<< Part 1: PC Building Beginners Guide: Motherboards

<< Part 2: PC Building Beginners Guide: Processors

<< Part 3: PC Building Beginners Guide: Graphics Cards

This PC Building Beginners Guide aims to offer core information regarding motherboards, Intel CPUs, memory, graphics cards, power supplies and solid state drives. It will hopefully become a growing archive of everything you need to know if you are new to PC building – especially if you are looking to build your very first gaming PC!

PC Building Beginners Guide: Memory

PC memory is becoming nice and cheap, which is great news for PC building enthusiasts. The important things to consider when choosing memory is brand, the amount you’ll need, the number of memory sticks, motherboard support, memory speed, voltage and latency.

Brands: Like with the motherboard section of the PC Building Beginners Guide, choosing a brand of RAM really boils down to personal choice and requires your own research and budget considerations. AMD, Corsair, Kingston and Patriot for example are all reputable brands, but these all really offer the same thing. Others are specifically dedicated to gaming and this will be obvious by the packaging.

PC Building Beginners Guide Memory (image: www.bit-tech.net)

PC Building Beginners Guide Memory (image: www.bit-tech.net)

Number of Memory Sticks: Currently, 8GB of memory is really all you need to run almost all current-gen games, but it never hurts to have a little more if you can afford it. It's just important to note that more RAM will require more power. You also need to ensure that your motherboard supports the amount of memory you wish to install. More RAM is generally required for tasks such as intense video-editing.

Motherboard Support: What is important is to consider is whether your motherboard supports single channel, duel channel or even quad channel memory. Duel channel, for example, means using a matching pair of memory sticks in two different slots. Your motherboard will also specify the total amount of memory you can have installed.

PC Building Beginners Guide: DDR3 Memory Overview

Memory Clock Speed: This is the most important factor that will determine the performance of your RAM. Simply put, the higher the number, the faster the memory. 3000 MHz will perform significantly faster than 1333 MHz, for example.

CAS Latency & Memory Voltage: Things get a little more complicated here and really only concerns those wish with to partake in some memory overclocking in the BIOS. But basically put, the lower the latency, the better. Currently, most memory is DIMM and DDR3 - leaving you with the luxury of merely needing to choose your memory brand and memory speed (measured in MHz).

PC Building Beginners Guide - Useful Resources:

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MEMORY TECHNIQUE: A step by step guide for creating a memory palace

If there is one person whom I could meet in this world, it would be Derren Brown. The BBC recently broadcast a one-hour special to celebrate 10 years of the psychological illusionist’s work. I personally endeavour to watch everything ever made by Derren Brown and I’m currently­ immersed in his latest book Confessions of a Conjuror. Great read.

Although Derren Brown is something of a trickster — making use of suggestion and misdirection to manipulate people and accurately predict their behaviour — his skills are something to behold. His newer TV shows also seem to be about helping people in areas such as self-improvement and increasing self-confidence.

Thousands of ‘ordinary’ people apply to be on his shows where he teaches participants some of his psychological techniques. In a recent Trick or Treat episode, an applicant in his mid-40s claims to have a very bad memory (as many people of that age might advocate).

After teaching said participant to speed-read and passing on various memory techniques, Derren Brown enters the man in England’s top pub quiz. After just two weeks of preparation, the participant single-handedly earns second place.

One fantastically simple memory technique that is mentioned here is that of the memory palace. This creative approach is not only simple, but it is highly effective in committing long lists of information to memory that can then be recalled at will. It has been used since ancient Rome and goes something like this.

A Virtual Memory Palace

Virtual Memory Palace

The memory palace technique is based on the fact that we’re extremely good at remembering places we know (image: web.science.mq.edu.au)

Step 1: Creating a Memory Palace

The whole memory palace technique is based on the fact that we’re extremely good at remembering places we know. So, the first step is to create a memory palace of your choosing in your mind’s eye. A memory palace is essentially a physical location that you are very familiar­ with — such as your home or route to work. So long as you can clearly visualise each room or landmark within your memory palace, it will serve you well.

Step 2: Define a route

The second step is to trace a clearly defined route through your memory palace and visualise particular objects along the way. If you are considering your home for example, your route may start with your front door. You may enter into a hallway and notice a mirror hanging on the wall. Start with one object per room and follow an easy path (such as from left to right) until you are back at your starting point.

Practice following this route in your memory palace — making an effort to remember each specific object in order. This shouldn’t be hard to do if you choose a place deeply embedded within your mind; perhaps the house you grew up in. Each object is generally known as a “memory peg”.

Step 3: Peg it to memory

Now think of something that you’d like to remember, such as a shopping list or your agenda for the week ahead. Place items in a particular order and integrate each with a memory peg (object) within your memory palace. It helps to conceptualise objects as being bizarre or perhaps cartoon-like at this stage. Memory does, after all, perform best when operating in a strong, visual way.

For example: your week could start by going to the post office. If you have chosen your home as a memory palace, visualise a letter box spewing out envelopes. Perhaps your child is playing a school cricket match on Tuesday. Visualise a school cricket match happening inside the mirror in the hallway. Animate­ things as best you can and they’ll be sure to stick in your head. You could even add smells and sounds to things to remember.

Step 4: Remember to practice!

The memory palace has proven to be a powerful memory technique that anyone­ can use to awaken the memory they already have. Your imagination really is the limit. Also, remember that you can have more than one memory palace for dealing with different kinds of information. There is also always the option of upgrading your palaces once you’ve got the hang of it.

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REVIEW: The small & sexy Samsung NC10 netbook

Samsung NC10 netbookIT’S never good to be dependent on something for your happiness or well-being. Some people are dependent on cigarettes and caffeine, others on soap operas, and some on digital products. I am dependent on my computer. Whether I’m connecting with friends and family on the Internet, escaping into the world of gaming, or keeping myself entertained with movies or TV series, it is all dependent on my home entertainment system – my PC. Without it, without my daily fix of computing, I reckon I would be a rather miserable sod.

What’s sadder than being dependent on this machine are my efforts to pack my bulky desktop PC into whatever size bag or box I have in order to take it with me whenever I go off somewhere for a few days. The simple solution is to buy myself a laptop. Unfortunately laptops haven’t yet become the technology of yesteryear and therefore do not fall within my pitiful budget.

But then, just before I was about to mail my doubtful Christmas wish-list off to Santa near the end of last year, an alternative was born…

The ultra-mobile Samsung NC10 netbook

The netbook is a type of basic laptop that can perform most of the same functions as any fully-qualified PC with the exception of advanced programming. One can think of a laptop as a glorified netbook. The main benefit is that it’s a lot cheaper, and slimmer too.

This year Samsung jumped on board with the release of the Samsung NC10 into the global netbook market. This little beauty is small, light and incredibly functional, and is a stylish alternative to existing netbook products.

Samsung says that the NC10 was developed with the needs of the “kinetic elite” in mind, with the idea of achieving “more on the move.” Somewhat like my pop-idol, Pixie Bennett, the NC10 is ultra-compact and rather attractive, and would probably not be looked down on by any laptop opponents. It may be small, but it sure is talented.

Weighing in at 1.33kgs, with a screen size of just 10.2", the NC10 is one of the world’s lightest netbooks. A 6 cell battery lights up its WSVGA (1024 x 600) SuperBright non-Gloss LED screen, which is fuelled by an ergonomic notebook PC-style keyboard. This little mobile powerhouse can provide up to 8 hours of mobile computing.

One would expect such a lightweight computer to break if shouted at too hard, however, Samsung assures us that the NC10’s robust Protect-o-Edge chassis has undergone no less than 54 “grueling” quality assurance tests, ranging from rapid temperature change to electrical surges.

Samsung NC10 netbook anti-bacterial keyboard

The NC10 keyboard is something a little special. Manufacturers use impressive-sounding ‘Silver Nano Technology’ to coat the keyboard with incredibly small, nano-sized silver ion powder, which makes it impossible for bacteria to live and breed. Theoretically, 99.9% of bacteria are successfully eliminated within 24 hours and the netbook remains relatively bacteria free.

I cleaned my keyboard once by removing all the keys and found more than one colony of mutated and overweight bacteria breeding and evolving beneath my fingertips. It wasn’t pretty. I'm all for silver ion powder.

Samsung NC10 netbook power and performance

The NC10’s brain may be small, but it’s not stupid. Its processor is Intel's smallest and lowest power processor to date - the Intel Atom™, which enables the NC10 to deliver real computing power at a fraction of the weight, size and cost. Samsung suggests that incorporating Windows XP Home coupled with an 80-160GB hard disk, the NC10 sets a new standard in price / performance for netbooks.

The NC10’s Intel Atom™ processor is specifically designed to deliver an amazing Internet experience using netbooks. Based on an entirely new microarchtiechture, the Intel Atom™ processor increases energy efficiency to extend battery life, while delivering enhanced mobile performance and increased system responsiveness.

The NC10 offers impressive networking and Internet capabilities. It boasts a range of advanced communications technologies, including Atheros 802.11b.g wireless LAN for fast Internet access, a 10/100 Ethernet LAN and optional Bluetooth 2.0+EDR. It also incorporates an integrated 1.3 mega pixel digital motion camera - allowing video-conferencing or live messaging.

Other features include a 3 in 1 multi-memory card reader, a VGA connection, mic in, headphone out and 3 x USB ports. These should allow one to easily transfer pictures, movies and data to and from virtually any modern camera, peripheral or audio-visual device, as well as a user-friendly way to get onto the web, access emails and social networks.

The Samsung NC10 has been on the market since March this year and is available from R 5499 incl vat.

SAMSUNG NC10 SPECIFICATIONS

  • Processor: Intel Atom™ N270 processor (1.6GHz, 533MHz)
  • Operating System: Genuine Microsoft Windows XP Home (SP3)
  • Memory: DDR2 533 MHz 512MB - 1GB
  • LCD: 10.2" WSVGA (1024 x 600) Non-gloss SuperBright© LED backlit
  • HDD: 80GB / 120 GB / 160GB (5400 rpm S-ATA)
  • Optical Drive: -
  • Graphics: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 graphics core
  • Wireless LAN: Atheros 802.11b.g
    Bluetooth 2.0 + Enhanced Data Rate
    LAN 10/100 Ethernet
  • I / O Ports: 3-in-1 Card Reader (SD, SDHC, MMC)
    - 3 x USB 2.0
    - 1 x Headphone-out
    - 1 x Mic in
    - 1 x Integrated Mic
    - 1 x VGA Port
    - 1 x RJ45 (LAN)
  • Multimedia: 1.3 Mega Pixel Web Camera
  • Battery Life: 3 Cell Lithium ion (up to 3.5 hours); 6 Cell Lithium ion (up to 8 hours)
  • Keyboard: 84 Keys (Europe, Others), 17.7mm Pitch (93% size of Notebook KBD)
  • Speakers: 2 speakers with enclosure (1.5 Watt x 2 )
  • Dimensions: (W x D x H) 261.0 mm (W) x 185.5 mm (D) x 30.3 mm (H)
  • Weight: 1.19 kg (incl. 3 cell battery); 1.33 kg (incl. 6 cell battery)
  • Warranty: 1 Year International Collect and Return

Related Review: The Samsung R610 notebook

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