Welcome to my blog - Read and enjoy

Thank you for visiting my Scooby1970 blogspot. I update whenever I can and when I have something interesting to share. You will also find published work of mine at Gaming Illustrated. Gaming Illustrated is where most of my work now takes place, but I will transfer some of my more popular articles from there over to this blog, in extended format.

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Enjoy the blogs, and relive my ups and downs in life, view some interesting reviews and just enjoy the site. If you are interested in learning something about some of my favourite music then click here it's the official Jan & Dean Site that has taken me and my friend from across the sea, June many years to keep updated.

:) Mark

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Huawei P9 Review

Every two years I have the arduous task of choosing a new mobile phone. Last time I had the choice of two phones, the Samsung S5 or Samsung Galaxy Note 3. I wanted a bigger screen and awesome specs, so went with the Note. The phone served me well, but this time I wanted something a little bit different, I wanted the best phone on the market for taking photos, with high specs and a market leading flagship. Oh, one more thing, I didn't want a Samsung

The logic behind my decision is twofold. Firstly having a Samsung every upgrade three of the last four upgrades (the other was a HTC) meant I didn't feel like I was having anything different, just a little upgrade each time and no excitement. Secondly,  I'd used my wife's Huawei Honor 7 and immediately fell in love with everything about it. It was different, it was quality and it ticked all the right boxes!

The Huawei P9 General Hardware Specs
Released on Three on Friday May 6th 2016, the phone comes on an unlimited calls and text plan with 2GB data for just £28 a month. My data usage used to be higher, however over recent months it has dropped dramatically.

The P9 has a 5.2 inch 1080p screen, and the dimensions are 152.3 x 75.3 x 6.8 mm (6.00 x 2.96 x 0.28 in). It is only 6.8mm thick, meaning it's thinner than a Samsung S7, but still manages to hold a 3000ma battery.

Powered by Huawei’s in-house Kiran 955 processor with 3GB of memory, it's a powerful handset which scores higher than 810 processors of other phones, but is slower than 820 processors in single core mode, and faster in multicore mode. Benchmarks are pointless as they never give true performance results. The phone is very fast, and an example of this is how quick it installs new software! Instantly in most cases.

Around the left of the phone there are no buttons, only a pinhole for the SIM card(s) and SD card slot. On the top of the phone is just a microphone for noise cancellation. On the right hand side of the phone is the volume rocker and a textured power button, while the bottom of the phone houses a USB C connection, headphone jack and mono speaker.

On the front of the phone there is a earpiece speaker, where there is a notification light built into which changes various colours depending on what the phone is telling you that you have missed.

The back of the phone houses two 12MP camera modules and Leica branding, a two tone flash and a fingerprint scanner.

The Screen
With a 1080p resolution screen, the Huawei P9 does not match the 4k screens of some other flagships. However, it's hard enough to spot differences on a 50” TV of 1080p vs 4k, so on a 5.2inch screen it's almost impossible. Side by side with a Samsung S7, it's impossible to see the pixel difference when in normal use.

The screen is very bright, and can easily be seen in bright sunlight. Unlike other makes, Huawei use LCD screen technology, which produces deep blacks, and more realistic colours. So many phones these days have over saturated colours, the Huawei has bold colours without local unnatural.

There are a myriad of options for changing the colour of the screen tones etc, to suit your personal needs. The screen also has auto brightness, which works better than on any phone I've ever used before.

The Camera
This is where the phone really shines. The P9 contains two 12MP Leica branded lenses. The Leica name is synonymous with high quality photography, so the P9 has a lot to live up to. Thankfully in use the P9 is simply awesome. Photographs look realistic, with grade contrast and colour. The P9 does not push to produce unreal popping colour photos similar to the Samsung S7, instead it focuses images that look exactly like they are seen with your eyes.

The two camera’s mean that the black and white sensor can be used to gather more light, and thus add more detail to photographs, it also can calculate depth of field, meaning you can take photos with the blur effect found on professional cameras. Thanks to some clever software, if you are not happy with the blur after you have taken the photo, then you can adjust the photos to your hearts content.

The black and white sensor can also be used to take balck and white images. This sensor alone is worth the price of the phone, and produces spectacular monochrome images, in a way only a camera can produce (as opposed to turning colour photos black and white).

The camera has loads of different options such as the mentioned black and white and normal camera, plus HDR, Beauty, Panorama, Night Shot, Light Painting,Time-Lapse, Slow-Mo, Watermark and more.

For fans of taking selfies, the P9 comes equipped with a 8MP front facing camera which knocks the spots off any of its competitors. Photos taken with this camera are bright and colourful, and full of detail. It even takes photos in Beauty Mode as standard, so you'll always look your best.

Where the phone loses to it’s contemporaries is its video mode, where its highest recording resolution is 1080p and 60 frames per second. There is software image stabilising which works well when filming.

The Software
Running Emotion UI 4.1, the Huawei P9 has a heavily modified Android skin that many people take a dislike to without even trying to get to know it.

HTC use Sense and Samsung UAE Touchwiz, EMUI is unlike either, and unlike stock Android in most respects. It has no app-drawer and takes a few of the best features of both Android and iOS. Usually I use Nova Launcher and tweak it to be a supes-up almost stock Android experience, but I find EMUI to be very respectable in what it does.

The UI is fast and responsive, and is really simple to use. It also looks really nice and has customisation features such as changing the home screen size and themes. It's all done in Huawei style, and when it works it fantastic.

The Sound
Housing a small speaker at the bottom right of the handset, the sound quality although mono is quite loud and has a fairly rich tone to it, with even a little bass to be heard.

When using headphones things are much better. Not mentioned in most reviews, the Huawei P9 uses DTS when headphone listening. Bass is nice and deep, mids and treble are rich, and the soundstage is really wide. Using the bundled headphones gives a nice sound even if the fitting is a little off for my ears, while using a pair of Sony over-the-head ZX-600’s gives amazing sound quality when listening to most music types.

The Fingerprint Scanner
A review of a Huawei phone cannot be complete without a review of the fingerprint scanner. Huawei are World leaders when it comes to this technology, the fingerprint scanner is a Class 4 scanner, meaning it can read even more information about your fingerprints than any other scanner.

Placed at the back, it's positioned exactly where your pointing finger lays, and it makes so much sense! Other companies place their scanner on the front, but that doesn’t make much sense, and it’s really inconvenient, something you’ll notice once you’ve used a back-situated fingerprint scanner!

It is instantaneous in use, and is accurate 100% of the time. It can be used for more than just unlocking your phone though, as you can pull down your notifications menu and scroll through the gallery with it. Really interactive, and something once used, you will miss when you go elsewhere.

Battery Life And Call Quality
With such a large battery it's easy to get a day's use out of the phone. With a combination of social media use, YouTube, some light game playing, a few minutes of calls and plenty of texts, along with using the camera and looking at photos I usually have around 30% left at the end of the day for night time browsing etc.

Making calls is easy with the dialling software included, and call quality is loud and rich. No calls have been lost as the P9 boasts a special three-way antenna system to improve calls.

The Huawei P9 won't appeal to many people for a couple of stupid reasons. The first reason is because many have not heard of Huawei (who happen to be the third largest mobile phone manufacturer), while the second reason is the phone isn't a Samsung!

Fear not though, the P9 is an extraordinary mobile device with a wealth of features. It has powerful battery saving features, is customisable out of the box, has stunning performance of its cameras, has great sound and video playback and is a lot cheaper than the closest spec'd Samsung or HTC.

Once you've used a Huawei device, it's hard to think about going back to what you were used to as the whole experience just grows on you quickly, and before you know it you're in love with the best phone of this generation.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Microsoft Office Alternatives 2016

I first wrote this article in 2014, however since then a lot of things have changed in the World on Office alternatives. Some free packages have got better with time, while others have been crippled by imposing limits of their free versions.

Also, since writing the first article, the United Kingdom Government has decided to adopt the .ODT Open Foundation format for all its documents. This means, if you need to download any paperwork from Government websites, they will now open perfectly in OpenOffice or Libreoffice.

Also, since the last article, it's not only the Government that have changed from Microsoft, but many smaller organisations have followed suit. It's not just cost cutting, as these Microsoft Office alternatives are really capable pieces of software.

Here we look at the top five free Microsoft Office alternatives. You really don't have to spend to have a quality experience.

Google Docs

Why Use Google Docs?
As a writer, the number one office suite that I use for my writing is Google Docs. The reason being? I can sign into any computer using my Google account and carry on whatever I am writing, wherever I am. Simply choose the document you were working on and as it saves after each key-press, carry on from where you left it. There’s no need to carry around a hard-drive or memory-stick as it’s stored on Google’s servers, so the only thing you need is an internet connection. Regardless of it’s my laptop, work PC or mobile device such as a tablet or phone, it works perfectly.


Google Docs may be have less features than other office suites in this list, but it handles everything you throw at it easily. The word processor (Documents) handles Microsoft's .doc and .docx as well as the Open Format .odt files, .txt files and can save files as .PDF’s. In a couple of years use as a main source of handling word files from other companies, Documents has yet to let us down.

Google Docs also handles Powerpoint Presentations with it’s Presentation program, Excel Spreadsheets with it’s Spreadsheet program and so much more. Although not as feature rich as Microsoft’s complete Office suite, Google Docs is a formidable force that can handle day to day tasks quickly and easily. Files are automatically stored in the cloud, and should you wish, you can download files in the required Microsoft format to your PC.

Look And Ease Of Use

Google Docs looks basic, with just the one row of icons for formatting text. However, that combined with the pull-down menu options for adding photos and tables etc, means it’s very easy to use. So simple to use in fact, that anyone can create a document in no-time at all.

LibreOffice 5

Why Use LibreOffice?
LibreOffice is as close to Microsoft Office as you can get when it comes to features. LibreOffice comes with it’s extensive word processor Writer, it’s Excel matching Calc, it’s amazing Powerpoint beating Impress and Base (Database), Math (Equation editor) and Draw (Diagrams and sketches) programs.

For all intents and purposes, LibreOffice 5 is a free version of Microsoft’s Office. It can handle all the file-types that MS Office does, and although it doesn’t have the ribbon-look of the latest MS Office, it does everything quickly and easily while keeping a bit of familiarity of MS Office.

Moreover Libreoffice 5 uses the Open Document standard which means that interaction with Government bodies will now be seamless.

As a Writer, Libreoffice 5 is used to format documents and books, it gives a. Much cleaner saved file when transferring a book to eBook, meaning the formatting usually acts the way you want it to.

LibreOffice is split into the programs that are mentioned above. The main programs, Writer and Calc have all the features of Microsoft’s Word and Excel. In every-day use, opening files from other business’, and sending files to people who have MS Office is error-free, and the recipients of any formats on MS Office and LibreOffice will not know which software suite the information was written on.

As an office based software suite, for business or students, LibreOffice 5 offers remarkable features and compatibility, and as available on Windows and Linux, so there is no reason why anyone concerned with sharing documents between systems should avoid this suite. It’s free, it’s fully-featured and quite simply amazingly mind-blowing to think that it is free!

Looks And Ease Of Use
Although LibreOffice has a somewhat dated look, with rows of icons and the ability to customise the icon space, it’s very reminiscent of MS Office from previous versions prior to 2013. It’s not a bad thing, as a lot of people dislike Microsoft’s ribbon-style interface. LibreOffice is suitable for beginners to advanced users, and is as hard or easy to use as you want it to be.

Softmaker FreeOffice

Why Use Softmaker FreeOffice?
FreeOffice is a light weight Office Suit that's low on resources but high on functionality. It's small footprint means it can be used on less powerful machines with ease.

FreeOffice  contains only three productivity programs, TextMaker (Word processor), PlanMaker (Spreadsheets), Presentations (Powerpoint). The software works well, looks good and is very compatible with MS Office. Why should you download this software over the other options though? Well, it’s available on Windows, Android and Linux, so those on Linux who want a similar experience to Kingsoft Office could use this as a substitute.

Looks And Ease Of Use
FreeOffice looks a lot like older versions of Microsoft Office, which is not a bad thing. There is a consistent sidebar on the right of the screen, which you have to manually remove each time you start the program should you not wish to see it.

It's a simple office suit to use, with all the regular features that are offered by other packages. Sadly you cannot open or save .odt documents, only FreeOffice’s own extensions and Microsoft's extensions. This means it lacks some of the power of other programs mentioned here if you need to open files from various sources.

Apache OpenOffice

Why Use OpenOffice?

Another piece of software worth considering is Apache’s OpenOffice. Although once regarded as the must-have free office suite, when it forked into two, with one-fork being LibreOffice, OpenOffice’s development slowed down a little. It’s another great package, and one that gives an experience just as good as MS Office for the average user who needs it for everyday use.

OpenOffice, just like LibreOffice is split into Writer, Calc, Impress and Base The main programs, Writer and Calc have all the features of Microsoft’s Word and Excel. In every-day use, opening files from other business’, and sending files to people who have MS Office is error-free, and the recipients of any formats on MS Office and OpenOffice will not know which software suite the information was written on.

Looks And Ease Of Use
Although OpenOffice has a dated look, with rows of icons and the ability to customise the icon space, it’s very reminiscent of MS Office from previous versions prior to 2013. It’s not a bad thing, as a lot of people dislike Microsoft’s ribbon-style interface. OpenOffice is suitable for beginners to advanced users, and is as hard or easy to use as you want it to be.

Microsoft Office Web Apps

Why Use Microsoft Web Apps?If, after reading this article, you still yearn for Microsoft’s products, then there is a free alternative by Microsoft themselves. MS Office Web Apps allows you to open, edit and create documents online in a similar mold to Google’s documents. However, where Google Docs is quite comprehensive for an online productivity suite, Microsofts own version is a little lacking in almost every department when compared to the alternatives. Perhaps this is a way that Microsoft want users to upgrade and pay for their services? Regardless, it’s an option, and will no doubt suit some people who feel the need to be tied into the Microsoft ecosystem.


You get a very cut down version of the main Microsoft Office Suite apps. You get Word, Excel and Power Point (along with various other applications such as Mail, Calender and Sway). All these programs work in a similar way to Google Documents, however the experience is not as slick and over years of testing I have come across many problems such as documents not being synced properly, or general errors in formatting etc when writing articles.

Looks And Ease Of Use

These web applications look and act like the full versions of Microsoft Office, however the work is done in the cloud instead of saved and run off a computer. It's simple to use, and a familiar experience if coming off Microsoft Office.

Final Comments
Whichever productivity suite you decide to use, remember that there are some amazing free versions of Office Software. Just because something is free, doesn't mean it is no good. These above Office Suites have been tested by myself over many years in personal and business use and all do the job perfectly. As they are free, feel free to download them all and see which one you prefer, you have nothing to lose.

Which alternative to MS Office would I choose? Well, I use a combination of Google Docs to write all my documents as it means I can continue my writing on laptop, work PC, mobile phone or tablet with a real continuum experience. For formatting I exclusively use LibreOffice Fresh (Currently on version 5.1).

Friday, 5 February 2016

Bush LE-50Gy15-M1 Review

There came a time when I had to upgrade my old 720p LG flat screen TV to a new TV, so I had the daunting task of searching high and low for a TV that suited my needs. Everyone's needs are different,  so in this review I'll go through each need an how the 50" BushTV handles it. 

TV Size
First of all the TV needed to be of a good size. For research I viewed many screens from 48" to 60". Our living room is roughly 15 feet by 25 feet,  with the TV being against the wall,  and the sofa back facing the window. This means,  once the TV is set up,  and you take your seat,  you are approximately 12 feet away from the tv at its most average point,  with it being slightly further away or slightly closeras you move along the sofa from left to right. 

Moving up from a 39" TV,  and based on the distance for viewing, after measuring the area and sitting to decide  which size,  a nice 50" TV was perfect. Anything bigger was too big,  and anything smaller was not worth the upgrade.

TV Specifications
For the price, we also thought a 4k screen was worth the upgrade in order to future proof the TV for when 4k transmissions become more popular. 

Tests of 4k video have been outstanding, and when more 4k video becomes available, the TV should really come into its own.

This is not a smart TV, though it does play USB memory sticks video, photos and Music. A smart TV just has more things to go wrong with it, and an Android box or attached other device is a much better solution.

The TV has 4 HDMI connections, USB, PC and Scary connections. In this day and age, four HDMI cables really is necessary, with this TV using them for Sky, Android box, Bluray player and Chromecast.

Picture Quality and Sound
The Bush had a nice bright screen, with vivid colours and sharp picture. Although the TV has a number of presets, the user defined option allows you to tweak to your hearts content.

120 Frames Super Smooth seems to be all the rage for TV's, it sounds great in theory but makes all your programs look unrealistic as motion is so smooth! As all the technical sites say, turn it off!

Using Sky as the first example, the HD channels look stunning in 1080i and really do the TV justice. The non-HD channels however don't look anywhere near as good even if they are upscaled. There's only so much you can do with a 570i image!

Bluray look stunning in 1080p. Some of the slow motion scenes in the Resident Evil films really show off the screen quality.

The sound quality is however a let down. The documentation and sticker on the front of the TV claim DTS sound, and although it gets very loud, it is a little too thin with not much bass. Thankfully the TV allows easy connection to a soundbar or stereo and this makes a huge difference.

If you're on a budget, this TV can be picked up for under £500 when it is on offer. It's not got any bells or whistles, so there's less to go wrong with it.

It's strengths are great picture quality with minimum bezzel surrounding the screen and it has plenty of connections.