As I have said before many times, I have been in this hobby for a long time. almost 34 years this to be exact. It still amazes me everyday the advancements we have seen over these years and the complaints I hear from the young people just getting started. I thought I would take a look back over the last 34 years and talk about what I am thankful for in the computer world today.
Monitors: When this all started we did not have the great looking displays you see today. Oh we had monitors but they where typically 10” that where either green or amber on black, occasionally white. We did not get a lot of pretty colors heck we did not even get scales of grey. Monitors back then where not the slight, slim things we have today either. Using CRTs the monitors, even the small ones were a lot heavier than todays flat panel displays.
We have it so good today that I am saddened at the people that take it for granted. I am sitting as I type this Saturday morning at my in-laws. The desk we has assigned to the Northern Command Center (the term dubbed for my space up here) is a small student style desk. Back in the old days the desk would have barely held a monitor, let alone the keyboard, mouse, slide scanner, Dazzle and my headset, nook and various empty Coke Zero cans.
While I have a monitor small enough to fit on this desk with room to spare I do not have a small monitor. This 24” monster gives me all the display room I want and has a clear image quality full of vibrant color. Yeah I am thankful for the directions monitors have gone.
Mice: I know that for many people this may be hard to believe but I remember a time before we consider a mouse on our desk a good thing. Heck even when they introduced the “mouse” that was not a living creature for the computer many of us still did not like them. They felt awkward and slow compared to typing out the commands we wanted.
Once we got past our initial mouse phobia we hated them I think even more. The ball would grab every bit of dust and dirt and gunk up making it not work right half the time. The mouse pad would get dingy every few months and we would have to throw it out. If you did not have a clean mouse pad for use with your mouse then give it up, the ball slid too easily on desks.
Optical mice of today are a dream compared to what we used to put up with. You do not need to spend time cleaning it every few days and when you do clean it you need about 30 seconds with a cloth, not 10 minutes performing minor surgery. Even the mice pads of today are nicer with the cloth, thick pad beginning to finally vanish and in it’s place is a super thin material that works better, lasts longer and is easier to clean.
Hard Drives: Today we take these storage systems for granted but way back in the day, man I feel so old, they did not exist, at least for the home user. I recall the day I thought the floppy was a FAST storage medium. Of course that was also the time I was still using cassettes. Yes I am referring to the tape recorder style that is not even used for music much anymore, told you I was old.
When the first HDs came along we though we where in heaven but they where expensive. However they had huge storage capacity, 20 meg or MORE! That’s right 20 meg, we did not hoard back then like we do now. Okay seriously yes we did but at the time that seemed huge.
Today we talk about HDs throw out terms like terabytes and think nothing of it. I still have people having a hard time believing me when I say I can build a great MMO machine on a 60gig HD. That is 300 times the space we started with on HDs, let alone floppies.
Windows 7: Yes you heard me right I am grateful for Windows 7. Back in the DOS days you spent a lot of time playing with your DOS load files to get the memory configuration you needed for the latest program to run. You had to pick peripherals such as printers and scanners based on the software choices you had made. Windows for all the growing pains it has gone through took those things away from us.
Today we put in a program and it works, no fiddling with configuration settings to make sure our low ram is correct. We also do not need to worry about the hardware too much, yes I know about my post about setting games free, when it comes to buying software. We now have a standardized model for peripheral interaction that means our hardware and software should play nicely all the time.
The Internet: While it has it’s bad if you take the time and sift through you can find the good. It has given us access to more useful information than at any time in human history. I still recall the day my mom bought the Britannica Encyclopedia for our home. There was this massive wall of books and I felt like the entire world was at my finger tips. Today that seems a waste compared to the amount of information I can find on any subject in just seconds on the internet.
It is not just information thought it is contacts. Back with my encyclopedia I had a lot of information in my hands for sure but today I can have the information and a chance to actually speak with the people that work in the field. Ask a medical question back then around the house and you might get a lot of simple answers and the encyclopedia might give a little more but unless you lived with a Doctor you likely stopped there. Today ask the question on the internet and you get more information, more sources and will likely be able to get direct information from a specialist in the field.
I cannot be thankful for the internet without being thankful for gaming. Gamers used to sit at home and hope they could find enough people that night to enjoy a game with. Even if they did the setup and preparation for the game took longer than the actual play time. With the internet and computer gaming, finding a buddy to play with is as easy as logging into the game.
The internet took the gaming world and truly made it a world. We now have gaming groups that span the globe with it’s members and that means play time is available when you want it. But it means more, it means you get a chance to interact with people from other nations and cultures. You get to experience different ways of looking at things and broaden your own perspective.
I could go on at this for a long time but I think you get my point. We keep making computers easier to use and giving more people access to all that they offer. While to some coming just into this community there might be issues, you have to understand that compared to where we were, we are in heaven right now in the computing world.
So go forth and enjoy your computer, enjoy the ease of use and great options you have today, and be thankful you have the technology we have today.
As my family awakes this morning and contemplates of all we have to be thankful for I need to add to that list my listeners and the people that read this blog.
For going on 13 years now I have had the honor of doing this show in the various forms it has taken. It has given me the chance to see technology before it releases and to meet some of the great people in the computer world. All of that is possible because of all of you.
So before I join my family for the rest of the day, while they walk around in a haze waiting for the first cup of coffee I wanted to be sure and say a thank you for all that your attention has given me.
From my family to all of your I wish to send out our love and prayer that you have been as blessed by this show as I have been doing it and hope for you the absolute best during this holiday season.
Now turn off that computer and go spend time where it matters most, with the people you love.
You know way back in the days of DOS we did not have drivers in the sense we have them now. Each program had to bring with it the tools to work with specific pieces of hardware. Programs as simple as a word processor had to carry printer drivers within it and use emulation modes in hopes of reaching a broader range. The result was that often when you went to choose hardware for your computer you needed to first look at what software you had so you could decide what hardware you needed to make use of it.
Enter the era of Windows and joy of joy this ended. Windows introduced a standardized driver set that made buying a printer about what the printer offered, not what programs you had. No longer did a program dictate to us our choices of the hardware we choose to run.
Today in the PC gaming world it seems we have begun to take steps backwards. All to often it seems you will see a game on a shelf that carries a sticker for a specific video chip manufacturer. In the rush to develop new software and make use of new hardware the chip makers for GPUs have stepped outside the arena of designing chips and entered the game creation market. Through the use of every from simple promotional help, game development assistance all the way to being offered money the chip makers have made their move to maker sure that when a game releases it is in someway optimized to work better with their technology than the other guys.
While these methods on the surface might seem like a good idea the repercussion they have to the consumer is something being felt more it seems each year.
You see the by product of these methods is that the standardization that was created by Direct X begins to go by the wayside in an effort to use short cuts and optimizations specifically designed to work with one companies technology.
I started my investigation into this a few weeks ago when the drama surrounding the H.A.W.X. 2 benchmark came to light. I began calling my contacts in various gaming companies and tried to get information from the two big GPU makers. While the GPUY makers where all but silent the gaming companies where willing to speak provided I did not name companies or names. This request from them alone is a sad testament to the things going on in this industry.
In the case of H.A.W.X. 2, by Ubisoft, I was able to learn that nVidia did in fact “suggest”, a polite way to say pressure, the company to release the benchmark early. This move was done for one reason to push out the benchmark in time for the competition to not be able to make driver corrections to work around optimizations put into the game.
This was not however a one sided affair. On the other end of the spectrum we see Codemasters putting out the game F1. AMD provided a lot of help with the game and at release nVidia was just getting a copy of the code finally to work around optimizations put into the game for the other side.
These are not isolated incidents and in fact have sadly become the way this industry is working. When I asked one game company about a flaw in their game that only effected AMD based cards I was told the issue was AMD did not use the same “tricks” nVidia had given the company. Why do game creators need tricks when there is a standardized method of using all the major features for graphics rendering that would work with anyone’s product well?
What this means for the consumer is that buying a video card based on just important critera such as price to performance, power consumption, heat and noise levels as well as hardware specific feature sets is not enough. We also it seems need to take into account what games and perhaps even what game makers we want to deal with. This is WRONG!
Reading the above it would be easy to be mad at the GPU makers about this but your anger would be misguided. The real culprit in this is the game makers. They have standardized tools that they can use to create the same games they put out now, why are they not using them and instead relying on the GPU makers for so much help and incentives?
Should we allow this to continue? Should we not do something to make the industry provide us products that do the job they are supposed to without us having to look at other products by brand to enjoy the first product? We could but I doubt it will happen. If we all refused to buy games optimized for one side or the other than we could make a chance take place but the simple truth it’s the game makers know they have us over a barrel and do not really care what we, the consumers would like.
Should the GPU companies spend more time making better GPUs than trying to work in game development? Well of course they should but they won’t. These moves earn them a lot of free press that they will not let go easily. The truth is we the consumers are stuck.
So the next time you go to play a game and have issues making run as good as you think it should you might want to spend less time being mad at the maker of the GPU and talking about how much it sucks and instead know that the ones that suck are the game makers that sold out of making a game truly for everyone and instead have decided to pick sides by choice or bribe in the hardware world.
If you have not noticed the new link at the top of the page this coming Sunday we will begin our Holiday Giveaway. Prizes include a self contained liquid CPU cooler, HD6850 video card, Gaming Keyboard and Mouse, a 128 Gig SSD and some free game time on the Star Trek Online STO.
For the rules and prize specifics click the link at the top of the page.
Happy Holidays from the Computer Ed Radio Show.
You know I had a lot of ideas for this weeks entry but after the week I have had I felt it was VITAL that we do this piece. You see during this last week I have now had 49 confirmed calls of Rogue AV infection.
These have ranged across the gambit and include various attacks such as the Security Tool picture you see on the left. This is NOT a legitimate protection product but rather a virus itself that comes in posing as protection and basically shuts your system down until you pay a feel for the full version, which BTW does nothing but take your money. If you are seeing this scree on your computer you are infected.
To get an idea of just how bit this problem is all you need to do is visit the Rouge Security Software entry at Wikipedia. The list is HUGE and keeps growing every day.
These types of infections are particularly effective because they play on our fears when it comes to the internet. You will be happily browsing along when suddenly a window pops up in the middle of your screen proclaiming gloom and doom on your PC.
Now think about it everything is fine and suddenly you see a notice that looks like a Windows screen telling you that your system is infected. Panic sets in the the quick response is to click the repair of scan button. This is the instant invite for this infection to enter your PC allowing it to bypass your security.
Of course some people have a small knowledge of this potential and so instead click ignore, or better yet click the X in the top of the screen. These would seem logical solutions, WRONG!
You see you are not seeing a program on your screen, you are seeing a image file being displayed through your browser. Since this is am image file the attackers are able to remap the various contact points on the image so they appear to function as normal but all do the same thing, say that you have invited in the attack.
So if clicking on this in anyway causes the infection, how do we stop it? The answer is actually pretty simple. The method I prefer is to close the instance of the browser that is running or all instances.
In this screen shot from my PC you can see where I have right clicked on my browser icon down on the toolbar. Now I am running Windows 7 here but the same basic principle applies all the way back to 98. From this menu I can close my browser window without having to actually click anywhere on it.
If you are wanting a bit more security when doing this you can right click down by the clock, called the task tray, then click on Task Manager. This can also be reached with the famous Control-ALT-Delete method.
Once you have the Task Manager up you can, from the Applications Tab close the instance of your browser. If you are in doubt as to which instance the infection is trying to use close them all.
If you would like the MOST effective, never fail method, at least never fail to date, then you will do something more drastic. Flip the switch on your surge protector or pull the power cord of the PC. This forces all programs to dead obviously and thus does not allow the infection a chance to get in. It is a pain to do this and will cause you to lose an open document that you where working on at the time but it will also ensure the attack cannot complete.
What about avoiding these all together? That is easier said than done. You see these are not distributed through normal attack methods, these actually come in through legitimate avenues. These infections are placed on ads and in websites in such a manner that the people delivering the attack do not usually know it.
During this week I have however found some information I am not surprised to discover but still was not prepared for the level of. In the course of my 49 confirmed incidents and a look back over my notes of nearly 30 other instances in the last month I found something interesting. All but one incident had two web sites in common, Facebook and MySpace. The cases of some of the older incidents there has been repeats of these infections within days and again the correlation was Facebook and MySpace.
Now let me be clear here I am NOT blaming these sites for the infection. What I am saying is that if you wanted to hit the most people where is the best place to put your attack? The use of these target rich environments by these predators is not only obvious, it is logical. These two locations have massive traffic and a large portion of that traffic is not the tech savvy crowding, which means for these attacks it is like shooting fish in a barrel.
The only real protection against these attacks is education and awareness. You need to educate yourself to what AV program you have installed, know it’s name. I am AMAZED at how many people cannot tell me the name of the AV software they run and so are fooled into thinking these rouges are real.
When you get these pop ups DO NOT click on them. Use one of the methods I proposed above to get out of the attack. If all browser windows are closed and you still have a popup that is correctly identifying itself as your AV software then you should be okay to let it scan. If you want to be 100% sure however power off, restart and then manually run the scan.
Above all though I suggest taking some advice from one of the greatest books ever written, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.
If you follow the advice I have given above you will greatly reduce the chance that one of these attacks will be successful. Notice I did NOT say will be able to completely stop them. The reason for that is these attacks are always evolving, changing to find a new way in. Sooner or later some of them will find a way around the methods I have mentioned and get into your system.
One other thing I encourage is that we get our government officials talking about this. These attacks mostly want credit cards. They have a paper trail for the money that can be followed and people put in jail for this. These attacks are text book examples of extortion and the time has come our “officials” do something more than sit in their offices and cluck about how hard they work to protect us on the internet.
Rogue AV Segment Aired 14 November 2010
While Intel prepares to move into yet another platform design for it’s new line of CPU we where finally able to get a chance to see some of the Intel designs out now. The folks at Gigabyte graciously provided us with motherboards for the 1366 Socket and the 1156 Socket.
The 1366 side is the high end of the Intel chips featuring nothing but i7 processors and these all equipped with triple channel memory. This is the same family in which you will find the 6 Core chips from Intel as well.
These high end chips use a high end board based off of the X58 chipset. These motherboards range in price from around $170 to well over $300. For our look into the world of Intel Gigabyte sent us the GA-X58A-UD3R for review. This board is priced around $200 putting it near the lower end of the cost spectrum.
Equipped with 4 PCIe slots the board has the option to allow either Crossfire or SLI meaning the choice of video card is open for maximum effect. The support is for up to triple carding of each of these standards however only two slots will support full x16 speeds.
Gigabyte has maintained it’s reputation in the build quality with solid capacitors, great power management and just general amazing construction.
Equipped with 10 SATA connectors the board will have no issues hooking up any combination of HDs and Optical drives you might imagine. The 6 blue connections are SATA 3.0G and middle set of white are SATA 6.0G and the last 2 white are again SATA 3.0G. Additionally on the rear of the board are two ESATA connectors that double as USB 2.0 ports.
Speaking of the rear you will also find dual Firewire connections, 4 USB 2.0 Connectors and 2 USB 3.0 Connectors. Of course you also have your connections of the onboard Realtek audio, Gigabit LAN and legacy Keyboard/Mouse. You will also notice between the optical audio connections and the first output set a small button, this is a BIOS reset. The button is not as simple to access as it appears so it is hard to accidently hit. However ti is very handy if you spend a lot of time tweaking since it saves opening the case if you do something really wrong with a BIOS setting.
This board also supports the Gigabyte On/Off USB features. This is ARGUABLY the best feature I have seen added to a motherboard in a LONG time. I will get more into this later in this post.
AT the other end of the spectrum for the Intel chips Gigabyte sent us the GA-H55M-USB3 board to look at the Socket 1156 design.
The 1156 is the socket used for Intel’s mainstream processor line. The H55 chipset is actually designed specifically for the i3 lineup of chips which has integrated video on the CPU. For our testing Intel sent us instead the i7 model for this socket so we where unable to test the onboard video.
While sporting a second PCIe slot the H55 does not support crossfire or SLI. This design is meant to give a budget oriented board to the 1156 design and succeeds with this board being priced at around $100.
Unlike the 1366 design and the 1156 only offers dual channel memory instead of triple channel.
The budget design is obvious in the microATX design lack of advanced board cooling but other than those obvious the board is built well above what I would consider a budget design. Solid capacitors are used throughout the build and an attention to detail shows in the actual construction.
I have commented for some time now that on the AMD side Gigabyte has made building cost effective boards rise to new standards with the same construction quality they show in their high end boards showing up. This shows on the Intel side as well.
Speaking of the rear, besides the ESATA port this board also has 4 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, Firewire and the option for 4 different display connections using the i3 integrated video. We see standard VGA, DVI, HDMI and Displayport.
While the 1.0 version of this board does not have the On/Off designated port for from USB the 2.0 does. The 1.0 does however support the extra power to USB enabling this board to function well as a recharge station.
These boards give us a great look at the two ends of the Intel lineup and Gigabyte continues to show why they lead the way. Both boards are well constructive and came to us issue free. The X58 design is obviously for the more luxury oriented user that wants a lot of bells and whistles and the raw horsepower of the 1366 design.
The H55 offers a great low cost option for putting together a quality Intel build at the lower end of the Intel lineup.
The thing however that makes these two boards stand out, other than the quality construction and good pricing, is the USB Power 3X or On/Off USB feature.
Basically what Gigabyte did was tie in the USB to the main power more directly and then upped the potential power draw of the ports. This means that all those rechargeable items you have can now just be hooked to your PC instead of some recharge station for easy recharge.
I cannot begin to express how convenient this this, not just for a home but an office. The extra power allows some devices such as Android based phone, Nooks, iPhones and even iPads to recharge faster than they would normally on the USB plug.
The design also allows for these ports to continue to charge even if the PC is turned off or goes into sleep mode. The design is limited to three devices at one time for charge but that limitation is not a big deal.
This feature in my opinion makes Gigabyte boards a step above the competition. Oh it might not be as “tech sexy” as some other features but my experience has been those advanced tech features basically get used once or twice and is forgotten. The On/Off design is something that impacts your life in more direct ways every day.
In my home all of our personal PCs use Gigabyte boards only just for this feature. Our recharge station that used to take up an end table is now gone and our PCs provide all the recharge options we need.
If you are looking to build an Intel system these two boards show that Gigabyte has what you need no matter the level of build you are planning. But it is not just a great selection of motherboards, they also offer real world features that are useful to everyone, the enthusiast and the average home user.
Review Aired 7 November 2010