Review: Linx 10 Windows 8.1 tablet and keyboard dock/case

Over the last few months, Windows 8 tablets seem to have been nose-diving in cost. The introduction of Intel’s new Bay Trail Atom processors, paired with the new Windows 8.1 with Bing operation system setup for tablets, has meant manufacturers can start to get tablets out at prices that are even competing with some budget Android tablets.

This is great news for people who like the idea of a tablet but need more of the productivity factor. Tablets that have recently joined the market include the HP Stream 7 and the new Linx tablet range (coming in 7, 8 and 10 inch variations). All of which come with a free copy of Office 365 Personal lasting for one year – which in itself saves around £60. When you bear in mind that the HP Stream 7 comes in at just £99.99 on the high street, you could be onto a real winner if you need a basic tablet for web browsing which also gives you the ability to touch up those PowerPoint presentations on the way to work.

The basics

I got a chance to get my hands on one of the more recent additions to the market – the Linx 10
– fetching mine for about £179 which includes the manufacturer’s own keyboard case (you can get them without the case for about £160). I chose to give this tablet a try as it is one of few in its price range to come with 2GB RAM. Many small Windows tablets (including the HP Stream 7) come with 1GB RAM – which will be fine for the odd web page or email here and there, but you’ll struggle more if you attempt any multitasking. 2GB RAM is a little more comfortable for Windows – and while I’d really like to see a minimum of 3GB, 2GB will be fine for on-the-go usage. The Linx 10 comes with a (you guessed it) 10 inch IPS display coming in at 1280×800 pixels – this is nothing on, for example, the iPad Air – but you’ll find the pixel density is still ample for watching videos on the go or browsing the net. You get a quad core Intel Atom processor clocked at 1.33Ghz – and it’ll “Turbo Boost” up to just over 1.8Ghz in short bursts when you need it. You’ve got 32GB of on-board storage (of which about 20GB is usable) – and that can be expanded with a microSD card of up to 64GB in size. Other notable features include a micro-USB port (which you can use with an adapter – which was included with mine – to convert into a normal USB port for memory sticks or mice) and a micro-HDMI port for external viewing. It’s also worth noting that it comes with a 1 year subscription to Office 365 Personal – something quite common with Windows tablets these days.

Performance

Let’s face it – a quad core Atom and 2GB of RAM isn’t going to breaking new records in terms of speed, but truth be told performance is still pretty awesome for something as small as this. You’ll find programs like Google Chrome and iTunes load pretty quickly, and getting into any of the included Office programs is nice and speedy too. This isn’t the kind of tablet to be using Photoshop or playing any demanding games with – not only considering performance but also screen size, but the quad core Atom does arguably provide decent levels of performance in most day to day applications. You will still struggle having more than a couple of programs open at any one time as the 2GB RAM on-board will quickly fill up – if you’re looking for something more capable of multitasking you’d be better off looking at a 11″ laptop or a Surface Pro (although the price difference might put you off!). Overall, though, I really can’t argue with the performance of this device given it’s size – it’d give a 2010 mid range laptop a run for it’s money in application start up times.

Battery life

Battery life on the Linx wasn’t anything too special – I found I was getting about 5-6 hours usage from one charge. This isn’t half bad – but a 1st gen iPad mini (which you can now get for a similar price) will fetch you around 8-10 hours of battery life on one charge. The tablet also takes rather a long time to charge which can be irritating when you’re in a hurry. The battery definitely isn’t the strong point of this tablet – but to be fair it’s not awful and it wouldn’t necessarily put me off the device.

Practicality with Windows

This is where you really need to have a think. These days you’ve really got three choices for tablet operating systems – Android, iOS or Windows. In terms of what you can do with the operating systems – iOS and Android are more or less the same. If you go for a Windows tablet you either get Windows RT or Windows 8. In my opinion Windows RT is a no-go – only because it provides few advantages over a more intuitive operating system like iOS 8. However – if you grab a Windows 8 device – you’ve got the ability to run many of the applications you run on your main computer while you’re on-the-go. What I mean by that is you can run EXE programs.

The Linx 10 comes with Windows 8.1 built in. In principle this is fantastic. Many people are not a fan of the Metro UI (or Start screen) in Windows 8 on conventional desktops or laptops – but on a tablet it really comes into its own. Navigating the Start screen is a piece of cake on the Linx 10 and it’s actually comfortable to explore.

Being a Windows 8 tablet – you’ve also got the use of the traditional desktop and desktop applications. In principle, this a fantastic tool to have. In reality, however, the benefits of this are somewhat limited. With the tablet’s screen size being 10″, it’s difficult to navigate the small Windows taskbar/desktop icons. So while it’s very handy to have the functionality available – it’s not always easy to use and I found it irritating after a while.

Keyboard case

The Linx keyboard case you can get with this tablet is probably the only one you’d want to consider as it’s designed specifically for the tablet. You can buy it within a bundle or it’s about £30 on its own. The case itself is quite nice. It’s a nice sturdy case that folds neatly around the tablet. The case also folds up (in an origami style) to make a stand which does the job. Attached to the case is a keyboard and touchpad. Neither the keyboard or touchpad are really anything to shout about – the keyboard’s keys are a little too stiff for my liking and feedback is poor, while the touchpad is too small to work with. They’ll be fine for writing the odd email or short Word document, but I’d struggle to use them for an extended period of time.

Value for money

At around £160 for the tablet itself or £180 for the tablet and keyboard case bundle, I think the tablet represents very good value for money – especially when you include the bundled copy of Office. You won’t get much better from a 10″ Windows tablet today at that price. If it’s definitely Windows that you’re looking for – this is definitely good value for money.

Verdict

As a budget Windows tablet, I feel this is pretty good. It has minor flaws that seem to surround the keyboard case, but the tablet itself seems to be a decent little device for the money. If you’re not desperate to run Windows on a tablet, I still feel that you might be better off with an Android tablet or an iPad – but if productivity is your thing then this is definitely a good buy. For browsing the net on the train or sprucing up a Word document on your lunch break, this is likely to be an ideal companion. However, if you’re looking to do more intensive tasks like video editing, you’ll still be better off with a laptop or conventional desktop.

If you aren’t in any hurry, I’d probably keep an eye on Windows tablets over the next few months. The upcoming launch of Windows 10 is likely to bring some new ideas to the table; and once we get to the point where manufacturers are happy to stick 4GB of RAM in a tablet they really might give your laptop a run for its money. For the mean time, though, this is a decent tablet with a wide range of unique capabilities at a promising price.

Rating: 8/10

Buy from Amazon

Postfix/amavis workaround: “delivery temporarily suspended”

I’ve put together a quick workaround for a long-standing problem with my server, whereby every so often my mailserver will crash (usually every week or so). I discovered the problem relates to amavis crashing – but as yet I have not found a solution to the problem.

The shell script I’ve put together below (with the help of this) checks the status of the amavis service. If it’s down, the script will bring it back up and then restart postfix to resume deliveries.

I’d suggest running the script every 5 minutes from a cron job (use crontab -e to modify to your cron jobs).

#!/bin/bash
#
# Author: Alex Ward
# This script was created to find workaround to a problem where postfix would fail
# if amavis stopped on ISPConfig / Debian. This simple script will check the
# uptime of amavis and, if it is down, start it and then restart postfix.
# This script can be set up in a crontab.
#
# Built with help from
# http://www.akamaras.com/linux/linux-script-to-check-if-a-service-is-running-and-start-it-if-its-stopped/
#
#
version=”1.1″
#Changelog: Implemented version number and prepared for crontab logging.

service=amavis

echo ‘==========================’
echo ‘MAILSERVER SYSTEM CHECKUP!’
echo ‘==========================’
echo ”
date
echo “Version: $version”
echo ”
echo “Checking $service status…”
if (( $(ps -ef | grep -v grep | grep $service | wc -l) > 0 ))
then
echo “$service is running! No action required.”
else
echo “$service is DOWN! Rectifying this…”
/etc/init.d/$service start
postfix stop
postfix start
fi

echo ”
echo ‘=====================================================================’
echo ”
#END

You can download a copy of the script here (right click, save as).

It isn’t a solution to the problem – but until I find the solution, this will at least stop the problem from killing off mail deliveries.

Three (3) UK scraps unlimited tethering and brings in free 0800 calls – and it’s not like we didn’t see this coming!

Wow – surprise post! You haven’t seen me in a while – in fact it was a year to the day yesterday since I last posted. Sorry – uni, work and self-employed work have all taken their toll and I’ve been forced to reallocate my time. Nonetheless, some news did crop up today which I did think was worth some discussion.

Three – well known in the UK as the most generous data provider around – have today made some major changes to their contract offers to bring into place a range of policy changes.

Before you read on, it’s worth clarifying that these changes do not affect existing One Plan customers. Three would naturally want to avoid making such a major change to existing contracts, as customers would potentially have a get-out clause for the remainder of their contracts (in general, customers can pull out of their contract without penalty if their provider makes a change to their contract mid-term that imposes a significant change to the service that they are entitled to). See clause 10.1(d) of the pay monthly terms and conditions:

10.1 You may end this agreement in the following ways:
(d) Within one month of a materially detrimental variation to your agreement. You can end the agreement within one month of us telling you about a variation to your agreement (which includes your Package) which is likely to be of material detriment to you. You must give notice to Three Customer Services within that month and your agreement will finish at the end of that month once we receive your notice (a Cancellation Fee will not be charged).

As of today, Three are no longer offering their immensely popular One Plan contract to new customers – instead they offering a range of new contracts that provide various allowances of data and minutes. All contracts now include unlimited texts, so I guess that’s one thing that is simpler.

The new plans offer data allowances ranging from 500MB to “all-you-can-eat” and call allowances from 50 minutes through to unlimited. Tethering is now allowed on all plans regardless of your data allowance – except where your allowance is “all-you-can-eat”, where you will now be allowed up to 2GB of tethering per month. Three will notify you when you’ve burned through 80% and 100% of your limit to keep you in the know.

Additionally, for new contracts starting today, Three now offer free calls to all 0800 / 0808 / 0500 numbers for all new 24 month contracts. Again, we would have expected this to be cropping up sometime before too long because Ofcom have instructed all providers to do the same before the end of June 2015. Calls to 084* and 087* numbers are also brought down to 5p per minute – which is great to see as in many cases this will be cheaper than your landline (particularly for 0871 or 0843 numbers – which are very expensive to call from landlines and commonly found on service providers websites). Three certainly deserve credit for simplifying the cost of calling national numbers.

If you’re an existing customer, you aren’t, by default, eligible for the new 08 number rates. If you wish, you can call Three and get your plan updated to include the new rates, but be warned: if you are an existing One Plan customer and you request the new 08 rates, you will be moved to a new plan for the remainder of your contract and will be stripped of your unlimited tethering.

In terms of my own opinion – I’m naturally disappointed that Three will no longer be offering unlimited tethering, but in their defence it is very easy to see why. The cost of providing such an offering would be immense. Many people were abusing the service and using it as a replacement for their home broadband, which would have led to excessive consumption of data. I freely admit myself that I’ve had cases where I’ve consumed in excess of 50GB of data in a month through my plan – mainly due to internet outages at home or simply because, up until when I recently switched to Virgin Media, my 3G signal was faster than my ADSL line!!

So fair enough to Three I guess. My current contract runs through to next February, and until that time I’ll continue to use the tethering as I did before. If anything, it’ll only make me consider other providers when I renew now where I might not have done before. To be honest though, when you bear in mind all the perks you now get from 3 – inclusive allowances in many countries abroad, free 080 / 05 calls (for new customers as above), etc – it’s still hard to bear others in mind. Remember the new rules only apply to tethering – Three are likely to remain the only provider to offer unlimited 4G phone data uage for some time; or at least until giffgaff start providing 4G!

To help make this easier to understand, I’ve put together some FAQs. You may wish to confirm any of these with 3 as I’m not a representative of them or anything like that, but all information is based on what’s available on their website.

Can I still get hold of a ‘One Plan contract?
No, they’re no longer available to subscribe to.

I’m already on a ‘One Plan’ contract – what’s happening to my tethering allowance?
Nothing, providing you make no further changes to your plan for the remainder of your contract (see below for more info). Existing ‘One Plan’ customers will continue to have their existing privileges for the remainder of their contract. So, if you’re currently on a contract under the ‘One Plan’, you will continue to receive your unlimited tethering unless you renew or modify your contract.

I’m already on a ‘One Plan’ contract – do I get the new 08 call rates?
Not by default, no. Your plan remains unmodified, so calls are still chargeable for 08 numbers as they were before. You are able to contract Three Customer Services who will enable the new 08 rates on your account at no extra charge or contract extension – however, by doing so, you are modifying you’re contract and, as a result, you will no longer be eligible for unlimited tethering (instead you get a 2GB tethering limit). DO NOT ASK FOR THE NEW 08 RATES TO BE APPLIED TO YOUR ACCOUNT IF YOU WANT TO KEEP THE UNLIMITED TETHERING.

My renewal is coming up on my ‘One Plan’ contract – can I keep my unlimited tethering?
Unfortunately, no. When your contract renews you can no longer have the ‘One Plan’ so your unlimited tethering is no longer available.

I’ve signed up to a new contract on or after 18/03/2014 – how do the new 08 rates work?
If you’ve signed up to a new contract on or after 18/03/2014, you’re automatically eligible for the new 08 rates. That means that you get free calls to any 0800 / 0808 / 0500 numbers and they do not come out of your minutes allowance. Additionally, any calls to 087* or 084* numbers are set at 5p per minute – which may be cheaper than your landline (it’s worth checking).

Who needs 4G (LTE) when DC-HSDPA outruns it anyway?

First of all, I know this is the first post on GEEK! in around 3 months – sorry about that. I have to say, as I start diving deeper into work and education, I’m running out of time to blog. I’ll try to post a bit more once college is over.

Anyway, I recently gave in and returned (after nearly 4 years) to 3. I used to be with them when I had my Nokia 3120 Classic (good times) on PAYG, but times have changed a fair bit since then and I can afford a snazzy iPhone 5 contract. I thought a lot about who to go with, but I have to say 3 quickly sealed the deal with their One Plan. I mean – come on – who would turn down oodles of minutes/texts and, more importantly, all-you-can-eat (quite literally – it’s realistically up to 1000GB a month) data and tethering for £36 a month? Better still, EE and 3 are the only two networks capable of ever providing LTE for the iPhone 5, so with the promise of that later in the year, it’s almost impossible to say no. EE’s £36 a month deal gives you 500MB a month, which almost questions why you’d even benefit from 4G with a limit that small.

Ok, so the awesome deal had pretty much perfected for me – until I got home and actually used it. Now, bearing in mind, at home I get roughly 7Mbps a second on our stone-age ADSL, I was pretty astounded when I started getting speeds such as this through my iPhone…

IMG_0017Ok, that’s only one test. It’s only fair to do a few, so here’s a good sample.

IMG_0016

IMG_0043

Not bad really? Overall, while at home, I’m averaging around 22Mbps. For me, it questions what benefit there really is to LTE. If I can get these kind of speeds from DC-HSDPA, why would anybody pay such a high premium for 4G?

The speed still holds up fairly well in the city too. My local city is Oxford, and I can happily get speeds of around 10-15Mbps. Given that the network will undoubtedly be under much heavier strain in densely populated areas, it still copes very well.

For me, though, in theory it only gets better. In September/October, EE will hand over a segment of the 1800Mhz LTE spectrum to 3, giving them a very valuable resource. And to top it all off, 3 have told us we won’t have to pay a penny more for it.

3 deserve to be shouting about this way more than they actually are – frankly I don’t think it’s given anywhere near enough credit for what it is.

Nonetheless, I’m delighted to be back with 3. For those that are interested – the plan I’m on is the £36 a month iPhone 5 One Plan.