Christmas-Greetings

Christmas Greetings

We wish you all

A very happy Christmas

and a

Prosperous New Year

The end of the year is often the time when business owners can sit back, reflect on their past year and plan ahead for the next year.

If you are considering starting the new year with some changes or additions to your website, or even having a new one built we’re happy to help and advise.

Give us a call or email if you want some guidance and help:

Contact us here

protect-yourself-online

FREE service to protect yourself online

Will consumers use a new free service to protect themselves from dodgy websites?

A new, free service has been launched by IBM and two other industry bodies, the Packet Clearing House and the Global Cyber Alliance (GCA), with the aim of helping consumers and businesses to avoid websites that are known to be malicious.

Quad 9 uses 19 lists of web-based sites to identify those known to be used by phishing gangs.  It works by getting users to re-set their routers’ DNS settings to 9.9.9.9.  This blocks people from visiting known bad sites and helps users to avoid falling victim to phishing scams using websites that appear to be reputable financial organisations.

“Anyone anywhere can use it,” said Phil Rettinger, GCA’s president and chief operating officer.

The service, he says, will be “privacy sensitive,” with no logging of the addresses making DNS requests—”we will keep only [rough] geolocation data,” he said, for the purposes of tracking the spread of requests associated with particular malicious domains. “We’re anonymizing the data, sacrificing on the side of privacy.”

There is more information about the service here https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2017/11/new-quad9-dns-service-blocks-malicious-domains-for-everyone/

Security experts are doubtful whether users will take advantage of the service.

According to an article on Quad 9 by the BBC: “Independent security expert Graham Cluley said relatively few people fiddled with the settings on their routers to change the way they found web addresses.

Getting across the benefits of switching would be a ” big challenge”, he said, given how reluctant people were to adopt other useful security technologies.

He pointed to the difficulties there had been in getting people to use password managers or VPN (Virtual Private Networks).

But as the numbers of people who have had money stolen through phishing scams continues to climb, perhaps it is time to take security a lot more seriously.

SNES-Classic-Mini

SNES Mini

“a charming little relic of a distant time”

These are the words of one reviewer of the latest games console released by Nintendo, the Classic Mini SNES, at the end of September.

Retro-gaming has become a popular activity as first-generation gamers, now adults and parents, want to share the delights of the characters and games on consoles they remember so fondly to their children. Not only this, but it brings game playing back into the living room and something to be shared with friends or family.

But the newest addition from the company, whose fortunes have been revived by the Nintendo Switch, is in short supply.

Although the company has promised to manufacture more and to block multiple pre-orders in an effort to prevent the supply problems that saw last year’s NES Classic selling on sites like eBay for considerably more than their actual store retail site, so far these measures seem not to have worked.

Bearing in mind that Christmas is on the horizon that may mean queuing in the early hours at an actual retail store when the next shipment is due in, unless you want to buy one online at almost double the actual retail price.

Another drawback is that the console does not include a plug, which you will have to buy separately.

It will, however, be worth it, according to reviewers.

The mini is a faithful small-scale reproduction of the original console and controls, although it now plugs into modern TVs through an HDMI cable and has additional suspend and rewind features so that you can stop playing and return later. While you cannot download or expand the games available the Classic Mini SNES comes with 21 traditional games that so delighted past generations, including Final Fantasy VI and Super Mario World, Super Mario, Castlevania IV, Super Metroid, Zelda and Super Ghouls ’n Ghosts.

The Guardian’s Keith Stuart says: “The greatest thing about the Mini SNES is that it will allow the original purchasers to quickly and easily share these memories with their children, their siblings or their old friends once again.”

Super-Mario-Odyssey-Update

Super Mario and Nintendo Switch

Super Mario and Switch update

It’s official!  Nintendo has announced that Super Mario is not as we have all believed a plumber!

As revealed in the Independent recently the cuddly Italian’s profile has been updated and he is now “all-round sporty”.

For those of you hooked on the loveable retro-game character, who have now embraced the Nintendo Switch, there is still a while to wait for the latest adventure Super Mario Odyssey featuring the loveable former plumber and his new friend Cappy.

It’s not due for release until October 27 when Mario gets some new moves that will include being able to throw Cappy.

Super Mario and CappyIn the meantime, perhaps the latest adventure, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, will keep you going.

According to a review, again in the Independent,  it is not as awful as people might fear.

The storyline sees the Mushroom Kingdom overrun as a result of a freak scientific experiment, which has merged two worlds together.  The Kingdom has been taken over by the evil Rabbids and only Mario, together with two partners, can rescue it.

It is basically a combat game, where players travel through stages to defeat Rabbids armed with everything from guns to huge concrete slabs.

But it takes co-operative strategies and planning to combat the different enemy battle styles so it is clearly a multi-player game if you fancy a session with friends.

According to the review there’s also a good deal of humour for when the pace slackens.

Dominating web space

Big companies dominating web space

The “Big Three” dominating web space

Think of website searching and what name springs to mind? – Google

What about social media? – Facebook

Online selling? – Amazon

Despite the best efforts of IT innovators, these three effectively now dominate their niches, far outstripping the likes of Bing, Snapchat, Instagram and WhatsApp. In fact, Facebook now owns both Instagram and WhatsApp.

There is also speculation among tech experts that Google may be preparing to buy Snap, the company behind Snapchat.

According to BBC Tech correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones, the dominance of the big three means that while LinkedIn, Twitter and Snapchat will have substantial audiences they will struggle to make much money.

What does this mean for businesses and marketing?

Leaving aside LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft and is a specialist niche for businesses and organisations for both conversational groups and for recruitment, business marketing will need more than ever to have a presence on both Facebook and Google.

This means paying attention to SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) so that the business’ website is easy to find when its service or product is being searched for.

It means regularly updating website content, something Google particularly now monitors and for those businesses selling services that may not change dramatically or often, unlike products, one of the best ways to do this is to add regular blogs on topics of interest to potential clients and customers.

It means that businesses should understand who their target customers are, what motivates and interests them, and cater to their requirements.

It also means defining clear goals for any marketing on social media, which is often about creating an identity so that potential clients and customers remember the company’s name and see it as having a solid reputation for the quality of its customer service and reliability.

It also means developing a trustworthy reputation, so that there are secure means of making payment online, if appropriate, and a very clearly-stated policy of conforming to the new rules due to come into force on 25 May 2018 (GDPR – General Data Protection Regulations) on protecting people’s personal information.

retro-gaming

Retro gaming is a big deal

Remember the days of your childhood when you would sit with a group of your mates around the TV playing games via a console?

Most likely your childhood was in the 1980s and 90s, when technology had not advanced to the online gaming that is the norm today, albeit still via a console. Now, you can still play greames with other people, but they are most likely people you have never met and often on the other wide of the world.

However, human beings are still deep down social animals who like getting together in the same space as a group and a combination of this plus nostalgia could be what has fuelled a massive revival in what is now called “retro gaming”.

Many people have retained a fondness for characters like Sonic, Zelda, or Super Mario. These people are now adults and possibly parents, and the desire not only to do something with the children may be another influence on the revival.

Perhaps this year’s launch of the new Nintendo Switch, with its updated Zelda and, soon, Mario games has also contributed.

While many people may have bought the new consoles each time they were launched, it seems they never actually got rid of their earlier ones.

Now, they are being rescued from the attic to entertain a whole new generation and perhaps also resurrect the idea of spending “family time” together.

Not only that, but there are now thriving businesses developing from the resurgence.  There is a large and lucrative market for games cartridges and consoles on places like eBay – to prove that hanging onto “stuff” for once can earn money, even if it’s the long-suffering parents who have had to store it all. Some enterprising small business people have even opened physical shops in their neighbourhoods and there are also specialist arcades and gaming cafés.

There is also an opportunity for anyone with some technical/handyman skills.  These consoles are old and no longer manufactured. The older a piece of equipment is the more likely it is that something will break, wear out or go wrong so repairers are likely to find themselves much in demand.

So, the next time your mum asks when you’re going to get rid of the clutter you’ve left behind at home when you moved out you have the perfect answer!

Nintendo-Switch

Nintendo Switch – a happy marriage of innovation with nostalgia?

Many of Nintendo’s original fans are now adults who still have a sneaking affection for the Nintendo games and their characters.

Perhaps this has been a factor in the successful March launch of the company’s newest games console – the Switch, which sold three million units in its first month.

But the success must also be due to its innovative three-way features, which allows the console to be as a handheld device or as a table top gadget when travelling, or when at home as a console via the TV.

Reviewers have been generally positive about this versatility and the ease of being able to “switch” mid-game from one mode to another mid-game.

But it may be that the nostalgia element will guarantee Switch’s longer-term popularity as those same now-adult fans introduce their children to the joys of Super Mario and Zelda.

The Switch version of Zelda, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, is “one of the best games ever created”, according to one review by the BBC

A new and already popular game, Arms, is out this month. It’s a fighting game with ten cartoon characters to choose from. Their weapons are their arms, which are stretchy and each with their own special characteristics. According to reviews who have tried it managing the creatures requires a good deal of skill with the controls:

“Nintendo’s nifty controllers offer enough precision that a twist of either wrist arcs your virtual blows left or right, useful for trying to land punches on moving enemies.” (Wired)

“Arms is unique, colourful, and accessible, with enough complexity to tempt a competitive scene but not so much to make anyone feel alienated.” (Guardian Tech)

Who doesn’t love Super Mario?

The next game to be released will be Super Mario Odyssey in October this year. According to the BBC review, players will be able to roam around and do tasks on their own, follow the main story, or divert into other missions.

Not only that, but Mario has a new hat, called Cappy, and players can use the Switch dual-motion controllers to throw the cap in any direction either to defeat enemies or to interact with other objects.

All Nintendo games are produced in house and consoles do not accept games designed outside, but it looks like there are enough innovative developments in their well-known games to keep the next generation – and their parents – happy.

4G Coverage

Another survey from Which? This time 4G coverage

As more and more people access the internet and their emails via their mobile phones, coverage and download speeds can be of crucial importance to businesses if they want to be competitive.

It is particularly important for businesses in the service sector, such as restaurants and other venues, that often rely on a percentage of their “impulse buy” custom from people either visiting an area or out and about.

Some timely new research has investigated 4G coverage in the UK and found that varies significantly in different parts of the country and that its overall availability at 65% puts it in 54th place globally, behind Estonia and Peru.

The research, carried out by the consumer group Which? and analyst OpenSignal measured data from mobile phones across 20 cities in the UK.

The top five for 4G availability were Middlesbrough with 82.7% availability, Sheffield (79.3%), Sunderland (79%), Leicester (78.6%) and Leeds (78.2%).

The bottom five were Bournemouth, Southampton/Portsmouth, Cardiff, Nottingham and London.

The study, which analysed more than 500m data readings from mobile phones taken from more than 30,000 users between December 1, 2016 and February 28, 2017 via an app, also looked at download speeds with Stoke-in Trent the fastest and Brighton the slowest.

According to Ofcom, the communications technology watchdog, its rules mean that “virtually all UK premises must receive a 4G signal by the end of this year.”

It remains to be seen whether this will happen.

You can find out about 2G, 3G and 4G coverage in your area with this Which? map here.

How Good Is Your Broadband?

How Good Is Your Broadband?

The latest research from communications regulator Ofcom shows that average broadband speeds in urban areas are more than three times faster than those in rural parts of Britain.

Its annual study of home broadband ISP speeds in the UK revealed that the average Internet download rate is now 36.2Mbps (up from 28.9Mbps last year), with uploads hitting 4.3Mbps (up from 3.7Mbps).

For several years the Government has been promising “superfast broadband” defined as download speeds of at least 24 megabits per second (Mbps). It aims that 95% of UK premises will have access to 24Mbps download speeds by the end of 2017. Whether this will be achieved is still unclear.

However, the results of research published by Which? this month have revealed that there is a significant variation between the best and the worst broadband providers in the UK.

BT, TalkTalk, Sky and EE scored poorly for speed and reliability, with the biggest ISPs failing on basic customer service, speed and reliability.

The consumer champion surveyed 1800 people in November and December 2016 and found that TalkTalk and BT achieved the worst scores, with 38% and 45% respectively.

EE and the Post Office each managed 48%, while Sky and Virgin scored 49% and 52%.

Among the top scorers were Zen Internet, with 86%, followed by Utility Warehouse on 81% and John Lewis in third place on 68%.

Only four providers, Zen, Utility Warehouse, Virgin Media and Vodafone, scored more than three stars for speed.

You can find out more about the Which? survey here

Which? has been campaigning for better broadband speeds and has now set up a new, free speed trial tester.  Use this link to try it.

gtx 1080 Ti

The GTX 1080 Ti has arrived

The GTX 1080 Ti the newest and most powerful gaming graphics card ever?

It was only released last Friday but already demand has outstripped supply for the new The GeForce® GTX 1080 Ti, NVIDIA’s new flagship gaming GPU.

Its GPU frequency has been boosted by 50 MHz and has a redesigned cooling set-up which has doubled the airflow compared to the Titan X Pascal.

In design terms it looks and feels identical to the GTX 1080 Founders Edition.  It has a die-cast aluminium body and 7-phase dualFET power supply. It is cooled by a radial fan with an advanced vapor chamber designed to for consistent performance in even the most thermally challenging environments.

Reviewers are already raving about its “extreme gaming horsepower” and ability to deal with thermally challenging environments.

Richard Leadbetter, of eurogamer.net put the new GPU through its paces setting it the challenge of whether its performance at ultra HD matches up to the 1080p prowess of GTX 970 at the same settings.

His findings were that while it wasn’t a complete match it was “astonishingly close” and occasionally, given its 4x increase in pixel count, it was even faster.

His conclusion? “The only real difference between GTX 1080 Ti and Titan X Pascal is 1GB of VRAM: memory that will likely remain completely untouched for a long, long time” and he described its performance as “sensational”.

The new GPU was also reviewed by pcgamer.com. Their reviewer pushed the power up to its maximum 120%, set the fan speed at 80% and while running it with a heavy workload for “hours” he captured an image that “completed with no crashes, despite the healthy overclock”.