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  • It also breezed though our gaming tests, thanks to the use of a speedy GeForce GTX980M graphics card. It cruised at a smooth 55fps when running Batman: Arkham City with maximum eye-candy at 1920x1080 resolution, and romped away at 78fps with Tomb Raider in Ultimate mode.It’s good for other forms of entertainment too, thanks to a very bright and colourful IPS display with 1920x1080 resolution and glare-reducing matte finish. There’s a Blu-ray drive for watching high-def movies, and even a 2.1 speaker system with built-in sub-woofer. And, when using integrated graphics, the G751 can just about manage 3.5 hours of battery life, so you should be able to watch a couple of films between charges.Dell’s Alienware doesn’t bother itself with those fancy new ‘slimline’ gaming laptops so, as ever, the Alienware 17 is built like a tank. It weighs in at 4.2kg and measures a chunky 50mm thick, so it’s safe to say that you won’t be carrying this one down to your local coffee shop for a spot of alfresco gaming. Battery life is modest too, only just hitting three hours even when using its less powerful integrated HD4600 graphics.

    It’s a distinctly, old-school approach, in more ways than one. The quad-core i7-4710HQ is fairly standard for laptops in this price range, but the use of a conventional 1TB hard drive running at 5400rpm produces unremarkable scores of 3517 and 4597 in the PCMark 8 Home and Work suites.The GeForce GTX880M used here isn’t the latest, greatest Nvidia GPU either, although it still manages to produce solid scores in our gaming tests.Running at its native 1920x1080 resolution, the Alienware 17 can manage a smoothly playable 49fps on Tomb Raider’s Ultimate graphics mode, and hits 50fps with Batman: Arkham City on its highest graphics settings. The full HD display makes the most of the graphics horsepower too, with a non-glossy finish that reduces glare and provides good viewing angles.Alienware was a little slow adopting Nvidia’s latest 900 series of GPUs, but there are new models on the way. The company has also come up with one new trick, in the form of a “graphics amplifier” – an external dock, priced at £199, that allows you to plug in a high-end desktop graphics card for future upgrades.

    Pics Apple really doesn't want its customers to be able to repair or upgrade their own computers.The Cupertino giant has done just about everything in its power to render the new Retina MacBooks impossible to open and fix. This is according to DIY site iFixIt, which has published an extensive teardown report on the latest OS Xlaptop, which starts from US$1299.The dissection found that the MacBook Retina relied on the unsavory combination of proprietary screws, glued-in components and hardware soldered directly onto the board, making the notebook all but impossible to tinker with.Among the issues iFixit noted with the MacBook was the heavy-handed use of Apple's proprietary pentalobe screw. Its unconventionally shaped head requires a special driver to open, and cannot be turned with off-the-shelf screwdrivers. In total, iFixIt technicians counted 86 pentalobe screws, most in the keyboard section of the notebook.Also missing from the new MacBook design was removable hardware. The RAM and the flash drive have been soldered onto the motherboard.If that wasn't bad enough, iFixIt found that Apple is once again relying heavily on adhesives to hold the notebook together. Parts including the battery pack and trackpad were glued into place, making removal a nightmare.

    Teardown experts gave the Retina MacBook a 1/10 repairability score, a dubious honor usually reserved for the most user-unfriendly tablets. Even Apple's iPad Mini 3 received a higher score from iFixIt.Sir Jony Ive and Co have not exactly been in iFixIt's good graces. The site has been a vocal critic of Apple's policies towards third-party repair shops and DIY enthusiasts, arguing that the hard-to-access models discourage users from upgrading their systems and help contribute to waste by forcing old or damaged kit to be thrown out. On-call Welcome again to On-call, our almost-regular look at readers' escapades on client sites at odd times of day or night.This week's contributor offers up a story “of personal stupidity more than anything” so we'll spare him the blushes that come with a name.Our hero's tale starts with a downed Terminal Access Controller Access Control System (TACACS) that needed rebuilding in the dead of night.

    “The OS disks were held in a fire safe in another building so up I got from the server room and walked through four sets of secure doors (secure coming in ... that's important) and found myself outside in the snow at 2am.”Our reader said the night was “bloody cold” but added “I'm a northerner, so who needs a jacket for a three minute walk to the next building.”“So I get to the secured, unmanned building,” our hero explains. “Now at this point I should inform you that the company I work for has a nice system where our ID cards are chipped, allowing us to use them along with a PIN to access the company's network over VPN without the need for a RSA token. However, we have to slot the cards into our laptops to do so.”There's just one problem — our hero has forgotten his card. And his work phone, which held contacts for people who could open doors. And therefore has no way of getting into any building, or even his car because he forgot his keys too. Let's not forget he's wearing just a shirt on his upper half.

    “Off I trudged back to the data centre, hoping beyond hope for inspiration”, which arrived in the form of a security phone on the outside of the building.“At this point I was contemplating using my personal mobile to call a taxi and going home using my spare house key ... but with TACACS down for 5,000-odd customer devices I didn't think my boss or bank manager would have been too happy.”“Luckily enough on the side of the security phone was a telephone number for facilities to use if the phone needed repairs.” Miraculously, that number was attended at that Godforsaken time in the morning and our hero was put through to security.“After about 15 minutes of explaining the situation to five different security managers and then being told 'We can see you on the CCTV ... are you supposed to be that fetching shade of blue?' they agreed to remotely buzz me into the data centre.”“Unfortunately, for them and me (as I said earlier) the server room I needed to get to was behind four sets of secure doors, and each of them had to be opened remotely each time (having to fill in a security exemption form, taking about five minutes before the system would open). Twenty-five minutes and a very annoyed security manager later I was back at my desk, grabbed my ID and headed back out into the wind to get the image disk from the firesafe.”Our hero got the job done and left for home two hours later, without his laptop power supply.

    What's happened to you at work at 2am? Or any other time of day when you've been called out to set something to rights? We're always on the lookout for tales of on-call action, plus expat experiences when you move to another country. Share your tale by contacting me with this form. Your company has decided, quite sensibly, that it wants to move its application infrastructure to a data centre rather than living with the risk of an on-premise approach. So how do you choose the data centre you should move to?Location is a compromise of locality versus suitability, but in my mind you should lean toward suitability. A “suitable” location is one that's close enough to civilisation for the power supply to be appropriate (more about that in a bit) and for you to be able to get sensibly priced telecoms links from multiple reliable providers.It needs to be close to decent transport links: even if you're happy for it to be several hundred miles away from home, you still don't want to have to hitch a ride on a farm cart to get there from the nearest station. I'm also averse to data centres bang in the middle of busy cities.

    This is partly because they're too susceptible to the modern-day penchant for civil engineering: JCBs have a similar attraction to data and power cables as moths have to light bulbs.Additionally, though, if the data centre is in a city then it's likely to be just one or two floors in a shared building, with the obvious hazard of third-party-induced disaster such as fire or flood, instead of a custom-made, dedicated facility.While it's useful for the data centre to be close to your organisation's premises, it's not an absolute necessity so long as you provide yourself with all the tools for remote infrastructure management. Happily, there's a whole feature in this series dedicated to explaining how you can do that.Data centres are classified in “tiers”, which describe the level of resilience you can expect from each location.The tiers are numbered from one to four (higher is better): so while a Tier-1 data centre has single points of failure and an availability level that expects downtime of up to about a day a year, at the other end of the scale a Tier-4 data centre has multiple fault tolerance and an expected downtime of no more than about half an hour each year.If you care at all about your organisation's systems, you won't accept anything less than Tier 3.

    Review April brings not just showers but traditionally a new release of Ubuntu, this time 15.04. With Ubuntu 15.04 will come Xubuntu and with that an update to Linus Torvalds’ briefly favoured Linux desktop (Xfce), version 4.12.Some of what's new in Xfce 4.12 has already been a part of Xubuntu for some time, but Ubuntu 15.04 will see the rest arrive.Xfce 4.12, released recently, is a major update for the desktop that very nearly became the Debian default. Xfce has grown in the last few years as the project has become something of a refuge for those unhappy with GNOME.Torvalds, in a now-deleted Google Plus post, had called Xfce A step down from GNOME 2, but a huge step up from GNOME 3.Xfce's biggest problem seems to be that no one sticks with it. Torvalds soon moved back to GNOME and, after experimenting with Xfce, Debian also went back to using GNOME as the default for the upcoming Debian Jessie.Perhaps some of that is due to Xfce's sometimes clunky-looking interface. And while it's similar to GNOME 2.x, it's also just different enough to be a little confusing for GNOME 2.x users. Settings are in different places, panel controls don't behave the same way and GTK3 support has, until now, been spotty.