Author Archives : Rob Sanders

About Rob Sanders

IT Professional and TOGAF 9 certified architect with over 16 years experience, 16 in commercial software development and 9 years in IT consulting. Check out the "About Rob" page for more information.

Review: Archos Virtual Reality Glasses


Today we’re entering the world of wearable technology with the Archos VR glasses.  This is a new and exciting world, and it begins with your smartphone.  The technology is compatible with most modern smartphones, it is simply a matter of locating a compatible media player which is able to play 3D/VR content.  Before we go down that route, let’s take a look at the VR headset.  For the purposes of this review, I’ll be using an Apple iPhone 6.


Included out-of-the-box is a set  of instructions, a warranty and a support information card, plus the headset.  The headset is mainly comprised of two lenses, encased in a solid plastic enclosure which can expand to suit slim and thicker smartphones.

IMG_5316 IMG_5317

The idea is to mount the phone to the front of the VR headset in landscape mode.  The content is to be played split screen style, much like with a 3D LCD TV.  The major difference, of course, is that the media playback is right in front of the viewer.


Based on some suggestions from the included material, and some web searching, I selected the Homido Player to view VR content.  The player includes a sample video, and also includes functionality for you to record your own videos.

IMG_5319 IMG_5320

The media player is very easy to use, and the included demo video is outstanding.  It is comprised of a number of short video clips recorded in close to 360 degrees of footage.  When played whilst mounted in the headset, the content will scroll according to the movement of your head, allowing you to free view almost any direction.

IMG_5321 IMG_5322

Above are some screenshots of different views within one of the clips within the sample video.

The self-recorded content, naturally, isn’t impressive as the provided demo video, but it is interesting.  The device is fairly comfortable to wear, however it was a little tricky to put over reading glasses (if you need them).  One interesting feature I found – the app (or headset) responds to eye blinking to “click” on menus.

photo 1e

This is really interesting technology, and the Achos VR Headset is a solid entry level unit if you want to check out some VR content.  It really needs to be paired to a strong media player like the Homido, hopefully there will be additional content out there as the technology sees wider adoption. 

Many thanks to the folks at MobileZap.

A history of Dell Laptops

Reliability or luck?

That’s a good question to ask.  I’ve been buying Dell laptops almost exclusively for over a decade, and this is why. 

As of September, 2015 I own four working Dell laptops which span over a decade and a half in age, i.e. 1999-2015.  Only one has a dead battery, requiring the A/C adapter to run.  I think that’s pretty amazing, to be honest. To be clear, none of these laptops have enjoyed an easy ride.  They’ve all been workhorses during their prime, and 3/4 laptops have all been in regular use right up until today. 

The big surprise for me was that the Dell XPS (Gen 1) still runs fine off battery.  It is a beast of a machine, one of the early “huge power pack” laptops – also known as a Desktop Replacement – and can run for up to an hour on a battery manufactured sometime around 2004 when it was originally purchased.

IMG_4950 IMG_4954

Constantly in use

Two of the four laptops have travelled with me or been purchased overseas.  The XPS (Gen 1) was purchased in Canada, and the XPS Studio was my main machine when in China.  As a consultant, I’m always lugging ma1chines around, and these machines have done their fair share of work.

What helps keeping these machines in working order?

Without exception, I’ve heavily upgraded each laptop with aftermarket parts.  Even my brand spanking new Dell XPS 15 received a hard drive update within 24 hours of being received.  There’s not a single laptop there which hasn’t had hard disks and memory tweaked with better, improved components.  Extra batteries seem to help too – the XPS Studio has 4 of them, it will be interesting to see what happens with the XPS 15 on that front (built in battery).

A step back in time, today – Windows 2000

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Over the weekend I discovered a power pack which had gone missing to an old Dell Latitude CPt notebook which dates to the pre-Y2K era. 

Back then, I used to work for an anti-virus start up called vCIS which operated out of the basement of the Software Spectrum building in Brookevale in Sydney.  Software Spectrum offered to sell to vCIS staff their second hand (“pre loved”) Dell laptops for a small sum (I think about $200-ish) and so I picked up a particularly plucky Latitude (pictured).

So having found the long lost power pack, I decided it might be interesting to surf the Net on a platform from a bygone era.  The Latitude was heavily customized by myself back in the day, and managed to stay useful well into the late 00s.  I’d managed to mount a very old RPC-1 DVD drive into the docking tray, and since the screen was quite nice, used it as a makeshift DVD player with wireless networking to boot.

How’s this for specs?  It still has a working HDD, and a tidy 6 GB of total capacity, most of which is free.  On top of that, about 128mb of system RAM, and believe it or not – a PCMCIA slot-based WiFi card which bypasses the need to use a wired LAN port to get onto the network.  Yes, back in the day this laptop was no slouch.

Booting an antique

So I sat down and fired her up.  The old fans groaned, but the BIOS passed although it did complain bitterly about the fact that the CMOS battery died a decade ago and wanted to know what date/time it was.  After the full screen boot loader, we were into the Operating System.


That old start menu looks dangerously dated compared to the nice shiny one in Windows 10 – old verses new:

start-2k  start-10

Kicking the tyres

Anyhow, before we get to the good stuff (browsing the web), I thought it would be interesting to poke around the old Operating System.  Here’s the System Properties, Administrative Tools and the Control Panel:

comp admin


Quite a contrast to the new age icons we now have with Windows 10:


Some of the oldest files on the system date back to before the millennia:


Tools of the trade

Back in the day, we had to live with Internet Explorer 6 and the free bundled Outlook Express, with its fancy MFC MDI frames:

ie6  outlook

You know something’s old when it references NCSA’s Mosaic (one of the world’s first popular web browsers).

Browsing the Internet, Y2K-style

So I joined the PCMCIA WiFi card to my home WLAN without any drama.  I felt a pang of guilt that my modern equipment would be so backwards compatible, but carried ahead anyway.  The next step was to run up Internet Explorer and then see what I could resolve.  My first challenge was obvious – legacy protocol support.  Most modern sites have abandoned the protocols and cyphers used by such an old browser, yet there was hope.


I could not resolve to the world’s most popular search engine.  My suspicion is they might have dropped support for legacy protocols, even enabling TLS 1.0 failed to produce results.


I had to enable TLS 1.0 in the advanced options in order to resolve and render the Facebook site:

facebook  fb

..and it took a while given the number of security warnings I had to click “Yes” to, in order to just hit the login page.  I did not authenticate, but instead moved on.


No protocol issues resolving MSN or the main Microsoft site, but of the two, only MSN held up in the confines of this clunky old browser:

msn  ms bing

Bing managed to render slightly better, probably because no one was using it at the time.


How about the fashionistas of the technology world?  Could they live rendering a sub-optimal visual even on such an old platform?


Unsurprisingly, Apple’s crisp minimalist look fared “OK” under Internet Explorer 6.  Still some UI artefacts not playing ball, but the site was still useable.  How about journeying to something from the same era as the laptop?  Given my strike-out with Google, why not an old Internet search engine?  So I tried..


From the Lycos era, this site is still surprisingly operating – and renders beautifully.  Search results weren’t helpful, but what can one expect from such an old site?


Now you might be wondering which commercial, big business site loaded and rendered the best out of the dozen I tested?  You may or may not be surprised that the award goes to………


The IT behemoth’s main site loaded perfectly in Internet Explorer 6, which is worth praising and also mocking in the same breath.


Look, I’m not above reproach myself.  Whilst this site (Sanders Technology) did a fairly dismal job of rendering, my companion site Aussie Travel Guy did a surprisingly good job of rendering.

st  atg


Whilst it’s a bumpy and often slow ride, it’s still somewhat possible to drive the Internet in a 15-year old operating system, on 16 year old hardware.  Some might find that surprising.  I know I did.  I bid you farewell, from this war horse of a laptop.