Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Free to Play Diablo 2 style game

Path of Exile has been in open beta now since January 2013 and is being developed by Grinding Gear Games on a custom in-house engine.

The game follows the same play style as Diablo 2 and follows the free to play with micro transactions as their business model but the website does state the game will be 100% free and not pay to win with only cosmetic changes and social pets being available on the market.

Monsoon got me into Diablo 2 when we first met but even back then the graphics were dated by the time I started playing it so it was a hard sell even though it was fun, the low res made it unplayable for me,  if its less than 720 I do not want to know these days.

Then when I heard of PoE and the endless killing in random dungeons fun was brought back into my life in HD, If you enjoyed D2 back in the day then you should give this game ago its not a straight up clone and there have evolved the play style and added their own flair and made the game there own.

There are 6 character classes to choose from ranging from magic to ranged and all the melee classes as well but from there you get to mix and match your abilities as your usable skills are given to you in gems which you attach to your armour in the corresponding colour coded sockets which means you could have a melee class with range spells and abilities as a fallback or even magic, all you have to do is socket the corresponding gems.

Click here to enlarge
The passive skills available total 1350 and are designed as a complex network where depending on your class, changes the starting point within the network.  This does allow for a sense of freedom and customization when it comes to playing your character and the armour seems varied enough to support this as well

The game is a multi player experience when you're in the safe area which gives a sense of life to the area but when you enter the zones it feels more of a single player experience in a randomly generated level unless you are grouped with other players and then the enemies become harder and more challenging, so you can play even when you're not up to being social but you will still require an internet connection.  

As its free I would recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Diablo series and anyone in general to give it a go as you have nothing to lose.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Apple, Android or the little engine that could Windows phone

I get asked a lot from customers which I believe is the better of the 3 and given that each have pro and con's its not as simple a task as it sounds, it depends on what you're looking for and want from the phone.

If we start at the basics and work from there,  all devices can make and receive phone calls and send text messages so satisfy the phone, after using all 3 I can say there is no difference in voice quality.

The area I live in has really bad 3G signal so I always disable this on all my phones as it gives me a better signal and better battery life.

I will start with the apple phone as that was the first real smartphone I owned.

Apple has always done one thing really well in my opinion and that is music players and I have not found another application like iTunes that works as well and is as simple to use.  The Apple Airplay system is also very well implemented and allows you to simply stream all your media from your phone or your computer to your TV or your Airplay speakers.

This allows you to use the Apple TV with your IPhone and computer to centralise your media collection but the downside to this is you need a lot of space to store your collection and Apple devices can be very expensive for the actual hardware you get.

The IPhone also has a huge collection of applications which means that if the phone does not do something there is a good chance someone may have written an application to do it.

The Google Android system comes next in my list not as I think it's any less of phone than Apples but due to the fact that Google just make the software and then phone manufacturers put it on there phones which can lead to a mixed bag of hardware but also means the price can be more easy on your budget, you just have to be more mindful of the phone you're buying whereas the Apple stuff is all controlled and you get a smoother ride.

That aside the Android is a good all round phone with tons of applications on the Google Market and tons more on the internet ready to be installed,  this is where Google and Apple differ on their application stance.  Apple take the walled garden approach where you can only install what Apple let's you and Google let you install whatever you wish.

Google media service is all cloud based which means you can save your space locally but do require a good internet connection for the uploading and downloading of your movies and music.

I am currently using the Nexus 4 phone with the Nexus 7 tablet and am enjoying them greatly. And for the same from Apple would've cost me a great deal more.

The last on the list is the Windows phone.  It mirrors the Apple music service with the software called Zune where you can buy music, movies and application and sync them to your phone.  Windows also takes a walled garden approach with its applications and only allows you to install what they wish.  Also Windows like Google only do the software so the hardware can fit most budgets.

The Windows phone lacks applications so you may find it hard to replace them if you are coming from one of the other phones, application builders are being very slow to build for phones.

The one big thing this phone has going for it is it's social connectivity,  which is the best I have ever seen for a phone.  Unlike the other devices where you need the application installed and you can only access them separately.  The Windows phone connects them all in to your contacts and displays them all in one button and the metro interface really fits in here.

Short version
If you're looking for a media rich phone that has the ability to stream easily to like devices and have the money then i would go with an Iphone but if you're looking for a good all rounder with lots of applications then Google is the way to go.

But if you want a good social all rounder and do not care about applications then the Windows phone 7 or 8 is the best social phone.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

A weekend on the Enterprise or Star Trek (2013) or Me and Kes want and played Defiance instead

The Star Trek 2013 game came out Friday and I was all set for a weekend in the Trek universe with epic laser battles and showing aliens this human thing we call kissing as I shot up the place as the timeless Captain Kirk.

I mentioned in my Defiance blog that I always worry about TV / Movie game tie ins as the game is always lacking and seems to be raiding the success of the namesake.

But surely a Star Trek reboot game would be different.

I got ready to start picking over the bones of the game from the AI to the soulless eyes of the characters and even some of the audio seems to be rushed and half done but this is not why I started this blog,  I started it as I have a love of Games and the stories they tell so to start picking the faults would go against my main aim, I also think silence over something speaks more than actually picking fault with it.

So my review of Star Trek is as follows,  the story is interesting,  spend your money on something else, with hindsight I would of.

May I suggest Defiance if you are looking for a Sci fi fix in a Third person shooter.  Don't get me wrong Defiance has its issues but I feel like there is more love put in that game then this one or if you're looking to get of the grid 'Deus Ex: Human Revolution' was always a favorite of mine.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Free to Play game called Loadout... or kill them your way

Loadout is a new game still in beta that is being developed by 'Edge of Reality' who have worked on many games ported to console, this will be one of their first PC titles and is a free-to-play multiplayer style third person shooter where you can craft your own guns and dress your character in any way you wish.

The game is aimed at allowing the player to express themselves in their weapons, character and outfit.  giving each kill that personal touch.

The style of the game is over the top violence (reminds me of Tom and Jerry, If it was made into an adults cartoon) in a multiplayer arena layout. Currently put my name down for beta and still awaiting the chance to play this so I can not comment on the feel of the gameplay but everything I have seen so far seems to point to a fun experience that is not bogged down with a storyline, realistic physics, chest high walls or the colour gray/brown and is worth watching until its open for business and as its free to play well worth giving it a go for your self.

Friday, 26 April 2013

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified Announced by 2k...its back and this time its third person.

2K First Person shooter based on Xcom set  in the 1960s is back and has gone through some major changes.

Its now a third person tactical squad based shooter.  Morgan Gray has commented to says that the games play style is going to be more of a team effort then a Rambo one man army.  This always sounds cool on paper but I have not seen any partner AI that actually felt like they were contributing in any way and acted more like a weight around my neck until they got to some scripted event.

I hear the newer Bioshock has changed this and there partner AI is actually useful but I am reserving judgment until giving it a once over myself.

You play as an agent William Carter who gets recruited into the 'The Bureau' and soon finds himself leading a team to defend the United States against aliens.

The game will be heavily focused on tactics and includes a new interface to facilitate this called 'Battle Focus' where you will be able move the other agents around and target prioritise while the bullets are flying.

Its due for release in August this year and if you pre-order from certain suppliers  you can get an extra mission called 'Codebreakers'.

Its going to be purely single player and story focused which gives me high expectations for this game from the on set.

I am glad the game is back as 2K had managed to create something that looked interesting and different based in an established story and in a market filled with multiplayer chest high wall shooters with little or no story is something to be encouraged. 

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Star Trek The Video Game (2013) or William Shatner made me do it

As soon as I watched this Youtube video I went and ordered the game on steam and its currently pre-loading as we speak ready for Friday.

I will be streaming the game so if you check back on Friday you will be able to see some live game play after 8pm UK time.

The game is being developed by Digital Extremes who co developed Unreal with Epic Games and will be running the Evolution Engine.

The game will be a third person shooter and will be centered around captain Kirk's first encounter with the Gorn race which are humanoid reptiles in the alternate reality that was created by Nero in the 2009 film.

It will also feature a co-op mode where another player can join in and play as Spock, both characters will have different play styles with Kirk taking the guns and action route and Spock taking the stealth and calmer play style.

The actually story the game trailer shows looks to be very interesting and seems to be about the Vulcans trying to rebuild their homeworld after the events of the 2009 film when the Gorn attack and steal the technology they were researching to help them accomplish that goal.

Looking forward to Friday and getting the energy drink ready!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

A Weekend spent in Defiance

So me and Kerry watched the TV Show last week and it was not bad at all, reminded me of 'Terra nova' and 'Farscape', both of which I enjoyed.

It's too soon to say if the show is going to be a cult hit or even a hit at all at the moment but it's interested us enough to watch the next few episodes and give the game a go as well, as I mentioned in the last blog about the game it's a 3rd person shooter type MMO made by the makers of Rift 'Trion Worlds'.

Let me start this review by saying that Kerry is not a lover of shooting games, first or third person so to get her to try this out was still an uphill struggle from the outset until I showed her the character creation tools that is, from then she was busy designing the alien rock chick she knows she is.

The character creation allows you to choose from 2 races Human and Irathient but the rumours are that the DLC will add more later with both sexes playable, from there you can customize your face and hair to a good degree but not your build so there will be no fat Ark Hunters in this post apocalyptic world (Maybe its like Zombieland and they were the first to go).

Once you are born into this world it goes downhill quite quickly and you get your first meeting of Joshua Nolan and his adopted daughter Irisa Nyira from the TV Show.

The game can be played with the standard Keyboard and Mouse but also with an Xbox controller which is a good thing as i do enjoy the controller over the keyboard these days, one word of warning though if you are going to be doing PvP I would recommend you use the keyboard and mouse setup as you should find it easier to hold your own but not had any issues with the PvE content.

As the game was designed for both PC and consoles alike the controller setup is well laid out and does not feel forced or tacked on like other games I have tried.

Once you have done the starting area you can start to team up with others, so after convincing Kerry to give it a go we joined forces her with an LMG and me with a sniper rifle.  There are no set classes in this game only starting equipment, everyone can do and use everything so if you can find it you can use it and skills with the weapons progress the more you use them.

One of enjoyable mechanics are the Ark falls which come in 2 flavours major and minor and they seem to operate on organised chaos, everyone taking part has a rough idea of what to do and everything just flows along until you have killed it.  This means no more waiting to try and get a group to go kill the big boss you just turn up and join in, this does take away from the social side of the game but we are too busy dodging green acid to notice.

Very early on in the game you are given a vehicle to get around on and you will use it alot (you can also run things over as well which makes for a good laugh) you can also buy other vehicles makes and models and some carry 2 people as well which is good if you're teaming up with someone, Me and Kerry went for the Orange Challenger.

There is no crafting at the moment or a player driven market though you can trade with other people and the actual chat function of the game seems stunted and no one actually seems to be talking to anyone.

The game feels more like a single player RPG instead of an MMO at times and there are some issues and oddities ingame but they are workable and forgivable as no game has a smooth launch these days (Take a look at Simcity), The main thing is  Kerry and me are finding it deeply enjoyable and that's what matters.

Nathan Richardsson the Executive Producer of Defiance has posted to comment on the outlining issues with the game on all the platforms and says that all the DLC aside the game is constantly being worked on and patched and evolved.

Just a note from me (Kerry) - considering I don't like shooters.... I absolutely love shooting stuff in this game!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The Evil Within a new Game or the state of my mind

The Evil Within is a new game being developed by Tengo Gamesworks and being published by Bethesda Softworks.

 Its going to be a Third Person Survival Horror game and Shinji Mikami is listed as the director who is famous for Resident Evil which came out in 1996 (Spent so many hours playing this game).

The storyline follows detective Sebastian who rushes to the scene of a gruesome mass murder only to be knocked out and finds himself in a strange location with creatures who have designs on making his insides his outsides.

The key feature I am looking forward to the the most is the return to pure survival horror game play,  where you have limited resources and you are left to try and fend for yourself which seems to be missing in most horror games I have played recently.

IGN has a good article about it and explains some more about the ideas behind it. its due out in 2014.

Need a new sofa to hide behind now!

Monday, 22 April 2013

The Mother of all FPS Accessories

The ‘Oculus Rift’ are a head mounted display with a more realistic price range in mind that was started on Kickstarter and has gained a lot of ground.

The unit also includes head tricking which will allow for more immersion in games.

Now we come to another company making a product called the ‘Omni’ which is an Omni treadmill made for the home market as well.

If you add the two together you get this:

Going to be keeping an eye on both products to see how they fare in the market but both look very promising and could turn into a gaming experience to remember.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Defiance and the Orange Challenger of our dreams

Been playing Defiance all weekend with Kerry so, I have been out of touch with much of the news since Friday.

But after reading about the Orange Challenger you can get in-game to ferry you and a friend around, Kerry and I knew this was the priority for the weekend.

The first thing you will need to do is save up 15,500 in-game currency which is called 'Scrip' and then the rest is easy, just have to kill some 99ers and buy the car.

From reading and watching some youtube videos the word was the 99ers were going to put up a big fight but we found the fighting to be ok.  not sure if thats due to way we fight together and the weapons we use (I go range while Kes uses a LMG to lay down covering fire) or if because we are we're use to the tactics of fighting the 99ers (basically dodge the big balls of fire flying your way) from a random road block we had found on Saturday.

Click to Enlarge
Once you have the money you will need to head to the vendor which is located near a lake, it sometimes shows on the map as a 'Supplies Vendor' which for the most part he is apart from Orange vehicles he has in stock.

Its just left of the bar called 'The Crater',  if you click the image on the left, its targeted so you can see it more clearly. 

Also included a video of me and Kes getting the car so you guys can see what the fight is like for yourselves.

And yes this now means I am Kes's chauffeur but that also means she is free to make coffee!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Getting Windows 8 to Feel like Windows 7 or Give me that old-time religion

With the new Metro interface in Windows 8 can be tricky but with some changes to the different areas of the Operating System and some of the applications we can get a Windows 7 feel back in to Windows 8.

Click to Enlarge
Internet Explorer
Internet Explorer was the biggest bug bear for me when I upgraded.

It should decide when to open in Metro or the Desktop automatically but most of the time it seems to just default to Metro.

to change this you need to access the 'Internet Options'.

The quickest way to do this I have found is to press the Windows Key and just type 'Internet Options' this should bring up the search bar on the right of the Metro screen and its the Settings button just below the test box.

From there you can then go to the Programs tab and the very top option is a drop down box that allows you to change the way Internet Explorer opens and set it to  'Always in Internet Explorer on the Desktop' and this should force Internet Explorer to always start on the desktop.

Click to Enlarge
The next thing is to get your images opening again on the desktop which can be done by opening 'Default Programs' by again pressing the Windows Key and just typing 'Default Program' and going to the Settings option just before the text box in the top right.

Once the 'Default Program' window is open you will need to select 'Set Default Programs' which will give you options like the one on the right.

Scroll down to the bottom until you see 'Windows Photo Viewer' and select this and press 'Set this program as default' as this should get your images opening on the Desktop once more.

Random Programs
PDFs are another thing that opens in Metro screen this can be changed by downloading Adobe Reader and having this set as the default for PDFs,  I would be careful on the adobe website though as it tries to trick you in to install the McAfee AV.

One last point about videos and I think this should be a must for any Windows computer, VLC Player will allow you to play any video file, I don't not think I have found a video format it will not play.

Now that will give you a little more of a Windows 7 feel back to the newer Windows but there is one more thing you can do and that is put the start button back to the desktop with Start8, it is a paid for app but its one of the best I have seen so far.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Windows 8 & 8.1... the slow death of the Desktop but its not dead yet.

Windows 8 came out in October 2012 and I have been using it since, I have had access to it at work on my work computer.

If we go back to 2009 though when Windows 7 came out, It was like the welcoming back the Prodigal son after so many years of almost getting it right, they finally did and made a well made Operating system.

Windows 7 gave me back trust in Microsoft and its products.  Now we come back to Windows 8 and it feels like Windows 7 with a Metro Interface bolted on with some nice rounding in others areas of the interface and does not feel like a must upgrade where Windows 7 did.

Windows 8 does not seem to add anything I need but removes stuff that I want.

This is not to say that there isn't more going on under the hood but the main sticking point was the 'removal' of the desktop which grabbed the headlines and gave me a face like a dog chewing a wasp.

Microsoft seem to be moving away from Desktop computers and starting to focus more on tablets and smartphones which actually may be a smart move based on profits posted by Intel in the first quarter of this year (More information at theinquirer.net).

But the new Metro interface makes multitasking more difficult and moving between applications almost unthinkable.

This is where Windows 8.1 gives a little ground on the whole desktop issue by giving us a straight to desktop option, and rumour has it a start button as well, though the start button is just hearsay, the desktop option does appear to be in.

Does this mean I will be upgrading my home computer any time soon, not until Microsoft stop supporting Windows 7 and I have no other option, so 2015 as it appears.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Defiance A new Game, A New TV Show or a mild upset

The new TV show by Syfy will be airing tonight at 9 pm in the UK and the game with the same name sake, which has been out of since the 2nd of this month has met with a lukewarm response by the critics and some of the webpages I hang around on, who had beta access. They commented on its averageness, so before given this game ago I am waiting for the TV show to air and seeing if the TV show can increase my enthusiasm for the game.

As Tim Buckley over at 'Ctrl+Alt+Del' commented, if Battlestar Galactica had made a MMO that tied in with the show and vice verse I too would be playing that game.

So depending on how it goes tonight I will be either spending my weekend playing 'Defiance' or the new Bioshock.

The game its self is being developed by Trion Worlds the makers of Rift which was a good MMO but too much like World of Warcraft for my liking and I was just coming down from my wow addiction at the time and did not want to start all that up again.

So there is light but it never normally ends well when a TV / Film company gets evolved with making of a Video game AKA all the Matrix games spring to mind.

Monday, 15 April 2013

X-com Shooter by 2k Xcom no more

It seems the Xcom First Person Shooter was destined for trouble since day one passing from developer to developer until it reached 2K Marin but still it was plagued with push backs and changed release dates and now all their trailers have been pulled and the website has been taken off-line does this mean the end for the 1962 Alien busting Man in Black Shooter or is it going to return under a different name.

The rumours are that it may be being rebranded as ‘The Bureau’, the eurogamer.net has more information on this as does Game Spot UK.

I hope it does as though a first person shooter based of Xcom was not met with positive comments, the ideas and the trailers were very interesting and it would be a shame not to see the outcome of all the years of work, maybe redone as a prequel set in the Xcom universe may sit better with everyone.

The other rumour is that its now turned in to a third person shooter with strategy elements mixed in, so may be there is still hope for this MiB game to see the light of day, we can only wait and see.

The Truth is out there.

A weekend being Dishonored

Dishonored came out October 2012 so it’s a bit of a late mention, Started playing it the day it came out but something else got my attention so never gave it a fair chance.

It was published by Bethesda Software who also publish “The Elder Scrolls” series (Skyrim is also on my to do list and will be coming back to this one) and 2 of its developers were also involved in the first Deus Ex which I loved so my expectations where high going in.

Never really got that far in to the game the first time around so I am starting from fresh.

I was surprised how much like Deus Ex it plays out like, to be honest but if the mechanic is not broken re-use it I suppose and it is fun to try and take out as many guards as possible without alerting any one.

On the first level where you have to take out Overseer Campbell, I went for the non-lethal take down as opposed to the straight forward knife in the back.

Had to follow him all the way to the ground floor and then carry him all the way back up to the interrogation room.

It was simple though as i had knocked out all the guards in the building before hand so could move freely around

The leveling is simple enough; you collect runes to spend on magic upgrades and money on your items and weapons, both of which you find on each level spread around the area.

Each mission is self-contained and contains multiple ways to accomplish each goal, which can lead to interesting moments in the game where your best laid plans crumble and you're left with no option but to run and gun it unless you have a good save to reload from.  at the end of each level you get given chaos rating which is the games karma system and can effect the end out come of the game and the next level.

I would suggest you save often as there is nothing worst then carrying an unconscious body or corpse around to a hiding spot to only find that you missed a guard which brings me to an issue I have with the corpses, you can not throw them at people, I got busted trying to hide a unconscious body and my first thought was to throw body at the guard to give me extra time to get my sword out but the body just sailed through the guard and left me wondering on the metaphysical state of the people I killed or knocked out while the guard made friends with my spleen which takes me back to my first point; save often.

There was something else that happened that that I found to be a good quirk in the game, in the same level you are given the choice to protect someone that the overseer is trying to kill, so my first thought was knock the guy out and carry him somewhere safe, it was going well until I reached some stairs and saw a guard, so placing the guy on the floor I ran to deal with obstacle that was in my way when it popped up and said my protection mission was failed it was then i span around to see my protectee gracefully bouncing down the stairs, lucky I had a save so a quick reload later and with stair safety still fresh in my mind careful navigated around the stairs and remaining guards to place my protectee in the safe location.

Though this was frustrating it was also different and gave rise to a random event which was not expected and gives you a what the? moment and it can be these that people remember the most and gives you a favorable memory of a game.

I am finding the game enjoyable, the artwork is very memorable, think steam-punk meets oppressive regime and makes for a nice break from the realistic modern chest high gray walled first person shooters we seem to be fed of late.

The Story is interesting enough to keep me playing but is a standard quest for justice for the wrongly accused man and the karma mechanic also allows for good intentions with a negative out come.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Watch Dogs... whose watching the watchers

Who watches the watchers ,watching what the watchers watch.

While waiting for Thief to be finished so I can relive 1998 there is another game I am anticipating called ‘Watch Dogs’

It’s going to be a Third Person prospective sandbox game where you play as Aiden Pearce (voiced by Noam Jenkins from ‘Rookie Blue’), a hacker who uses his skills to access the city’s network for his own ends.

When I first heard this I thought what a waste of an open world, surely the game would mostly taken part in a darkened room with no natural light where your only human interaction is in IRC and the pizza guy who you now know on a first name basis.

After watching the trailer though I realized that the game was not a reflection on my real life but on what my imagination believes my real life is like and it got very cool very quickly.

I am looking forward to seeing how this evolves and hoping for a game where my actions can have reaching consequences, where i can say ’shoot a random guy in the street, this makes the police and an ambulance race to the scene but I hack the traffic lights , turning them all green and then I can sit back outside in a small cafe drinking a coffee watching the ensuing chaos doing my best evil laughter impersonation while hacking the police database and pinning it on the mayor’.  That may be hoping for too much but I can dream.

In the trailers we saw the hacking ability being used was to get money from ATM’s, making devices malfunction to distract others and changing the traffic lights to cause collisions but I am expecting more to be released when the game comes out as the hacking mechanic is being pushed as the main selling point .

There is going to be a multiplayer element to the game as well and from what I read it sounds like it may play out a little like ‘Demon Souls’  where you invade the single player experience and try to mess it up or help.

Sebastien Viard has confirmed that a custom game engine has been developed called Disrupt to support all the features in Watch Dogs, and is due out fall of this year

The developers are Ubisoft Montreal which are also responsible for the likes of Farcry 3, Tom Clancy's series and the Assassin Creed series too, so a lot of good history to build off.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Whats yours is mine

Watched the trailer for the reboot of Thief this morning and looking forward to this, as I never played the first Thief back in 1998 and I think if I do now I will not get the same experience being spoilt by modem day graphics, as I have, but all the reviews say it was one of the best games of its year, and I have regretted not playing it ever since.

Its being developed by Eidos Montreal who also did Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

The first Thief was one of the first games, if not the first to use light and shadows as a stealth mechanic with audio added in to the mix (your footsteps could give you away).

its being considered the defining game in all following stealth games and this is something I wished to have had experienced when it was fresh and new.

So for the reboot of Thief I have high hopes and expectations going in from the get go.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Keeping safe on the internet.... or how I learnt to be suspicious of everything

The internet can be very interesting, fun to explore, a great way to meet new people or talk to old friends over large distances or waste large amounts of time on but there is also a darker side to it as well.

People want your time and money and they are willing to do anything they can to get it, even give you so called free stuff.

But with some simple steps you can protect yourself and lower the risk of anything bad happening.

The first step is to not rush in to anything, take a moment and way up what the site or e-mail is offering you, if it sounds too good to be true it most likely is, do some research, is there a forum, Google them and see if anyone is complain about them (The Google thing can be a little hard as chances are there is someone that has beef with everything at some point, but see if there is a chorus or people saying the same thing).

Try to keep to the main stream sites and be wary of the smaller sites, this is not to say not to use them as you can come across some great finds on the internet from the lesser known sites but be mindful of what information you are giving them.  just like walking in the woods the road less traveled can be more fun but it can also be more dangerous too.  

The next step is to add some Armor to you computer for added protection while you surf the internet and take the road less traveled.

There is a host of free software to help protect yourself even if your budget is low to none existent, it does not mean you should go without.

We will take a quick look at some of the free anti viruses that are on offer, probably the most important bit of software you can have and a must for any internet traveler.

Microsoft Security Essentials is a good one to start with as its made by Microsoft themselves and is totally free, no panhandling here; AV-Test score its protection as 1.5 out of 6 which is one of the lowest in AV-Tests ranking but when you look at the numbers in the report, it scores a 78% detection rate on 0 day attacks which is ok but where it really wins is the usability; its the less intrusive. 

I have used this one and I like it, its well laid out and does what it says, no mountain of options to go over to get it running right.

Avast: Free is another free AV, I have not used this one but other engineers I work with do and they recommend it, so I have included it.  It scores a lot better on the AV-Test website then MSE, getting a 4.5 out of 6 on the protection rating with a 96% detection rate of 0 day attacks.

But its let down on its usability score; adds more over heads then the others but has less false detection then AVG

AVG: Anti-Virus Free Edition is the last in the list of recommended anti viruses for your computer and it is the best all rounder scoring well on the protection with 5.0 out of 6.0 and the lowest over head on your system; its only drawback is its false detection which is the highest out of the free one's I have listed.

But this could be due to the way the engine detects for viruses and I can forgive it for this as some paid versions have a habit of doing this as well.

The numbers says I should recommend AVG, its the best for gamer's and for the average user but sometimes numbers do not mean its the best and AVG does not sit well with me.

I have used AVG and have suggested it a lot a few years back but I have seen the newer visions go wrong so many times that I have lost confidence in it, so if you're a gamer and your looking for a free anti virus, I would go with Microsoft as I have not seen it go wrong and its the second best for over head and it scored a 0 on the false detection test with AV-Test.

I would suggest Avast for the everyday user or the paranoid gamer as its got the best detection out of the two.

This does not mean I am going to give up on AVG, I used to like it a lot so I am going to keep my eye on it and test it every now and then and if my opinion changes I will post about it.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Microsoft 'tech support' scam.... Given a bad name to other Microsoft Engineers

I have seen this scam floating around for a while now and even my own mother got a call from them, I cannot believe this is still going on.

The scam involves a very convincing person calling you out of the blue and asking you some questions about your computer as there have had reports of issues with it and then showing you that it’s infected with virus’s and that your operating system is corrupt as you are having errors in your event logs.

Once they have shown you the ‘damage’ they give you a sales pitch about your warranty running out and for a one of payment you can have a life time warranty for your computer and all the other computers you own for only £200+.

Once you have agreed they transfer you to their ‘Microsoft Engineer’ (I use the word Engineer and Microsoft loosely); who use a desktop sharing program to connect your computer and ‘fix’ your computer.

The thing about the event log and your computer is that the computer never stops talking to the event log it logs everything from errors to random chatter and most of it can be ignored unless you are suffering some noticeable issues.  Ideally on a perfect system you would never get an error or warning logged but the truth is you do and most of the times it’s nothing that effects the way you work and are safe to forget about.

But the main thing is to only check the event logs when you start to notice issues.  Here is a screenshot of my event log and as you can see it’s very red and yellow though I am not worried at the moment as I am not suffering any issues and everything I use and do on the computer works.

The scam works by making the user panic by showing them so called evidence of an issue and then saying they are here to help and are from Microsoft (Which 100% there are not) and the problems will be fixed and guaranteed for life for a small fee.  They give all IT engineers a bad name and break the trust a customer has in all people that work in the IT industry.

I have seen the effect of these so called ‘IT engineers’; I had one that charged a customer £150 for a new video card, when all that needed to be done was the drivers needed installing, they were so angry, hurt and upset by the fact they were made a fool of by someone they thought was there to help them.

Wired.co.uk have an article about a senior security researcher called Jerome Segura from Malwarebytes who got one of those ‘Microsoft tech support’ calling him and he recorded the conversation with them and what they did to one of his computers.

The video of the conversation is also in the article as well and it makes for an interesting watch as you get to see social engineering in action and how easy it could be to give away the wrong information to someone you believe to be something they are not.

There is also a page on Microsoft website offering advice about this scam and how to avoid it.

The main point which i give to my customers is when they ask me about this scam:

  • Microsoft will never call you about your computer; you have to call them.