Review 5″ Quechua Phone bought in Decathlon

The Quechua phone is a 5 inches rugged mobile phone for those who enjoy outdoor sports. I acquired this phone in Decathlon the very same day that it came out in Europe, I have been using it for a few weeks already.

On the outside the Quechua Phone is IP54 certificated, a standard Ingress Protection Rating that guarantees the phone has passed wear and tear tests capable to withstand small shocks, dust and water splashes. The build quality was very reassuring, a little thick and heavy due to the enormous non removable 3500mAh battery giving you 22 hours of talk time, but I was not too surprised about this as the phone has to be perfectly sealed to stop water droplets from getting in. The back of the case appears to be tightened up with tiny metal screws and the power on and volume buttons are also metallic.

To insert a microSIM and microSD card you have to lift a rubber cap from one of the sides of the phone, another rubber cap located on top of the phone is used to charge the phone and plug in the included headphones if you wish so. This is probably the most rugged phone you will catch sight of for the consumer market.

Decathlon Quechua mobile phone
Decathlon Quechua mobile phone

I should warn you that the phone comes with a printed manual underneath the box, check everything properly because it is very easy to miss the Quechua phone manual, it is found under a semi hidden compartment inside the box.

When you first boot the phone you will be asked if you would like to install the preloaded weather and mountain trail information apps, you can easily uninstall them and I would advice you not to install the default apps unless you already have an external microSD card mounted or the apps will eat all of your phone’s internal memory.

As for hardware, as expected, the Qualcomm 1.2GHz quad core processor and 1GB DDR3 RAM specs have been enough to use Google maps and play games without any noticeable lagging. The 5MB rear camera and front 2MB camera image quality was also acceptable in my tests, the kind of images you would expect from any mid range phone, able to take reasonably good photos indoors and outdoors in cloudy weather but nothing crispy like an professional SLR camera.

Screen brightness was very good, it is best to have it in auto mode to save battery time. I also tested the screen outside under the sun and, unlike cheap smartphones, with the Quechua phone I did not have any problem reading the screen outdoors on a sunny day.

Internal memory is what the Quechua phone lacks, the default 4GB are in reality under 2GB after Android Jelly Bean 4.1 is up and running. I quickly filled in the internal memory with app data and had to buy a microSD card. Luckily there is a maximum microSD capacity of 32GB. It will be very difficult to fill a microSD card of that size with a 5MB camera.

Another thing I noticed is that there is no screen film you can buy for your phone, theoretically, the screen is meant to be resistant to scratch but I wanted to buy the screen film for extra safety and I was unable to find a supplier anywhere. Unless Quechua releases mobile phone accessories in the future you will have to manage with what comes inside the box.

Overall, my take on the Quechua phone is that it not a phone for those who want something stylish and light, it is a phone for those after a durable and functional phone that can be taken outdoors without worrying about dust or rain and a phone that will not need daily recharging. The huge battery guarantees that you can enjoy a full weekend without using the mains power supply.

If you want this phone to go running it will not be the best due to the above average weight, but for trekking it is perfect and it can also be taken to the beach.

Visit Quechua Phone homepage

Update: I have now been using this phone for 6 months and everything is good except that I am finding the 2GB external storage far too small. The problem is that many apps will not install in the external memory card I bought to expand the storage, most apps only work if installed directly on the phone. Based on this, I would avoid this phone if are somebody who normally has many apps installed on the phone. Other than that, I am happy with it.

Free portable note editor Keynote NF

KeyNote NF (New Features) is a free open source note editor with tabs and a rich editing, a good Notepad replacement. It doesn’t need installation and it can encrypt notes using Blowfish or the Idea algorithm, both methods are believed to be uncrackable. Portability and encryption make Keynote NF suitable for travellers and those carrying data on a USB thumbdrive at work.

Keynote NF has more capabilities than Microsoft Wordpad, you can format your text using colours, bold or italics, as well as changing the font. Advanced components not found in Wordpad, besides encryption, include macros, optional plugins and an easy to configure alarm clock that will set off a pop up window with the subject of your choice on the specified date.

Portable Notepad KeyNote NF
Portable Notepad KeyNote NF

Anyone who has used a text editor before will be familiar with Keynote NF interface. Surprises are only found when you access its menu and see a wide range of options not normally found in more simple notepads, like for example  like “Tree” and “Merging Notes” . Notes are organized by nodes in tree branches, this makes it easy to access them.

The main caveat I found is that the program will save notes using its own .knt format, this means that you will have to use Keynote NF all the time to work with them, other free text editors like Wordpard or Libre Office do not support that format. Another problem is that there is no installer, Keynote NF only works as portable placing everything inside a folder and clicking on keynote.exe to launch it.

No need to worry about computer resources, everything felt very light and quick to respond, I did not notice any particular increase in RAM memory or CPU spike while I worked with the notes. If you are after a Notepad on steroids or someone who needs a portable note taker, this is it,

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Convert your photos into drawings with Sketch Drawer

Sketch Drawer is a Windows program to easily turn digital photos into sketches, it comes preconfigured with various filters like “Felt-Tip Pen“, “Schematic“, “Colour Drawing” and many others. Each filter can be further optimized by changing the drawing edge strength to “Countour“, “Light”, “Contrast” and seven more edges, retouched even further filling the white areas with a choice of over a dozen patterns and pen or pencil presets enabling hatching.

The level of customization that Sketch Drawer allows is impressive, using very few clicks and without any special skill, your photo will look like a professional made drawing in just seconds. Sketch Drawer intuitive interface should not require you to read the help manual, altough one with screenshots is included if you get lost.

Convert photos into drawing with Sketch Drawer
Convert photos into drawing with Sketch Drawer

Using the same program you can a watermark to your pictures so that if anyone reproduces them you are given credit for your work, the watermark can be made up of text or adding your own logo, which can be adjusted for transparency and saved after creation.

My only drawback is the $50 tag price, I found it a little on the high end given that it can only convert photos into sketches and add watermakrs. For around double that price you can buy a full professional graphics editing suite that comes with a variety of filters, like for example Adobe Photoshop Elements, Corel PaintShop Pro or Serif PhotoStack, although the watermarking option adds value to Sketch Drawer since dedicated watermarking software would cost half Sketch Drawer price and a graphics suite could be difficult for beginners.

If you find the need to create dozens of sketches and watermark photos there is no easier software than Sketch Drawer. The batch editing mode gets the job done with very little effort  from your part, you can select multiple photos or a folder, apply a filter or watermark and leave the computer working in the background while you do something else.

I would reccomend this program for those who are always creating paintings out of digital photograhs or have a large number of photographs they would like to watermark. As long as you see yourself converting photos into sketches and watermarking a lot, the program will be good value for money. A fully functional trial version of Sketch Drawer can be downloaded for a few days testing and see if it fits your needs.

Visit Sketch Drawer homepage

Bypass The Washington Post article limit with a VPN

After reading a few articles on The Washington Post you will be stopped with a paywall asking you to buy a subscription. You can bypass the article limit, and that of other digital newspapers like The New York Times and LA Times using a Virtual Private Network that will change your computer IP.

A VPN is a legal service to encrypt your Internet connection and stop hackers and nasty countries from wiretapping your online activities, in addition, a VPN service will change your home computer IP connecting you to a remote server that can be located anywhere in the world. A VPN can be used to share files P2P, avoiding groundless costly lawsuits. Another added benefit of changing your computer IP is that websites like The Washington Post will believe that you are a different surfer every time you change IP. As long as you do not store cookies and you are not logged into your digital newspaper account, the Washington Post will keep giving you free articles non stop, after reaching the article limit per IP, change it with a mouse click and you will start from zero.

Washington Post article limit
Washington Post article limit

For this to work you will have to set your Internet browser to  privacy mode to avoid storing cookies. To start privacy mode in Firefox 22 go to menu and select “New Private Window”. In Chrome, privacy mode is called “Incognito Mode” and in Internet Explorer it is called “InPrivate browsing“, you can quickly access any of them activating the shortcut CTRL+Shift+P

Private Internet Access is not free, but it works much cheaper than a subscription to a digital newspaper and you get the benefits mentioned above. Private Internet Access does not keep user logs or monitor activities, even if they were to be compelled to hand over logs, they can’t give what they haven’t got.

Another VPN benefit, is being able to access restricted content from abroad. With Private Internet Access you can mask your home computer IP as British and access the BBC iWatch, a tax payer funded service only available to UK residents. Other VPN purposes can be posting anonymous comments in controversial forums and sending anonymous email, when you access an email service with Private Internet Access only the untraceable VPN IP will be included in the email headers and not yours.

Private Internet Access has an ample range of servers covering all continents, there are thousands of IPs, too many of them to be blocked. Alternatively, if you don’t want to spend money on a VPN, you can always read the news for free at sites like The Washington Times, USA Today, CNN or Yahoo news.

Visit Private Internet Access homepage

Review CyberGhost VPN paid service

CyberGhost VPN is a free and paid VPN provider to hide your computer IP, get around Internet censorship in countries where they block websites and secure your data in Wifi Hotspots, this review is based on the paid Premium plan that I have been using for two months.

CyberGhost Premium has dozens of servers in Europe and the US, however the cheaper Premium plan will only give you three or four US servers and a couple of dozen German and Dutch servers, if you upgrade to a more expensive “Premium Plus” plan you get a staggering number of US servers and further VPNs in the same European countries as before but with less users on each server resulting in higher speed. You can check how many people are using a server using the “Service Status” link, I would normally see around ten users on each Premium Plus server, around twenty users on the Premium plan servers and up to a hundred users on the free servers.

CyberGhost VPN Software
CyberGhost VPN Software

The VPN software is easy to use with an “AntiSpy” tab where to configure basic computer privacy settings like stopping Windows Media Player identification or deactivating Windows automatic error reports, nothing too advanced, I would not bother with it, another tab named “Video portal” has links to online US TV series taking you to Hulu and CBS websites, not very useful, a “Server Map” tab that I have only used once shows you a graphical map of where in the world the servers are located, so if you don’t know where Finland is, you can see it there or use Wikipedia, the only tab that is of real use is “Connect” where you choose your favourite server and it comes with a filter where you can remove from view the countries you don’t want to be associated with.

CyberGhost disadvantages

CyberGhost VPN has no servers at all in Asia, only in Europe and the US, if you want an IP from an Asian country, but be warned that the ping rate from a server located far away from your home will slow down Internet browsing, unless you live in Asia there isn’t much point in getting an IP from there.

Another CyberGhost VPN disadvantage is that the Premium plan only has three or four US servers, I did not find any of them blocked by Hulu or Pandora, but less well known services like Slacker Radio blocked all three New York servers and I was unable to access it, the only way to stop this from happening is upgrading to the more expensive CyberGhost “Premium Plus” VPN plan with assorted US West coast servers.

CyberGhost advantages

The speed was always enough to stream online video, there are no bandwidth caps and multiple IPs are available, specially in European servers. Support is quick to reply via email or using their open online board, prices are reasonable and the VPN software will stop your browser from connecting to the Internet when the connection goes down. A few times the server I was using was taken down for maintenance without warning but not once it revealed my computer IP, a pop up disconnection warning was shown asking me to choose a different server. CyberGhost VPN does not keep logs that can identify an user, this should block unfounded lawsuits.

Conclusion CyberGhost VPN review

This is a good VPN service for those concerned about privacy and with good speed, their main selling point is that CyberGhost VPN takes privacy seriously and keeps no logs, the VPN software has protection against disconnects and pricing is cheap, but if you want to watch US online TV you will have to go for the more expensive package because the cheap option has too few US servers.

Visit CyberGhostVPN homepage

Securely erase Windows files and folders with DeleteOnClick

When you erase a file in Windows it can still be recovered using special software, DeleteOnClick is a free utility to securely wipe your files or folders when you erase them, it is integrated in Windows context menu and it can erase any kind of file you want with a simple right click, you only need to make sure that the file is not in use by another application. You will be asked to confirm that you want to securely erase the file so that no mistakes are made since Windows Recycle Bin is not used, after you click on “Yes” everything will be gone.

The sofware wipes data using the United States Department of Defense method 5220.22-M s, a very secure algorithm also used by some US administration departments to get rid of confidential information.

Free file wiper DeleteOnClick
Free file wiper DeleteOnClick

The program intends to be a simple easy to use eraser that will not be noticed by the user and does not require to open it up every time a file has to be securely erased. The paid for version of this program has a higher security level by allowing you to securely wipe Windows Recycle Bin overwriting all data inside, erasing file datestamps and attributes, wiping free space on the disk and renaming files before erasing them so that not even files name can be read.

If you decide to uninstall the program you will be asked to reboot the computer, the download freeware version of DeleteOnClick is a little hidden on the site, check out the tiny links, it is obvious that the developers are giving away this program for free with the hope that some people will upgrade to the paid for version, if you security needs are not very high this program is enough, what DeleteOnClick will not do for you is to get rid of personal data stored in Windows temporary files and the Internet browsing cache, you will need a full security suite for that.

Visit DeleteOnClick homepage

Review Private Tunnel OpenVPN provider

Private Tunnel is a US based VPN company from OpenVPN Technologies, the developers of OpenVPN software, their services are available for Windows, Mac and Linux with support for mobile devices, there are instructions on how to install it on a  DD-WRT router if you want to, Google public DNS is integrated in the software.

The VPN client is simple and dead easy to use, a novelty not found in other clients is that you can quickly access your favourite sites bookmarking them inside the software, changing server can be done with a single click using the drop down menu, you can choose from USA, UK, Switzerland or Canada. I checked server speeds from Europe and it measured an honourable 5/6Mbps average. Inside your user account on the web you can see your VPN activity logs, like how much bandwidth has been consumed, connection date stamps and session duration, this will help you detect anomalies and give you billing transparency since the VPN is bandwidth metered.

PrivateTunnel OpenVPN software
Private Tunnel OpenVPN software

The main difference in between Private Tunnel and other regular VPN providers is that instead of being charged a monthly fee your are charged per consumed gigabyte, people who only use a VPN once in a while for specific sites, like banking, or when travelling abroad could be better off with this service than traditional monthly VPN. There are no rules against file sharing but it probably work out too expensive as it consumes lots of bandwidth.

Private Tunnel will encrypt your connection on public Wifi access points, allow you to bypass georestricted online TV services, I used this VPN to watch Hulu and the BBC iPlayer from abroad without problems, it will also get around censorship filters like the Chinese firewall and mask your IP from the websites you visit to keep your online privacy, but their terms and conditions state that Private Tunnel keeps logs for troubleshooting and identify abusive users, if you use their VPN for criminal purposes your right to privacy will be forfeited.

This is an ideal uncomplicated VPN for those afraid of monthly charges and only using the Internet for browsing, with no video streaming (Youtube,DailyMotion,etc), if you carry out heavy bandwidth activities you will be better off with a different provider like PIA VPN, otherwise I was happy with Private Tunnel VPN performance.

Visit Private Tunnel homepage