Broadband Through Balloons

By Pete | @kingpetey | 26 May 2003

Currently there are only 2 main ways of getting broadband into your home or business in the UK, the first is to hope that your phone line is in a broadband enabled area and the second is to use the expensive satellite services.

Very soon there could be a third, it involves air balloons floating 1.5 kms in the air tied down with a fiber optic cable. Users then point a modified satellite dish at the balloon and can access the Internet at up to 2MBs per second.

The company developing the technology is called Skylinc and has done a range of tests with the baloons in York and has had very pleasing results. Skylinc say that just 18 balloons could cover the whole of the UK for broadband meaning that even very remote places could have access to a fast net connection.

The service would be offered cheaper that most line based broadband and wouldn't have the slow uploading speeds associated with satellite connections. The company say that bad weather is also not a problem as the balloons can be kept still with special systems.

The service is hoped to be launched as soon as next year in some areas of the UK and Skylinc are applying for licenses to float balloons in other parts of the country.

Broadband in the UK is becoming increasingly popular and it was announced this week that 2 million people now have it and this is increasing at over 35,000 people a week. Skylinc certainly have a big audience awaiting them if they can get their service in before satellites become cheaper for net access.

Say goodbye to the Athlon

By Pete | @kingpetey | 13 May 2003

On Tuesday Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) will release the Athlon XP 3200+ for desktops which will be the last in the Athlon line. Instead of the Athlon AMD will work on a new architecture called the Athlon 64 which is based on 90-nanometer manufacturing.

The chip is set to launch in September and will form the basis of AMD chips in the future. Athlons will be slowly phased out and will become AMD's budget range until they are slowly phased out in early 2005. AMD havn't released information about their Duron range but it is expected that they will also be phased out.

The 3200+ features a 400MHz bus, faster than the 333MHz and 266MHz buses found in earlier Athlon chips, and runs at a slightly faster clock speed than other high-end Athlon chips, said John Crank, senior branding associate for AMD.

The Athlon was first launched in 1999 in an attempt to try to revive the californian company. Since then the Athlon has grown from strength to strength however is still way behind the market leaders Intel.

"Without Athlon, AMD would be out of the business," said Kevin Krewell, senior editor of the Microprocessor Report. "The K6 kept AMD in the game but never put AMD ahead...It was a huge step forward for the company."

SuSE Linux 8.2

By Pete | @kingpetey | 10 May 2003

I have read quite a few reviews on SuSEs (here) latest product with different people giving their opinions so here are mine. SuSE in my opinion has made the biggest improvements to its distribution in recent years but will SuSE Linux 8.2 carry on with this trend or not?

I had 2 test machines lined up for the review, firstly my main PC, a Pentium 4 (here) ? 2gig with 512DDR and a 60gig hard drive, secondly an older Celeron 450 with 96mbs of ram and a 2gig hard drive. Both machines boot from the CD so I didn't have to worry about floppy disks or anything else messy.

Firstly I installed on the P4 machine, between first booting from the CD to getting to the KDE desktop took about 45 minutes which compared to other distros isn't too bad but I felt it was longer than 8.0 or 8.1 took to install. I liked how SuSE flawlessly sorted out my partitions for me and set the mount points so I didn't have to worry about it. SuSE detected all of my hardware including my extremely annoying Brooktree TV card that wont work in windows.

My Conexant ADSL modem was also detected however would not establish an ADSL connection, I have had the same with all other recent Linux distributions so I wasn't too upset. However this was one thing that I was hoping that SuSE Linux 8.2 would solve, while I did see a lot of improvements to the section in YaST for setting up ADSL connections it still didn't like my modem.

After KDE 3.1 (here) loaded I had a chance to explore, KDE seemed a lot more flexible, you could easily resize the bar at the bottom and you had handy links to your partitions and drives on your desktop which was a big help. Most of my music on my fat32 partition was now only a few clicks away to being played easily in XMMS.

Xine played my DVDs with almost no problems (I had to install a rpm to let me navigate DVD menus) but otherwise I could play DVDs and Divx's. My CD burner even worked fine and I could easily copy songs and films onto Cds with no problems.

I was impressed with how SuSE ran on my P4, it wasn't the quickest Linux distribution to boot but once it had it ran nicely and did as much console work as it could for you meaning that it was good for desktop users.

Next onto my Celeron 450, installation took a bit longer on this mainly because of the slower CD drive but the system was up and running within around 90mins. I had a few problems with the installer trying to resize the windows partition on the 2gig drive so that it barly had enough room to install Linux, but I soon sorted that by deleting Windows ? a necessary task.

I installed quite a bit less than I had done on my P4 mainly because of the hard drive but also because the processor was far too slow for many programs such as The Gimp and the popular penguin surfing game ? Tux Racer. I did still however install Open Office as I wanted to use the machine for any word processing I needed to do and as I use Open Office for my other documents on my P4 it seemed an obvious choice.

Open Office (here) took a while to configure itself on first use but otherwise it loaded in no lengthy time. KDE 3.1 also seemed fine on my Celeron 450 and was perfectly usable for simple stuff such as web browsing (over the lan) sending and receiving emails and word processing.

Other Linux distributions have always seemed slow running on the Celeron but SuSE 8.2 didn't seem too bad, it wasn't too slow and was a joy to use. It managed to configure my graphics and monitor fine unlike Mandrake (here) and it made a 800*600 resolution usable. Overall I was impressed with how SuSE 8.2 handled the slower machine and it made the machine a lot more useful then by putting Windows on it. SuSE 8.2

I thought SuSE 8.2 worked nicely on both my test machines and is well worth the upgrade. The changes between SuSE 8.1 and 8.2 are sufficient to make it a worth while upgrade, this is helped by the improvements in KDE 3.1 and how SuSE are incorporating as many configuration features into YaST as possible to make it easy to use.

In my view SuSE is the best in the way its heading towards ?desktop Linux?. I wont get into the argument of whether Linux is ready for the desktop user but I will say that SuSE 8.2 is another step in the right direction.

Other Recent Linux Articles

SuSE Linux Office Desktop here
Linux for older PCs here
Red Hat 8 or SuSE 8.1 here

For more Linux articles check out the ImAFish Linux section:


[Last edited on May 10, 2003 at 9:35:30pm by pwhite]

The sequel to the massively popular first person shooter game Half Life is set to be launched on September 30th. Half Life fan sites such as here have been reporting about the rumors of the sequel for a while now.

The game is set to make an appearance at the upcoming E3 gaming show in Las Vegas. You still play Gordan Freeman and the story assumes you went to work for the mysterious G-Man. The story takes place in a European city called ?City 17? and still features many of your favorite aliens.

While the new engine has all sorts of fancy features, it's still designed to work on lower-end machines. Apparently a 700mhz processor and a video card capable of running DX6 is enough, although a 2ghz with a GeForce4 is recommended.

Half Life has been one of the most popular games ever and has allowed many other games such as the online game Counter Strike to become the most popular multiplayer game. Other addons such as Opposing Forces and Blue Shift have added more to the game making it popular for 5 years now.

Half Life 2 isn't the only big game to be launched this summer. The long awaited Doom 3 is set to be launched soon too giving tough competition to Half Life.

Half Life's game producers Valve Software are keeping a lot secret at the moment but will probably let a lot more know about the game at E3. Until then we will just have to speculate about whats going to happen in the game.

The PC giant Dell has regained its number one spot in the PC market against HP according to the research firm Gartner. Dell produced 450,000 more desktops, notebooks and servers worldwide than its main rival HP.

Dell accounted for about 16% of worldwide sales while HP only by about 15%. This is a massive 24% growth in the first quarter of this year for Dell. Many other manufactures have seen loses so far this year and the overall PC market has grown by 2.1% which was above the predicted rate of 2%.

HP have also seen loses of sales in Europe however this could be due to the problems caused between the merger of HP and Compaq. The electronics giant Toshiba has also made good sales and has become one of the top 5 pc manufacturers in the world showing the increasing market for laptop computers.

The battle between HP and Dell is very choppy with both sides doing better one quarter than another. An HP executive characterized the battle with Dell as an up-and-down one, noting that HP benefits during the holidays, when consumer sales are strongest.

"It's a two horse race," said Jim McDonnell, vice president of marketing for HP's PC unit. "It's close and it's going to continue to be close."

What ever happens in the computer market it can only mean good things for the consumer, with better technology and increasing competition the PC market could get tough for some manufacturers.