Blog Updates

Just a quick post to say that I installed Gallery a couple of weekends ago and it looks like it may have screwed up a bit of the site (dodgy htaccess rules) so apologies for any hassle cause and thanks to Graham for the heads up. My Gallery installation can be found here – it will be updated soon with some photo’s from yesteryear, including university days which are a very long 10 years ago. Gallery has been moved to Flickr which is far better than hosting locally, stores all image sizes possible and allows you to tag, comment and organise your photo’s. Should have moved ages ago..

I also seem to be suffering from some comment issues. Lewis had mentioned this ages ago which was fixed by refreshing my comment blacklist but Gordon was having issues earlier today (again thanks for the heads up). I’ll look into a different comment spam solution later in the week – I’m hoping the above issue may have caused comment issues as well.

Finally – some small updates on the right hand side including a sideblog powered by del.icio.us all in preparation for a WordPress 1.5 upgrade in the not too distant future. The links are pretty predictable but the Gran Turismo kid is my favourite so far.

Spyware

I helped out a friend from work today. “I’ve got adverts popping up from time to time and it’s starting to annoy me”. I cannot believe the amount of spyware I found and cleansed from his machine. Unbelievable. I started thinking…how did you let it get like this but after a while it was more…the majority of folks pc’s will be like this – spyware and spam are ruining the internet for the casual user. Therefore what follows is my quick guide to stopping spyware.

Firstly, use a firewall and a virus scanner. Preferably a hardware firewall but software will do. Win XP service pack 2 comes with a firewall but I would still recommend installing a separate program. As soon as you install windows make sure the firewall is up and running. Next install an anti-virus package. I still can’t see past Nortons Anti-Virus and probably Zonealarm but Nortons Security Suite will do both. PC Pro also recommended F-Secure Internet Suite as their recommended net security tool so that’s worth a look too.

That’s the pc secured but it won’t stop spyware from being installed and taking over your machine. The next best step is to install an alternative browser to Internet Explorer. You could try Opera but Firefox for me is faster, offers more features through extensions and is free. By doing this many of the spyware tools that takeover your browser will be eliminated from ever running on your machine. This however is still not enough.

Next I would download and install three different spyware detection and removal tools. They are Microsoft’s Spyware beta, Ad-Aware and Spybot. The reason why I suggest all three rather than one is that they all seem to detect spyware to a greater or lesser extent. The advantage of Microsoft’s tool is that you can have it running in the background so that new spyware threats can be trapped before they are installed. Ad-aware and Spybot are recognised as industry leaders when it comes to spyware – I would recommend running them at least once a month and deleting anything that they find.

The above should lead to a clean pc free of any nasties that are downloading in the background while you surf. However the key to hassle free pc is to make sure all the signature files and virus updates for the above software are downloaded as frequently as possible. It’s a pain but there’s no point having a virus scanner whose signatures are a year old.

Once final brownie point goes to the Microsoft Spyware beta. It has a couple of nice features that make it easy to track and remove other problems. One is the System Explorers. From here you can easily see what is currently running on your pc and what is started up each time you reboot your machine. In fact using this tool today I found a search bar that wasn’t automatically detected by any of the above tools but could easily be disabled and then removed from the System Explorer screen. The second feature is a tool to restore the default IE settings in case your browser has been hi-jacked by another search engine – very nice.

Arrogance

Couldn’t believe work today. A guy who is leaving this Friday decided to send round his own leaving sheet asking for contributions to his own gift. Not only that but he sent it round every department making sure that every office on both sites had his sheet. He even volunteered for one of the secretarys to collect in the money without telling her. Thankfully word got out before anyone contributed. The question is…what should we do in return? And will I get sacked for mentioning the word ‘work’ on a personal blog?

iPodder

I’ve been using iPodder for a few weeks now with mixed results. iPodder allows you to download podcasts of your choosing to your iPod. Podcasts, in case you didn’t know, are audio files (like normal radio broadcasts) that can be easily downloaded from the net and stored on your iPod, or any digital player for that matter – pc, Xbox etc.

While the software works well and integrates nicely with iTunes, it’s the quality of the content I’ve been most disappointed with. Out of the popular top 10, Reel Reviews, IT Conversations and Engadget have been the only ones that perked my interest with the rest being fairly poor. Adam Curry (who started off the concept of podcasting) was just irritating – if I want to listen to someone coughing in my ear I’ll just listen to the guys in the office whose banter is far more entertaining. The others I have tried have been fairly poor. I guess it’s no surprise really as like blogging, some things should be left to the professionals. Still worth a try even for the two shows above although it goes without saying that this is for broadband users only – the IT Conversations shows can run over an hour…but they can at least be fast forwarded for when they get a little dry.

Edge-Online

My favourite games mag, Edge, has always had a really bad website. It’s redeeming feature was an active and sometimes intelligent forum but that fell by the wayside more than a year ago. After a period of inactivity Edge-Online has been updated and is now supplying daily’ish updates. It’s also powered by Movable Type so could be called a blog….kind off. Just need those forums back now.

Pro Evo Patch

It’s finally came out and it’s what you could call a mixed bag. Firstly, quitters are automatically awarded a loss. Yay! Second, it’s attempted to fix the lag issues. I say attempted as for me it seems to work well but I’m sure those with 128k uploads will still be laggy for any connecting clients. Thirdly, you can now cancel the goal animations directly after you score. Fourthly, that’s it!

Which is disappointing as it’s taken 2 months to produce. You still can’t cancel replays of offsides and near misses, you still can’t have manual player select, you still can’t swap L1/L2 and the ranking is still the same dumbass who’s won most type that isn’t the most reflective of who is best at the game. Rankings however have been reset – how annoyed the quitters and those that had played thousands of games to get to the top must be. Shame 🙂

However this is likely to be the one and only patch for PES 4. Roll on PES 5.

Denon 2910

DVD2910_small
I’ve finally succumbed and bought a new dvd player. My old player (Sony 725) was getting on a bit and I was annoyed that I couldn’t play mp3’s, ripped dvd’s on it plus the fact that £30 jobs out of Asda had a better picture. Progress, eh?!? So I sniffed around and went for the Denon 2910…in black of course.

It will play practically anything you can throw at it. Firstly, the picture is lovely and that’s on my ageing Sony CRT wide-screen. However it does come with progressive scan and all the necessary support for a future plasma/lcd investment. Well I can dream, can’t I? Another reason for choosing this model is that the audio playback is superb and it would allow me to replace my Marantz (now for sale on eBay as would the old dvd player if it wasn’t for the fact it’s worthless). The player also comes with DVD Audio and SACD support assuming either format actually takes off.

The current verdict is that it was a superb buy. It has played dvd-r rips with no problem at all (Team America screener if you must know) and the audio is as good if not better than I had previously. DVD playback is also much improved. The only disk I’ve not tried is a RCE disk but as I’ve none in my collection, who cares. I’ve even managed to update the Pronto with the new device. Joy.

 

Cheats never prosper

Bungie (and I guess Microsoft) have finally acted with regards cheaters on the Xbox Live service by banning thousands of users who cheated in Halo 2. I say finally…Microsoft have acted before when people tried to access the Live network with hacked copies of games (PGR2 where the hacked cars were faster than the standard cars) but there has never been a real cull of people using Xbox Live. Until now.

The banning seems to have been due to two reasons – cheating in games and cursing including racial taunting. The cheating has really affected Halo 2. Using modems with stand by buttons players were able to host the game and then stop the upload to any clients connected while they ran around the map getting flags, dropping bombs etc. Happened increasingly frequently but thankfully the banning should curb it’s use. The second type is all to common, especially form Americans. Every second game usually has an American running his mouth off. To report this you can use the feedback service i.e. user x was cheating, user x was swearing but I guess it takes a fair number of reports before a ban, temporary or permanent is introduced. More info on the banning can be found in the weekly Bungie update.

This is great news. Xbox Live was better than multi player on the pc as the amount of patches and cheats in use in the pc land meant gaming never felt fair. Xbox Live brought that feeling back. I’m off to play some Halo.

It's been one year...

…since I picked up the keys for the new house. This has been the quickest year of my life so far but also one of the most enjoyable. The move has been a real change of life for us and looking back I wish I had done it sooner.

Since moving I’ve done some gardening, some more DIY and also become far more relaxed at home as we no longer need to worry about neighbours, drunks and people being sick over the car. Looking ahead I’ve got some goals I want to achieve by end of year 2…decorate hall (it’s massive, well for me anyway), fill in some cracks on the outside walls, organize garage, develop garden some more and at the tail end of this year or start of next year it will be double glazing time hopefully. Can’t wait 🙂