About Darren

G’day, and thanks for stopping by! I’m an Australian technology journalist, having written for some of the country’s most prestigious publications including The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, Australian PC User and APC magazines. I was contributing editor to PC User from 2001 to until the magazines closure in 2012 and continue to contribute stories to TechLife and APC magazines.

I cover a wide range of personal technology areas, including 3D printing, having built my own 3D printer; I also cover PCs and notebooks, Android smartphones and tablets. Over the years, I’ve racked up reviews on over 2000 notebooks and PCs. Through my electronics background, I write a monthly Arduino Masterclass covering the world’s most popular DIY microcontroller board family in APC.

I developed the UserBench series of PC benchmarks for Australian PC User magazine, Australia’s only home-grown benchmark system. I also created a range of software tools for the magazine including the popular RockPod series of audio/video converters and was the driving force behind PC User’s own range of UserOS operating systems including UserOS ULTRA, the first Linux distro created by a computer publication aimed at its readers.

More recently, I’ve contributed stories on open-source databases to iTnews.

I’ve been writing about technology for a while now, developing electronic circuits that were published in a range of electronics magazines including Electronics Australia and Silicon Chip. Some of my designs are still available as DIY kits in Jaycar Electronics stores.

* I have received numerous awards in recent years for my work including the Australian IT Journalist of the Year award in 2005 and again in 2008. (I’m currently the only journalist to win this most prestigious award twice). I’ve also received the award for Best Technical Journalist eight times (2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2013) and Best Technology Reviewer three times (2004, 2006, 2008). The Australian IT Journalism Awards are Australia’s most prestigious awards for IT journalism. For more details, see http://thelizzies.com.

About this website

This will be where I put up some of my findings, thoughts, tips and tricks as much for my own memory’s sake as anyone else’s. In the future, I’ll also be throwing up some of the growing number of software tools I’ve developed. Some will reside here, others on separate websites – we’ll see how we go.

All material on this site © Copyright, Darren Yates.

All comments are my own and should not be deemed to be those held by TechLife, APC, Bauer Media, Future Publishing or any other organisation.

34 thoughts on “About Darren”

  1. Hello Darren,

    Love your programs. Thank you. I’ve historically used Userbench encode 2008 and now have installed Userbench 2009. Can I compare the results I got before with 2008, with results from 2009?

    cheers

    Greg

    1. Generally, no. The reason is that they use different versions of the open-source FFmpeg encoder. We’ve only just retired Encode 2009 a couple of months ago after about two-and-a-half years so although it’s a pain not being able to compare results, the idea is that we try to keep a benchmark going as long as possible. The only reason we change is because the benchmark is no longer fulfilling its role and testing products sufficiently. That’s the reason why we’ve brought in UserBench Encode HD – it does 720p video testing rather than DVD resolution to push the latest multi-core notebooks and PCs harder.
      Cheers,
      Darren.

  2. Can you tell me what’s up with the PC User website.I’ve been trying to access it intermittently,for a few months now,using firefox ; to register some software. And i haven’t been able to get it to load. It’s always at night,thought it might be shut down then ,any ideas.

    1. Not sure, Rob. However, I can tell you that PC User is getting a completely new website in the very near future. “About time” will be the reply from many but I’ve seen it and I think even at this early stage, it’ll be worth the wait…
      Cheers,
      Darren.

    1. You sure? Just checked it now and you should get a download box asking you where to save the file.
      Try it again.
      Cheers,
      Darren.

  3. Hello Darren,
    Is it possible to have different operating systems eg; Windows XP, WIndows 7, Linux installed on individual hard drives in one computer?
    If it is possible how do i go about doing this?
    Thanks,
    John

  4. I’ve been try to convert files using RockPod 4. No matter what i try the audio gets out of whack by the end. These are Topfield REC files which i’ve renamed as TS. By the end of 60 mins the audio is out by a few seconds.
    What am I missing?

    1. You’re probably not missing anything – it’s just FFmpeg isn’t coping with the file format.
      I’ll see if there is a fix when I get two seconds to rub together… :)
      Cheers,
      Darren.

  5. Love your encode benchmarks. I have been using them for years to test and tune new systems.
    I recently tried Encode 2008 on a newly purchased i7-2620M laptop and got scores that varied from 15 to 43 (with background software off). I also tested Encode HD and got good consistent scores (49 to 51).
    Any ideas about why the old 2008 version would behave in this way on an i7?
    Cheers,
    Nic

  6. Hi Darren, I have enjoyed using the various pieces of software you have developed for Video encoding, and downloading you tube videos.

    I’m setting up a HP Microserver with 6GB of RAM and was thinking of putting Linux on it. I would use PC User Home server but being 32 bit it won’t be able to address all the RAM. I was thinking of using Xubuntu (which I believe is the base for Home server), and would like to share some external drives. Is it possible to use the drive share beta on Xubuntu? Or do you have instructions on how to implement it manually.

    Many thanks for all your work :)

    1. Yep, it should be.
      Haven’t tried it myself but it’s the same base code so it should – unless there’s a problem running a 32-bit app on 64-bit Linux but it should work.
      Cheers, Darren.

  7. Recently read your article in the PC User Mag Tech Life and while most of the mag isn’t my cup of tea (I’m strictly a PC computer user and not into tablets and smart phones) the article on viewing windows 8 in a virtual machine was intreguing and I tried to complete your instructions however my windows 7 laptop has only one cpu so got an error message. It would have been better if you had included the minimum requirements to achieve the task in the article and saved me a lot of time. I am a regular mag subscriber and always follow your articles with interest and was suprised you had included those facts. Keep on writing your articles.

    1. Hi Noel,
      What CPU do you have? I must admit I don’t have a single-core CPU (is that what you mean by “one”?). Otherwise, it should have worked. Probably more the issue is that it doesn’t support Virtualisation Technology, which Intel calls VT-X. But if it’s a Windows 7 laptop, I’d be surprised if it didn’t work…
      Cheers, Darren.

  8. Hi Darren,

    In Sep TECHlife you mentioned you purchased $75 Android tablet from ebay. Are you happy with it? If so, can you please provide details as I would like to also get one but am confused by the range available and one that is reasonably built for the price.
    Cheers, Leland.

    1. Sort of. Most of these cheapies come out of one or two factories and use the same single-core processor so they’re not particularly quick.
      The thing I didn’t like about this model I bought in the end was the error message that kept popping up. Nothing seemed broken but it just continually appeared. For the money though, it wasn’t too bad.
      One other thing, the power brick I received with mine was terrible. Plug it in and the tablet was unusable. Thankfully, you could power it through the USB port with a USB AC adapter and that worked well.
      Hope that helps,
      Cheers,
      Darren.

  9. I’m a longtime electronics hobbyist. I’m looking to purchase all original issues of Electronics Handbook magazine by C&E Hobby Handbooks and Don Gabree. I see you were an author on some articles. Do you have any to sell or do you know anyone that would be willing to sell them to me?

    1. Mark, sorry for the late reply – been really busy… these last 12 months… but Electronics Handbook was many moons ago. I only wrote articles for it on a freelance basis. I’m not sure what happened to the magazine after the mid-90s. Hope you find them somewhere.
      For what it’s worth, I’m going to be building up a new electronics website that focuses on the basics of analog components. While everyone is interested in modern CPU development, there’s a real danger that understanding discrete components is becoming a dying art. Anyway, that’s for another time.
      Cheers,
      Darren.

  10. hey mate, sawy your post on techlife about creating a us itunes account. thank you so much for letting me know this is possible!
    it’s still not letting me complete the process, though, telling me to contact apple tech support, no matter what i do– stopping after i select none payment and include a legit us address :( dunno mate, but i reallly hope you might have the tiem to help :) i’ve already paid for a us gift card!!

    -n.

  11. Hi Darren,
    Will there ever be another UserOs Home Server?
    It was and still is a fantastic os.
    I understand this is from the old pcuser days but surely techlife or apc still has most of the same customer base. Two years has passed since the last release, it would be a great to see an updated version. Still thanks for all of the older home servers they have been great fun.

    1. Hi Brad,
      At this stage, I have another UserOS release in the early stages of development but I don’t envisage any further UserOS titles to come via TechLife or APC.
      Thanks for the kind words, too! :)
      Cheers,
      Darren.

      1. Hi Darren, that fantastic news. Where is the most likely place to download it from once it has become completed? Thanks again.
        Brad

  12. Hi Darren,

    I know you’re busy with uni, but just a question on the likelihood of seeing on UserOS Home Server 2013/14?
    Anything you could tell me would be great, you’re a legend.

    Brad

    1. Hey Brad,
      Yeah, unfortunately, it has to sit on the backburner for the moment.
      I did begin building the new version, however, everything is twice the size it was back in 2012, meaning that it looks impossible getting it under 1GB. Or I should say ‘improbable’.
      A raw Linux build with the latest kernel with no apps now takes up around 550MB – that’s just kernel and Xfce. It used to be a little over 300MB.
      Ultimately, my Masters degree is taking up all my spare time for now, though, so I can’t say when I’ll be able to restart. At this stage, I’m afraid I have to say ‘don’t hold your breath’.
      Cheers,
      Darren.

  13. Hi Darren,

    I understand how important uni is, so no problems there. I hope this is not a silly question but is there a need for to be under 1GB? Given the size of HDDs these days and data limits ISP offer.

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