Wednesday 30 January 2013

When is your broadband the fastest?

According to a new survey, if you're after the best possible speed from your home broadband, then the best time to log on is 4am. Chances are, at this time you will actually achieve the speeds as advertised by your ISP.

According to the net comparison site USwitch, the average speed for home broadband is around 14.83Mbp/s download, but this drops by 28% to 10Mbp/s at 9pm, due to a higher demand for TV streaming services such as Netflix and the BBC iPlayer.

The fastest area's of the country at peak time are Middlesborough and Swansea, which average out at about 12.8Mbp/s, and the slowest area's are Swansea and Aberdeen at only 6.1Mbp/s.

However, built up area's such as city centers  tend to suffer a higher percentage drop at peak times, due to there being a much higher demand for streaming services.

Of course these facts and figures only relate to 'contended' services such as ADSL products, whereas 'uncontended' services such as leased lines and EFM (Ethernet First Mile) are never affected and never would be.

Here at CCS (leeds), we can offer the best value options for any of these technologies, so if you're in the market for a high quality, uncontended and synchronous internet connection, then please do get in touch with us.

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Oric-1 - 30 Years old this week

30 years ago, home computing was in it's infancy. With the Sinclair Spectrum less than a year old and not much competition from rival companies, the playing field was wide open for competitors to eat up a share of the market, assuming they had a product which could deliver.

But not only did the product and it's performance have to be comparable, it also had to be at an affordable price for the home user.  This is where Tangerine Computer Systems stepped in, who were asked by a number of their financial backer to develop a competitor to the Spectrum, a device which would be called the Oric-1. They formed a new company called Oric Productions International Ltd to develop the product.

On paper the Oric was slightly more appealing in almost every respect. Just like the Spectrum, there were 2 models to choose from - the 16KB or the 48KB, which were priced at £129 and £169 respectively, meaning that they were very slightly cheaper than the Spectrum computers.

The performance, reliability, sounds and graphics were also consider by some, to be a slight improvement. And as with the Spectrum and most other home computers of the time, data was loaded onto it via a tape machine which would be an external device, attached by a cable.

Initially the Oric-1 was a success, although they did not sell as many units as they would have liked. Regardless, the company went on to manufacture newer models until a series of unfortunate events led the company to stop production in 1987.

Friday 25 January 2013

Bendy Mobile Phones?

One of the hot topics in the world of technology at the moment is the news that Samsung are gearing up to produce a new generation of mobile phones which can bend, are unbreakable and even be folded up so that they fit neatly in your pockets.

If the rumours are true then we could see Samsung shipping them sometime this year.

This exciting breakthrough has been made by using organic light emitting diodes (OLED's) which are so thin that they can be put on flexible material such as metal foil or even plastic.

The prototypes were unveiled at the CES gadget show earlier this month and ran the Microsoft Windows phone operating system.

Watch this space for more updates as and when they happen as this could be a game changer.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

Deleting Personal Data from Hard Drives

Most of us store and create new personal data on a daily basis. Be it an on-line purchase, the addition of a new digital photo album, a Facebook post or a bank transfer - we're constantly writing information to hard disk drives, and we're doing it a lot more than you might think.

Data, as we know, is stored on a variety of storage devices, and most of what we store is personal, private and can include passwords which enable us to access many secure websites. The thought of this information getting into the hands of others could be catastrophic. Many people assume that if they manually erase this information, then it is wiped from the storage device forever. This is untrue.

The recycling of hard drives is good for the environment and many companies do this, innocent to the fact that when they format a drive (the act of supposedly wiping all the data from it), most, if not all of the data is still present, and can be accessed using 'off the shelf' data recovery software.

This was proven recently when an on-line security firm managed to retrieve a number of sensitive documents and personal information from a 'pre-formatted, ready to use' hard drive which was purchased from eBay.

Therefore it is important to understand that standard deletion / formatting will not permanently remove your important files and information. In actual fact, there are only really two methods of doing this, the destructive and the non-destructive way.

Firstly, you could physically destroy your hard drive by taking a hammer to it, setting it on fire, hiring a JCB and driving over it etc but this would clearly make it unusable and would also be a little over dramatic.

The other option would be to use some free software which would overwrite, overwrite and then overwrite again with a string of useless data, in order to completely remove any previous information being held on the drive.

In conclusion, I hope this article has been informative and helped people understand the concepts of deleting information, so as to hopefully protect their own private data from getting into the wrong hands. Please feel free to browse this Blog as there are many other useful articles on here to.

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Not Enough Children Have Access to the Internet

A recent breakdown by the Office of National Statistics has revealed that over a third of the poorest children in England do not have access to the Internet from their own homes.

Now as we all know, the Internet is more than just a social media tool - it is also a valuable source of information, especially for school children who are often asked to research project on-line and in their own time, as part of their course work. This also applies to children as young as 6 years old (speaking from personal experience).

However, many families struggle to make ends meet as it is, and the extra monthly Internet cost is simply not affordable. This is causing a 'digital divide' between the poorest families and those who can afford home Internet and indeed a computer to run the thing on in the first place.

From a social perspective, lack of Internet can also have an effect on teenagers, often leaving them shut out from their peer group and certainly disadvantaged in their studies. At such an impressionable age it is bound to have a profound effect.

It's not all bad news though as there are charitable organisations set up who will provide drop in centres, which have computer and Internet access facilities. One local to CCS Leeds is the LS14 Trust, who operate a 'digital lounge' and are passionate about the local community.

The question is, given the enormity and importance of the Internet in today's digital age - should the government be addressing this issue and investing money into providing subsidised Internet connections for those who truly can't afford it?

Tuesday 8 January 2013

Climate Friendly Data Centre

It's fair to assume that any Data Centre would consume a fair amount of power, considering that there are racks and racks of co-located server hardware, not to mention air conditioning, lighting and the general power consumption of the building itself. And, as a result of the high power consumption, some may suggest that this is bad for the environment.

However, there are things we can to to reduce the effect we have on the environment by investing in the most energy efficient hardware around. In an earlier article I discussed our 'eco-friendly' cooling systems, which are state of the art and the very latest in environmentally friendly ways of keeping our customers equipment at a low temperature.

We also use similarly environmentally friendly uninterruptible power supply (UPS) units, which have been listed on the Department of Energy and climate (DECC) Energy Technology List (ETL). These two bodies encourage businesses to invest in only approved energy saving technologies.

Riello UPS Ltd who manufacture the UPS devices had this to say "Products undergo rigorous energy efficiency testing before being included on the list, so the qualification is testament to our team’s hard work and echoes our commitment to being Europe’s most environmentally friendly power protection company.”

So in conclusion, if you choose to co-locate your servers at our Data Centre in Leeds, West Yorkshire, then you can be sure that we have made every effort to be a friendly to the environment as possible, whilst also providing the very best in Data Centre services.

Thursday 3 January 2013

Raspberry PI / XBMC / First Thoughts / Install Guide

I was excited as a kid at Christmas this Christmas (ha) as I had ordered the very latest Raspberry PI along with a case, power supply and 4GB SD card, and I was itching to get my hands on it.

My original intentions were to push the thing to it's limits and explore all of the many possible uses for it. I did not order my SD card with a pre-installed operating system on it as I was fully aware that I could install anything I wanted at my own leisure.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas I had been researching and reading up on the potential of this tiny credit card sized computer, and was particularly interested in it's capabilities as a home media centre. Up to press I have been an ardent supporter of Apple TV however, the second generation is only capable of playing 720p content and whilst the third generation does support full 1080p, it is very limited in what it can do.

Therefore I set about finding out which would be the best media centre software to use on my new Raspberry PI, as I had read many claims that full 1080p video playback was supported via the on-board HDMI port. After extensive research it turns out that the hugely popular XBMC was the best way to go, and the best version was a completely free version called Openelec.

The installation process could not be simpler (well it could, but then I have been doing this kind of things for years). Here is a list of items which I used;

Raspberry PI Board
4GB SD Card
Power Supply
USB Keyboard
Windows 8 Computer with SD Card reader

SD Formatter
openELEC image

The first thing I did was to download a copy of SD card formatter for Windows. I then inserted the SD card into the reader, launched the formatting software and followed the instructions, carefully ensuring that I was formatting the SD card and not some other media attached to my PC.

Next up I launched the Win32 Disk Imager software which asked me for the location of my recently downloaded openELEC image, and where to write it to (i.e. the SD card). This process took about 4 minutes, if that and once it was complete, the final step was to eject the SD card from my PC, physically slot it into the SD card slot on the Raspberry PI, and then plug it into my TV and switch the thing on.

I'm very happy to say that it worked first time and before too long, I was controlling it via an iPhone remote control app (free) and watching 1080p video content streamed from my NAS device.

Additional notes

The device can be controlled by using a bluetooth Windows Media Centre remote. I picked one up for £12.99 and it worked first time without any messing about.

One down side is that the only way to switch the device off is to unplug the power source. That said, the thing uses hardly any power anyway and is completely silent as there are no moving parts. Additionally the board does not tend to get very warm which is also very encouraging.

Another slightly annoying point is that the software does not support every single video codec. In order to install the MPEG-2 and VC-1 codecs, you need to purchase them from the Raspberry PI store at a cost of £2.40 and £1.20 respectively.

Finally, it has to be said that using the Raspberry PI board in this way makes for an excellent and inexpensive media centre (less than £40 all in), and don't even get me started on the many more things you can do with XBMC - maybe I'll save that for a future article.

Going forward we do have some interesting plans for Raspberry PI users, which will include some FREE colocation offerings. Watch this space to find out more.