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Antivirus on a Mac – is it worth it?

Many antivirus companies now have products to protect Macs, but are they worth it?

Some of them cost up to $100, and are viruses on Macs really a problem?

Certainly, Windows has been the target for the bad guys, and because of the lower market share of the Mac, they haven’t focused on them. But as Apple’s market share  has started to catch up, they have also become a target.

On top of that, there are other forms of malware, phishing scams and other malicious activity. But there is still a view that the risk is low, so save some money and take the risk.

Well, there are free alternatives, and one of the best free products we have seen is avast!avast! antivirus

They have had a free Windows product (for personal use) for a long time, and have recently added a completely free version for the Mac.

Some antivirus products will really slow your computer down, but one of the reasons we like avast! is it has a fairly low impact on the performance of your computer, compared to many of the paid for alternatives. It is also very effective at removing viruses and detecting other nasties, having cleaned up several computers for us that other products couldn’t fix.

Give it a try and let us know what you think.

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Google Reader is going away :-(

Feedly Logo
Google Reader Logo

If you are one of the many people who are distraught about the imminent demise of Google Reader you only have a few more days to decide on a suitable alternative.  More than a 100,00 devoted users have signed an online petition to save Google Reader  but it seems unlikely to be successful.

So, where to next?

Well, half a million Google Reader users signed up for Feedly within 48 hours of the  announcement of Google Reader’s retirement back in March, and this had reached 3 million within 2 weeks. We checked it out early on too, and it looked ok. But having seen what they have done in the 3 months since the announcement, it looks like they have risen to the challenge  of being a good replacement for Google Reader, and added many features Google should have been working on for the last couple of years.

  • Sign in to Feedly using your Google account and Feedly will import your existing feeds from Google, including starred items and tags, automagically.
  • They have added the Google-style title view as well as their own more visual magazine and card views.
  • For power users, they have added the Google Reader shortcut keys as well as their own shortcuts.
  • There  are Feedly apps for iOS and Android phones and tablets, as well as support for all the major browsers.

The full details are in a recent Feedly blog post.

If you haven’t decided what to do when Google Reader goes away, Feedly is well worth a look.

Google Reader Retirement

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Gaming on a Mac

The age old debate concerning Mac vs PC has often come back to the fact that PCs are much better for playing games on. However as Apple uses more powerful technology in their products, their performance in this aspect is becoming increasingly better.

Games such as Borderlands 2, which has been quite recently released on the App Store, perform with almost identical frame rates to a PC with similar specs. The newest iMac models boast up to 32GB of RAM, a 3.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680MX GPU with 2GB of GDDR5. For those not in the know, that’s very powerful!

IMac_2012

As well as these incredible new specs games are becoming much easier to buy on OSX through the Steam Store and the App Store. The App Store is now offering games such as Call of Duty and Borderlands 2 as was mentioned earlier. These games have no problem performing just as well as they do on a PC with similar specs.

The Steam Store also offers a wide range of games such Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Awesomenauts and Call of Duty. They also offer a wide range of Free to Play games. One of these is Team Fortress 2 which was the first Steam game to offer play between Mac and PC.

Steam_logo.svg

So if you have a Mac you can still play with your PC friends. Cross platform play is becoming more and more popular in the video game industry and is being used in more and more Mac games. With these more powerful machines and larger array of games to be played, there really is no better time to be playing games on Apple computers.

© Patrick Kirkman 2013

Photo credit: ESO [Attribution or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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Can a kid make a Minecraft server?

I did! I’m 11 years old and for a long time I have wanted to create a Minecraft server because I thought it would be fun to play my favourite game with my friends, without any strangers, where we could do whatever we liked.

My friends told me that it was too hard. I listened to them and decided not to make a server.

One day I found a website called Minefold, which is great for video game server hosting if you don’t mind paying. When you create a Minefold account, you get around 50 hours of free time on your server.

When I ran out of free time, I asked my parents if I could pay to keep my server, but since I only get $20 pocket money a month, I wouldn’t have much money left over for other things I wanted.

My dad thought that we might as well give it a try, to see how hard it would be to make one ourselves.
We used this guide to help us create the server: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Personal-Minecraft-Server

1. First you have to download the server software here.

2. Then create a new folder and place the server software (Minecraft_Server.exe) in the folder.

3. If you don’t have a static IP address, you need to set up a dynamic DNS so friends can access your server with a domain that can find your server when the IP address changes. Your router may support services like dyndns.org, tzodns.com or no-ip.com which offer this.

4. Now you have to port forward your router (if you have one).

5. Now open your folder that has Minecraft_Server.exe inside and double click the .exe file.  Once this is opened, it will bring up a window which shows the progress of the server’s construction. The process is automatic. Other program files will also automatically be added to the folder.

6. Now your server is ready! Give your friends your external IP address so they can type it into Minecraft and play on your server. It is possible to set up ‘whitelist’ on your server, which lets only listed players onto your server, so only your friends can play.

My new server was working fine, but we found an even easier way to set up a server which was a website called YAMS (“Yet Another Minecraft Server”). We ended up choosing YAMS because it starts our server automatically and fixes the firewall. It can also set up port forwarding depending on what type of modem you have, but we had to do ours manually. If you use YAMS you still need to do step 3 above.

My friends and I decided that we would make a Minecraft adventure map of “The Hobbit”. An adventure map is a game within Minecraft where you are assigned a task to complete, and go through various challenges to complete this task. We chose “The Hobbit” because all of us are big fans of J.R.R Tolkien’s books, and thought it would be great to use our imaginations to create the next two parts of the story, which have not become films yet.

Now all my friends have figured out how to get onto my server, we talk on Skype together while we play, and we are having lots of fun.  Here’s my Minecraft avatar on my server.

2013-05-26_12.06.03

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Bring your own technology to school. Is it really a bad idea?

The Courier Mail yesterday ran an article about the scrapping of the Digital Education Revolution (DER) funding. The article stated that an outcome of this change might be that students would have to bring their own laptops to school. The Education Minister, John-Paul Langbroek, called it a return to the “digital dark age”.

But is it the terrible idea the article makes it out to be?

Schools currently spend huge amounts of money on technology devices and infrastructure in addition to the DER money received. Ongoing maintenance of networks and devices is required.

In recent years some schools have voluntarily adopted a BYOT (Bring your own technology) policy. It’s also sometimes referred to as BYOD (Bring your own device).

Teenagers are big users of technology and many parents already willingly invest in technology which will help their children’s learning. Many students already own a portable device.

Advantages of BYOT are:
• being able to choose a device that suits the needs of the individual child
• greater parent involvement in the choice of the device and their child’s learning
• removal of maintenance and updating costs from school budgets
• easy access to learning materials when students are not on the school campus

There are certainly issues that need to be addressed:
• While some laptops currently cost as little as $500 and some tablet devices less than $200, this is still out of reach for some families
• Security of data and devices needs to be carefully thought out and planned for
• Quality infrastructure needs to be provided as well as technical support for students and teachers
• Schools’ fears of losing control over students’ technology use

Most importantly, schools need to think through the implications for teaching and learning and work on developing a culture of trust within their community.Some commentators believe that BYOT is inevitable, so why not embrace it, plan for it and reap the advantages it can offer?

© Jacqui Kirkman 2013