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Why a router? If you want to pipe your ADSL connection round several computers without having a dedicated host-come-server you'll need a router. This is a device which directs traffic from a very large network, in this case the internet, onto a smaller one, your LAN in this case. The other reason that you migt need one of these is if like me your computer has no USB port, as is the case with my Sun workstation. So how good is it? Very good: if you read the spec and compliance list that comes with it you'll fill your head with worthless technobabble which really means nothing. All you need to know is that here in Britain we use "PPPoA LLC" encapsulation with "chap" authentication. Naturally, the DSL-500 here supports this, along with everything else ever conceived. Resultant product: a link to broadband internet that will work anywhere in the world where ADSL has been enabled. Speedwise it will go upto 8mbits downstream, and 812kbits upstream, just like that Alcatel slug BT supplied me with 2 years ago... although this of course is limited by the speed of your access package. It also makes the connection even more like an "always on" connection by just sitting in the path until required, then seamlessly connecting while your browser loads up. Configuration is simply a matter of using a fairly intuitive web based manager, although I was most disappointed to work out that mine doesn't retain settings after a power failure, but reconfiguration is really easy once you get the hang of it. Scalabilty is this routers greatest strength - you can either get the 500 or the 504 version. The 500 only has one ethernet port making it suitable to be plugged into a seperate network switch, or alternatively, you can get a 4 port version, strangely enough called the 504 for use with up to 4 computers hassle free. The downside is that it doesn
't include a microfilter, so you'll have to get one of these seperately if you don't already have one. Also, it's not wireless.. but I prefer using wires to ensure no loss of signal. Besides, you don't want your next-door neighbours logging on to YOUR network do you? Bottom line - if you need an ADSL router, this is definately one to consider, but as I haven't used any others, I can't really do a comparison.
Well, happy 2003! I've been off the net since early last year. Ok, so what have we got here... oh yes, my all time favourite hifi speaker. Last year I reviewed Quads latest and greatest electrostatic speaker, the ESL-989, which will set you back a cool £4600 for the plain black finish, or £5000 for one of their latest finishes... However, in terms of shear beauty, nothing quite comes close to the rosewood and black finished ESL-63. Well, that's my opinion anyway! Besides, the ESL 63 was made less than half a mile from where I live, and was born in the year I was conceived... The sound that it gives when hooked up to quality electronics, (and I'm talking REAL hifi, not mini systems) is amazing. Unlike the original ESL (aka 57) there is some slight colouration to the sound, but this actually complements solid state amplifiers and CD players. A bynote on the colouration - there is a little excess bass, meaning that the sound is slightly "warm." This, in my opinion, allows the system to be listened to for extended periods without ever feeling tiring. Despite the colouring, there is bags of detail to hand, instruments and voices sound real, and correctly formed, transient response is amazing. As I said, earlier, when hooked up to good quality source and amplification components, the music shines through. So what DOES it sound like? Well, short of you actually getting a pair, I'll do my best to give you some idea. With the latest "hip hop" and other popular formats, like "wot the yoof of today listen to" these speakers acurately reproduce the sound as best they can. Seeing as they have a lower frequency limit of 35hz, bass lines can sound a little reduced. Might be better off getting a pair of cone speakers and a subwoofer if this is your prefered music choice. I however, don't listen to garage / street / garden / pond or attic music, so my sister can have her co
llection of CD's back. So on to real music... These speakers LOVE jazz music. Whether it be a bass, sax, drums and solo vocal quartet or a big band swing style set, they dish out everything that was recorded, including, if you shut your eyes, the ambiance of a jazz club... the smokey atmosphere, dimmed lights, quiet small talk from neighbouring tables, truely gorgeous. The sound is warm and relaxing with smooth jazz, and and with something more upbeat, they really sing, and hit hard too. With orchestral peices, the speakers again perform a disappearing act. Every instrument can be clearly heard, and each comes from 1 particular area. Quad's Concentric electrode arrangement is behind this. Audiophiles beleive that the most acurate sound comes from a "point source" This is somewhat hard to acheive with a large speaker, especially one where the front is a little under a metre square. So, Quad set up a series of delayed electrodes to make the speaker act as a point source. I can't go into the exact details because I don't know them, but I do know that it's patented, and no other electrostatic speaker manufacturer can copy it. I digress... back to the sound. If you play the music at a reasonably realistic level, it is possible to get the impression that the speakers are actually not there at all, and there is a large orchestra right in your living room. Choral works have the same effect, and if they're well recorded it can feel like you are actually in a cathedral. I may sound like I'm talking rubbish here, but you must listen to a pair of these if you don't beleive it. So why have I just talked up a pair of now obsolete speakers, that are about the same size as a gravestone? Well, when a pair come up for sale on the internet, and go for less than one and a half grand, someone just got themselves a bargain for life.
For those of you that don't know, Quad is a company based in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, making (in my opinion) the worlds finest electrostatic loudspeakers, and have been around since 1936. Perhaps their most famous product is the ESL57, their first full range electrostatic loudspeaker. This was in production for 28 years, truely a testament to the quality of the product. In 1981, Quad released the ESL 63, which was awarded a patent for the point source effect that it was able to deliver. These are now starting to trickle onto the second-hand market, at prices of around £1000. Snap them up, people - you'll be listening to all your music again, and hearing things you've never heard before! (It's worth noting that the ESL 57's are going for about £300 - £750 today. Definatly worth every penny - I know, I had a pair!) Right, that's enough of aimless fact and opinion, how about the 989? I will start off by quoting Quads technical specifications. Maximum power output: 2N/m¹ at 2m on axis Sensitivity: 86dB Impedance: 8 ohm nominal Max continuous input voltage: 10v Maximum peak input: 55v (40v undistorted) Directivity index- 125Hz - 5.0dB 500Hz - 6.4dB 1 kHz - 7.2dB 8 kHz - 10.6dB Axis band limits- -6dB at 30Hz -6dB at 20kHz Power consumption: 6w Dimensions (HxWxD): 1335mm x 670mm x 315mm Weight: 25.3kg net Trust me - these are loud! One cannot measure the output in watts, as the tchnology does not allow for that. But to give you an idea - Quad's 909 Power amplifier is 140 watts per channel output at 8 ohms. Now, provided I haven't bored you to death already, I'm sure you're now gagging to know what these things sound like. The answer is simple. Awesome! The speakers handle just about every sort of music with ease, though if you're a Heavy metal listener, look elsewhere. Buy a s
et of cone speakers and a powerful amplifier, as you just won't get the most out of these speakers. The first peice of music I played on these speakers was Lighthouse Family's "Lifted" I was stunned by the clarity of the bass line, and the guitar straight away. The speakers were just cruising along. The bass was tight also, and crisp. Vocals were lifelike and strong. The tamberine also came across very well. Glorious sound, I'm telling you! Jean Michel Jarre's "Oxygene Part II" was a real pleasure to listen to on my ESL 57's, but you don't want to know about that. How do the 989's cope? "Breath taking" is one way of describing the sound now being generated by the £6800 worth of speakers, CD player, pre amp and power amp I was playing with. The speakers were handling everything thrown at them with ease. They were having no trouble with transientals, and really sounded to be giving an immediate effect. White noise was also not a problem, and had shape to it. The best bit was the music was not compromised by crossovers as there are on multi-drive cone speakers. The ESL truely is full range, on the one drive unit. Widor's Toccata in F major is one of my all time favourite peices of organ music. How did the 989's cope? If the above were the cake, then this has to be the icing, the cherries and the fine champagne to go with it! I felt that I was actually in Kings College, Cambridge, listening to the real thing, played live. Large organ pipes take a bit of time to get themselves vibrating, and this was came through perfectly in the recording, as did the echo of the organ. (And it sounded a damn sight better than the electronic organ that they have in Kimbolton School's 'Lewis Hall') What about a nice orchestral piece? Tchaikovsky's "The Lilac Fairy" from "Sleeping Beauty" is handled admirably by the ESL's. Brass
is strong, strings, are much more refined and woodwind is clearly heard on these speakers all at once. and the level of detail is outstanding. Instead of trying to pick out various instruments, they really just pop straight out at you. Think it's a French horn? Yep, that's what you heard. No more guessing games as to what you think you can hear! So what are the bad points. Other than the shear size of them, there aren't any. Unless you happen to use MP3's as your main source of music, in which case, as in the heavy metal catagory, go buy cheaper cone speakers - as you'll find that you can hear the compression underneath, especially on voice and bass, and that's really bloody irritating, if nothing else. If you have a fat (£4.6k) wad burning a hole in your pocket, go and listen to a pair of these. If your wad is £1200 less, go and listen to a pair of Quad ESL988, which are identical to these minus two extra bass panels. From my knowledge of the ESL 63's though, this does not detract from the normal audiophiles enjoyment, but the 989's simply add to it! Go forth and listen, my faithful readers!
Ok - this probably shouldn't be listed here, but I can't find anywhere else to put it. I am about to have a rant about drivers. Not any particular class of driver - just drivers of cars. Does anybody else find that they go out for a nice quiet ride on their bike, but unfortunatly due to the distinct lack of government funding for cycle-paths are forced to ride on the road? I do. And it's on the road that we meet all sorts of dangers, the most common of which are cars. They cut you up left right and centre, they honk their horns at you, and flash their headlights, and make hand-gestures towards you as well. And why do drivers nearly always try to pass the blame to us? - "You came from nowhere!" What a load of Bull?£$#! They probably just overtook you! Now my faithful readers, it be story time. I hope you're sitting (un)comfortably (if you're one of the offenders.) I cycle from Huntingdon to Ely on a regualar basis. And Along the the ring-road in huntingdon is a lane, that is clearly marked straight on and turn left. I cycle in this lane, because it is normally too dangerous to cross over into the lane that is straight on only. A few weeks ago, I was forced to turn left here, because some rather stupid driver wanted to turn left here, and guess who was in the way. She honked her horn, and made the usual hand gesture, and added 'Look where you're bloody cycling!' Well, I'm sorry, but we cyclists have just as much right to use that lane to carry on over as cars, buses, lorries, etc! (I was riding my black racing bike then - just incase you are thinking, was that me.) The second incident happened tonight, in the Tesco Car-park. Being 17, I don't drive a car, yet I still have to go and do the occasional bit of shopping. It was dark. I have a Cateye Stadium III headlight. (The enthusiasts will know what I'm talking about) So it's not likely that I'm not going to ge
t seen from the front. A driver in a dark green Rover 416 moved towards the right of the lane. I accelerated to go past, admitidly on the nearside. He swerved left, into a car parking spot. I was still far enough behind to whack my brakes on, which fortunatly are very good. IF the driver had indicated, and used his mirrors, he WOULD have seen me, and I would have known his intentions. But no... The "You came from nowhere" line was used. I pointed out that I was quite easy to see, and had followed him up from the entrance to the car-park, and he should have indicated that he was going to turn into the parking space. A simple "tut" from him told me that it really wasn't worth arguing the point. (And I was on my Yellow and Blue MTB this time... start sqirming!) My final note on this, is that the majority of road users are perfectly respectful people. It's just when they're rushed, or stressed that the become a danger to cyclists. If you are one of these people, please remember that cyclists don't have the benifits of a SIPS system, just a rib-cage, and many don't even have a lid. And please, please tell cyclists to 'get a light on their bike, or ride on the pavement' (I know it's illegal) if they are riding on the road in the dark with no lights. The rest of the drivers shouldn't be on the road, if they haven't already been removed. And, in response to a comment I have had, I know that cyclists are often bloody awful when it comes to their antics on the road, weaving in and out of traffic, not indicating, etcetera. Those actions are actually illegal, and you should point out to them that the highway code applies just as much to them as it does you. Ah - that's better. Rant over. Safe cycling! (And driving...!)
I have been using so called PC's from way back when, (OK, PC Dos 3.2 on an 8086) and have had most versions of Windows. 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 3.1, 3.11, NT 3.52, 95, NT 4.0, 98, 98SE, 2000 Pro and Server (trial version) 2000 Pro (retail version) ME and now XP, and I have decided that this really is the best Windows yet. 'But why?' I here you ask. Well, if you're sitting comfortably, I'll begin. (If you want just the opinion on XP, skip the next paragraph. It's just a trip down memory lane.) Back when the Windows shell ran atop of DOS, unstability was a problem. Programs could interfere with each other, and before you knew it, your system would crash. 95 improved on this, by making DOS, (Version 7) part of Windows. Windows 95 OSR1 was sleek, small, and elegant. And it ran on my 486, with ease. Win95 OSR2 introduced USB support right before Win98 was launched. I still use 95 OSR2.5 on my one of my systems. This is because of the stability of the system. Nearly every piece of hardware was supported by their manufacturer, and it worked a treat. 98. Hmm, what a disaster that was. It took me three goes to install it I think. (My system then was a Cyrix 133 MHz P166, with 32MB RAM and a 3.2 gig hard drive) And within a month I had gone back to 95 OSR2.5. In retrospect, the fact that I was only running fat 16 with the drive partioned in 2 might have had something to do with it. 98SE was much better, but when my system got ugly, Windows got worse. 2000 pro was a God send. Finally an OS that didn't crash. But did it run games? Only some. and pathetically at that. 2000 sever was even more stable, but more restrictive in what it could / could not do. ME is pathetic, and although being far more stable than 98SE, still has some inherrant 9x problems. Networks, for example are a bind to get working. So, what about XP? Read on and you'll find out. I hope. I have Windows XP Professional running on my PC
, (I have had it since RC1, as I subsribed to the final testing / preview scheme) and I think it is wonderful. I have had 1 stability problem since I installed the final release, and that was only because I tried to print out a very large picture (68.something megs, printer size) and XP tried to resize my swapfile. It would have probably continued working, had I given up and hit reset. The latest start menu offering is at first annoying. This is because it only shows the programs one uses most, and everthing else is hidden until you want it. The new colour scheme, (Green and Blue) is a little shocking, and I prefer to switch the display theme to 'classic' Hardware installations are a breeze, provided that XP has it's own drivers, or you can get hold of XP or 2000 drivers for it. There are manufacturers out there who haven't got suitable drivers, Guillemot - for example - doesn't support its ISIS soundcard, and probably most of its other products, though hopefully this will change in the very near future. Open GL is another problem, especially for Quake III junkies. I don't have that problem, I am a UT junky. At the moment, there is no OpenGL support for any of the video devices, as far as I am aware, certainly not for the GeForce 2 Ultra graphics card that a friend of mine has. Other than those problems, I have not had any trouble with it. It works a treat on my laptop, and I have noticed a slight extension in the run time I get from it when on batteries. This may of course just be the batteries reaching peak cycle performance, but I don't know. Microsoft has removed Java support from IE 6, but you can still install it from their site. Restarts are a thing of the past. I updated my Windows settings, and installed new drivers without restarting. 640x480 res is also gone. It's new minimum (on my laptop) is 800x600, which just shows how far technology has advanced. Did I meantion that networking is a dream. Windows a
lso comes with a built in firewall, but I still would prefer a third party one, as the windows one is, umm, crap! I haven't done a burn-test on XP yet, (Where I force it to run umpteen processor intensive programs at the same time, for a long time) but I should imagine that it will stand up to the test pretty well. Games run well also, provided they use the DirectX method of graphical display. FS2000 frame rates are up by a good 5, which sometimes can make the difference between landing and crashing your aeroplane. The new feature 'remote assistance' is great for helping friends out of sticky situations with your computer, but could, potentially be used as a back door into your PC. The 3 gig installation is a little annoying if you only have a 5 gig hard drive but worth it. All in all, I feel that Microsoft really have pulled themselves together to make a rock-solid OS that is usable by everyone, except Quake III players, but this should change soon. For me this means finally no more dual booting ME / 2k Pro, as one OS does it all. Well done Microsoft. It is however, expensive Clean install Home Edition - £163.32 Clean install Pro Edition - £233.82 Windows XP Home Edition Upgrade from 98/ME ONLY - £81.07 Windows XP Pro Edition Upgrade - £158.62
It was only 15 days wait from the order for my Business 500 line to be installed, despite the trouble I had with their website, This is my second experiance of broadband internet, the first being NTL World cable at a friends house, therefore what follows is a comparison between the two services. NTL Cable is rated at 512kbps (kilobits per second, or about 64 kBps - kilobytes per second) downstream and 128kbps upstream. BT Openworld, from now on known as BTOW, has a publisised 500kbps downstream and 250 kbps upstream speed. The ping on NTL is slightly lower than on BTOW, but only slightly, however BTOW is better for hosting multiplayer games than cable because of the faster upload rate. BTOW does not recomend self hosting websites on your computer, but does not forbid it. NTL does. When set up correctly, NTL works as a network connection to the internet. ADSL still requires manual connection, ie. it only connects when you want it to. NTL gives you the opertunity of buying your modem off them, therefore you pay less for subscription. BTOW does not, and the rental of the modem is included with the package. The NTL package includes a phone line. The BTOW package does not - and requires that you use a BT Phone-line anyway. The prices are also very different, so on the basis that you are renting your cable modem from NTL, or that you are going to use the Home 500 service from BT, (as these are the two most similar services) NTL Cable, (512kbps version) Free installation. £24.99 per month, which appears on your NTL services bill. BTOW (Home 500) £74.99 installation, £39.99 monthly rental, paid via credit / debit card.