Do your children play with your tech?

Do your children play with your tech?There are many examples of kids racking up huge bills with in game purchases, but how does a bill for £4,000 sound?

In a BBC news article entitled: Mother’s anger as son racks up £4,000 FIFA 14 bill  the mother known only as ‘Sue’ tells how her teenage son racked up a huge £4,000 bill on FIFA 14  and requesting that there should be tighter controls on “in-game” purchases.

Now forgive me for speaking from a position of not having any children, but how can this possibly be the game’s fault. Although I realise that it is an extremely difficult thing to stop, surely this comes down to a position of responsible parenting, and that a 13 year old should know better.

In-Game purchases are a way of making money from game players who have already purchased the game – a continuous revenue stream if you will.

By offering the latest ‘must have’ item or accessory for a small (ish!) sum, the people running the game can tap in to the constant desire for the latest thing and continue to make money; the very thing that games companies exist to do – make money.

It would seem that some people believe that games companies exist simply to provide a way to entertain people without the burden of money holding them back.

Not as bad as you may think..?

There has recently been a study of revenue generated by players within the mobile games industry by a firm called Swrve, and it indicates that just 0.15% of players generate over 50% of a games overall revenue. This was a survey carried out using data from tens of millions of gamers. Though this does amount to 1.5 Million mobile gamers at least. – source: Analytic firm Swrve finds double-sided impact of mobile market’s reliance on “whales”

Lets put a few simple statistics to this to maybe explain why the games manufacturers provide this service; I’ll use the recent ‘freemium’ game Flappy Bird as the example as a recent report by PSMag reported the statistics.

I hope you are sitting down for this…

Flappy Bird was a freemium game. A rather ugly word that means that it was free to download but had a cost element, in this case we’ll look at the online advertising as it’s a freely added element of some online and mobile games.

If we take a rough industry charge for advertising to 1000 people (known as the eCPM – Effective Cost Per Meg (thousand) users) of $3 as the original app was created in Vietnam and it costs more in western countries than eastern to advertise online ($1 as opposed to $5!).

App developer  Dong Nguyen reported that at the point he removed Flappy Bird he was making $50,000 dollars A DAY from ‘free’ advertising then the game was showing about 16,500,000 adverts per day (rounded). That doesn’t necessarily say that there are that many players due to rotating adverts, but let’s say that there are 100 adverts rotated through for 1 player (a number that would be way too high); that equates to 165,000 players.

And that’s not even on the list of highest high-end app revenues…

Apple’s 2013 list of its highest-grossing apps had the viral matching game Candy Crush in first place, followed by Clash of Clans, a medieval strategy game. According to Think Gaming, the two free-to-play games are still the top-grossing iOS apps, with daily revenue in the U.S. market of £ 595,910.95 ($994,344) and £ 471,353.52 ($786,506) respectively.

Going back to our example, if each of our Flappy Bird players decided to get the latest ‘in-game’ accessory for $10, that means that $1,650,000 (£992,475) drops in to the bank account every time a new accessory is released, on top of the advertising revenues noted above.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 live’s Breakfast Sue commented: “There should be more controls in place to ensure the card holder or adult is aware of what’s happening.”. I think the above makes the point of why these controls are not in place. Even if the game companies have to refund someone who’s child has made these purchases ‘accidentally’ (and I used those quotations on purpose).

As to how to stop this – make sure your little one doesn’t have access to spend your money; would you really take your child to Toys ‘R’ Us and give them your credit card? As that is really what you are doing when you give them access to these Freemium games…

Online reviews – Good or Bad?

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If you use on-line review sites (and in reality, who doesn’t), there was a startling revelation recently announced by the website Yelp.

Online reviews are have a both a good and bad side.

On-line reviews are have a both a good and bad side.

They reported that about a quarter of their reviews may be faked in attempts by companies to influence consumer opinions. 😯

Yelp say that they have introduced automated filters to try to stop this, though admitted that this approach was not foolproof and genuine reviews may be filtered out.

Amazingly, New York authorities set up a sting operation, created a fake company and hired Search Engine optimization (SEO) companies to boost the fake company’s on-line presence. they then fined 19 companies over $350,000 (about £217,00 at time of writing) for posting fake reviews on websites such as Yelp.

This is a common tactic for SEO services, known as ‘astroturfing’ ~ Fake grass roots level reviews.  (6)

The Harvard Business School conducted a report in to the amount of fake reviews over a number of years and concluded that fake reviews to Yelp in particular had risen from just 5% in 2006 to a whopping 20% in 2013, this includes those that were filtered out already.

This does not just mean positive reviews either. The report analysed more than 310,000 reviews of 3,625 establishments and discovered that the numbers of negative reviews increased as competition increased. Obviously attempting to weaken reputations. (666)

So next time you decide to read reviews for your next holiday, gadget or restaurant, bear in mind that someone may have been paid to write the review ~ good or bad. If it helps to discern the fakes from the genuine; fake reviews tend to be greatly positive or negative in their tone.

Banks and Hacked itunes Account

Just the other day I had a call from one of our long-term clients, who had had an issue with her iTunes account and some unauthorised access on one of her Apple products.

The banks should stick to banking and leave the technology to those that know.

The banks should stick to banking and leave the technology to those that know.

Without going into too much detail, this resulted in the closure of the aforementioned Apple iTunes account (and any related accounts), and a brief conversation with her banks – this is where the ‘fun’ started.

The bank in question won’t be named but it is a recognised high street brand that you yourself may indeed bank with. (6)

Once the bank were informed of the compromised account details they simply refused to help unless certain ‘security checks’ were carried out. 🙄

This it seems amounted to installing ‘Panda Antivirus’ software and performing an online scan from the Kaspersky website – both of which would never have had no effect on the results of the compromised account (perform an antivirus scan after a hacking?!) and furthermore, could have harmed the stability and data on the PC.

It really annoyed me though that the bank refused to help, and proceeded to carry out pointless software installations and scans of which they have no idea of the potential impact of their actions.
You see the PC had already had the Eset Smart Security package installed, and it was not this PC that had been hacked. The account was compromised from an Apple device, not this PC. The fact that this PC also had the iTunes account on, meant that the bank got all uppity about security and refused to help unless their procedure was carried out.

I had visions of some junior geek on the helpline thinking “I know, just for fun lets carry out some random scans with ‘free’ software and see if it makes any difference. They will never know!!”
Pointless and potentially dangerous – had the client been using the McAfee range of products, or one of several other packages out there, the conflict of softwares would have meant the client meeting the dreaded ‘Blue Screen of Death’ (BSOD) aka a ‘Stop error’. Basically the PC is broken and needs a technician’s loving touch.

Luckily the Eset packages play nice with other software usually, so this didn’t happen. 😀

Message to the banks: You should stick to what you [think you…] do best – banking (although the cynic in me thinks that they don’t even do that terribly well at the moment!). :yell:

Windows 8 Update

After getting off to a rocky start, Windows 8 is getting an update; Is this Microsoft finally admitting it was not a good thing? – well the answer is ‘almost’.

After a difficult start Microsoft is updating Windows 8.

After a difficult start Microsoft is updating Windows 8.

Microsoft announced today the ‘update’ to Windows 8 would be coming next month, but even though they said that they had listened to ‘feedback’ they refrained from letting us know just what would be included.

It is widely speculated that the Start button will be making a comeback, and that the ‘feature’ making you boot into that horrible, block based, start screen would be removed – allowing you to boot directly to the desktop. 🙂

Oddly Microsoft also announced that the next version of Windows – code name ‘Windows Blue’ would be released before the end of the year. This is the main point that pundits are picking up on to say that MS are admitting that Windows 8 was a flop.

Windows usually gets released on a more lengthy time scale, for instance, Windows XP was released on 25th October 2001 (and I still have clients using it!), and the next version, the much hated Windows Vista, was released on 8th November 2006. Only where the versions of the products have been terrible do we see a much shortened release schedule:

  • Windows Millennium – Bad – lasted 13 months  (6)
  • Windows XP – Good – lasted 61 months  😎
  • Windows Vista – Bad – lasted 12 months  (6)
  • Windows 7 – Good – lasted 51 months  😎
  • Windows 8 – Bad? – replaced in about 12 months?  (6)

The reasons for this are obviously open to opinion and speculation, but in my opinion the reasons are simple.

Message to Microsoft if you are listening to ‘Feedback’: Please try to accommodate both markets, the business and consumer markets, with products that work for the market targeted, and please stop following Apple and innovate!
There are 2 markets in the IT world: That which I’ll call the Consumer Market, and the Business Market. Product development is mainly driven by the Consumer Market, where it’s fashionable to have the latest gizmo, though the market spend is driven by the Business Market.

This means that if you release a bang whizz gizmo in to the Consumer arena, then it will need to appeal to the business users too, to maintain sales and traction.

There are several cases where the sales figures show that the traditional PC market is in decline, and that mobile and tablet computing is rising; but I think that this is due mainly to the ‘Apple Effect’, whereby it’s almost a social faux pas not to be sporting a cool phone or tablet socially. Thought this strongly affects the market, it’s not its sustaining force, it’s the businesses (in particular the businesses that buy ‘as needed’ instead of licensing) where the money is.

In business it’s not a good idea to keep pace with the ever-changing face of techno-fashion (unless that’s your industry), and instead, business users want stability and familiarity.

This is what Microsoft forgot. 💡

Windows 8 was primarily designed for a touch screen interface – great for tablets and mobile computing, bad for desktop computing. Imagine having to reach across you your monitor to click an icon all the time and you’ll get the picture.

Once you remove this from the Windows 8 package and its a great operating system; it’s faster and more stable than Windows 7 for instance, but the problem is you can’t get away from the touch interface, as it’s an enforced system.

In my opinion, Microsoft should release a consumer version of Windows and a business version; Windows Home and Professional anyone? Why they decided to abandon this model is anyone’s guess.

Let’s see just what Windows Blue brings to the table – given the flip-flop nature of good/bad Microsoft’s operating systems, this one should be good!

Competitive Quotes

Sometimes we get an insight into the unscrupulous nature of some of our competitors, and the lengths they go to, to bamboozle their clients in to buying pointless tech, or keeping their contracts because they appear indispensable.

Now this should be on the corporate blog, but I feel it’s a little personal to be dropping in over there, so forgive me for this little rant – lets call it cathartic!

We believe in being honest with our clients and not confusing them in to buying.

We believe in being honest with our clients and not confusing them in to buying.

To give a little background on why this has popped up I’ll tell a few details of a recent requirement for a couple of potential clients.

Firstly, we were asked to take an objective view of a local business who “no longer trust” (their words), their IT guy.

It took about 5 minutes to prove that they were being charged for a non-existent, online backup system, and being massively overcharged for PC equipment (£430 for a £150 PC anyone?). (6)

Did they kick out the lying cheat?

No… 😯

Secondly we’ve been passed a quote by a competitor who is offering to replace one of 3 servers (in our opinion they don’t actually need 3 – instant saving of a few thousand pounds).

The competitors quote lists every step required for the completion of the job, including some unnecessary steps, and quoting for an upgrade to Windows 7 for PCs that actually come with it installed.

In this case the IT guy quoting is a friend of the MD, so let’s see what happens once this bombshell hits.  ❓

Call me a cynic but…

We do our utmost to ensure that any client who comes to us, gets a clear and concise quote with as much or as little detail as they want so they can make a simple decision as to the yes or no of what we are offering.

Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, but I fail to see the logic of maintaining a professional relationship with someone who has been scamming your company for an untold time.

Tor says that we don’t want clients like that and I’m strongly inclined to agree ~ especially as acting as a low-level expert witness has shown us just how many of these cases end up in court.