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Posted on Apr 10, 2008 in Newsletter, Welcome | 0 comments

TWT Newsletter, Issue #011 –, – Four Unusual But Useful Windows PC’s


It’s the 10th of the month again and time for the April 2008 edition of the TWT newsletter. We hope you all had a great Easter, and survived April the 1st without getting egg on your faces.

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In this months issue:-

1) Putting Windows in Some Funny Places – Four Unusual but Useful PC’s
2) Tip of the Month – Spring Clean Your Start-up Programs
3) Free Utility of the Month – Truecrypt
4) Windows Vista “Second Hardest” in Hacking Competition

Putting Windows in Some Funny Places – Four Unusual but Useful PC’s

When most people think of a Windows PC, they see a grey or beige box sitting under a desk or a monitor, or perhaps a laptop computer opened on a coffee table. Thanks to the success of Windows however, the operating system has adapted to work in a variety of unusual scenarios. In this months newsletter I’m going to take a look at a few of these odd-ball machines. Maybe after you see how versatile Windows can be, you’ll be inspired to use your computers in new and creative ways. Read on as we take a look at four unusual PC configurations:-

PC Number 1 – The Home Theatre PC (HTPC)

This PC is becoming more and more common. Instead of sitting in your study or office, this PC sits next to your TV and, with a specially designed menu system, can operate by remote control. You can then use this PC to browse music, photographs, video and the internet all from the comfort of your armchair. Some Home Theatre PC’s can even record and playback television broadcasts. Windows is an ideal choice for a HTPC because of the operating systems excellent support for multimedia. The Home Theatre PC concept has become so popular that Windows Vista Home Premium and Ultimate editions even include Windows Media Center, which allows for easy browsing of media on your television.

Where can I learn more?

Visit wisegeek to learn more about the basics. Keep in mind that if you want to connect your computer to your TV, you will need a High-Definition TV (or at least a TV with VGA or HDMI inputs) in order to enjoy picture quality anywhere near what you might be use to on a monitor.

PC Number 2 – The In-Car PC

Computers and cars are no strangers to each other, but the idea of installing a fully-functioning Windows PC in your car might seem a little strange to many folks. However, a Windows PC can run a good deal of software that is useful to motorists, such as music players, satellite navigation software and parking cameras. While this is still quite a niche (and expensive) market, a few manufacturers now produce dedicated, ready made car PC units, while the more adventurous can build their own.

Where can I learn more?

Check out KustomPC’s excellent Car PC guide.

PC Number 3 – The Tablet PC

Fellow IT professionals who know me know of my love for the tablet PC. A tablet PC is a PC that can operate entirely using a pen or stylus. If you have ever dreamed of a paperless office, where all your notes are easily accessible and automatically converted from handwriting to text and filed away, then the concept of the tablet PC is likely to appeal to you. On paper (pun intended) this all sounds really great, in reality however there are one or two tiny problems that have stopped the tablet PC gaining mass market appeal. Most significantly is one of cost, for the price of a reasonable specification tablet PC, you can usually purchase a top of the range laptop. The cost has other ramifications too, would you really be able to treat your $1,000 dollar computer like you do your notepad? Weight is another factor, even the lightest tablet PC’s weigh significantly more than traditional paper, meaning lugging one around is likely to give you arm-ache. In spite of the drawbacks, tablet PC’s still have a lot going for them. Having been a tablet PC user for the last couple of years, there’s no way I’d want to go back to the humble laptop. If your work involves lots of research, both on the internet and in electronic documents, then being able to quickly search and annotate hundreds of documents becomes extremely useful. Students particularly, can benefit from the tablet PC’s ability to quickly organise notes, both written and audio (how I wish the tablet PC had been around when I was at university!) Many tablet PC’s can be converted from a normal laptop design to a slate tablet configuration by simply rotating the screen, others have clip-on keyboards, making them extremely versatile machines. Tablet PC’s such as the excellent LE-1600 can now be purchased on E-bay for under £600/$900/E800.

Where can I learn more?

Microsoft had high hopes for the tablet PC and even believed it might eventually replace the laptop one day. Although a little out-of-date, you can visit their “what is a tablet PC?” page by
clicking here.

Windows Vista also includes full support for tablet PC’s.

PC Number 4 – The Surface PC

Ok, so I cheated a little on this one. The surface PC doesn’t actually exist yet, past some impressive prototype models Microsoft have shown off. The first models to be used outside of the company are expected to go into service on or around the 17th April 2008, in selected AT&T retail stores. The surface PC is a PC embedded into a table or other flat surface, that can react to objects placed onto it. Pop your digital camera down onto the table and out spill your photos, ready to view, onto the surface screen. Need a map of your resort or hotel? Use the surface PC table in your room, even book some tickets for tonight’s concert, heck it can even tell when your glass is empty and call room service to refill it (actually I just made that up, but it sounds cool, let’s just hope it’s not the office paper-clip saying “it seems like you have finished your drink, what do you want me to do?”)

Where can I learn more?

It’s unlikely that this technology will make it into the hands of consumers in the near future, although Microsoft have said that there has been tremendous interest from both the public and from businesses alike. To learn more, Visit the
official Microsoft surface pages.

Tip of the Month – Spring Clean Your Start-up Programs

Isn’t it great that Windows has such a huge range of software available for it? We all love to try out a new utility, game or screen saver. Increasingly however, free programs that can be found on the internet or on the cover disks of magazines are installing so-called “speed launchers” or “assistant” programs. These programs start up as soon as your computer loads Windows, with the purpose of, well, quite often nobody knows. Some claim to make opening certain documents faster, others might just provide a quick launch icon in the system tray. One or two of these oh-so-helpful little programs might not be much cause for concern, but when you are dealing with half a dozen of them they quickly start to slow your computer down. If you haven’t taken a look at what programs are automatically starting up on your Windows PC, now might be a good time. Check out our
tutorial on the System Configuration Utility.

Don’t be too hasty when disabling programs though, some of the programs which start along with Windows are necessary for the day to day running of your operating system, so if in doubt, search it first!

Free Utility of the Month – Truecrypt

Strong, reliable and proven encryption is finally available for everyone. If you travel with your laptop computer, fully encrypting your data is always a good idea, especially if you have any sensitive or private documents on your machine. Even if you only use a desktop computer, Encryption can protect against your private data falling into the wrong hands should you be unfortunate enough to be visited by thieves. At we’ve used Truecrypt extensively and found it to be a superb package. You can download the latest version of Truecrypt

You can also view our Truecrypt tutorials by
clicking here.

Windows Vista “Second Hardest” in Hacking Competition

Apple might push their Macintosh line of computer as being more secure than Windows, but it was the Mac that was the first to fall in a recent hacking contest at the CanSecWest conference in Vancover. During the contest, security researchers tried to hack Windows, Linux and Apple Mac computers. The sleek-looking Macbook Air was the first to be compromised, taking computer expert Charlie Miller just two minutes to hack into the Apple notebook, by sending the machines Safari web browser to a website containing malicious code.

For his efforts, Miller walked away with $10,000, in prize money and the respect of computer geeks all over the world. Fortunately for Mac owners, Miller (and the other competitors) are all under non-disclosure agreements meaning that they cannot share the techniques or software used to hack into the machines. All their research is expected to be handed to the relevant software developers so that the vulnerabilities can be patched.

While Apple fan-boys blushed and kicked their heels, Windows and Linux advocates watched on as other security experts continued to try and break into the Ubuntu and Vista machines. The competition saw the Windows Vista SP1 machine fall a few days later, but only after the latest version of Adobe Acrobat was installed onto the machine. Adobe Acrobat is used by millions of users around the world, but contains a serious security flaw, which Shane Macaulay from Security Objectives was able to exploit. At the end of the competition, it was only the Linux machine that was left un-hacked, a fact that the Linux community will no doubt trumpet as yet more evidence of the security benefits of the free operating system.

What can we learn from experiments like these? Aside from collecting valuable information for patching security vulnerabilities, it reminds us of how difficult it is to protect a computer from a determined attacker. If you travel with your laptop then you should consider whole-disk encryption, simply relying on a login password is clearly not enough. Be careful of the websites you visit too and always keep your computer up to date using Windows update.

Well, that’s your lot for another month. We hope that you enjoyed our newsletter, if you didn’t then please take the time to
contact us

and tell us what we can do to improve it! If you have enjoyed this newsletter, feel free to pass it on to all your friends, family, co-workers or anyone you know. Better still, encourage them to sign up for their own copy! Until next time, keep reading and enjoy happy and safe computing.

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