Saturday, 21 May 2016

Chrome OS - Make Your Old Computer Useful Again

Do you have an old laptop or desktop PC that is past its prime, just sitting in a dusty office corner or loft?

Rather than throwing it away, you can turn it into a Chromebook!

What is a Chromebook?

A Chromebook looks just like a normal laptop but instead of running a Windows or Apple operating system it runs Google's Chrome OS; which primarily uses Google cloud apps such as, Drive, Calendar, GMail, Chrome Browser, Maps etc.

Should I use a Chromebook?

It all depends on what you use a computer for. If like most people, you just want to do email, web browsing, iPlayer, YouTube and a bit of word processing, a Chromebook is an excellent option.

If you use software that is not available in Chrome OS, e.g. Adobe Photoshop, iTunes etc then a Chromebook is not for you.

How does this benefit my old laptop?

The main problem with older laptops is that they simply aren't fast enough to run modern operating system. They likely came installed with Windows XP (a small operating system) but will struggle to run Windows 10 (a much larger operating system). Chrome OS does not require large amounts of processing power or hard drive space as it is cloud based. Your old laptop will be both useful and fast again!

How can I turn my old computer into a laptop?

As a general rule this procedure will work on any Intel based laptop or computer that have a 64-bit processor. All but one of my laptops I have been able to run Chrome OS. The one that didn't was a 2003 IBM Thinkpad T40 which had a 32-bit processor and did not support Physical Address Extension. There is a workaround but it is far too time consuming for most users.

You will need:

  • 8GB or larger USB2.0 memory stick
  • A computer with an internet connection
  • Google Chrome installed
  • A Google account

1. Download CloudReady from Neverware
2. Follow the installation instructions:

Once installed with ChromeOS your old laptop will have a new lease of life!

If you attempt this, please let me know how you get on and what if any problems you encountered.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

The Truth Is Out There - Help Find Aliens With Your Raspberry Pi!

Australian electronics engineer Dave Jones has published a great video on YouTube showing how you can help SETI search for alien radio signals using your Raspberry Pi. 

Don't worry if you don't have a Raspberry Pi and would like to get involved, you can download the software for many other devices (Windows, Linux, Android and Mac).

Go to: to download the software. When your computer/tablet etc is idling, BOINC harnesses your computer's spare CPU power to process scientific data.

More detailed information can be found here:

Who knows, your computer may be the one that proves we are not alone in the universe!

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

High Performance Laptop for only £500

I was recently asked by a customer to recommend a new laptop that would be able to cope with their heavy usage needs. My thoughts immediately turned to an Intel i5 or i7 powered laptop with 8GB of RAM. I am a big fan of Asus laptops as their build quality is superb.

Looking through the range I discovered that many of the i5 and i7 laptops were very expensive and did not represent good value for money. Many of the Intel i3 powered laptops start from around £300 and are supplied with 4GB RAM. The Asus X55C is a particularly good example.

I decided to upgrade the RAM from 4GB to 8GB, also increasing the RAM speed from 1333MHz to 1600MHz. I removed the supplied 320GB hard disk drive and replaced with a 128GB solid state drive that can deliver speeds up to 500MBs per second. I also loaded Windows 7 instead of Windows 8.

The result? A laptop that boots in only 15 seconds after pressing the power button! 

And the cost of all this? Only £500. A MacBook Air which boots in around 10-15 seconds, starts from £849 and for this you only get an 11" or 13" screen. The Asus is supplied with a 15.6" screen. A MacBook Pro with 15" screen retails at £1499 and isn't supplied with a solid state drive.

So if you want a truly high performance laptop for an excellent price then please get in touch!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

3D Printing: Why I believe it could change the world

3D printing or additive manufacturing is the process of printing three dimensional objects from designs made on a computer. It has been around since the 1980s but only used for prototyping in large scale companies. Now a revolution is under way. With 3D printers available for less than £2000 they are quickly appearing in the domestic market. MakerBot being a notable example.

You can print more or less any shape / object using a variety of materials, metal, plastic, paper and even food substances! The uses for 3D printing are seemingly endless! As someone who enjoys tinkering with my car on a daily basis the ability to print out spare parts would save endless trips to the main dealer or frequent eBay searches. Already thousands of free designs are available on the Internet, take a look at Thingiverse for some of the great offerings.

So how can 3D printing change the world? As I see it the world economy is driven by the classic model of supply and demand. Objects like diamonds are scarce (i.e. there is low supply) therefore the price is high. Although 3D printers can't make diamonds yet they can make a lot of other things (even guns) and no longer will you need to pop to the shops for a lot of things. Imagine the handle of your favourite coffee mug snaps off, no problem! Just print another one off. And why stop at a single mug, why not print 12 off?

3D printing will increase supply of goods (i.e. making them less scarce) and therefore price will have to fall. I believe supply could be so great that prices will fall to zero! I haven't even got to the best bit yet about all this. Currently a 3D printer can print approximately 70% of its own components, in the coming years this will inevitably become 100%. Some progress has already been made by The University of Bath: - This means you won't need to go to PC World or wherever to buy another one if it breaks. You simply ask a friend or neighbour to print a 3D printer for you on their 3D printer! You could have one in every room of your house.

The potential applications for 3D printing are huge, I see it being particularly useful in many impoverished places of the world. The ability to print out spare parts for generators, water pumps and even medical applications. If 3D printing is able to give us all the things we want at the touch of a button will there be any need for money? Will humanity move from a monetary based economy to a resource based one?

Friday, 16 November 2012

Windows 8: First Impressions

I've used many different computers and operating systems over the years, everything from an Amstrad to your latest generation Samsung Galaxy tablet, Windows 3.1 to Mac OS X 10.7. Without doubt, the best of these operating systems is Windows XP. It is beautifully, simple and easy to use, above all it's quick! Even on systems I would consider to be under powered it still performed admirably.

Earlier this month I had to setup a new Asus X501A that a customer had recently purchased. An aesthetically pleasing laptop, with an Intel i3 processor and 4GB RAM, excellent value for money at around £350. The one drawback however was that it came installed Windows 8 as its operating system. I've recommend many similar spec Asus laptops to customers in the past, all of which have run Windows 7. I was amazed at how much slower 8 appeared to be than 7. Everything took five times longer than normal and it was full of superfluous menus and warning messages.

I should say at this point that this was not the first time I had used Windows 8. An evaluation copy has been freely available online from Microsoft for some time now. The first thing I immediately took a dislike to was the new Metro interface. I recommend you read the Wikipedia article for more information on Metro: It seems totally unnecessary on a desktop or laptop computer. I'm certain it works brilliantly on a tablet though. The traditional desktop environment is still lurking underneath the Metro interface but the Start button is no more.

In conclusion, I see no reason to upgrade from Windows 7 to 8. In fact if you're considering buying a new PC or laptop I recommend you do whatever you can to ensure it's supplied with 7. If you're interested in an alternative operating system to both Windows and Mac OS take a look at Ubuntu. A free operating system used by over 20 million users:

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

3 Year Warranty on all new PCs

I am delighted to announce that all new PCs supplied by First 4 Computers will have a three (3) year warranty as standard.

The industry standard is typically only one (1) year with some retailers offering two (2).

A three (3) year warranty gives you added confidence in the product you are buying and the knowledge that you are getting great value for money.

Please visit to see the current range of PCs.

All PCs can be customised to your requirements. Alternatively I can build a bespoke machine from scratch to suit your budget.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Wireless Networking

Recently it has come to my attention that a lot of people are having problems with their wireless networking setup. It is often the case that the wireless router (often provided by their Internet Service Provider) is of poor quality.

Consequently, users experience slow Internet speeds, connection drop outs and poor wireless reception. The solution is simple, buying a high quality router built by a trusted manufacturer. High quality doesn't mean high cost either, most routers First4Computers supply start from just £65 including installation and setup. A high quality router will ensure, greater security, faster Internet, greater reliability and far improved wireless reception.

First4Computers can supply wireless routers for Cable or ADSL Internet connections. Setup takes approximately one hour.

So call on 0117 922 0686 or e-mail today for more information.