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As part of the deal, Microsoft open-sourced its core architecture, .NET and made Windows available for free to firms making small PCs and tablets with a screen smaller than nine inches – a revolutionary move for a firm in part built on Windows licence revenue. Elsewhere, Microsoft swallowed Nokia while it racked up losses on its Surface tablet and marched further away from Windows 8, announcing Windows 10 – due in 2015.The year saw IBM rack up 10 quarters of falling revenue, blamed on the storage, services and its server businesses. Servers sales were bad for everybody in 2014, with low-priced Asian suppliers Huawei and Inspur Electronics growing fastest and IBM’s results saw its share price hammered and ignited whispers of an IBM break up with the stock falling to a three-year low by October.Action was needed. IBM abandoned its five-year plan for nearly half of profits to come from software by 2015 and EPS of $20. It put its Watson super computer to work, as a paid-service. But, in truth, the hard work still lay ahead. In January IBM announced two massive programs to cut costs and grow revenues and profits. Selling its x86 server business to Lenovo for $23bn – the firm that bought IBM’s PC business 14 years earlier. IBM reckoned this would let it focus system and software while Lenovo anticipated growth with “the right strategy and great execution.” In the same month IBM announced a $1.2bn program to build 40 data centers world wide, turning IBM into a provider of online services. With the sale going through and data centers still being built, it’ll be some time before their benefit is seen and it’s unlikely that 2015 will be much better than 2014 for IBM.

Three years into its turn-around plan and HP’s CEO Meg Whitman had nothing more than the odd green shoot to show. She therefore broke the glass on the HP’s CEO’s emergency strategy plan: announcing she will split the company in two – printers and PCs on one side and everything considered “enterprise” on the other. Whitman in February denied there was a plan to split the firm but by October had brushed the dust off the idea of her disgraced predecessor Leo Apotheker from the year before. According to Whitman, the split would give the units the “independence, focus, financial resources, and flexibility they need to adapt to market and customer dynamics, while generating long-term value for shareholders”. A month later, and with anticipation of flat growth in fiscal 2015 and no guidance given for 2015, Whitman told Wall St: “I’ve always said that turnarounds aren’t linear and while we are seeing clear pockets of growth, other areas still need more work.”

2014 saw influencers and heroes of tech depart. Tony Benn passed away aged 88: the modernizing Labour MP who forced British computers firms into a marriage called International Computers Limited to take on IBM. ICL attained thestatus of Europe’s fourth largest computer company and was bought by Fujitsu in 1998 before the ICL brand was finally killed in 2001 by its Japanese owner. It was the year that IBM’s former chief exec John Akers also passed away, aged 79. Akers was IBM’s sixth CEO, who rode the success of the S/360 and 370 mainframes but was unseated by the rise of the PC and eventually succeeded by Lou Gerstner.From the entertainment world, two quiet heroes of the misfit IT crowd left us. Adrian Mole creator Sue Townsend died aged 68; Mole would have been the first and formative secret hero to many in tech: intellectually gifted but out of place, a silent witness to the madness around him.Most gaming laptops focus on frame-rates rather than resolution, but the new Aorus range from Gigabyte packs in plenty of pixels along with its gaming power.

The standard Aorus X3 model provides a 13.3-inch display with a more than respectable resolution of 2560×1440, but the X3 Plus that we tested steps up to a 13.9-inch display and a full 3200×1800 resolution. It’s not an IPS display, and it can’t quite match the near-180-degree viewing angles of some of its High-DPI rivals, but the image is very sharp and clear, with strong contrast and a welcome matte-finish that helps to reduce glare and reflection.
It’s also admirably streamlined for a gaming laptop, measuring 23mm thick and weighing a sliver under 2kg. It packs in some heavyweight power though, with a quad-core Haswell i7 running at 2.4GHz (3.6GHz with Turboboost) along with 16GB of memory and a pair of 256GB solid-state drives that are configured as a single RAID volume for maximum performance. That combination produced scores of 3064 and 2923 in the Home and Work suites of PCMark 8, putting it right up with the best High-DPI laptops that we’ve seen so far. The £1,550.00 price tag also includes both integrated Iris Pro graphics and a sturdy GeForce GTX 870M to handle the 3D action.Battery life is also good for a gaming laptop such as this. You’ll get around 3.5 hours of action when using the GeForce graphics, while switching to the Iris Pro will stretch that to about 5.5 hours for more routine tasks such as web browsing or streaming video.

With a price around £1,200, the Satellite S70 stretches the meaning of the term affordable into Apple territory, but at least it packs in good performance and a Blu-ray drive alongside its full-HD display.The 17.3-inch display is a great size for watching high-def video, and the Blu-ray drive makes it a good choice if you want a large-screen laptop for home entertainment. Toshiba also includes a Radeon R9 M265X, which is an entry-level GPU but can still handle some casual gaming every now and then notching up a respectable 60fps.The S70 is equipped with an Intel 2.5GHz quad-core Haswell Core i7-4710HQ, which helps it to achieve robust scores of 3468 and 3289 in the Home and Work suites in PCMark 8. Its 16GB of memory will also come in handy for high-def video-editing or photo-editing, and the 1TB hybrid drive provides plenty of room for storing all your music, photos and videos.Ironically, it’s the full-HD screen that lets the S70 down. The 1920×1080 resolution is nice and sharp, and the horizontal viewing angle is pretty good. However, the vertical viewing angle is more limited, and the image darkens quite quickly when you start to tilt the screen backwards. We’ve seen less expensive full-HD laptops that offer really bright IPS displays with excellent viewing angles, so Toshiba doesn’t really have any excuse for cutting corners here.

This edition features a reader called Jon’s adventures on a day trip to Belgium in the 1980s.The trip was the first time Jon had ever flown commercially, and he remembers noting on the laptop (well, luggable – it was the end of the 80s, and it weighed a ton) that the tastiest part of the British Airways breakfast was the lemon-flavoured … er … napkin.Jon was met at Brussels airport by a man dressed in a canary-yellow shirt, peacock-blue trousers and a bright green blazer jacket. He was either colour-blind, taste-deprived, or Michael Portillo. I took a charitable view, and assumed the first, but the day was not looking good.Jon’s job back then was working with label-printing software, and selling whole label-printing systems. The customer’s system had been glitching and printing really bad labels.As I was the Head of Systems Software, and therefore wise in the ways of both computers and electronics, I was the ninja trouble-shooter. It was printing bad labels, so it was a software problem. Obviously.

So I plugged the printer cable into the PC’s parallel port, ran it out to the printer, and plugged the other end into the – ZZZZAAAPPP! Ouch! OK, BIG static electricity problem here. Right, let’s try that again. Just plug this here and – ZZZZAAAPPP!It didn’t seem to be static. Jon whipped out his multimeter and quickly realised that the PC – supplied by the customer – was frame-live.Yep, every exposed piece of metal on the machine was tied to mains live voltage, Jon recalls, and my customer didn’t believe it.No, it’s just static! You’re useless! Look – OUCH! OK, that was static, so let’s just – OUCH! There’s a lot of static here, it must be the carpet, so – OUCH!Jon says the client gamely attempted to electrocute himself four or five more times, yelping every time. This guy really didn’t understand static electricity. Or mains electricity. Or electricity. It was a great comedy act, though. I nearly got a hernia trying not to laugh, and I don’t think he really believed the hiccup attack.

It turned out that eight of the ten PCs on site had the same, potentially lethal, power supply fault. I strongly advised him not to use the other two, Jon wrote, in case they were having a good day that day and woke up grumpy the next.Eventually, we found a PC from another company, installed the same software on that, and – surprise, surprise – printed faultlessly. As often as he liked.I was taken back to the airport on a real high, Jon recalls. Not only was the problem theirs, the company was going to have to cover the cost of the flight, my time and expenses, as the problem was very, very much not our fault. Slightly grumpy (but accepting) customer; very happy employer. And it got even better when my BA flight was cancelled, and I was moved across onto the last seat on a Sabena flight … in Business Class … upgrade courtesy of BA.What’s happened to you in odd places and/or at odd times? Share your story by pinging me a mail and we’ll make you a star. A G-list star. +Updates The US government’s Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) has said the Superfish ad-injecting malware installed by Lenovo on its new laptops is a critical threat to security.

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