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.

Linux User & Developer, Issue 109

Linux User & Developer, Issue 109This month’s Linux User & Developer magazine features another cover piece of mine – that’s three in a row, if anyone except me is counting – on Google’s Android 4.0 ‘Ice Cream Sandwich’ release and what it means for developers.

It was a fun, if somewhat challenging, piece, involving getting comment and option from industry luminaries including Xamarin chief technical officer Miguel de Icaza, Black Duck Software’s Peter Vescuso, Logic PD’s Mark Benson, Linux kernel maintainer Greg Kroah-Hartman and others.

Taking up four pages at the heart of the magazine, the feature looks at what has changed in Android 4.0, the industry’s reaction to those changes, what the re-opening of the source code – closed for Android 3.x ‘Honeycomb’ – means, and how developers can look to capitalise on the software’s release to make some serious dough.

Issue 109 also sees the second part of my three-part series on becoming a bug-fixer for open source projects, focusing on the LibreOffice project (thanks largely to how wonderfully helpful its members have been.) Finally, it includes a group test covering popular email clients, a project that saw me asking friends on Twitter to email sample messages to a test account for flavour – and a chance to see themselves in print, too.

More information is available on the Linux User & Developer website.

Linux User & Developer, Issue 98

My first full cover feature for Linux User & Developer magazine, my group test this month was a rare hardware bonanza looking at four of the top Android-based tablets.

Hardware group tests are a rarity: firstly, it’s often difficult to find Linux-specific hardware that will appeal to the magazine’s readership, and secondly it’s damn-near impossible to find four such beasts of the same flavour from different manufacturers to pit against one another.

The recent tablet boom, however, changed that, and gave me a chance to get my hands dirty testing some fun kit; much of it well out of my pocket money’s range.

More information is available over on the Linux User & Developer website.