Data Protection Series Part 3

Windows and Mac OSX have built in security to provide a base level of protection when going online or when plug in in memory stick. But what other software do you need?

Antivirus Software

Virus’ come in all shapes and sizes and the havoc they cause on a computer varies greatly. One type of virus “payload” can be exposing, copying and/or stealing data. The most common of these virus payloads are simple “keyloggers”, which log all keyboard activity on your computer and transmit to whoever programmed the virus, giving them access to usernames and passwords.

So among a hundred other reasons, an Antivirus is essential software for any computer, Windows or Apple, in order to protect your data.

Which Antivirus software

Toptenreviews.com has a detailed comparison of the top antivirus software. For 2013 it seems Bitdefender Antivirus Plus has come out on top for them. From our experience it is an excellent program, easy to use and does give good protection. We’ve also had a very low number if any issues with Norton Antivirus and Kaspersky Anti-Virus. My personal choice would be Norton Anti-Virus as it has a smaller footprint and therefore less of a drain on the system than Bitdefender or especially Kaspersky. If you have a fast enough computer though, it is not an issue.

 

Which Free Antivirus Software?

We recommend Avast Free Antivirus or Microsoft Security Essentials. Neither are perfect and do not provide as good a protection as the paid for antivirus software’s but for non-heavy users, or vigilant and careful internet users they do suffice.

AVG we have had issues with and it is more of a drain on the system, but protection levels are about the same.

Avira provides excellent protection, it’s just not pleasant to use with its constant update advertisement popups and slow scanning.

 

Do I need to purchase a firewall?

Simple answer in majority of cases is no. Windows has had a good firewall built in since Windows XP Service Pack 2. In addition if you have a broadband router, you already have a hardware firewall. Just don’t tinker with the settings too much as that can expose your computer to attack or infection.

Most third party software firewalls can be a nuisance, can cause compatibility issues, and more likely plenty of networking issues.

Should I get an Internet Security Package?

Internet security packages are basically antivirus software combined with a firewall. As mentioned I personally don’t think an additional software firewall is necessary so I would recommend just the basic antivirus package. There are less compatibility issues and there’s less drain on the system.

Should I get a Security Suite?

Security suites vary in what they provide. For example Norton 360 is an antivirus, firewall, backup, and optimisation tool all in one package. Although these extra tools can be got for free, e.g. ccleaner does the optimisation/clean-up aspect, and Dropbox /Google Drive/Skydrive /iCloud/ Sugar sync does the backup, it is convenient to have them all in one place.

Additional useful software.

Windows Update – Built in to windows is the update feature. The main role of this is to update the Windows operating system and fill in any security holes that have been exposed. So make sure it is running and operational and it should do most of the work in the background.

Personal Software Inspector (PSI) – windows update looks after the operating system, but you also need to check all the other software is updated too. This program scans your computer and advises you on what needs to be updated.

xi3.jpg

 Valve’s Steam Box

Valve have been in the process of making their Steam Gaming library software more living room friendly. Steam now has a large screen mode designed to work on your big screen TV and with you sitting far away, and not huddled over a monitor. 

Now news has been going round about the release of the first “Steam Box”, which is basically a gaming PC that will fit under your TV like a console does. Xi3 who are partially funded by Valve themselves have produced the Xi3 Piston prototype, and as you can see it is tiny.

b2ap3_thumbnail_xi3-piston.jpg

Xi3 already make similar devices and the 7-series range in particular provide up to quad core processors and 1TB solid state storage. This thing is a complete PC, and a pretty quick one too.

But is it quick enough to play the top games on at top speed at full HD? If we go by the current specifications of the 7-series for example, then that is a definite no. This top of the range Xi3 model, still only uses integrated graphics. It’s the fastest integrated graphics card currently available, but it still does not hold a candle to even medium to low level discrete/dedicated graphics cards.

In addition the new Xbox and PlayStation are within sight, these are rumoured to have similar specifications to the Xi3 7 series. Maybe the processor will be a touch slower, and the memory not as much, but it would be just as powerful for gaming purposes.  However unlike the Xi3 7-series these consoles will be dedicated gaming systems and not have any of the bloat of a Windows based system so will run games faster with fewer issues.

That’s still fine because the Steam catalogue is massive and most games on there do not need state of the art graphics, and the Piston would happily play these games on your 1080P TV. However the biggest issue is the cost. The Xi3 7 series model is selling at $999. That is over £600, more than 3 times the price of the current consoles, and at least twice the price of what the new Xbox or PS will be when it goes on sale. The Piston has to be made a lot cheaper to compete, but the lack of mass manufacturing capability of Xi3 or other small PC manufacturers will make it very hard to do that.

Sony and Microsoft can afford to sell at a loss and then make a profit from the games. There are rumours that Valve could be doing something similar with the Xi3 Piston, but how much cheaper can they make it. Also whether they do it with all manufacturers of Steam Boxes is very unlikely.

So as great as the Xi3 Piston prototype looks it simply not powerful enough to replace the PC for avid PC gamers and not cheap enough to take over the consoles place for the mainstream consumer.

It’s a great start and like that steam are pushing for gaming PCs for living room, as currently Games PCs can get stupidly big. But I’ll wait for the more powerful “steam box” with a dedicated graphics card, even if it is a bit bigger. After all we are all going to need one of these to play any game on our 3D UltraHD TV’s

 

Oculus-Rift_20130104-224018_1.jpg

When searching for a new gadget to tweet about I stumbled upon Sciencefocus.com Top 5 Most Exciting Gadgets 2013 and saw the comments about the Oculus Rift. I had heard rumblings about this device back in the summer, but seeing it being potentially released in 2013 got me excited. This is the device that John Carmack, the creator of Doom has given his personal seal of approval.

There’s already a lot of hype around this device and that among others the heads of Valve, creators of Half Life and Portal, and Epic, creators of Unreal technology, are backing this product and pledging to support it and incorporate it in their future products, so everyone who is interested in gaming should be very interested in seeing how the development of this device goes.
Search “Oculus Rift” for yourself on YouTube, and you will see game developers and game journalist show genuine excitement and awe when trying out the Oculus Rift.

 

What makes the Oculus Rift so exciting.

High Field of View

The Oculus Rift will apparently almost fill up your field of view. You’ll even have to look side to side and up and down to grasp the whole picture. You’ll finally have peripheral vision in a game without the annoyance of screen bezels.

b2ap3_thumbnail_OculusFoV.png

Low Latency

To increase immersion the movement of the image has to match exactly the movement of your head with minimal delay. Oculus claim to have reduced latency, ie the delay, to a very low and practically unnoticeable level. You simple move your head and the image you see moves.

{"video":"http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGugvywlLGo","width":"400","height":"300"}

Stereoscopic 3D

Whilst 3d is pretty standard, 3D combined with the high field of view makes the images less like a 3d hologram on a screen and actually immerse you in the environment.

 

Price

The Oculus 3D rift is still a way to go but it’s aimed at the consumer crowd and there are rumours that it is to be priced at only $300. That’s less than £200. Considering a good monitor costs more than that, this can be considered a bargain IF it is released at that price, but don’t be too disappointed if it doesn’t, after all it is state of the art equipment.

 

What I would like to see with the Oculus Rift.

Software Support

If only a few games support this then it will not be a success. So it would be great if all the big guns support the Rift fully. And as much as PC gaming is still ahead of the rest in terms of technology, if the likes of the new Xbox and PlayStation be made compatible with this technology then it would pretty much guarantee its success and provide dozens more games to use with it. It can even in theory be combined with the Kinect to add another level of interaction. Unlikely scenario for the foreseeable future though, as it will probably be PC only for the time being.

Backwards compatibility

The PC has a huge amazing back catalogue. Imagine being immersed in the world of Skyrim or Mass Effect with VR technology. It’s unlikely that all game developers would go through their back catalogue converting their games to be compatible. So we would need Oculus or a third party to develop conversion software for games that are not specifically designed for the Rift. IZ3D and Tridef have software to convert games into 3D, so it should not be too much of a leap for similar developers to do the same for the Rift.

Update: Good news. Software called Vireio Perceptionis is in the works to do this exact thing. So you can re-experience and immerse yourself in the classics.

 

To find out more about the Oculus Rift visit www.oculusvr.com