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Subject: General Tech | July 6, 2016 - 01:46 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: ThinkPwn, Lenovo, gigabyte, 68-UD3H, z77x-ud5h, Z87MX-D3H, Z97-D3H, Intel, SMM
The ThinkPwn vulnerability which has been in the news lately, which allows attackers to disable Secure Boot and bypass Virtual Secure Mode on Win10 Enterprise as well as disabling flash write protection turns out not to be yet another questionable Lenovo feature. Instead the problem lies with the motherboards UEFI, specifically the Intel System Management Mode implemented on Gigabyte motherboards. So far the issue has been located on Z68-UD3H, Z77X-UD5H, Z87MX-D3H, and Z97-D3H but it is possible that the vulnerability exists on far more motherboards, perhaps even beyond Gigabyte as the flaw is in the Intel code. The Register also postulates this could effect HP Pavilion machines as they use these boards as well.
"Gigabyte has been swept into turmoil surrounding low-level security vulnerabilities that allows attackers to kill flash protection, secure boot, and tamper with firmware on PCs by Lenovo and other vendors."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Microsoft wants to push biz users onto Windows 10 Enterprise Edition @ The Inquirer
- Build A 3D Printer Workhorse, Not an Amazing Disappointment Machine @ Hack a Day
- KDE Plasma 5.7 Released @ Slashdot
- Mac OS X malware threat lets hackers access webcams via Tor backdoor @ The Inquirer
- Word hole patched in 2012 is 'unchallenged' king of Office exploits @ The Register
Subject: General Tech | July 5, 2016 - 05:45 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: razer, mechanical keyboard, Cherry MX
Well this is interesting. Razer has announced the BlackWidow X Tournament Edition, which is a new tenkeyless mechanical keyboard that uses Cherry MX Blue switches. This is interesting, because it does not use Razer's own switches -- not even as a customization (like the BlackWidow X Ultimate). You must use Cherry MX Blue. It's an interesting change, and I'm not sure why they did that, but they did.
Beyond that, it's a fairly standard keyboard. It doesn't have a number pad, but it does have a button to record macros on it. I personally do not like those ever since my original Razer BlackWidow. I would accidentally press the button, not realize it, then have everything I typed get spammed out for the next half hour, including passwords. I would assume Razer has fixed that issue in the last four-or-so years, but I haven't used their keyboards in a while. There might have even been an option to prevent it back then, but I never found it. Also, for some, a macro button is probably a nice feature, seeing as they've consistently included it.
The talk about Cherry Switches and Macro Keys aside, the keyboard seems like a pretty decent value. The Razer BlackWidow X Tournament Edition costs $69.99 and ships next week.
Subject: General Tech | July 5, 2016 - 05:18 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: xbox, windows 10, microsoft
Microsoft is launching Xbox Play Anywhere this fall, which allows games that are purchased on Xbox Store and Windows Store to be available on the other for no additional cost.
To our site, this means that these games will also be available on Windows 10. Moreover, Microsoft has announced that “every new title published from Microsoft Studios will support Xbox Play Anywhere and will be easily accessible in the Windows Store.” So this means that, starting with Re-Core, Microsoft should publish all of their games on the PC.
Update (July 6th @ 3:33pm EDT): Turns out that it was updated to clarify "at this year's E3". So the list of games on XboxPlayAnywhere is all they're announcing so far.
That said, it will all be done through Windows Store, and so we'll need to remain concerned about the openness of that platform. The obvious example is when Games for Windows Live was shut down, bricking all software that the developer didn't patch out (or patch over to Steam). There's also concern about people being able to distribute software independently and anonymously as well.
That said, Microsoft is free to publish their own software however they like, and it's nice to see them supporting the PC again. I just want to make sure a strong, alternative platform exists (like Win32 or a strong Web standard) that cannot be (legally or technically) pivoted into Windows RT (or iOS), which forced all browsers to be re-skins of Internet Explorer (or Safari in iOS's case), forced content guidelines on games, etc. Someone will abuse any restrictions that are made, now or in the future.
Subject: General Tech | July 5, 2016 - 12:32 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: security, Malware
Managing mobile devices in an enterprise environment is a nightmare, even with properly set up security polices and some sort of Mobile Device Manager. Security firm Skycure recently estimated one in every 200 devices is infected with some form of malware, which seems a bit low especially considering that some the devices tested had 290 apps installed. Infections of Android devices are most common but do not think for a moment that your iOS device is safe, it may only be half as likely to be compromised but it does indeed have serious vulnerabilities as well. Drop by The Register for a look at the numbers of bad apps on various stores.
"Researchers found enterprises have three unique infection instances with devices sporting an eye-watering average of 290 apps a piece."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- A flexible nanoparticle sheet makes quantum dots brighter @ Nanotechweb
- MRI Software Bugs Could Upend Years Of Research @ Slashdot
- Viewsonic uses Raspberry Pi 3 to build low-cost thin client device @ The Inquirer
- DRAM and blast it: Micron staff face axe after flash woes @ The Register
- Win a Sapphire RX 480 Nitro @ Kitguru
Subject: General Tech, Storage | July 5, 2016 - 02:52 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: cassette, tape
Some old PCs didn't have storage, so users needed to add programs manually by typing in the source code. As The 8-Bit Guy explains, one of the first consumer solutions was to attach a cassette tape to the computer through analog audio cables. They would actually be programmed by pulsing electrical intensities, which would be interpreted as binary data, within the audio range. Near the end, he even plays a clip of normal data, and “fast loader” data.
He, and his co-hosts, talk about their experiences with the medium, such as using a two-deck cassette player to copy programs and share them with friends. It doesn't go too deep into the technology or the time period, unlike some of his previous videos, but it's still entertaining none-the-less.
Subject: General Tech | July 5, 2016 - 02:13 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: symantec, security
I know that I've mention this in the past, and I'm not advocating running no antivirus software, but it's good to remember that you're using high-privileged software to load untrusted data. While mistakes can happen in any reasonably complex software, some companies are more complacent than others, and some design choices fail to respect the trust you have in them. Symantec, as far as I know, has one of the better reputations of security companies, but this flaw is terrible.
Basically, to detect malware that has been obfuscated by executable compression, antivirus software unpacks it themselves and looks. Symantec's solution runs in the kernel, allowing any malware that targets it to have kernel permissions. They were also using “at least” seven-year-old forks of open source libraries. Well... crap.
The bugs have been privately disclosed to Symantec, and fixed before Google went public. If you have any Symantec, or their consumer brand, Norton, software, then make sure it's up to date. Consumer software will have the fix pushed through LiveUpdate, but some some products, like Symantec Endpoint Protection and Symantec Protection for SharePoint Servers might require administrator action.
Subject: General Tech | July 4, 2016 - 01:08 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: andriod, keymaster, qualcomm, snapdragon, encryption
The only good news about this particular decryption hack requires physical access to your phone and as you should be aware once someone has your device in their hands all bets about security are off. The vulnerability exists on ARM-compatible Snapdragon system-on-chips and the TrustZone, a secure part of the chip which runs outside of the operating system and passes information pertaining to the encryption on your phone via the Qualcomm Secure Execution Environment.
It is possible to to exploit an Android kernel security vulnerability to load your own QSEE application which can then query the TrustZone for your unencrypted blob and RSA key. From there it is simply a matter of brute forcing the phones PIN or password which then allows you access to all the encrypted data on the device. The Register explains not only the vulnerability but also how TrustZone and KeyMaster work on your devices in this article.
"Essentially, if someone seizes your Qualcomm Snapdragon-powered phone, they can potentially decrypt its file system's contents with a friendly Python script without knowing your password or PIN."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Lenovo scrambling to get a fix for BIOS vuln @ The Register
- BlackBerry will release three more Android-powered smartphones @ The Inquirer
- Transcend Wifi SD Card Is A Tiny Linux Server @ Hack a Day
- 400 million Foxit users need to catch up with patched-up reader @ The Inquirer
- Ubuntu backs calls to wind down 32-bit Linux support @ The Inquirer
Subject: General Tech | July 2, 2016 - 10:38 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10
So, despite announcing that they will reskin the Get Windows 10 notification four days ago, Microsoft will release another annoying Get Windows 10 campaign. Based on what looks like a Windows 8.x modern, full-screen prompt, Microsoft will post “Sorry to interrupt, but this is important. Windows 10 free upgrade offer ends July 29th.” It then has two buttons, Upgrade now and Remind me later, and two links, Notify me three more times and Do not notify me again.
It's interesting to see that this prompt looks like Windows 8.x, but will also appear on Windows 7 machines. It will probably be very jarring to a Windows 7 user to see the entire screen turn a slightly purple-ish blue in a UI style that you've never seen before, asking you to essentially flip your PC upside down. I would expect them to customize it for each platform, but meh.
Interestingly, Microsoft also lists the conditions that will prevent this prompt from occurring. If you have already tried Windows 10 on the machine, it will not ask you to upgrade back. This is what I would have expected all of Get Windows 10 to do, but, from experience, previous prompts didn't care if you already tried (and even activated) Windows 10. No, it would ask you again to go back. It will also honor all the other ways that you can disable Get Windows 10. They also say it will not appear if “You have a recent version of the Get Windows 10 app installed.” This confuses me, but I'll leave it here regardless.
Anywho, prepare to be annoyed one last time... or not. I don't know.
Subject: General Tech | July 2, 2016 - 09:21 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, htc, steam, steamvr, vive, Oculus, oculus rift
According to the Steam Hardware Survey, the HTC Vive is dominating the Oculus Rift by more than a factor of two (0.15% to 0.06%). More-so, its rate of change is also double that of Oculus (0.06% to 0.03%). If these numbers are accurate, this means that the SteamVR is massively overtaking Oculus SDK in terms of both amount and rate of change.
Now the questions are “why?” and “what does that mean?”
The most obvious reason, to me, is that HTC has much better availability than Oculus. For the last month, they announced that the Vive ships within two-to-three business days. If you look at Oculus? The website tells you to expect it in August. It is currently the second day of July. While a month is not too long of a time to wait, it would make sense that a consumer would look at the two options and say “Yeah, the this week one, please.”
If that's the case, then the platform battle could be decided simply by retail availability. It wouldn't be decided by a Valve-developed first-party game. It wouldn't be decided by DRM locking games into an exclusive deal. It would simply be decided by “you can buy this one”. That is, unless Oculus ramps up production soon. At that point, we'll need to look back at hardware surveys (not just Steam's) and see what the split is. They could catch up. They could be left behind. Who knows? It could be another factor altogether.
For now, the Vive seems like it's the crowd favorite.
Subject: General Tech | July 2, 2016 - 02:21 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: valve, steam, linux
The current split of Steam users, according to the Steam Hardware Survey, is 95.5% for Windows, 3.6% for Mac OSX, and 0.8% for Linux. Phoronix reports that this does not count SteamOS, and there might be other “inaccuracies” with the survey, but the Linux figures are 0.04% less than they were before (a relative drop of about 4.8%).
Windows users are up, and Mac OSX is flat.
A 4.8% drop in a month isn't promising, but it's also not too concerning. If you were intending to target a platform with 0.8% marketshare, then you can benefit from the long shelf life that Linux provides. It's not like a publisher is counting on that platform to reach two-week launch window sales figures. We'll see if the pendulum will swing back in the future, especially if Valve creates compelling, new, first-party content for Linux. They seem to be waiting to put their full weight behind it.
Subject: General Tech | July 1, 2016 - 07:12 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: web browser, gecko, servo, Rust, mozilla, Samsung
No love for Windows at the moment, but Mozilla is showing previews of their new browser rendering engine, Servo. This one is developed in Rust, which is a highly parallel yet very memory safe language, which are two great features for a web browser, especially on mobile and multi-core desktops. You are currently able to pick it up on Mac and Linux, although it is not ready to be your primary browser yet. Windows and Android builds “should be available soon”.
Basically, Mozilla has been spending the last few years re-thinking how to design a web browser. Most Web standards are based on assumptions that the browser is going through a main loop, and that these items will occur in sequence. Back in 2013, most of the research was to see far a browser could travel into parallelization before compatibility just stops following. Samsung, who is obviously interested in smartphone technology, partnered with them, because it's easier to add more cores onto a mobile SoC than it is to make existing ones faster.
At the time, they weren't sure whether this research would be used to improve Gecko, the current rendering engine that has been around since Netscape 6, or create a suitable replacement for it. As far as I know, that decision has still not been made, but they also haven't bailed on it yet.
Perhaps we'll see a new wave of Web technology coming soon? Maybe even break up the Webkit monopoly that seems to be forming, led by iOS and Android devices?
Subject: General Tech | July 1, 2016 - 06:56 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming
Awesome Games Done Quick is an organization that runs week-long, non-stop speedrun marathons for charity. This one benefits Doctors Without Borders, like the last three summer events. The last five Games Done Quick have raised a little under six million dollars, so this is a serious charity event.
The event starts this Sunday at 12:30pm EDT with a half-hour pre-show followed by an Any % run of Super Mario Sunshine for about an hour and a third, and that is followed by Zelda: A Link Between Worlds for about an hour and a half. Lots of PC games are included on their schedule too, including classics like Final Doom, Hexen, System Shock, and Serious Sam. It is scheduled to go, around the clock, until Saturday at just before midnight, plus or minus a few hours.
Subject: General Tech | June 30, 2016 - 04:53 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: 802.11ac Wave 2
Router firmware upgrades should be arriving soon to upgrade you to 802.11ac Wave 2. You may get support for MU-MIMO after upgrading and the new version could well double your bandwidth. It should also have less interference as it will make more use of the 5GHz channel and it will also include a new 160MHz channel. Keep an eye on your router manufacturers website and pop by The Inquirer for more information on the new standard.
"YOUR WIFI could be about to get a whole bunch faster as a new improved version of the current 802.11ac standard is coming to a router near you."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Distribution Release: Linux Mint 18 @ Linux.com
- The problem with Canada? The price of broadband is too damn high @ The Register
- Qualcomm's Snapdragon 820 CPU now supports Google's Tango AR platform @ The Inquirer
- Trans-Pacific FASTER fibre fires first photons, finally @ The Register
- Google OnHub Router of the Future @ Hardware Secrets
Subject: General Tech | June 30, 2016 - 10:35 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, summer sale, steam, RX 490, rx 480, radeon, Polaris, podcast, matebook, Huawei, gtx 1060, amd
PC Perspective Podcast #406 - 06/30/2016
Join us this week as we discuss our AMD RX 480 review, the new Huawei MateBook, GTX 1060 and RX 490 leaks and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
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- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is sponsored by Lenovo!
Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Allyn Malventano, Jeremy Hellstrom, and Josh Walrath
Subject: General Tech | June 30, 2016 - 02:02 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: pc gaming, Nintendo
Okay, so I'm a week late on this, but what the heck. Dolphin 5.0 was released on their website. The project is a Wii and GameCube emulator that is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. This version focuses on compatibility. They claim that about 85% of titles, including WiiWare and virtual-console games, can be played from start to finish, with about 14% of all titles doing so flawlessly.
That said, it also adds several performance features. They improved the JIT compiler, added texture pooling to prevent reloading the same texture over and over, and even added DirectX 12 support, although they don't elaborate on why that would be useful for this workload. While they have not extended support to Vulkan, they do use the “Approaching Zero Driver Overhead (AZDO)” features of OpenGL and its extensions to raise performance on other platforms.
The emulator is available at their website.
Subject: General Tech | June 30, 2016 - 12:39 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10
Going by what we've seen, the general public should expect a new build of Windows 10 about once or twice a year. The OS launched on July 29th of last year, and it received its first update on November 12th. The next one is called Windows 10 Anniversary Edition, which launches on...
July August 2nd. Thankfully, it's not a wedding anniversary, otherwise Microsoft would be sleeping outside for a couple of nights.
The cake is a... oh never mind.
I'm kidding about the date of course. Honestly, with the state that Windows 10 has been in lately, I'm glad that Microsoft decided to take the extra handful of days for a little extra quality control, rather than push the update a few days early. At the same time, though, it is interesting that Microsoft's Get Windows 10 initiative wants people to update to build 10586, and then update again to whatever build number this ends up being. You would think that they would extend the free offer until at least a few days after they release their latest, and presumably best in their eyes, version. Yes, it does feel odd to point out an area where Microsoft should be more aggressive with their free update promotion.
In terms of what's different, the Anniversary Update makes a handful of nice changes across a wide variety of areas. The desktop clock will now be available on any taskbar. Microsoft Edge, which receives its updates with new Windows builds, will receive extension support and a bunch of new Web APIs. They also updated the Japanese IME, which is used to input Japanese characters without a dedicated Japanese keyboard. I'm also interested in the new dark theme.
Windows 10 Anniversary will arrive on August 2nd.
Subject: General Tech | June 29, 2016 - 02:54 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: radeon, amd, Crimson Edition 16.6.2
The labelling might be a bit confusing but this new driver is for all AMD cards from the Radeon HD 7700 series and higher, including the brand new RX 480. It adds the Radeon WattMan overclocking tool, a Crossfire Toggle for easily switching between multiple GPU and single GPU mode as well as numerous other new features which arrive with the card. The Release Notes do not detail too many game fixes, this release is more about adding new features to the software suite.
Subject: General Tech | June 29, 2016 - 02:40 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: gaming, system shock, Kickstarter
The System Shock reboot kicks off today in the usual place for such things and a pre-alpha demo has appeared on Steam, GOG and the Humble Store. Chris Avellone will be a part of the project, along with several members of the Fallout New Vegas team and as mentioned, Terri Brosius will be reprising her role as SHODAN. The $900K goal is halfway finished already but it will take $1.7M before the real game can be realized with ammo types, RPG elements and other fun things such as dismemberment. You can take a peek at the gameplay over at Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN before you grab the free demo, if you so desire.
"A modern take on System Shock, a faithful reboot; it’s not Citadel Station as it was, but as you remember it. Many improvements, overhauls and changes are being implemented to capture the spirit of what the original game was trying to convey, and bring it to contemporary gamers."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Colour & Chaos: Exploring The Art And Mechanics Of Warhammer 40,000 Dawn Of War III @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Xbox Fitness users will soon lose access to workout videos they bought @ Ars Technica
- Enderal, A Skyrim Total Conversion Mod, Due Next Month @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Battlefield 4 gets a new user interface @ HEXUS
- 8 Years On, New Sins Of A Solar Empire DLC @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Hands On: Shadow Warrior 2 Is Like First-Person Diablo @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
Subject: General Tech | June 29, 2016 - 01:36 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: hospital, security, winxp, Malware
For the past few years we have heard about some rather horrific security vulnerabilities in hospitals and sadly this has not changed at all. Indeed many hospitals are still on older, unsupported OSes such as WinXP that most security software no longer protects against the malware which was used. In one case a hospital using centralised intrusion detection software, updated endpoint protection, and new model firewall was still compromised using very old malware. In most of the cases described by The Register it was personal data and medical records which were compromised but that doesn't mean the medical appliances and physical security systems are not also vulnerable to attack.
"Attackers have popped three prominent US hospitals, using deliberately ancient malware so old that it slips under the radar of modern security controls to compromise Windows XP boxes and gain network beacheads."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Never-never chip tech Memristor shuffles closer to death row @ The Register
- Google Found Disastrous Symantec and Norton Vulnerabilities That Are 'As Bad As It Gets' @ Slashdot
- A month to go and Microsoft finally offers a 'no thanks' option for Windows 10 @ The Inquirer
- 5 SSH Hardening Tips @ Linux.com
- Corsair Lapdog - Gaming without a Desk @ [H]ard|OCP
- Play Store malware roots phones, installs an app every two minutes @ The Register
- Reverse Engineering Quadcopter Protocols @ Hack a Day
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards | June 29, 2016 - 12:03 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, rx 480, raja koduri, radeon, Polaris, live, giveaway, amd
When it comes to GPU releases, we at PC Perspective take things up a level in the kind of content we produce as well as the amount of information we provide to the community. Part of that commitment is our drive to bring in the very best people from around the industry to talk directly to the consumers, providing interesting and honest views on where their technology is going.
With the pending release of the Radeon RX 480 based on AMD's latest Polaris architecture on Wednesday, June 29th, I am excited to announce that Raja Koduri, SVP and Chief Architect of the Radeon Technologies Group will be joining us in studio to talk about the RX 480 and AMD's plans moving forward.
The AMD Radeon RX 480 Graphics Card
There is much to discuss. AMD and the RTG have promised that the RX 480 will be a revolutionary product, improving on performance per watt and performance per dollar in a way that no other AMD architecture has done. And the drive to include dramatically more gamers in the rising world of VR gaming will be an impressive feat as well, if they can pull it off. Topics like architectural improvements, asynchronous compute, multi-GPU and more are on the docket. You definitely won't want to miss it.
Radeon RX 480 Live Stream with Raja Koduri and Ryan Shrout
10:30am PT / 1:30pm ET - June 29th
Need a reminder? Join our live stream notification list!
The event will take place Wednesday, June 29th at 1:30pm ET / 10:30am PT at http://www.pcper.com/live. There you’ll be able to catch the live video stream as well as use our chat room to interact with the audience, asking questions for me and Raja to answer live.
Raja is one of the more open and honest people in this highly competitive landscape and every time we have had the ability to do an interview he has provided insightful, and sometimes very new, information.
As a price for hosting AMD in the offices, we demanded a sacrifice: in the form of hardware to giveaway to our viewers! We'll have at least two Radeon RX 480s to giveaway during the live stream but I am pushing to get a bump in that count; we'll see if I am persuasive enough. All you have to do to win on the 29th is watch the live stream!
Some Radeon RX 480s will be up for grabs!!
If you have questions, please leave them in the comments below and we'll look through them just before the start of the live stream. Of course you'll be able to tweet us questions @pcper and we'll be keeping an eye on the IRC chat as well for more inquiries. What do you want to know and hear from Raja or me?
So join us! Set your calendar for this coming Wednesday at 1:30pm ET / 10:30am PT and be here at PC Perspective to catch it. If you are a forgetful type of person, sign up for the PC Perspective Live notification list that we use exclusively to notify users of upcoming live streaming events including these types of specials and our regular live podcast. I promise, no spam will be had!