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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.

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.

Guide to buying a new computer

Guide to buying a new computer part 1

Ok so you’re looking to buy a new computer, but do you actually know what you’re looking for? What you need? A lot of the people I speak to are never quite sure what they need when it comes to purchasing a new computer. We can all go into Curry’s or PC world and pick one up sure, but do you think the sales rep there is going to have your best interests in mind, or just how many extras they can sell you to boost their commission? Below I am going to give you a break down and a basic guide on what to look for when buying a new computer, so that when the time comes you can make an informed decision on what to buy for YOUR specific needs.

Laptop, tablet or PC?
May seem like a simple one but with tablets now being offered with detachable keyboards the line between them all is becoming even more blurred. I personally think if you have a dedicated office space and you’re not looking for mobility a desktop is the best option, you can get the micro towers now that are getting smaller and smaller allowing for them to be wall mounted tucked away into tiny spaces. If you want mobility have good wireless where you intend to use it, for example want to be able to take your work with you to the office and then home a laptop may be the best option, however you generally will pay more for a decent laptop to try and match a desktop for performance so bare this in mind. Not only that a desktop is generally a lot easier to upgrade for future use. Tablets I think are great I have one, but it would never replace my desktop or laptop, but serve their purpose, they are usually much cheaper and very good at doing the basics such as browsing the internet, sending emails and looking for superior mobility compared to a laptop. Typing has been unwieldy on tablets, touch screens have come a long way however, many people prefer to use a keyboard over a touch screen, this is why there has been an increase on tablets being produced with detachable keyboards.

 

Operating System
This is quite an easy one to answer, simply because most if not all computers or laptops that you will buy from mainstream shops or stores such as your PC World or Argos’s will come with only Windows 10, Microsoft’s newest operating system. You may still be able to pick up a discontinued model that may still have Windows 8 but this is very unlikely, Windows 10 is very easy to use, comes complete with a start menu which older users will be accustomed to, although Windows 8 was met with a frosty reception from most of my customers the 8.1 upgrade as reintroduced the familiar start menu which makes navigating much easier, and the best thing is if you don’t have Windows 10 you can get it for FREE if you have Windows 7 or 8 machines!

 

Hard Drive or SSD?
So most of us know the bigger the hard drive the more we can store on our machines, but do you really need to pay for that extra space? Some people like having big hard drives but would a 500GB HDD be big enough for you instead of a 2TB? A 2TB hard drive for example will hold 34,000 hours of music, 80 days of video, 620,000 photos or 1000 hours of movies so if you think you fall into this bracket then a 2TB is for you if not why not opt for a smaller drive and save yourself some money.

Solid state drives are built for speed, and with this you sacrifice space, an SSD will perform much faster than a traditional HDD when a standard HDD takes 2-3 minutes to boot into windows an SSD will normally do this in under 30 seconds, and not only boots quicker, but general use is much quicker on the whole. If you need speed and a lot of space, you can opt to have an SSD drive with your operating system on it and the bigger hard drive as a data drive if your laptop can accommodate an extra drive but towers this is normally not a problem.

Laptop vs Tablet

Laptop or Tablet?

Laptop or Tablet which is best for you?

Laptop vs Tablet

If i had a pound everytime i was asked this question, im sure i could retire, there are a few things you need to take into consideration when you have this decision to make. 1. Have you ever used a tablet before? 2. What are you hoping to use the laptop or tablet for? 3. Direct comparrison between the two products. These would be the main points to cover, with also a few other points that need to be covered which i will do in this article, so you can make an informed decision without any biased views. Lets face it we all have “that friend” who is obsessed with a certain product either Apple products or android so i am going to try and keep this article as un-biased as possible. So if you decide to go and shop for either you won’t be suckered into the “technical” jargon that may be thrust upon you when you go to your local IT wholesaler.

 

What will your Lapotp or Tablet primarily be used for?

What are you intending on using your new device for? Will you be just surfing the net, checking out your Facebook, eBay and sending a few emails? If so then you definately qualify for a tablet, where as if you are intending on doing anything a little more demanding such as photoshop tasks, playing the latest 3D games. Then you would most certainly need to choose a laptop over a tablet, even thought they are advancing graphically with every release they are not yet able to rival a laptop power wise.

 

Have you used a Tablet before?

Well, have you? its very easy to get suckered into the advertisements on TV especially the Apple iPad adverts, they are very good at matketing their products, and i have chosen Apple as an example not only because they are the market leader in tablet sales but i also own an ipad 4. If you have never used a tablet before i suggest you try one out before you go out and buy, try a friends of even go into your local Apple store and have a play about with one on display.  You may find that beneath the glitz and the glam of the TV adds you simply can’t get on with a touch screen device, however if you have a smart phone that is touch screen this would be used as a good gauge as to whether you can cope using one properly.

 

Laptop or Tablet – direct comparison

An overview of the two, and you will find that you can pick up a new iPad direct from Apple for around the £400 mark just as you can pick up a new low to middle range laptop for about the same price. It all boils down to screen size, touch screen or traditional, do you mind having a 10″ screen, or do you prefer to have a traditional 15.6″ screen with a full size QWERTY keyboard, Yes you can get the adapters for the iPad that joins a minuture keyboard to it, but i personally think that is not very practical. Also the touchscren as mentioned above may be an issue for you. The iPad as you may have guessed wins the round on portability with it being so small it s easily carried to and from wherever you need to go.

In conclusion, i personally think that if you are just looking for something to do the basics, and you can get on with a touchscreen, and can do without the keyboard then a tablet may just be what you are looking for. However if you need something with a little more power, to do gaming or editing on then you will need a laptop. I have however yet to see a tablet come down with a virus, where as computers contracting an infection is becomming a regular occurance, but who is to say that with the rapidly increasing demand of tablets that there will not be viruses introduced for them too? I have both and i utilise them both, but i am also aware of the limits to the iPad, even though they are produicing new and more innovative apps everyday its quite ovbious that a tablet just is not yet anyway a replacement for a laptop.

Ross-IT