Tag Archives: Tech

Fuji FinePix A700

The A700 is by no means a new camera, having been launched in October 2006. It is currently available at a very good price point, however – around £80/119Eur/$157.

The A700 is aimed at the home/first time user, and for this user the camera is good. However if you are looking for a camera to compliment your DSLR then this is probably not the camera you are looking for. I’ll explain why, but first some specifications:

Specs

Sensor : 1/1.6-inch Super CCD HR at 7.3MP
Resolution Support : 3,072 x 2,304 (7.3M) /3,264 x 2,176 (3:2) / 2,304 x 1,728 (4M)/ 1,600 X 1,200 (2M)/ 640 X 480 (0.3)
Video Resolution : 320 x 240 pixels ( 10 frames/sec.), 160 x 120 pixels ( 10 frames/sec.)
Lens : Fujinon 3.0x Optical zoom lens, F2.8 – F5.2 – 8- 24mm (Equivalent to 36-108mm on a 35mm camera)
ISO Speeds : 100/200/400 via an Auto mode
Flash : Internal flash. Wide angle (Approx.1.6 -12.5ft.), Telephoto (Approx. 2.0-6.6ft), Macro (Approx.1.0 – 2.6ft).
Flash modes : Auto, Red-eye Reduction, Forced Flash, Suppressed Flash, Slow Synchro, Red-eye Reduction + Slow Synchro.
Display : 2.4" 112000 pixel Amorphous silicon TFT (around 91% scene coverage)
Storage : Internal 12Mb plus xD Card (16Mb one supplied)
Power : 2xAA

Usability

 

The reason I mentioned that this camera is more suited to the home or first time users, is that this camera takes the concept of KISS ("Keep It Simple, Stupid") to a whole new level.

The Camera has no ‘manual’ modes to speak of, and in its default power up state uses a quite competent auto mode. This can be overridden, however it looks like the Fuji engineers believed that end users wouldn’t be messing about in the menus, and as such have spent very little time on their design and layout.

The point and shoot concepts of the camera work well; the zoom is easy to use, as is the display on the rear.

The camera is a little large in comparison to some of the other devices on the market (for example the Optio A20 which I reviewed earlier in the year).

Photos

The pictures the camera produces are a little hit and miss. In good lighting, or under ideal conditions for the flash, the camera produces photos that are at least on a par with more expensive equipment. Its abilities under extreme lighting conditions are not so good.

As you can see from the two pictures here (the right being the cleaned version), the photos do show improvement with just a little touching up. This however does not help in dark conditions. The camera just does not seem to pick up enough information for you to touch things up later.

The camera ‘s macro mode is also a little hit and miss. If you get the distance from the object just right, it produces some good quality shots (under good lighting). There is very little noise to be seen in the photos, even when zooming in on the image after it’s been taken. This shows that the CCD of the device is quite good. It seems that the downside to the device is probably due to the lens and software.

The lens issue also shows itself on shots where the lens is at its widest zoom, with a noticeable ‘fish eye’ effect seeming to happen, however the usual bugbear with cheap lenses is the corners, and this shows very little chromatic aberration.

 

Summary

The camera is certainly not the best of the current breed, but it’s not the worst either. It’s certainly very week on the features list, but some novice users will see this as a positive rather than a negative.

Framing of full frame shots could be an issue as the LCD display clips the edges, however this is not uncommon, and it seems to be the fashion to not put a proper view finder on compact cameras nowadays.

The flash is powerful enough for snap shot use, but can be a bit of a demon when it comes to red eye.

Photos, for the most part, are acceptable and after a little "photoshopping" look fine for most uses.

This camera would have been better if a little more thought was put into the design of its various sections. The case should be a little slimmer, the software a little more grown up, and the lens perhaps a little more in tune with the CCD.

That said, if these things were done I doubt the price would be as low as it is for this camera. Direct competitors are few and far between at this price point, the closest being the Pentax Optio E-20 or the Sony DSC-S600, however both of these are 6MP cameras and not 7MP, so not directly comparable.

Conclusion

If you are new to digital cameras, or need a compact and already own xD Cards then you could do worse than the Fuji A700.

However, I suspect you’ll outgrow it quite quickly, so it may be worth saving up and getting one of the newer 9 or 10 Mega Pixel compacts that are now available.

It would be an ideal kids first camera as it is built well, relatively light and requires no setup whatsoever.

If you cannot stretch the extra 60 pounds or so for the next level up, then this is certainly better than the ‘no-name’ cameras out there; although the lens is not perfect, and the software and features lack, it is still a decent ‘bang for the buck’ camera from a reputable manufacturer.

Author’s note – The thumbnail images link to the bigger original which are around the 5mb mark. Some of the photos have been touched up in PhotoShop.

FSMO Roles and moving them

I wrote last week about my move from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2007, and in that article I mentioned that I moved my Domain Controller over at the same time.

There has been questions about what and how, so I’ve knocked this together for anyone that needs to do likewise.

In this scenario we have our old server, and we have our new freshly Server 2003’d server, OLD and NEW.

  • Install DNS on the NEW server, however do not configure it. To do this just add the DNS role through Add Remove programs. You may also need WINS if you use legacy OS’s.
  • Configure the NEW server’s network with a static IP, and the primary DNS should point to the OLD server for DNS, with itself as a secondary.
  • Join the domain on the new server (through computer properties) and reboot.
  • DCPromo the server upto a DC, you should join this server as ‘Additional Domain Controller for an Existing Domain’. This will automatically configure the DNS to replicate the DNS of the domain. Use the defaults for all the settings, unless you have a good reason not to. Make sure you remember the recovery password that you enter.

Write after a reboot at this point you will have two DC servers on your LAN (NEW and OLD), the problem is however that OLD will still be the FSMO master for all the roles in the domain, seeming as we are decommissioning this box we need to move all the roles.

  • First off we need to make the NEW server a Global Catalogue server, to do this launch ‘Active Directory Sites and Services’, now expand your site, then expand servers, select the NEW server, then right click and properties of NTDS Settings (on the right pain). Select the ‘Global Catalogue check box, now ok out of this screen.
  • Now change the properties of the NEW server network to point to itself for DNS as primary and the OLD server as secondary.

Now that the server is a GC server we can assign it FSMO Roles, lets do that.

  • Launch the ‘Active Directory Users and Computers’ from Admin tools.
  • Select the Domain and right click, select ‘connect to domain controller’, select NEW then ok.
  • Right click the Domain, select ‘Operations Masters’.
  • You should now see a screen with three tabs, Select the change button on each tab to migrate that role to the connected server.
  • Domain Naming Master must now be transferred. Launch the ‘Active Directory Domains and Trusts’ tool from Admin Tools.
  • Right click the root level, and select the ‘Connect to Domain Controller and select the NEW server.
  • Right click the root level, and select ‘Operations Master’ then Change. This should move the Ops Master role over to NEW.

The last couple of roles can either be done through script (as can all of the above), or with an ‘unsupported but shipped’ tool. We will use the later as it’s easiest to describe without going into how to use the NTDSUTIL.EXE tool.

  • First register the Schema Management tool by typing regsvr32 schmmgmt.dll into the run box on the server.
  • Now run MMC and add the Active Directory Schema snapin to it.
  • Right click the Domain name, and select ‘Change Domain Controller, select NEW server.
  • Right click the Domain name, and select ‘Schema Master’, then change.
  • Now we need to change the Site Licensing Server, to do this open ‘Active Directory Sites and Services’, now select Sites, then your domain, then on the right pain right click ‘Licensing Site Settings’ and then Change on the Licensing Computer area.

Ok nearly done now. Reboot the NEW server, and wait, what we are looking for is an event type of 1869 (or 1119, but we should get an 1869) to show up in the NEW servers Directory Service log. Whatever you do don’t shutdown the OLD server until you get this, else nobody will be able to logon, as we will not have a GC server on the lan.

When we get that Event happen, we can remove the Global Catalog role from the OLD server, this is done in the same way as we added it to NEW earlier.

Now we do some checks and force the PDC role over, and for this we will use NTDSUTIL.

  • Launch a command prompt
  • type NTDSUTIL
  • You should see ntdsutil: at the prompt. Here we type Roles and press enter
  • fsmo maintenance: connections and enter
  • server connections: connect to server NEW (or servername here) and enter
  • Connected to NEW using credentials of locally logged on user.
    server connections:
    CTRL-Z and enter
  • fsmo maintenance: Seize PDC
  • This should result in the server attempting a nice transfer of the role (which should already be on the NEW server). The results will also tell you about the other roles. If any of the roles are still on the OLD server, then type the appropriate command from below to seize the role on the NEW server.

    Seize infrastructure master
    Seize domain naming master
    Seize RID master
    Seize schema master
    Select operation target

That should be it. You can now DCPromo out the OLD server, and use the new server as if the OLD one did not exist.

The only things left that may need to do are, setup the helper addresses in DNS so the server can lookup Internet DNS names. Setup your DHCP Scope and options.

If there is anything that I have missed, then please let me know.

Review: Pentax Optio A20

I approached the review of Pentax's new little baby with some trepidation. Why, you may ask? Well, for the last 5 years I have been a Canon user through and through. I have had two of their Digital Ixus cameras (4 and 6MP – megapixel) and three of their Amateur status Digital SLRs (300D, 350D and 400D). I have also played with the Canon 10MP Ixus, and was not all that impressed, hence the reason I stuck with our 6MP Ixus.

With that in mind, I came to the Optio not expecting too much. So far, all of the 10MP compacts that I have seen or seen shots from have not been all that impressive.

I was shocked by how well the A20 takes photos, with no advanced configuration.

The A20 is the replacement for Pentax's much liked A10, but adds some nice touches. The most obvious is the 10 Effective Mega Pixel CCD Sensor with a max capture resolution of 3648 x 2736. Other features are Shake Reduction (3 modes), Facial Recognition, a soft flash mode and most importantly the new ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) processor.

Specifications

  • 10.0 mega pixels
  • 2.5inch TFT LCD screen
  • 3x optical zoom equivalent to 38mm-114mm in 35mm format
  • 22 MB Built-in memory
  • SD & SDHC memory card compatible
  • 15cm macro
  • Sensitivity range – ISO64 – ISO800
  • Shutter speed range – 1/2000 sec. to 4 sec.

In Use

After charging the battery and popping my memory card into the camera (note: the A20 does not come with an SD card at all, so make sure you have a spare) I decided to perform a test in typical English overcast weather, as it should show up any issues with changeable light conditions.

I took the camera into the countryside, and took some shots that would allow me to judge the quality of the A20's sensor and processor.

As you can see with all the shots here, the quality of the photos is top notch – even if my skill is not. You can click any of the thumbnails for a higher resolution version, but be warned most of them are in excess of 4Mb.

The camera worked well and felt good on my initial outing. The build quality is certainly up there with anything that Canon and Fuji have put together; it does not weigh much and is very slim with a great screen that is easy to see under all light conditions. I was also impressed with the speed of the auto focus when in its full auto mode; some of the other 10MP cameras struggle to do this quickly, especially when the light is low.

On that initial outing I filled my 1Gb card, then filled the 256Mb replacement I popped in, all on the same charge. So battery life is good – I was expecting the screen to sap the battery life, so this is a welcome surprise.

The A20 also seems to be quick when saving a shot to the card. I was timing writes on its 10MP fine mode at below 3 seconds. Considering that there is 10MPs worth of data for the ASIC to process this is good, showing that the processor is up to the job. Incidentally, the timings are around the same for my Ixus which is a lower CCD size.

As you can see the A20 makes easy work of even very low light shots.

 

Ease of Use

This is where the A20 really shows off. The layout of the camera and menus is very intuitive. The modes are easy to identify and use; with only a single button press to access the mode menu, switching between them is easy and quick. There are a variety of built in photo modes ranging from the default Auto mode through to completely manual modes, with things like People, Landscape, Animal, Baby and even a Food mode. In the manual mode access to speeds and ISO modes is a doddle. There is even a quick switch button to put you back into the Auto mode should you need to get back to it in a hurry.

 

Lens

The lens is the same 3x zoom SMC one found on the previous compact Pentax cameras, and this is no bad thing. The reputation of the lens is a good one, and let's be honest: if it's not broke, don't fix it.

The lens always produces sharp pictures up to its 3x magnification. However, the digital zoom mode is – like all cameras – one that should be used sparingly.

The effective lens magnification is 38mm-114mm if compared to a 35mm camera, so gives a decent range. However it's not quite wide enough at its lowest magnification level, where as a true 35mm would have been nice.

 

Technology

Besides the obvious 10.4MP CCD (10MP effective) there is a lot of nice technology on this camera. The most obvious of which are the Share Reduction and the Face recognition.

The Shake Reduction system works better than the one employed on the Sony cameras of this size, and does not seem to clip the photos as much. This is probably because it uses Pentax's CCD-Shift system rather than a pure digital version. In practice I found that you could shoot at around 2 speeds quicker with the system than without. For example, a shot that I could hold sharp and steady at 1/60sec would be usable at 1/8sec with the system active. A definite advantage.

The other system that seems to be popular with manufacturers at the moment is the facial recognition. The camera 'sees' a face and automatically adjusts both the focus point and the shooting mode as it sees fit. The Pentax system goes a little further and can actually recognise children and animals as well, and this makes the camera a great 'point and shoot' tool.

 

Quality

The A20 seems to manage happily under most conditions, although I did see it struggling on some dark scenes. However, these could be easily corrected using Photoshop without loosing any details.

I was also shocked by how little noise this sensor created even at high ISO modes. The Ixus certainly looks better "un-shopped" but the resulting images are certainly more detailed using the A20. Even at ISO 800 the noise was not as high as I would have expected. It is worth noting that the auto mode seems to suffer most at low levels, and the best results are achieved using the Manual modes.

As you can see, under dark light conditions the photos seem to benefit from a little Photoshoping. However the details are captured well so the photos look good after balancing. 

Verdict

The A20 costs – at the moment – around £160 (243Eur or 315USD), so it's one of the cheapest 10MP cameras on the market.

The quality of the shots are great, and the device is light, small and easy to use.

This camera will certainly be added to my list of devices when I replace my now aging Ixus.

Yes the shots are not as good as the ones I get from my Canon 400D, however the lens on my 400D cost the same as this camera, and because of these points I can highly recommend this camera to anyone that wants a new compact digital camera.

I forgot to mention it earlier in the review, the digital video capture mode is very good as well, and records in DivX.

The only downside that I noticed, was the USB port on the device. Instead of using a standard mini USB port, Pentax have gone for an even smaller port. This means that you cannot just use a standard cable, and instead have to carry the included one around.

Score : 9/10 – Highly versatile, small, light and easy to use compact digital camera.

BlueRay Decrypter

muslix64 has done it again. There is now a BluRay decrypter available for anyone that wants to remove the DRM from their BR disk.

This is an early version and has the bellow limitations :

  • Don't support BD+
  • Don't support Volume unique key
  • Only support one CPS unit key per disc
  • I don't clear the HDMV_copy_control_descriptor in the stream
  • Don't have any FAQ or document so far…
  • You have to provide your own CPS unit key
  • The playback seems to work with VideoLan

However it works, so get yourself a copy. BackupBluRayV001

iPhone

I noticed that Gary  had given me a bit of a bash over my iPhone reaction.

I just wanted to make my impressions clear.

I've been an 'advanced phone' user for a good many years now, I have in the past used Nokia, Ericsson, Sony, and of late Microsoft (HTC) phones, and over the years seen them advance to the state of my current phone which my parents call my mini PC (HTC Universal).

The iPhone looks AMAZING! however it has some serious shortcomings, most of which should be expected, seeming this is Apple's first foray into the phone market (we will forget the RokR).

The iPhone falls short on some serious areas. What connected phone would be without 3G? I don't want to browse over GPRS, and it's damn sure that there will not be a WiFi zone like there is in San Francisco around where I live any time soon.

The lack of developer support is a joke, what's going on there? It runs OSX? yeah right just like my phone runs Windows Vista, the kernel may be loosely related but that's about it. All of the clever video voice-mail and the likes are network dependent, and not many of them will upgrade there infrastructure just for one phone. Do you think Nokia and SE have not looked at doing similar stuff for years?

There were also some strange decisions going on, first they say we are partnering with Google, then say that Yahoo! are going to be the iPhone mail partner. Who the the heck was smoking crack in the boardroom when that decision was made? Steve give up the hard drugs and go back to pot, cause that decision is just plain dumb! Google mail vs Yahoo! mail? I'd rather use Mutt or Pine than Yahoo! (in fact I would rather be sent to prision for a crime I did not commit, and accidentaly bend over to pick up the soap in an all black shower than use Yahoo!). However my dislike of Yahoo! asside, Gmail is possibly the best 'free' mail system out there at the moment, why use a decrepid aging pile of dog muck that get's blocked by almost every decent spam filter engine instead?

Like I said, I have nothing against Apple, I own my fair share of iPods and Macintosh's after all, and what I do confess is that Apple make very good designs.

I would like to see Apple do well with this device, but I'm afraid it's probably better off if they take the phone stuff out and put a hard disk in instead, that way we would get a decent Video iPod, and let's be fair that's what we all really wanted instead of the iPhone anyway.

p.s. While I'm bashing companies, Microsoft PLEASE call me back about my Xbox 360, I've had 3 now, none of them work and I want to play Rainbow Six : Vegas!

Bugatti Veyron – The Powerhouse

Concept 1 The EB18/4 'Veyron' – to give it its full concept name – started life in 1999 at the Tokyo Motor Show as a concept car designed by Volkswagen's Hartmut Warkuss. It was never intended to be put into production, but rather as a marketing piece for the Volkswagen Audi Group's (VAG) takeover of the Bugatti name. At that point in time, the French car manufacturer had just been bought from its previous Italian owners by the German Volkswagen Audi Group. The Veyron was the first Bugatti in a long time to not have been designed by ItalDesign.

The marque was put into the watchful hands of the Audi part of the group, which joined the also recently purchased Lamborghini. It was decided to place them under the stewardship of Audi as they are well known for their pioneering use of technologies and designs.

Concept 2 The concept was called the EB18/4. In line with all previous code names for Bugatti models, the numbers came from the engine inside the car, in this case a W18 (3 banks of 6 cylinders) and 4 turbo chargers. The car was shown at various shows around the world, with no modification; a rare thing in a concept, as they preceed major style changes.

However in 2001 Ferdinand Piëch – VAG Chairman – announced at the Geneva Motorshow that interest in the Veyron had been so high that the group would undertake the task of making the car production ready. He also stated that the car would be the fastest, most powerful and most expensive car in history. Now, some would think that the announcement would put people off, and yet VAG stopped taking orders for the car well before the first road going prototype had even hit the road.

Production There were some changes to the specification of the concept car that were announced as well. The car would not be using the W18 engine, instead it would use a W16 engine, which had already been shown by VAG in their 1999 Bentley Hunaudières concept car. This would be increased in power by adding 4 turbo chargers to it. Top speed was promised to be 250mph (403kph) and the car would have in excess of 1000Bhp.

This announcement, as it turned out, was almost the end of the Veyron project. The story of this car is not its immense performance, it is the engineering that had to go into the mammoth project that created it.

You see there was a problem. The car's design had been shown and signed off by would be purchasers, so the car's looks and shape had to remain fairly close to the concept. Purchasers had also been told that the car would be the fastest, most powerful car ever created. Unfortunately for the Veyron team, these two factors struggled to sit nicely together, and the resulting Veyron is a testament to all of the team involved in making it work.

Late in 2001 the Veyron was promoted from concept to advanced concept, and VAG announced that the car would go on sale in 2003. However, all did not go well.

Reliability and top speed stability were causing issues, so much in fact that one of the prototype cars was destroyed in a high speed accident, and another spun out and crashed at an event at Laguna Seca during a public demonstration.

This rather public demonstration of the handling issues slowed the development process down. Not only was the construction of more prototypes needed, but the motoring press grabbed hold of the Veyron's issues and it started to become a running joke that the car would never make it to market.

Bernd Pischetsrieder took over the running of VAG, and it was thought that he would kill the Veyron project. It had already developed new technologies that could be used in the rest of the VAG range of cars, and many believed that Bernd would drop the project while VAG could still save face. He did something that any other engineer junkie would have: he sent the car back to the drawing board for major overhauls in key areas.

There is a much used quote from Gordon Murray, who designed the McLaren F1. It appeared in Evo magazine – "The most pointless exercise on the planet has got to be this four-wheel-drive 1000 horsepower Bugatti. I think it’s incredibly childish this thing people have about just one element — top speed or standing kilometre or 0-60. It’s about as narrow minded as you can get as a car designer to pick on one element. It’s like saying we’re going to beat the original Mini because we’re going to make a car 10 mph faster on its top speed—but it's two foot longer and 200 kilos heavier. That’s not car designing — that just reeks of a company who are paranoid."

There were the handling issues that had to be solved. There were also braking issues; testing had shown that the car's weight was an issue at 1890kg. The biggest problem though seemed to be cooling. The massive 8ltr engine with 16 cylinders, 64 valves and 4 turbo chargers – the engine is termed a W16, and is best thought of as two narrow opposing V8 engines – generated a massive amount of heat. It was proving difficult for the teams involved to keep the car cool enough to be reliable.

The car kept loosing luggage space, to be replaced by yet another radiator. In fact, the final production car not only has the top of the engine exposed to the elements, but 10 radiators as well. These radiators break down as follows: 3 radiators for engine cooling, 1 engine oil radiator, 1 hydraulic oil radiator, 1 differential oil radiator, 1 transmission oil radiator, 1 heat exchanger for the air/liquid intercoolers and 2 radiators for the air conditioning system.

With all the car's power now cooled and reliable, the Veyron needed a transmission capable of putting the 1001bhp and 922ft-lbf to the road. Audi had released the DSG Gearbox to the world, and it was decided that this, along with Audi's knowledge of 4 wheel drive, would form the drivetrain platform. This caused issues: nothing that Audi had available could manage to harness the massive power output from the engine.

Because of this, the team turned to British company Ricardo for help. The Ricardo team created a custom, 7 speed, dual clutch gearbox for the car, and helped Audi's engineers enhance the 4 wheel drive system and software to be able to reliably cope with the car's performance.

With all the parts in place, the car underwent testing in a variety of places for the hot and cold tests that are required of production cars. It was also spotted in testing at the Nurburgring, as the engineers honed the suspension and engine mappings. This testing also saw the addition of the automated downforce system.

This aero package can create in excess of 3420 newtons of downforce; the car is lowered to only 8.9 centimeters ground clearance, and has a high performance mode, where the car keeps its aero profile as small as possible and is able to reach its 252mph top speed. This mode needs to be activated by using the key in a special lock, and this in turn makes the car do a system check on all of the cars major systems: from tyre pressures, to oil quality. The day-to-day aero profile – called the handling mode – only actualy allows a maximum of 234mph to be achieved.

The Veyron was unveiled in its final production version on the 19th of October 2005, at the same place as it was initially shown in concept form: the Tokyo Motorshow. The car was then shown at the Dubai Motorshow in December 2005, and it is rumored that 6 cars, including the demonstration models at the event, were sold on the opening day. The car was officially unveiled for sale at the Los Angeles Motorshow in January of 2006.

The retail price for the car was 1Million Euros.

It was announced that Bugatti would make 300 cars over the Veyron's five year production life, and in March 2006 over 70 cars were officially sold; this amounts to 14 months of the car's production. Due to this, Bugatti announced that production of the cars would be increased. The 70 that had been paid for due where to be completed before the end of 2006.

Bugatti does not have many dealers around the world, and because of this VAG announced that the cars would be sold and serviced through their Bentley dealer network; if a serious problem with the car was to occur then a mechanic would be flown out to the owner within 24 hours.

The crowning achievement of this car, in my eyes, is what Gordon Murray said about it after driving the final version of the car – this appeared in Top Gear Magazine: "One really good thing, and I simply never expected this, is that it does change direction. It hardly feels its weight. Driving it on a circuit I expected a sack of cement, but you can really throw it at tight chicanes. Breaking is phenominal and the primary ride and control are good too. It's a huge achievement". So huge an achievement that he ordered one.

Performance Statistics

0-60mph : 2.5sec
0-100mph : 5.5sec
0-150mph : 11.3sec
0-200mph : 22.2sec
0-250mph : 55sec

Engine : VAG W16, 16 cylinders, 64 valves, 4 Turbo Chargers
Displacement : 7993cc with a square bore and stroke of 86mm with 9.0:1 compression.

Tyres : Custom Michelin Run Flats
Front : PAX 245/690R520
Rear : PAX335/710R540

Wheelbase : 2710mm
Length : 4462mm
Height : 1206mm
Width : 1998mm

Power to Weight : 524bhp per tonne.
Power per Litre : 125.25bhp

The 7 Speed DSG gearbox can change gears in 8ms, faster than all Formula one cars at the beginning of the 2006 season, before the introduction of the Honda and Toyota seamless shift gearboxes.

Top Speed 253mph – electronically limited due to tyres – 257mph physical limit if de restricted.

Average fuel economy : 8mpg
Fuel economy at 253mph : 2.1mpg – this means the car can empty it's 100ltr tank in 12 minutes.

Interesting Facts

If racing a McLaren F1, the F1 could be allowed to reach 120mph before the Veyron starts, and the Veyron will still hit 200mph first.

The Veyron's handbrake system includes a special emergency stop mode that will stop the car if the main brakes fail. This includes a special ABS system to arrest the car in the shortest possible time. This, coupled with very clever cross drilled and turbine vented 8 pot brakes, and the fact that the rear aero stabiliser extends to 70 degrees to act as an air brake, can arrest the car from its 252mph top end to 0 in under 10 seconds.

Due to the car's aero profile, the engine had to generate 2bhp per 1mph over 200mph.

If Bugatti sell 300 cars at £1Million each, the VAG group will have lost £4.25Million per car, due to the mammoth production cost involved with the R&D project. This is not as bad as it sounds: a lot of the technology in the Veyron will filter down into the VAG range of cars at some point in the future.

It is also rumoured that a 'Sport' version of the Veyron will be unveiled shortly. This new car is rumoured to be not only lighter, but more powerful as well. With 1200Bhp and less weight the 'Sport' could get close to the 280Mph mark. That is, if Michelin can create an adequate tyre.

Conclusion

So there you have it, the Bugatti Veyron, not only a great engineering achievement, but a good car too.

I'm just glad that in the modern era, there is a company like the VAG group willing to risk reputation and money on a project like the Veyron. Yes, it may not make them any money, but it has proved that they are the masters of engineering, and because of that their reputation as one of the premier car makers in the world has been cemented into the minds of all petrol heads on the planet.

As such, it wins not only my Car Of The Year award, but my engineering award for the year as well.

Terratec Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity

The Terratec Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity is one of the first Diversity devices to reach the market.

Diversity allows you to take the best parts of the signal from two aerial sources and combine them to create the best signal possible.

The box includes everything you will need to use the Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity straight away.

There is the device itself, a USB extension cable, remote, remote sensor, two magnetic aerials, two suction bases, converters for the mini aerial sockets, and the software.

Installation is as simple as inserting the device into a USB 2 socket, popping the driver CD into the drive and installing the software. After plugging the aerials in and scanning for channels using the Terratec Home Cinema software you are free to watch.

The version of Terratec Home Cinema that comes with the Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity includes the Diversity mode.

To test the diversity mode I decided to see if the included aerials were capable of holding a BBC1 signal whilst on the move in a car. I stuck the aerials to the two separate side windows of the car, turned on the Diversity mode, and tuned into BBC1.

I was not expecting the channel to remain watchable, but to my surprise the channel was rock solid whilst I was driving at 40Mph. Even going around corners and driving into built up areas did not disrupt the signal! Quite impressive.

After testing using my laptop – as if I was a mobile user – I decided to see if the little USB device was good enough to use in another of its likely locations, in the home.

The reason I class this as a likely location for use is because media center PCs are getting slimmer and slimmer, and most PCI/PCI-E dual DVB-T tuners are full height cards and won't fit in some of the smaller cases. This means that if you want a dual DVB-T tuner, the easiest way is to use an external one like the Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity.

To test the device in these conditions, I connected it to the Vista Media Center PC that I have been building to replace my Sky+ installation.

I was looking for a USB or half height dual DVB-T tuner, and when I had the chance to test the Cinergy device I jumped on it. The device fills all my needs: it should be reliable and well performing based on my previous tests of the XS's big brother the Cinergy 2400i DT, it is also well built and includes all the necessary drivers for Vista Media Center.

After plugging the device into my digital aerial and scanning for channels in Media Center I had a full channel lineup, a good sign as Media Center can be picky with channel reception.

I scheduled some recordings, making sure that some of them overlapped so I could test the Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity's abilities when recording two channels at once, as this usually shows up any issues that may exist with bandwidth on the device and between the device and the PC.

No issues located however; the Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity records two channels without any issues, and there is no sign of skipping and stuttering in the recordings, even on the channels that are difficult for some tuners to receive (Sky3/UKTV History).

Conclusion

The Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity is a great USB receiver. It is well built with a nice design, it has some really good features with the dual aerial inputs and the Diversity functionality. The only issue that I can see is that at the moment the Diversity functionality is only available when using the Terratec software, however some third party applications will enable its use shortly.

I can recommend this card to any laptop user that travels and would like to take a TV with them. I will also heartily recommend the device to anyone who does not have space in their Media Center PC for a full height card. The USB device could also be used to add two more tuners to an existing dual tuner Media Center setup, therefore allowing you to record three channels whilst watching a fourth (registry hacking is required to enable this).

The device retails for around 75GBP (111Euro/144USD) and for that price it is more expensive than some of its competition, but the build quality and Diversity functionality more than make up for the small price difference. Support seems to be as good with this device as with the Cinergy 2400i DT in that there is already 32 and 64bit BDA drivers for Vista available.

It is also worth noting that Terratec also sell an Apple version of the device, so even OSX users need not feel left out.

Virtual Server 2005 SP1 Beta

The latest beta for the Microsoft Virtual Server product is out. New in the SP1 product (but not necessarily in the beta) are :-

  • Support for Intel VT capable Processors (Hardware virtualization support)
    Virtual Server 2005 R2 SP1 includes support for Intel® Virtualization Technology. By default, hardware assisted virtualization is enabled if present. Support for Intel® Virtualization Technology can also be specifically enabled or disabled on a per virtual machine basis by toggling the "Enable hardware-assisted virtualization if available" option in the general properties configuration page. Users should refer to their system’s documentation on how to enable Intel® Virtualization Technology.
  • Virtual SCSI Fix for *nix guest os's
    Some users encountered an Continue reading Virtual Server 2005 SP1 Beta