Just Delivered: Accell DisplayPort 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 Active Adapter

Subject: General Tech | February 11, 2016 - 04:48 PM |
Tagged:

Fabled to be "coming soon" since the launch of the AMD R9 Fury X back in June, today we finally got our hands on our first DisplayPort 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 adapter.

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Coming from Accell, the aptly named DisplayPort 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 Active Adapter is a fairly self explanatory product. This adapter sits inline between your DisplayPort video card and HDMI TV in order to convert between the two interfaces. Previously, the only available adapters supported up to HDMI 1.4a, which only allowed for 30Hz connectivity at 4K.

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Users looking to connect their 4K TV to a PC had their GPU options severely limited to exclude  all current AMD video cards and NVIDIA video cards below the GTX 950.

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A quick test with the Accell DisplayPort 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 adapter with the AMD R9 Nano alongside our trusty Wasabi Mango UHD420 display proved that this adapter did indeed bring full 4K support at 60Hz and 4:4:4 color via HDMI on the Nano. This helps the R9 Nano become more useful in compact, HTPC builds.

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Here we can see 4:4:4 subsampling working as intended

We also went ahead and tried this adapter with a GTX 780 Ti and found the same results. We were able to drive our 42" 4K TV at full refresh rate and color space.

It appears this adapter might not be fully retail available yet, but Accell has it listed on its online store for $37.99 shipping now. For users who have been looking for a way to get the most out of their older GPU (or a Fiji-based AMD part) and a 4K display, this seems like a no brainer.

Source: Accell

Podcast #386 - Logitech G810, Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV ITX, GTX 980 Ti VR Edition and more!

Subject: General Tech | February 11, 2016 - 12:27 PM |
Tagged: vr edition, video, UMC, ue4, podcast, phanteks, nvidia, logitech, GTX 980 Ti, g810, evga, enthoo evolv itx, asrtock, arm, amd, 28HPCU

PC Perspective Podcast #386 - 02/10/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the Logitech G810, Phanteks Enthoo EVOLV ITX, GTX 980 Ti VR Edition and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Program length: 1:30:34

  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:36:45 This week’s podcast is brought to you by Casper. Use code PCPER at checkout for $50 towards your order!
  3. News items of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  5. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Speaking of Windows Updates... Here's What's Inside Them

Subject: General Tech | February 10, 2016 - 03:52 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

Since the release of Windows 10, Microsoft has been pushing for updates to just happen. They want users to receive each of them, because then it's harder for malware authors to take advantage of known vulnerabilities and it's also easier for Microsoft to update Windows (because it would have fewer permutations of patch levels). These updates would arrive with the useless name “Cumulative update for Windows 10 (some version)” and no further information, besides a list of changed files without any context.

windowsupdate.png

Now with slightly less blindness...

Microsoft now has a page that lists the general improvements as a bullet-point list. It's not an extensive list of changes, and most of them are related to security and privacy, but that is to be expected now that Windows has moved to a build paradigm. They are broken down by build level, though, which lets you see everything that happened to 10240 since it launched separate from the list of everything that happened to 10586 since it was published.

This is positive. Microsoft should have done this for a while, and I hope they continue indefinitely.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft Adds Third Ring to Insider Program

Subject: General Tech | February 10, 2016 - 03:03 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10

The Windows 10 preview program had two settings: Fast and Slow. A third one has been added, called Release Preview, although it sounds a bit different from the other two. According to the blog post, which is supposed to be about a new build of Windows 10 Mobile, Release Preview will grant early access to updates on the current branch of Windows 10. They also call it “updates” instead of “builds”. Fast and Slow, as they have existed, provide builds for the next branch of Windows 10 at the time.

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When the public was on July release, Insider provided builds that ended up in the November update. When Windows 10 1511 was released, Insiders received builds on the “Redstone” branch, to be released at some point in the future. That is, apparently, not how Release Preview ring will work. They will receive 1511 updates early. They might receive the final Redstone-one build before general availability, but that is just speculation.

This might take some pressure off of Slow, which, during the Threshold-two timeframe, only received a single build, 10565, outside of the final 10586 one that was released to the public. Slow ended up being little more than a release candidate ring for the upcoming branch. If they push that to Release Preview, for the build that the public will see, then Slow might receive a few more steps on the upcoming branch, especially now that Fast are receiving more frequent updates. After all, users who are only interested in one or two builds per branch will probably be satisfied with pre-release updates and the final build early (again, if they release the final builds early on Release Preview, which is speculation).

Or Microsoft might just want a few more testers for Windows Update patches. Who knows?

Source: Microsoft

Fragging Frogs Virtual LAN party #12; Saturday March 5 10:00AM ET until the last Frog falls

Subject: General Tech | February 10, 2016 - 02:37 PM |
Tagged: VLAN party, gaming, fragging frogs

That's right folks, it is time for another Fragging Frogs VLAN with fun and prizes for all.  For those of you who have not participated in any of the last 11 this is a perfect time to get to know a great group of gamers over the day and maybe even tempt you to participate in the regular gaming sessions.

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The rules for joining and being eligible to win prizes are as follows:

  • You must be a registered member at the PCPer forums (register here)
  • You must have a minimum of 5 forum posts prior to the start of VLAN
  • You must post to this thread stating your intention to attend the VLAN event
  • You must meet the eligibility requirements (if any) of the individual sponsors below
  • Your shipping address must be in the Continental United States or Canada
  • Lastly, you must participate in the VLAN event by playing games with us and having fun!!

It would be appreciated if you reply to this thread to confirm attendance, it also contains valuable information on our Teamspeak server rules and connection details as well as links to the threads that let you share your Steam, Origin and other accounts with other Fragging Frogs. 

This thread here contains the information you need on patches and mods for the games we will be playing and gives you an idea of the standard assortment of games we play.  Feel free to suggest others as well.

There will be prizes and giveaways but remember that the main point of VLAN #12 is to have fun and get fragging!

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Source: PCPer Forums

Havok Shuts Down Project Anarchy

Subject: General Tech | February 10, 2016 - 01:43 PM |
Tagged: Havok, project anarchy, game engine

Annnnnnd now we have one less game engine in the industry.

We posted yesterday about Amazon launching their Lumberyard engine, which is a fork of CryEngine that monetizes by strongly tying itself to Amazon Web Services. Later that day, I found out that Havok shut down their Project Anarchy engine, which was free for mobile development on iOS, Android, and Tizen. It had interesting technology for its supported platforms, when extend down to OpenGL ES 2.0, that combined Havok's middleware into an editor with component-based objects. While this setup is how Unity and Unreal Engine are structured, it's an artist-friendly method. Want something to interact with gravity and collision? Drag a Havok Rigid Body Physics component on it and save.

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That could not be a more blatant parody of Bubs if it tried, which it probably is.

I did not really know too much about the engine, but it was originally released back in 2013. They held a game development challenge in early 2014. The Project Anarchy Mobile Game Development Challenge had a $100,000 top prize, which was won by Cosmonautica from Chasing Carrots. The other two winners were a train simulator and a puzzle matching game.

Source: Havok

Have some happy news for a change; aerogel made from recycled paper

Subject: General Tech | February 10, 2016 - 12:51 PM |
Tagged: aerogel, nifty

With the depressing news about security holes below the fold it seemed appropriate to post something positive before you get depressed about PDFs, fonts and other such things.  This morning Slashdot posted just such a story, researchers have managed to turn recycled paper into an aerogel.  Aerogels are a relatively new substance, usually created with silica, metals or polymers and are incredibly light, amazing insulators and often have other arcane usages.  Recycled paper might not seem a likely substance to form an insulator, however the polymer resin coated cellulose aerogel still retains that common property.  It is also capable of absorbing up to 90 times its dry weight in spilled oil while completely excluding water, and to allow for the recovery of 99% of that oil for use again. 

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"A team of scientists have successfully turned paper waste into aerogel. Aerogels are used in insulation, and they are usually made out of polymers and silica. But a research team at the National University of Singapore managed to make the highly sought-after product using recycled paper ..."

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Source: Slashdot

Amazon Lumberyard Game Engine (Beta) Announced

Subject: General Tech | February 9, 2016 - 05:11 PM |
Tagged: amazon, AWS, game engine

Another video game engine has entered the world, this time from Amazon. It is basically a fork of CryEngine that they purchased the rights to sub-license. Amazon states that their engine will diverge over time, as they modify it in-house for licensees and their internal game studio, Amazon Game Studios. It is licensed for free, with full source access, but it has a few restrictions.

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The market is currently dominated with a variety of offerings with different business models. Unreal Engine 4 is free to use, but takes a portion of revenue after some grace amount. CryEngine is available on a relatively cheap subscription, but has no royalty requirements. Unigine offers a few lump-sum options, starting at almost a grand-and-a-half. Unity has a few options, from a cut down free version, to a relatively expensive subscription, to lump-sum payments. Finally, at least for this list, Source 2 is completely free, with the only requirement that published games must be available on Steam at launch.

That last one, Source 2, is basically the business model that Amazon chose with their new Lumberyard engine. The difference is that, instead of requiring games to be published at a certain retailer, they require that games use Amazon Web Services for online interactions, like multiplayer and cloud, unless the developer maintains their own servers. I'm not exactly sure what that distinction ("If you own and operate your own private servers") allows, but I'd assume that Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud are big no-nos. On the other hand, single-player experiences and games with local multiplayer, assuming neither has “cloud” features, are completely free to make.

While it would be nice to have a purely open source offering that can compete with these proprietary engines, developers should be able to find a suitable option. Each seems to ask for something slightly different, and they are very permissive otherwise.

Source: Amazon

Speakers and heaphones and DABs, oh my!

Subject: General Tech | February 9, 2016 - 03:10 PM |
Tagged: portable speakers, OTONE, Inateck, headphones, Fugoo, audio

The Inquirer put together a list of their favourite audio products so far this year, perhaps the list will not match yours but perhaps there is a product named which you have not heard of yet.  From portable speakers to earbuds that wrap around your wrist when you are not using them they cover a variety of products.  Check out the list and see if any of these products are worthy of spending your hard earned money on.

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"THOUSANDS OF NEW audio products are released every year. Sometimes the big names are the best, but at other times there are hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Here's our guide to the headphones, speakers and other audio gems that will float our boat during 2016."

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Source: The Inquirer

A new Razer Black Widow Ultimate for 2016

Subject: General Tech | February 9, 2016 - 02:42 PM |
Tagged: razer, input, gaming keyboard, black widow ultimate

Razer has been pushing out updates to their Black Widow lineup of gaming keyboards and this years model just arrived at Kitguru.  This year they are introducing a new type of mechanical switch for their keys, the model reviewed used their Green switches which click when depressed, there is a Razer Orange model for those who prefer to see their keyboard and not hear it.  This is not an RGB keyboard but you can set effects such as wave, ripple, starlight and reactive through the Razer software.  If you are looking for a new mechanical keyboard and want something a little different you should check out the full review.

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"The Razer Black Widow has become very popular over the years, often being touted as one of the finest gaming keyboards around. Today, we are looking at the brand new 2016 edition, using Razer’s own high specification mechanical switches – could this be the best option for gamers in 2016?"

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Source: Kitguru

If you have a Trane thermostat you should update the firmware immediately

Subject: General Tech | February 9, 2016 - 01:30 PM |
Tagged: trane, iot, security

It is not a good sign when a security team refers to your smart thermostat as "a little malware store", especially when the flaws have been known for some time.  Indeed the original issue of hardcoded SSH passwords has been known since 2014 and the update took a year to be created.  Unfortunately most owners of a Trane Thermostat will not have upgraded their firmware, even if they knew about the update as it is not something which was installed remotely.  Instead you need to download the new firmware onto an SD card and manually install it on the thermostat.  Last month another update was released to address a remote code execution vulnerability in the ComfortLink II, which was not generally known until The Register posted about it today.  If you are using this device you should get an SD card handy and download the firmware.

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"In April 2015, one year after the first alert, Trane fixed the hardcoded password issue with a new release of the ComfortLink's firmware. Cisco then tipped off US CERT about the remaining issues. Trane eventually addressed the flaws in its code in January 2016, but didn't tell its customers that new firmware is available."

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Source: The Register

ASUS Announces ROG Horus GK2000 Mechanical Keyboard

Subject: General Tech | February 8, 2016 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: ROG, Republic of Gamers, mechanical keyboard, GK2000, cherry mx red, asus

ASUS has announced a new mechanical keyboard from their Republic of Gamers division, and the Horus GK2000 sports an aluminum upper body, with Cherry MX Red switches under the ABS keycaps.

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The keyboard is a standard 104 key layout, with an additional 5 macro keys to the left, and wheels for volume and backlight control on the right side. It features 1000 Hz polling rate and offers a 2x USB 2.0 hub and 3.5 mm audio passthrough. As mentioned above key switching is handled by Cherry's MX Red, a linear switch which provides a lower actuation force than the MX Black.

In addition to the angular styling and large detachable palmrest, the GK2000 also offers adjustable (red) lighting to further enhance its appearance. We've seen quite a bit of the black/red color scheme for products targeting the gaming segment, and in this case it compliments the design of the company's ROG Swift monitors and other gaming products.

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Specifications:

  • Interface: USB 2.0 (1000Hz) with NKRO (can be disabled)
  • Layout: Standard 104 + 5 macro keys (left) + ROG key (right) + volume and backlight wheels (right)
  • Keyboard switches: Mechanical Cherry MX Red 45 g, 2 mm actuation, 4 mm travel
  • Volume knob: Infinite wheel switch (scroll to increase/decrease backlight)
  • USB hub: 2x USB 2.0
  • Audio pass-through: 1x audio, 1x mic
  • OS support: Windows XP/ Windows Vista /Windows 7/ Windows 8/ Windows 8.1/ Windows 10 32/64 bit
  • Approx. dimensions: 52.65 x 17 x 4.9 cm
  • Palm rest: 47.2 x 8.3 x 2.4 cm
  • Cable: 180 cm braided cable
  • Keycaps: ABS with UV grip coating
  • Materials: 3 mm brushed aluminum, 3 mm sandblasted aluminum, ABS underside 
  • Weight: 1700 g

No pricing or availability information accompanied the announcement.

Source: ASUS

A friendly reminder about your OneDrive storage amount

Subject: General Tech | February 5, 2016 - 05:06 PM |
Tagged: onedrive, microsoft, cloud storage

Remember the good old days when OneDrive moved from offering you 1TB of storage to an unlimited amount?  That did not last too long, they changed their minds and dropped the paid service back to 1TB and the free version from 15GB to 5GB, with a chance to grandfather in the additional storage if you followed up with them.

A viewer recently encountered this for the first time and it seems appropriate to remind everyone about the change.  If you have the paid service and are storing over 1TB you may have already heard from Microsoft but if not then consider this the warning that you have better trim down the amount of data you store on OneDrive as the changes are going to happen in the latter half of this year.  The same goes for free users who have 15GB, or 30GB if you opted into the camera roll service, get the amount of files you have stored on OneDrive under 5GB or risk losing data you would rather keep.  The standalone 100GB and 200GB plans will be reduced to 50GB, the price will remain at $1.99 per month.

The whole situation is reminiscent of a teacher in a classroom full of kids choosing to punish the entire class for the actions of a few individuals; in this case the tiny percentage which exceeded 75TB of usage.  Make sure to clean up your OneDrive as soon as possible, this is not something you want to wait until the last minute to do.

OneDrive-Logo_large.png

"If you are using more than 5 GB of free storage, you will continue to have access to all files for at least 12 months after these changes go into effect in early 2016. In addition, you can redeem a free one-year Office 365 Personal subscription (credit card required), which includes 1 TB of OneDrive storage."

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Source: OneDrive

Unreal Editor for Unreal Engine 4 in VR

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | February 4, 2016 - 07:47 PM |
Tagged: GDC, gdc 2016, epic games, ue4, VR, vive vr

Epic Games released Unreal Engine 4 at GDC two years ago, and removed its subscription fee at the next year's show. This year, one of the things that they will show is Unreal Editor in VR with the HTC Vive. Using the system's motion controllers, you will be able to move objects and access UI panels in the virtual environment. They open the video declaring that this is not an experimental project.

epicgames-2016-tim-vr.jpg

Without using this technology, it's hard to comment on its usability. It definitely looks interesting, and might be useful for VR experiences. You can see what your experience will look like as you create it, and you probably even save a bit of time in rapid iteration by not continuously wearing and removing the equipment. I wonder how precise it will be though, since the laser pointers and objects seemed to snap and jitter a bit. That said, it might be just as precise and, even still, it only really matters how it looks and behaves, and it shouldn't even prevent minor tweaks after the fact anyway.

Epic Games expects to discuss the release plans at the show.

Source: Epic Games

Are you going to phish or cut clickbait?

Subject: General Tech | February 4, 2016 - 02:08 PM |
Tagged: security, google

Remember the thrill of finding the actual download button for the software you need, hidden on a webpage featuring at least four other large download buttons leading to unrelated and generally nasty software?  Well those horrible people at Google want to take that joy away from you!  Instead of practicing your skills at slapping the monkey, shooting the duck or pretending you are on an online version of Let's Make a Deal trying to pick the right download button to reveal the prize you want, they will present you with a bright red warning screen. 

For some reason those hacks over at The Inquirer think it is a good idea to take away the hours of time spent with your family, and all the interesting things that "just appeared" on their machines.

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"Google is still chipping away at creating a secure online experience and has just unearthed a new element for safe browsing that stops click-happy idiots doing click-stupid things."

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Source: The Inquirer

Microsoft Lets Anyone "Git" Their Deep Learning On With Open Source CNTK

Subject: General Tech | February 4, 2016 - 01:18 PM |
Tagged: open source, microsoft, machine learning, deep neural network, deep learning, cntk, azure

Microsoft has been using deep neural networks for awhile now to power its speech recognition technologies bundled into Windows and Skype to identify and follow commands and to translate speech respectively. This technology is part of Microsoft's Computational Network Toolkit. Last April, the company made this toolkit available to academic researchers on Codeplex, and it is now opening it up even more by moving the project to GitHub and placing it under an open source license.

Lead by chief speech and computer scientist Xuedong Huang, a team of Microsoft researchers built the Computational Network Toolkit (CNTK) to power all their speech related projects. The CNTK is a deep neural network for machine learning that is built to be fast and scalable across multiple systems, and more importantly, multiple GPUs which excel at these kinds of parallel processing workloads and algorithms. Microsoft heavily focused on scalability with CNTK and according to the company's own benchmarks (which is to say to be taken with a healthy dose of salt) while the major competing neural network tool kits offer similar performance running on a single GPU, when adding more than one graphics card CNTK is vastly more efficient with almost four times the performance of Google's TensorFlow and a bit more than 1.5-times Torch 7 and Caffe. Where CNTK gets a bit deep learning crazy is its ability to scale beyond a single system and easily tap into Microsoft's Azure GPU Lab to get access to numerous GPUs from their remote datacenters -- though its not free you don't need to purchase, store, and power the hardware locally and can ramp the number up and down based on how much GPU muscle you need. The example Microsoft provided showed two similarly spec'd Linux systems with four GPUs each running on Azure cloud hosting getting close to twice the performance of the 4 GPU system (75% increase). Microsoft claims that "CNTK can easily scale beyond 8 GPUs across multiple machines with superior distributed system performance."

cntk-speed-comparison.png

Using GPU-based Azure machines, Microsoft was able to increase the performance of Cortana's speech recognition by 10-times compared to the local systems they were previously using.

It is always cool to see GPU compute in practice and now that CNTK is available to everyone, I expect to see a lot of new uses for the toolkit beyond speech recognition. Moving to an open source license is certainly good PR, but I think it was actually done more for Microsoft's own benefit rather than users which isn't necessarily a bad thing since both get to benefit from it. I am really interested to see what researchers are able to do with a deep neural network that reportedly offers so much performance thanks to GPUs. I'm curious what new kinds of machine learning opportunities the extra speed will enable.

If you are interested, you can check out CNTK on GitHub!

Source: Microsoft

Podcast #385 - Rise of the Tomb Raider Performance, 3x NVMe M.2 RAID-0, AMD Q1 Offerings

Subject: General Tech | February 4, 2016 - 11:53 AM |
Tagged: video, Trion 150, tesla, steam os, Samsung, rise of the tomb raider, podcast, ocz, NVMe, Jim Keller, amd, 950 PRO

PC Perspective Podcast #385 - 02/04/2016

Join us this week as we discuss Rise of the Tomb Raider performance, a triple RAID-0 NVMe array and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Windows 95 in a Web Browser

Subject: General Tech | February 4, 2016 - 02:15 AM |
Tagged: windows 95, javascript

This one is quite interesting. We've seen DOSBox cross-compiled into JavaScript using emscripten before. For instance, The Internet Archive has been publishing a huge catalog of DOS-era games on their site, including John Carmack's Catacomb II. In case you're wondering, memory management is handled in emscripten by reserving a large, contiguous chunk of memory as an ArrayBuffer. The C application can do its typical memory management tricks because it sees an unmanaged chunk of memory.

microsoft-2016-safetoturnoff.png

This example is an image of Windows 95, complete with its default applications such as Minesweeper. It was ported by Andrea Faulds, who is a major contributor to PHP. The Windows 95 demo was apparently created in 2015, according to her personal website, but I just found out about it.

Who's a pretty boy? Is it you Fallout?

Subject: General Tech | February 3, 2016 - 02:46 PM |
Tagged: modding, gaming, fallout 4

[H]ard|OCP has put together a little guide on improving your Fallout 4 experience with the help of modders and the great people at Nexus Mods.  They describe the basics on how to install mods as there are steps you need to follow to ensure your mods successfully apply, whether installed manually or with the Nexus Mod Manager tool.  They explore several mods than greatly increase the size of textures, making them much better looking as well as adding weather and storms to the mix.  As long as you meet the graphics memory requirements which they mention you should not see much performance degradation when using these mods.  Soon Fallout 4 may be meeting or surpassing Skyrim's impressive mod community.

Of course immediately after [H] covered this topic Bethesda released a new patch which enables HBAO+ for all GPUs and extra debris effects specifically for NVIDIA GPUs.

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"Fallout 4 has been out for several months and it is possible that you might find the image quality lacking overall. We take some of the most popular and highly downloaded image quality mods and find out how we can improve the environment in Fallout 4. We modify for visual improvements to give you more immersive gameplay."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Next on the list of companies which should know better is Malwarebytes, but it is not as bad as some say

Subject: General Tech | February 3, 2016 - 12:46 PM |
Tagged: security, Malwarebytes

Considering the business that Malwarebytes is in you can expect to see a lot of negative press about a gaping security hole in the near future and while there is a vulnerability it is not as bad as many will make it out to be.  The issue lies in that signature updates are done over HTTP and are unsigned, very bad practice but something which would be exploited on a single client connection as opposed to something you could use to create a wide spread infection.  The Register links to the Google Project Zero entry which was released today as the vulnerability was first reported to Malwarebytes 90 days ago and has not been addressed on the client side.

The actual concern you should have is that the original bug report also found vulnerabilities on the server side.  Malwarebytes did correct the server side issues almost immediately but neglected to follow through on the client side.  It is good of them to patch and offer bug bounties but a complete follow through is necessary if you are a security software peddler who wants their reputation to stay intact.

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"The antivirus firm says it has addressed server-side vulnerabilities that were reported by Google Project Zero researcher Tavis Ormandy in November. However, security holes remain in the client-side software that runs on people's Windows PCs."

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Source: The Register