’ve been running for a week problem free and I have to admit, it is whisper quiet.

For important machines I’d spend a few quid extra in future but for most, it is an absolute bargain at €21.


Rated 4/5 on Sep 06 2007 by Mr C

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Review of CNet 4-Port USB 2.0 Hub

September 3, 2007
CNet 4-Port USB 2.0 Hub

A low end piece of rubbish which has been unreliable since day one. You are better off getting no-name stuff on eBay

I got this hub over a year ago. It was the cheapest USB hub I could find at slightly over £10 if memory serves.

It is a chunky box with semi-transparent casing. It comes with a PSU and cable for connection to PC.

Whilst it does the core job it has three basic problems:

  • The power connector is wobbly
  • It gets incredibly hot and so should not be stacked
  • It is unreliable, losing connectivity to daisy-chained hubs all the time.

I’ve just ordered a no-name 7-port hub off eBay for less than half of what I paid for this CNet. Avoid.

 


Rated 2/5 on Sep 03 2007 by Mr C
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Review of VR3 VRFM8 FM Transmitter

September 3, 2007
VR3 VRFM8 FM Transmitter

I bought the precursor to this over three years ago on eBay. Whilst it worked ok, the range of channels was not good enough and I suffered constant interference with radio stations as I drove around.

I replaced it about two years ago with this updated model. Its purpose is to allow you to play back music/podcasts through your car stereo. It plugs into your cigarette lighter and provides a USB connection and 2.5mm jack. A simple LED display shows the transmit frequency and there are buttons for channel, song up/down, play/pause. Some of those are overloaded e.g. volume up/down.

The USB interface works fine with most thumbdrives but takes forever to scan anything big. The audio jack comes with an adapter cable for 2.5mm to 3.5mm. I have used it with various music players, PDAs and mobile phones and it works fine.

Biggest problem continues to be the lack of channel selection. I spend an inordinate amount of time changing channel as I drive to avoid interference. The quality is quite low and is better suited to voice podcasts than music. Also the volume is low too (and only adjustable for USB) so you really have to crank it up on the radio itself which increases the perceived noise.

I’ve just ordered a generic no-name replacement off eBay which has fewer features but 200 channels. I hope it works better. In an ideal world I’d have an aux-in on my car stereo!


Rated 3/5 on Sep 03 2007 by Mr C
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Review of Nokia N770 Internet Tablet

August 25, 2007

It may be the old model, but this thing never leaves my side. Whether on Wifi or 3G, it is almost a laptop replacement for a mobile warrior.

I’ve had a few PDAs since the late 90’s but they’ve never been critical parts of my daily life. However they always came into their own when I was travelling.The first was a Palm IIIx which was my trusty workhorse for many years.. I used to stuff it full of useful apps and always had it fully synced to Outlook. Some of the software was world class like Datebook and Currex. Others were used a few time a year but I was always glad they were there, like YAUC the unit convertor.A few years back I inherited a Tungsten T and it was light years ahead of the IIIx. Yet again, it was all the useful utilities that made it a keeper. However despite the great screen and yet-to-be-equalled slider, it had far too many niggles. Pairing to phones and getting mobile internet working was always fraught, the digitizer kept drifting and the browser was rubbish. I finally put it away a few months back when I realised I could never run a modern browser like Opera Mini on it.I’ve never been convinced by the Smartphone argument over the PDA. To me a touch-screen is a must-have feature. I got an N70 last year and whilst I find it a great phone with pretty much everything I need, a phone-keypad is simply a terrible input device. I did struggle on and was particularly happy with Opera Mini. The camera is solid and I’ve used laptop to 3G via bluetooth more reliably than via cable! Then I heard about the amazing bargain that the N770 could be had for now that it is superseded by the N800. €107 plus tax and delivery is incredible for an 800×480 touch-screen Debian Linux based internet tablet with Wifi and Bluetooth.

I was easily convinced and it arrived within two weeks. I honestly have not stopped using it since the day it arrived despite many reservations I have about it.

First the really bad news – the browser sucks. It is a very old version of Opera with Flash 6. This means it does not work with almost any modern Google site due to JS deficiencies or video sites like YouTube or Google Video. For something which calls itself an Internet Tablet this is a big problem. However once we accept that, there are ways around it – mainly by using the mobile versions or basic HTML versions of most sites. The great resolution of the screen means you won’t have to scroll sideways on most. However even given this, the browser is as flakey as hell and crashes regularly.I took the extreme step of installing OS2007 Hacker Edition to get an improved browser. It is still pretty unusable on YouTube but a lot more usable on the various Google Apps. I still prefer to use the mobile versions of those sites for speed. Stability is still not great.

The touch screen is fantastic and the built-in music and video players are acceptable. I created a DivX version of The Incredibles, loaded it onto the RS-MMC card and it played perfectly. I’ve had grief using Handbrake for conversion but the Nokia 770 Media Converter works perfectly. 

There are not that many default installed applications but http://www.maemo.org has a ton of others. My mainstays are:

  • Pidgin for IM
  • Gizmo for VOIP (and IM)
  • XTerm for command-line access to the tablet
  • DropBear SSH for accessing my servers
  • RDP for accessing my desktop
  • Password Safe for my passwords
  • Maemo Recorder for voice recording
  • Leafpad for editing text files

I’ve tried a ton of different media players and all have different problems. Canola has great potential but does not seem to like Hacker OS.

The big thing I’m waiting for is a Mozilla based browser. There is one for the N800 but it has not been backported to Hacker OS yet. Fingers crossed.

As I said in the summary, for a lot of the things you do as a mobile warrior, you just need this paired to a 3G phone via bluetooth for those times when there is no wifi. I’ve been leaving my laptop at home recently. Try the “thumb” virtual keyboard, it works a treat.

Rated 4/5 on Aug 25 2007 by Mr C
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Review of Oral-B Vitality 3709 Electric Toothbrush

August 19, 2007

The double head design is not a gimmick, it really does clean better than all my old electrics

I’ve had a lot of success with Braun electric toothbrushes over the years. The first cheap one lasted five years before the battery gave in. The current one 6 year old one only died because one of my kids dropped it from a height onto a tiled floor and it broke open.

My wife bought this Braun (but branded Oral-B) one in the local chemist for half price on a whim.

Braun Oral-B Vitality

It is actually not as advanced as the older one which had a sort of hammer action where the entire head “massaged” forward and back. However it does have two brush heads. One is the standard Braun rotating one, the other is a triangular one that just vibrates back and forwards. 

Braun Oral-B Vitality

I was a bit dubious but was delighted to find that it cleaned my teeth far more thoroughly than the old one. Just like a twin blade razor the second head catches what the first one misses.

Since it uses exactly the same Braun mechanism that they have had for an eternity, it also works with all of their standard brush heads.

Highly recommended. 

Rated 5/5 on Aug 19 2007 by Mr C
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Review of IDE to SATA adapter

July 27, 2007

This small adapter allows you to connect SATA drives to older parallel IDE ports on your motherboard. Works well and very inexpensive

This is the final one of my SATA adapter adventures. This adapter plugs directly into an IDE port on your motherboard. You connect a SATA cable and power to it. Utterly seamless and requires no drivers. it comes with a SATA cable and molex power connection cable.

SATA to IDE adapter

I connected my 250GB SATA drive to it and have successfully copied over 75GB of data in one go from existing SATA drive to it.

If you have a mixture of IDE and SATA ports on your motherboard, then this is the perfect way to convert one of the IDE ports over.

Highly recommended and very inexpensive (€5.46 including P&P on eBay) 

Rated 5/5 on Jul 27 2007 by Mr C
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Review of SATA and PIDE RAID PCI Card

July 27, 2007

SATA and PIDE RAID PCI Card

This PCI card has 2x internal SATA, 1x external PCI and 1x internal IDE ports. Very cheap and ideal for older tower machines with lots of drive bays.

Given the only partial success I had with the SATA to USB adapter, I tried again with a very inexpensive (€11 on eBay yet again!) PCI card. This one had a good mix of ports 2x internal SATA, 1x external PCI and 1x internal IDE.

It came with a single SATA cable and drivers mini-CD which identified it as a VIA VT6421 RAID Controller. Installation was trivial.

PCI SATA and IDE adapter

As a backup I had also ordered an even cheaper IDE->SATA adapter and installed this at the same time as the PCI card. I’ll review that next.

I decided not to connect the SATA drive to the new PCI card but in fact to connect the DVD burner to it on the PIDE port. The only difficulty here was the orientation of the socket forces you to bend the IDE cable back on itself.

The DVD drive is working flawlessly and I still have 3 more SATA connectors for any more SATA drives that I add. Performance seems good and I’ll report back if I add a SATA drive to it.

Highly recommended if you need more drive ports. As it was an eBay purchase you’ll need to browse that vendors eBay shop to find the latest one on auction.

Rated 4/5 on Jul 27 2007 by Mr C