Is Virus Protection enough anymore?

virus protectionI thought I would burp a little about the recent news broadcasts detailing the attacks that have happened, as well as the ones that are about to hit in around two weeks’ time.

Let’s start with the one that already happened, the Heart bleed exploit. This affected web servers and took advantage of a flaw in a commonly used library to gather random chunks of working memory. Unfortunately these random chunks often contained people’s login details or other personal information. And so we all had to go and change our passwords for many of the web services we use, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo and so on. Wait, you haven’t done that yet? Well you better get in about it today and make it so!

The attack due in a few weeks’ time was announced on the news feeds last week, and you need to make sure that all your computers are up to date and virus protected within the next two weeks. You have been warned!

So what’s new?

Well, in actuality, nothing is new. We have been plagued with hackers, attacks, and viruses for as long as I have been in IT.  And there is even a possibly they were around before then, I am not as old as you think you know! We have long been advised to keep our computers up to date, to install virus checking software and ensure we have the latest virus definitions. Yet we still succumb to the viruses as they hit the web. Is it because we just get lazy and don’t maintain our computers? Has the computer age made us feel that the software should maintain itself? Why do we have to do anything manually?

I have repaired machines in the past, and have asked the user if they had anti-virus software. The answer was often yes, as it came with the computer. Brilliant I said have you updated it recently … a long pause … no, was the reply, doesn’t it do that itself? I then checked the machine to find that the software was on it when bought, but had never been launched and never registered. In fact, it had simply been taking up some hard drive space and doing not a lot else! Given this was roughly three or four years after purchase, I will not tell you the number of infections I found on that machine.

Which hat are they wearing?

These days you can attend college or university and do an Ethical Hacking course, and come out with a matching qualification. Now if you use this the right way (known as white hat hacking) you will become an asset to any company wanting to protect their systems. Of course, used the wrong way (black hat hacking), you can cause mayhem and leave damage in your wake.

Help me Ian; what do I need to do?

Put simply, you need to do what you have been told to do for as long as I can remember. That is: keep your computer up to date, and keep anti-virus software on it and up to date. If you are on a network, then make sure your firewalls and other barriers are up and running. Oh, and just to let you know, it could all be changing again as the mobile usage increases and the cloud becomes our storage … watch this space, but be protected.

Further info on some of this can be gained by reading our previous blog on Windows XP cover, and on Passwords security.

Take care and be safe…

Let us know your thoughts on this issue and how you are coping in the battle for safe working.

Who has the lion’s share?

touch screenWho has the lion’s share?

In this post I thought we could have a look at who has the lion’s share of the Operating system market. That’s not such an easy question anymore, as the idea of sitting at a desk and performing all your duties has changed drastically over the last few years.

 

The operating systems we use daily are now spread over the following device types:

  • Desktop Computers and laptops
  • Tablet computers
  • Smart Phones
  • Server machines

Gone are the days of the Microsoft Windows revolution, the massive change in how we used computers that made us all want one, and then get really frustrated with it as the technology kept changing. In the pursuit of progress, the Operating system was continually transformed into something else just as soon as we were just getting to grips with it. Our parent company, IT Turning Point, exists primarily to educate and inform. This keeps everyone using their systems and software correctly, and ensure they always work to their benefit.

Let’s look at the Desktop

 

Desktop operating system browsing statistics on Net Applications

Windows 7

47.53%

Windows XP

28.53%

Windows 8

10.68%

OS X

7.68%

Windows Vista

2.10%

Linux

1.48%

Desktop OS Market Share as of February 2014 according to Net Applications

 

Microsoft still has a massive share in the desktop market, primarily because of their prevalence in the business world and enterprise companies. They have the history of targeting this market successfully, and that past success really what made them who they are today. It is interesting to note the various incarnations of the Windows operating system still dominating the desktop marketplace.

When it comes to mobile, things are different indeed

Microsoft did not see the mobile market as their main thrust, and as such they left their entry into the arena a bit late. By the time they made their move, Apple had introduced us to the touch screen smart phone, and the mobile landscape had changed. Google entered the market with Android, its operating system for mobile devices, and the landscape changed once more. Let’s look at the picture for mobile devices as things stand:

Worldwide smartphone sales to end users by operating system in 2013

Android

79.0%

iOS

14.2%

Windows Phone

3.3%

BlackBerry

2.7%

Other

0.9%

Mobile OS Market Share as of 2nd quarter 2013 Gartner

Mobile operating system browsing statistics on Net Applications

iOS

52.96%

Android

36.14%

Java ME

4.44%

Symbian

3.50%

BlackBerry

1.42%

Kindle

0.93%

Windows Phone

0.45%

Other

0.16%

Mobile OS Market Share as of February 2014 Net Applications[1]

 

As you can see, the companies in the mobile arena are very different from those on the desktop, and it’s still evolving – these mobile devices also include tablet computers as well.

Android have swept the floor with their OS, a large amount of key hardware manufacturers signing up and skinning the core Android to make it their own. Layers such as HTC’s Sense and Samsung’s Touchwiz enable these devices to stand apart despite the same underlying core. Google have kept their hand in with Android devices running an unskinned version of Android – these devices are all part of Google’s Nexus range. See our recent posts for articles on these devices.

The current statistics vary drastically, but it is now being suggested that around 72% of Internet traffic is coming from mobile devices. A very interesting statistic, and again as we mentioned at the beginning, this changes the way we do computing in a big way.

The second table above shows the Operating systems we are browsing with in the mobile market, as you can see Windows is at the bottom and Microsoft are now desperately playing catch-up.

Conclusion

Microsoft have still got a lot to offer, and they still have the main desktop market sewn up for now. They have moved late for the mobile market however, and the writer has to wonder whether they will continue in this arena or pull back and concentrate on what they do best. Considering that we are moving more towards mobile working, and more tablet computers are being bought every day, that may not be a move they can afford if they wish to maintain their own future growth.

 

What OS do you use and what devices do you have? Let us know your thoughts.

Why is Minecraft so popular?

minecraft

Welcome to our Guest Blogger for this article, Chris Hinton of Geek-Speak.co.uk and Chris Hinton IT.

I want to admit something – I’m approaching 35 years old and… I play Minecraft. I know, I know… I just tried it one day to see what the fuss was, and one mining session led to another and, before I knew what I was doing, I was hooked.

I’d be very surprised if you haven’t heard of Minecraft but, just in case, here’s the deal. The game takes place in a world of low resolution blocks (or voxels). You spend your time mining for stone, metals, or just plain old dirt and, when you’ve done some mining, you make things from the materials you’ve found. There are elements of danger, like the monsters that spawn in the dark, and you need to consider your food needs by farming animals, plants, or chopping down trees and hoping you find some apples. In a nutshell, though, Minecraft is all about mining and crafting. Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?

The thing is it’s an incredibly popular game and I sometimes wonder why. Even while I’m playing it, I find myself thinking, “What am I doing? Why do I keep coming back to this?” Well, believe it or not, I think Minecraft taps into something at the heart of being human: the desire to create.

Think for a minute of a child who’s just produced a drawing – the air of excitement as they come to you and say, “Look daddy! Look what I did!” We still have a castle made out of a cardboard box that my daughter won’t let me throw out, even though it’s a couple of years old and definitely looking past its best. Why can’t we get rid of it? “Because I made it”, is the reply.

From pretty early on in life, we want to exercise our imagination and creativity. I think that’s why a big bucket of LEGO is a great way to pass an afternoon (and, yes, I still play with LEGO too). The chance to just sit down and create something is both great fun and very satisfying.

Coming back to Minecraft… it’s like a virtual LEGO bucket. There’s pretty much no limit to the structures you can create and you don’t have to go to the bother of extending the garage to accommodate particularly large models.

So far so good, but my Minecraft playing eventually tailed off until I decided to have a look at a multiplayer server (I play on Sublimity Gaming). Suddenly I got to see what other people had built, got ideas of what I could do, and got to build with other people. It kind of spurred me on to build bigger and better things as other people’s creativity informed my own.

It was about this time I started to encounter Redstone – an electrical conductor from Minecraft that can be used to build some pretty complex circuits. Redstone can be used to automate functions in the game, build dynamic mazes, and even some very complex multiplayer dungeons. I haven’t really got into building Redstone circuits but some of the players I’ve spoken to have build some amazing contraptions. And they’re proud of what they’ve created.

Interestingly, I’ve also spoken to the son of a family friend who is learning circuit design through experimenting with Redstone. He’s coming out with concepts and ideas that I didn’t engage with seriously until university, and he’s only just gone to High School. I’m not about to pretend that Minecraft is an educational tool, but it’s interesting to see that it is bringing some real benefits!

The creative desire spills over into other areas of life outside of play, of course. Have you ever tried baking a cake and just been so proud of the result? Or perhaps you’ve repainted the house and, on top of the fact that the house now looks nicer, proudly thought, “I did that”. Perhaps you’re an honest to goodness artist – in which case creativity is your lifeblood.

My main line of work is as a freelance IT consultant, and I love it when I get the chance to be creative. Whether it’s building a mobile phone app, designing a website, or writing an IT department’s newsletter, I relish the opportunity to make stuff. And I’ll freely admit that I’m the sort of person who looks at the result and says, “I made that”.

This post isn’t intended as an advert for Minecraft – some people will love it and some will think it’s a complete waste of time. But this is the result of me thinking about why it’s such a popular game. My answer? I think it gives people the opportunity to create, and that desire is built in to each and every one of us.

What do you think?

Chris Hinton is a freelance IT Consultant from Fife, Scotland. He is married with two young children, and writes at www.geek-speak.co.uk.

Flexible screens, a touch of the future?

 

The rumours and sneak previews of flexible screens by Samsung and other manufacturers has caught our eye and intrigued is. So here we are going to give you some gleaned info from the net.
But first let us ask you a question. What usage would you see flexible screens having and would they be better than what we have just now?
We picked our brains and thought of some of the following: –

Wrist devices.
Jackets or waist coats.
Wall mounted devices that follow the contours of the wall.
But what else?

Anyhow, onto what we have gleaned from the web.
We have viewed over the last 8 to 10 months the videos that have been going around demoing the flexible screen, or OLED manufacture. This new revolution has made manufacturers like Samsung go into overdrive with concept devices and then create videos demoing what they might look like. Here is one we have seen a few times and gets you thinking.

Samsung showed this at their CES talk this year. A brief potential view of where this technology maybe taking us. Again it will be down to the patent race and who gets the patents in first. Watch this space.
This next video shows the durability of the new screen technology, WARNING it does hurt to watch the screens we love today being pounded by a hammer…..

Ouch, that’s just not nice. But what about the OLED screen, durability at its core, flexible and will take abuse. There is definitely a market for that.
How about a touch window in your house. You get up in the morning and draw the curtains and the blinds are built into the window. Then you call up all sorts of touch screen info about weather and driving conditions etc. You are kidding me Ian surely I hear you cry….Well no.

Isn’t that amazing? Come on, it had you excited…..
So it looks like we will be able to wear the flexible units with Samsung already having launched their wrist device that is curved. We will also be able to drop then of a building by the look of it and then our houses will be equipped with the latest tech and info.
I just can’t wait!
Samsung are not the only manufacturer by the way, it is just they are at this time shouting the loudest about it with videos and promotions.

What are your thoughts on all this new Flexible screens and tech, does it excite you or bore you?

Ian Thomson
Consultant
IT Turning Point

 

Test Drive of the New Nexus 7 part 3

nexus 7 2013

New Nexus 7 2013

Hi guys, here is the final instalment of my Test Drive of the New Nexus 7.

I would like to tell you about the moment when it would not boot up or the other occasion when the battery just didn’t last for any length of time. Sorry, I missed the time when the screen display was not what I expected at all. But, unfortunately none of these things have happened and the unit has performed above and beyond the call of duty….

I charged my battery on Wednesday night for usage throughout Thursday and beyond. I did not need to charge it again until Saturday night when it asked me to plug in the charger. I am more than pleased with the battery life and the loadings that it is handling. I have used it extensively and I even decided to run a small game program called Epic Citadel which can benchmark how the graphics are being handled by running it thought the Unreal  game engine at HD with all the lighting and shading crunching away….it came in as a premium device in rating and ran comfortably at 56 Fps.

I have ran Google hangouts on it with video function and found the clarity of picture and sound to be brilliant and only limited by the person’s kit at the other end. My browsing, emails and Social Media updates have been no problem to this device and in my leisure time have read a few chapters of a book I am ploughing my way through.

It fits neat into the inside pocket of a number of my jackets and allows my hands to be free to carry other items.

So let’s summarise the whole experience: –

  • Light weight and fits into hand and pockets well
  • Fast and powerful handling all my daily needs
  • Screen resolution smashes all expectations
  • Sound is very clear on video calls and music
  • Updates and restores your account effortlessly
  • Battery life is the best I have yet experienced from all my phones and tablets I have used ion the past.
  • Updates software and keeps you up to date on fixes etc.

Yes, I can only recommend the whole experience and I have certainly not come up against any of the problems that may have been reported online about the New Nexus 7 so far.

What tablet are you driving just now and how do you feel about it and how it operates?

Watch this space for more tech test drives and the future of mobile screens on our devices.

Test Drive of the New Nexus 7 part 2

New Nexus 7Here is part two my friends; I left you with the notion of the specs for the unit and the charging so far. I did indeed charge it over Sunday night and it was ready for the week ahead. I am writing this on the Wednesday and the battery is still at 28%. I used it considerably yesterday out at meetings etc. and it worked as expected without fault.

The Internet is fast and it connects to all the wireless networks I have used before without me setting anything up again, brilliant.

It did update as soon as I removed it from the box by the way and today it has updated again. I did research online and this was to fix some faults that were reported very quickly after launch. Again one of the benefits of the Nexus range, instant updates when faults are remedied.

I am running two mail clients and am receiving 3 email accounts to the Nexus and it is handling it all in its stride so far. Chrome is working perfectly and remembering all my tabs and information.

Point to note, the screen resolution is definitely sharper and clearer. Viewing photos and documents on it is excellent and very, very sharp.  All due to this tablet now being the highest resolution 7” tablet on the market.

Screen          7.02” 1920×1200 HD display (323 ppi), 1080p HD IPS, Scratch resistant Corning® Glass

322ppi which rips the old spec apart. Even this higher screen resolution does not affect the battery life.

Yes all in all so far so good. Will be attending a number of meetings as the week progresses and will be using more features of the unit. Will report on these as I go. As a side note the case seems to be performing rather well so quite happy at this purchase. Not expensive at all.

Watch this space for more reports on how the unit copes with the big bad world.

Don’t Touch My Screen!

touch screen

“To touch or not to touch that is the question?”

I thought I would put an article together on the use of touchscreens. I recently tweeted about the use of touchscreen on laptops and desktops and how people are having to lean forward to use the touch screen and then back to type and then forward. Which might be great exercise but may also cause health problems.

The question is has Microsoft seen the mobile revolution and thought this is great for the office and laptop market and not thought this through? I must admit I sit at home in an evening and have my phone by my side and my tablet PC. I use the touch all the time and rarely change my position.

But when I work at my desk I use a standard desktop computer, keyboard and mouse and have done for years. Now, the for years argument, is not one I normally use because if that was the case we would never have changed anything and we would all still be using telegrams to send messages.

However, in this case I wonder if the future interaction is purely touch and voice activation and typing will be a thing of the past?

One article I read online from my friends at IT Portal said,

“In my research leading up to the Windows 8 announcement, I never heard people voice a desire for touch as a way to navigate among apps. They were quite comfortable using a mouse and track pad as they had been doing for years. Even now our research shows that many folks feel that lifting their hands off their keyboard or mouse to touch the screen is unnatural.”

Of course this doesn’t mean that we have to stay the same as we have always been, but some thought in how these things are forced upon us maybe necessary. Apple has not yet put touch screens on their MacBook’s or imac’s.

What are your thoughts on this?

There’s an App for that………

appsThe phrase that Apple have made famous by their Apple store advertising. We all expect an App for almost anything we want to do. We are getting so used to doing things on the hop now that everything is mobile. Smart phones for smarter working.

We thought we would look at the current race for having the most Apps available for users. The race is between the three main players, even though there are really, at this stage, only two, Apple and Android. Microsoft and Blackberry (RIM) are around but playing catch-up in this volatile market place.

Here are the latest stats at time of writing this article.

Apple store                                                        775,000+ apps available

Android Market Place                                        667,647+ apps available

Microsoft Store                                                  150,000+  apps available

The obvious question is, do we need all these apps and if so how did we ever perform without them. Now remember I am a self-confessed geek and use a good number of apps and technology that I never used in the past and find them to be some of the most useful kit I have and now rely on them, probably too much. That feeling of when your phone decides to not work, being the equivalent of your right arm being cut off. So I am not anti apps and new ways of doing things.

Apps tie you in

I have also found that apps tie people in, so there is another reason to be on the front foot when producing them. I told a friend of mine that they should try an Android based phone and see what they thought and they said that they couldn’t as they had spent so much money at the Apple store on Apps and other Apple related stuff that they would be losing out on a lot of money they had spent. So there is motive in the madness of App production.

Your Thoughts

What are your thoughts on the Apps race? Do you over rely on them or do you think there is an app that would be great and nobody has produced it yet. Or are you just an Angry Birds gamer and like all the gaming that can happen in the mobile arena.

Whatever your take, this is a race worth watching and we certainly will be keeping our eye on what is happening in this area. Follow our blog and we will keep you up to date on all things techie.

Ian Thomson

Founder/Trainer/Consultant