Custom PC, Issue 120

Custom PC Issue 120My eponymous Hobby Tech column – which, I’m pleased to report, has enjoyed excellent feedback from readers, including some who have now been tempted back into a subscription having previously let it lapse – continues in this month’s Custom PC with the usual mix of maker and vintage topics.

The tutorial this month surrounds the Nook Simple Touch, a low-end Android tablet masquerading as an eReader. Offering month-long battery life, a sunlight-readable E-Ink display and micro-SD card storage expansion, the device proved tempting enough at its discounted £29 price – a time-limited offer, Nook claimed – that stocks soon sold out.

There’s a good reason for that: as the column shows, it’s possible to bypass restrictions built into the device and turn it into a fully-functional Android tablet, complete with games, web browser, note-taking applications and – key to its popularity – the Kindle and Kobo apps, giving the device access to third-party eBook stores. Okay, so it’s Android 2.1 and some software doesn’t work – but it’s still a great device for the cash.

The review takes a look at the BeagleBone Black, a low-cost and extremely powerful competitor to the Raspberry Pi. Although not as in-depth as my review for Linux User & Developer, I take a look from the perspective of a less-Linux-oriented user – and find the out-of-box experience something to recommend.

Finally, vintage technology – in which I suck it up and admit to a failure. In the month this column was written, I’d attempted to solder a SCART cable into my old Master System console – it’s a reversible modification, don’t worry – in order to get high-quality RGB output rather than the usual fuzzy RF-modulated signal it offers as standard. Although I think I did everything right, for some reason the signal is unstable – something I’m going to have to investigate at a future date.

Custom PC Issue 120 is available from all good newsagents, or digitally via Zinio and other services.

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