PC Pro, Issue 277

PC Pro Issue 277This month’s issue of PC Pro includes a four-way Battle Royale of DIY handheld games consoles, starting with the MAKERbuino and Creoqode 2048 also reviewed in this month’s Custom PC and including the original Gamebuino and Arduboy to complete the round-up.

There’s never been a higher focus on teaching kids to program – not even during the height of the microcomputing boom in the 1980s, when every home had a Spectrum and every school a BBC Model B partially funded by the government’s Computers in Schools initiative – but there’s a risk of turning kids off if all they’re doing is moving sprites around on a screen. To address this, a number of inventors have come up with physical devices to target instead: from the BBC micro:bit, the spiritual successor to the original Acorn-designed BBC Micro, to the handheld consoles in this month’s group test.

Each of the consoles on test have two things in common. The first is obvious: the focus is more on writing your own games, rather than just playing things other people have created. The second lies under the hood: all four consoles on test are based on Atmel microcontrollers and are compatible with the popular Arduino IDE programming environment.

There are more differences than similarities, though. The Creoqode 2048 is the most physically impressive – and imposing – machine on test thanks to its large footprint and bright RGB LED display, but falls down with poor supporting documentation and rebranded off-the-shelf parts sold at a massive markup; the Arduboy is, by contrast, the tiniest on test with a wallet-friendly design but limited capabilities. The Gamebuino has long been one of my favourite Arduino-compatible projects, but the MAKERbuino takes the concept a stage further with small hardware improvements and a shift from a pre-assembled unit to a solder-it-yourself kit using entirely through-hole components.

If you want to know which device walks away as the king of the hill, though, you’ll have to pick up the latest issue of PC Pro either physically at all good newsagents and supermarkets or electronically via Zinio and similar distribution services.

Linux User & Developer, Issue 103

This month’s Linux User & Developer may come as a shock to some: the group test, a regular mainstay of the magazine, is nowhere to be found. Thankfully, it’s been replaced with something just as good – and highly visible there in the right-hand corner of the cover: a head-to-head shoot-out between GNOME3 (and the GNOME Shell) and Unity.

With the launch of GNOME3 and Canonical’s insistence on using its own Unity desktop for Ubuntu, passions are high in the Linux community. Taking both releases and running them head-to-head, I compared their features and functionality in order to ascertain exactly which comes out ahead.

To capitalise on the interest surrounding the topic, editor Russell Barnes made the decision to publish the piece on the website as well as in the magazine; a good choice, it turns out, with the article grabbing significant traffic and sitting at the top of the ‘most read’ stats for a considerable time.

As well as the head-to-head, this issue includes a two-page review of cloud-centric Linux distribution Peppermint Two, again installed and configured on my VirtualBox testbed virtual machine.

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