November release dates for Fallout 76 and Battlefield

Fallout 76 is an online-only game upcoming online multiplayer action role-playing video game developed by Bethesda Game Studios and is due to be released on November 14th 2018.

It is described as a prequel to the series of eight Fallout games and will be available for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Players will be able to play as individuals or with up to three others. It will be a real-time game on public servers initially.

It is set in a post-nuclear apocalypse world in the Appalachian and West Virginia areas of the USA and there will be seven categories of player attributes: strength, perception, endurance, charisma, intelligence, agility and luck as well as some “perks”, abilities that will boost their bonuses.

According to the Bethesda website: “Fallout 76 is the first time you’ll be able to explore the Wasteland with other players, and as such, some systems have been adapted to suit this exciting new adventure.

“One of the biggest additions for 76 is the C.A.M.P. (Construction and Assembly Mobile Platform), a personal Workshop you can place almost anywhere in the world and use as a home base as you explore, moving it from place to place for new Fast Travel and Respawn options. When you move your C.A.M.P., all your built structures are stored and Blueprinted just as you designed them so you can quickly rebuild or create copies of your favourite structures. This way, if your settlement is nuked or raided by other players, you won’t have to worry about starting over from scratch.”

The other eagerly-awaited new game out in November is Battlefield V, for Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC, due out on November 20.

Players will be able to team up in squads of up to eight people in air and ground combat, including tank battles to fight in single World War II war stories campaigns.


A revolution in gaming realism and performance

Gamers excited by the release of the new RTX games cards

The newest graphics cards released by Nvidia this month have been called “a revolution in gaming realism and performance”.

But, as with any cutting-edge technological revolution it comes with a price, according to some experienced gamers.

The new 20 series Nvidia cards come with built-in support for real-time ray tracing, a rendering and lighting technique for photorealistic graphics. The technology has hitherto only been used by the film industry for visual effects because it is extremely computationally intensive but clearly Nvidia is expecting Game Developers to introduce photo realistic graphics into this year’s new games.

This point is picked up in an extensive review by pcgamesn.com, which questions whether it is in fact such a new innovation that they might wait a while before introducing it into their games. In development terms it is likely to be a costly exercise for them, particularly when their target market is consoles rather than PCs.

The second issue is that the cards are not cheap.  The various versions in the series range from $500 to as much as $1200, and that, suggests pcgamesn, may be a lot to shell out before the Game Developers have really adopted the new technology into their new releases.

So far, on the games they have tested using the new cards, performance has been mixed.

It will possibly be a while before gamers see all the promised improvements in their gaming experience.

Latest gaming news for the nostalgic gamer

Sony has announced the release of its Playstation Classic as a mini-console in time for Christmas. So for those now grown-up gamers turned parents who want to pass on the experiences of their “mis-spent” youth to the next generation this is your chance.


Tips for phone etiquette and laptops for students

Mobile phone, love them or hate them it seems we can’t do without them and according to the telecommunications regulator Ofcom we check them on average every 12 minutes.

However, there are times when focusing attention on the phone could be downright rude and the BBC’s tech website has come up with some simple rules of when, and when not, to use your phone:

  1. Mealtimes

They say it is definitely not OK to be checking your phone at mealtimes, whether you are out in a restaurant with friends or dining with others at home.

  1. Loud music

Who hasn’t complained about being subjected to the loud, tinny leak of music or video games from someone’s phone when they are on a train or bus?  It’s about courtesy to others.

  1. Walking while looking at the phone

It can be dangerous! You could have an unwanted collision with a reversing lorry, whose driver could well not be able to see you and if you have headphones on you won’t hear its reversing warning beeps.

Then there’s the nuisance factor of people having to get out of your way because otherwise you’ll walk right into them.

  1. Being on the phone when you should be listening

If your job brings you face to face with the public and you should be focused on them, it can be especially irritating.  They may want to ask you a question but they can’t if you’re ignoring them and continuing to chat or message.

It’s rude and in any case it’s you job to be helpful!

And finally, back to school time…

With the holidays nearly over and students preparing to head back to school and college Wired has a handy guide to the best laptops for them.


How to protect yourself from RSI

Many of us spend hours every day at a computer keyboard, and increasingly this means a laptop rather than a desktop PC that comes with a separate keyboard.

The problem is that laptops are becoming ever thinner and flatter and they are generally not designed for business use, so that keyboards are not set at an angle that is comfortable for long periods and users can run the risk of developing RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury).

RSI can be very painful and difficult to get rid of. It mainly affects the wrists and arms and develops gradually. Symptoms include pain, aching or tenderness, stiffness, throbbing, tingling or numbness, weakness and cramp.

As more people use laptops the incidence of RSI and other related disorders such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is rising.

If you are an employee, your employer has a duty to take care of your health and safety and you can ask to have your desk assessed and equipment set up correctly to avoid the risk of RSI. This is fairly straightforward if using a desktop PC with a separate keyboard. You should make sure your seat, keyboard, mouse and screen are positioned so they cause the least amount of strain.

But what about those of us who are self-employed or running a small business?

Ideally if your work involves prolonged keyboard use you should ensure that the set-up is as described above.

However, if you have to use a laptop it may make sense to use one where you can plug in an external USB keyboard.

This means you can set it and the screen at the correct heights and angle to minimise the risks that come with prolonged use.

It is possible to buy wrist rests and support cushions for chairs, as well as foot rests so that you can ensure that your working arrangement is the most aligned possible.

Ideally this means that you are positioned straight on to the keyboard and screen to minimise any twisting of the wrists and so that as far as possible your hands are straight and flat when typing. The top of the screen should be at roughly eye level.

You should try to avoid using a laptop either on your knees, which is too low, or on a train table (too high).

If you have to use a keyboard for long periods it also makes sense to take regular screen breaks and to get up and walk around.


Time for a post GDPR website update?

Businesses may have to adjust their marketing plans after the GDPR deadline because there are indications that the opt-in rate for email communications had been as low as 10% in some cases.

This means that marketing needs to be more refined and more targeted and therefore the first step is to review customer profiles so that the business has a clear and detailed idea of who their ideal customers are and how they are likely to behave.

Inevitably a review of profiles will lead to redefining marketing goals and how the business presents itself in order to engage with potential clients and customers.

A key element of any business marketing in the 21st Century is its website. Research has shown that it is the first place people look for information on a business.  This is partly to reassure themselves that the business is reputable and legitimate, with a real, physical location and address if it is a “local” business.

However, it is also to establish that the business can provide the goods or services that the customer is seeking.

Given that the typical visit is as little as two minutes it is therefore crucial that your website quickly establishes a relationship, demonstrating that it understands your requirements or needs, and then shows how it can fulfil them.

All this needs to be done in a way that the visitor can find the information in as few clicks as possible.

However, with GDPR now in force you may not only need to update your terms and conditions but you will certainly have to include a privacy policy, if you don’t already have one, which should detail what records you hold and why, and an easy set of options for having you personal information either amended, removed in part, or removed altogether.

This is particularly important if your website uses response forms or requires a sign-up to access more information.

You may also have to adjust your email and social media marketing goals and plans to reflect the new environment especially if you use them to encourage people to visit your website.

Website designs also change regularly and it therefore helps if your business website looks as fresh and appealing as possible.

So if it has been some time since you have refreshed your website, or it is beginning to look a little tired and dated, perhaps now is a good time to talk to us about a redesign.


Help for gamers with disabilities

Manual dexterity is just one of the issues that can affect would-be gamers with disabilities.

However, there is help out there, and the latest news is that Microsoft has just launched a new Xbox controller that people with disabilities can adapt to their specific needs.

The controller is expected to be released worldwide later this year and users will be able to operate its two large buttons with hands, elbows or feet. It can be placed in a number of positions and there will be a range of add-on devices including bite switches, foot pedals and touch-sensitive pads.

There will also be an app that will allow users to personalise their control set-ups and switch between three controller configurations.

According to a report in the Guardian the wireless device will be powered by a rechargeable battery but there will also be an optional power supply for those who will need controls, such as mouth-operated quadsticks, that can draw a lot of power.

The design team worked with occupational therapists including one with experience with spinal cord or traumatic brain injuries.

In the UK, an Oxford-based charity called SpecialEffect has for the last two years been providing support and adapted technology to gamers with disabilities.

Not only do its volunteers go out and meet individuals, it offers a variety of equipment from a simple switch, to a full eye-tracking system that can cost thousands of pounds. The equipment allows people to manipulate games controllers through ways other than using their hands.

It also offers lifelong support with using the equipment, which is offered on long-term loan to those who need it.


SEO & maximising the potential of your content

Why good content needs the backing of technical SEO for your website

It is well known that Google places a high value on regularly uploaded, good quality, new content, such as blogs, on websites.

It has algorithms to assess quality no longer simply by focusing on the frequency of key words or phrases, but also on the information your blog contains.

However, it is also important that the technical content behind the blogs is done correctly.  They won’t be found or listed unless they are correctly indexed by the search engine.

You can find out whether a blog has been indexed with the help of a Google tool currently being updated and at beta stage. It is called the Index Coverage Report and will provide an analysis of pages that have been successfully indexed, not indexed because of an error or have been blocked.

There is a detailed help page that explains each status found in the report.

Combined with Google Analytics it makes it possible to analyse any patterns in the indexing – or not- of pages on your website.

The sorts of issues that may affect correct indexation are the numbers of internal links in blogs, the length of pages and meta tags.

If there are several blogs with similar content on the same topic you need to assign priority to one of these using what are called canonical tags so that Google knows which URL is the main page to consider.

It is also important to consider the speed at which a page loads.  Slow speeds can significantly affect bounce rates, since site visitors are impatient and will leave if a page takes too long to load.

If all this sounds too much for you as a website owner, that’s what we’re here for.


Protect your business from the consequences of cyber-attacks

Protect your business from the consequences of cyber-attacks

Cyber-attacks into companies’ IT databases, email phishing scams and website hacks with accompanying ransomware demands are regularly in the news these days.

They can cause untold disruption to the individuals whose personal data is stolen, especially if that data includes bank details and money is taken by the hackers.

But what about the costs to business in lost working hours as well as repairing their IT systems to ensure there are more secure?

A fairly new form of insurance is now available that can help to protect businesses from the consequences. It’s called Cyber Liability Insurance Cover (CLIC for short).

With the introduction of stricter data protection rules (GDPR – General Data Protection Regulations) due in May this year this cover is something businesses would be wise to consider.

Among the cover they may provide for are:

  • Data breach and privacy crisis management: Examples include expenses related to the management of an incident, the investigation, the remedial action that needs to be taken, data subject notification, call management, credit checking for data subjects, legal costs and regulatory fines.
  • Multimedia/Media liability cover. Third-party damages such as specific defacement of your website and theft of intellectual property.
  • Extortion liability cover – in the event of a ransomware demand.
  • Network security liability. Third-party damages as a result of denial of access, costs related to data stored with third-party suppliers and costs related to the theft of data from third-party systems.

You will need to find a well-informed specialist broker to advise you as this is still a fairly new form of policy in the insurance market.

Given that all businesses are different, you may only need certain types of cover and it would help to give your broker estimated costs and expenses that are likely to affect your business in the event of a security breach.

Also, it is always wise to check for yourself the small print, exemptions and the details of exactly what cover the policy provides.

In the new age where businesses rely so heavily on their IT systems CLIC is certainly something for businesses to consider.


Nintendo Switch sales soar

Nintendo Switch sales soar

In just 10 months since it was launched, sales of the Nintendo Switch have outsold the Wii U.

Total Switch sales have reached 14.86 million, more than the total of 13.56 million Wii U units sold between 2012 and 2017, when it was discontinued.

Tech gaming experts speculate that ultra-high definition gaming such as the new Xbox and PlayStation versions have had little effect on Switch sales and argue that it is because Nintendo has concentrated on really entertaining new versions of much-loved games.

Others argue that, although hardly an impulse buy, Nintendo priced the Switch cleverly to be more affordable than the Xbox and PlayStations, as well as managing supply to stimulate appetite without building potential buyers’ frustration with long waiting times.

In addition, the Switch is a hybrid of a handheld and home console and it is easy to switch use between the two options so that it has little competition.

But could it also be down to nostalgia?

Two Switch games, Super Mario Odyssey and Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, have been widely praised and both have won awards.

Certainly, nostalgia plays a part, but according to the website polygon.com a big selling point for the Switch is that it is something that parents feel safe in buying for their children: “Nintendo doesn’t just make games that are universally enjoyable, but it also builds in easier modes so that kids and parents can play together and have fun”.

New games planned for 2018

Here’s a selection of more than a dozen already announced: Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition – due in spring 2018, The World Ends With You – Final Remix – no date yet,  Dark Souls Remastered – due in May 2018, and later in the year a new Yoshi game, which is still a work in progress.


New Year New Website?

New Year new website?

December and January are traditionally the time of year when business owners review performance over the previous year.

The next step is developing business and marketing plans for the coming year.

Perhaps the plan is to grow the business with its existing services or products.  Perhaps opportunities have been identified to add to the range of what the business can offer.

Whatever the goals the business has set, for them to be successful will mean a fresh look at their marketing.

These days, there is hardly a business that can exist without a website, even if it is the most simple and basic.

Research has shown that potential customers will almost certainly head to the website first if someone has recommended a company for a product or service they are seeking.

So as part of the marketing plan, which can cover every aspect of online communication, from social media to e-newsletters to websites, it is worth considering whether it is time to refresh or redesign your website.

This will be especially important for those businesses who offer services that do not change significantly and frequently as it can be a challenge to keep them at the top of online searches when search engines like Google place a high priority on regular additions to a site when assessing them.

It is also true that designs start to look tired after a few years and can benefit from updating their look, while also making them easier to use.

If you feel it’s time to refresh your website please contact Ross IT, for advice, a quote and to talk through your options.